Themes of The Hobbit – Chapter 2 – Elves, Forces of Evil, The Dragon & Other Creatures ?>

Themes of The Hobbit – Chapter 2 – Elves, Forces of Evil, The Dragon & Other Creatures

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Welcome to Chapter 2 of our epic guide to the themes of The Hobbit films. Howard Shore wrote well over 50 new themes and motifs to mirror Tolkien’s multifaceted story and characters. Among these are several unused or abandoned concepts that either did not make it to the film at all or were dropped after the first movie but can be heard on the soundtrack album. Also roughly 20+ themes from The Lord of the Rings reappear in the trilogy as required by the story, which during its opening third features many familiar characters and sights as Thorin’s company takes much the same route as Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring will 60 years later. Below the themes have been grouped based on the different cultures since the composer once more formed thematic families around the various races of Middle-earth. In Chapter 1, we discussed all the principal themes created for Dwarves, Bilbo and Wizards of Middle Earth. In this part, we will take a closer look at Elves of the Woodland Realm, Smaug the Golden, the Necromancer as well as various creatures and monsters that our heroes encounter while journeying towards the Lonely Mountain.

The Elves

elves-hpobbit

The Woodland Realm

 

The elves of the Woodland Realm of Mirkwood appear fleetingly in the prologue of the first film and here Howard Shore had a chance to introduce an embryonic form of their music. Thranduil, the king of the Wood Elves and his people are underscored by a slightly exotic Eastern tinged female choir phrase but it disappears almost as soon as it entered, offering a tantalizing hint of things to come. This music seems to reflect the general aesthetics of the Elven music with its clear lined, flowing and lyrical approach and the Eastern musical inflections that inform the ancient cultures of Middle-earth such as Lothlórien and Mordor also appear in the theme for the Woodland Realm.

The Mirkwood elves become the sole representative of elvish culture in The Desolation of Smaug and most of The Battle of the Five Armies. The central Woodland Realm theme introduced in An Unexpected Journey thus receives extensive development and is one of the central thematic ideas of the second and third scores. Shore’s music is at times as ethereally choral as it was for the Lothlórien and Rivendell elves but this time utilizes more earthy palette with exotic drums and specialty instruments and low orchestral colours that give this new elven culture its unique feel. It is a militaristic culture of isolation and these elves are as dangerous and deadly as they are beguiling, their otherworldly demeanour laced with steely exoticism. In addition to this theme Shore draws several other motifs from the same basic colours and begins to show a slow cultural overlap between the dwarves and the elves as Thorin’s company ends up in Thranduil’s kingdom and Tauriel and Kili’s relationship is introduced.

First appearance: The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey Disc 1, Track 1 ‘My Dear Frodo’ 3:23-3:33.

Appearances in the trilogy:

The Desolation of Smaug: ‘The House of Beorn (Extended Version)’ 1:19-1:30; ‘The Woodland Realm (Extended Version)’ 0:00-1:03, 3:26-4:20; ‘The Forest River (Extended Version)’ 0:00-0:38, 3:56-4:24; ‘Nature of Evil’ (0:00-0:40); ‘Girion, Lord of Dale (Extended Version)’ 1:41-2:38; ‘Beyond the Forest’ 1:46-2:35.

The Battle of the Five Armies: ‘The Gathering of the Clouds (Extended Version)’ 0:08-0:45; ‘Bred for War’ 0:30-0:56; ‘A Thief in the Night’ 0:31-0:38, 3:21-3:40, 4:02-4:14; ‘The Clouds Burst’ (3:36-3:44); ‘The Fallen’ 1:46-2:08, 2:46-2:50; ‘Courage and Wisdom’ 3:54-4:06.

Legolas ( The Woodland Realm Action Setting)

The wood-elves are a noble race and fierce, agile and skilled fighters. To represent this and especially Legolas’ martial prowess musically Shore develops the Woodland Realm theme into a more militaristic variation that assumes a rapt rhythmic posture. Even though the theme applies to Legolas, this short heroic motif appears invariably when the whole wood elven army and their king are shown in the heat of one of the furious action sequences in the second and third films, an elegant musical equivalent of elven swash-and-buckle.

First appearance: The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Disc 1, Track 6 ‘Flies and Spiders (Extended Version)’ 7:31-7:46.

Appearances in the trilogy:

The Desolation of Smaug: ‘The Hunters (Extended Version)’ 4:49-4:59, 5:15-5:31, 8:26-9:55.

The Battle of the Five Armies: ‘Ravenhill’ 2:06-2:16, 2:49-2:55, ‘To the Death (Extended Version)’ 0:51-1:11 (only the rhythm), (2:41-2:56).

