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In the book, The Hobbit, the author, JR Tolkien tells a story of short, contented humanlike creatures called hobbits. In this fantasy story, Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, a Gandalf, a wizard, and a group of midgets set out on an adventure to repossess stolen treasure hidden in the Lonely Mountain. A fiery dragon, Smaug, claims ownership of the treasure after acquiring it during an earlier invasion. The band of fourteen endures hostile weather conditions, constant attacks and abductions, and starvation on their way to the Lonely Mountain. After fighting many battles, they recover the dwarves’ treasure and begin their journey back to the hobbit lands. The dwarves share some of their treasure with Bilbo for his role in its recovery. Bilbo returns to his hobbit-hole a changed hobbit. It is evident that the ‘adventure’ to the Lonely Mountain transformed Bilbo into a wise and knowledgeable hobbit.
The book was adapted into a film named The Hobbit, an Unexpected Journey. However, several modifications and additions to the screenplay make the film different from the Hobbit book. The names of places, characters, and events are the same in both the book and the movie. The plot has also been conserved in the movie. Striking differences between the Hobbit book and its movie version relate to the use of imagery, dialogue, and alliteration. This essay compares and contrasts the Hobbit book and the movie based on the differences and similarities between the two.
Events Deleted or Changed in the Movie
In chapter one, the events preceding the quest (the unexpected party) have been modified in the movie. The book’s description of the Hobbits’ stature and landscape has been changed in the screenplay. The book describes them as being half the size of humans, but some scenes of the movie depict Bilbo’s as having the same height as that of dwarf. As the story begins, Gandalf enters through Bilbo’s door and requests him to join the dwarves on an adventure to the Lonely Mountain. Bilbo flatly rejects this offer. In contrast, the movie begins with “an unexpected party”, which follows the scene where Bilbo refuses Gandalf’s offer. Although Bilbo declines the offer, out of his kind-heartedness, he invites him for tea (supper) the following day, but soon rues his decision. This does not happen in the movie. Gandalf just shows up at the party without Bilbo’s invitation.
Moreover, in the book, the story is narrated from the author’s perspective. In contrast, in the movie, the story revolves around Bilbo and the dwarves. A prologue in the movie introduces the audience to the story. Tolkien reveals to the reader the history of the Middle Earth, the origin of the Hobbits, and the Dwarves’ current situation in his book. This sets out the context for the story. After declining the offer, Bilbo enters his hobbit-hole and shuts his “round green door”, which Gandalf marks to enable the dwarves to locate the hobbit.
The same events are replicated in the movie. The dwarves come to Bolbi’s home in five different groups: Dwalin Balin, Kili and Fili, Ori, Gloin, Oin, Dori, and Nori, Bifur, Bombur, Bofur, and Thorin. Each group dons brightly coloured attires and carry musical instruments. In the novel, Thorin is the last one to join the “unexpected party”. In contrast, in the film adaptation, Thorin enters the party in the company of three dwarves, Bombur, Bofur, and Bifur. In addition, the visitors carry no tools.
The events of the unexpected party have also been changed in the film adaptation. The book describes Bag-End, Bilbo’s abode, as having a cellar (room) that serves as a liquor store. During the party, Bilbo prepares and serves food to his guests. In comparison, in the movie, the dwarves serve themselves and help clean up the place after the party. A soothing music that involves different instruments, including flutes, a drum, clarinets, viols, and a harp, is played after the party. The music they played sounds good as the attendees, including Gandalf, dance to its rhythm. However, in the movie, dwarves’ music sounds like a dirge. The attendees do not dance to it. Moreover, unlike in the text, the dwarves use no musical instruments in the music.
In the book, Gandalf remarks that a goblin, named Azog, killed Thorin’s father and grandfather during the great Dwarf-Goblin War. However, in the movie, Azog, though missing an arm, appears well and alive. Moreover, in the book, the illustration of the dragon, Smaug, is red in colour. Although Bilbo later describes the dragon as golden-red, the map hanging on the wall of the Bag-End depicts him as red. In contrast, the movie depicts the dragon as simply a sketch with no colour. Moreover, a map hanging on the Bag-End walls (the Hobbiton area) is also missing in the film adaptation. After the party, Bilbo ushers his guests to different rooms to sleep before retiring to his bed for the night. Thorin is heard singing as Bilbo goes to sleep. The same events are replicated in the film adaptation.
