In the movie Hobbit, The Desolation of Smaug we see Thorin enter the The Prancing Pony at Bree and sit down and order a meal. He is eyed off by two men at opposite ends of the pub who stand up as if to begin a confrontation. The confrontation is headed off by a meeting with Gandalf (apparently this meeting is recorded in Unfinished Tales).

We have hints from the Lord of the Rings that men-orcs frequent the Prancing Pony. In The Fellowship of the Ring we see:

In one of the windows he caught a glimpse of a sallow face with sly, slanting eyes; but it vanished at once. ‘So that’s where that southerner is hiding!’ he thought. ‘He looks more than half like a goblin.’

In The Two Towers we read

But there were some others that were horrible: man-high, but with goblin-faces, sallow, leering, squint-eyed. Do you know, they reminded me at once of that Southerner at Bree; only he was not so obviously orc-like as most of these were.’

‘We had many of these half-orcs to deal with at Helm’s Deep. It seems plain now that that Southerner was a spy of Saruman’s; but whether he was working with the Black Riders, or for Saruman alone, I do not know.

In The Scouring of the Shire we read:

they were disturbed to see half a dozen large ill-favoured Men lounging against the inn-wall; they were squint-eyed and sallow-faced. ‘Like that friend of Bill Ferny’s at Bree,’ said Sam. ‘Like many that I saw at Isengard,’ muttered Merry.

My question is: Are the men in the pub at Bree who eye off Thorin 'men-orcs'?

  • 3
    Peter Jackson is kind of like Saruman. He can breed new races :) Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 0:36
  • 2
    If you check the IMDB page for The Desolation of Smaug you'll find the characters are listed as "Bill Ferny Snr" and "Squint" as a little joke. Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 11:40
  • What does "eye off" mean?
    – user14111
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 12:43
  • 1
    @user14111 In this instance, I take it to mean "watch menacingly" or "intimidate" Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 14:09

3 Answers 3


We don't know.

The meeting between Gandalf and Thorin that is recorded in Unfinished Tales (The Quest of Erebor) doesn't take place in the Prancing Pony at all; instead it's on the road outside of Bree:

Those were my dark thoughts as I jogged along the road. I was tired, and I was going to the Shire for a short rest, after being away from it for more than twenty years. I thought that if I put them out of my mind for a while I might perhaps find some way of dealing with these troubles. And so I did indeed, though I was not allowed to put them out of my mind.

For just as I was nearing Bree I was overtaken by Thorin Oakenshield, who lived then in exile beyond the north-western borders of the Shire. To my surprise he spoke to me; and it was at that moment that the tide began to turn.

From there Gandalf goes with Thorin to the Blue Mountains; they're not recorded as ever even entering Bree, never mind visiting the Prancing Pony.

There is an earlier version of this story also recorded in Unfinished Tales which Tolkien had rejected, in which they do visit Bree (but it's not recorded whether they stay at the Pony or elsewhere):

But on a time it chanced that he was passing through Eriador (going to the Shire, which he had not seen for some years) when he fell in with Thorin Oakenshield, and they talked together on the road, and rested for the night at Bree.

In the morning Thorin said to Gandalf: "I have much on my mind, and they say you are wise and know more than most of what goes on in the world. Will you come home with me and hear me, and give me your counsel?"

To this Gandalf agreed, and when they came to Thorin's Hall he sat long with him and heard all the tale of his wrongs.

As before, Peter Jackson is not legally allowed to use any Tolkien material other than the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, so the Unfinished Tales versions of the meeting are off-limits to him.

However, a third version of the story is recorded in Appendix A of Lord of the Rings, where the meeting is again different; this time it happens in Bree itself, and Thorin approaches Gandalf; again however, it doesn't specify where in Bree it happens:

But at last there came about by chance a meeting between Gandalf and Thorin that changed all the fortunes of the House of Durin, and led to other and greater ends beside. On a time Thorin, returning west from a journey, stayed at Bree for the night. There Gandalf was also. He was on his way to the Shire, which he had not visited for some twenty years. He was weary, and thought to rest there for a while.

It was even as Gandalf sat and pondered this that Thorin stood before him, and said: 'Master Gandalf, I know you only by sight, but now I should be glad to speak with you. For you have often come into my thoughts of late, as if I were bidden to seek you. Indeed I should have done so, if I had known where to find you.'

The two thugs who seem ready to threaten Thorin don't even exist in any of these versions of the story; that's something that Peter Jackson invented for the movie and so there's absolutely nothing in any of Tolkien's writings to say whether or not they are man-orcs.

  • 3
    I'm adding this as a comment rather than including it in my answer. You've asked quite a few questions about events in these movies and how they relate to Tolkien's writings; you should be aware of the legal restrictions on what can and cannot be used in the movies, and also of the fact that Jackson has invented or changed a lot of the storyline, so it's often difficult (or impossible) to answer such questions in any way other than "not in Tolkien, Jackson made it up".
    – user8719
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 0:53
  • They looked completely human, so I assumed they were either bandits or just trouble-makers who didn't like dwarves.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Dec 24, 2014 at 15:33
  • 4
    It's also important to note that Tolkien didn't write that those particular servants of Saruman were Half-Orcs. What he actually wrote was that other characters in the book thought that they looked like Half-Orcs. It's possible that those other characters may have been wrong.
    – user8719
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 6:59
  • 1
    @DarthMelkor: I find Tolkien interesting in that he himself sometimes answered "canon questions" in the third person: "well, they must have thought" etc.
    – Yorik
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 16:29
  • @Yorik that's because he supposedly stumbled upon the Red Book of Westmarch. Middle Earth is real ;)
    – John Bell
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 13:06

No, I think those were just human assassins/mercenaries/thieves looking to cash in on the bounty that was on Thorin's head put there by the white orc.
Gandalf hands him a note written in the black speech as proof of the bounty.
The thieves ran because they seemed to recognize Gandalf or maybe because Thorin was no longer alone.


I think its unlikely that the men we see at Bree are half-orcs or goblin-men described by Tolkien. The Southerner seen in LOTR was from Isengard, bred by Saruman, who at this time (in the movies at least) was not yet under the sway of evil. Though its mentioned in the LOTR Appendices that the servants of Sauron were indeed seeking Thorin at this time. I believe they were men or 'ruffians' in the service of Mordor (Dol Guldur.)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.