Monday, December 15, 2014

The Pale Orc & the One Ring: The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey

Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is full of meaning, symbols and literary devices meant to maximize the potency of the narrative. From the meaning of the riddle game to the real identity of the Pale Orc, this post examines the consistent utilization of traditional heroes and villains to communicate to the audience about the most important topic that exists: our selves. This post builds off my post analyzing JRR Tolkien's original text which can be found at this link.
This is really a masterful poster. Landscapes play an important role in art, sometimes even to the point of becoming a character (an extreme example of this is when the mountains "come alive" and the Stone Giants start throwing rocks at each other). In this image, the map blends into Bilbo's person, as if he's emerging from it, and--in a very real way--he is, because of the trials and challenges he faces in this journey, symbolized by the map, Bilbo becomes an embodiment of Middle Earth.
As I demonstrate in my post Symbols & the Soul: JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit & Restitutum, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is not the main hero of the work, rather, it's the human of Lake Town, Bard (Luke Evans). All the characters in the narrative are psychoanalytic doubles of Bard, divided by the temporal self (represented by Bilbo) and his eternal self (represented by Gandalf), depicting his good and bad qualities and how each "double" (such as Bilbo and Gandalf) must make good choices so Bard will be strengthened in virtue so he can slay the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) which is the greatest purpose of the narrative. The Necromancer? We will mostly deal with him in the third film, The Battle Of the Five Armies so we have all his motivation and history at our disposal; please remember, however, that Benedict Cumberbatch portrays both Smaug and the Necromancer/Sauron, so, just as Bilbo/Gandalf and all the other characters are "doubles" for Bard, Smaug and the Necromancer are also doubles the film makers want us to correlate together, hence, why they had the same actor portray both. Likewise, Luke Evans plays both Bard, and Bard's ancestor (grandfather?) Girion, so we are supposed to take the two of them as being one character, which leads us to our next point.
It's my theory that, in the book and the three films, Bard (Luke Evans) is the main character, with Bilbo and Gandalf being split characters of his human self (the way Gollum divides himself between being Precious and Gollum). Each character, then, is a good or bad decision on some level that effects the growth of virtue in Bard. Why Bard? I go into it in further depth while discussing Tolkien's book, but it's because Bard slays the dragon and the dragon is the symbol of the devil for mankind. As Bard faces Smaug, so Bilbo faces Gollum and Gandalf faces Sauron, each of the three great enemies equivalent to the other two (for example, at the end of An Unexpected Journey, we see Smaug open his eye and his pupil looks like the figure of the Necromancer that Radagast saw at Dol Guldur). In order for Bard to be able to slay the dragon, both his temporal self (Bilbo) and his eternal self (Gandalf) must achieve maximum virtue so Bard will be morally strong and courageous enough to do what only he can.
Why start with the story of Thror?
Thorin's grandfather, the King under the Mountain, could be said to be the cause of the entire story: as Bilbo writes in his memoir, where there is sickness, bad things follow, and Thror's greed for gold had started to consume him. What this does, is begin this long tale by demonstrating that our sins are public. We think that falling into a sin--in this case, greed--is just our own issue, but the entire kingdom was devastated (and the city of Dale) because Thror had become obsessed with gold (and we will see this played out again in BOFA with Thorin). But, when a entire population can suffer the consequences of one person's sin, an entire population can also benefit from one person's virtue, in this case, Bard's. Thror and Thorin mirror the relationship between Girion and Bard: in other words, the film starts out talking about the prosperity of Dale, because Erebor is a metaphor for Dale and Girion, as Thorin is a character double for Bard and what he has to overcome within himself so he doesn't turn out the way Thorin does.
This meeting with Gandalf and Bilbo, and the importance of the mark on the door, has all ready been discussed at length in my post on Tolkien's book, What I would like to discuss, for the moment, is pipe smoking. Numerous characters smoke pipes, why? The taking in of the tobacco mimics a form of meditation, to take something in, to savor it, and then release it back into the world. Why do Bilbo and Gandalf blow smoke rings? It demonstrates the way it's released back into the world. The circle of the smoke ring is a sign of infinite, and the way they form their mouth to make the smoke into a ring demonstrates they are charming and diplomatic, whereas not everyone in the story is. Smoke is ephemeral, but the ring--the form the smoke takes--is infinite, so the nature of what these characters think and do is, itself, lasting only for a moment, but there is also an everlasting quality to it. Bilbo, for example, will only be sitting on his porch bench for a moment, and yet that's all he wants to do every morning of his life; in this sense, we all have smoke rings in our lives, something we savor, like love, that only lasts a few minutes each day, perhaps, but goes on over a longer period of time. The events of the narrative which are about to be revealed to us are filled with momentary actions that had lasting effects on the characters and all Middle-Earth.
The "dinner party" Bilbo unexpectedly has for the dwarfs is meant as a homage, if you will, to Alice In Wonderland, Britain's most famous tea party ever, to emphasize the disparities between Bilbo and the dwarfs, as between Alice and the Mad Hatter. Why does this unexpected party happen (don't forget, it coincides with the party that Bilbo, sixty years later, is having on that same day and has received replies for in the mail)? For at least two reasons.
