‘They were come to the Desolation of the Dragon, and they were come at the waning of the year’.
The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien, Pg.247
I went to see the second film in The Hobbit series, The Desolation of Smaug, this weekend and, in preparation, I decided to re-read the book written by JRR Tolkien in 1937. I last read The Hobbit when I was a child, along with The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and I remember being fascinated by the world Tolkien had created. It is a fully-realised and imaginative world in which Tolkien seems to have thought of everything – even made-up languages! Although my reading tastes have changed, somewhat, since I was a child, I do still find myself drawn to fantasy novels every now and again. Perhaps I should explore this genre more (I might look around for any challenges to help encourage myself).
I know almost everyone is familiar with The Hobbit but it tells the story of the young Bilbo Baggins, of Bag-End, who happens to be roped in to an unexpected adventure to reclaim the lost land and gold of Thorin and his band of dwarves. Enlisted as a burglar by the great wizard, Gandalf, Bilbo’s role in the adventure is to steal back the hoard of treasure that has been guarded by Smaug the Magnificent, an enormous and extremely dangerous dragon, for many years. Throughout their travels through Middle Earth, Bilbo and the dwarves encounter a number of tricky situations and close encounters, but with a bit of luck and magic on their side, they finally make it to their destination.
‘Smaug certainly looked fast asleep, when Bilbo peeped once more from the entrance. He was just about to step out on to the floor when he caught a sudden thin ray of red from under the drooping lid of Smaug’s left eye. He was only pretending to sleep! He was watching the tunnel entrance!’
The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien, Pg.269
JRR Tolkien is, undoubtedly, a born story-teller who captures the imagination of children and adults alike. Although the ideas for The Hobbit sprouted from family stories he told to his children, the fact that it has never been out of print and has accumulated many adaptations, including the most recent block-buster trilogy by academy award-winning director Peter Jackson, proves its enduring originality that can transcend any generation.
However, I do have some reservations about The Hobbit as a film. How does a 365 page book turn into an epic trilogy like The Lord of the Rings? Although I admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the second instalment of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and I think the casting is outstanding, a cynical part of me can’t help but think that this is all just a money-spinning ploy. I don’t claim to know every single detail of Tolkien’s Middle Earth and I understand that he did make alterations to The Hobbit after its publication, in order to link it more to The Lord of the Rings, which appears to be played up quite a lot in the second film. But I did find that some of the scenes in the film were either made-up or so grossly exaggerated that they appeared almost unrecognisable. This left me feeling really conflicted when I came out of the cinema because I truly love the story of The Hobbit (dare I say, more so than The Lord of the Rings). It was almost as if the writers were trying to improve the story in a way that would suit a more commercialised and consumerist society – I mean they even managed to fit a love interest into the plot (between whom, I will keep quiet)!
Yet I didn’t find myself hating the film – as I said previously, I found it enjoyable. But one of the reasons why I love the book is because it is much simpler to follow than The Lord of the Rings. It is, in essence, a children’s book at the end of the day and, in my opinion, Peter Jackson’s spectacularly magnificent epic fails to honour this simplicity.