The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey

Last night I went to see the Hobbit.  I was so excited that I could practically burst – I know, I need to get out more!  Anyway, I will start by saying that I really enjoyed the film.  I had reservations and I’ve been mulling it over.  A lot.  The following is my rambling reflections.

I went to see the film with my husband and we’re both basically going to have to agree to differ on this one.  To be honest he wasn’t keen to see the film because he was unhappy with the book being split first into two and then three parts – thinks it’s exploitation.  Okay, he’s got a point, but at the end of the day film makers are there to make a profit.  So, basically, he went into the film with negative expectations.  I went into the film with quite frankly over zealous, huge, monumental-off-the-chart expectations and there’s the rub – it was never going to quite live up to that standard.  So we came away, with my husband admitting it’s a good film, but with reservations and me thinking it’s a good film also with reservations.

I’m going to try and articulate my feelings on it but it’s probably going to be far from smooth.  I will start by saying I don’t have a problem with the film being split.  The books are two entirely different cups of tea and to make sweeping statements about the length of the Lord of the Rings books with one film for each and the length of The Hobbit with virtually the same is pointless.  The Hobbit was written as a children’s story.  As such it’s filled with silly nonsense and plenty of action.  The Lord of the Rings is written for adults, it’s world building is paramount, it’s scope epic – children would be probably bored within minutes.  But that’s why I think the Hobbit can work over more than one film because there is such a lot going on in the story.  LoTR has loads of detail – people quite often bemoan the fact – but when you translate this into a film, yes, great for the sweeping backgrounds but, not quite as much action per book.  The Hobbit is quite full of different action scenes.  If the same attention to detail had been paid on this book I dare say Tolkien could have made it into three books.  Therefore to give each of these chapters relevance I can see no problem with two films.  The third film I’m puzzled about and am assuming it’s some sort of novel that brings together all sorts of relevant background information to link the books and provide us with six films that when watched together become an epic story?  Don’t know if that’s the case though.  Feel free to enlighten me.

What I did have a little problem with is the pacing.  To be honest, most of the film I think is perfectly pitched.  There’s some background at the beginning which I think is quite relevant and well done and then we move onto the introductory chapters in the Shire.  Personally, this particular part of the film was too long and it felt like it dragged.  I mean, meeting the dwarves is great and seeing them rampage through Bilbo’s home while he hustles and bustles about is brilliant.  But it’s simply too long and you reach a point where you’re thinking, okay, move on now!   There were a couple of other scenes that were a little similar where there’s prolonged shots of people looking meaningfully at each other while you sit there thinking wtf.  Most of the other scenes didn’t feel quite as prolonged but I would suggest that the film could be reduced by about 30/40 minutes – it almost feels like a justification of the fact that the book’s been split.  It’s not necessary.  Two hours is a perfectly reasonable time for a film – particularly when there’s two more films to follow.  Stop apologising and just get on with it.  One of my biggest disappointments in recent films were the final two of the Harry Potter series where the Deathly Hallows was split.  I really just don’t like those two films.  The first is just down right boring and the second is none stop action.  It doesn’t feel right for me and it spoiled the end to a brilliant series of books and film interpretations.  Probably because of the whole start, middle and end, which when split over two films generally leads to a bit of a dull first film.  The Hobbit isn’t like that.  The Shire scene isn’t the best in the world but it pretty quickly moves on.  So, again, I don’t think the film would suffer the same as the HP films did.  I just don’t think the length was necessary and it feels like you’re watching an extended version – which is okay once you love the film and are gagging to see all the extras.

