Please feel free to comment on my review.
There and Back Again
Does the road go ever on and on?
In 2006, I read ‘The Hobbit’ by J. R. R. Tolkien. It was a book my Mum got for me from our local library. I was still into ‘The Lord of the Rings’ at that time – that’s the movie trilogy by director Peter Jackson. I wanted to read ‘The Hobbit’ first before I could read the actual ‘LOTR’ books by J. R. R. Tolkien that year. 🙂
I have vague recollections of reading ‘The Hobbit’ back in 2006. I know I enjoyed reading it, but when it came to looking back on my reading experience of the book for ‘The Hobbit’ film trilogy from 2012 to 2014, I could only recall certain aspects of the story in the first half rather than in the second half.
That’s because the first half of the book has more ‘LOTR’-related stuff; with it starting off in the Shire, going to Rivendell, going to the Misty Mountains and eventually Bilbo meeting Gollum in the ‘Riddles In The Dark’ chapter. The second half of the book wasn’t so memorable, as it was less familiar territory.
Now that I’ve seen ‘The Hobbit’ film trilogy by director Peter Jackson, I’m able to look with hindsight on how the story plays out in the book and what differences there were in terms of adapting the book into film. I hope to share what I found enjoyable about the book and what I found quite disappointing.
With that said, it is important to note that ‘The Hobbit’ is one of the finest pieces of literature by Tolkien. There’s no doubt about that. After all, its success went on for Tolkien to write the ‘LOTR’ books. But I can’t deny there are issues with the novel concerning the story and the characters being set up.
I purchased the HarperCollins edition of ‘The Hobbit’ with Smaug the dragon on it. This was in the summer of 2012 when I was on holiday in Scotland with my parents, after attending ‘Collectormania Glasgow’ in August. It was also after the trailers for ‘An Unexpected Journey’ were shown back then.
I hoped to read ‘The Hobbit’ book before seeing ‘The Hobbit’ movies at the cinema. Sadly, that didn’t happen and it would take me many years to read the book in 2019 before Christmas. But it was well-worth the wait, especially after having seen ‘The Hobbit’ films more than once to make comparisons.
The HarperCollins edition of ‘The Hobbit’ book contains illustrations by Alan Lee. Alan Lee was one of the conceptual designers for ‘The Hobbit’ and the ‘LOTR’ films by Peter Jackson. Alan Lee’s illustrations featured throughout the book are wonderful to see. It makes the story feel so beautiful.
I also read the book whilst playing an audiobook in the background, read by Rob Inglis. Rob Inglis has read quite a number of Tolkien-related audiobooks. As well as ‘The Hobbit’, he’s also read the audiobooks for the ‘LOTR’ books. Rob Inglis also seems to have a Tolkien-like voice when he reads ‘The Hobbit’. 🙂
The story is divided into 19 chapters. There’s a list of illustrations and an author’s note beforehand to accompany the book. ‘The Hobbit’ book was originally published by George Allen & Unwin in 1937. 10 year old Rayner Unwin, son of publisher Stanley Unwin, gave approval for the book back then. 🙂
Now in terms of how the book greatly differs from the movies, I must point out that ‘The Hobbit’ is only one book. I know that sounds obvious, but Peter Jackson and his filmmaking team made the decision to adapt the book into two movies before it became three. I had reservations about that. 🙂
With ‘LOTR’, it was acceptable to adapt that into a trilogy, considering its three books into three films. Here, it’s one book adapted into three films. Before reading the book again, I believed it to be unnecessary to adapt the book into three movies. I believed it would be better to adapt the book into one film.
Having read the book again… Yeah. I can see why Peter Jackson adapted the book into three movies. ‘The Hobbit’ book was originally meant to be a children’s story that parents would read to their kids at bedtime. It wasn’t meant to be an epic story that very soon spanned across three books like ‘LOTR’.