"If I say Bilbo Baggins is a burglar, then a burglar he is" Gandalf tells the company. We have heard this kind of "logic of identity" when Gandalf was re-introducing himself to Bilbo at the start: I am Gandalf and Gandalf means me. It's because Bilbo had the door painted just last week that it can have a mark on it, a new fresh coat of green paint means hope and re-birth, so Bilbo is in the market to take an adventure, even if he doesn't know it. Now here is a big question: why is the scent of hobbit unknown to Smaug? Because hobbits don't amass gold or treasure; they don't have greed or lust growing in their souls, so Smaug can't pick up the scent of sin to follow it to The Shire (or wherever else hobbits might be living) to take over that part of Middle-Earth as Smaug did with the Lonely Mountain. Hobbits, in other words, basically have the innocence of children, and children don't commit the kind of sins adults do. Sin rots our soul, so the "smell of dwarf" Smaug knows, because he knows what that "rotted Dwarf soul" smell is like because it's so common, but not so for hobbits.
First, it demonstrates how "long-suffering" Bilbo can be, what his limitations are and what he expects; secondly, it demonstrates how mundane and passive his life has been, and, therefore, exactly why Gandalf knows the adventure would be "good" for Bilbo to take. If Bilbo doesn't take this adventure, he will, ultimately, end up as his arch-enemy Gollum: eating, alone and nothing else, in darkness (spiritual darkness) for the rest of his days. Case in point,...
There is also an element of "sanctity" that is lent to the business of the adventure by this meal, as in The Last Supper, before they go along their chosen path and suffer for the redemption of their people. Another aspect of Bilbo that the dinner illustrates is all the food Bilbo has, and I don't mean the kind of food they are eating. When we do something good for someone, we are literally "feeding" their faith with love, and all the food that comes out during this feast illustrates all the spiritual "food" Bilbo has that is going to waste, that isn't feeding anyone; likewise, this scene illustrates how "starved" the dwarfs are for love; why? Dwarfs, as Tolkien tells us, recognize the value of money, but--as we can deduce--understand the value of little else, especially love. This is validated by what Bilbo wears when he joins the dwarfs on their adventure, a deep-red coat (more on that below). The disparity between what Bilbo articulates as "good manners," like knowing his visitors before they come visiting, and the dwarfs making themselves at home, illuminates another disparity, making Bilbo's acceptance of their invitation to the adventure all that more miraculous: for Bilbo, you show respect to your host and your guests by being formal; for the dwarfs, you show respect for your host by making yourself at home and acting the way you would if you were within your own house with your own family. Neither is right and neither is wrong, there are cultures espousing both roles, but this dramatic clash demonstrates the severely stunted experiences Bilbo has which effects his outlook hence, his ability to fulfill what he should be able to in being "a good person." 
As the dwarfs go about collecting furniture and other items from about the house for their dinner, Bilbo doesn't want them using "that chair" because it's an antique, or not using the book as a coaster, or not taking his map as a place mat; Kili not scrapping his feet on Bilbo's mother's glory chest. What does this do? It shows that Bilbo's affections are "mis-placed." I like my antiques and books, even more so than Bilbo, so from personal experience, I know this can be a problem. What this creates is the disparity in "economy," the dwarfs finding a "use" for everything, and Bilbo believing that decoration is a use of something. We know that this is an issue that gets "corrected" in Bilbo because he has Frodo put a sign on the gate that says, "No admittance except on party business," and "party" and "business" are usually at odds with each other; Bilbo has, however, learned that "having a good time" is the business of people, and the business of people should be to have a good time, not just be about business.
Something of which must be taken to note is how much bigger Gandalf is than all of them., and how much bigger Gandalf is than Bilbo's house. When they are discussing their plans, Kili says that Gandalf has surely killed "hundreds of dragons," to which Gandalf coughs, and Dori asks Gandalf to "give us a number" of the dragons he has killed and Gandalf does not; why not? Gandalf, as we explore in the post on Tolkien's book, is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, inviting us on to do things we desire, while keeping us "blind" to the price that will have to be paid for the fulfillment of that desire. What price? Fighting the dragon which, metaphorically, lies within the soul of each of us, guarding over the great treasure horde of virtue, courage and holiness we might achieve as the fulfillment of our destiny. Gandalf, then, hasn't ever slain a dragon, because the Holy Spirit needs dragons to send up against us, to test us, to press us onto the conquering of what is rightfully ours.
Of the things that happen, there are two things surprising that don't happen compared with the book, which indicates a conscious decision on the part of the film makers, so we should examine it. First, Thorin originally arrives with several other dwarfs and they fall in through Bilbo's door, with Thorin on the bottom, rather than Thorin arriving by himself, late. Secondly, Thorin doesn't play the harp as he does in the book when they sing of the Misty Mountains. In the book, Thorin falling with dwarfs landing on top of him illustrates the "burden" Thorin has taken on himself to restore his kingdom for his people, and restore their homeland; not having this happen in the film removes Thorin from his people and dramatizes at this early stage his acting on his own interest, this is validated by the film makers inserting that Thorin gets lost, twice,...
Why do the dishes and things get put away the way they do? Bilbo wants to put everything away himself because he's worried, as the song suggests, that a plate will chip, a cup will crack, but, in spite of the unorthodox means the dwarfs have of cleaning and putting away, nothing gets broken, and nothing is damaged. Why? This foreshadows that, regardless of how out of control the upcoming adventure is going to make Bilbo feel, everything will be fine in the end, nothing is going to be lost (that wasn't all ready lost to begin with, such as Thorin). Even though there appears to be no order and only chaos, there is an order, even if it's one Bilbo can't as of yet grasp; this is one of the many reasons why Bilbo will be "a different hobbit" if he does come back from the adventure, because he will have a far greater understanding of how the world is and operates apart from how he organizes his housekeeping at Bag's End. Just as his mother's hundred year old West Farthing crockery is much stronger than Bilbo's dainty use of it suggests, the pottery--like the vessel Bilbo himself is--is much stronger and can take greater wear than he ever imagined. These concepts are a spiritual existentialism that is the real purpose of Bilbo taking the adventure, to discover who he really is, what he is really capable of and how much benefit he can be to the world at large.
