From The Blog

Riddles in the Dark: Episode 15

Wargs and Eagles and…Bears! (oh my!) on Riddles in the Dark!

In this episode of Riddles in the Dark from the Mythgard Institute, Prof. Corey Olsen and Dave Kale change things up a bit with a late night broadcast (ran well past midnight ET!).  Their focus this episode is talking animals, really the most important element of the entire Hobbit story!  They continue through the Hobbit chronologically, focusing this time on the Company’s fiery encounter with the goblins and wargs and their “airy” rescue by the eagles.  They begin by tying this encounter into their discussion of Bilbo’s character development but then move on to general commentary and discussion about the wide variety of talking animals in The Hobbit and in Tolkien’s larger legendarium.  They address the common perception that speaking animals are inherently childish and therefore must be removed from any dramatic or epic interpretation of the story on-screen, citing the absence of speaking animals in The Lord of the Rings books as eveidence that perhaps Tolkien himself felt the same way.  On the other hand, they point out a variety of examples from literature in which speaking animals do not detract from the gravity of the story (including Tolkien’s own The Silmarillion).  Further, they also debate the degree to which Peter Jackson and company are constrained by choices made in the Lord of the Rings films (e.g., no eagles talked in that, so would having them speak in The Hobbit seem inconsistent?) and by available screen-time (e.g., perhaps the eagles will only be on-screen briefly and so won’t have time to say anything anyway).  The hosts wrap up the episode by predicting exactly how the eagle rescue will go down on-screen.

Riddle #15: What role with the Eagles play in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey?

A.  They will save the Company from the Wargs/Goblins and carry them to their eyrie before carrying them elsewhere (book answer!).
B.  They will save the Company and carry them directly to Beorn’s territory (e.g., his Carrock or house).
C.  They will save the Company and carry them directly to Radagast’s house.
D.  The Eagles will help the Company in some way other than carrying them out of danger (e.g., killing all of the Wars and Goblins)

Download: .mp3 (right click and choose “Save As…” to download)


  1. Jacob August 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    I’m commenting without listening to the podcast yet, so I apologize if my comments might mirror something already discussed. I think that the Hobbit won’t have any talking animals, because that would be inconsistent with the LOTR movies and that might confuse some of the non Tolkien readers. As for the rescue by the eagles I think they will be flown straight from the trees to the Carrock, and then walk to Beorns house.

  2. Dedric H. August 22, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

    Jacob – do you mean no talking animals as in “the audience will not hear animals speak” or no talking animals as in “they are dumb and cannot communicate” because Aragorn speaks to his horse, Gandalf talks to Shadowfax, moth, and presumably an Eagle. I don’t doubt that we won’t hear animals speaking in a “cartoony” way, although it will be interesting to see if they have Beorn talk while in bear form or if he’ll be sentient but appear more wild when in battle.

    As for me, I could see the Company being taken to the Great Shelf, but not stopping there. They might visit, but instead of resting and then being flown to the Carrock, they might traverse down the mountain to the Carrock that would then be supposed to be just below the eyrie or as you mentioned, be taken right there to the Carrock. I don’t see the whole company visiting Rhosgobel, because then they’d have to travel away from the forest back to Beorn’s which we know is in the movie. I think they’re carried, from what the movie production videos have shown, which leaves just A or B to me and I think B is more likely, so that there won’t have to be explanation on how the Eagles are communicating.

    That makes it slightly odd as to how they come to the rescue. In the book, the Lord of the Eagles has a discussion with his guards about the commotion below the eyrie. PJ could get around it by having a POV (point-of-view) shot from above the burning forest with the Eagles “mustering” for a rescue and attack, but I don’t think he’ll have them having an audible discussion. That means he HAS to have that POV scene OR another scene with a wood moth getting instructions from Gandalf. It would really have to be a moth, because like Jacob mentioned, it provides the continuity from the first three LotR movies. People will say “oh, he’s calling for that Eagle like when he was on the tower” if they see that and if it were anything else it wouldn’t really make sense as to why Eagles would permit the intrusion on the eyrie from a flying creature. Absent that moth scene, I think we’d get the eyrie POV and maybe even them leaving the scene swooping down, cut back to the forest and Gandalf getting ready to jump down. In the book it’s because he’s readying to attack, but like FotR, this would be him saying, “my ride is here” and show his confidence in his “mobile network” getting word to his buddies up the mountainside.