The characters in the book also differ from those in the movie. In the movie, the elderly Bilbo tells his nephew, Frodo (played by Elijah Wood), about his epic journey to distant lands. However, Frodo is not in the Tolkien’s novel and thus, the conversation with his uncle is missing. Moreover, Tolkien’s description of the Hobbits’ appearance is not reflected in the film adaptation. Tolkien describes them as short, rotund creatures (middle-aged) with long brown fingers and deep chuckles. In Jackson’s adaptation of the book, the characters are neither short nor fat.
Another incident that is missing in the film adaptation relates to Bilbo’s attempt to escape from his hobbit hole to boycott the impending adventure. In the book, the author writes that Bilbo schemed to avoid accompanying the dwarves in their quest to recover their lost treasures. This description is missing in the film adaptation. Bilbo’s ancestry is also missing in the movie. Tolkien explains that Bilbo, in many ways, bore remarkable resemblance to his mother, Belladonna Took. Took is said to be half-fairy, which gave her magic powers. Bilbo’s maternal ancestry, though unconfirmed, gave him a knack for mystic adventures. This explains why the dwarves want him to accompany them in the current quest.
Furthermore, some events have been introduced in the movie. Radagast the Brown, a wizard, plays a major role in the movie. The film depicts him as a gentle and queer person who loves animals. On one occasion, he distracts a group of goblins in pursuit of Bilbo, Gandalf, and the dwarfs allowing them to escape. In contrast, Radagast does not feature much in the book. Another scene that is portrayed differently in both the film and the book involves Bilbo’s interaction with a group of Trolls. In the book, Bilbo follows the Trolls into the woods and steals items from them while in the film the object of his pursuit is to free the dwarves’ horses, which the goblins had taken.
The pursuit takes Bilbo, the dwarves, and Gendalf into the Troll’s cave, where they discover three magic swords: the Orcrist, the Glamdring, and the Sting. In the film, Gandalf gives Bilbo the Sting (a Hobbit Sword). However, in the book, Bilbo selects the Sting by himself and thus, decides his own fate.
Another striking difference between the Hobbit book and film relates to the disappearance of the ponies. The novel states that the Trolls took away and ate the ponies that belonged to Bilbo, the dwarves, and Gandalf. However, in the film it is revealed that the ponies vanished or “bolted” away. Moreover, during their quest, the group arrives at the elves’ Rivendell abode where they are given food and shelter. In contrast, in the film, the dwarves refuse to put up with the elves and request Gandalf to seek alternative shelter. Thus, the film, unlike the novel, depicts them as an ungrateful and disgruntled lot. In addition, throughout the film, Thorin and Bilbo seem to harbour ill feelings against each other.
Thorin criticizes Bilbo’s comfortable lifestyle at his home and believes he cannot withstand the challenges associated with the quest. Their hostility is revealed through their confrontations in various scenes of the film. In contrast, the two do not seem to harbour any ill feelings against each other in the book version.
Changes that Enhance the Film
Some alterations, additions, and deletions enhance the screenplay. Since the plot remains the same in both the book and the film, these changes serve as enhancements that make the film more appealing and clearer to the audience. One such alteration relates to the appearance of the Hobbits, the wizards, and the dwarves. In the novel, the Hobbits are depicted as short, rotund creatures while the dwarves appear short, hairy, and unattractive. Moreover, the wizards appear old and frail while the Gollum is depicted as an ugly beast with large eyes.
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In contrast, in the adapted film, Peter Jackson makes many changes to the appearance of the characters. Thorin, although short, has no curly beards or additional arm-like structures on the nostrils like the rest of the dwarves. Additionally, Jackson gives this character a deep voice, which is characteristic of heroes. By comparison, the novel depicts Thorin as an unattractive, greedy, selfish, and vengeful individual whose intention for taking part in the quest is to kill Smaug and obtain the gold. The alterations made in the film are consistent with the characterizations present in Hollywood blockbuster movies. In addition, any adventure should have a hero who is appealing and strong to lead the quest. Thus, Thorin’s depiction in the film makes sense.
