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Tolkien Chat 12: Adaptation and The Hobbit Movies

Join Dr. Olsen in a session focused on the primary themes of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and the nature of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book!

the_hobbit_parody__hedgehog__s_revenge_by_alswaiter-d5njr4iIf you have seen the first Hobbit film once, twice, three, or more times, and are wondering about the whys and wherefores of Jackson’s adaptation of Tolkien’s work, this Tolkien Chat episode may be just what you need. Professor Corey Olsen, The Tolkien Professor, covers key themes in Jackson’s movie. He also answers some of the questions submitted by live listeners.

You will come away from this session with useful food for thought that should give you a new level of appreciation of Jackson’t movie and Tolkien’s book!

Download: .mp3 (right click and choose “Save As…” to download)

  1. David Bley January 5, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing this discussion/lecture.

    I am very thankful for Peter Jackson’s films of Tolkien’s works. I first read The Hobbit and the trilogy in the late 60’s early 70’s. When I entered Tolkien’s world, I did not want to leave. Although there are differences between the books and the movies, I appreciate the fact that Peter Jackson has taken Tolkien’s works seriously unlike previous attempts at making films of these works. Through the films, I am again transported to Middle Earth.

    One of the things that I felt a little disconcerting was in The Unexpected Party. In the ‘good morning’ sequence, it is not clear that, in an effort to brush off Gandalf, Bilbo invites him to tea the next day. So Bilbo is expecting a guest (or maybe he does not think that Gandalf will come) but he has put it out of his mind. This setup does not happen in the movie.

    I did not find Gandalf’s apparent lack of power disconcerting. After all, the Hobbit is Bilbo’s account and his concept of Gandalf’s abilities was rather limited.

  2. Michael January 7, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    Thanks. I haven’t seen the film yet, but the talk about it was interesting.

    On Bilbo losing his buttons — couldn’t we say that rather than “civilization” they remind us of his *domesticity* (and possibly “modernity”). I suppose they have a higher level of culture in Gondor, but they probably haven’t got buttons. Buttons — and actually, going beyond that, tailored garments — seem to come in relatively late. (I think from the 14th century onwards.) In the early mediaeval period there’s the cloak, which is basically just a oblong of cloth that you pin, and there’s the tunic, which isn’t much more than a bag with holes for the head and arms that’s not so much fitted to the body as pulled in with a belt or girdle. And here’s the other thing: you haven’t got pockets. The belt serves not only to pull in the tunic, but as a means to carry things — you hang them from it. You can suspend a knife; you can hang a purse/pouch to hold stuff in. *That’s* where your stuff goes.

    And doesn’t that also indicate that the people you mentioned in the podcast who questioned Gollum’s having pockets are onto something? In the end I don’t think it makes sense to be too prosaically “realistic” with questions, but why is Gollum dressing like a “modern” in the middle of nowhere? How long has Gollum been in the caves? Just how long do clothes last? If Gollum has a coat with pockets in, or has trouser pockets, or whatever, who’s made those clothes for him?

    I think in the Hobbit as we have it (and in the Lord of the Rings) there are different layers of time. The Shire seems (mostly) to be in the late 19th century; almost everywhere else is (in terms of what the archaeologists call “material culture”) somewhere in the (early) Middle Ages. (Most of the peoples have iron, and agriculture, and writing.) That has an interest of its own, so we, as it were, move backwards in time as the location changes, but I have to wonder whether the mixing of periods originates not in some grand plan but simply because in the beginning Tolkien was throwing stuff in there without worrying too much about how it all fitted together.


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