What?! You’ve never read ‘The Hobbit’?
“The English-speaking world is divided into those who have read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and those who are going to read them.” – The Sunday Times
As the story – according to a 1955 letter from Tolkien to W. H. Auden – goes, one day in the early 1930′s the Oxford Professor was marking school certificate papers and found a blank page. Suddenly inspired, he wrote the words, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”
Thus began The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, better known by its abbreviated title The Hobbit and with it a realm where children and adults alike could go to indulge their desires for adventure and otherworldly things. It was J. R. R. Tolkien‘s precursor to The Lord of the Rings, since cemented in the pillars of film history thanks to director Peter Jackson and a vast team thousands strong, and it became the foundations for the nearly unlimited world of Arda, which the most fanatical Tolkeinites can explore in great depth by reading the The Silmarillion; published posthumously by his son Christopher Tolkien in 1977.
The Hobbit follows the quest of country-loving hobbit Bilbo Baggins as he joins a gang of dwarves in a quest to win a share of the treasure guarded by the dragon, Smaug. It was published on 21 September 1937 to wide critical acclaim, and then republished with some pivotal changes in 1951 – mainly surrounding that fateful meeting between the novel’s protagonist Bilbo Baggins (to be played by Martin Freeman), Gollum (now immortalised by Andy Serkis and the CGI team at WETA Digital), and a magic ring.
Now, after the meteoric succes of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy – which grossed a total of $2.91 billion and whose final film The Return of the King received eleven Oscars (tying it with the records set by Ben-Hur and Titanic) – fans around the world are on tenterhooks as they eagerly await the December 13 release of the prequel. The theatrical trailer, below, for the much-anticipated prequel has received over 22 million views.
If you need to catch up on the book before the film comes out – and you have four lazy hours spare – here is a worthy reading by Nicol Williamson. It’s an abridged version and not the entire work word for word, but it is a great way to get to grips with the novel in an afternoon. Here are the three parts:
Since 2006, The Hobbit was envisaged as two parts, but last July Jackson announced that it will now be a trilogy - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again, due for theatrical release next month, and in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Apparently the final film will extensively use the adventures and facts portrayed in the appendices that Tolkien wrote to expand the story of Middle-Earth, which exciting indeed.
To get an idea of who the actors are and what goes on behind the scenes to bring Middle Earth to life I recommend you watch this full hour-long production blog, The Hobbit – Behind the Scenes. It’s for the sort of person who like to see how movies get made and who probably watched the six hours of appendices on the box set after they’d finished the full extended editions of The Lord of the Rings on a weekend movie marathon.
There’s been lots of conjecture over the way that the films will present the talking dragon, Smaug. In the 1977 animated version of The Hobbit, Smaug was voiced by Richard Boone and while his body was consistend with Tolkien’s descriptions, Smaug’s face had distinctly ”mammalian wolf-like features like fur and canine teeth. His hypnotic gaze is absent, although his acute eyesight is portrayed by showing highbeam-like lights shining forth from his eyes whenever he is searching for something.” [wikipedia]. The scene below, now almost fifty years old, may tickle your funny-bone. It was announced that Smaug will be voiced and interpreted with performance capture by Benedict Cumberbatch and given the brilliant way that Gollum was brought to life, we can only tremble in anticipation.
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