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Riddles in the Dark 2.03: Into the Woods

Greenwood, Mirkwood…What Wood? What will the Company find in their travels through the forest? Professor Corey Olsen, Dave Kale, and Trish...

Greenwood, Mirkwood…What Wood?

What will the Company find in their travels through the forest? Professor Corey Olsen, Dave Kale, and Trish Lambert discuss the possibilities in this episode of Riddles in the Dark. How will the corruption of the forest be portrayed? What relationship will the Elves have with this corruption? Will Bilbo climb a tree and see black butterflies? (Trish’s day was made when one of the listeners confirmed that the answer to the last question is YES! Check it out!) And this image came as a surprise to everyone.

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


RIDDLE 2.03: How will the Elves’ relationship with the encroaching evil in Mirkwood be depicted?

A.  The forest is uniformly dark with no “light/dark” boundary but Elves are living at peace (book answer).
B.  The forest is uniformly dark with no boundary and Elves are living in crisis.
C.  There is a clear and unchallenged evil/Elf realm demarcation and the Elves are living in peace (the Doriath answer).
D.  There is an actively defended boundary between the encroaching evil and the Elf realm (i.e., Elves are in crisis).


Many thanks to the Lonely Mountain Band for allowing our use of their wonderful music to accompany the episodes. Season 2 sees excerpts from their new album “Songs of the Dwarves.” Intro: Battle of Azanulbizar; Outro: The Sevenfold Meeting.

  1. Tony Meade February 8, 2013 at 11:38 am #

    I have to go either “B” or “D” on this one, and I choose “D”. This is the choice that makes the most cinematic sense.

    For one, it was always clear to me from the book that Thranduil’s realm was something of an island of Eiven peace in the mess that was MIrkwood. And since the filmmakers are clearly trying to emphasize the decay and desolation of MIrkwood through the evil influence of The Necromancer, and doing so visually, then they must also emphasize the difference between that and the realm of the Elves.

    Also, visually speaking, Jackson (and any other decent filmmaker) need to make a point of making each location, especially the important ones, visually unique within that world, so that when you go there, you know exactly where you are. We’ve already seen this with Dale and Erebor in the first fim. Neither of those locations looked that much like anything from The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, even though we’d already seen locations of related cultures, such as Moria (related to Erebor) and Edoras (related to Dale).

    Furthermore, we all know that the basic component of all drama is conflict. Jackson is obviously using Mirkwood to show us the creeping return of darkness into the world, and in order to ramp up the tension in this second film, we need to have characters that we know and are good and for whom we care to be in danger. So, there needs to be a sense that there is a battle between the forces of light and goodness (the Elves) and those of evil and darkness (The Necromancer, the spiders, etc.). And we need to see that visually, through some kind of actual fight.

    Lastly, we know, from reports of footage seen at various places, that there is some kind of confrontation in the forest between Legolas (with Tauriel) and the Dwarves. We’ve also heard rumors that the Elves might somehow be involved with the spider fight. My guess is that this confrontation is either during or just after Bilbo rescues the Dwarves from the spiders. So, if we ask, “Why is Legolas running around in the forest with other Elven warriors (such as Tauriel)?” Clearly, it’s because they are at war with something and out trying to fight it.

    This siege mentality also would help to justify Thranduil’s treatment of Thorin and Co. In the book, I always felt like the Elvenking came off as kind of an unreasonable jerk, especially considering what we’re told about Elves’ inherently good nature. Why is he so hostile toward a bunch of ragged, starving Dwarves stumbling around in the woods? If we have this situation in which they are actively engaged in a war for the survival of their realm, it makes so much more sense that he would have suspicions of these strangers running around in his land, especially as we’ve been set up with this previous greivance between Thruanduil and Thorin in the first film.

    That’s my take on the question… “D”.

  2. Ben February 8, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    Thanks for adding the link to the photo. It’d be nice if you could link to the visual elements that are discussed more often in the future.

  3. Chris Stevens February 10, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    I listened to this podcast yesterday and went to watch the movie again today. On the question of whether the elven king swore fealty to Thror. In the scene, Thranduil is said to pay homage to Thror. I took no hint that he swore fealty. I viewed it as a king paying his respects to a very powerful neighbor. Now Thorin may not have the same opinion but I feel it is incorrect to think that Thranduil is Thror’s vassel.

  4. Michael Lucero February 10, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    I have to disagree with the idea that the Elvenking swears fealty to Thror. I listened / watched for this specifically the last time I saw the movie, and the word “fealty” never actually occurs in the movie. What they do say is that he paid homage. That’s very different to swearing fealty or even declaring an alliance (though I do think we’re meant to assume that an alliance was made, given Thorin’s reaction to Thranduil’s decision to leave after the attack). Also, I could be wrong, but I am very confident that we never actually see Thranduil even bow to Thror. Instead, we get this respectful but very non-submissive tilt (and slightly lowrering) of the head, as if he’s indicating that he holds Thror in high respect as a fellow head of state, and probably considers him an equal, but nothing more than that.

    In terms of the riddle itself, while y’all do make some really good arguments, I have to go with A. The reason for this is twofold: (1) There were lots of things in film 1 that I thought, “Oh, of course they’re going to change that, either to simplify it or make it what they think is more interesting”, but they didn’t. I think this could very well fall into that category when all’s said and done. And (2) I don’t think it’d be as difficult as y’all seem to think for Jackson to evoke this duality of the forest. Think about Moria. In the Fellowship film, we’re shown a very dark, horrifying, and very scary place that is ruined and filled with darkness and the marks of the presence of evil. However, it’s still very much a dwarven place. This dwarven-ness is evoked by the way they talk about its history, the masculine and solemn music Howard Shore overlays the scene with, and the rigid, angular and vertical architecture. I can see Jackson & Co very easily doing something like that, and in the case of the river, I can see them saying something like, “The forest has taken Bombur! He’s fallen to its darkness and evil!” And then Thorin’s eyebrows narrowing and his forehead creasing as he says with distaste, “This isn’t the work of the forest. This is the work of Elves.”

  5. Trish February 10, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

    Thanks and I agree. When I don’t include image URLs, it means I didn’t save the URL into the shownotes. If I don’t do that, I can’t put it into the post. I will try to remember to ask people to email me any links they share with us during the show so that I can include them when the podcast gets posted.

  6. Teranel February 11, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

    I’m going with D, mainly just because I would like to see an “Elf Queen of Shannara”-esque sequence, where there is a heavily defended barrier separately the Elven King’s halls from the rest of Mirkwood and the elves are under siege (from the spiders, the other evils in Mirkwood, etc.). However, I don’t envision that there is really any specific difference between how the Elven King’s castle and the rest of Mirkwood, that is to say there won’t be a Lothlorien scenario where there is a stark visual contrast. With the elves being at war, I’d expect their domain to look just as dark and bleak as Mirkwood, except spiderweb-free, and then there being an actual physical barrier separating the two.
    I could also see a scenario where Bombur falls in the river and is poisoned by the Necromancer’s influence, then the Company is carrying him through the forest. They get found by the elven patrol (with Legolas and Tauriel) and taken back to the Elven King, but then that sets up more conflict between him and the Dwarves that they are bringing the blight inside the walls in the form of Bombur.

  7. Giselle February 20, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    If Jana (forgive me if I’ve spelled it incorrectly) hasn’t found someone to help yet, I would be interested. I don’t have facebook, so I couldn’t speak up that way. I hope you don’t mind.

  8. Feorhund February 22, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

    I tried posting this before but it didn’t go through..

    Just some tips for the LOTR commentary:

    Be aware of the differences between the running times of region 1 dvds (US and Canada) and region 2 (UK and others). R2 is about 4% faster (R1 is the normal speed of the two). You will never be in perfect sync, even if people with R2 pause every so often. The time will always be off as the differences accumulate. You will also have problems if people use their computers as some players will run at a different speed.

    I recommend that you find a good place to pause the movies for a countdown. There is a commentary podcast called Down In Front that has a good method (they also did a marathon of all three extended edition films – Explicit Warning though). The best method is to wait for the first logo of the film to come up and then pause as it fades to black. Just pushing play at the menu will not work as people will have different start up speeds and possibly different pre-movie logos.

    Also, I hope you will record this for those that miss it. If you do, there is a fan commentary site called Zarban’s House of Commentaries (I’m not affiliated, I just use it) that links to thousands of fan commentaries on the net. This is a great place to list your tracks for those interested. There are several decent ones for LOTR.

  9. Jonne steen redeker February 26, 2013 at 10:45 am #

    It’s Jonne if you want to know, I’d love to have your help there are two others who volunteered during the recording of the episode going on right now so we should have a nice little team for it. I’m sorry for responding so late by the way I’ve been checking the Facebook pages very often but I forgot about the mythgard site

  10. Chincilla of Valinor March 4, 2013 at 3:25 am #

    Thinking about a link between Bombur has passing out in the forest, and then the Elven guards passing out in the dungeons when Bilbo effects his later rescue.. Given that the LOTR films have hampered Bilbo getting the guards drunk (as per the book- although granted this does not absolutely exclude Peter Jackson sacrificing internal film consistency and going with the book anyway), I wonder if Bilbo will happen to have some of the substance (?black river water) that knocked out Bombur with him in the dungeons, recall Bombur’s predicament, and use some on the guards? For this to work, however, I think they’d need to make Bombur’s condition one of sedation rather than him being threatened with death, lest they make Bilbo apparently wilfully murdering two Elves..not a look I guess they’d want to go for.

  11. Hamfast March 4, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

    D. The elves realm is currently resisting the cancer affecting the rest of the forest but the elves are worried about it spreading to their realm. This will be heightened by their encounter with the spiders whilst finding the dwarves and will eventually lead to a party of elves heading out to fight the evil in the forest, which will replace the ‘party’ as the event which allows Bilbo to bust the dwarves out of the prison.

  12. Halstein October 12, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    I will go with D. It will give us more action if the elfs are patrolling, and PJ likes action.



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    […] throughout Mirkwood? Or are they just staying home drinking too much Dorwinian wine? Covering Riddles in the Dark Episode 2.03, we review analyst and listener predictions and comments on how the Mirkwood elves are protecting […]

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