After six blockbuster movies which were released over a period of thirteen years, The Lord of the Rings / The Hobbit (2001 – 2014) saga as portrayed by Peter Jackson has supposedly come to an end. Having first encountered J. R. R. Tolkien’s novels when I was around 13 years old (before the movies started to appear on screen), I’ve been agog all these years, loving each of Jackson’s creations to distraction, while reading and re-reading the books each time a new part of the saga was released.
While being in awe of the immense scope of the movies, my little nerdish self couldn’t help but criticise all the differences between the actual original novels and the movies. There were many such discrepancies, mostly because, understandably, in order for the written word to be transformed into something visual which can capture a wide audience, changes need to be introduced. I could understand this and even, at times, condone it.
Three years ago, the saga continued when Jackson put forth the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, that is, The Hobbit. Of course, I was overjoyed, however in this case, the discrepancies between the book and the movies were so pronounced as to throw most LOTR fanatics into hysterics. First of all, as you probably know, the most pronounced difference is that whereas there was only one book: The Hobbit (1937), Jackson split the novel into three movies. One could argue that he did this in order to have more leeway in presenting the plot as true to the book as possible, however, having watched the last instalment of the trilogy, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, last December, I had to conclude that, although awesomely spectacular and totally in line with The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, Jackson not only stretched the original novel as far as it would go, inserting other elements found within LOTR itself, as well as other works by J. R. R. Tolkien, he also invented characters, situations and long instances of comic relief, himself.
Again, one could argue that this was done in order for the story to be more pleasing to as varied an audience as possible. However, was this really the case, or was Jackson merely playing on the epic saga’s newly found popularity in order to line his own pockets?
Be it as it may (I don’t want to cause any riots from LOTR aficionados or have them pop up in front of my house with burning torches and pitchforks), here are some of the most obvious differences between The Hobbit novel and the movies.
- Tauriel – A lot of characters presented in the movie, do not actually exist anywhere in the novels, but were invented by Peter Jackson. The most important one of these is the elf, Tauriel (played by actress Evangeline Lily). Tauriel is the main female presence in the movie, creating an ‘impossible love’ situation when she falls in love with the dwarf, Kili. However, in reality, there was no Tauriel in The Hobbit, no female main character, and consequently, no love story.
- Dislocated characters – A number of characters who appear in LOTR re-appear in The Hobbit However, in the actual novel, they never really play a part. One can mention Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), who again, is present in Jackson’s second trilogy, but who in reality, never appears in the novel. Another character is Legolas (Orlando Bloom), son of Thranduil, who plays an important role in LOTR, yet does not feature anywhere in its prequel novel and the same goes for the appearance of Saruman the White. Yet another character is the wizard, Radagast the Brown, with or without bird poop all over him. He is only mentioned by Gandalf twice in the LOTR novels and never actually appears in any of the books. This, we must construe, is a way of injecting comic relief in the movies.
- Importance given to ‘baddies’ – apart from a lot of ‘evil’ characters, like Azog the Defiler, being given more importance than actually construed by the original writer, we meet with ‘The Necromancer’ whom Radagast discovers in an abandoned and cursed fortress. Actually, the Necromancer is mentioned a couple of times in LOTR (the novels), as Gandalf talks in passing of how Sauron had in the past masqueraded as this mysterious figure. However, we never actually engage with him in any of the novels. The same goes for the enormous stone giants whose rock fight puts the dwarves in mortal peril. They are mentioned in passing in the novel, and in fact, are very far away when the company sees them, so their presence is magnified in order to give a greater sense of danger and impending calamity throughout the movie
I have identified these three as the most prominent discrepancies, but there are many, many others – like the White Council convening in Rivendell in the movies, when this never happens in the books, or the importance given to Alfrid, counsellor to the Master of Lake-town, who was never even named in the novel, much less given such a big part to play (again, all in the name of comic relief).
I must admit, although the novel-purist in me felt kind of disillusioned by Jackson’s movies, I just couldn’t help but love them anyway, and will continue to number them amongst my favourite movies of all time. However, as they say, the book is always better than the movie. And if you have not read the novel, I really urge you to do so.