Tekapo Lake

Leaving Paradise

Beorn had satiated their hunger and quenched their thirst as well as provided shelter and protection from their hunters. However, for them to reach the entrance to Mirkwood through the Elven Gate without getting killed in the process, they need his horses, well ponies. Before they even set off into what will prove a dangerous and almost quest ending journey, Gandalf needs answers only Beorn can provide him, and vice versa.

Beorn’s ponies

Beorn: “You will leave my ponies before you enter the forest.”

Gandalf: “Oh, you have my word. We’re being watched.” 

As much as Beorn wants to assist the Dwarves in their quest, he also needs his animals back in one piece. It is one thing for the Dwarves to experience trouble and danger in the forest, it is completely another for Beorn’s ponies to experience the same fate.

If the forest is sick and influences the minds of the creatures within it, would that include the ponies as well? If so, that would put the Dwarves into even more danger than they already are. 

An alliance

Beorn: “Yes. The Orcs will not give up. They will hunt the Dwarves until they see them destroyed.” 

Gandalf: “Why now? What had made the Defiler crawl from his hole?”

Beorn: “There is an alliance between the Orcs of Moria and the sorcerer in Dol Guldur.” 

Gandalf: “Are you sure of this?”

Beorn: “Packs have been seen gathering there. Each day, more and more come.” 

Gandalf: “What do you know of this sorcerer? The one they call the Necromancer?”

Beorn: “I know he is not what he seems. Fell things are drawn to his power. Azog pays homage to him.” 

Gandalf asks Beorn the same question the audience asks as well. It seems peculiar that Azog would show his face now, right when the company is on their way to reclaim Erebor. The causal connection between the evil forces of Azog and his pack and the Necromancer is clear, as one attracts the other. To what purpose, that is still unclear. In any case, to have a ruthless Orc as the right hand man to this newly established evil in Dol Guldur, is a cause for concern at least. 

Still, no one can really tell who or what this new sorcerer is. He is incorporeal, as he remains in the Lord of the Rings tale. However, having only seen a silhouette of what appeared to be a man cannot be attributed to any living or nonliving being.

Yes, the One Ring is the only weapon powerful enough for the Necromancer, or Sauron, to take shape, but that does not mean that without it, or rather with a less powerful version of Thráin’s ring and those he already possessed he could not make himself known enough to surround himself with a force the rest of Middle-Earth can reckon with.

Tombs

Thorin: “Gandalf. Time is wasting.” 

Beorn: “There is more. Not long past, word spread the dead had been seen walking near the High Fells of Rhudaur.” 

Gandalf: “The dead?”

Beorn: “Is it true? Are there tombs in those mountains?”

Galadriel: “When Angmar fell the Men of the North took his body and all that he possessed and sealed it within the High Fells of Rhudaur. Deep within the rock they buried him. In a tomb so dark it would never come to light.” 

Gandalf: “Yes. Yes, there are tombs up there.”

This is news to them both. It is a good thing Gandalf is the Wandering Wizard because, without his information gathering, the rest of the Council would not have known of this looming threat. A threat that has now become even more dangerous than he thought. If the spell of the tombs has been broken then the nine kings of Men, the servants of Sauron, are on the loose. No one else besides Sauron would have the power to break the spell apart from those who enforced it.

This is what Gandalf had feared. Now there is no other option to be considered but that of their old enemy reviving himself and his servants. Coupled with the mentioned sightings of the dead from the High Fells, the Morgul blade is now conclusive proof of the Witchking’s return to the world of the living. There is now a much more dangerous threat afoot than just the evil of Smaug.

Subtle but powerful

As Beorn confirms Gandalf’s doubts so does Gandalf confirm his. The time to act is now. 

Beorn: “I remember a time when a great evil ruled these lands. One powerful enough to raise the dead. If that enemy has returned to Middle-Earth I will have you tell me.” 

Gandalf: “Saruman the White says it’s not possible. The enemy was destroyed and will never return.” 

Beorn: “And what does Gandalf the Grey say? Go now. While you have the light. Your hunters are not far behind.” 

As part of a hierarchy of which the wisest of all had already concluded, there is nothing to fear from their old enemy, Gandalf relays the information on, without too much conviction. He says it matter-of-factly, but in truth, his own opinion of the matter deviates from that of his superior. Beorn, however, is much more interested in what Gandalf thinks, but there comes no answer. Well, not a verbal one anyway.

In his brilliant art of expression, Ian McKellan shows only the emotions of doubt and fear that convey his thoughts on the matter exactly. There are no words necessary when the likes of Ian McKellan are involved in portraying a character. Very minimalistic, but very powerful nonetheless.

