The Hobbit General Changes

Supersized Story

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey One SheetFilms: The Hobbit trilogy will consist of three films. The first, An Unexpected Journey, with a runtime of 2 hours and 49 minutes, has an epic feel similar to The Lord of the Rings films due to its lengthy prologue, action set-pieces and massive cast. The remaining two films, The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again, will be released in Winter 2013 and Summer 2014, respectively. The trilogy's storyline draws on material from the appendices at the end of the Return of the King novel, especially Dwarven history and the White Council's dealings with the Necromancer, who proves to be Sauron.

The HobbitBook: J.R.R. Tolkien's novel is a brisk, light adventure story consisting of a single volume that is shorter than any one of the three volumes of his Lord of the Rings trilogy. First published in 1937, it is recognized as a classic in children's literature. Its whimsical narrative tone includes an omniscient narrator who frequently speaks directly to the reader, and characters to whom children can relate.

Pro: The changes add depth to the story and meet the expectations of fans of the Lord of the Rings films. Tolkien himself revised The Hobbit in a later edition to better tie it into his later work, The Lord of the Rings.

Con: These films are too long, mature and violent for what is meant to be a children's story adaptation.  The first film, An Unexpected Journey, has been widely criticized for being bloated, overlong, unevenly paced and too violent for young children.


The Bagginses of Bookend

Bilbo and FrodoBilbo and Frodo in The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyFilm: Ian Holm and Elijah Wood reprise their roles from The Lord of The Rings as Bilbo Baggins and Frodo Baggins, respectively. The film contains a prologue set in Hobbiton just prior to Gandalf arriving for Bilbo's birthday party. The elderly Bilbo writes his memoirs while Frodo makes preparations for the party.

Book: The book opens with a couple of pages of narration describing the life of hobbits in general and that of Mr. Bilbo Baggins in particular. The first lines of dialog involve Gandalf approaching Bilbo standing outside the door of Bag End and announcing that he is looking for someone to join in an adventure. Frodo, whose birth does not come until 27 years later, does not appear in the story.

Pro: Having the familiar faces of Holm and Wood appear in scenes that “bookend” the three Hobbit films serves to draw interest of fans of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. It also reminds the audience that Bilbo’s adventures served as the catalyst for the events chronicled in The Lord of the Rings.

Con: These new scenes of Bilbo and Frodo would undoubtedly require the invention of dialog not found in the original book. Besides, the inclusion of Gandalf (not to mention Elrond and others) serves the same purpose.


Bilbo Aging

Ian Holm and Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins.Film: Bilbo in the main story is played by a 40-year-old Martin Freeman, while Bilbo in the bookend sequences is played by an 80-year-old Ian Holm.

Book: Although Bilbo was 51 years old at the beginning of The Hobbit and 111 when he departed Bag End in The Lord of the Rings, the book states that the passage of time had little effect on Bilbo. “At ninety he was much the same as at fifty. A ninety-nine they began to call him well-preserved, but unchanged would have been nearer the mark.”

Pro: It was not feasible to have Ian Holm play Bilbo again in the action-packed Hobbit films. As it was, the elderly actor filmed his bookend scenes entirely on a soundstage at England’s Pinewood Studios.

Con: The Ring’s slowing effect on Bilbo’s aging process is an important plot point. Even in the Lord of the Rings films, Gandalf observes that Bilbo “hasn’t aged a day”.  Showing old Bilbo and his younger version in the same film calls to attention that they are played by different actors with a wide age difference between them.


Cloakless Bilbo

Bilbo riding a pony out of Hobbiton.Film: As he started off on his journey, Bilbo wore a dark-green hood and a dark-green cloak borrowed from Dwalin.

Book: Bilbo wears only the Hobbit clothes he wore the morning after the dwarves arrived at Bag-End.

Pro: The hobbit clothes without a cloak make it easier to visually distinguish Bilbo from the dwares.

Con: The beardless Bilbo is already easy to distinguish, and the elimination of this detail also diminishes the early friendship forming between Bilbo and Dwalin.


Radagast The Birdcage Liner

Film still of Radagast the Brown.Film: Radagast the Brown, played by Sylvester McCoy, appears throughout the films as one of Gandalf’s fellow wizards. From the titles in the Hobbit soundtrack, Radagast first appears prior to Thorin & Company's encounter with the trolls. Radagast's hair is stained with bird droppings due to his feathered friends living under his hat.

Book: Radagast is indeed one of the five Wizards, or Istari, whom the Valar sent to Middle-Earth in the guise of old men to aid the Free Peoples against the return of Sauron. However, Radagast appears in The Hobbit only by name when Gandalf mentions “his good cousin Radagast who lives near the Southern Borders of Mirkwood” to Beorn. Gandalf again refers to Radagast in The Lord of the Rings, when, during the Council of Elrond, the gray wizard explains that Radagast the Brown delivered Saruman’s message summoning Gandalf to Orthanc.

Pro: Radagast lived close enough to Dol Guldur that it reasonable that he would have played a part in the White Council's investigation into the Necromancer during the timeframe of The Hobbit.  The bird-droppings is a humorous representation of Radagast's affinity for birds and beasts and disinterest in the ways of Men and Elves.

Con: Tolkien never described Radagast as having birds living in his hat, and showing the Brown Wizard as being covered in bird droppings is counter to the noble nature of the Istari.  Nor did Tolkien describe Radagast as having any involvement with the White Council against the Necromancer.  Giving Radagast a role in the events of The Hobbit will require the screen writers to invent other details and dialog for Radagast that Tolkien did not intend.


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The Complete List of Film Changes

The Hobbit The Lord of the Rings


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