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If I could have adapted The Hobbit . . .

Several years ago, when I learned that Peter Jackson was helming a screen adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, I found myself scribbling out a plan (not quite an outline) how I would handle the challenging process of producing a prequel to a successful film trilogy, knowing that the book had been written long before the author had even imagined the story behind that trilogy.

That is, in Tolkien’s imagination, The Hobbit came first.

For many filmgoers, however, the Lord of the Rings would be their first taste of the Beowulf scholar’s fantastic realm.

Tolkien himself provides the key.  In the short narrative, “The Quest for Erebor” published by his son Christopher in  Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, he reports of an exchange that took place in Minas Tirith shortly after the coronation of King Elessar.  Some members of the fellowship had asked Gandalf how he had come to ask Bilbo to join the thirteen dwarfs in their quest to recover their treasure — and their long-lost mountain home — from the dragon Smaug (i.e. the quest that takes place in the movie released today).

That is where I would begin it, with the members of the fellowship sitting around in a house (or a pub?) in the restored capital of Gondor, asking Gandalf that very question.  We would fade from his telling not to the first scene in the book (i.e., The Hobbit), with the wizard approaching the hobbit at his home, but to the scene presented in that tale, with him encountering Thorin just outside the village of Bree.

Thorin would show some reluctance to including the hobbit, perhaps familiar with Bilbo’s very bourgeois and bland father.  Durin’s heir would eventually defer to the Maia whom Manwë himself had dispatched to Middle-earth.

Even as he accepts the wizard’s choice, the dwarf leader would often find himself at odds with Bilbo.  The film would present the two as almost opposites, with a tension between them similar to that we often see in cop movies with such pairings.

Now that I have outlined how I would have adopted the classic book, I am prepared to see the movie.  I’ve tried not to watch the previews, but have seen in at least one an image of Cate Blanchett reprising her role as Galadriel, so it seems Jackson has made some changes, given that this daughter of Finarfin does not appear in The Hobbit.  Nor in fact do any women.

I wish I could go into this without expectations, but having been a Tolkien geek for the better part of my life, I cannot alas.



  1. I LOVE your outline, and having watched last night’s midnight release of “The Hobbit” – yours would be a far superior rendition.

    Thorin’s snarky attitude isn’t Tolkienesque at all, but a reflection of current Hollywood trends to have their bad boys behave. Also, the constant reminder that Bilbo has it in him to do great things is a tired effect.

    Wish that Jackson was more like Whedon and/or Nolan, and not turned into another Lucas.

    Comment by ImChiquita — December 14, 2012 @ 3:06 pm - December 14, 2012

  2. the members of the fellowship sitting around in a house (or a pub?) in the restored capital of Gondor, asking Gandalf that very question.

    But that would have been more expensive, actor-wise.

    BTW I am not usually the “opening night nerd” type, but a friend sucked me into the movie last night. It was about what I expected: Jackson made some changes to character and action, to increase the on-screen drama.

    The only thing I will give away (and I’m not really giving it away, because you can see it in the trailer) is this: my least favorite change is Radagast riding a sleigh drawn by rabbits. Radagast is in “Jar Jar” territory, I think.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — December 14, 2012 @ 3:51 pm - December 14, 2012

  3. To say some positive things (and again, only touching on stuff that people would know from the trailer):

    The Galadriel moments worked, I thought. It was Jackson’s way of going into the “wizards’ view” of events (the viewpoint of the serious characters). I also thought Andy Serkis was as good as ever, doing Gollum as 2 explicitly disassociated personalities.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — December 14, 2012 @ 4:21 pm - December 14, 2012

  4. I’ve been wondering if Dan has availed himself of the Hobbit menu at Denny’s.

    Comment by TGC — December 15, 2012 @ 1:13 am - December 15, 2012

  5. I became worried about this movie when I heard it was broken into two parts. Hope I’m wrong but my expectations are getting lowered from reviews I have seen.

    Comment by mike — December 15, 2012 @ 1:59 am - December 15, 2012

  6. ILC, the Radagast diversion was a hug mistake; I know he meant it for comic relief, but, well, Bombur is already in the book and provides an easy opportunity for humor. Heck, Tolkien himself offers some choice descriptions.