Thranduil

The king of the Woodland Realm is an imposing elven ruler quite different from the sage loremaster like Elrond or luminous and otherworldly Galadriel. Thranduil is at the same time aloof, dangerous, noble, proud and an imperious personality, haughty when challenged, deadly when provoked to battle. This dark brooding strain in the Woodland Realm theme seems to rise from Thranduil’s past and the sorrow of losing his wife but he also shares many traits with Thorin Oakenshield as much he would like to deny it.

And so Thranduil’s music is a also in part a mirror image of Thorin’s. The quite negative qualities of haughtiness, stubbornness and vengefulness are illustrated by a motif which might be derived from The Woodland Realm theme and the Dwarvish Suffering motif that belonged mostly to Thorin and the dwarven company in AUJ and in a more compact form with elven harmonics now connects to Thranduil and Thorin both.

First appearance: The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Disc 1, Track 7 ‘The Woodland Realm’ 2:21-2:42.

Appearances in the trilogy:

The Battle of the Five Armies: ‘The Gathering of the Clouds (Extended Version)’ 0:46-0:55, 2:28-2:39; ‘Courage and Wisdom’ 3:15-3:38.

The White Gems of Lasgalen (of Greenleaves)

The Elvenking has a great treasure hoard of gold and precious gems but among all the jewels of the world he desires most a necklace of white gems which he had once ordered from the dwarves of Erebor, a memory of his departed wife, whom he loved dearly. Thrór denied him of these gems out of arrogance and malice. When Thorin appears in his kingdom Thranduil designs to get back what is owed to him through Thrór’s heir.

For the White Gems of Lasgalen, “of the Greenleaves”(for Mirkwood was once called Eryn Lasgalen, the Wood of Greenleaves), Shore provides a subtle slurred variant of his theme for Mirkwood, a truncated form of his 6-note elusive motto. If possible this theme is even more eerie and chilling than the Mirkwood theme, illustrating a singular obsession of the elven king that burns cold in his mind, overriding his sense of reason when bargaining with Thorin. This small but discomforting motif appears both in The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of the Five Armies when Thranduil seeks to reclaim these elven jewels and is driven to harsh actions over them, the music a chilling reminder of the dangers of greed, holding grudges and obsession, made all the more disturbing when invading the usually calm and composed elven musical world.

First appearance: The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Disc 1, Track 7 ‘The Woodland Realm’ 1:50-2:18.

Appearances in the trilogy

The Battle of the Five Armies: ‘The Gathering of the Clouds (Extended Version)’ 1:45-2:02.

Tauriel’s Theme

 

The silvan elf captain of Thranduil’s guard receives a theme of her own when most other elven characters are portrayed by the theme of their respective cultures. Shore’s original inspiration for the fluid swirling motion of the theme for Tauriel came from her graceful yet deadly movements as a warrior but the theme itself is derived from the ending figure of the Woodland Realm theme, linking her closely to her culture of origin and most often appears in conjunction with it.

The theme is employed in variety of settings that reflect Tauriel’s moods and stance from rapt and energetic action settings of the rapid 5-note figure to the calm lyrical woodwind readings of the B-section of the theme for her most vulnerable and intimate moments.

First Appearance: The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Disc 1, ‘Track 6 Flies and Spiders (Extended Version)’ 7:50-8:09 (the 5-note action setting).

Appearances in the trilogy

The Desolation of Smaug: ‘The Woodland Realm (Extended Version)’ 4:42-5:14 (the 5-note motif and the B-section); ‘The Forest River (Extended Version)’ 1:10-1:44 (Tauriel’s Theme and The Woodland Realm Theme), 2:15-2:28, 2:46-2:55, 3:16-3:22, 4:35-4:39; ‘The Hunters (Extended Version)’ 5:00-5:14, 5:41-5:48; ‘Beyond the Forest’ 2:36-5:27.

The Battle of the Five Armies: ‘Ravenhill’ 2:17-2:27, 3:39-3:54; ‘Courage and Wisdom’ 4:06-4:29.

Kili/Tauriel Theme

B part

 

C part

 

For the bittersweet dwarf/elf romantic subplot the music had to portray idealism, purity and wonder which are well captured by the glowing gently ascending line. The theme opens with a duet for oboe and flute, the A part, a depiction of duality, two cultures meeting and the actual glowing melody, the B part, is performed by a soprano soloist and it contains a link to the elven musical realm although it eschews the Eastern tinged qualities of the Woodland Realm and speaks of Tauriel’s yearning for life outside the isolation and narrow bounds of Thranduil’s kingdom. Shore also provides a graceful woodwind ending, C part, for the melody which seems to derive from Tauriel’s own theme. All these ideas operate independently but usually appear together in various scenes throughout the second and third films.

