Over the course of The Hobbit, Martin Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins will have to face down a host of fiery malefactors, shifty villains and slippery fiends. Some will want to eat him; some will even try to kill him first. Yesterday we met the capo di capi of Middle-earth Hobbit incineration, Smaug. Today it's the turn of the host of other ne'er do wells that lie in wait for the little fella. Here's a brief resume of who, and what, he should expect to encounter along the way - a kind of ‘Jane’s Guide to Trolls and Goblins’. One thing can be said with some certainty: Thorin (and Company) have their dwarfish work cut out. Grab yourself a buckler, draw a metaphorical scimitar and get reading.
Trolls, eh? There are many different kinds in Middle-earth - all of which we saw in the Rings trilogy - from the battle trolls seen rampaging around Minas Tirith, the Olog-hai who fights Aragorn, and that cave troll that met its sticky end the Mines of Moria.
As for the trolls that’ll make an appearance in The Hobbit, we know exactly who those buggers are already. Ian Holm’s Bilbo recounts the story of the three trolls, Bert, Tom and William, and their eventual demise in The Fellowship Of The Ring. Aragorn and the four Hobbits rest in the shelter of the petrified trolls at one point. So expect trolls. These trolls have one main weakness: when exposed to sunlight, they turn to stone. The trolls – or Olog-hai - seen later on the Rings trilogy don’t suffer thanks to some genetical modification by Sauron, but Bert, Tom and William definitely hate getting a tan.
They’re also a little slow, happy to chow down on anything that moves and can be outfoxed by anyone with half a brain. In an odd comic twist from Tolkien, they all speak in Cockney accents a debased form of Westron by way of Stepney. Here’s hoping Peter Jackson has the Stath’s mobile number.
Essentially a bonzai Orc, Goblins are smaller and therefore easily bullied by the larger species, serving as whipping boys to Lurtz and co. and scuttling around like the slimy evil swine that they are. This doesn’t mean these diminutive Orc-lets aren’t to be feared, armed as they are with scavenged shields and scimitars and looking to kidnap and kill a Hobbit or two.
Their spiked armour helps them crawl up walls and around the ceilings of the dank caves and tunnels they live in. An ability to see clearly in the dark also helps. Be warned: many of their weapons are poisoned tipped, so even if the Goblin is slain, the arrow that grazed your backside may well still spell the end of you. To redress the balance Bilbo finds Sting in their trove, an elfish sword that glows blue in the presence of Orcs and Goblins.
Before that, in Chapter Four to be exact, Goblins capture Bilbo and co and introduce the group to the Great Goblin. His disapproval should prove deadly for the posse. Annoyingly for the Goblins’ honcho, he gets done in by Gandalf who saves the day with his sword, Glamdring. It’s his death which, in turn, rouses the goblins into tracking down Thorin’s party and attacking them at the Battle of the Five Armies. Bloody Goblins, eh?
Hyena-like when we meet them in Jackson’s take on The Two Towers, the Wargs may be a little more polished when they roar into The Hobbit. According to Jackson, the Wargs were the least convincing piece of CGI in the Rings trilogy. He suggests that with better storyboarding they’d have looked much more realistic. We come across them twice in The Hobbit – once when the Goblins are hunting for Bilbo after he obtains the ring, and the second time at The Battle of the Five Armies. On both occasions they’re evil bastards and almost entirely immune to Scooby Snacks.
Glancing back at the source material, the Wargs are less hyena, more giant wolf. They’re essentially enormous evil dogs the Orcs and Goblins use as mounts to carry them into battle. Ten feet long and five feet wide, with teeth 150 times sharper than Aron Ralston’s penknife, Wargs are intimidating beasties and not to be messed with.
The reptilian highlight of Jackson’s Rings trilogy, Andy Serkis’ return as the twisted, tortured one-time Hobbit Gollum is one of the most exciting aspects of The Hobbit’s cinematic adaptation. The centrepiece, of course, is the ‘Riddle in the Dark’ which sees Bilbo fool the maddened and lonely Gollum, steal his “Preciousss” and scamper away to the shouts of "Thief, thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it for ever!"
When we meet Gollum in The Hobbit, he’s living on an island on a lake in the Misty Mountains, existing on raw fish and the odd poached Goblin. Bilbo discovers him (and the ring) after fleeing the dead Great Goblin’s horde. How the scene between Freeman and Serkis pans, of course, remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure: there’s a lot of pressure on to get it right. It’s one of the biggies.