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The Elven Gate

Gandalf: “The Elven Gate. Here lies our path through Mirkwood.” 

Dwalin: “No sign of the Orcs. We have luck on our side.” 

Gandalf: “Set the ponies loose. Let them return to their master.” 

Bilbo: “This forest feels sick. As if a disease lies upon it. Is there no way around?”

Gandalf: “Not unless we go 200 miles north, or twice that distance south.” 

The company arrives at the entrance to Mirkwood. A clear dichotomy of light and dark is seen in this initial shot of the entrance. The path the company came on and the path they still need to tread. Dwalin, not having seen Beorn transform and on the lookout, thinks it lucky they have not been chased down by Orcs yet. But Gandalf knows different. Moreover, Beorn is looking in Gandalf’s direction as almost a reminder of his promise to let his ponies come home, a promise Gandalf fulfills as soon as he spots Beorn. 

As opposed to the entrance in Rivendell where Bilbo felt a positive kind of magic, here in front of Mirkwood forest his instincts tell him loud and clear there is something sick about the forest. To speak of darkness over the forest is too broad a term, that could signify many things, but a diseased forest is something very specific, something very rotten and threatening. 

Threat

Galadriel: “Something moves in the shadows unseen, hidden from our sight. Every day it grows in strength. Beware the Necromancer. He is not what he seems. If our enemy has returned we must know. Go to the tombs in the mountains.” 

Gandalf: “The High Fells, so be it. Not my horse! I need it!”

Gandalf enters the Elven Gate, slowly, procrastinating. Something pulls him toward the statue enshrouded by climbing vines. This being the Elven path and the Elven Gate it is only befitting that the statue be in honor of an Elfmaid. And that it is. It is a statue in honor of Thranduil’s wife who died in Gundabad.

Gandalf nears the statue, pulls the vines off it to see what lies beneath it. As he does so a flash of Sauron’s eye instantly appears before his eyes. The sign on the statue is a definite signal of his power over the forest. This is precisely why Galadriel instructs him to go to the tombs in the High Fells and see for himself that which was until now only a rumor.

Leaving the company

Bilbo: “You’re not leaving us?”

Gandalf: “I would not do this unless I had to. You’ve changed Bilbo Baggins. You’re not the same Hobbit as the one who left the Shire.” 

Bilbo: “I was going to tell you. I found something in the Goblin tunnels.” 

Gandalf: “Found what? What did you find?”

Bilbo: “My courage.” 

Gandalf: “Good. Well, that’s good. You’ll need it.”

Now this is a conversation that could have ended on a much more troublesome note had the truth of the matter been spoken out. What Bilbo wanted to reveal to Gandalf is that which he already knew, that he had found the One Ring.

Thankfully Bilbo waivers to divulge that particular information, either finding himself a thief, a possessor of a powerful weapon whose true powers he cannot even fathom, or because the need for the possession of the Ring and having it be his own has grown since he took it from Gollum. If he told Gandalf of the Ring, he could have taken it from him, leaving him feeling angry and betrayed, as Gollum felt, only not in the same volume. 

As Bilbo speaks to Gandalf, he toys with the Ring in his pocket, feeling it with his fingers. It comes across almost as if the Ring didn’t want to be told about. As if the Ring influenced Bilbo not to finish his sentence as he originally planned. This is why he turns to tell about courage but is taken aback by Gandalf’s retort. He thought himself proud to be feeling courageous and Gandalf acknowledging it.

But what he didn’t reckon with is Gandalf’s answer to his very proud statement. It would seem as if Gandalf knows that there will come a trying time in the near future where he will have to use his courage to survive.

Clear instructions

Gandalf: “I’ll be waiting for you at the overlook, before the slopes of Erebor. Keep the map and key safe. Do not enter that mountain without me. This is not the Greenwood of old. There is a stream in the woods that carries a dark enchantment. Do not touch the water. Cross only by the stone bridge. The very air in the forest is heavy with illusion. It’ll seek to enter your mind and lead you astray.” 

Bilbo: “Lead us astray? What does that mean?”

Gandalf: “You must stay on the path. Do not leave it. If you do you’ll never find it again. No matter what may come, stay on the path!”

Thorin: “We must reach the mountain before the sun sets on Durin’s Day.” 

Bilbo: “Durin’s Day?”

Thorin: “Let’s go. It is our one chance to find the hidden door.”

Clear instructions from Gandalf the company should follow. There is only one safe path through the forest and if they leave it for any reason they will not be able to find it or exit the forest. They cannot know how the air in the forest might influence them. They are about to find out. 

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Image by rana88888 from Pixabay

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