“There’s a lot of logistics that have to be thought through,” says Jackson. “We have dwarves and men and elves and orcs, all with different cultures, with different weapons, and different shields and patterns and tactics.”
The EW article contains a particularly interesting ‘map’, showing the different groups and their positioning in the battle at the gate of Erebor. Exactly what/who those five armies will be in Jackson’s movie has been a subject of speculation – and if you’re avoiding spoilers, now would be a good time to stop reading!
Tolkien wrote, ‘Upon one side were the Goblins and the Wild Wolves, and upon the other were Elves and Men and Dwarves.’ Readers have often wondered, however, why the Eagles don’t count as an army; Douglas A Anderson notes, in The Annotated Hobbit, that ‘in the 1977 Rankin/Bass animated television program of The Hobbit, the Five Armies specifically include the Eagles instead of the Wolves.’
Some TORn staffers have suggested that, having experienced battle in the First World War, when flight was still in its infancy and the idea of an air force was new, Tolkien perhaps didn’t consider battles as taking place in the air. It could, however, be a simple question of semantics: the word ‘army’ actually means ‘the military land forces of a nation’ (according to Collins English Dictionary). The Professor, being a stickler for precise meaning, perhaps dismissed as too clumsy ‘The Battle of Five Armies and Two Air Forces’ (if we include the ‘bat-cloud’) – so his ‘five armies’ would only refer to the land forces involved.
None of this necessarily means anything when it comes to Peter Jackson’s movie! He’s already strayed from Tolkien’s outline of the battle participants; the official synopsis for The Battle of the Five Armies states, ‘Sauron, the Dark Lord, has sent forth legions of Orcs in a stealth attack upon the Lonely Mountain’. In the book it is the goblins from the Misty Mountains who instigate the war, gathering forces with their kin at Gundabad, and coming down from the North led by Bolg (Azog, his father, having been slain at the Battle of Azanulbizar) – Sauron isn’t involved at all.
The map in EW’s article shows six different colour-coded groups – goblins and wargs are one colour, with eagles, elves, men and dwarves each having a different colour. This would seem to confirm what we at TORn have speculated in our panel presentations at various conventions – that Jackson’s five armies will in fact be men, dwarves, elves, orcs and eagles, with the wolves/wargs being a part of the orc army. The sixth colour on the diagram is for Beorn and Thorin – perhaps to highlight the key players of the battle (although Bard, though having his own spot on the schematic, does not share this orange colour – and it’s interesting to note that Dain, surely a key player, is not mentioned by name on this map; nor is Azog).
There’s much food for thought in this simple diagram. It appears that Bard leads men attacking from the East (from Dale, whither Lake-town refugees have fled after Smaug’s attack?). Elves come in from the West – presumably direct from Mirkwood. Beorn is coming up from the South, and the Eagles down from the North. There are also numbers on the chart – and Jackson is quoted as saying, ‘We could then start drawing the arrows on the schematics’, suggesting this is just one of several. Perhaps these numbers indicate a sequence of events? Beorn is the highest number on this image – meaning he arrives late in the battle, as in the book?
Questions still to be answered include: when/how does Dain arrive from the North? Will Tauriel fight with the dwarves or with her Mirkwood kin? We’ve seen, in the trailer, Legolas in Dale with Bard; will he fight alongside men? The newly released Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition contains dialogue between Thrain and Gandalf, emphasizing an alliance between Smaug and the Necromancer – is it even possible that Smaug’s death will be delayed until the start of the battle, so we see him helping the attacking orcs??
And a final question – is it December yet….?