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December 22, 2012

And so, in the third of this Christmas series on children's book we come to The Hobbit.  Published in 1937 so not strictly Edwardian, but from the same fertile interwar period that produced the first two books in this series, and I am not finished with it yet!   I'm writing this having returned from the film, but lets hold comments on Peter Jackson's effort for a bit.

As it happens I came to the Hobbit in my teenage years, after reading Lord of the Rings.  Science fiction and fantasy were not really on the approved list at home, although in the later years my Mother did fall in love with the genre.  But in my early years the best I could do was ensure we watched Star Trek and try and circumvent parental disapproval of comic books.   It was on one of the regular trips to Cardiff to stay with cousins that I picked up the first paperback edition of the book and fell in love with it.  I got the three volumes in hardback and read it at least annually until well after I graduated.  I picked up the Hobbit as an incidental but even though I was not more sophisticated, in the way that only teenagers can consider themselves so, I still read it from cover to cover in one sitting and returned to it regularly.   The BBC Radio play was bought in Cassette form for my children when they were young, and for me too!

In The Wind in the Willows Ratty chooses home over security when he encounters the Sea Rat (as related yesterday).  Bilbo Baggins takes the alternative path and leaves the safety of the Shire.  There is a delight to the book as Bilbo discovers himself and his capability through encounters with Trolls, Goblins, Spiders.  Through that journey he matures to the point where in the Battle of the Five Armies he makes the choice that saves lives beyond counting.  He also spares Gollum; as Gandalf says to Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring pity spared his hand.  That is the key link to the resolution of Lord of RIngs when Frodo, as he must, succumbs to the Ring, and is saved, as is the world by Gollum biting his finger before falling into the fires of Mount Doom.

It is a children's book and the film had to move on a bit.  I have mixed feelings after watching it.  The Troll scene looses its subtlety and Jackson seems to be copying the three stooges rather than Tolkein and I am not at all sure about the Pale Orc.  That said the switching of the sequencing of Bilbo being lost on the halls of the Goblins works well, the interaction with Gollum is magical as is the decision to spare him.  I must admit I got swept up in final scene where Bilbo becomes a hero.  I doubted it until I saw it was deepening the relationship between Bilbo and Thorin Oakenshield, son of Thráin, son of Thrór.

I suppose when it comes down to it, if you accept Jackson's idea to expand to three volumes without purchasing the rights to the Silmarillion then the expansions of the story have to be interwoven.  In that respect bringing together the bearers of three three rings given to the Elfin Lords, with Sauraman the White is well done.  The Eagles were magical!

So well done on the first film, but I thought that for Lord of the Rings as well.  Then we had the betrayal of film two with Faramir's judgement at the falls overridden and his role reduced in consequence.  One could not discern from afar the air of Numenor and we lost a key transition in consequence.  So I am reserving judgement!

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