The lyrics of the theme are sung both in Khuzdul and Sindarin, the languages of dwarves and of elves and there is at the core of this romance an aspect of almost awe-filled respect Kili feels toward Tauriel, which is beautifully mirrored by the wonder-struck almost reverent quality of the writing.

First Appearance: The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Disc 1, Track 8, ‘Feast of Starlight’ 0:00-1:25 (the A part), 1:26-2:04 (the B part), (2:05-2:17) (the C part)

Appearances in the trilogy:

The Desolation of Smaug: ‘Kingsfoil’ 0:25-0:38 (the C part), 0:39-1:55 (the B part); ‘Beyond the Forest’ 0:00-0:35 (the C part), 1:03-1:43 (the B part).

The Battle of Five Armies: ‘Shores of the Long Lake’ 0:00-1.25 (the A part), 1:25-2:05 (the B part); ‘Ravenhill’ 4:34-5:10 (the A part), ‘Courage and Wisdom’ 2:41-3:15.

The Moon Runes

 

Elrond’s sage advice and skill at reading the Moon Runes hidden in Thrór’s map in An Unexpected Journey created a seemingly hybrid musical signature, half elven, half dwarven in colour and form and this musical connection is reprised in The Desolation of Smaug when the company reaches the Lonely Mountain and the site of the hidden door. There once again the dwarven rising figures of Erebor theme are chanted by the high female voices so typical to the elven musical world and the Rivendell theme’s arpeggios respond in low dwarven sturdy orchestral colours for Elrond’s counsel, that guides Bilbo when he searches for the door and as the moon finally reveals the secret of Thrór’s and Thrain’s secret passage.

First appearance: The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey Disc 2, Track 2 ‘Moon Runes (Extended Version)’ 2:07-2:42.

Appearances in the trilogy:

The Desolation of Smaug: ‘On the Doorstep’ 4:08-4:54.

The Death Theme

Death theme becomes a prominent musical motif in the third film and it appears frequently throughout the final part of the story to signal loss and sorrow. It skirts the Woodland Realm theme as it actively revolves around Thranduil and the elves, the concept of mortality strongly present both in the war that rages in the last film of the trilogy and in the relationship between Kili and Tauriel (this short motif is embedded in their love music as a reminder of its tragic nature) and informs the theme of Dwarvish Suffering as well.

First appearance: The Hobbit the Desolation of Smaug Disc 1, Track 7 ‘The Woodland Realm (Extended Version)’ 1:11-1:22.

Appearances in the trilogy:

The Battle of the Five Armies: ‘The Gathering of the Clouds’ 2:03-2:29, 2:40-2:50; ‘The Fallen’ (2:50-3:04); ‘Courage and Wisdom’ 3:59-4:06.

The Forces of Evil/The Necromancer

necromancer

The Necromancer (Mordor/Evil of the Ring/Sauron)

 

The mysterious evil sorcerer, The Necromancer, who is actually the Dark Lord Sauron in disguise, is represented again by The Evil of the Ring/Mordor, which he can’t shed even in his shadowy form in Dol Guldur. Shore quotes the material a scant few times in the first film but offers a strong musical clue to the identity of this new evil that has risen in Middle-earth. The composer truncates the ending of the melody so that it trails off into an exotic new coda but this creates a feeling of absence, the musical idea not quite fulfilled. In the sequels Shore unveils the fully formed Eastern tinged melody from the ancient era of Middle-earth, when the mystery is finally solved and the Enemy reveals itself in DoS There a thunderously imperious variation recalling its most powerful appearance at Minas Morgul in The Return of the King assaults Gandalf when the Grey Wizard finally uncovers the truth about the master of Dol Guldur. In BotFA the theme is treated to a new lugubrious and wicked version featuring an organ as the White Council faces the Dark Lord and his most powerful servants in Dol Guldur.

First appearance: The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey Disc 1, Track 10 ‘Radagast the Brown (Extended Version)’ 6:23-6:39.

Appearances in the trilogy:

An Unexpected Journey: ‘The Hill of Sorcery’ 3:11-3:23; ‘The White Council (Extended Version)’ 8:07-8:30.

