Every once in a while, on a Thursday, I post an old school assignment that I have written as a “throwback thursday” type thing when I have an assignment I’ve found that seems interesting enough to post. This time, I have my “research paper” from nineth grade where I compared The Hobbit the book to the movies, both the 70’s cartoon and recent Peter Jackson trilogy.
Hobbit Research Paper: Question 6
Movies vs. Book
The Hobbit is an epic fantasy novel written by J.R.R Tolkien, published in 1937. The book is set as a prequel to the much beloved trilogy of The Lord of the Rings, detailing the adventures of Frodo’s uncle Bilbo, and how he came about the ring in the first place, and why he became such an odd, adventure loving hobbit. The Hobbit was adapted as a cartoon film in 1977, 4 years after Tolkien’s death. It was again adapted into a live action film in 2012 by Peter Jackson, with the book being split into three movies. Of course, like with all adaptations, there are quite a few differences between the book and the movie.
The 1977 animated version of The Hobbit is G-rated, being geared to much younger audiences than the book, which is geared to teenagers, young-adults, and adults. It has a running time of 77 minutes and 51 seconds. In this version, there is no mention of Bilbo’s Took blood, nor of the existence of the Arkenstone. They have Bilbo leave his home with the dwarves, not being late. Bilbo also dreams of being a king with mountains of gold the night after being told of the treasure, which differs greatly from the Bilbo in the book, who dreams of no such things. The three greatest differences are the fact that they never go to Beorn’s house, but rather the eagles drop them off at the edge of Mirkwood. Bilbo never asks Gollum the “what’s in my pocket question” during the riddle game, and lastly, during the battle of five armies, not only are the armies different, with the Wargs being replaced by the eagles, and Thorin never calling for the aide of other dwarves than the 13 of the company, but a total of seven dwarves lie dead, vs the three of the company that died in the book.
The 2012 Peter Jackson version of The Hobbit is a series of three movies, all rated PG-13. Each movie has a running time between 2 hours and forty minutes and roughly 3 hours. Adding up to nearly nine hours of film for a 276-page book (as of the 75th anniversary edition). The first movie of the trilogy is The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey. This film covers the first six chapters of the book, ending when the company is being rescued by the eagles, from the goblins and wargs. In the movie, the goblins are orcs. The orcs are in fact the greatest difference between the book and Peter Jackson’s film adaptations. In the book, the company does not face the orcs, and they are only ever even mentioned in passing in the “Note on the text” section of the book, precluding the story.
There are other notable differences in The Peter Jackson’s version (both The Unexpected Journey and Desolation of Smaug), although they are less of a change to, or omission of part, of the story, than additions to make the story longer, better suited to a movie screen, and to appeal to fans of The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) movies who haven’t read the books. They do this by showing Gandalf’s adventuring in the South in the moments he leaves the company, something mentioned in the book but not shown or explained because we are limited mostly to Bilbo’s point of view and Bilbo’s knowledge. There is also the addition of some of the elves, such as Legolas and Galadriel from LOTR, with actors reprising their roles from over two decades ago. Speaking of reprised roles, the movie has a different beginning to the book. It starts with a very old Bilbo, talking to his nephew Frodo, telling him about the history of Dale and Erabor, and how he never told him the whole story of his adventures. Elijah Wood reprised his role as Frodo, which made me happy.
We also see moments with Radagast the Brown, and hear the wizards and elves talk about the Dark One rising, which is the plot of LOTR. Peter Jackson makes it very clear that this a prequel. He also adds the mandatory Hollywood (not quite) romance into the second of his three films with Kili’s crush on Tauriel, and her supposed crush on Legolas. Adding a sort of but not really love triangle, and a bit of forbidden romance because Tauriel and Legolas cannot date, because Legolas’ father, the wood elf king, forbade it. Though, Tauriel does not even exist at all in any books about Middle Earth.