There were two other points that sat a little ill with me.  Firstly, it appears that these films are going to be turned into sweeping epics like the LoTR.  Now, you can call me a purist if you want but the Hobbit is far from a sweeping epic.  It’s a quest, a journey to recover a mountain claimed by a dragon.   The LoTR is an epic because it involves the survival of the whole of middle earth.  Great sweeping battles pitched against menacing foe with a dark ruler who plans to take over the entire world spreading rot and ruin.  It’s not the same is it.  ‘Oh, I want my mountain back and my home’ or ‘mm, lets save the world as we know it’.  The Hobbit just simply isn’t epic.  It’s a great story with a bunch of amusing characters bumbling along trying to stay alive and have a bit of an adventure.

And, that brings me perfectly to my final point, which is that in keeping with the LoTR and in order to please fans of the film, etc, etc, we have a completely different nature of dwarf to that in the book.  Again, I’m not being purist.  I can see the reasoning behind a number of changes within the film which I won’t be so indelicate as to mention here.  But, the dwarves are like bloody warriors.  In The Hobbit they’re, frankly, less than useless and would be quite undone if it wasn’t for Bilbo.  In An Unexpected Journey they’re all like swordsmen and experts with the bow and arrow – too much of a reflection of LoTR I felt and a little bit unnecessary.  Perhaps it was felt we would think all dwarves are like Gimli who was quite capable after all, but the ones in this story are not really battle hardened are they?  I can live with it and see why it’s been taken down that route.  But…Anyway, if you think when The Hobbit was based in relative terms, this is before anybody new they had a problem, right?  So, think of the FoTR – it’s got a lovely feel to it at first, everybody living their lives in blissful ignorance of the menace growing around them.  So, given The Hobbit is much earlier – it should have a much lighter feel also shouldn’t it?  – instead of which, it does have rather grand sweeping fights underground and other things brooding.   Again, can see the reasoning behind the brooding but….

Okay, that’s my main criticisms.  Think this film should have been shorter.  The nature and feel which has been changed.  The Dwarves are all, with a few exceptions, heroes.

Now, that all sounds really critical which isn’t intended.  I enjoyed this film and intend to go and see it again (and probably again, who am I kidding). The music was uplifting where it needed to be.  The return to middle earth was brilliant.  The shooting of the film is masterful.  We got to revisit old places and friends.  Gandalf was his usual amazing self.  Bilbo was played brilliantly I thought and Gollum absolutely stole the show.  I think it’s great I really do.  A masterful creation.  I have no doubt that people will love this film – as will I.  Just needed to think a few things through.  There’s still loads to look forward to after all and I can’t wait to see it again!



Hobbit readalong, final week, J R R Tolkien

This week is the final week of the Hobbit readalong and the questions have been provided by  The Wicked Queen’s Mirror .  I really cannot stress enough that if you haven’t read The Hobbit and are intending to do so then don’t read any further as spoilers are contained within.

Thanks and straight to the Q&A:

1) Throughout the book there are many examples of greed (for both food and treasure). Why do you think Bilbo takes and hides the Arkenstone when he is later happy to ransom it for peace?  Is it simple greed? Forethought? Or a convenient plot device?

Strangely enough I don’t think Bilbo was bothered about any of the treasure.  He was only ever roped into the adventure because of his stubborn pride and he doesn’t really need any extra money as he already has a very comfortable existence.  I think throughout the story Bilbo showed a remarkable ability to think ahead and almost to benefit from a kind of foresight of sorts.  I’m not sure  that he knew himself why he’d picked up the Arkenstone other than that it seemed to be of great importance to Gloin – perhaps he was intending on presenting the stone to Gloin in a flourish, although I think it’s more likely that he’d started to see a different side to Gloin and so was keeping the stone as a bargaining tool.

2) Much has been written of Tolkien’s experiences in World War One and how the Lord of the Rings  shows both the romantic, heroic aspects of war (Aragorn’s journey)but also the stark realities (Frodo’s journey).  What did you think about the way the Battle of Five Armies was described? Did you feel these two aspects of war were represented?

Well, yes, I think both aspects were shown.  You have for example people rushing into the fray without hesitation, you have people and animals taking part, even at great risk to themselves, when they actually really didn’t need to join the battle and then alternately you have the loss of life and the sadness at the demise of Gloin and many others.

