From The Blog

Riddles in the Dark Digest 7: Controversy!

Nâzgul and Other Beasties on Riddles in the Dark Digest #7

Dave Kale and Trish Lambert go for a new length record (aided by Father Roderick of Secrets of the Hobbit) with this Riddles in the Dark Digest episode. First they go back to the future by reviewing Riddles in the Dark Episode 8, which considered the unexpected presence of the Nâzgul in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Then they move forward to Episode 13, the Special Comic-Con episode, which might have been a sparse conversation since the riddle for that episode was answered by Peter Jackson himself with the announcement of a third film. But never fear! Between responding to listener comments and considering the motivations and abilities of Jackson & Co. to bring the story to the screen successfully, Trish and Dave found plenty to talk about.

Conundrum #9:  Is it actually Saruman who releases the Nazgul?

Conundrum #10: In addition to the trilogy, will there be a bridge film at some point in the near future?

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


  1. Ben August 30, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    Trish, you’re doing a wonderful job, but I have to say I cringe every time I hear ‘ring-wraths’…

    [For the record, I’m only ~45 mins into D7.]

  2. Trish August 30, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

    Oh dear! My apologies, Ben. My brain does know better…but for me this is one of those words that Corey talked about in one of his lectures. I didn’t know how to pronounce it all those years ago when I read the book to myself, and having decided on the (wrong) pronunciation, I am having a terrible time rewiring my brain. I will be more conscious about this in future…

    I hope you weren’t tearing your hair out by the time the episode ended!

  3. Ben August 30, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

    I’m still listening, actually, so I’ll make sure to keep my hair in :) But no worries; I’ve heard the TP himself oscillate between pronunciations, so for us mere mortals it’s entirely expected.

  4. Ben August 30, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    Assorted thoughts:

    – SilO?

    Deleting R13
    – Keep it, to give everyone else a competitive advantage :)
    – At the very least, it should remain displayed on the grid for historical context.

    – Those were two epic rants. More please!
    – I’m pretty sure you *do* know more about the books than PJ&Co. (I wrote this before you said it, for the record…)
    – You should send Ps J&B each a copy of the Prof’s book so the second two films stand a chance against your snarkiness.
    – You also missed the chance to quote the ‘happiness is boring’ line from Bilbo in Rivendell (well, from the narrator really).

    – I totally agree, Dave! I don’t have the patience (read: hand-eye coordination) for video games in general, but I enjoy just wandering around in LOTRO.

    – I didn’t hear Conundrum 10; am I going deaf?

  5. Trish August 30, 2012 at 4:25 pm #


    Conundrum 10 ended up on RITD episode 13…it was before we had the system down as excellently as we do now (ha), and we discussed it on the main episode instead on the digest.

    In re: snarkiness…beware of encouraging us!!!

  6. Bre August 30, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

    I’m writing this comment as I listen, so forgive the length.

    I hate having to answer any predictions about the Nazgul because I just want to vote E: they remain on the cutting room floor. Obviously that isn’t going to happen, and undoubtedly as the filmmaking process goes on, they’ll be tempted by too many shots and scenarios (slippery slope) that complicate the mess of the subplot even further. They’re going to be tempted to have a shot of a Nazgul looking in some sort of Bilbo direction.

    I see no reason to have them in the film though, since the story already has enough monsters, villains, and dangerous situations to raise the stakes.

    However, through this skewed logic that the filmmakers have adopted, the Nazgul will be mainly part of the White Council subplot, since they are first talked about during the White Council meeting. However, if this is all leading to some confrontation at Dol Guildor, that doesn’t make sense either since, in the Lord of the Rings films, Gandalf is alarmed at the news of the nine issuing forth from Mordor and being abroad for the first time in centuries.

    Also, this whole business interferes with my previous prediction that when the White Council arrives at Dol Guildor that they will discover that Sauron has already fled to Mordor.

    Yes, there are three films and there is technically time to do more, but we should never be away from Bilbo and company for too long on screen (also the extra room shouldn’t mean stuffing in more plot at the expense of structure and flow). Then again, the entirety of Lord of the Rings was this sort of back and forward cutting between different hero groups…hmmm. In any case, I’m also inclined to wish for more character moments than action scenes as result of this third film.

