Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Hobbit

I grew up, as you did, with Tolkien's Hobbit. I read it several times, fell in love, moved on to the trilogy and eventually The Silmarillion.  It was part of growing up, and a fine part. I married a Tolkien fanatic, and we made sure our offspring imbibed the books as we had.
I had not read The Hobbit in many years, perhaps decades, when I saw Peter Jackson's movie three nights ago. Mr. Jackson is only two years older than I, so probably he grew up with the same Tolkien love, and his movies must at some level reflect Middle Earth as he sees it.

I, however, sat through his Hobbit movie listening to my husband, a Tolkien scholar of sorts and a Tolkien purist certainly, groaning and grumbling and swearing he'd not come to any more Peter Jackson movies.

So, without further ado, I plan to make a list of significant departures from the book, that Mr. Jackson chose to make. I do not judge his motives; I'm sure he had astounding limitations and priorities and restrictions that produced these departures. Still, departures they are, and each one chips away a piece of Tolkien's world as we all know it.

1. Bilbo loves visitors. He has many pegs in his hall, because he loves for people to come by. Somehow, Peter Jackson (hereafter called PJ) depicts him as a curmudgeonly hermit who does not want any company.
2. Bilbo's hobbit hole is designed as a single tunnel with rooms off of that tunnel, not a prairie dog maze.
3. Hobbits wear bright colors, green and yellow particularly, and their feet are covered with curly brown hair. Perhaps that would have been too cheerful and whimsical for PJ's movie?
4. Bilbo's pipe is massive, even by human standards, and reaches nearly to his feet.
5. Gandalf's hat is blue.
6. Thorin is an old dwarf, and he comes with Bombur, Bifur, and Bofur. He is not youngish and sullen.  He initially praises Bilbo as "a most excellent and audacious hobbit," blesses him and exalts his wine and ale.  Gloin is the one who doubts Bilbo in chapter 1.
7. Bilbo is more complex in chapter 1 than PJ allows. His Tookish heart is stirred and won over to the idea of an adventure, and he's excited to go, during the night of song and planning. PJ depicts him as altogether alarmed and unwilling to go. This is simplistic, inaccurate, and sets Bilbo's character for the viewer from the beginning.
8. The music. Granted, PJ did try, and I enjoyed the one dwarf song. But there was lots of music in chapter 1; it sets a tone of beauty and mystery, and lends great complexity to the dwarves' character. And the dwarves have carried their instruments with them -- cellos and a harp, a drum and clarinets. The music weaves a magical web in Bilbo's home and his imagination, and helps woo him to the task at hand.
9. Azog is a goblin, not an orc. This depiction of him as a massive orc, much like the ones Saruman bred at Orthanc, is ludicrous.  As a goblin, he could not have fought during daylight.
10. Thorin's father went insane in the dungeon of the Necromancer. Why PJ decided to include so much of Radagast and Dol Guldur, the Necromancer and his acts, and failed to mention this one important link involving Thorin, I cannot guess.

This is chapter 1, as I go back now and read again Tolkien's The Hobbit. I enjoyed many parts of the movie, particularly Martin Freeman's rendering of Bilbo, in spite of PJ's failings on that score. The music was sublime, and I wanted more of it. I wanted more magic and less violence. I wanted more musing and less mayhem. I wanted Tolkien's story for a 10 year old, instead of a modern movie for a 25 year old whose appetite tends toward decapitation and terror. Still, there are wisps of Middle Earth in the movie, and for that I'm thankful.


  1. Hmmm... interesting - thank you! We went to see it on Sunday afternoon. We've all read the Hobbit (myself and Ben many times, and the boys at least once) and had been pleasantly surprised by the relative faithfulness of the LOTR films, so had high hopes. Well, my males all loved it. It is a male film - hey, it's a male-dominated book, so surely that's not a fault of PJ. I couldn't find a seat next to the rest of the family, and sat next to two young men who checked facebook on their phones throughout. I did wonder why they'd come, and so some of my lack of enjoyment comes from my company, not from the film itself! In summary: the dwarves did depart from their original descriptions but I've never been able to tell them apart in the book and therefore I enjoyed the variety of faces, characters and accents provided in the film. I find their songs tedious (many apologies to serious fans) and a slight reduction in them was welcome. The dragon was great, Radagast was ridiculous and the departures from the story in terms of the Necromancer and Azog were perplexing. But, all in all, I did enjoy it a lot, especially when I discovered that the rest of my family had loved it!

  2. You know, Floss, I really agree with you. I did find Radagast the Brown ridiculous, and rather wish they'd left that out. The movie was so darkened by Azog's continual presence, and by all the reverences to the Necromancer (Sauron, as we now). I guess I would have liked a lighter, brighter movie, and I think if he's made The Hobbit first, PJ could have gotten by with it. But since it's following such dark days in the trilogy movies, it's hard to back-pedal to light-hearted fare. But I ADORED the hobbit hole, and I really, really liked Freeman as Bilbo. I think he's a perfect casting. The trolls were great. Rivendell was lovely, as ever. I'm eager to read the rest of the book, and see how faithfully it was made, since I really don't recall the book well. And I did feel like the goblins in Moria and the whole part with Gollum was very good and very faithful, as I recall it. The goblins were less scary and just as I recall them. The riddles were well done, yes? I'm eager to see Mirkwood, Dale, and the dragon!

  3. Yes - I don't know why I forgot to mention it, but the whole part with Gollum was a delight! I was absolutley enraptured - it's so incredible to see part of what you have read and pictured in your imagination coming to life just right. And I agree that Martin Freeman is perfect. My elder son looks a lot like him playing Bilbo...

  4. The dwarves' song! That was my favorite part of the movie. I'm hoping it will be available on YouTube soon so I can listen to it again and again without having to sit through the riotous suppertime scenes first.

  5. YAY! Precious has found another who likes the Hobbitses! LOL I love the books. And the movies too. I think PJ did wonderful on them all even if he strayed. He gave me a nice visual for the characters for when I re-read the books.


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