“In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.”
With Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of The Hobbit just a few short months away, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the novel to get a refresher course on Bilbo Baggins and his adventures with the Company to retrieve a mountain of gold from the dragon Smaug.
I first read The Hobbit when I was eleven years old. Revisiting it today, I still found it to be a charming and appealing book. Tolkien’s effortless and cheerful narration is written for a younger audience than The Lord of the Rings but he never panders or condescends. Although The Hobbit is a fantasy tale, it is told in a plain matter-of-fact fashion that treats its subject matter as realistically as possible. It is this eye for detail and Tolkien’s purposeful crafting of an Anglo-Saxon folklore that would make his work so famous in the follow up, The Lord of the Rings.
This is an ideal book for reading a chapter per night. Once Bilbo gets bundled out of his comfortable hobbit hole in Bag End, his adventure with the thirteen dwarves is a series of one near-death mishap after another. There is a chapter titled Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire but realistically, that describes the whole journey. If Bilbo isn’t being captured by trolls, he’s fending off giant spiders. If he’s not bargaining for his life with Gollum, he’s stumbled into the War of Five Armies. For the paltry 260 pages, it packs a formidable amount of content.
Plenty of eyebrows have been raised over Peter Jackson’s intention to split this book into a trilogy of films. Considering the names of the films (An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug, There And Back Again) and referencing their related chapter titles in the book, it’s even stranger to observe how lopsided the volume of pages is going to be in each film. Based on the contents of the trailer for An Unexpected Journey, it looks like the breakdown of each film will look something like this:
So, yeah. Peter Jackson is apparently going to make a two hour film out of thirty pages of material for the final film. I guess you can expect plenty of padding or creative license in that one.
Given Jackson’s somewhat patchy track record after The Return of the King and the questionable decision to opt for a trilogy, its not entirely clear whether this new trilogy could become his “George Lucas” moment. I really hope that it isn’t. There are small things about The Hobbit which I’m not sure translate particularly well into film – the amount of talking animals for one. But the broader themes of heroism, courage and friendship and the prospect of Smaug the Magnificent being translated into the big screen is an appetizing prospect.
We haven’t got long to find out.
As for my next book, I’ve gone with JK Rowling’s first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy.
“Barry Fairbrother did not want to go out for dinner…” *