Okay, we know that The Lord of the Rings movies were long, especially with the extended versions, but Peter Jackson still managed to keep each single book down to a single corresponding film. So why, then, can he not even fit The Hobbit into two movies, but has to make it three? I have a few theories.
Note: many of these theories have now officially been confirmed by Peter Jackson as elements that he is specifically looking into in the creation of the third Hobbit film. The Necromancer’s rise, the Battle Dol Guldur, and more on Gandalf’s part in the tale were all brought up in the link provided. Speculation time!
1) The Necromancer
In the book, we don’t get to see where Gandalf goes off to when he abandons Thorin and Company on the edge of Mirkwood, but we know from the LotR appendices and some of Tolkien’s notes that the wizard left to lead an assault upon the Necromancer in his lair at Dol Guldur, in the heart of Mirkwood. Mirkwood wasn’t always called Mirkwood, after all—it used to be Greenwood the Great, and it was only after the Necromancer’s arrival and the result of his influence there that the elves renamed the forest Mirkwood. That was when it became the dangerous place that the dwarves and Bilbo had to travel through.
We’ve seen clips in the trailer of Gandalf wandering carefully through some creepy gray stone ruins, and one has to assume that there will be a big confrontation between him and the Necromancer. (Possibly in the tradition of that epic Gandalf v. Saruman smackdown in Fellowship? Or something even more terrifying?) The fact that Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Smaug makes it logical to cast him in another voice-acting role within the movie (just as John Rhys-Davies played Gimli and voiced Treebeard) but once you have that voice and that talent, why not use it to its fullest? Will we see only one scene with the Necromancer, or will there be several? Is the scene we’ve glimpsed in the trailer that first time Gandalf snuck into Dol Guldur (no one knew who the Necromancer really was—although the Wise suspected it was one of the Nazgul—until Gandalf snuck in and discovered that it was actually Sauron) and is it possible that we may also see the battle itself, with all the strength of the elves and wizards thrown against the growing shadow of Sauron?
2) The White Council
That being said, it seems likely that some aspect of rising of Sauron plot line will be explored. Obviously, Hugo Weaving is reprising his role as Elrond, since the dwarves stay at Rivendell “The Last Homely House,” in The Hobbit, but we also know that we will see Galadriel and Saruman, both members of The White Council, as well as Sylvester McCoy as Radgast the Brown who—as a wizard of Gandalf’s order—was probably also part of the council. Sadly, there is no casting of Círdan to confirm my suspicions, but it still seems pretty likely.
There is so much opportunity for exploring and foreshadowing The Lord of the Rings here that was never included in the actual story of The Hobbit, because Tolkien was adding all his foreshadowing and tie-ins retroactively (i.e. the changes he made to the riddle game once he decided that Bilbo’s magic ring should be the through-line of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings). But Jackson’s movie-going audience has already watched The Lord of the Rings, and now gets to travel back in time, so to speak. We’re ravenous for those details, those ironic hints of the story we know is to come. Remember how the trailer ends, with Gollum hovering over Bilbo in an all too familiar way, and that perfect shot of the ring?
3) Lazy Lob and Crazy Cob
While The Lord of the Rings is a war story, The Hobbit is really just a questing story, and it is likely that Peter Jackson will want to give each adventure Bilbo has along his way a good amount of screen time. The incident with the spiders in Mirkwood could, of course, be cut down or even out to save time in the film, but it’s also good enough to be given as much attention as Bilbo’s encounters with Smaug or the final battle in Lake Town. Indeed, I enjoyed most of Bilbo’s adventures more than that battle, which in some ways seemed to be a convenient manner of getting everyone to stop arguing about gold and end the trek with the proper battle these stories usually have. It might be wonderful to spend a full half hour just watching the dwarves try to navigate Mirkwood, and another forty minutes in the Elvenking’s hall watching the dwarves be stubborn and the Elves get drunk… but then again, that will start to make the movies pretty long, pretty quickly. Jackson’s audience is used to long stories, however, and he has shown that he’s not one for leaving out the details.
4) Tauriel, Daughter of the Forest
Tolkien’s works are rich in pretty much everything except female characters, but at least The Lord of the Rings had Arwen and Eowyn, whose roles could be—and, in Arwen’s case, were—expanded upon in places to give these ladies more to do. Not so in The Hobbit, so Peter Jackson is adding a whole new character, Tauriel. We don’t know much about her besides the fact that she is from Mirkwood and will be played by Evangeline Lilly, but Peter Jackson wouldn’t add a brand new female character without giving her a full story, so she probably is going to be doing more than arresting dwarves in Mirkwood or following Gandalf to the battle with the Necromancer.
5) The Story of Gandalf
It is one thing to have Frodo know Gandalf as an old family friend, which, at that point, he was. But how did Bilbo come to know Gandalf in the first place, and, more importantly, what was it in Bilbo that caught Gandalf’s eye? In the book, the wizard is known in Hobbiton, but hasn’t been seen for a long time—Bilbo does remember the fireworks and Gandalf’s stories, and Gandalf clearly knew Bilbo’s mother. Although I doubt there will be much exploration into that old family history, there is a tie between the two of them that could be explored.
Jackson also seems to be establishing something of a connection between Galadriel and Gandalf. It’s only a flash in the trailer, but the sadness in his face as she lifts her hand to touch him seems very vulnerable, and very personal. In The Unfinished Tales it is suggested that the wizards are basically angels, beings called Maiar sent by the Valar (the gods) to help and protect Middle-Earth. Sauron and Saruman were two of these, both fallen eventually to evil. What is it about Gandalf that sets him apart, and what does Galadriel know about him? Círdan was said to be the only elf who knew who the wizards really were, but given the audience’s previous knowledge of Galadriel and her position in The Lord of the Rings films as the one who sees the farthest and knows the most, it would make sense if she carried this knowledge in film-verse.
Of course, there are lots of other options for scenes to fill up the movie. Will we spend an hour following the goblins around their caves in the Misty Mountains? Will Elrond finally lose his temper with his know-it-all mother-in-law, Galadriel? Will we actually get to see a hobbit eat second breakfast? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Kelsey Jefferson Barrett is a brooklyn-based reader and writer who prefers their stories epic and their narrative verbose. You can follow them on Twitter and read their first published short story in Lightspeed Magazine.