3)What did you think about the role of the goblins in the Battle of Five Armies? Was it easy for you to accept their appearance and that the threat they posed would automatically unite the men and elves with the dwarves? Or did you find it too simplistic?

I wasn’t really surprised at the appearance of the Goblins, they are basically greedy creatures and would be naturally compelled by the thought of all the wealth left unprotected after the passing of Smaug.  I suppose it was also fairly natural for the others to unite against the common enemy.  At the end of the day the elves/men and dwarves were not really enemies they were fighting over the gold and what they thought should be their share of of it.  The goblins are the natural enemy to all of them.

4) In ‘The Last Stage’ we are told Bilbo remained very happy to the end of his days. If you had been off on an adventures could you settle back to normal life so easily? Would you be content with only occasional visits to the elves?

I suppose Bilbo’s ‘Baggins’ side came out eventually.  We heard (many) times of his longing for his hearth and a cup of tea.  I think deep down he probably would have still liked something of an adventure but  maybe possession of the ring also changed his feelings.  After all, if he was off on adventures here and there roaming the hills there’d be more chance of him loosing the ring.

I enjoyed this reread and taking part with other readers.  I also feel set up and ready to watch the film now when it’ finally released.

I must confess I was surprised at how quickly Smaug was killed off – it seemed very sudden and I was expecting the dragon to have a bigger part somehow.  I thought the chapter where he met Bilbo and they had their little chat was very entertaining.

Thanks again to Writers’ Bloc for hosting this.


The Hobbit readalong, week 2, J R R Tolkien

This week is week 2 of our Hobbit readalong being hosted by writers’ bloc.  Week one’s discussions can be found here and if you haven’t already read The Hobbit, then either please go and find a copy, catch up and join in or don’t read this post any further because it will spoil for you any future reading of this book.  This week myself and Matt provided the questions which start below.

1. If you’ve already read the LoTR (or for that matter seen the film) what do you make of The Hobbit so far as a prequel to that book?

I’ve been surprised on a few fronts with this book.  Last week revealed to me how very little I actually remember of this story!  This week I’ve been surprised at the similarities or parallels of The Hobbit with the Lord of the Rings.  If you consider the story so far there have been quite a few.  We started the adventure in Bilbo’s home town of Hobbiton, along the way the band ended up at Rivendell, they were accosted by goblins underground.  There are the scenes in the creepy forest – large spiders, talking eagles, wargs, another elven society.  They then come to the land of men.  Lots of similarities.  I suppose it makes sense that Tolkien used The Hobbit to cut his teeth on prior to LoTR.  The writing is much more simple but we also have the beginnings of the epic adventure in that the one ring has finally been discovered.

2. I haven’t found the writing in The Hobbit overly descriptive, it’s written almost in a way that takes it for granted that the reader will bring a certain element of knowledge to the reading.  Have you enjoyed Tolkien’s style of writing?  Does it make it easy for you to imagine the world that he’s come up with?

I do like Tolkien’s writing style although I can see why some people would not.  The Hobbit is less descriptive than the LoTR for sure and a much simpler read.  Tolkien doesn’t really go into any detail about the creatures – I think he just assumes you will know what a troll is or what an elf looks like.  I quite like that but I can’t deny that the LoTR films have overtaken any images I had going on in my mind anyway.  When I read this now my imagination is guided by that film – it’s impossible not to picture the world created by Peter Jackson.

3. Well, it’s been far from an easy journey.  The stretch through Mirkwood was particularly hazardous – although I’m a bit puzzled about the names – Flies and Spiders.  Spiders yes, but flies??    Anyway, given the situations that they’ve faced so far, which one would be your worst nightmare?