The Desolation of Smaug: ‘A Necromancer (Bonus Track)’ 0:03-0:26, 1:27-1:43; ‘The House of Beorn (Extended Version)’ 3:50-3:59; ‘Mirkwood’ 1:12-1:18; ‘A Spell of Concealment (Extended Version)’ 2:36-3:08.

The Battle of the Five Armies: ‘Guardians of the Three’ (1:44-1:50, 2:33-2:55); ‘Thrain (Bonus Track from the Extended Edition of The Desolation of Smaug)’ 2:46- 2:59.

The Dol Guldur Descending Thirds

 

A simple pair of descending major thirds seems to be the most apparent of the three themes associated with the Necromancer, and forms a constant brooding, obsessively repeating menace whenever it appears. It bears very strong ties to the Mordor Descending Thirds accompaniment figure from LotR, which hunted Frodo and the Fellowship and trailed in tow of the Nazgûl and the Orcs in LotR, but this new low register growl is performed with telling weight and portentousness. As with other music connected to the Necromancer, this thematic idea also has a familiar feel to it, the composer creating a sort of pre-The Lord of the Rings version of the Descending Thirds. It could be thought that this motif represents the early and still mysterious threat in first part of The Hobbit but despite of this it carries the same inevitable sense of doom even if in somewhat more lugubriously static form. This is music with a dark promise which the Mordor Descending Thirds fulfils in The Lord of the Rings as Sauron’s threat becomes fully apparent and Shore gradually begins to shift the motif from its origins and closer to the Mordorean incarnation during the Hobbit trilogy and it becomes pronouncedly heavier as the story goes on.

First appearance: The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey Disc 1, Track 10 ‘Radagast the Brown (Extended Version)’ 4:49-5:51.

Appearances in the trilogy:

An Unexpected Journey: ‘The Hill of Sorcery’ (1:41-2:50); ‘The White Council (Extended Version)’ 5:55-6:39.

The Desolation of Smaug: ‘A Necromancer (Bonus Track)’ 0:55-1:10, 2:09-2:27; ‘A Liar and A Thief’ 1:11-1:49; ‘A Spell of Concealment (Extended Version)’ 0:20-0:36, 1:31-1:35.

The Threat of Dol Guldur

This ascending menacing motif it seems to present a more active threat, bursting forth when the evil sorcerer displays his power like when he attacks Radagast in Dol Guldur or menaces the wizard’s home at Rhosgobel but it also appears to signal the slow growth of this evil, rising ever upwards to trouble the councils of the Wise in The Hobbit. The motif is simple yet urgently insistent, Shore using a repeating variations to emphasize approaching danger and it is most closely associated with Necromancer himself and his dark abode.

As with the Dol Guldur Descending Thirds, The Threat of Dol Guldur seems to form the roots of the Mordor Skip Beat (or could be seen as its proto-form) that so often set a frantic, nervous pace for the chases and enemies hunting our heroes in LotR. This motif and the Dol Guldur Descending Thirds form the accompaniment figures that constantly trail the Necromancer’s theme and represent the Dol Guldur storyline throughout the trilogy, while the other evils Sauron unleashes have their musical roots in these three ideas.

First appearance: The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey Disc 1, Track 10 ‘Radagast the Brown (Extended Version)’ 6:11-6:24.

Appearances in the trilogy:

An Unexpected Journey: ‘The Hill of Sorcery’ 2:50-3:01; ‘The White Council’ 7:41-8:07.

The Desolation of Smaug: ‘A Necromancer (Bonus Track)’ 1:43-1:53; ‘A Spell of Concealment (Extended Version)’ 0:36-0:48, 1:36-1:46 (opening notes), 1:51-1:58.

The Battle of the Five Armies: ‘The Guardians of the Three’ 1:31-1:42, 5:11-5:26.

Azog the Defiler

 

Azog, the orc king of Moria (in the films receiving the epithet The Defiler), whose arm Thorin hewed off in the battle of Azanulbizar and who was thought long dead, mysteriously survived and is now burning with vengeance and hunting down Thorin Oakenshield and his company with his pack of Warg riders. Shore provides him with a straightforward, aggressive and ominous motif which exudes brutal rage and malice. The theme also holds a clue to Azog’s true allegiance and motives as its form seems to be closely associated with the Dol Guldur Descending Thirds, clearly hinting that the evil of the Orc is just an extension of Dol Guldur’s growing shadow.

As the story progresses, Shore begins to blur the line between the Dol Guldur Descending Thirds and Azog’s theme, which appears often without its trademark ugly ending growl from AUJ and is presented in countless different variations long and short, clearly showing the Pale Orc’s allegiance and source of power and comes to represent him and the forces he commands. Also worth noting is that Bolg, Azog’s son, shares his fathers music. The twisted permutations on the same musical figures that accompany Azog, follow his spawn as he is carrying out his father’s and the Necromancer’s will.

