The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey

The Complete List of Film Changes


Smaug attacks Erebor
Smaug attacks Erebor

Film: As does The Fellowship of the Ring, this film opens with a prologue. Bilbo narrates the story of how the dwarves were driven out of their mountain home Erebor by the dragon Smaug after finding the Arkenstone.

Book: These events are related by the narrator, Gandalf and Thorin during the “unexpected party” at Bilbo’s home.

Pro: It is dramatically essential to show the audience just what is at stake, especially since the audience will not have another opportunity to see the story’s main adversary, Smaug, until the second film.  Showing these events also adds scope and sweep to the story.

Con: Dramatizing these scenes require the writers to invent details that Tolkien did not describe.

Second Prologue

Frodo with invitation letters
Frodo with invitation letters

Film: A second prologue lasting nearly ten minutes take place on the day of Bilbo’s “long-expected party”.  While Bilbo jots down in a journal his memories of his adventures with Thorin & Company, Frodo runs about getting the mail, reminding Bilbo about his party, and going off to greet the arriving Gandalf.

Book: No scenes taking place during the timeframe of The Lord of the Rings appear in The Hobbit.

Pro: Such scenes would be fondly remembered by fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and put them in a good frame of mind for experiencing the rest of the film..

Con: Frodo’s appearance adds nothing to the story of Bilbo’s adventures and serves only to make audiences wonder when the movie will actually get started.  Much like how The Return of the King was criticized for having two many endings, this movie suffers from too many beginnings.

Gandalf Recalls a Young Bilbo

Gandalf recalls young Bilbo
Gandalf recalls young Bilbo

Film: Gandalf remembers Bilbo as a young child who loves adventure and danger, but the wizard is disappointed to find that Bilbo has become stuffy and conservative.

Book: When Gandalf first greets Bilbo at Bag End, the wizard says that he has sought out Bilbo because Bilbo’s mother, Belladonna Took, was adventurous. Bilbo’s Tookish side never had a chance to come out until his adventure with Thorin & Company.

Pro: Having Bilbo rediscover an adventurous side lost since youth gives him a more interesting character arc.

Con: This is an unnecessary departure from Tolkien’s writings.  It is sufficient that Bilbo discover his adventurous Tookish blood.

Dwarves’ Arrival

Dwarves fall in through Bilbo's open door.
Dwarves fall in through Bilbo’s open door

Film: Dwalin is the first to arrive, followed by Balin, Fili and Kili, and then Gandalf with the remainder of the dwarves, except for Thorin, who doesn’t arrive until later in the evening. As the dwarves greet one another, they say they haven’t seen each other in some time.

Book: After Dwalin; Bali, Fili and Kili arrive, they are followed by a group composed of Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin and Gloin; and a then final group composed of Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Thorin and Gandalf.

Pro: Having the dwarves meet up at Bilbo’s home from apparently separate destinations emphasizes that they are a wandering people. Thorin’s late appearance also is a more dramatic arrival.

Con: The arrival scene from the book was better because later in the story, Gandalf arranges for Thorin & Company to arrive at Beorn’s house in a similar fashion so as not to put off Beorn with the arrival of so many people at once. It can be assumed that Gandalf had also arranged for the dwarves arrival at Bilbo’s home for similar reasons.

Dwarves Out of the Hood

A hoodless Kili and Fili knock at Bilbo's door
A hoodless Kili and Fili knock at Bilbo’s door

Film: The dwarves who come to Bilbo’s door are hoodless; their beards are of normal, human colors; and their clothing color is dark or muted colors.

Book: As the dwarves arrive at Bag-End, they are described as follows: Dwalin has a blue beard and a dark-green hood; Balin has a white beard and scarlet hood; Kili and Fili each have yellow beards and blue hoods; Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin and Gloin have two purple hoods, a grey hood, a brown hood and a white hood; Bifur, Bofur and Bombur have two yellow hoods and a pale green one; and Thorin is wearing a sky-blue hood with a long silver tassel.

Pro: The lack of hoods allow viewers to differentiate the dwarves through their hair (and beard) styling without resorting to bright clothing colors that would detract from the rest of the scene.

Con: These changes done for the sake of realism is an unnecessary departure from what is supposed to be a children’s story.