The most obvious answer is the spiders.  I’m not overly fond of spiders at the best of time and that’s when they’re just simple housespiders.  The notion of these huge spiders with their scary sounding voices is really quite terrifying  – I mean, they’ve got eight legs after all – the little tiny ones can get about pretty quick so I hate to thing how quickly these would come at you.  Why was the chapter called flies and spiders – I can only think that it refers to the dwarves being caught like flies in a trap?

Matt’s Questions

4. In Chapter VIII, “Flies and Spiders”, there is a moment when Bilbo kills his first giant spider, and something in him changes – he seems to make this dramatic and instant transformation from whiny, annoying hobbit to heroic slayer of beasts of burden. Do you think this transformation is too quick or forced, or too unrealistic (as far as realism goes in a forest with giant spiders)?

It was certainly a very quick transformation and I couldn’t help thinking he’d come on a fair bit when he was killing spiders left and right.  I quite like the way that Bilbo has developed but to be fair I think he finds that the ring lends him a lot of his new found courage.  He would never have escaped the Goblins or tempted the spiders away from their lair or got the dwarves out of their captivity with the elves.  I hope that the ring doesn’t make him over confident!  He’s not met Smaug yet after all.

5. On the topic of heroism, it seems a major idea in this book is that anybody can be a hero – Bilbo is a very ordinary person, living and longing for an ordinary life, yet he does have heroic traits in him which appear when they are finally needed. Do you agree with this idea? Can anybody be a hero? Could you rise up if you were put into this situation, or is there even a way of knowing without putting yourself into such a situation?

I suppose you don’t really know your own strength until it’s put to the test but it would be nice to think that we would all rise to the occasion if it became necessary.  That said, with the situations they’ve so far faced it’s quite simply been a choice of do or die.  I suppose if Bilbo had been more cowardly he could simply have snuck off and left the dwarves to their fate but would you really be able to live with that.  The good thing about Bilbo’s actions so far is that he takes his time and considers the best course of action.  I like that.  I think the temptation would be to rush in like a maniac but this more considered approach seems to be working better for them all.

6. For me personally, I have found chapters VI to XII much more interesting than the first part of the book. Have you found them more interesting, and if so, why exactly do you think so?

I have enjoyed these chapters.  There’s a lot going on after all.  Personally I think that this story follows a typical story format.  It feels like we had a very decided introduction.  We’re made familiar with the hobbit and his home and there’s a lot of shuffling backwards and forwards down corridors, making tea and cake.  Then the adventure begins and at first it feels like a nice little jaunt, until the party start to get into a few scrapes which gradually pick up in tempo as we reach the middle.  For example, the situation with the trolls was all resolved fairly quickly whereas the situation later with the elves took a bit more consideration.  It was as though the earlier trials were a rehearsal for what was really to come.  And now we just have to read the grand finale.

The Hobbit readalong

Posted On 19 August 2012

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I’m taking part in the Hobbit read along being hosted by Writers’ Bloc.  This is the first week reading up to Chapter 6.  Questions this week are provided by Writers’ Bloc (numbers 4 – 6) and Inkeri (numbers 1 – 3).

I wanted to read this again before the film comes out and I’m actually really pleased I decided to join in this read-along (it’s been a long time!)  Not surprisingly I have forgotten more than I ever remembered but I’m enjoying the experience and having reread Lord of the Rings not too long ago it makes it an interesting experience comparing the two.  Be aware that if you haven’t read The Hobbit then the following post will undoubtedly contain spoilers so you might want to stop reading from here onwards – you could instead go and pick up a copy and join in!

The questions this week are as follows:

1. In the book Bilbo gets visited by 13 strange dwarves, and just lets them in to eat his cakes and drink tea. In the modern world it would be really weird if people just started barging in your home. Why didn’t Bilbo just tell them to go?

