The Hobbit: Book to Film Comparison (Part 2)
By Lewis Hurst.
For the next part of our Hobbit Book to Film series, we will examine the changes made to the general plot of Tolkien’s text.
Firstly, we must examine that the story itself as presented in the book is Bilbo’s edited version of events, thus Jackson’s film adaptation is the “true story”, in Jackson’s vision at least. So this means that the story as presented in the film is darker and closer in tone to Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films.
The first major change from the novel is the actual motive for the quest itself. In the film, the quest is portrayed as being a noble attempt to reclaim a lost homeland while in the book; the motive is a bit greedier. The Dwarves are only in it for the gold. This is a change I can agree with. It would have been much harder for the audience to root for the company if their ultimate goal was greed. As the journey continues, the story stays pretty much the same across both iterations with only a few minor changes here and there.
The next major departure is when the company departs from Rivendell. In the film, Gandalf remains behind because of the White Council meeting while in the novel he leaves with the company. This isn’t a huge change. Gandalf doesn’t contribute that much during this segment of the story. When the Dwarves are captured by the Goblins, Gandalf is separated from the group before making his big entrance by killing the Great Goblin and leading the escape.
In the next huge segment we reach the Out of the Frying Pan sequence. The major difference here is obviously the inclusion of Azog in the film adaptation. In the book, the company hides in the trees from a meeting of the Wargs and the Goblins of the Misty Mountains. Once the fires start, the Goblins feed the flames and taunt the company. The Eagles, sensing the commotion, swoop in and rescue the company. Obviously in the film it’s a lot more action orientated and a lot more climatic considering it’s the final action scene of the film. Bilbo finds his courage here instead of during the Mirkwood sequence. The scene has been moved forwards probably to provide some dramatic closure to Bilbo’s arc for the first film in order to give the audience a sense that something has been accomplished.
And now we enter the territory of The Desolation of Smaug, covering the next batch of chapters from the novel. The first major event we cover is Beorn’s house. In the novel, the company stay several days at Beorn’s house. In the film, it seems they stay only a morning. Beorn insists they leave in order to stand a chance of reaching Mirkwood before they are caught by Azog and his Warg Riders. Meanwhile Bolg, the main antagonist of the novel (after Smaug), makes his debut and is ordered by Azog, his father, to hunt the Dwarves while Azog goes to Dol Guldur and… does Orc things I guess while the Necromancer floats about in the shadows. Now this departs from the text where the company takes a quite leisurely stroll to Mirkwood.
Once reaching Mirkwood, Gandalf leaves the company after being telepathically ordered by Galadriel to investigate the tombs of the Nigel in the High Fells. Gandalf departs, but not before warning the company to not stray from the path. This is fairly close to the novel, although in the novel Gandalf departs to join the White Council on their siege of Dol Guldur (with Gandalf having already made the discovery that the Necromancer is Sauron). The company enter Mirkwood. Now, the sequence in the film is substantially different to as presented in the novel, but with the Extended Edition coming it’s possible that the missing segments may be added (Bombur falling into an enchanted lake and falling into a deep sleep is confirmed). In the movie, the company travel through Mirkwood but lose the path, causing them to get lost within the forest. In the film, it’s unclear as to how the Company lose the path (with it being hinted that spores in the air are causing them to wander), while the book explains that the hungry Dwarves, having exhausted most of their supplies, see Elves partying in the woods and rush forwards to seek aid. The Elves vanish and this repeats several times. The final time, all the lights go out and Bilbo falls asleep.
When he awakes, he finds himself being spun in webs by one of the giant Spiders. He frees himself and kills the Spider. Bilbo names his sword Sting and ventures into the forest to find the others. Slipping on the ring, Bilbo finds the Dwarves in the middle of a nest of Spiders. Bilbo draws the Spiders away from the Dwarves, frees them and then Bilbo and the Dwarves fight the spiders driving them away. Bilbo reveals the ring to the Dwarves. It is only then that the company notice Thorin is missing. It is then revealed that the Elves have captured Thorin. Thranduil interrogates Thorin but when Thorin refuses to reveal why he was in the forest he is thrown into the dungeon. While wandering the forest, the remaining Dwarves are captured by Elves but Bilbo escapes via use of the ring. This is significantly different to the film, in which Bilbo climbs the trees to try and get a sense of where they are and when he returns the Dwarves have been captured by the Spiders. The Spider sequence is largely the same with only minor differences. The sequence ends very differently with the Elves (led by Legolas and Tauriel who aren’t in the book) defeating the Spiders and capturing the Dwarves.
In the book, the Dwarves are interrogated and thrown in cells when they refuse to reveal their purpose. Bilbo, sneaking around invisibly, discovers an escape route via barrels that are flushed down the river towards the nearby human settlement of Lake-Town. While the guards are passed out drunk, Bilbo steals the keys, frees the Dwarves, and puts them in the barrels and the company float down the river to Lake-Town in an uneventful, but rather uncomfortable, journey. In the film however, we see Thorin refuse Thranduil’s offer of release in exchange for jewels from the mountain, seemingly out of spite for Thranduil refusing aid to the Dwarves of Erebor after Smaug’s attack. Thranduil, angered, condemns Thorin to be locked in the cells until he changes his mind. Tauriel meanwhile, talks to Kili and the two bond, laying the seeds of romance. Bilbo frees the Dwarves and they escape in barrels down the river, pursued by Legolas and Tauriel and attacked by Bolg and the orcs. Kili is wounded by a Morgul Shaft. The company escape down the river and after meeting the bargeman Bard, make a deal to be smuggled into Lake-Town.
The company stay at Lake-Town and it’s largely identical to the book, apart from some extra back-story for Bard, some dodgy politics and then four of the dwarves being left behind, presumably so characters the audience cares about are hanging about when Smaug attacks. This leads into a whole lot of diversions with Bolg attacking Lake-Town, Bard being arrested and Tauriel healing Kili with glowy Elf-Magic stuff that’s not quite explained but I’ll let it drop as it’s a great scene. Anyway, the rest of the company move onto the Lonely Mountain in events that are largely identical to Tolkien’s text with the Dwarves giving up hope and Bilbo solving the riddle on the map. Then we enter the mountain.
Unlike in the novel, where Bilbo is sent into the mountain to find Smaug’s weak spot, the film sees Bilbo sent in to get the Arkenstone and get out. Of course, as these things do, this goes wrong in both versions and sees Smaug awake. Smaug, in both versions, engages in a game of wits with Bilbo trying to guess his true purpose. One thing introduced in the film is that Smaug seems to have some sort of “evil sixth sense”, sensing the true power of the Ring, the growing power in Dol Guldur and Thorin’s title of Oakenshield without leaving the Mountain. This entire segment is fairly faithful, if not 100%. We then get into the segment that angered many Tolkien fans. The dwarves fighting Smaug. While yes, this wasn’t in the book, I do like it. It provides a suitable climax for the film and sees Thorin face off with Smaug, something that does not occur in Tolkien’s text. Then after a failed attempt at drowning Smaug in gold, Bilbo and the dwarves look on in horror as an angered Smaug flies to Lake-Town in a rage…
And there we leave it. Now the changes, in my opinion, haven’t been too bad but It’s still unclear how much will change in the third instalment, but you can be sure that whatever it is will leave fans divided.
Next: Changes in The Battle of the Five Armies and to Thorin and Bilbo’s character arcs.