"Getting lost" is a serious artistic device, and we could say that Thorin not being able to find Gandalf's "meeting place" for their adventure business is a foreshadowing of how Thorin will "get lost" on the journey, and I don't mean them losing the path in Mirkwood Forest. When we see Thorin exiled, working as a blacksmith for men, Bilbo writes that Thorin never forgave and he never forgot the elves not helping the dwarfs the day of Smaug's arrival ("never forgives, never forgets" is something also said of The Woman In Black). We could say that Thorin first "gets lost" when he and Thranduil meet and Thranduil offers to aide Thorin and Thorin gets angry instead. The second time Thorin "gets lost" may be in BOFA when Bard tries to reason with Thorin about keeping his promise to the people of Lake Town to share in his gold, and Thorin reneges on his promise.
If we saw how limited poor Bilbo's experience of the world is with all the dwarfs in his dining room, we now witness how shallow Thorin's is in meeting Bilbo and asking him about his weapon of choice. Thorin's lack of ability to "discern" is apparent in this outrageous statement: "He looks more like a grocer than a burglar." What need does a burglar have for a weapon? Those who know how to use weapons are "warriors," like Oakenshield himself (a point Bilbo brings up when he has stolen the two-handed cup from Smaug in the book); Thorin disparaging the role of "grocer" is not one Bilbo will forget, but--as a provider of food--a grocer obviously has an important role for this bunch as we see in the caption above with the ability to provide food.
Why does Thorin not play the harp when they sing? Thorin not using an instrument is a way of saying that Thorin doesn't believe himself to be an instrument, that is, he is not the instrument of Gandalf or the universe, rather, he is of himself even though he will use Bilbo as his instrument (his burglar) to regain the Arkenstone. Does Gandalf "use" Bilbo as we will see Thorin "use" Bilbo in The Desolation Of Smaug?
This is my favorite part of the movie; why? In the book, Bilbo isn't given a "contract" or any indication of what he is going to face, which makes it "easier" for him to go; knowing, graphically, as Bifur articulates the danger, what might happen makes it all that much more miraculous that Bilbo does go. Why does Bilbo faint? Because fainting, in art, is a "mini-death," so he has undergone a "good death" just from thinking about the possibilities of what him going on an adventure could mean, and so, when we see him in the next scene, drinking a cup of tea, he is all ready a stronger Bilbo, even though he hasn't done anything really then read the contract. But experiencing a "mini-death" isn't enough for Gandalf: "You've been sitting quietly for far too long," he angrily tells Bilbo. Why does Gandalf care? Again, because if Bilbo fails to make the most of his abilities (and Gandalf believes they are considerable) then Bilbo will slowly turn into Gollum. On the much larger scale, Bilbo symbolizes the "good deeds which must be done everyday, in every way," because this is the part of Bard that Bilbo symbolizes, and if Bilbo fails to fully capitalize on every ounce of virtue he can acquire, Bard won't be strong enough, nor brave enough, to stand and face Smaug and destroy him. This is how The Hobbit is a lesson to us: our soul is our true identity, and the virtues are our muscles; by flexing and working-out our soul's muscles, we grow and become worthy of the inheritance awaiting us in heaven.
When Gandalf speaks to Bilbo in Bilbo's drawing room, Gandalf tells Bilbo, the world is not in your books and maps, it's out there, and points to a window, showing the deep blue of the passing night; Bilbo responds, I can't go running out into the blue, I am a Baggins of Bag-end. "End" is where Bilbo all ready is, if he doesn't get on with the adventure, which means exactly "running into the blue," because, as we know, "blue" symbolizes both wisdom and sadness/depression, because the path of wisdom is often through the course of much sadness and loss, and--since he has his mother's dishes and doilies--his material possessions are sufficient for him, he doesn't feel he requires the greatest possession of all: wisdom.
This scene, when Bilbo wakes up the morning after the dwarf party and doesn't find any of them there, is imperative: this scene foreshadows Bilbo's entrance into the great hall where Smaug sleeps: "Hello?" his actions and manners are exactly alike; why? These gestures link up the two scenes so we can compare Bilbo's growth from this scene--where he is afraid of running into a dwarf in his house--to the next film, when he risks running into a dragon in "its own home." There is a change in this spot, too, the film makes from the book. In the book, a note is left on Bilbo's dusty mantle piece to find the next day; why? The dusty mantle piece symbolizes the "inner-fire" that Bilbo has never "dusted off and took for a spin," and the note, telling Bilbo where and when to meet them, would be the remedy for "the dust" that had settled over Bilbo's inner-fire, smothering it out. In the film, however, the contract is left on the very chair Bilbo had sat in the night before and said "no." In this sense, we can see how Gandalf is offering Bilbo a chance to "go back in time" to the night before and take back that no and exchange it with a yes, which is what Bilbo does.
We can't be too hard on Bilbo for passing up the invitation after Gandalf's "pep talk." As Christ said, which of the two sons did the will of the father, the one who said no, but then went and did the work, or the one who said yes but did not go to do the work? Bilbo's initial no shows he fully reflected on himself and the situation and found himself looking only at the definites of what he did know; he wasn't considering the the possibilities of what he doesn't know, including that he would be supplied with the courage and bravery he would need, when he needed it.
