When Peter Jackson announced that he’d be heading up the theatrical remake of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings prequel, The Hobbit, the response was one of excitement. When it was announced that it was being made into a trilogy, the response was one of confusion, and when the movies finally came out, the response was a mixed bag of confusion, disappointment, and joy.
In his transformation of the book into a trilogy of big-budget Hollywood action blockbusters, Jackson took a few creative liberties, changing a whole host of things from the book.
Updated November 29th, 2020 by Meg Pelliccio: Fans of Tolkien’s work are waiting in anticipation of the new The Lord of the Rings series that is set to release next year exclusively for Amazon Prime. While there’s still some time to wait for this next slice of Middle-earth, fans can keep themselves occupied by rewatching the previous two trilogies. Movies based on books are very rarely 100% faithful to the text, so for those who haven’t read The Hobbit, they might be interested to know some of the differences between the book and Peter Jackson’s movie adaptations.
15 Knowledge of the Necromancer
In The Hobbit films, Gandalf only learns of the Necromancer when he speaks to Radagast, which is what Peter Jackson uses as the reason for Gandalf leaving Thorin and company. However, in the book, Gandalf is already well aware of the Necromancer.
In The Hobbit book, Gandalf has already visited Dol Guldur and heard of the Necromancer, as it was in Dol Guldur’s dungeons where he encountered Thain, Thorin’s father, and received the map and key that he later gives to Thorin.
14 Dwalin’s Beard
Though it was not a massive change that impacted the plot, there was one element of Dwalin’s appearance that was changed from the text. Interestingly, the book says, “It was a dwarf with a blue beard tucked into a golden belt, and very bright eyes under his dark-green hood.“
While some fans have argued over the ages that it wasn’t meant to literally be blue, but more of a blackish-grey, others believe Dwalin’s beard really was meant to be blue and seem “otherworldly”. When Tolkien began to rewrite The Hobbit, taking out a lot of the whimsy to make it more in line with The Lord of the Rings, the description of Dwalin’s beard was not changed.
13 Thranduil’s Face
Interestingly, Thranduil is never referred to by name in The Hobbit book, but is simply called “the Elvenking”. However, there’s an even bigger difference between the text and the movie and that’s Thranduil’s burned face that he appears to hide with magic or some kind of glamor.
Thranduil attributes this to the “fire serpents in the north”, but this is not mentioned at all in the book, nor is there any record of elves being able to hide old wounds or scars this way in Tolkien’s books.
12 Tricking the Trolls
In The Hobbit movies, it is Bilbo Baggins who cleverly tricks the trolls by keeping them busy discussing the best ways to cook the dwarves for so long that they don’t realize that dawn has arrived. However, this is some credit that Bilbo doesn’t really deserve.
In the book, it is Gandalf that deceives the trolls by throwing his voice, pretending to be one of the trolls, and making them argue amongst themselves until dawn arrives and turns them to stone.
11 The White Council
The Hobbit movies feature the White Council, with both Saruman and Galadriel present in Elrond’s home of Rivendell. However, neither Saruman nor Galadriel are mentioned in The Hobbit book, and the White Council does not meet during the narrative either.
Though this is different from the book, it is some great fan service as it means that viewers get to see some more of their favorite characters from The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, as well as adding some more depth and drama to the plot.
10 The Length
The most obvious of all. If you’ve read it (or even seen it on a shelf somewhere), you’ll know that The Hobbit is a rather short book, especially in comparison to the mammoth Lord of the Rings trilogy. How, then, did Peter Jackson manage to ring out nearly nine hours’ worth of movie content?
By placing various amounts of filler in between real moment from the book, is the blunt answer. Leaving The Hobbit as one film and then separating each of the incredibly long extended editions of The Lord of the Rings films into two theatrical releases seems like it would have been a better idea.
9 The Prologue
The world of Lord of the Rings is a particularly complex, often borderline nonsensical one. As such, the little bit of background from the start of The Fellowship of the Ring is an absolute God-send. We are given something very similar at the start of The Hobbit, and even though it didn’t happen in the book, it does actually help get a grasp on the world before diving in.
Tolkien’s world of Middle-earth was built across many books, with some really interesting details only appearing in the form of a footnote. With such a mass of information, these prologues help to set the scene and give viewers plenty of context.
8 The Presence Of Radagast The Brown
In The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien mentions a wizard named Radagast The Brown only a couple of times. He is one of the five wizards of Middle-earth. In the movies, Peter Jackson expands on his role hugely, allowing him to interact with the likes of Gandalf and Bilbo, while starring in his own scene in which he helps avert a group of goblins from following the main characters.
He also provides a little comic relief as an innocent, eccentric, and bumbling character. Obviously, this part of his personality never came across through Tolkien’s brief mention of his existence.
7 The Presence Of Tauriel
Played by Lost’s Evangeline Lilly, Tauriel is a character exclusive to the film adaptation of The Hobbit. She isn’t in any of The Lord of the Rings films, the first The Hobbit movie, or the book at any point.
It seems that she was created to provide a strong, relatable female character that doesn’t really exist in The Hobbit book, and considering her performance was highly praised across the board, it was a move that went rather well.
6 The Presence Of Azog
The character of Azog does exist in the lore of The Lord of the Rings universe as created by JRR Tolkien in the early 20th century. However, according to Tolkien’s portrayal of the character, he was beheaded by Dain long before the events of The Hobbit took place.
Jackson decided to keep the character alive, with one arm missing instead, and as such, he is one of the main antagonists in the trilogy. After causing havoc throughout all three films, he finally meets his end at the hands of Thorin.
5 The Presence Of Legolas
In commitment to fan service, Peter Jackson had to make sure there was a bit of consistency between The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings, even if The Hobbit is a prequel. Being dealt a set of characters with the ability to live for thousands of years was a bit of a gift to the director, as it allowed him to pull Orlando Bloom’s powerful elf Legolas into the story.
As such, we see the character in both The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of the Five Armies, in which he pulls off his fair share of Orc killing. He doesn’t appear in the book at all.
4 The Barrels
It might not be as important or storyline-impacting as many of the changes in this list, but it’s still a marked difference. When the dwarves escape the hall of the elven king, they float away down a river using barrels as boats. In the books, these are sealed, which seems like a pretty dangerous game if one of them was to start leaking…
The movies fix this potential disaster by making the barrels open, with the dwarves sitting in them. This also allows for a more visual connection to the scene, as we know which dwarf is situated where.
3 The Frodo Cameo
One of the more pointless moments in The Hobbit shows Elijah Wood’s Frodo Baggins, with Bilbo telling him a very rough version of an adventure from a long time ago. Obviously, at the time of The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings didn’t even exist, so the character of Frodo made no appearance.
In fact, Tolkien’s version of this was the reverse. At the start of The Fellowship of the Ring, it is likely that the opening scene in the shire was built around the aging Bilbo in order to glean some connection to the previously released The Hobbit book.
2 The Dwarf Deaths
One piece of storyline consistency between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is the death of Kili, Fili, and Thorin. However, the way they died in the movies quickly became a point of contention amongst The Lord of the Rings fans.
The movies show the three being slaughtered rather brutally in an ambush, giving their characters a slightly less respectful end than they received in the book. The book sees them charge into a battle that they know they won’t survive, dying as brave heroes.
1 The History Of Sting
It seems the impact of this particular moment from the book might not have been noticed by Peter Jackson, otherwise, he probably wouldn’t have changed it. Bilbo finding, choosing, and naming his sword Sting was a pretty important piece of development for the character.
In the movie, he is simply given it by Gandalf after the wizard finds it on the floor of the troll hoard, which is certainly not as cool.
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