An Unexpected Delight

When Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings, he took all of the most interesting materials from Norse, Germanic, and Celtic mythology and created a conglomerate world of it; that’s pretty well known.  And when it came to the story itself he added in all the elements that would keep readers’ attention – magic, elves, dwarves, disgusting monsters, pirates, ghosts, and the like.  But at the center of his universe were four friends – harmless, skill-less friends.  They were sent off to war as conscripts, they worked together and apart for a common good, they were honored above all for their accomplishments.  In real life, they were Tolkien and his three comrades from school.  Only he came home.

The Hobbit was a prequel, a device to set up the mythology of Middle Earth and to introduce the reader to some of the characters.  There were some alterations from the book, but as an introduction to Middle Earth both movies have performed admirably.  Like Lord of the Rings, the characters are vibrant, the themes are all present and the visual medium is used to enhance every aspect of the story.  When a man like Orwell innovated camera angles, he was never able to do it with the subtlety Jackson has managed.

And like The Hobbit, Tolkien’s ancestors may well have taken part in some of the wars and skirmishes that led up to World War I.  For anyone who had been paying attention, the prequels to “The Great War” would have made any sane man shiver.  In the movies, one is given the clear sense that the wizards know what is coming and are similarly worried.

Then there are the improvements on the book.  Radegast is hilarious, and his character scenes rocked.  The interplay between Gandalf and Galadriel could have never been attempted in written form.  Nor could it have been used to make the many dwarves so interesting.  (The introductory song in Bilbo’s home comes to mind, and the fight scene as they escape the elves).

I suppose I should mention the odd addition of Tauriel to the storyline; she isn’t a part of the original book.  From what I have gathered so far she is a useful tool on several fronts.  She helps to develop Kili’s character.  She makes Legolas more interesting.  Potentially, she can be the bridge that allows him to make friends with Gimli in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Personally, I like the addition.

As I like the expansion in the human village scene.  The book is vague on what happens, and the eventual killer of the dragon is simply named without any background whatsoever.  Not satisfying at all.  With the elf woman, the lingering injury of Kili, and the human intrigues we are allowed a much better feel for him, giving the entire story a more rounded appearance.

I am generally of the opinion that if you want to give a book, comic, or show your own interpretation you should do what David Twohy did with Riddick and make your own.  Then again, reinterpretations usually mean undermining or altogether forgetting about the original themes.  The first X-Men series did that, and I hated it.  The Hobbit does neither, it enhances a story that was already there, always paying respects to the original master.  Peter Jackson can keep making trilogies for as long as he wants as far as I am concerned.

About Cian Beirdd

I live with my kitty, and encourage his tuna and catnip addictions. I have a website as well;
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7 Responses to An Unexpected Delight

  1. Loki says:

    I agree with most of what you write here — though I do feel the need to point out that book of The Hobbit is not a prequel to Lord of the Rings, as Lord of the Rings is a sequel to the Hobbit and was written afterwards. (This is why the beginning chapters of Lord of the Rings much more closely mirror the tone of The Hobbit than much darker rest of the book).

    My main objection to the Hobbit films so far is nitpicking — I feel they lost a great chance to explain Gandalf’s relationship to the giant eagles (and thus close some gaping plot holes) at the end of the first film, and I felt they (probably in the name of pacing) completely botched everything with Beorn in the beginning of the second, which is an extensive, humorous and somewhat scary section of the book. But Gandalf’s hilariously layered story of introducing the dwarfs gradually was cut, the presence of Beorn the man was not intimidating, and Beorn the bear looked like an overgrown warg with a shorter tail, and not like a bear at all. And the fleshing out of the dwarfs as somewhat less than Noble Crusaders when they bicker over whether or not to steal Beorn’s ponies before entering Mirkwood? Also cut.

    In any case, these are all trifles. I’ve loved both movies, and I’m sure I’ll love the third one, too.

    • Cian Beirdd says:

      I did check. The Hobbit was 1937, Lord of the Rings 1954. There are a lot of opportunities missed and scenes deleted in the movies, but you have to admire how true to the spirit of the books Jackson has been.

      • Loki says:

        Not sure if I’m qualified to vouch for his trueness to the books’ spirit, but I definitely agree the films have captured (a lot of, if not all of) what I’ve perceived as the books’ general feel — and added to it, as well.

        And thanks for confirming the dates. Your referencing “The Hobbit” as a prequel made me think you had them confused, but I guess you were just using the term loosely to mean it was set behind the more famous work, even though it was published nearly twenty years prior to it?

      • Cian Beirdd says:

        Loosely. He had the big story in mind when he wrote Hobbit. Hobbit was intended as his introduction. Dwarves could travel through Middle Earth meeting the odd and out of place, whereas the nine of the Ring seem to meet kings.

    • Loki says:

      From what I recall, his “Legendarium” (his private attempt at writing a mythology for Britain to answer its lack of such) of stories was a long-running project started years and years before “The Hobbit”. But when he started telling his children a bedtime story, he found himself setting it in the world of the Legendarium (just many centuries later than the stories he was writing, in a more peaceful era). That bedtime story turned into the children’s book, which sold well enough to warrant a sequel. “Lord of the Rings” was written intended as a sequel to “The Hobbit”, but as he wrote he found himself writing a far more mature story, more heavily influenced by the fact that he had sat it in the world of his “Legendarium” (though still centuries later). As you point out, this leads to the characters interacting with kings and millenia-old Elves in a struggle for the fate of the world itself, rather than the more fairy tale-esque scale of The Hobbit (the Jackson movies doing a good job of reconciling these tones for a more linear story, in part via Tolkien’s additional notes and appendixes in Lord of the Rings dealing with the behind-the-scenes events of The Hobbit). After his death, his son and estate have published basically every shred of stories and notes from his vast “Legendarium” (the most famous collection being the first one, “The Silmarillion”, collecting those works that were more or less wholly complete at the time of Tolkien’s death), but none of it (except the “spin-offs” Hobbit and Lord of the Rings) were actually published in Tolkien’s life time.

      • Cian Beirdd says:

        Interesting. With, of course, his own war experiences shaping the separate lines of the hobbits. Amazing what you can learn, and no one better than a man who had translated Germanic and Celtic his entire career to do the creating.

      • Loki says:

        Yeah, the scope of his work was boggling. All the more so when you stop to realise he never published anything of it during his life and yet kept working on it, constructing whole languages to build it around.

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