First appearance: The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey Disc 1, Track 9 ‘An Ancient Enemy’ 0:57-1:02, 4:36-4:57.

Appearances in the trilogy:

An Unexpected Journey: ‘The Defiler’ 0:03-0:10, 0:17-0:21, 0:53-1:01; ‘Thunder Battle’ 3:36-3:55; ‘Under Hill’ 1:06-1:21); ‘Out of the Frying-Pan’ 2:10-2:15.

The Desolation of Smaug: ‘A Necromancer (Bonus Track)’ 1:10-1:21; ‘The Forest River (Extended Version)’ 4:32-4:35 (Bolg); ‘The Nature of Evil’ 2:42-2:58 (Bolg); ‘The Hunters (Extended Version)’ 3:20-3:48 (Bolg).

The Battle of the Five Armies: ‘Bred for War’ 0:59-1:14; ‘The Battle for the Mountain’ 0:48-0:56, 2:08-2:16, 2:24-2:33; ‘Ravenhill’ 2:41-2:43 (Bolg), 2:56-3:09 (Bolg), 4:18-4:34 (Bolg); ‘To the Death (Extended Version)’ 2:08-2:14 (Bolg), 2:35-2:41, 3:38-3:45, 3:51-4:16 (Azog/Descending Thirds hybrid).

Wargs

The gigantic ferocious demonic wolves that the orcs use as mounts receive a theme of rolling, sleek and fast paced series of figures. The repetition of the four note core phrases creates a sense persistent pursuit accompanied by a breathless beating pattern that threatens to overcome dwarven themes with its ferocity. Still there is surprising melodicism in this music for the wargs and their riders, the stomping repeated phrases creating a ferocious and feral predatory presto that often follows Azog and his mounted cohorts on the trail of their enemies. The most prominent variations are heard in An Unexpected Journey but this theme makes a few appearances also in the sequels.

First appearance: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Disc 1, Track 15 ‘Warg-Scouts’ 0:00-0:05, 0:42-0:56, 1:11-1:15.

Appearances in the trilogy:

An Unexpected Journey: ‘Out of the Frying-Pan’ 0:19-1:00, 1:26-1:49, 2:19-2:43.

The Desolation of Smaug: ‘Wilderland’ 1:06-1:11, 1:16-1:26.

The Battle of the Five Armies: ‘Sons of Durin’ 3:54-4:24.

The Nine

 

Gandalf’s path leads him to uncover secrets and when he stumbles upon clues of the rise of dark powers, the dead walking abroad and a set of nine tombs in the High Fells of Rhudaur, Shore answers with a musical equivalent of a foreboding ghostly whisper, an eerie winding and ascending theme that is intoned by a solo soprano and a chilling chorus.

The form of the theme seems to suggest Gandalf’s secondary Istari theme with its ever searching higher aspiring progression but the tone is entirely alien to the life embracing and reassuring tones of Gandalf’s material. There is ghostly stillness to this theme, the orchestrations always clinging to chilling vocal invocations, a wraith-like echo of the world of shadows. And while the threat still remains elusive the composer tellingly weds it with the most lugubrious tones of the orchestra performing the Dol Guldur themes so give indication where Gandalf’s investigations will take him.

First appearance: The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Disc 1, Track 4 ‘The House of Beorn (Extended Version)’ 3:17-3:38.

Appearances in the trilogy:

The Desolation of Smaug: ‘The High Fells (Extended Version)’ 0:53-1:21, 1:39-2:00, 3:03-3:38.

Mount Gundabad

 

In the Battle of the Five Armies Azog sends his spawn Bolg to summon the orcish hordes from the ancient stronghold of their kind at Mount Gundabad in the North. For this army and its threat Shore composes a portentous, compact and brutal melodic line that first lurches forward with staccato determination and then leaps ever higher in attempt to overcome its opposing music through the sheer volume and ferocious drive. It is accompanied by strong marching rhythm that further enhances the relentless single-minded drive the theme has. The composer gives his music for these new kind of orcs another additional instrumental colour as a whole ensemble of the Australian didgeridoos add their throaty hollow cries to this steely call to war.

First appearance: The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies Disc 1, Track 8 ‘Bred for War’ 0:00-0:33, 1:48-3:20.

Appearances in the trilogy

The Battle of the Five Armies: ‘Ravenhill’ (1:03-1:24); ‘Dragon-sickness (Exclusive Bonus Track)’ 2:31-2:50.

