Book Reviews · Books vs. Movies · Fantasy

Book vs. Movies – The Hobbit

Good morning, everyone! A very happy Hobbit Day to you all! In the world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels, today is the shared birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, which makes today a great opportunity to celebrate all things Tolkien-related.

Personally, I am planning to celebrate by going about barefoot for the whole day (as a proper hobbit would), and marathoning The Lord of the Rings trilogy. While I have decided against eating the standard seven meals that a hobbit would enjoy (because I just cannot handle eating that much food), I have elected to add second breakfast and afternoon tea to my normal meal schedule.

Rather than just celebrating today, I actually made the decision to spread my celebration of Hobbit Day throughout the month of September. I began, of course, by re-reading The Hobbit.

“If you’re referring to the incident with the dragon, I was barely involved. All I did was give your uncle a little nudge out of the door.”

~Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, tells the story of a very respectable hobbit by the name of Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo’s quiet life takes an unexpected turn when he is visited one morning by a wizard known as Gandalf the Grey. Gandalf has decided that what Bilbo needs is an adventure, and the reluctant hobbit soon finds himself joining a company of dwarves on a quest to the Lonely Mountain to take back their home from a dragon.

I first read The Hobbit when I was a high school student, shortly after The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was released in theaters. After seeing the movie, I rushed out to buy a copy of the trilogy, knowing that I would never be able to wait a full year to find out what would happen to the Fellowship. I was able to purchase a boxed set of The Lord of the Rings, which also included a copy of The Hobbit.

I decided to read The Hobbit prior to diving into The Lord of the Rings, and fell in love with the story on the very first page. If memory serves, I ended up reading the entire book in a single sitting, staying up most of the night to finish reading about Bilbo’s adventures.

I’ve read The Hobbit several more times since then, and I’ve enjoyed it just as much (if not more) with each successive reading. Of all the books I have read throughout my lifetime, there are really only three titles that I would say have been consistent favorites since the first moment I read them. The Hobbit is one of these books. I have loved the story, and the world of Middle-earth, since the first time I picked up the book, and I have no doubt that I will continue to do so for the rest of my life.

In addition to my recent re-read of The Hobbit, I also decided to re-watch all of the book’s movie adaptations. I began by re-watching the extended edition of The Hobbit trilogy, which was directed by Peter Jackson. The movies in this trilogy include: An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug, and The Battle of the Five Armies.

Peter Jackson’s re-imagining of The Hobbit as a movie trilogy is unbelievably good. The movies are action-packed, the soundtracks and settings are gorgeous, and the characters are portrayed extremely well by their respective actors. Martin Freeman, in particular, was a perfect casting choice for Bilbo Baggins; and Richard Armitage does a phenomenal job of bringing Thorin Oakenshield to life. I was also impressed with the way in which Peter Jackson linked the events of The Hobbit to those which would follow in The Lord of the Rings.

That being said, the trilogy is not a 100% accurate representation of the book. There are a significant number of scenes and characters in the movies which are not present in the original novel, and which alter the way in which certain moments unfold. Because of this, I would actually consider the movie trilogy to be an adaptation/expansion of the original novel. As long as you don’t watch the movies expecting them to be identical to the book, I think you’ll be really impressed.

Like The Lord of the Rings, these are some pretty lengthy movies, but you could actually watch all of them in one day if you wanted to do so. The first two are over three hours in length, and the final movie is approximately two hours and forty-five minutes. It is worth noting that while the theatrical releases of all three movies have a PG-13 rating, the extended edition of The Battle of the Five Armies is rated R.

In addition to re-watching these movies, I also decided to re-watch the Rankin/Bass animated version of The Hobbit, which came out in 1977. This adaptation is very short, less than 80 minutes in length, and the story moves very quickly. It also has a significant amount of music that is included, most of which comes from the songs Tolkien included in the novel. These songs, it should be noted, are extremely catchy. So if you have the opportunity to watch this version, be aware that you may find yourself still singing “Down, Down to Goblin Town” or “Funny Little Things” several days later. (I certainly did.)

One thing you may notice about this movie is that the animation is more consistent with Japanese anime than with American cartoons of the same period. This made a lot more sense to me after learning from that the animation was actually done by a Japanese company called Topcraft, which eventually went on to become Studio Ghibli. While I like the vast majority of the animation for this movie, I do have somewhat mixed feelings about a few of the character designs, specifically Gollum and the Mirkwood elves. They just don’t match how I envisioned those characters. As a whole, however, it is a well-animated movie.

Like the movie trilogy, the animated version is also not a 100% accurate representation of Tolkien’s original novel. In this case it is because a significant amount of material was left out, including the company’s interactions with characters such as Beorn, as well as Thorin’s desperate search for the Arkenstone, which is of major importance in the book. More likely than not, these changes were made due to time limitations, because the movie was made for television. There were also some additional changes that were made to the story which do not have a significant impact on the plot, but which fans of the novel will definitely notice if they watch this movie.

While I do prefer the book to either of the movie adaptations, I have to say that of those adaptations, I definitely like the movie trilogy much better than the animated version. The trilogy just feels much more complete, and you can very clearly see the love the cast and crew had for the source material when you watch it.

If you’ve never had the opportunity to read The Hobbit, or watch any of the movie adaptations, I highly recommend taking the time to do so. The world Tolkien created is so amazing, and his stories really stick with you. If you do have the opportunity to read The Hobbit (or watch the movies), I hope you enjoy your adventures in Middle-earth as much as I have over the years!

Happy Hobbit Day!

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