(Note, Potential SPOILERS for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies are to be found below...)
With the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies fast approaching, we are - sadly - getting ever closer to what may well be our last chance to see Middle Earth on screen.
We're also, though, drawing nearer to the ending of the Hobbit trilogy itself - and as fans of the book know, that means something tragic this way comes.
The thing is, though - that something may not be quite what we think. After all, Richard Armitage, a.k.a. Thorin Oakenshield, just tweeted this:
Which, aside from being an awesomely provocative hashtag, also raises some pretty big questions about just how the movie is set to end - and whether it'll follow the original text as closely as we all assumed.
(If you haven't read the book, incidentally, and don't want to know how the movie ends, this is very much the time to stop reading...)
After all, in the novel, Thorin Oakenshield dies a tragic, but redemptive, death - alongside fan favorites Fíli and Kíli. Surely that's set in stone?
Well, Armitage didn't stop at the above tweet...
Which very much seems to suggest that something - and presumably something huge - will go down very differently in the movie.
The big question, though, is what could that be?
Well, here are my favorite theories...
1. Thorin Won't Die
Now, this one has to be a long shot - especially as the character's entire narrative arc looks set to require the sort of redemption that only an on-screen death can bring. It would also, of course, irritate the hell out of a whole lot of us Middle Earth-loving types.
That being said, it's not impossible - after all, Thorin surviving the movie could be both a major shock, and a (deeply controversial) way of opening up a spin-off movie, in which he would, in fact, die.
The only real problem with it? Richard Armitage totally already confirmed that Thorin does, in fact, die in the movie. Writing to a young cancer survivor who had visited The Hobbit set, the actor revealed:
"I wanted Thorin to be at peace and full of love when he died, the scene was about asking for Bilbo’s forgiveness, the final line he spoke was "If more people valued home above gold the world would be a merrier place.""
Which means we're pretty much guaranteed to see a death scene.
What else, then, could Armitage mean?
Well, it's possible that...
2. We'll See a Surprise Cameo
Now, Armitage's suggestion that "the final pages of the script were only ever issued to those involved in the scenes" might actually imply that he himself was a part of those scenes, without necessarily meaning that he'll be alive for them.
It's possible then, that the movie may conclude (or at least begin to conclude) with the hero's funeral - which would open up the possibility of a cameo from a beloved Lord of the Rings character.
Now, Aragorn seems unlikely, since Viggo Mortensen apparently has no interest in appearing in the movie (though I wouldn't write it off entirely), but there are other characters who could easily appear. Gimli, for instance, would seem a logical guest, as might Arwen, or a young Denethor. Or, perhaps, even Gollum, searching for his missing ring...
What, though, if Armitage means something more substantial than just a brief special appearance?
3. Someone Else Won't Die
After all, Thorin isn't the only beloved character to die in the novel - his nephews Fíli and Kíli, both of whom have been given notably expanded roles in the movies, also lose their lives.
The reasoning behind this has long been a source of debate for Tolkien fans, but one key element might just effect the final movie adaptation...
The theory goes that Tolkien killed off Fíli and Kíli precisely because they were Thorin's nephews. After all, at the end of the novel, Thorin's cousin, Dáin Ironfoot (set to be played by Billy Connolly in the movie) succeeds him as King Under the Mountain. However, had Fíli and/or Kíli survived, one of them would have instead become King, being the most direct heirs.
Now, it's possible - if unlikely - that one of the might survive, and become King Under the Mountain. What's possibly more plausible, though, is that one of them - say, new romantic lead Kíli - could survive, but renounce his claim to the throne, having fallen in love with an Elf (and become disillusioned with gold and war). Which would, in turn, also explain why the character of Tauriel doesn't appear, or get mentioned, in The Lord of the Rings movies.
Either that, or pretty much everyone dies, just like normal, and Richard Armitage is just messing with us...
What do you guys think, though?
What mysterious ending change do you think Richard Armitage is teasing?