War Beasts

Azog’s army in the Battle of the Five Armies includes a horde of fierce beasts, half-trolls and armored black trolls and they are portrayed in a few scenes by a new ancillary motif, a rapid downward rushing figure on the deepest brass and percussion, which is as brutally aggressive as the monsters it is depicting.

First appearance in The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies Disc 2, Track 1 ‘The Darkest Hour’ 0:36-0:51.

Appearances in the trilogy:

The Battle of the Five Armies: ‘Sons of Durin’ 3:20-3:32.

 

Smaug the Golden

 

The third but certainly not the least of the major villains of the story is the dragon Smaug the Golden, the greatest and most horrible of all terrors of the Age, who laid waste to the kingdom of Erebor and desolated the town of Dale and all the lands surrounding the Lonely Mountain. Reportedly Shore’s approach incorporates both the Eastern tinged musical ideas related to the past ages of Middle-earth heard e.g. in the music of the Lothlórien elves and Sauron/Necromancer but also gives a slight nod in orchestrations and in the form of the musical ideas to the music of Far East, where dragons prominently figure into many legends and myths.

The great fire drake is depicted by three central musical ideas derived from same basic colours and they work in a effortless tandem with one another, constructed in a way that allows each of them to be quoted quickly and efficiently in succession and they are often entwined together by Shore with the Smaug Chords forming the constant base above which the two more prominent melodies are heard.

Smaug Chords (Theme A)/Dragon-sickness:As many of the composer’s themes this simple idea of two alternating chords attains an organic breath-like pattern, almost like a giant bellows, rising and falling naturally and fatefully as we see the great beast on-screen providing almost subliminal tension to these scenes as it accompanies the other music associated with the dragon.

Interestingly this music is combined often with a rhythmic string pattern to represent the dragon-sickness, a malady of the mind that takes hold of those who covet the hoard of wealth the wyrm has piled into his abode. Same madness and lust for treasure runs in the line of kings of Erebor as Thrór was as susceptible to it and now his grandson Thorin shares the same affliction.

Smaug’s Theme B: A short, sinuous, cruel and sharply angled melody is the first thematic identity of the fire drake and appears during the prologue of An Unexpected Journey when we see fateful glimpses of Smaug laying waste to both Dale and Erebor, the music exuding imperious aggression, rage and violence. It is short and to the point and thus can be easily and quickly quoted in a short space of time but Shore provides the great drake of the North with a second theme as well.

 

Smaug’s Theme C: The complexity and wicked cunning of Smaug’s persona led the composer to complement his manipulative evil with a musical mirror image of the first theme, a longer melodic line that is actually an inverted variation on the first idea, which reflects the wyrm’s multifaceted persona and dangerous cold cunning. This long lined and more ominous variation of Smaug’s music appears once in An Unexpected Journey when Bilbo is first told of the Great Calamity, the ghostly clang of Tibetan gongs and bass drum pulsing together underneath as strings and woodwinds play an inverted version of this slithering reptilian theme for Smaug, a horror Bilbo can scarcely even imagine. In the sequels this malicious music torments both Bilbo and Thorin and sneers at Bard at their meeting in the ruins of burning Lake-town.

 

In The Desolation of Smaug the dragon is depicted by a whole host of exotic Far Eastern gamelan percussion instruments and subtle incorporation of erhu, a Chinese stringed instrument and shakuhachi flute, all incorporated as a nod to the dragons’ prominence in the Eastern mythology and to create a unique musical world for the dragon. Smaug’s themes are ever-present in the finale of DoS and furiously dominate the the opening of the third film, but the music for the drake does not disappear with his demise. His themes gradually migrate from the dragon itself to Thorin Oakenshield, a unique shift in Shore’s Middle-earth scores, as the greed for the treasure takes over the mind of the dwarf prince during the The Battle of the Five Armies and illustrates the insidious influence of the dragon and the curse of treasure and great wealth and the suffering it inevitably brings.

In The Battle of the Five Armies these themes expand their palette further and become an insidious musical barb in Thorin’s mind when keening strings and ticking metallic percussion (waterphone struck with metal sticks) haunt him when music for Smaug’s wicked persona now latches onto the heir of Erebor.

First appearance: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Disc 1, Track 1 ‘My Dear Frodo’ 4:16-4:33 (Smaug chords and Theme B), (4:57-5:12) (Theme B), 6:06-6:17 (Theme B).

