Questions by Ben Child

The Hobbit

A few questions that Ben Child asks in the guardian.co.uk about The Hobbit Films and some comments that he makes regarding the plot of the movies. Interesting since many of us are wondering the same things he writes about…

It’s certainly a tantalising prospect. What shape will Sauron take – Tolkien offers no clues – as he will presumably not yet have assumed the form of a great eye in which he appears in Lord of the Rings? And does this mean that the 89-year-old Christopher Lee has made the trip to New Zealand after all to reprise his role as Saruman? Perhaps his part will be shot against blue screen in the UK – we may have to wait a while to find out.

Structurally, of course, the presence of the scene further Lord of the Ringsises (apologies for the clumsy phrase) The Hobbit. Tolkien’s book is a gentle, linear fable which rarely leaves Bilbo Baggins’s side (the brief period at the end of the story when the great dragon Smaug leaves his lair to rain down fire and terror on nearby Laketown, and later when the hobbit is asleep during the battle of five armies are the only instances I can recall). Lord of the Rings was a sprawling narrative which split and split again over the course of the book, following different members of the original fellowship of the ring on their separate adventures. Pulling us away from the central story will present The Hobbit through a very different prism to that which was originally intended.

Having said this, Jackson is really only doing what Tolkien himself attempted to do after the publication of Lord of the Rings. The author also revised his earlier tome in an effort to smooth out stylistic differences. Gollum was made more sinister and his dependence on the ring more unnerving in the 1951 edition, but a later more radical revision was abandoned after Tolkien realised he would have to make too many changes.

On the positive side, the presence of Saruman, Galadriel, Ian Holm’s elder Bilbo, Legolas and even Elijah Wood’s Frodo (goodness only knows how they are going to shoehorn him in) ought to make The Hobbit movies feel like a genuine prequel project. Part of me says more power to Jackson, who has already shown he has the chops to prep difficult material from the same author for the big screen. The other part bristles at all this tinkering with Tolkien. I can already see myself being jolted out of my reverie in the cinema in six months’ time when Bloom pops up out of nowhere, his shiny elf hair flailing out behind him in the wind, to take out some poor Orc who’s been threatening mischief. “That’s not in the book!” will be the thought going through every Tolkien reader’s mind, but maybe … just maybe …. we might be better saving our outrage for more important battles.

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