    I can accept a lot of changes, but I am especially grumpy about this one; rant, rant, rant.

    I’ve held my tongue concerning any possible Silmarillion adaptation, but since you two spent such a significant amount of time discussing it in this episode, I will hold back no longer.

    The Silmarillion can’t work in a life-action medium. I came to the conclusion some time ago that it would have to be animated (I envision a collection of films of various length and alternating styles that would be released on some special DVD).

    This is for several reasons, but one of the more prominent reasons is because the very prevalent ‘magic’ in The Silmarillion would be nearly impossible to portray without looking utterly ridiculous in live-action (that is if the intention is to remain true to Tolkien’s ‘magic’ and not Hollywood’s). However, it’d be very easy to do in animation, especially if one looks at Miyasaki’s films as stepping-stone example.

    Another reason would be the artistic possibilities. An animated piece would be easier to design in a way that better promotes Tolkien’s idea of myth, and would ultimately lead to more aesthetically pleasing results. If there’s any confusion to what I have in mind, it looks nothing like Disney (that would make Tolkien cry).

    In addition, very imagery driven films would make it easier and more acceptable to include such mythic figures.

    But I’m very bias in this opinion at the point, because I’ve been working on initial drafts of possible screenplays and been doing concept for this idea in my spare time for the sake of personal skill improvement.

    PS Concerning the food on Bilbo’s table, I think we can all look past the fact that it slightly differs from the book since whatever food will appear in the final shot was ultimately chosen for the design of the scene’s color palette. =p

    PPS I also am one of those who came to Tolkien’s work from the movies. I technically read the books first, but I read them because the movies were coming out. But because the films came out while I was in middle school (I’m 23 now), during which time I suffered from an expected and limited reading comprehension, my initial Lord of the Rings experience is entwined with the films.

    PPPS The majority of the video games are terrible, but I did get a chance to play War in the North, and enjoyed it as a game at least, saying nothing about its representation of Tolkien.

  7. Robert September 1, 2012 at 5:47 am #

    I believe that it was one of the Nazgûl who spoke to Dáin. Consider the description of Gaffer Gamgee:

    “Hissed at me, he did. Gave me quite a shudder.”

    and Glóin:

    “At this his breath came like the hiss of snakes, and all who stood by shuddered”

    These descriptions are virtually identical, and I doubt that Tolkien would do such a thing unintentionally.

    Some examples of LOTRO’s faithfulness to the text, at least in the worldbuilding:

  8. Dedric H. September 2, 2012 at 10:03 am #

    Forget press releases…there is NO WAY that the artists contracts didn’t at least contain a proviso for the filmmakers to option them for three films. Even if they weren’t “hip” to the fact there would be three films from the beginning, they all had to have had in their contracts the rights signed away to a third, or else there would have been a LOT longer discussion and contract talks with each artist and employee. It’s just fact – his intention was always to have more than two films. I haven’t looked at the contracts personally, but I don’t have to and no one else does either. It’s impossible that the eventuality wasn’t discussed and if it was discussed then it was at least a tentative possibility. There is absolutely no way that this popped up suddenly.

  9. Sarah September 4, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    Having actually dealt with SAG contracts as a Producer, I will say the following:

    If the bulk of the content of the filming for the third film is already complete, then the actors are already compensated for the work that they’ve done. SAG actors are paid by the day. Additional filming will be a logistical problem, not a contractual problem.

    All the SAG contracts I have seen have specified the title of the film, but it is common practice to leave the title somewhat ambiguous in the event that the final release has to be titled differently for reasons unforseen at the time of production (usually a marketing decision).

    It doesn’t really matter how many different films are made from the filmed material, what matters is distribution. All the SAG contracts I have seen require the producer to pay the performers by the number and type of exhibitions of the material. The actors do not have any say at all as to what form that exhibition is in.

    So, I think it’s fair to assume that they’ll have increased their talent costs by 1/3, since they’ll have increased their exhibition of their work by 1/3 (those that appear in all three films, of course). I *do not* think we can infer that the nature of the actor’s contracts tells us anything about what PJ has been planning. From everything I know, he didn’t need to do anything special to have enough flexibility in the SAG contracts to make three films instead of two.