  3. Jacob August 27, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    My apologies, especially to Treebeard, for being hasty with my post and not going into detail with my thoughts. It is obvious in the LOTR movies that the animals are intelligent and can understand us they just lack the ability to speak. As great as it would be to see all the talking animals in the Hobbit, I just don’t see it happening. Which does bring up alot of issues on how certain parts of the movie will be played out. As Dedric pointed out the eagle rescue could be easily done. There are parts when talking animals do have a direct impact.

    I know I’m going to get a little ahead of the first movie with these examples. For instance the thrust telling Bard about the bare patch. Two ways I can see it happening is Bard spotting it on his own, which would be the simplest way to do it but might be a little hard to swallow considering he would have to see it while Smaug is flying back and forth destroying the town, unless maybe Smaug hovers in one spot long enough for Bard to scan for any weak spots and happens to see it then. But considering the thrush plays a small but important role in the book it would be a shame to not have it in the movie. They could do like in the animated movie and have the thrush whisper in his ear.

    The other is how Thorin would get word to Dain about bringing the dwarven army and the relationship between his family and Roac. The only way to do it without Roac would be for Dain to get the news the same way everyone else does by word of mouth. I’m also curious to see how Beorn’s animals will be portrayed.

    It would just be a shame to not have those characters changed in the movie, they’re some of the things that give the Hobbit book its charm. All in all I have faith Peter Jackson will do the book justice.

  4. Adam August 28, 2012 at 10:03 am #

    With Corey here, Roac is another issue, and IMO will talk, or at least be able to communicate in some way, even if its Caws the dwarves can interpret, or whispering. I can even see the thrush flitting to Bards shoulder and whispering in his ear about the Dragon (though perhaps him being awesome and spotting a shot would be another way to do it, though more disapointing for me).

    As for the rest, I am sure communcation will occur, though I bet it comes off looking more like Gandalf and Beorn are awesome, than just an ability these animals have, I certainly doubt they will vocalise in Westron, setting perhaps Roac alone aside.

  5. eoghan August 29, 2012 at 12:32 pm #

    i dont know if you would count smaug as an animal or not, but for the purpose of this comment lets say he is. Smaug will have to talk, so they are going to have to solve the problem of getting animals to talk with out it looking corny. this, i think is the biggest problem if animals talk in movies it just doesnt look right and shocks you back to reality! so once they have fixed this problem (i presume they will) i can see them keeping in some of the more crucial talking animals ie Roac and the eagles and if you can get animals talking correctly WHY NOT A TALKING PURSE! on another note i think B (to the carroc) is the most likely as it saves time !

  6. Jerry Burns August 31, 2012 at 12:45 am #

    What?! You’ve not picked up on the tantalizing possibility that Gandalf will not only translate for the Wargs, but he’ll be growling and barking back at them from the top of a pine tree?

    *snarl, snarl, snap, woof, slobber…chucks a pine cone*

  7. Hugo Tremblay August 31, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

    About Shelob and her ability to speak: even if we do not see (or hear…) her speak, in The Two Towers, it is implied that she at least can communicate in a way with Gollum, since it is said that he bowed to her when he came to see her while Frodo and Sam were asleep, and in some fashion communicated with her his intention to bring fresh meat, as he promised her long ago…

  8. John A September 8, 2012 at 9:08 pm #

    I’m surprised you didn’t bring up the narrative frame of The Hobbit novel in this episode. Keep in mind the novel is written by someone who has taken Bilbo’s journal and retold it in the form of a children’s story. In my view it is this secondary author who used artistic license to insert talking animals, purses, and other comedic elements into the story. I don’t think the adventure as experienced first-hand by Bilbo had sentient talking animals. As a live action film, the secondary retelling narrative frame will not work. I suspect the film is going for a first hand experience of the actual events of Bilbo’s journal, more consistent with the frame in Lord of the Rings. With this frame, talking animals will not work and I think they will be absent from the films.

    In The Silmarillion, an elven story, I think for the most part talking animals and objects are either a direct intervention of the Valar, or they are not meant to be taken literally. In the same way elves can hear the mountains, streams, and forests speak to them, this is not a literal voice but rather an expression of their level of attunement to Arda and the ways of the Valar.

  9. Emilio Perea September 14, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    It has been a while since I read The Hobbit, but I had the distinct impression that the spiders were not speaking in the Common Language, but that Bilbo could understand their speech while wearing The Ring. Was this only a figment of my imagination?


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