The Hobbit Movies: Actually True to the Book?

So, Squiders, I finally did it! I finally, after twenty years and who knows how many times of trying, have read The Hobbit.

(I’ve read the Lord of the Rings multiple times and had no trouble with The Silmarillion, so this has always baffled me a little.)

Anyway, it had to be done, since I’ve seen all the Hobbit movies and people have tried to have conversations with me about them. One person asked me if I remembered how the Battle of Five Armies went in the book and I had to admit I’d never finished the book (and had been totally unaware that there was anything of note past Smaug).

But now I have, and now I can have opinions.

The Hobbit movies have gotten a lot of flack, both for length (three movies out of a 300 page book!) and for content (new characters! too much Legolas! kdsfjdskfhdskfjs orcs!) and in some cases the complaints are justified. But for people who wanted a true-to-the-book, page-to-film translation–I just don’t think there was any way to do that.

Why? First of all, it would feel confined. If they’d done the Hobbit first, sure, it would be possible, but knowing that the Hobbit ties into LOTR, and knowing the world that exists, it would feel wrong to leave all that out just to conform to what’s on the page. The Hobbit was written first and, while Tolkien went back and revised it after LOTR to tie in a little more. And, while it’s more simplistic, there are hints throughout of something larger going on.

Gandalf is gone for most of the story (there’s a single line when he comes back that he was off dealing with the necromancer, and then he and Elrond have a vague conversation on the subject on the way back to the Shire), but why not show it? The book is from Bilbo’s point of view (well, it’s more omniscient, but most of the time we’re focused on Bilbo, though there is a long aside about Lake-town and Bard which is a little strange since Bard was not mentioned at all before Smaug, even when they’re in Lake-town) but movies tend to be from outside any particular character, so why not show what other people are doing too?

And honestly, I thought it was cool to show how the events of this time period were directly connected to the events from LOTR.

About content changes, well. It’s a matter of taste, I think. I was a little put off about the addition of Tauriel when I first heard about her, but in the end I thought she was okay. Plus there’s the fact that, without her, there is not a single female character otherwise (except for a couple of appearances by Galadriel–who is also not in the book–and whose handling I felt was very strange, honestly). And her addition helps differentiate Kili (and to some extent Fili) from the otherwise indistinguishable sea of dwarves. Changing Azog and Bolg to orcs instead of goblins? Ties into the LOTR storyline better, I suppose. I’m a bit iffy about them. The addition of the orcs hunting the dwarves the whole way certainly ups the tension but I’m not sure about it from a story telling point of view.

Overall, though? I feel like the Hobbit movies fit the world and the story that was established in the LOTR movies. Though I did feel that BotFA was kind of dumb action for most of it.

(And, if you are reading this, no, Bilbo only leaves the mountain once to talk to Bard/the Elvenking, just like in the movie.)

How did you feel about the movies, Squiders? What parts did you feel were okay changes, and which were unforgivable?

Oh, and I’ve got two announcements:

  • I’m now offering coaching services through my editing business.
  • I’ve set up a Patreon where you can get doodles, stories, updates and other assorted goodies.

Go check them out!

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