  10. Sarah September 4, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    Re: Snark levels are high.

    Snark is about tone. I defy your false dichotomy that your options are “be snarky” or “be uncritical fanboys.” I don’t have any issue at all with noting the absence of pickles. It’s the embittered tone that becomes unflattering after a while, especially once you gotta get defensive about it. I think that’s where the snark complaints are coming from.

  11. Sarah September 4, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    Phew. Finally. I counted 16 solid minutes of complaining about your listeners complaining about the snarkiness. Is there anything more boring and grating by-turns than listening to someone be defensive when they have received criticism? C’mon guys, that is not time well spent in a podcast.

  12. Trish September 4, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

    I’m with you Sarah. Not a topic to continue discussing. There are more interesting things to talk about for sure!

  13. Trish September 4, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

    Thanks for the glimpse into the world of filmdom, Sarah. For me this lends even more credence to the idea that PJ filmed without worrying about the number of films. Why not go for it? With the footage shot, the pitch to the studio for a third movie would not involve huge extra expense/risk but would offer a big revenue up side.

  14. Sarah September 5, 2012 at 10:13 am #

    Yeah, I think it goes without saying that the additional cost up-front to pay the talent will be way-more than outweighed by the huge revenue generated by a third blockbuster film. Not to mention it’ll give legs to the merchandising angle…although I find it really interesting that they’re *not* doing a third Christmas release. Every Jackson/Tolkien film has been released in mid-December, which is prime for additional holiday sales. Maybe they won’t have as much to compete with in summer? I dunno, I don’t get it.

    Maybe a box set for Holidays 2014?

  15. Trish September 5, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    Good point, especially if that boxed set is going to be an “extended edition.” They will start flogging it in the fall of 2014,

    Merchandising is such a huge part of this…I guess it always is, but I’ve been able to ignore it in the past.

  16. Samuel Stephens September 8, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

    Latest episode was great. I usually post on the FB page, but I’m fasting from Facebook until Nov. 30th. So far it isn’t too difficult except not being able to see the Tolkien Prof page.

    Wanted to comment that I really, really enjoyed hearing Trish on the main podcast in RitD 13— possibly my favorite episode, especially now that we know Jackson IS making three films. Go back, listen to Corey say stuff like “that is ridiculous” “I just don’t see that happening,” “there is no way in Mordor they would ever do that” etc etc. Dave “World Domination” Kale =Just As Guilty. Want a podcast in which the hosts give themselves a verbal flogging and full repentance for underestimating Peter Jackson’s ambition.

  17. Samuel Stephens September 8, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

    Now, for the conundrums:

    Will there be a bridge film between the two trilogies? I actually think this trilogy will be sufficient to do that. Let’s imagine that instead of a spread-out integrated story PJ was making three films focused on a different part of the events surrounding The Hobbit: 1. Thorin/Lonely Mountain/Smaug, 2. White Council/Dol Guldur/ He’s Baaaack!, and 3. Other Stuff. You have to imagine that two films would be sufficient to tell The Hobbit + Background/Simultaneous Events. But we know that Gollum leaves his cave for good in the new trilogy. By the third film I can imagine that Sauron 2.0 will be reinstated in Mordor, and therefore I can imagine that one of the closing scenes (not THE closing scene) will be Gollum going to or leaving Mordor.

  18. Adam September 12, 2012 at 7:14 am #

    I wonder how much the Nazgul story line is a garbled version of the Unfinished tales ‘Wight awakening’ story? I imagine the best thing PJ could have done would be for Gandalf of someone to go into a tomb of men and discover it disturbed, the tomb open, and a Nazgul blade.

    One argument for this is, why is the Nazgul blade significant? If they are the ‘known’ tombs of the Nazgul, why is the finding of the blade nessecary? Surely the fact that they just discovered empty and open tombs of the Nazgul means the blade is totally irellevant. If the tomb they discover dsitrubed is something else then the Nazgul blade as a prop is nessecary as it makes it evidence that this is Nazgul work, and thus pointing towards the rising of a great power?

    The problem is I bet they would A) get into trouble as it is too close to U.T. and B) would be a little more messy and not have quite the same impact as the Nine ‘rising again; would. As Trish rightly says, the thing here is to pose a sizable threat from Dol Guldur, that is not ‘obviously’ Sauron, but could be another power… and lets be honest, what other power of that magnitude is there?