Why does Bilbo Baggins go on "this adventure?" His clothing tells us why. Most noticeably is his outer jacket he wears, the burgundy, the deep red that has a touch of purple to it. Red is the color of blood: either we love some one so much we are willing to spill our red blood for them, or we hate them so much, we are willing to spill their red blood for ourselves. Does Bilbo love himself, and that's why he's going? He wants "a tale or two to tell" when he returns? Or does he go because the dwarfs don't have a home, as he tells the dwarfs later on? Love is a cycle. True love, genuine love, comes from loving ourselves in the proper way, so we can love others in the proper way, and when we love others in the proper way, we love ourselves even more in the proper way, so it's a mutually self-"feeding" cycle of genuine love. 
Let's not underestimate the importance of Bilbo forgetting his pocket handkerchief: Bilbo unconsciously knew he wouldn't need a handkerchief, otherwise, he would have thought to stick one in his pocket on his way out; it was in a moment of reflection that he wished he had one, when the necessity arose, which gives rise to Gandalf saying, there are a great many things you will have to do without, the world is ahead of you. No one can plan to have every single thing they will need when they leave home, for whatever purpose, and that resourcefulness of either doing without or managing with what you have is part of what builds the character up int he preparation for what is still to come.
We do not learn Thorin Oakenshield's history in The Hobbit (the book), not until the appendix of The Lord Of the Rings. It's just a basic truth about art that, whatever villain or enemy a character is fighting, they are fighting because that is actually a part of that character struggling against the good in that character, trying to take them over, like Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. How can we say that the Pale Orc, Azog the Defiler, is anything like Thorin? Back at Bilbo's, when Bilbo had said he wouldn't join them, Balin told Thorin he didn't have to make this choice, they didn't have to go to the Lonely Mountain, and Thorin said he valued the loyalty and courage of those who answered him when he called them; he proves to be wrong on this count when it comes to Bilbo, because every change Thorin gets, he runs Bilbo down, until, finally, he starts trusting and respecting Bilbo (that, of course, ceases when Bilbo goes after the Arkenstone). This is how Azog treats those under him. We'll be revisiting this point.
There is an interesting conversation that takes place on the road, in the rain, when Gandalf discusses the other wizards: there are two blue wizards, he says, and I've quite forgotten their names; why? The "blue wizards" are seeking after wisdom, that is what the color blue symbolizes, but their path is lonely and sad; Radagast the Brown is so named because brown is the color of the earth: either one is a "humble and lowly as dirt" or one is "dirty" and no good. Radagast, then, is humble. When Gandalf mentions Radagast, Bilbo asks, is he a great wizard or more like you? This is an interesting turn of events because, when Gandalf first showed up at Bilbo's door step, all Bilbo could remember of him were the fireworks, now, Bilbo doesn't even remember that; how things change.
Why does Radagast go to such lengths to save the little hedge hog Sebastian? Because Sebastian is a living being. Witchcraft, and those who employ it, care not for life, but those who are humble do, understanding the great cycle of life and nature, they don't use artificial means to manipulate it and control it. When we discussed the red jacket Bilbo wears at the start of his journey above, we discussed the cycle of love and having genuine love for others and genuine love for yourself; in his desperation to save Sebastian, we see how great his love is for the littlest animal under his protection and know how great his wisdom for all life must be.
Radagast the Brown, the simple, the humble, is the first to realize that "witchcraft" has returned, the dark, powerful magic the other, more wizardly wizards were confident could not possibly be resurrected (Saruman, the White, is arrogant compared to Radagast's humility and simplicity, and we know what happens to Saruman, don't we?). When Radagast saves Sebastian with the blue stone (again, blue is the color of wisdom, so this stone symbolizes the wisdom Radagast has accumulated about what witchcraft does) he is literally sucking out the witchcraft--the black vapor--that is poisoning Sebastian. The question Radagast seeks to answer is, where did that vapor come from, and it finds out.
Just on the threshold of these scene taking place, Bifur gives Bilbo two bowls of stew to take to Fili and Kili, and that's when they realize two ponies are missing. Bilbo taking food to the dwarfs foreshadows how Bilbo will offer the dwarfs some of the "spiritual food" that he has to offer the whole world, was he first fed them from his larder at his house when they all first met. So, who do these trolls symbolize? The other dwarfs. You wouldn't have caught the conversation if you didn't have the subtitles turned on, but if you did, you would have heard Bofur and Bombur complaining about the stew, and Dori chiming in, exactly as the three trolls are doing. Bilbo then, in seemingly bizarre fashion, carrying the bowls of stew with him all the way up to the hearth of the trolls, is actually "serving us" with a literary device in showing how the stew is connecting the two scenes together. When Fili and Kili tell Bilbo that mountain trolls are big, slow and dumb, they (being from the mountain themselves) are revealing how they are: big (bigger than Bilbo at least), slow and dumb; how long does it take them to catch on that Bilbo is telling the trolls things about skinning and parasites to keep them from eating the dwarfs? Why does poor Bilbo get to be the recipient of the nose-blowing? Tom (I think that's the one) grabbing for his handkerchief was the same gestures we saw Bofur using to tear off a piece of cloth to toss to Bilbo for a handkerchief earlier for Bilbo to use for blowing his nose. So, is Bilbo to get used to not having a handkerchief, or are the dwarfs supposed to be sensitive to those who prefer to use a handkerchief to their sleeve? Both. One sin, as we have seen, can be the downfall of an entire population, so we all have to be the "means of betterment" for each other. The dwarfs are used to acting like animals, and they shouldn't, because then they would allow their animal passions to get the better of them (like gold lust) instead of making the highest ideal of conduct their standard. Of all the things Bilbo could have said, why does he say that Bombur has "worms?" Because of the "great worm," Smaug: each of them has a touch of what Smaug is, greedy, and that means that they have parasites because they have a "little Smaug" in them just as the great Smaug is in their home. Just as the sun light turns the trolls to stone, so the "light" of revelation about how clever Bilbo can be in a tight spot also turns them to stone, as in rock-solid supporters of Bilbo being in their company. How does the scene with the trolls prove Bilbo to be a burglar? Bilbo "steals" the glory for himself away from the warriors who were going to try and free him by using their weapons rather than their wits.