I guess this boils down to two things really.  Firstly, etiquette.  There seem to be a number of conventions which simply must be followed and it would be rude not to – that’s the way I’m reading it anyway.  Secondly, obviously many years ago, and probably due to a number of things, such as the fact that your nearest neighbour could be a long walk or ride away, I think people had to be more hospitable.  Exactly what sort of reaction you would get if you turned up at my door would depend on the mood and time of day/week that you showed up.  I’m sure I would be polite (well sometimes I would!) but the fact is that, like Old Mother Hubbard, sometimes my shelves can be pretty bare – particularly if I’m about to go and shop for the week.  You’d be lucky if you found a few cake crumbs!

2. Where would the dwarves and Bilbo be if Gandalf wasn’t with them? It’s seems to me that it’s him who saves them from the scary situations.

I must admit I was thinking exactly the same thing.  Gandalf just disappears and then seems to turn up at exactly the right moment. Funnily enough I was thinking he seems to be using much more of his ‘wizardly’ ability in this story than he did in Lord of the Rings and it’s just as well for Bilbo and the dwarves that he is doing so because they seem to be bungling and bumbling along so far!  In fact, without Gandalf this would be a much shorter book as they’d have all been stewing in a pot by now!

3. Bilbo plays a game of riddles with Gollum. He ends up winning by asking “What have I got in my pockets?”, which Gollum is unable to answer. Do you think it was fair, as it wasn’t actually a riddle?

Well, I don’t really think it was a fair question but I suppose you could argue that appearing in front of somebody and threatening to eat them if they don’t win your little game is hardly fair either!  I think my mind would go blank under those circumstances.

4. For those of you who haven’t read The Hobbit before, is the tone of writing one you’d expect from a book that has been loudly proclaimed as a classic? And for those of you who have read it before, how did it feel – like coming home to a much loved book, or were you surprised by how much you’d forgotten?

Well, I’m enjoying comparing this to Lord of the Rings.  Obviously The Hobbit doesn’t have the scope of LOTR and for me it does feel somehow not quite as ‘grown up’.  I read that Tolkien wrote this for his children and reading it you can imagine that he wrote this so he could read it to them at night.  I am surprised how little I remember (although it was a while ago).  I remembered the trolls – for some reason that particular scene just stands out for me.  I’m also surprised at how quickly we seemed to jump into the action and for that matter how many mishaps have so far been experienced by this little band of merry men.

5. We’ve seen quite a few songs so far. Do you pay attention to them, or do you skip them altogether? Do you like how silly they are, or do you think them an interruption?

I distinctly remember disliking the songs in both The Hobbit and LOTR the first time round and actually skipping them entirely.  I seem to have much more patience on the rereads.  Whether that’s linked to the fact that I’m not in such a desperate rush to get to the end of a book when I’m rereading I can’t say.  All I know is that I read them now and just simply find them quite amusing, not to mention they sometimes tell a bit of a story.

6. What has been your favourite scene, so far?

I’m a bit torn with this one – between the scene with the trolls and the scene where Bilbo meets Gollum – although I think it’s because I’m picturing and hearing in my head Andy Serkis – he really did make this character great to watch.  To be honest though I think I’m going to stick with the trolls (this scene was over much quicker than I actually remembered though!).  I love the bit when Bilbo tries to pickpocket one of them only to have the purse itself blow the whistle on him.  Plus all the picking him up by his toes and shaking him about – I don’t know whether that shows a flaw in my character – but it just made me laugh.  Even as he was going to pick the troll’s pocket I was thinking ‘what, no!’  What a maniac.  It all turned out okay in the end but only due to the timely intervention of Gandalf!

Back next Sunday for the second instalment.  See you then.

The Hobbit

The Hobbit

Lord of the Rings read along, book 2, The Two Towers

Just finished reading the first part of The Two Towers as part of a #LOTRreadalong being hosted by The Little Red Reviewer with this week’s questions being provided by Clint of Geeky Daddy.  This week’s chapters take us to Chapter 8, the Road to Isengard.

The questions this week:

What is your favorite part of The Two Towers, thus far into the book?