‘The Hobbit’ story in one book form has its limitations. Whilst it’s beautifully written by Tolkien in describing the worlds of Middle-Earth, such as the Shire, Rivendell, Mirkwood, Lake-Town, Erebor and the Desolation of Smaug, there’s not much to go on in terms of character development for the story.
A good example of this is with the thirteen dwarves. Now writing for many characters such as Thorin, Fili, Kili, Balin, Dwalin, Óin, Glóin, Dori, Nori, Ori, Bifur, Bofur and Bombur is very difficult to do in a single book. Especially when Tolkien didn’t do much with enhancing each and every dwarf. 😦
The thirteen dwarves sound very much alike and similar to each other. I think every dwarf was all beardy and not looking distinctive from each other. I can imagine Bilbo having a hard time trying to work out who was who if each of the thirteen dwarves sounded similar and didn’t stand out much.
I’m glad Peter Jackson decided to go for three movies instead of one for ‘The Hobbit’, as we wouldn’t be able to appreciate each of the dwarvish characters. And thank goodness Peter Jackson’s team didn’t go with the approach of making every single dwarf looking like and sounding like Gimli the dwarf!
I know people criticise the choices Peter Jackson’s filmmaking team made in terms of adapting the book into three films, but most of them are well-justified. A lot of the scenes in ‘The Hobbit’ book are truncated to five pages, like the Battle of the Five Armies. It wouldn’t work if it was shorter in the third movie. 🙂
The dwarf character that gets most attention though is Thorin. I know that’s the case for the movies too, but Thorin especially stands out with having most of the lines out of all the other dwarves. Balin sometimes gets lines and Bombur gets some too (quite a surprise, as Bombur said less in the movies 😀 ).
But overall, Thorin is the one who stands out of all the dwarf characters. I know he’s supposed to be the important dwarf character, being the leader of the company, but it’s a shame he has more attention compared to the other dwarves. Even Fili and Kili don’t get a lot of attention in the book. 😦
In terms of the characters that don’t appear in the book compared to the movies, there’s no Tauriel and there’s no Alfrid. Thus, no romance between Tauriel and Kili in the book! Whilst it’s mentioned the Master of Lake-Town had his councillors in the book, not one of them called Alfrid is mentioned.
Also, surprisingly in the book, the Master of Lake-Town survives the attack by Smaug compared to the movie version of the story. Thranduil doesn’t get named in the book. He’s simply referred to as the Elvenking. I know he’s called Thranduil later on, but kids reading ‘The Hobbit’ then didn’t know that yet.
There’s also no Legolas in ‘The Hobbit’ book. I know that’s obvious, since ‘The Hobbit’ was written before Legolas was invented for the ‘LOTR’ books. Quite frankly, I’m glad Legolas is in ‘The Hobbit’ films, as it linked ‘The Hobbit’ and the ‘LOTR’ films nicely, especially with his father and with living in Mirkwood. 🙂
Going off on a tangent, I did find the Mirkwood chapter of the book, which is ‘Flies and Spiders’, rather long-winded. Like Bilbo and the dwarves, I wanted to get out of the Mirkwood forest as quickly as possible. The chapter in audiobook form is over an hour long and I was finding it so dreary.
Amusingly, Thorin tells Thranduil the Elvenking that he and his dwarves were in the forest looking for food and drink because they were starving, whilst the Elvenking doesn’t believe him. I wish that was in the movie version. It would have been so funny to see that happen. Why was it not in the second film?
Bard comes in rather late in the story. Rather than appearing to help the dwarves and Bilbo to get inside Lake-Town via barrels, he appears at the moment where Smaug is attacking Lake-Town and he uses a black arrow to kill the dragon. Bard’s children don’t make an appearance in the book either. 😦
Maybe Bard’s children were invented for the movies, though his son Bain was mentioned in Tolkien’s books, but his family doesn’t get explored in ‘The Hobbit’ book. Bard is only like there for the remainder of the story, especially when he and the Elvenking are making demands to Thorin at Erebor.
