Dol Guldur

The Necromancer

Bilbo arms himself, but the mere concept of having a weapon close to him fills him with fear. He has never held one, much less used one, and now on top of that he has to think about the image of himself he leaves on the company. As much as he wants them to think of him as fearless and able to fend for himself, he cannot own the craft of wielding a sword just by wishing it. He will have to give himself some time to become adjusted to the idea of having to defend himself with a weapon rather than words. The time required to do so, is sadly non existent. 

Looming Radagast

Thorin: “Something’s coming!”

Bilbo: “Gandalf.”

Gandalf: “Stay together! Hurry now! Arm yourselves!”

Radagast: “Thieves! Fire! Murder!”

As soon as Gandalf places the sword in Bilbo’s hands, there comes a sound in the bushes. The Dwarves are on alert, already with weapons in their hands. They thought the danger was on the way, but what came through the bushes was a rabbit-drawn sleigh carrying a man in peculiar clothing.

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Tip of the tongue

Gandalf: “Radagast. It’s Radagast the Brown. Well, what on earth are you doing here?”

Radagast: “I was looking for you Gandalf. Something’s wrong. Something’s terribly wrong.” 

Gandalf: “Yes?”

Radagast: “Oh. Just give me a minute. Oh. I had a thought and now I’ve lost it. It was right there on the tip of my tongue. Oh. It’s not a thought at all. It’s a silly old stick insect.”

The introduction of Radagast to the Dwarves, a great Wizard no doubt, but one that lacks focus, is right on point. There is more to him than meets the eye, but from a simply characteral point of view he is as he appears, scatterbrain. He obviously has some problem with memory retrieval but that doesn’t stop him in any way. He knows there is something terrible he has to tell Gandalf, but the actual thought fails to materialize in his mind. 

What people normally refer to as being on the tip of their tongue is usually a blurred image of the thought in their heads they wanted to verbalize but only a whisper of it remained. Interestingly retracing one’s steps helps in memory retrieval, something that is commonly used to do just that. However, what Radagast means with the tip of his tongue is a stick insect, literally. It is something fairly gross to have in one’s mouth but it works well on Radagast given his cohabitation with nature. 

To everyone else surrounding the Wizard, Radagast appears very unreliable. He is certainly not a Wizard like Gandalf or Saruman, but his virtues as an Istari are useful and welcome nevertheless. The company, including Bilbo, does not take Radagast seriously. They look at him as something ridiculous and weird. Something only Gandalf could handle.

Webs and spiders

Radagast: “The Greenwood is sick, Gandalf. A darkness has fallen over it. Nothing grows anymore. At least, nothing good. The air is foul with decay. But worse are the webs.” 

Gandalf: “Webs? What do you mean?”

Radagast: “Spiders Gandalf. Giant ones. Some kind of spawn of Ungoliant, or I am not a Wizard. I followed their trail. They came from Dol Guldur.” 

Gandalf: “Dol Guldur? But the old fortress is abandoned.” 

This is news to Gandalf. The mere mention of webs and Dol Guldur gives him cause for concern. Fear creeps in. What could it mean that the spawn of Ungoliant is contaminating Greenwood? Does it have something to do with the Trolls they encountered earlier? It baffles Gandalf to have these particular creatures mentioned. 

Dol Guldur, originally called Amon Lanc, was the capital of the Silvan Elves who later went on to dwell under the mountains of Mirkwood. The abandonment of the fortress that Gandalf is referring to is the departure of the Silvan Elves, leaving Amon Lanc empty and bare. 

It is interesting to mention how this old fortress was designed by the Weta Digital designers for the film. They started from the ground up, building the capital of the Silvan Elves in all its beauty. When they finished building it, they began tearing it down piece by piece, leaving its raw rocky structure standing, with visible deterioration. These became the building blocks for new occupants. 

Dol Guldur

Radagast: “No, Gandalf. Tis not. A dark power dwells in there such as I have never felt before. It is the shadow of an ancient horror. One that can summon the spirits of the dead. I saw him, Gandalf. From out of the darkness a Necromancer has come.”

Necromancer: “Radagast.”

Radagast: “Quick! Quick! Wait for me! Sorry.”

Gandalf: “Try a little Old Toby. It’ll help settle your nerves. And out. Now, a Necromancer. Are you sure?”

Radagast: “That is not from the world of the living.” 

Dol Guldur, now known as the Hills of Sorcery, is a breeding ground for the dark powers. As Radagast hesitatingly entered the fortress, fear covered his facial features. He moved stealthily one foot in front of another, sensing danger lurking from every corner. And he wasn’t wrong. As he moved past a statue, its fingers gripped around its sword.

Something is alive in there, something that does not welcome Wizards. Radagast senses the spirit’s presence above him in time for him to defend himself. The spirit leaves, screeching, and a very familiar screech it is, dropping behind itself its own weapon, which Radagast takes with him. 