I’m torn with this one.  Obviously I think the Ents are brilliant, they are such amazing characters and I think the whole history with the disappearance of the Entwives was so good to read.  I’d completely forgotten about that! I also thought the Riders of Rohan is a great chapter.  I love the introduction to the Riders of Rohan, the part where they completely ride past Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli without even noticing their presence is great and then we’re introduced to Eomer and his little altercation with Gimli ‘I would cut off your head, beard and all, Master Dwarf, it it stood but a little higher from the ground’.  What I really love about that little speech is that it is completely replicated in the film as is so much of the dialogue from the book.  I think it’s great the way Gimli’s parts in the book always manage to inject some humour – even at the bleakest times – and also this highlights yet again his friendship with Legolas when he stands by Gimli against Eomer.  But, and after that long diatribe my favourite chapter has got to be Helm’s Deep.  Such bravery and courage in the face of such enormous opposition.  Gimli, shines yet again in this chapter!  And, I think what the book manages to portray more strongly than the film, was the underlying cowardliness of the Orcs – who, in spite of their far greater numbers, run for the hills (or more importantly the trees – and how cool was it that a forest appeared of a sudden) as soon as Helm’s Horn sounds – plus Gandalf appearing at the final moment with Erkenbrand – just so uplifting and I got goosebumps reading it.

What were your thoughts of Boromir trying to defend Merry and Pippin from Orc archers?

I know Boromir isn’t to everybody’s liking but I never really disliked him.  He was misguided but not bad and even though he was overwhelmed I believe he would always try to defend those in need – even in his last breath he was asking Aragorn to go to Minas Tirith and save his people.  So his defending Merry and Pippin to me felt natural – also, I’m sure he would very much have liked to have made up for his part in Frodo’s running away.

What thoughts would have been going through your mind if you were approached by Treebeard?

I think if I had been approached by Treebeard I would have been completely gobsmacked.  I mean, even if you were living in Middle Earth where Wizards, elves and hobbits exist along with Trolls and other creatures I don’t think anything could prepare you for an Ent.  I think an Ent would be just something that was talked about as a mythical thing – a bit like a unicorn.  Yep, gobsmacked about sums it up for me!  Not very eloquent but there it is.

What were your thoughts and reactions of the battle at the Hornburg?

Well, I’ve already spoken about this in my first answer.  This is my favourite part of the book.  I just love the way that even though the situation is so desperate the characters don’t lose hope.  They’re full of courage, always rushing into battle with their own battle cries and each of our characters have such important parts to play.

Do you like it that Tolkien has split the Company into three mini-quests? Do you wonder if the company will be together throughout the quest again?

I actually think that splitting the Company into three mini quests makes great sense.  We get to cover so much ground – and it’s three times as interesting.  A definite winner on all fronts as far as I can see and I don’t think it could have worked in any other way.  I mean, really, the Company never planned to stay together for the whole quest and even Gandalf didn’t have a plan that would take them to the end.  Plus I don’t think nine people could just stride up to the Gates of Mordor – two little hobbits going it alone have a much better chance of staying hidden – hidden in plain sight really, because Sauron just doesn’t conceive of the idea of anyone actually wanting to destroy the One Ring.  I don’t think it would be possible for the Company to come together during the Quest (but then I would say that as I already know the outcome) but it makes for a brilliant reunion at the end!

Rereading this book is just proving such a lot of fun, especially with all the discussion and what I find really amazing is that even though we’re now over 500 pages into the story I have never felt any lack of interest or desire to skip read.  Such a testament to JRR Tolkien’s writing that it is still so captivating even though I’ve already read it not to mention seen the films a lot!

Take this link to The Little Red Reviewer to see more discussion.

Plus this link takes you to a lego version of the first book – I couldn’t resist it, it just made be laugh (although I’m not sure how reliable this link is so not necessarily saying you should use it – if you want a look check it out on You Tube (LOTR The Fellowship of the Ring):