Now, there is a problem when they come to the farm house: as usual, Thorin is quick to lay blame on others, in this case, the elves of Rivendell, for not coming to help them when Smaug attacked; Thorin takes no responsibility, whatsoever, for his grandfather's greed bringing the dragon to the Lonely Mountain to begin with, and this is Thorin's modus operandi. This fault of Thorin's is validated by what happens next: even though Gandalf suggests finding another place to camp for the night, Thorin wants to stay there, and it's there they run into the trolls and nearly all get eaten.
"True courage is about knowing not when to take a life, but when to spare one." 
The swords from the troll horde are important because it highlights what we should know about the last scene. When an enemy is successfully overcome, the hero(es) get rewarded with some strength, virtue or aide, in this case, the swords. Gandalf gets a sword because he came back and thought to break the rock and use the light to defeat the trolls; Thorin gets a sword (even though he's reluctant about it, which is why he looses it to Legolas) because, when the trolls threatened to tear Bilbo from limb-to-limb, he put down his sword, instead of letting them kill Bilbo. Bilbo gets a sword, of course, because he was humble and saved the lot of them. Note, that the bringing out of three elvish blades is done at the same time as Radagast shows Gandalf the blade of One of the Nine that is, "not from the land of the living." It will take the three elvish blades to fight off the blades at the service of the Necromancer.
"Thieves! Fire! Murder!" Radagast screams as he breaks through the trees to where Gandalf is. Why? That's what is the cause of the witchcraft he found in the old fortress. It's important to note that, according to Tolkien, Gandalf and Radagast are cousins, meaning that they are related, but not just according to blood, but in deed and thought. Radagast's courage should not be questioned, given his bravery in going to Dol Guldur alone and being able to defend himself against One of the Nine; his simple goodness was so abhorrent to the Necromancer, that even he revealed himself to Radagast and said Radagast's name, as in cursing him, probably because he knew something of how Radagast saved little Sebastian from the Necromancer's dark poison. Now, the appearance of the Necromancer, and his summoning of the dead, as Radagast puts it to Gandalf, requires a political interpretation because these are issues NOT in The Hobbit, but which the film makers decides to include in the film for a reason, specifically because they say something about our day and age, when there is a Necromancer at work, causing things not to grow and summoning those we thought were long dead, those who are preparing a war to wage on the rest of the world. We will save this discussion, however, for BOFA when the full intent is revealed.
What do elves symbolize?
The interior life.
Dwarfs mine the earth (go deep within ourselves to pull out the gems and gold of meditation on self-reflection), but elves symbolize the devotion to the religious life, to the realm of higher being and ideals because, as the dwarfs go into the ground, there is life there where one would not expect it. Even the Mirkwood elves hold all light as sacred, because it is illumination; when Kili calls star light cold and distant, Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) answers that it is the light of memory, so even the not-so-wise-as-Rivendell elves of Mirkwood know and understand the mysteries of light, which prove they are part of the "religious life" symbol. But just as the greater good and lesser good symbols operate throughout the novel, so, too here: Rivendell elves are a higher good, intellect and being than the less-wise Mirkwood elves, Elrond being a better and wiser king than Thranduil.
At the porch of Rivendell, Thorin is showing his ugly side: he dislikes the elves so much, he calls them "our enemy." Why? Because Thorin claims they didn't help when Smaug attacked; the elves are helping now, when the orcs are attacking, but Thorin, taking the elvish arrow out of the orc's dead body acts like he would rather the orc still be living than have been killed by an elf. This is the "parasite" in Thorin and what is eating him alive: revenge and his refusal to forgive. This one sin of Thorin's will make it possible for other sins to grow and he will cause his own downfall and the downfall of those he loves.
The entire atmosphere of Rivendell is "elevated" from that which the dwarfs are used to, including the food: the dwarfs, used to meat, don't know how to "digest" that which the elves consist on because this is a more nutritious (read: spiritual/metaphysical) food than they can desire for themselves, wanting "chips" instead. Even the music is more peaceful, the playing of harps promoting tranquility and reflection. The advancement of the elves (generally speaking) is not only demonstrated in their hospitality towards the oafish dwarfs, but their learning and culture (expressed in their architecture and art). Elrond's knowledge of their swords, the Goblin-Cleaver, further illustrates their spiritual advancement: dwarfs prefer axes and swords, but the elves know specific foes require specific weapons for assured victory, that is why they make the very best weapons.
Here is yet another inconsistency the film makers have artfully woven into the plot (and yes, they did this intentionally to show ourselves to us because these are the kind of things we do). When Gandalf first gave the small sword to Bilbo, he had to practically beg Bilbo to take it, Bilbo not wanting to have a sword; then, as Elrond talked about Thorin's and Gandalf's, Bilbo looked at his, wondering if he should ask Elrond about it, and Balin advised him not to. "Are you saying my sword hasn't seen battle?" Bilbo asks, when earlier, he didn't even want to carry a sword at all, and now he wants a famous sword that has a name,... Balin compares Bilbo's sword to a "letter-opener," and  that might be accurate: if you will consider the prophecy of the Lonely Mountain being reclaimed as a "letter to the future," then the role Bilbo's sword will play, in protecting him and those he is with, it does become a "letter-opener" in helping to open the lines of the prophecy to the plot and events taking place. 