Appearances in the trilogy:

An Unexpected Journey: ‘Axe or Sword’ 1:33-1:53 (Theme C); ‘A Good Omen’ (5:28-5:46) (Smaug chords and Theme B)

The Desolation of Smaug: Wilderland 1:11-1:26 (B Theme); In the Shadow of the Mountain 1;28-1:57 (Smaug chords, Theme B, Theme C), 1:58-2:15 (Smaug chords/The Dragon-sickness); ‘Inside Information’ 0:07-0:28 (Smaug chords, Theme B), 0:39-1:01 (Smaug chords, Theme C, Theme B), (1:20-1:28) (Theme B), (1:58-2:22) (Theme B, C, B); ‘A Liar and A Thief’ 0:00-0:20 (Smaug chords/Dragon-Sickness), 0:21-0:30 (Theme C), 0:41-0:48 (Theme B), 0:55-1:10 (Theme C & Theme B), 2:01-2:37 (Smaug chords/Dragon Sickness), 3:09-3:41 (Smaug chords, Theme B, Theme C); ‘My Armor Is Iron’ 0:30-0:36 (Theme B), 1:20-1:28 (Theme B), 2:06-3:21 (Smaug chords, Themes C, B, C, Smaug chords), 3:56-4:03 (Smaug chords), 4:14-4:34 (Theme C), 4:35-5:16 (Theme B & C hybrid).

The Battle of the Five Armies: ‘Fire and Water’ 0:15-1:18 (Smaug chords, B, C), 1:29-1:52 ( Smaug chords and B), 1:59-2:28 (Smaug chords, C, B), 2:40-3:06 ( Smaug chords, Themes C, B), 4:05-4:28(Theme B and Theme C), 4:45-5:39 (Theme C and Theme B); ‘Beyond Sorrow and Grief (Extended Version)’ 0:51-0:58 (Theme B), 1:06-1:51 (Theme C, Theme B, Smaug chords), 2:02-2:44 (Smaug chords/Dragon-sickness), 3:32-4:12 (Smaug chords/Dragon-sickness); Mithril 0:38-2:00 (Smaug chords, Theme C, Theme B); ‘The Clouds Burst’ 0:19-0:50 (Smaug chords/Dragon-sickness), 1:00-1:23 (Smaug chords, Theme C, the B).

Smaug Defeated

 

For the death of the great wyrm Shore composed an operatic and fiery choral incantation based on Smaug’s themes, which is employed twice, once for his initial apparent defeat when Thorin’s company tries to drown him in molten gold in DoS and the composer reprises the motif when the dragon finally meets his actual demise by the hand of Bard the Bowman at the opening of BotFA.

First appearance: The Hobbit the Desolation of Smaug Disc 2, Track 13 ‘My Armor Is Iron’ 3:21-3:39.

Appearances in the trilogy

The Battle of the Five Armies: ‘Fire and Water’ 4:27-4:43.

Breaking the Dragon’s Spell

As such this is not a separate theme but another aspect of Smaug’s music in BotFA but it speaks to the evils of greed and the blindness that it causes in Thorin Oakenshield’s and how succumbing to the dragon-sickness leads to much suffering and sorrow not only to Thorin and his kin but also to the Free Peoples of Middle-earth.

Thorin’s delusions of kingship and obsessive love for the treasure threatens to destroy everything he holds dear but finally in the darkest hour he is able to shake off the effects of the dragon-sickness and redeem himself for all the suffering his obstinate and haughty actions have caused. This aspect is addressed musically with a haunting, fatefully chilling call for orchestra, soprano soloist and chorus derived from Smaug’s themes that presages and underscores the key scenes where Thorin finally breaks the insidious spell of Smaug’s treasure and is freed of his blindness and leads his people against the common foe, even in the end nobly sacrificing his own life for greater good, achieving the kingly status and honour that his greed had deprived him of before.

This music carries in its ghostly siren call a feel of the other world, foreshadowing Thorin’s ultimate fate and perhaps the price he has to pay for his blind pride and greed.

First appearance The Hobbit the Battle of the Five Armies Disc 1, Track 5 ‘The Ruins of Dale’ 2:58-3:09.

Appearances in the trilogy:

The Battle of the Five Armies: ‘The Fallen’ 0:00-0:48, 3:25-3:50; ‘To the Death’ 5:16-5:57.

 

Monsters of Middle-earth

MirkwoodSpiders3

As in The Lord of the Rings Howard Shore treats the individual monsters that Bilbo and Thorin’s company face on their journey to Erebor as characters in their own right with specific musical motifs that are largely confined in a single scene or sequence in the films.