Bilbo’s Contract

Bilbo Reading his Contract
Bilbo Reading his Contract

Film: Thorin and the dwarves present Bilbo with a lengthy contract for his burglar services.

Book: Thorin and Company leave Bilbo a two-paragraph note, written on Bilbo’s own notepaper, left for him under the clock on the mantle.

Pro: A lengthy note is a more humorous prop, suggesting all the complications and dangers that await Bilbo.

Con: This is an unnecessary deviation from Tolkien’s story.

Bilbo’s Backpack

Bilbo Going on an Adventure
Bilbo Going on an Adventure

Film: When Bilbo runs off to join Thorin & Company on their adventure, he dons a backpack.

Book: Bilbo departs without even a pocket hankerchief.

Pro: It is not reasonable that Bilbo would go off on a long journey without bringing travel items.

Con: The only reasonable explanation for Bilbo going off on such a journey should have been that he was pressured into it and left without thinking, as in the book.

Bypassing the Inn at Bywater

Green Dragon Inn
The Green Dragon Inn on the Hobbiton film set

Film: Bilbo catches up with Thorin & Company as they are riding out of Hobbiton.

Book: Bilbo meets Thorin & Company at the Green Dragon Inn in Bywater before setting off on their journey.

Pro: Meeting up with Thorin & Company while they are already traveling is a more economical method of bringing the characters together.

Con: The original scene within the Green Dragon would have been more enjoyable for movie-goers who remember the location from the Lord of the Rings films.

Betting on Bilbo

Bilbo on a Pony Cloakless
Bilbo Riding

Film: As they ride out of Hobbiton, Bilbo learns that the dwarves had bet Gandalf that Bilbo would not show up to go with them.

Book: There is no equivalent passage.

Pro: This scene adds some welcome humor.

Con: This new material takes screentime that would be better devoted to scenes found in the book.

Gandalf Argues with Thorin

Gandalf and Thorin have an argument
Gandalf and Thorin have an argument

Film: While in some shelter during a rain, Gandalf gets into an argument with Thorin and leaves.

Book: Gandalf leaves before anyone notices while they are riding in the rain.

Pro: The argument provides a reason for Gandalf’s depature.

Con:Gandalf’s unnanounced comings and goings are part of his nature. He doesn’t need to be provided with an explanation.

Troll Snot Jokes

The trolls Bert, Tom and William cook their supper
The trolls Bert, Tom and William cook their supper

Film: While cooking their supper, one of the three trolls sneezes, sending snot into their cooking pot. Another troll suggests adding squirrel droppings for more flavor.

Book: The trolls speak rudely and crudely to each other, but they do not mention bodily functions.

Pro: These minor changes provide welcome contemporary humor.

Con:Snot and poop jokes are inappropriate for this story.

No Talking Purse

Film: The trolls discover Bilbo as he is attempting to pickpocket William when William suddenly reaches behind and grabs Bilbo.

Book: William’s purse suddenly squeaks, “‘Ere, ‘oo are you?” as Bilbo grabs it.

Pro: A talking purse would not be believeable to audiences for this movie.

Con: The talking purse was part of the book’s whimsical charm.

Gandalf’s Stone Cracking Maneuver

Film: After the trolls capture the dwarves and begin to roast them on a spit, Bilbo sees Gandalf approaching. Bilbo distracts the trolls by explaining the best way to cook the dwarves. Gandalf then appears on a large rock, thrusts down his staff, and exposes the rising sun that turns the trolls into stone. Gandalf credits Bilbo for buying time for Gandalf.

Book: Gandalf imitates the troll’s voices to get them arguing with each other so that they don’t notice the rising sun that turns them into stone.

Pro: This change is more cinematic and provides Bilbo with a heroic moment.

Con:This change is too reminiscent of Gandalf breaking the bridge of Khazad-dûm.

Gandalf Presents Bilbo with Sting

Gandalf gives Sting to Bilbo
Gandalf gives Sting to Bilbo

Film: Gandalf finds a short bladed weapon while searching the troll’s cave. He gives it to Bilbo, but the hobbit is reluctant to accept it. Gandalf then tells him, “True courage is not about knowing when to take a life… but when to spare one.”