When it comes to having Elrond read his map, Thorin once more shows how small and petty he is, and Elrond once more shows how generous and wise he is. "Your pride will be your downfall," Gandalf tells him, and we know Gandalf knows the truth. What we don't know, as of yet at this point in the trilogy, is why Gandalf insists on staying with the dwarfs and helping them; surely for as wise as Gandalf is, he would have known about the "stubbornness of dwarfs" plaguing him, so why, we might ask, is Gandalf helping (we discover this at the start of The Desolation of Smaug)?
"Fate is with you, Thorin Oakenshield, it seems you were meant to come to Rivendell." Earlier, we discussed why the film makers didn't have Thorin playing an instrument, because their Thorin wouldn't believe that he himself was an instrument to be played, by the universe or anyone else, such as Gandalf or his elf friends, even though Thorin would use Bilbo as his instrument in obtaining the Arkenstone. Now, in this scene, Elrond, the educated, hospitable, wise and gracious, has mentioned "Fate," and Thorin doesn't seem particularly pleased; why not? Maybe it's just me, bu the background music playing during this scene reminds me of Indiana Jones and the Raiders Of the Lost Ark, (as in, "lost Arkenstone") when the Nazis are about to open the Ark of the Covenant, and Indy tells Marian to close their eyes and not look. Why would this music be used? The information being conveyed by the moon runes will lead to the opening of the mountain, like the opening of the Ark, unleashing a great destructive force in Smaug and the attacks of Sauron, just like the destruction unleashed by the opening of the Ark. It might just be coincidence, but Hugo Weaving, playing Lord Elrond, was also in the 2011 Captain America the First Avenger as Red Skull and mentioned Hitler searching for the Ark, which is the plot of the Indiana Jones film.In the image above, the table is a quartz crystal, used for reflecting and refracting light, which is the source of all illumination; because Elrond probably frequents the place often, he himself has become a master of illumination, whereas the dwarfs prefer darkness.
The incredible pettiness and hardness of heart we have witnessed in Thorin during these several scenes is now climaxing in the revealing of the White Orc, Azog. When Azog the Defiler talks about the dwarf scum, he is really only mirroring the way Thorin talks about the elves and even Bilbo.
Seeing the wizard who we know will side with Sauron during the events of The Lord Of the Rings is a really sickening feeling, it's like being forced to be nice to the enemy; "Do not speak to me of Radagast the Brown," Saruman says, "He's a foolish fellow," and Saruman seeks to dismiss what has become fact. This is an important scene that we need to be mindful of going into The Battle Of the Five Armies, because this doesn't exist in any of Tolkien's writings, it was created by the film makers for their own purpose. 
After the council meeting, we see the dwarfs getting ready to stop over the Edge of the Wild, and Bilbo looking back longingly at Rivendell; then Lady Galadriel speaks to Gandalf and asks him, "Why the Halfling?" Her reference to the "halfling" might sound derogatory--one who is only half the size of the rest of us--but in this case, I think it's a compliment in Lady Galadriel's wisdom: he who is half an adult, which makes him more child-like. Children, as we know, don't know doubt, because they haven't experienced disappointment in life, so they have only reason to hope and believe that things will work out for them, like Bilbo, never having really been out in the world to know of all the things that could make their self the enemy of Bilbo Baggins from The Shire. Bilbo, then, is child-like but in the innocence of his lack of worldliness, he has a pure heart for things that are themselves pure, and a disdain for those things that are not, which is why he looks back at the beautiful Rivendell, with all it's waterfalls: he knows that it's pure there and wants to stay and be a part of it so it can become a part of him. This is what makes Bilbo such a valuable member of the company, his purity.
As the company of Thorin march on into the wilderness, they come to the mountains and start crossing, coming into what they think is a thunderstorm, until Balin realizes it's a "thunder-battle" between stone giants:
What on earth does this mean? This is a metaphor for the Council meeting that we just saw between Galadriel, Gandalf and Saruman. They are giants, each of them, and each one set in their own belief of what is happening in Middle-Earth and the dwarfs, and Bilbo, caught in it as the three of them slug it out with words and plans of their own.  What happens next, however, is perhaps even more violent than the stone giants' fight: Bilbo, hanging on the edge of the cliff, is nearly lost until Thorin jumps down and pulls him up, then Thorin is nearly lost. One of the dwarfs comments, "We nearly lost our burglar," to which Thorin meanly replies, "He's been lost since we started. He should never have come. He has no place amongst us." Now, let's consider, in the scene above with Lady Galadriel, what Gandalf said about it being the small, everyday things that keeps evil at bay: it's also the small, everyday things, like Thorin constantly criticizing Bilbo, that allows evil to enter and grow. Thorin, you will recall, got lost twice just trying to find Bilbo's house, and--as we speculated--Thorin getting lost foreshadowed a much greater "lost" in taking the wrong turns in dealing with others and himself. So, Thorin comes down really hard on Bilbo, but only because no one is there to come down on Thorin, except the Goblin King, and treat Thorin the way Thorin has treated others.