The Stone Trolls

Bill, Bert and Tom, the three pony stealing Stone Trolls, who have come to lowlands after some sweeter meats, are represented by a humorous waltz, a plodding figure suitable for their dull wit, slow gait and tough hides, that skirts Bilbo’s burglarious activities in sequence that begins with light humour but ends in a ferocious fight as the swaying theme receives its heaviest setting when it battles with the dwarven music for supremacy and is finally vanquished by Gandalf’s Theme.

First appearance: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Disc 1, Track 11 ‘Trollshaws’ 0:54-2:09.

Appearances in the trilogy

An Unexpected Journey: ‘Roast Mutton (Extended Version)’ 0:00-0:27, 0:38-2:06, 2:57-3:04, 3:56-4:22.

The Stone Giants

Shore seems to treats Stone Giants that are attacking each other in the deafening storm to set of musical ideas that work as a musical mirror to these personifications of Nature’s powers and pits the brass section against the strings, each hurtling rhythmic 3- and 2-note patterns against each other all the while percussion section pounds forceful driving rhythms underneath, the simple but powerful chord progressions signifying weight, colossal size, intense danger and the sheer might of Nature. The piece for these mountains come alive also seems to share stylistic shades with the Nature’s Reclamation in the titanic searing ascending chord progressions and the ponderously mighty brass that assaulted the Fellowship on their way through the Pass of Caradhras in The Fellowship of the Ring when Gandalf battled the raging blizzard conjured up by Saruman.

Heard in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Disc 2, Track 6, ‘A Thunder Battle’.

The Goblins of the Misty Mountains

Denizens of the endless tunnels under the Misty Mountains the goblins of Goblin Town, distant cousins of Orcs of Gundabad, Moria and Mordor are a sordid and disease ridden bunch of creatures that capture Thorin’s company as it is crossing the peaks and seeks shelter from a storm in a shallow cave. Shore’s music for these horrid creatures is a series of jarring aleatoric figures, malevolent low brass exclamations that ooze evil glee and plodding mix meter rhythms as they overwhelm the dwarves with their sheer numbers and drag them to their king, the Great Goblin.

Shore again stays true to the spirit of his previous music for the Orcs, which is sharp edged, brutal, hard and unpredictable, the orchestra snapping and slashing at different directions all at once in near manic chaos, which rises to fever pitch when they give chase to the dwarves through their subterranean kingdom. At the heart of the driving gnashing music is a repeated 3-chord construct that forms the main component of the threatening Goblin Theme.

The mixed meters of roiling rhythms contained in the Goblin music present quick references to the 5 Beat Pattern, that was associated with the Orcs and their oppressive and most organized evils in LotR but here the rhythms do not stay in one pattern for long, lopsidedly rushing forward in disorder, while the aforementioned repeated 3-chord core of the Goblin theme holds the music together. It is music of brutal malevolent chaos. And since these creatures are so tied to their subterranean realm and do not venture forth en masse, their music is strictly confined to the first film of the trilogy.

First appearance: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Disc 2, Track 7 ‘Under Hill’ 0:39-0:58.

Appearances in the trilogy:

An Unexpected Journey: ‘Brass Buttons’ 1:18-2:18, 2:28-2:42, 4:05-4:22.

The Mirkwood Spiders

These creatures make their first appearance in An Unexpected Journey when they attack Radagast the Brown’s abode at Rhosgobel but in The Desolation of Smaug they return in full force. Their arachnid-like 8-note tone row creeps from the Mirkwood gloom and tries to capture Thorin’s company. This time however these monsters receive several independent musical ideas, spinning, fast string figures, insistent 2-chord brass and flute ideas that end in violent and aggressive deep exclamations brought to the lowest possible brass in deliciously old fashioned expression of true melodramatic monster music. It is music created to make your skin crawl and truly illustrates the blood curdling creeping horror of the giant spiders.

First appearance The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Disc 1, Track 10 ‘Radagast the Brown (Extended Version)’ 2:39-2:53.

Appearances in the trilogy

The Desolation of Smaug: ‘Flies and Spiders (Extended Version)’ 1:52-1:59 (original motif from AUJ), 2:18-2:27 (Mirkwood theme variant), 2:38-3:06, 3:38-4:28 (string motif, 2-chord motifs for brass and flutes), 5:00-5:49 (intense rhythmic material), 6:00-6:41 (2-chord material for the entire orchestra).

 

This is the end of Chapter 2.

Go to Chapter 3.

 

-Mikko Ojala

The Hobbit soundtrack albums are available from Decca Records (Europe) and Watertower Music (United States).

This article is meant for educational purposes only – no copyright infringement is intended

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