The expected journey
From the book to the big screen.
An understanding of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien’s world is pivotal to the understanding of his writing. The book The Hobbit is often labeled an adventure story for children, though many ardently disagree, given tense scenes of fear-invoking magical creatures.
Such juxtaposition can be traced to his childhood and youth. Tolkien grew up during the turn of the century in England, a time when it laid claim to being the industrial and imperial power of the world. Orphaned young, he and his brother spent little time around the things that worried the adult world, opting instead for fantasy tales, exploration of the lovely lands surrounding their Birmingham residence, and invention of languages. His fantastical imagination was furthered with formal study at University, and then interrupted by the Great War.
The Hobbit follows Bilbo Baggins (uncle and guardian to one Frodo Baggins) as he’s pushed out of his comfortable life by a wizard and a band of dwarves in search of a long-ago stolen heritage of treasure. Before the tale is completed, Bilbo and company are faced with many obstacles, including a particularly fiercesome dragon. Tolkien uses his experiences of a fast-growing industry of destructive steel and automatic power to paint a picture of evil that we now recognize best from Peter Jackson’s interpretation of The Lord of the Rings.
Tolkien’s time at the battlefront of attrition seems to have been a major influence in the way he painted good and evil. Though, in The Hobbit, we see far less of that evil than in the book’s sequel trilogy. In this introduction to the epic, we are presented with the languages, creatures, and lands that inhabit The Lord of the Rings, but it’s all played out in a much lighter manner.
The Hobbit is just one of those books that bring every one of its readers, from its publication in 1937 to the present, together. We’ve never heard of one who didn’t enjoy it, or couldn’t finish it. Rather, we hear that it was a childhood favourite, as is our own experience; our dad read it to us when we were young, and it was magical. And that’s what it is; a magical adventure story for everyone, full of silly good guys and bad guys of medieval lore.
So if books are any indication, this movie doesn’t have the ability to be as dark as The Lord of the Rings is, and that really eliminates it from becoming as mighty a franchise as The Lord of the Rings has become. But we think there’s plenty to look forward to, and we confidently shrug skeptics aside. Peter Jackson’s devotion to Tolkien’s world, and understanding of the goodness at the core of his characters, as demonstrated already in LOTR, has wonderful opportunity to shine in The Hobbit.
Apart from beautiful scenery and pack-leading cinematic feats, what Jackson did so surprisingly and importantly well in The Lord of the Rings was found in his conveyance of a small hobbit’s strength. That furry-footed creature defied all odds with an unlikely cast, and withstood the evils of Mordor for the memories of what he knew to be good. And now, over 10 years later, Peter Jackson has tackled another story of improbable heroism, and we trust him with it.
For you long-time fans of all things Tolkien, sit patiently through, and enjoy comparing your mind’s long-harboured version of ‘Riddles in the Dark’ with Jackson’s. For new fans, revel in the hilarity of the dwarves and their absence of table manners. And for all of us, we can sit back and enjoy J.R.R. Tolkien’s tale of a simple hobbit, as wonderful today on a big screen as it was in a little children’s novel 75 years ago.