Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Glowing Swords

The Movie: Bilbo's sword glows bright blue whenever orcs or goblins are nearby. This is a plot point - it warns him when an attack is imminent. He uses it to gauge if a nearby goblin is alive or dead, and it's bright enough that he can hold it in front of him like a torch when it's dark out.

Gandalf makes it clear to Bilbo that this is because of the elvish make of the blade. His sword, however, does not glow blue in the presence of orcs or goblins.

Neither does Thorin's.

The Book: There is explicit mention of both Orcrist and Glamdring "shining cold and bright" in the presence of goblins. Bilbo actually notices the glowing of his own blade after the glowing of theirs. Only then does he piece together that his sword must have been made in the same place as Thorin's and Gandalf's.

What difference does it make? As far as details go, this is about as minor as it gets. Showing Orcrist and Glamdring glowing would have been a nice touch, but otherwise would have contributed nothing to the story.

My Opinion: Alright, I know this makes me one of those people, but the sword thing really bothered me. 

On the one hand, it was made pretty clear in the books that the swords glow. It's not super important for Orcrist and Glamdring to glow - unlike Bilbo's, where it's a necessary part of the story - but it's still a detail that is specifically mentioned, and one that should have been visually communicated in the movie. Like Gandalf's beard or pointy hat; technically neither are necessary for the character, and don't do anything to the plot, but they were mentioned in the book and deserve to be in the movie! Similarly, there's no reason not to have the swords glow.

On the other hand... it violates the movie's own internal logic! If only Bilbo's sword is meant to glow, for some reason, then you need to give us a reason for that. "It belonged to a sorcerer who cast a spell on it" or something. Saying that it will glow blue because "it was made by elves" would be fine if you didn't present two other swords, say they were made by elves, and not have them glow! If your movie is going to set rules, it has to follow them. Especially if they violate what's in the fucking book.


  1. That Glamdring does not glow seems to be a problem with continuity. It never emits light in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, hence it does not glow here either. So essentially it's a result of the Hobbit movie being made after the LotR movies. With Glamdring having lost its glow, I suppose they felt like they could get away with Orcrist not glowing either.

    1. You know I wouldn't mind the sword not glowing, and keeping things consistent, if it weren't for the fact that the movie clearly established that Glamdring and Orcrist were elven blades, and that elven blades glowed blue. Either keep things faithful to the book, or keep your movie consistent... But failing to do both is grating.

  2. to really rub it in, the goblin king says, "foehammer! bright as daylight!" when gandalf appears weilding the (non glowing) sword. :-(

  3. Just watch the Damn movies. Movies make changes. Movies especially ones with a large scale production make mistakes. Not that they were mistakes in either trilogy. Bilbo and frodo are essentially the main characters of their respective trilogy and if they only wanted Sting to glow blue to make it unique they have every right to do so. And to add some made up line about why only Sting glows or to have bilbo explain thats Gandalf has a sword just like it in LotR is unnecessary. Books can take up pages even chapters explaining backgrounds of anything. Movies especially ones that run close to 3 hours, even longer on the extended editions have to use their time appropriately. They are trying to convey something in those scenes and that is the introduction and importance of Bilbos sword and then the meaningful passing to Frodo. That is the focus of each scene. And to clutter those moments with explanations of other swords being the same is not needed and would take away from the significance. The other two swords might play a more important role in the books but do not in the movies whereas Sting plays a large part in both movies. And they clearly wanted to separate it from the other swords.

  4. The sword thing really TRIGGERED me.