Another scene that greatly enhances the film relates to Bilbo’s retrieval of a gold ring. The film describes Gollum attempting to kill and eat a goblin. A struggle ensues as the goblin tries to free itself. During this struggle, a gold ring falls from Gollum’s pocket onto the ground. Bilbo retrieves and keeps it. The ring would later become useful in the quest. In contrast, in the novel, the details of how the ring disappears are left out. The novel only says that Bilbo retrieves it from the cave floor. The readers cannot know how the ring got lost in the first place. Thus, the alterations in the film improve the clarity of the plot and make the story more appealing to the audience.
In the final scenes of the film, angry giant wolves, named “wargs”, corner the dwarves, Gandalf, and Bilbo. They climb tall trees to escape from the “wargs”, which continue to snap at them. To send them away, Gandalf lights some pine branches and throws them at the wags. He manages to send the “wargs” away, but, inadvertently, sets the trees on fire. Gandalf beckons the Eagles to come and save them from the raging inferno.
However, before the Eagles could arrive, the Pale Orc, the goblin leader, joins the “wargs” in trying to capture the wizard, the dwarves, and Bilbo who remains perched in one tree. Their weight makes the tree to bend dangerously low as the Pale Orc and the “wargs” wait for them to fall. In this scene, Bilbo draws his sword (the Sting) and attempts to fight off the “wargs”. Before the “wargs” could snatch him, the Eagles arrive and rescue the company from them. These additional events help bring a final climax to a scene, which in the novel version, is largely uneventful.
Moreover, in the novel, as Bilbo is carried away to safety, he appears terrified and shaken. The eagles tell him that he is out of danger. In contrast, in the film adaptation, the eagles have no ability to speak; they only lead him into safety. In this regard, Jackson depicts Bilbo as a confident hero whose fearless actions saves the dwarves and the wizards. In contrast, Tolkien portrays Bilbo as a lazy individual who cannot be useful during fights or wars. Given his fight with the “wargs” portrays him as hero.
Political Imagery in the Hobbit Book and Film
In both the Hobbit novel and film, the portrayal of the events and characters has strong political connotations. They make political statements that represent or satirize the society. The sole purpose of the quest in The Hobbit was to retrieve certain ancestral treasures that would improve the livelihoods of the dwarves, as a community. The treasures would restore the fallen kingdom and enhance the livelihoods of the subjects. Thorin, the dwarves’ de facto leader and heir to the throne, had lost the Crown to a fiery dragon living on the Lonely Mountain.
Moreover, the dwarves’ ancestral town, Dale, was destroyed during the invasion of Smaug. Thus, Thorin knows that by regaining the treasure, he will reclaim the dwarves’ lost lands and wealth. The object of the treasure hunt is much clearer in the book than in the film, as the events in the book revolve around the quest to retrieve the treasure trove with Thorin as the leader.
The Hobbit also depicts greed and corruption among the ruling political class. Smaug and Gollum are portrayed as selfish and evil beings, which lack a sense of community. Smaug leads a lonely life at the Lonely Mountain, where he hides the treasure trove. He does not make any good use of the hidden treasure, but fiercely defends it. On the other hand, Gollum does not share his magical gold ring with the Bilbo. Additionally, the Master of Lake-town, after Thorin gives him a proportion of the treasure, becomes corrupt and greedy. He does not use the treasure to reconstruct the town after the war. As a result, he is removed from power and Bard takes over. These events are well detailed in the text compared to the film.
Political imagery is also evident in the way the characters use their powers. Gandalf uses his powers throughout the book and the film. After Bilbo declines to accompany the dwarves and the wizard on a quest to the Lonely Mountain, Gandalf labels his door. This allows the dwarves to track Bilbo to his hobbit hole. Gandalf also uses magic power to disappear and reappear miraculously. Bilbo’s power, on the other hand, grows throughout the book. Initially, he is depicted as a lazy and unadventurous individual, but as the story progresses, he grows in confidence and becomes a hero in the eyes of many. He saves the dwarves from the Elvenking cave and confronts Smaug and Gollum.
He becomes an influential leader during the quest when rescues the group during confrontation with the “wargs”. He seems to be the “lucky”, diplomatic, and wise individual. Despite possessing immense powers, Bilbo leads a simple quiet life. On the other hand, the goblins and Smaug are depicted as wicked creatures that prefer war to diplomacy. They represent political leaders who go into war for personal gain. The Hobbit book details the political actions of the characters more clearly than the film because the adaptation removed key events present in the book.