There are plenty of dimensions to the archaeology of Middle-Earth and I have been reconnecting with them whilst watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – the extended edition that came out on DVD just before Christmas.
Before I discuss Middle-Earth archaeology, what do you get in the extended edition?
- A tiny bit of extra dragon and the city of Dale as Smaug attacks it.
- More hobbits in Hobbiton, eating and selling stuff at market and generally being happy and folky.
- Quite a few extra dwarvish bits, including the dwarves at Bag End and at Rivendell throwing food and bathing naked in a fountain.
- Extra elves and half-elves: scenes of Rivendell and Elrond and Bilbo having a chat
- Extra goblin-king scenes including songs. This brief section on its own makes it worthwhile to watch the extended edition.
A few other bits and pieces but that’s about it: certainly not much in terms of extra trolls or extra orcs.
Obviously there is plenty of ‘archaeology’ in the books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and it is great to see First Age elvish swords as per the book featured in the film. New artefacts are included too: a Morgul blade is produced by Gandalf as material evidence of dark things afoot at the White Council. Of course the greatest antiquity of them all: the One Ring bounces its way centre-stage.
Archaeological sites also abound. Despite the wrath of obsessive purists who somehow imagined Peter Jackson and his crew should have attempted to reproduce The Hobbit without any changes in dialogue, script or plot, it is important to note that the film has facilitated the addition of further depictions of landscape and ancient ruins. Notably, the film allows us visions of Dale and Erebor prior to their desolation, the treasure hoard of Smaug, the ancient fortress of Dol Guldur (not visited in the book but obviously where Gandalf snoops about we are told in the LotR appendices) and, my favourite additon, we have Amon Sul – Weathertop – scene of Frodo being stabbed in The Fellowship of the Ring – as the venue for a gathering of orcs and wargs.
So, for those interested in the antiquities and archaeology of Middle-Earth, there is plenty to see in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. But best of all, in the extended edition, is a lovely bit of parody of Tolkein’s obsession with ancient antiquities and treasure and a wonderful counterbalance to the goblin-king’s fear at the sight of the blades from the ancient Elvish city of Gondolin. In searching the captured dwarves, the goblins find that Nori has stolen a candelabra from Rivendell. The goblin-king examines it and exclaims:
‘Made in Rivendell: Second Age!. Can’t even give it away’
and he tosses it over his shoulder. A brilliant touch…