Bofur, at Bilbo's house, was the most articulate about the dangers awaiting them on their adventure: "Think furnace with wings," as he told Bilbo and caused him to faint, the "mini-death." Now, however, keeping watch, it's Bofur using his imagination to put himself in Bilbo's place and consider why Bilbo would not want to continue being one of them. "You're homesick, I understand," he tells Bilbo. In this poster for Bofur, he holds his flute/pipe, and--as we have discussed--it's because Bofur possesses the humility to be an instrument, good things can and do happen through him, like him seeing Bilbo's sword glowing blue so they had some small warning that they were about to be attacked. 
How is it that Bilbo is able to kneel down and not be missed by the goblins as they march the dwarfs off to their king? When Bilbo was talking to Bofur about going back to Rivendell, Bilbo wasn't be bitter or angry, he was being humble; he didn't mention, I was the one who saved you all from being eaten by trolls, he was just making, what to him, was a fair assessment of his performance on the journey with Thorin's observations as his basis. This is what allows Bilbo to be humble, or "lowly," as the phrase is in the spiritual life, so that he can, literally, be "low" and go unnoticed, which is the act of being low, not being noticed by anyone for anything. In this sense, Bilbo all ready has The Ring because he is all ready exercising that virtue. Thorin, as we shall see, has been noticed, and it's because of his pride, as Gandalf diagnosed at Rivendell.
Let us make a quick note about Bilbo's sword. A sword is only as great as the warrior yielding it, and in the scene in the cave, before they are trapped by the goblins, the sword glows blue, insuring that it is, indeed, truly an ancient elfish blade. Why blue, to indicate the orcs and goblins? Orcs and goblins symbolize a particular kind of spiritual problem, self-hatred and hatred of others. Bilbo is going through a case of "self-hatred," not severe, but he is down on himself because he feels that he has failed in the quest, which is why Bilbo has to fight the goblin on the bridge, he's fighting himself, and that bridge is the symbol of what he has to "cross" before he continue on in the adventure. That is why the elfish blade turns blue: there is wisdom to be gained in this spiritual trial Bilbo is going up against. The fall Bilbo and the goblin take demonstrates what happens int he spiritual life during, literally our spiritual battle (the "battle" with the goblin is akin to our battles with the demons). The "great fall" that Bilbo takes is just that: the symbol of The Great Fall. Even though the "painted door" on Bilbo's house, and his child-like nature suggests Bilbo isn't effected by the results of Original Sin, all of us can take a fall. This is, in Bilbo's case, a good thing, however, because he's getting to the very root of his problems quickly, and that root is called Gollum.
Thorin is brought before the Goblin King for two reasons: as we said, unlike Bilbo who is lowly and can go unnoticed, Thorin's pride makes him noticeable, and there is a price on his head, like an animal. Secondly, the Goblin King foreshadows the Master (Stephen Fry) of Lake Town and Alfred in The Desolation Of Smaug. Thorin, in his criticisms of Bilbo (and in front of all the others) has proven himself a bad leader, and now we see the level to which Thorin's soul has sunk. Note that when the Goblin King steps off his throne, he steps onto the backs of goblins, his subjects, just as Thorin stepped on Bilbo, his companion.
The Goblin King's ridiculing of who Thorin isn't, because he doesn't have a mountain, so he's a nobody, mirrors the harsh treatment Thorin meted out to Bilbo and, in the ugliness and deformity of the Goblin King, we see a picture of what Thorin's soul is becoming, just as if Thorin were The Portrait Of Dorian Grey.  Thorin's insistence that Azog was destroyed in battle long ago is a terrible denial coming up to the surface: in essence, Thorin doesn't believe he can become as bad as his grandfather, Thror, who brought the misery of the dragon upon them, and who lost his head to the Pale Orc, but the Pale Orc still being alive reveals that Thorin is getting closer and closer to becoming him.
Bilbo wakes up and doesn't know what he sees but watches anyway. The question to be asked, as Gollum makes his appearance is: given that The Ring was in his presence for so long, why has it suddenly left Gollum? The Ring does, afterall, have a kind of personality all its own, that much concentrated power. In and of itself, The Ring is neither good nor bad, but--again--because there is so much concentrated power, it starts to wear the wearer down to the marrow of their bones, as it does to Bilbo as he advances in age. We might deduce that The Ring leaves Gollum because Gollum is in the act of murdering someone, the goblin, just as he murdered his companion when he found The Ring. We have all ready mostly covered the scene with Gollum and the finding of The Ring, but there are some differences with the film, so we will take a moment.
This is important: just as Gollum is divided into two, so every character is divided--at least--into two, a good and a bad. Like the Pale Orc and Bolg (who comes in for the next film) Gollum has the deathly white pale skin and red markings on his body, and pale, unearthly eyes, aligning him to the other two big orcs. Please notice Gollum's back, it's like he's becoming what he eats, the fish, and developing a scale along his spine.
It's by the blue light of his elven blade that Bilbo sees and examines The Ring, and this is important. Why? It demonstrates the dual nature of Bilbo, because Gollum is his "arch nemesis," and what is Gollum talking about when we first meet him? Eating. And that's what Bilbo wants to do, go back home and eat his nice dinner, then eat breakfast the next day, then eat second breakfast, and so on.