Aside from elves and orcs, some more minor but still significant differences are the fact that Bilbo is granted his sword, later named Sting, by Gandalf. Unlike in the book, where he chose it for himself. Also, they do not willing mess with the trolls, but rather get their ponies stolen and try to steal them back. And last, when they were in the trees being attacked by orcs and not goblins, Bilbo attacked an Orc all on his own to save Thorin’s life. Even though at this part of the story he was not yet all that fond of Thorin and in the book, he was not yet that brave. Later, in the second movie, the major differences lie in the fact that Bard tries to sneak the dwarves through Lake down, Kili is injured and those several dwarves do not movie with them to the mountain. And of course, most of the dwarves battle with Smaug within the mountain was not from the book, as the dwarves never faced Smaug head on. Rather, he left to punish the men of lake town for helping the dwarves when he could not find them, and was killed by Bard. Also, the whole business of the Black Arrow was made up for the movie.
The director’s each chose to emphasize different things in their adaptations of Tolkien’s work. Tolkien himself put a large emphasis on the themes of greed, revenge, homes, differences in races, and other such things. Such as some creatures simply being predisposed to being bad or good depending on what they are. He emphasizes the dragon’s greed, the dwarves want for revenge, which is even greater than their greed for the gold or even wanting their home back. He speaks of alliances (the elves are not fond of dwarf greed, but they hate the goblins more ect.). And Bilbo constantly yearns for home.
Bass and Rankin disregarded most of these themes in The Hobbit for their adaptation. Theirs was simply an adventure movie, where the bad guys lose, good guys get the gold, all the politics and nuances of Middle Earth ignored for a little-violence-shown kids movie. Because it was after all, a G-rated children’s movie, made in the seventies. They put emphasis on he adventure, on the glory and gold, on friendship. As for what they omit, they completely cut out Beorn’s house, most likely to shorten the film than anything else. The also omit the whole business of the Arkenstone. And they also have quite a few cut scenes during times of battle. Setting the stage for the fight and then cutting to when the company has won. Showing no blood and little sword wielding. This, while perhaps also making it more child friendly, also makes it a bit boring.
Peter Jackson on the other hand takes some of these themes from Tolkien’s book and runs with them. He focuses heavily on history for one. What happened to Dale? What happened to Erabor? Where was Gandalf off too? What is happening in Dol Guldur? Thorin’s history with the pale orc. Bilbo telling Frodo stories. Ties with the Lord of the Rings. Names of the swords coming from their history in battle, and the significance of them. Gandalf and Elrond. Gandalf and the four other wizards of middle earth. He also puts great emphasis on homes. How Bilbo is always wanting to go back to his. How Thorin belittles him for this. How Bilbo stayed, because the dwarves don’t have a home, and he wants to help them take it back. At times he says this, and the take offense. Later, they take it as a sign that the hobbit is faithful to them. He also likes to frequently remind us just how it is hobbits act, see we can measure and see just how un-hobbitish Bilbo is becoming. He also, puts a great emphasis on family. How Kili and Fili are Thorin’s nephews. How the dwarves are like a family. How Bilbo is very much his mother’s son, acting on his Took blood.
In my opinion, the 1977 animated version is perhaps more faithful to the book by the letter, because it has less quantifiable differences. But, it is also much shorter, and omits more of the book. So while Bass and Rankin’s version may be more faithful to The Hobbit its self. I think Peter Jackson’s version is more faithful to Middle Earth as a whole. Because though this differs greatly from the book, they are not bad changes, they are mostly additions. Showing us things we couldn’t see from the book’s first person perspective. His additions stay true to the larger world of Middle Earth, so I think it is Peter Jackson’s version that is more “faithful to Tolkien’s vision”.
As for enjoyment, I’d say I enjoyed Peter Jackson’s version more. Mostly because it had better graphics, more content, and I absolutely love the actor that voices Smaug, Benedict Cumberbatch. Also, it did not omit all violence like the cartoon did, although the soundtrack for the cartoon movie was really good.