    I think the idea that the U.T. story has been used, but modified to make it the wraiths rather than just wights is possibly whats happened, and its seems the way PJ has done things before, i.e to repurpose Tolkiens original elements and alter them, but its intriguing, because I just don’t see why the Nazgul blade is needed if it is their tombs that have been opened?

  19. Brent Sprinkle September 18, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    I must say I didn’t realize how much I commented on this site until I kept hearing my name mentioned on like every episode! I’m glad to give content though.

    When I was listening to the episode, going off of what Adam said, the thought of having Gandalf produce this Morgul blade to the White Council kinda stumped me as well. How is this evidence of a growing power? What is the significance of this, but then Trish and Dave started talking about how the movies might lead the audience to think its the Witch King who has come back to power in Dol Guldur. This might explain the significance of the Morgul blade. The audience will already have an association with the Morgul blade to the Witch King after seeing in FOTR Frodo being stabbed with it from the Witch King. This will make everyone think the villian is in fact the Witch King, only to find out after a big reveal it’s Sauron.
    I dunno if this makes sense or not but it was a connection I made when listening. Maybe the general audience who watched LOTR and isn’t making sacrifices in their daily lives just to keep up with Hobbit news (yeah, I know) wouldn’t even remember that detail or make that connection.

  20. Adam September 19, 2012 at 5:28 am #

    This could be it, its entirely possible that I am looking for an elaborate plot line, i.e the significance of the knife, when really its just a simple visual metaphore, or a link to the LOTR trilogy, or perhaps you are right and they are going to use it to point to the Witch king, but then I still wonder why his empty tomb is not enough on its own?

    I am sure I am over complicating it!

  21. Kurt September 19, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    Hey, Riddlers.

    I am woefully behind and just catching up on these episodes, and since I was one of the irritable commenters on episode 13 I wanted to say one last thing (even though, yes, there are more interesting topics).

    My beef with episode 13 was not the obsession with minutiae. It was more with the weight of the minutiae. I think I’ve heard (not exclusive to this episode) more than one of you say things to the effect that “if there are no pickles on the table, I will be extremely disappointed”. In my case I’ll be extremely disappointed if Smaug looks like a sock puppet. If there are pickles on the table it’ll be a nice bonus.

    Having said that, I know the podcast is all about the little fanboy things. I wouldn’t be listening if I weren’t a fanboy myself. And it’s clear from this that you’re nothing if not responsive to your listeners, which is awesome. Keep up the good work!

    Also, pickles.

  22. John Dietl October 24, 2012 at 11:30 pm #

    I just listened to Riddles in the Dark Digest 7, so this may be slightly delayed. Here’s my

    Regarding the nazgul:

    My prediction is that when Gandalf discovers that the Tomb of the Nazgul has been opened,
    this will be the beginning of a mystery plot. The White Council will not know who released
    the Nazgul, but they will attribute this deed of necromancy* to a yet-unnamed “necromancer”.
    Gandalf will be tasked with finding the “necromancer”. This will work despite Sauron’s
    reputation in the books as being the Necromancer in the First Age. The movie will be
    unconcerned with anything from the Silmarillion or related materials.

    Gandalf will then be a detective for part of the movie (akin to his investigation of Bilbo’s
    ring in The Lord of the Rings). In the end, of course, the necromancer will turn out to be

    If they show that the Nazgul have been released in the beginning of the film, they will
    necessarily need to appear sometime later (Chekhov’s gun). I expect that this will be at the
    battle of Dol Guldur, but this is just a guess.

    Regarding snark and sarcasm:
    There is a big, but subtle, difference between thoughtful (albeit humorous) criticism and its
    snarky variant. It is quite possible to be funny and critical without descending into snark.
    I think Riddles in the Dark has achieved this. I can’t think of a single time that Professor
    Olson has said anything sarcastic or snarky.

    But, having spent 6 years in graduate school, I have seen how susceptible people** can be to
    snark in its native environment. Be careful.

    * Technically necromancy isn’t the reanimation of wraiths, but this is a movie.
    ** Students, professors, secretaries–ye gods!–it’s depressing.

  23. John Dietl October 24, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    Ach! I spelled Olsen wrong! Should I listen to what my sword is telling me? 😛

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