What then appears in the doorway right in front of his eyes, is something he cannot explain. A silhouette of a man, it appears to be. A black vapor, almost a negative space in midair coming ever closer to him, whispering his name. Out of fear for his life, Radagast fleas.

Old Toby

Even recounting the story now to Gandalf rattles him, which is why Gandalf offers him a puff of his pipe. Old Toby calms Radagast enough to recapture his senses. 

The smoking of Old Toby is made comical by the way he inhales the pipe with his eyes crossing and exhales through his ears. A silly gag but very effective after the scene with the Necromancer. The creative team wanted not only the Wizard to calm down but the audience as well.

The fear the audience felt in that particular scene in Dol Guldur might have been prolonged if Peter Jackson wanted to keep the audience in suspense the whole film. Thankfully, he didn’t. There is too much beauty and adventure to be had before any more of Dol Guldur is seen. It was a very well done teaser of what may come. 

The weapon of the spirit has now changed hands. Gandalf has taken it with him as proof of danger where there otherwise should be none.

Warg scout

Bilbo: “Was that a wolf? Are there wolves out there?”

Bofur: “Wolves? No, that is not a wolf.”

Thorin: “Kili! Get your bow! Warg scouts. Which means an Orc pack is not far behind.” 

Bilbo: “Orc pack?”

At the mere sound of a howl, Bilbo’s countenance changes to fear, even more so when Bofur assures him that what he hears is in no way a wolf. Bilbo is presented with an attacking Warg as Thorin and Kili take one down. What proves normal for Thorin to assume there is an Orc pack on their tail, for Bilbo, it is almost impossible to believe. What would an Orc pack want with them?

From what he had heard of Orcs from Balin and Fili and Kili, he can only ascertain that particular race’s want for blood. There is no way he could negotiate himself verbally out of an attack from that particular enemy. He must be ready to fight.

Classified information

Gandalf: “Who did you tell about your quest beyond your kin?”

Thorin: “No one.”

Gandalf: “Who did you tell?”

Thorin: “No one I swear. What in Durin’s name is going on?”

Gandalf: “You are being hunted.”

Gandalf immediately jumps to accusations. There is no way an Orc pack would be trailing them had Thorin not spilled the beans about his quest to someone other than his company and his kin at the meeting in Ered Luin. Would they have told it to someone who had an interest in attacking the Dwarves? Why would they even bother? However, Gandalf apparently knows more than he lets on. Something we will come to in The Desolation of Smaug.

 Rhosgobel rabbits

Dwalin: “We have to get out of here.”

Ori: “We can’t. We have no ponies. They bolted.” 

Radagast: “I’ll draw them off.”

Gandalf: “These are Gundabad Wargs. They will outrun you.”

Radagast: “These are Rhosgobel rabbits. I’d like to see them try. Come on! Come and get me! Ha, ha!” 

For all his quirkiness and inability to be taken seriously, Radagast is one to take on a pack of Orcs if the situation warrants it. Gandalf does not believe Radagast can outrun them in his wooden sleigh but then again, Gandalf does not know the advantages in escapism when there are Rhosgobel rabbits involved. 

Radagast’s comment almost becomes a challenge to all those who doubt him and his mode of transportation. No one should doubt him, least of all Gandalf. And to prove his point, Radagast will take his rabbits to meet the Orc pack head-on without a twinge of hesitation. 

The chase

Gandalf: “Come on. Stay together. Move!”

Thorin: “Ori no! Get back!”

Gandalf: “All of you, come on. Quick!”

Thorin: “Where are you leading us?”

Gandalf obviously has a plan he has put in motion without anyone’s knowledge. He knows his way around. It is better for him to keep the end destination for himself, knowing how Thorin would react if he found out. As Gandalf doesn’t answer Thorin when asked but simply looks at him with apology and uncertainty of Thorin’s acceptance of the plan, Thorin’s direct eye contact with the camera provides the audience with his precise thoughts at the moment, those of anger.

Thorin follows Gandalf because there is nowhere else for him to go, but he has a sneaking suspicion Gandalf’s way might not be in accordance with his world views. The anger he portrays after seeing Gandalf’s apologetic look guarantees discrepancy between the two characters’ view of the situation. 


Yazneg: “The Dwarf-scum are over there! After them!”

Gandalf: “Move! Run!”

Glóin: “There they are!”

Gandalf: “This way! Quickly!”

Kili: “There’s more coming!”

Thorin: “Kili! Shoot them!”

Fili: “We’re surrounded!”

Dori: “Where’s Gandalf?”

Dwalin: “He’s abandoned us.”

Thorin: “Hold your ground!”

The company comes to a single point in the vast rocky landscape. They stop in front of a rock face without a reason or idea of why they are there. The Orcs seize this opportunity to surround them from all sides. They are sure the chase is over and their own mission is at an end. The Dwarves defend themselves as much as they can. Without a sight of Gandalf, they have no one to save them or help them escape. 

Read on in my next post. 

Photo credit to Der Hobbit Broschur XL 2020 from Athesia Kalenderverlag GmbH

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