Book: Bilbo himself finds and takes the weapon, a knife in a leather sheath.

Pro: Bilbo’s reluctance to take a weapon, along with Gandalf’s words about the value of mercy, provide Bilbo with the motivation for sparing Gollum’s life later.

Con:Bilbo’s peaceful hobbit nature is motivation enough, and Gandalf’s words were too reminscient of what he said to Frodo in Moria in The Fellowship of the Ring.

Radagast at Rhosgobel

Radagast at Rhosgobel
Radagast at Rhosgobel

Film: Radagast the Brown appears in scenes taking place at Rhosgobel, his home at the edge of Mirkwood.

Book: In Chapter 7 of The Hobbit, Gandalf speaks of “my good cousin Radagast who lives near the Southern borders of Mirkwood”, and at the Council of Elrond in The Lord of the Rings, he says that Radagast “at one time dwelt at Rhosgobel.” However, there are no passages in either works telling of events taking place in Rhosgobel.

Pro: Because of his proximity to Dol Guldur, Radagast will undoubtedly be taking part in the Battle of Dol Guldur, in which the Necromancer is driven out of Mirkwood.  This event is important to include in the film to explain why Gandalf is gone for much of Thorin & Company’s adventure.

Con: Such scenes would require the screenwriters to invent actions and dialogue that were not described in Tolkien’s writings

Gandalf Unaware of Necromancer

Film: When Radagast tells his story about the Necromancer, it is the first time that Gandalf has learned of this enemy.

Book: Gandalf has previously been in the Necromancer’s dungeons. It was there that he found Thorin’s father, Thain, who gave the wizard the map and key to Erebor.

Pro: Presenting the Necromancer as a new threat gives the story more urgency.

Con: Gandalf’s mission for the past two thousand years has been to look for signs of Sauron’s reappearance. Eliminating Gandalf’s history of his investigations in the Necromancer diminishes his character.

Sebastian the Hedgehog

Radagast at Rhosgobel
Radagast tending to Sebastian the hedgehog

Film: Radagast cares for an ill hedgehog home he calls “Sebastian”.

Book: There is no such creature in the book.

Pro: This dramatizes Radagast’s concern for animals and is the initial incident leading to his discovery of the darkness emanating from Dol Guldur.

Con: “Sebastian” is not a name that is appropriate for Tolkien’s Middle-earth. (Tolkien later expressed regret giving the trolls such contempoary names as Bert, Bill and Tom.

Radagast’s Necromancer Encounter

Film: Radagast’s investingation into the darkness overtaking Mirkwood leads him to Dol Guldor, where the brown wizard encounters the Necromancer. Radagast is chased away by orcs and wargs.

Book: Although Gandalf mentions the Necromancer several times, The Hobbit has no passages in which any character actually encounters the Necromancer, and the Necromancer’s appearance is never described. (In The Lord of the Rings, the identity of the Necromancer is revealed to be Sauron, who, according to Tolkien’s descriptions and illustrations, took the from of a giant man with burnt, black skin).

Pro: Radagast’s tale of his encounter with the Necromancer sets into motion later film events such as the meeting of the White Council and Gandalf’s investigation of Dol Guldur.  It also serves to explain why Gandalf leaves Thorin & Company when they arrive at the entrance to Mirkwood, something that is not explained in the book.

Con: Inventing new scenes with Radagast requires the screenwriters to invent dialog and action that does not appear in Tolkien’s works.

Azog the Defiler

Azog, The White Orc
Azog, The White Orc

Films: During a rest stop, Balin tells Bilbo about how Thorin and his fellow dwarves attempted to reclaim Moria after Smaug had driven them from Erebor.  In a flashback sequence, Thorin fights the Chieftain of the Moria Orcs,  huge, albino orc named Azog, and hues off his arm. Azog wants his revenge and so he appears as a dominent and recurring adversary later in the film. His pursuit of Thorin and company leads to the film’s action-heavy climax.

Books: Azog died in the Battle of Azanulbizar. Azog’s son, Bolg, does appear in The Hobbit to get revenge, but appears only at the Battle of Five Armies at the story’s conclusion.