Another character that doesn’t appear in ‘The Hobbit’ book compared to the movies is Radagast the Brown. Radagast has appeared in Tolkien’s books such as ‘Unfinished Tales’. Peter Jackson’s filmmaking team took advantage of Radagast’s appearance in ‘The Hobbit’ films from those books. 🙂
Gandalf’s absence in the story when he leaves Bilbo, Thorin and his company at Mirkwood before returning for the Battle of the Five Armies is felt throughout. I know it’s mentioned in other books what happened to Gandalf. It’s also mentioned briefly in the final chapter when he and Bilbo are in Rivendell on the return journey.
The stuff with Dol Guldur and the Necromancer isn’t featured in ‘The Hobbit’ book either. That was added into ‘The Hobbit’ films by Peter Jackson’s team to make the film trilogy feel more epic. It was taken from the ‘LOTR’ appendices and such. I wonder if not including all that in the movies would help. 😐
The book doesn’t feature Azog the Defiler a lot compared to the movies, though he does get a mention. Bolg, Azog’s son, features in the Battle of the Five Armies, which again is five pages long! I suppose describing a battle in the book wouldn’t have been very epic as it is in film for Tolkien to write here.
The whole chapter dedicated to Bilbo and Gollum having their riddle match was entertaining to read. It’s interesting that the original version of the scene had Gollum letting Bilbo go in the end, whereas the scene got rewritten to have Gollum become a lethal foe for Bilbo concerning the ‘precious’.
The chapters featuring Smaug were interesting to read compared to seeing it done in the movies. When Bilbo goes into the treasure lair, he steals one cup for the dwarves, which is noticed by Smaug once it’s stolen. This is different when Bilbo was meant to find the Arkenstone in the story’s film version.
Also, Bilbo and the dwarves aren’t so concerned about the people of Lake-Town being attacked by Smaug in the book compared to how they behaved in the movies. Maybe I’m interpreting this differently, but I find the story’s film version more emotionally gripping with Smaug attacking Lake-Town compared to the book.
At least Bilbo and the dwarves showed their reactions to the consequences of their actions in the third film rather than in the book. Thorin’s hunger for gold when he becomes King under the Mountain isn’t so strongly handled in the book compared to the films. There are hints of it, but it’s not so evident in the book.
There’s the scene in the book where Bilbo gives the Arkenstone to Bard and Thranduil, and Thorin banishes him out of his kingdom the next day. I also give credit to the filmmakers for getting it right with Thorin, Fili and Kili’s death in the story’s film version, since it did happen in the book but only a bit different.
Bilbo, as a character, doesn’t change much in the book, although he does find it rewarding being on an adventure with Gandalf and the dwarves fighting goblins and wargs. Bilbo has his obsession for food, drink and being at home at Bag-End in the book, which isn’t explicitly depicted in the movies.
The scene where Gandalf introduces the dwarves one by one to Beorn at his home is most amusing in the book compared to the movie version in its extended form. Beorn is keen to hear Gandalf’s story, despite being distracted by more and more dwarves coming in. He isn’t too bothered by there being many of them.
The story concludes with Bilbo back at Bag-End and receiving a visit from Gandalf and Balin, who tell him about all that has happened regarding Erebor and Dale. This was interesting to discover in re-reading the book again. There wasn’t much of that at the end of the third ‘Hobbit’ film, as it was a repeat of a ‘Fellowship’ scene.
I enjoyed reading ‘The Hobbit’ by J. R. R. Tolkien again after watching the film trilogy and hearing the Rob Inglis audiobook in the background. The illustrations by Alan Lee help to make the story colourful and it was fascinating to compare the differences between the book and the film versions.
I think ‘The Hobbit’ film trilogy works better compared to the actual book in terms of the storytelling and the characters. But with that said, the enhancements of story and characters come from Peter Jackson’s team, who read from all areas of Tolkien’s work like ‘The Hobbit’. Nothing wrong with that! 🙂
‘The Hobbit’ rating – 8/10
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