Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hobbit Notes #3

Riddles in the Dark:
I finished reading Chapter 5 of The Hobbit. Of all the parts of PJ's movie, this section, Bilbo and Gollum's meeting in the heart of the mountain and the transfer of the ring, was my favorite. It felt most like what Tolkien had written. Or so I thought, until I reread the chapter. Actually, I should deal with chapters 4 and 5 both, including the battle of the stone-giants and the dwarves' altercation with the goblins in the mountains.

First, Gandalf is with them on the mountains when the storm hits. The ponies are with them also. PJ's depiction of the giants' stormy fight was wonderful, but the troop is never thrown from one cliff edge to another. They do want shelter, and hide in a cave. They don't fall through the bottom of the cave; there's a crack in the back wall that slowly opens while they're asleep. Bilbo does not, does not, try to leave and abandon the mission. And Thorin does not criticize him and call him worthless! Again, PJ is introducing more personal conflict into the story line than ever existed. (This kind of thing bothers me the most.)

Gandalf disappears with a crash of light from his staff in the cave, when the dwarves are kidnapped. They are led by their captors to see the Great Goblin, their ponies are eaten and all their possessions are taken. Then Gandalf reappears, kills the Great Goblin quickly, darkens the cavern, and leads the 14 friends away at a run. Bilbo is carried on various dwarves' backs because he can't keep up.
Peter Jackson's "Great Goblin"
This is the point at which Bilbo is separated from them -- he falls off a dwarf back, bonks his head and passes out.

All in all, PJ's description of the events in the goblin cavern are much more extensive and elaborative than Tolkien's. The long chase scene did not occur, or if it did, it was in pitch darkness, which PJ of course could not use. The Great Goblin's corpse did not fall on anyone. I did enjoy PJ's goblin lair with all its ladders and swaying bridges.
On to the riddles. In the book: Bilbo does not fall down into the mountain's heart with a goblin on his heels, Gollum does not snag the goblin and kill him, and Bilbo does not see Gollum lose the ring. Bilbo finds the ring in the pitch darkness on the tunnel floor, and puts it in his pocket before he ever meets Gollum.
Gollum, in the cartoon version
Bilbo finds the edge of the lake, and Gollum surprises him absolutely, by appearing suddenly in his boat on the water's edge. They play the riddle game almost immediately, at Gollum's suggestion -- he seems to enjoy riddles. Sadly, PJ omitted 2 rounds of the riddle game! I didn't notice it in the movie, but I sure did when I read the book.  And remember Gollum's slimy, rocky island in the middle of the lake? Omitted also. This I do find sad -- Gollum's paddling out to the island to look for his ring, his whispers to himself, his screeches of despair echoing over the water back to Bilbo who waits uncomfortably, his frantic return in his boat as he hisses his suspicions about Bilbo's pocket, the impending danger -- all this  I remember causing me great excitement when I read the book years ago. It's excellent storytelling. Does it not transfer well to the screen? I don't know. But I was sad when I realized that it was omitted.
There are differences in the race to the back door also. Bilbo slips on the ring by accident, in his pocket, quietly. He doesn't fall down and send the ring flying into the air (just like Frodo on the Prancing Pony floor), and have it slip on his finger. No, no, no. He turns invisible unknowingly, falls in the tunnel, and Gollum runs right past him. And he pops off his buttons when he's escaping out the back door as the goblins are watching -- when he's invisible! -- so only his buttons show, flying through the air when they are no longer attached to him. Brilliant! Why didn't PJ use that? No clue.

I do find PJ's whole depiction of Gollum excellent, and always have. The split personality. Right down to his six teeth. And Bilbo's character is excellent, and Gandalf's. Perhaps casting and character development is one of PJ's gifts. The only exception I'd make is Thorin. Although I love Richard Armitage, I simply disliked the sullen, angry image of the dwarf. Perhaps there was just not enough to go on in the book? I wish PJ had not opted for a character development in Thorin that darkened the story even more.

1 comment:

  1. I agree about the movie's Thorin - I just did not like him. The dwarves in general did not please me, nor did the extra conflict and ill-will that you point out, and aptly describe as darkening the story. I am feeling comforted, reading Tolkien again, and having some of that light and good-nature restored.

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