Pro: The addition of a vengeance-bent orc pursuing Thorin & Company adds more urgency to their journey and is a catalyst for the film’s climax.

Con: This is too reminiscent of Lurtz and his fellow Uruk-hai pursuing the Fellowship in The Fellowship of the Ring. It also transforms a children’s story into an unnecessarily violent action film.


Finbul toy figure
Finbul toy figure

Film: Finbul is one of Azog’s master hunters. He commands a horde of warg riders who trace their victims in the saddle of their gigantic wolf beasts. Finbul has taken up the scent of Thorin & Company and will catch the dwarves before they reach the Lonely Mountain.

Books: There is no character named Finbul and no horde of warg riders who pursue Thorin & Company.

Pro: The addition of warg riders pursuing Thorin & Company adds more urgency to their journey.

Con: These are unnecessary details that Tolkien did not create.

Dwarven Weaponry

Dwarves with Weapons
Dwarves with Weapons

Book: Other than some knives, the only weapons the dwarves carried was Thorin’s sword, Orcrist, that he recovered from the troll-hoard, and the bows that Beorn had given them later in the story.

Pro: Different weapons help distinguish the dwarves from one another and serve as props to dramatize their reactions.

Con: These new details are an unnecessary departure from Tolkien.

Rivendell Roundup Time

Horses encircling Dwarves in Rivendell
Horses encircling Dwarves in Rivendell

Film: When Thorin and Company arrive in Rivendell, they are encircled by elves on horseback who are returning after slaying most of the orc party that has been pursuing Thorin.

Book: As they enter the valley of Rivendell, Thorin and Company are welcomed by laughing and singing elves.

Pro: This is a more dramatic entrance to Rivendell and illustrates the mutual distrust between dwarves and elves.

Con: This is an unnecessary departure from the lighthearted tone of Tolkien’s story.

Let the Chips Fall Where They May

Elrond examining Gandalf's sword
Elrond examining Gandalf’s sword

Book: There is no such line in the books.

Pro: This line adds welcome humor to the scene in which Elrond is examining the swords retrieved from the trolls. Chips were also discussed in an exchange between Sam and Gollum in The Two Towers.

Con: It’s a distractingly cringy line that pulls us out of the story.

Galadriel at Rivendell

Galadriel asks Gandalf about the Halfling
Galadriel and Gandalf in Rivendell

Film: Galadriel, once again played by Cate Blanchett, appears in scenes taking place at Rivendell. She is already present when Thorin & Company arrive, having been summoned from her home in Lothlorien by Saruman.

Book: Galadriel does not appear in The Hobbit. Although Tolkien never explicitly mentions in other other works that Galadriel ever journeyed to Rivendell, it is not reasonable to assume that she occasionally did so — both as the mother of Elrond’s wife, Celebrian, and as a member of the White Council (see below).

Pro: Galadriel’s presence in Rivendell adds depth to the events related to Bilbo’s adventure because of her support of Gandalf’s investigation of the Necromancer.

Con: Such scenes require the screenplay writers to invent details and dialogue that Tolkien himself did not write.

Saruman at Rivendell

Saruman in Rivendell
Saruman in Rivendell

Film: Saruman, once again played by Christopher Lee, appears in scenes taking place at Rivendell. He is already present when Thorin & Company arrive.

Book: Saruman does not appear in The Hobbit. Although Tolkien never explicitly mentions in other other works that Saruman ever journeyed to Rivendell, it is not reasonable to assume that she occasionally did so as a member of the White Council (see below).

Pro: Saruman’s presence in Rivendell adds depth to the events related to Bilbo’s adventure, acting in opposition to Gandalf’s designer to investigate the matter of the Necromancer.

Con: Such scenes require the screenplay writers to invent details and dialogue that Tolkien himself did not write.

The White Council Convenes

White Council in Rivendell
White Council in Rivendell

Film: The White Council — which in this film is comprised of Elrond, Galadriel, Gandalf, and Saruman — meets in Rivendell to discuss the recent appearances of orcs, trolls, and spiders, and the growing threat of the Necromancer in Dol Guldur. Saruman believes that Gandalf’s concerns are unfounded.

Book: The deliberations and activities of The White Council are not chronicled in The Hobbit. The Lord of the Rings appendices do describe The White Council meeting several times, and although Tolkien did not specify that they met to deliberate during the events of The Hobbit, they did gather during that time to launch an assault on Dol Guldur. Members of the White Council included Elrond, Galadriel, Gandalf, Saruman and Cirdan the Shipwright; however, Tolkien suggests that there were additional members as well.

Pro: It is not unreasonable to assume that The White Council would have met before launching their assault on Dol Guldur, and it makes sense that they might have met in Rivendell, since Gandalf was passing through with Thorin & Company.

Con: Scenes involving The White Council would require the screenplay writers to invent details and dialogue that Tolkien himself did not write.

Dwarves Sneak Out of Rivendale

Galadriel watching Thorin and Company leave Rivendell
Galadriel watching Thorin and Company leave Rivendell

Film: Galadriel observes Thorin & Company leaving Rivendell a night, without Gandalf, because Thorin is distrustful of the elves; however, she surmises that Gandalf is aware of their plans. Gandalf later follows them and arrives when they are captured by the Goblin King.

Book: The entire Company was reluctant to leave Rivendell even after staying there for fourteen days, and they rode off amid songs of farewell and good speed. Gandalf departed with them, but he disappears shortly after the Company is captured by the goblins, only to reappear when they are brought before the Goblin King.

Pro: This change emphasizes Thorin’s distrust of elves, which is an important aspect of the film version of his character. The night departure without Gandalf is a better explanation of his disappearance than in the original story.

Con: Bilbo would not agree to leave without at least informing Gandalf.

Teleporting Galadriel

Galadriel and Gandalf in Rivendell
Galadriel and Gandalf in Rivendell moments before she disappears

Film: Galadriel clasps Gandalf’s hand as the two talk on a ledge outside the White Council chamber. As Galdariel withdraws her hand, Gandalf looks up and finds that Galadriel has suddenly disappeared.

Book: Neither Galadriel nor any other elf is described as having the ability to disappear.

Pro: This adds to Galadriel’s magical nature.

Con: This is an unnecessary departure from Tolkien’s story.

Stone-giant Close Encounter


Film: As Thorin & Company cross a narrow ledge over the Misty Mountains, stone-giants hurl rocks at an alarmingly close range, and one of the giants rolls headlong down the mountain and past a ledge where the dwarves and hobbit cower. The ledge turns out to be a another stonge-giant.

Book: The stone-giants were across the valley from Thorin & Company, and hurled rocks at one another for a game, tossing them into the darkness where they smashed among the trees far below.

Pro: Placing the stone-giants at a more threatening proximity to Thorin & Company makes the encounter more exciting.

Con: This is an unnecessary departure from Tolkien’s story, and is too reminscent of the avalanches on the Caradhras pass in The Fellowship of the Ring.

Goblin Chute Trap

Film: The Company takes refuge in a cave to escape the wind and rain. Bilbo feels he is not valued by the dwarves and decides to head back to Rivendell. However, before he leaves, a crack in the floor opens, and the entire Company slides hundreds of feet down a rocky chute into a waiting basket below, where they are captured by goblins.

Book: The Company enter the cave to take shelter from the wind and rain. While the Company is sleeping, Bilbo sees a crack opening in the wall and wakes up the Company. However, before they can react, goblins emerge from the crack and seize everyone, except for Gandalf, who remains on the other side when the crack closes again.

Pro: This is a more cinematic capture scene.

Con: The scene is not believable because the fall down the chute should have killed everyone.


Grinnah, the goblin interrogator
Grinnah, the goblin interrogator

Film: Grinnah is the interrogation specialist of the goblins. He ensures that Thorin & Co. are brought before the Goblin King. Although cunning and vicious, he is like all goblins basically a coward. Fawning and obsequious, he serves his master, but secretly he despises him.

Book: There is no character named Grinnah.

Pro: This is simply a personification of one of the nameless goblins described in the story.

Con: These are unnecessary details that Tolkien did not create.

Extended Goblin Town Chase

Goblin Town Chase Scene
Goblin Town Chase Scene

Film: As Thorin & Company escape through Goblin Town, they race through an elaborate labyrinth of scaffolding, ladders and bridges, killing hundred of goblins who stand in their way. One of the scaffolds the Company attempts to cross falls hundreds of feet down a chasm, but the Company is unhurt when it lands.

Book: The passages describing their escape has no such details.

Pro: Cinematic pacing requires that there be an extended action sequence such as this by this point in the film.

Con: These scenes are too reminscent of The Fellowship of the Ring‘s action scenes set in Moria, although the action is more like that of a videogame, with many enemies being easily killed but none of the protagonists being harmed, even after falling hundreds of feet onto rock.  As for  faithfulness to the book, Christopher Tolkien said when discussing other action sections that Peter Jackson added to his Lord of the Rings films: “They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people 15 to 25.”

Great Goblin Scaffold Crash

Great Goblin's body falling on Dwarves
Great Goblin’s body falling on Dwarves

Film: The Great Goblin’s dead body comes crashing down upon the dwarves as they are crossing over scaffolding during their escape from Goblin Town.

Book: As the captured Dwarves are brought before the Great Goblin, Gandalf slays him with a swift stroke from Glamdring. As the Great Goblin falls down dead, the goblin soldiers flee.

Pro: The encounter with the Great Goblin lasts only a couple of pages (mostly dialog) in the book, and stretching it out into an extensive action sequence makes for a more enjoyable film.

Con: Adding more action to the escape from Goblin Town will require the screenwriters to invent dialog and events not created by Tolkien.

Bilbo Sees Gollum Drop Ring

Film: Bilbo and a purusing goblin tumble down a chasm in an underground chamber of Goblin town. Gollum discovers the injured goblin, and as he tries to drag the goblin off eat it, Bilbo observes Gollum drop the Ring onto the ground. When Gollum isn’t looking, Bilbo takes the Ring.

Book: Bilbo feels something grab him from behind before he falls into the darkness and hits his head. When he recovers, he finds himself in total darkness. As he reaches out to find a way back, he finds the Ring on the ground.

Pro: This is a more dramatic way for Bilbo to find the Ring.

Con: This is an unnecessary departure from Tolkien’s story.

Button Burst Moved

Film: Bilbo loses all of his buttons when squeezing between two rock walls while trying to escape Gollum’s cave.

Book: Bilbo’s buttons burst off in all directions when dodging past the goblin guards and squeezing through a door they are closing to prevent anyone from escaping.

Pro: The passage involving the goblin’s closing the exit door would be an unnecessary scene for the film, but the visual of Bilbo losing his buttons was too good not to put elsewhere.

Con: The passage from the book was more exciting that the added scene of Bilbo being trapped between the rock walls.

Battle with Azog

Film: Azog and his Warg-riding orcs finally track down Thorin as he and the rest of the Company have escaped Goblin Town.  The Company climbs up some trees to get beyond their reach, but when escape seems impossible, Thorin climbs down to confront Azog. Azog battles Thorin when the vengeful white orc and his horde finally catch up with Thorin & Company. When it appears that Thorin is about to be killed, Bilbo jumps to his aid and rescue him.

Book: Azog does not appear in the Hobbit, having been killed by Dáin II Ironfoot many years earlier in the story.  The Company is instead trapped by a group of Wargs who live in the area.  The Company tries to escape from the Wargs by climing some trees, but then the Warg’s howling attracts the goblins from whom the Company has just escaped. The entire company remains in the trees until rescued by the Eagles.

Pro: This scene provides An Unexpected Journey with a resolution, as Thorin finally comes to respect Bilbo for the hobbit’s bravery.

Con: The subplot involving Azog seeking revenge on Thorin is an unnecessary detail to add to what is supposed to be a children’s story.  It feels like it belongs in another movie.

Gandalf Contacts Gwaihir by Messenger-Moth

Film: Gandalf sends a moth to tell Gwaihir, Lord of the Eagles, to rescue him and the rest of the Company from Azog and his Warg-riders.

Book: Gwaihir sees the fire and commotion from afar, and he and his fellow eagles decide to investigate. When they see the Company, they decide to rescue them from the Wargs.

Pro: This change elminates the need to show the Eagles talking to each other, and also harkens to the moth scene in The Fellowship of the Ring.

Con: Intelligent animals like the Eagles were part of the story’s charm.