Why “The Hobbit” is more than just the sum of its parts. A film review – spoiler alert.


A Tolkien fan for twenty-five years (and more to come...) Founding chairman of the German Tolkien Society, Co-Founder of Ring*Con, Co-Founder of the ITF, host, presenter and fantasy expert

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  • I apologise, as a Tolkienist, for being rather robust, but book purists who object to the films as tampering with the story can just shove it up their bottoms. Books are books, and films are films. Sure, I thought the end of the film of Return of the King was a cop out because it didn’t include the Scouring of the Shire – but that was for purely artistic and dramatic reasons, not because the book was changed. As Tolkien once wrote, he imagined that others would come after him, to contribute to the legendarium in ways not confined to literature. He didn’t mention film, but why not? Therefore Jackson’s adaptations, love ’em or loathe ’em, are as valid interpretations of the story as those made by anyone else – including Tolkien.

    • I very much appreciate your opinion on this, Henry, but the only thing I can say is that Tolkien said a lot of memorable things everyone can quote to support their own position (just like my own). Signs of a decent author to me ;), quotability.

      Let’s put it this way: Sherlock and the RDJr./Jude Law films are both valid interpretations of one of the best crime novel series ever written. Unfortunately, most people are no longer able to tell which is which (and who the heck is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?) – and I can no longer accept this whole fanboyish “PJ is the best thing” any longer.

      To me Sherlock is a much more valid interpretation and PJ is simple action, just like the Downing Jr./Law films. There are other directors out there who know their stuff and who could have done it better; otherwise you are just saying that Jackson is the best there ever was and ever will be.

      Ah well, the pleasures of appreciating literature. But you are right – books are books and films are films.

    • Johan Vanhecke

      Well, Henry, Tolkien did mention films, and what he thought about a certain filminterpretation, you can read in the letters. He was also for some time in contact with John Boorman. But I cannot agree with a vision that Jackson’s adaptation is as valid as Tolkiens. We are not talking about Snow White or King Arthur. The Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings, QS, and all the other Middle-earth books come from the mind of JRRT. He was of course influenced by what he knew and what he had read, but he wrote the books. He is the creator of Middle-earth, or call him the sub-creator. But no one can deny that he wrote The Hobbit in the 1930-ies, from scratch. It was not an interpretation of an existing story. But Jackson’s film is an adaptation of the book by Tolkien. So you can’t put Tolkien and Jackson on the same level. I think Peter Jackson will agree on that.

    • I am not sure how you conclude something to be a valid interpretation. What is being interpreted? If they are indeed interpretations of the story, then they have to be in line with the story, and not contradictory to it. And that’s the whole story, not just, as is sometimes seen in defense of some aspects, selected quotes.

      As an editor of “Nature”, how would you go about if the discussion sector of a manuscript is a pretty good yarn in and of itself with interesting ideas, but the connection to the data in the results section is hit and miss, with some of the suggestions in the discussion being highly contradictory to the data? Is the discussion then a “valid interpretation” of the data?

      • I am not quite sure whether the approach of an editor of “Nature” to a manuscript and a literary critic’s approach to a manuscript are that easily comparable. I consider the art of writing (and also the art of film-making as it starts out, first and foremost, as an act of writing – with the script) to be highly arguable – to me there is more of a craftsmanship to it than an exact science.

        Meaning, that if you have gathered substantial knowledge and perhaps your own writing experience you can then go on and ask about the “quality” of interpretation. I have to ask you, however, to explain to me what you consider an “interpretation” – to me this is the act of any artist taking an original piece of art and by imitation and one’s own artistic expertise change it to create something new. Therefore, anything based on the novels of J.R.R. Tolkien is interpretation and valid as such.

        I should have clarified my approach in talking of “literary adaptations”, I presume. To me the BBC Sherlock is much more of an adaptation than the films.

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