    And he changed too many things that didn’t need changing. In Lord of the Rings, he needed make many of the changes to get the books to fit into three (less than) three-hour movies. Here, he seems to have lengthened things so he can get it into three three-hour movies.

    You may be right about the Galadriel moments; the WHite Council met later in the book (it’s why Gandalf left them at MIrkwood), but maybe it is necessary to put it so early in the film, given that many people only know the story through the LotR movies.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — December 15, 2012 @ 5:40 am - December 15, 2012

  7. Even in the book, the WC effort against the Necromancer was large-scale (just off-page and implied). I don’t mind Jackson depicting the beginning discussions for that effort… Except that Jackson made some unnecessary changes to the history. For example, and per the LOTR appendices, the WC already knew for certain that that the Necromancer was Sauron. Gandalf had solved that mystery 100 years earlier, at which point Saruman made a juicy speech about the Ring. Jackson could have shown all that; instead, he discarded it.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — December 15, 2012 @ 11:39 am - December 15, 2012

  8. (continued) Some of Jackson’s changes felt, to me, like dumbing-down.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — December 15, 2012 @ 11:55 am - December 15, 2012

  9. ILC, I’ll have to check the appendices; I thought that Gandalf was uncertain about the real identity of the Necromancer.

    And I didn’t like Elrond “springing” the council on Gandalf. He seems almost surprised to see Galadriel and Saruman there. In the book, it was a long expected meeting.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — December 15, 2012 @ 12:58 pm - December 15, 2012

  10. From the _Tale of Years_:

    2063 – Gandalf goes to Dol Guldur. Sauron retreats… [here, they don’t know yet who the Necromancer is]
    2460 – Sauron returns to Dol Guldur…
    2850 – Gandalf again enters Dol Guldur, and discovers that its master is indeed Sauron…
    2851 – The White Council meets. Gandalf urges an attack on Dol Guldur. Saruman overrules him…
    2941 – [events of _The Hobbit_]…The White Council meets; Saruman agrees to an attack on Dol Guldur, since he now wishes to prevent Sauron from searching the River [for the Ring]. Sauron having made his plans abandons Dol Guldur…
    2951 – …Sauron sends three of the Nazgul to reoccupy Dol Guldur…
    2953 – Last meeting of the White Council. They debate the Rings. Saruman feigns that he has discovered that the One Ring has passed down Anduin to the Sea…

    2953 is Saruman’s Ring speech that I was thinking of, where he lies through his teeth while having his own spies out there searching for the Ring.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — December 15, 2012 @ 2:06 pm - December 15, 2012

  11. […] all of us Tolkien geeks, Gay Patriot has up a great post called “If I could have adapted The Hobbit . . . “. Go check it […]

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  12. […] If I could have adapted The Hobbit . . . […]

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  13. I consider myself relatively pleased with the film. Some baffling moments like at the beginning where they graph Ian Holm’s face to look more like Martin Freeman which I feel was very unnecessary. Also little bit fast pacing at times, but overall pleased very much as someone who read The Hobbit once while in school. The absolute best scene is the game of riddles between Bilbo and Gollum which I thought Jackson did a fantastic job on (and Andy Sirkis playing the part majestically as always).

    Comment by Jonathan Gillispie — December 16, 2012 @ 1:05 pm - December 16, 2012

  14. “That is where I would begin it, with the members of the fellowship sitting around in a house (or a pub?) in the restored capital of Gondor, asking Gandalf that very question.”

    I’m not so sure of that. A standard lesson for writers is that it can be a mistake to start a novel too early in the story. Often it is better to start later, and reveal the essentials that happened earlier through flashbacks, conversations, etc.

    Comment by pst314 — December 16, 2012 @ 6:08 pm - December 16, 2012

  15. @pst314

    I believe his suggestion works from the concept that telling the tale to the Fellowship would be the *end* of the story, then the rest is just flashback.

    Comment by The_Livewire — December 17, 2012 @ 9:39 am - December 17, 2012

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