Bilbo's first riddle to Gollum, and then Gollum's second riddle for Bilbo both mention teeth; why? Teeth are the primary means of eating, and as we have noted, Bilbo's greatest vice for becoming like Gollum is his love of eating, and also the desire to not give out the spiritual food he has to others, but keep it hidden, as Gollum keeps himself hidden. The second riddle Bilbo tells Gollum, about the "golden treasure inside is hid," the egg, is a symbol of new life, and reveals that, unconsciously, Bilbo hopes for a "new life" for himself because he's gaining confidence that he can win the riddle game and secure passage out of the tunnels. When Gollum asks about time, that's a topic Gollum's uneventful life is familiar with, but Bilbo's eventful life isn't, he isn't used to thinking about time, so it's not an obvious answer to him. Why does Gollum suddenly say, "Ask us a question," instead of, "Ask us a riddle?" Because playing the riddle game was just a way for "Precious" (what Gollum calls himself, not The Ring) to socialize with someone; when you socialize, you ask the other person questions to get to know them. Precious wants Bilbo to want to know him, that's why he said, "Ask us a question," because--for the socially inept Precious--the game was a means of talking to someone other than himself. Remember, when Bilbo says, "You lost," and Gollum replies, "Lost? You're lost." The play on words mirros the larger sense of "play" taking place in the narrative with doubles besides Bilbo and Gollum "playing" the riddle game. Why, when Bilbo is running away from Gollum, do his buttons get stuck? This is, perhaps, the last part of the test: does Bilbo value his life, or his waistcoat more? Rightly, Bilbo values his life and so manages to escape and then, The Ring introduces itself to him.
In a big way, all art is a riddle game, but when a riddle is specifically introduced into art, it's an act of self-awareness, begging a greater answer and interpretation from the audience, and so we have it here with the riddle-game between Bilbo and Gollum. The stakes of the game are this: if Bilbo wins, Gollum shows him the way out; if he loses, Gollum "eats him whole." This is actually the state of events, because, as his arch-nemesis, if Bilbo can't figure out that he's about to become Gollum (by going back home, rather than sticking it out with Thorin and company, exactly as Thorin accuses Bilbo of doing when they stop and realize Bilbo isn't with them) then the evil that has consumed Gollum is also going to eat Bilbo Baggins whole. It's not a coincidence, dear reader, that Gollum has only nine teeth and Sauron has summoned his Nine Nazgul; the meaning being, that as Sauron will eat Middle Earth whole, Bilbo faces the same fate as an individual to be eaten by Gollum whole.
Did Bilbo steal The Ring from Gollum?
We're not talking about "finders, keepers," rather, how--if at all--does this go into Bilbo being understood as a "burglar." The film itself provides the answer. Just as Gollum starts running after Bilbo, up yonder, in the Goblin Kingdom, the company is in a bad way, and Gandalf appears. What Bilbo has in his pocket, and how Gandalf managed to get there just in time is Fate, just as Thorin managed to be in Rivendell on the night of the right moon. This isn't stretching the narrative, this is a philosophy that is being explained throughout the three films. "Fate" had decided that it was time for Bilbo to have The Ring, just as "Fate" decided it was not time for Thorin to die. Some of us believe this same "Fate" (or God) is active in our own lives and some do not, but the book and film offers us reason to think about what we do believe and why.
When the dwarfs are all together, and Bilbo reveals himself, Thorin tells Bilbo he wants to know why he came back instead of going home. This is the moment of triumph for Bilbo, this is the moment he reveals what wisdom is and how, just like The Ring, nothing in and of itself is bad, it's what we do with it. Knowing how much he values his home, he wants to help them get their home back, and he vows to do what he can. That is wisdom and that is a triumph, but Bilbo doesn't stop there.
The scars Azog has all over him mirror the scars Thorin has, from his family dying to the grudges he has held against everyone for what happened to the Lonely Mountain. When the dwarfs are up in the tree, and Thorin comes out to fight Azog, what happens? Why on earth does Thorin do that? There is so much hatred in Thorin, so much bitterness and so little good, that his feelings are more important than his own kin about to fall to their deaths; this makes Azog very powerful over Thorin.
Little Bilbo Baggins, of Bags-End, steps between the orc and Thorin, who practically hates him as much as he hates the Pale Orc. This tremendous act of courage by one so little, is enough to hold the Pale Orc back several seconds, buying that precious time again. As the orcs and warqs are the lowest animals in creation, the eagle, with their majesty, ability to soar and look straight into the sun, are the most noble.
The all important thrush for completing the prophecy and insuring the dwarfs get into the mountain. The thrush we see here is racking a snail shell against the gray stone of the Lonely Mountain. Why? Snails, like turtles, symbolize the meditative life, because they "withdraw into themselves," and that action is what the wise people do who reflect upon themselves and amass wisdom. The thrush (I think, we will have to see what happens in The Battle Of the Five Armies) symbolizes Bilbo and his growth he achieves throughout the narrative of The Hobbit during his struggles and experiences. All ready, at this point in the film, the depth of spiritual awareness Bilbo is achieving (for Bard, so Bard can kill the dragon and complete what his ancestor Girion started but couldn't finish) will help to end Smaug and his reign. How can we say this? The thrush will communicate from Bilbo to Bard, in a language only the men of Dale can understand, and that language is HOPE. In spite of what Dwalin and Thorin have told Bard about his ancestor failing to kill the dragon, Bard believes he can, even with just one arrow. What I think we are going to see is, something to the effect of, Bilbo speaking to Bard through the thrush and Bard using that to kill Smaug.
The eagles, are set against an even more important bird, one that will have great consequence: the thrush. Such a simple little, common bird, rather like Bilbo himself, and yet, without the thrush, the secret entrance wouldn't be found. We could even say, knowing the events of the book, that it's the thrush who brings down Samug; why? Because, as Gandalf said, it's the everyday little things that keep evil at bay.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner