Welcome back to my most infrequently occurring Monday feature! I’m speaking, of course, of Infrequently Occurring Fifth Monday (IO5M), where I come up with a new “top 5″ list on a quad-yearly basis. This time, I go all nerd RAEG on some of the most glaring “historical” inaccuracies in the new Hobbit movie.
5. The dwarves didn’t hate elves that much.
In the movie the elves are shown (justifiably, considering the power of their foe) turning their backs on the Dwarves’ pleas for help as they flee Erebor in the aftermath of Smaug’s initial attack, thus fueling Thorin’s RAEG at the elves for the rest of the movie. In reality, such a situation never came up in the initial destruction of Erebor, and thus, the Dwarves were quite happy to stay at Rivendell (it even sounded “nice and comforting” to them) in the book. In fact, all that is mentioned of the old dwarf/elf grudge (a feud of uncertain origin, possibly dating as far back as the slaying of Thingol, Elven King of Doriath by the Dwarves of Nogrod) comes from the following passage that details the Dwarves’ entrance into Rivendell:
Dwarves don’t get on well with [elves]. Even decent enough dwarves like Thorin and his friends think them foolish (which is a very foolish thing to think), or get annoyed with them. For some elves tease them and laugh at them, and most of all at their beards.
…at last one, a tall young fellow, came out from the trees and bowed to Gandalf and to Thorin. “Welcome to the valley!” he said. “Thank you!” said Thorin a bit gruffly; but Gandalf was already off his horse and among the elves, talking merrily with them.
Sure, while being annoyed by beard jokes (in addition to being a bit gruff in your attempts at politeness) is quite a bit different from the enmity displayed by Thorin, it isn’t that big of a difference. But by inserting an entire made up historical event into the film (the elves turning their back on Erebor), it (like the rest of this list) cheapens the rich history of Middle Earth.
Also, I’ll point out, that in the above quote where Thorin is talking to an elf, the name “Figwit” is said by no one ever.
4. Thorin’s family history was all wrong
About the only thing the movie got right was that Thorin’s grandfather Thror was beheaded by Azog the Defiler. However, in the books the beheading did NOT happen in Battle of Azanulbizar, and Thror’s son Thrain did not run from the battle in his grief. In reality, Thrain and his son Thorin, in the aftermath of the War of Dwarves and Orcs, settled in the Blue Mountains until Thrain, driven to greed (as opposed to Thror succumbing to gold lust like in the movie) by the last of the Dwarven rings of power, set off to Moria where he was captured by agents of Sauron and tortured in the dungeons of Dol Guldur. That was where Gandalf found him, and that was where Gandalf was given the key and map of Erebor. I don’t mind them leaving out the stuff about Thrain’s capture, so I suppose my real issue is with how they treated the Battle of Azanulbizar at the gates of Moria:
3. The retconning of Azog the Defiler’s death.
The War of the Dwarves and Orcs is a pretty big event in the history of Middle Earth, and no part is more badass than when Azog starting the war and earned his nickname by cutting off Thorin’s grandpa Thror’s head and carving his name into the forehead when Thror was found exploring Moria. But the film, for some reason decided to change everything about this, even going so far as to ignore Azog’s death 150 years before the events in The Hobbit in the Battle of Azanulbizar at the hand of Dáin II Ironfoot, future king of the Iron Hills (who was actually avenging Azog’s killing of his OWN father Náin). I understand they wanted to make a strong connection between Thorin and the guy who will end up leading the orcs in the upcoming Battle of Five Armies, but they could have been just as effective by including the actual leader, Azog’s son Bolg, without completely ruining a really cool bit of Middle Earth history in the process.
2. The Morgul Blade nonsense.
If all those stern looks about a small sword in the movie were confusing, don’t worry, it was confusing to me too considering it was completely made up. Basically they said that the Witch King of Angmar, captain of the Nazgûl, somehow died, was buried in a magic tomb, and then the Necromancer brought him back to life in that fortress, where he attacked Radagast and lost his Morgul Blade in the fight. Complete hogwash.
As we all know, the Witch King never died, he fled the battlefield (and the wroth of Glorfindel) in the aftermath of the Battle of Fornost. By saying he died in the battle, the movie completely shat on that badass “not by the hand of Man shall he fall” prophecy spoken by Glorfindel as the Witch King Fled. Also, rather than go to Dol Guldur, the Witch King instead laid siege to Minas Ithil, which he renamed Minas Morgul after it fell, and thus created a place of dread from which he ruled until he was dispatched to the Shire to search for the ring.
Besides, everyone knows that Dol Guldur was the dominion of the Nazgûl Khamûl the Easterling. Though it would have been a bit early historically, his inclusion would have at least made thematic sense.
1. Cartographic distances were all wrong.
I will try to overlook the utter ridiculousness of a rabbit powered land-sled, and instead point out how implausible it would be for Radagast to take a quick 300 mile journey over the biggest mountain range in middle earth on any kind of sled, rabbit of unusual size powered or not. I’m sure new viewers probably assumed that Radagast’s home of Rhosgobel must have been located somewhere close to where Gandalf and the Dwarves were walking since he decided to just zip on over to say hi and take a few bong rips.
Also, Thorin supposedly “traveled north of a meeting of [Dwarven] kin”? I can’t imagine what Dwarven stronghold would have been located north of The Shire, or why he would need to go north to ask the Iron Hills dwarves who lived over 600 miles to the east for help?
Or how about the fact that, after the Dwarves escaped their orc pursuers in Eastern Rhudaur (which, looked a bit geographically suspect, but I’ll let it pass), the orcs implausibly decide to backtrack 200 miles to have a meeting with not-dead Azog at the top of Weathertop. Sure, it’s a picturesque location, but there is no way “Azog” would have happened to be in an area hundreds of miles from anywhere he needed to be.
Finally, most annoying of all, was the insinuation that the Dwarves could see The Lonely Mountain from the Eagle’s Eyrie. We are talking about a three month journey of 300 miles. And let’s not get carried away about how far one can see on the clearest of clear days, The Lonely Mountain was most likely not more than 3500 feet high, while the Eagle’s Eyrie, standing at the far end of an east-running ridge at the edge of a plain was most likely not even half as tall. Now granted, there have been records of seeing mountaintops of over 15000 feet as far away as 300 miles, but I’m calling foul on the image that we were left with at the end of the movie. Some quick calculations show that curvature of the earth accounts for 2.84 miles of horizon between the two points! And I won’t even get into the question of where the hell the mountains of Mirkwood were in that last shot!
Besides, let’s assume that you actually could see that far. Based on the position of the sunrise, in what world is Erebor located due south of the Eagle’s Eyrie? Not Middle Earth, that’s for sure!
Great post, as usual! I was equally confused by the relative positions of the sun and the Lonely Mountain, although I assumed that they had skipped the Eagles’ Eyrie and gone straight to the Carrock (negligible difference anyway), and thought that was meant to be the sun setting behind the Misty Mountains. Still wouldn’t make sense.
Playing my usual role as fictional cartography spelling and grammar checker ™, you have one misspelling of Azanulbizar, and a couple of Dol Guldur. These are more than made up for by the great use of diacritics and the Princess Bride reference. 🙂