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Hobbits as Heroes: A Review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit

           Last weekend I saw Peter Jackson’s version of The Hobbit.  I was entertained but disappointed.  I am not a Tolkien purist; so I don’t object to changing the book in a movie.  Unfortunately, Jackson seems to have either ignored or misunderstood eucatastrophe, the heart of Tolkien’s epic vision and his greatest contribution to literature. 

           Jackson’s problem is that he can’t resist portraying Bilbo Baggins as a hero.  A hero is a person or a character who courageously exercises his skills in the cause of good. Jackson’s Bilbo is far more active than Tolkien’s.  Instead of suddenly rushing off to the join the dwarves’ adventure, Tolkien’s Bilbo has decided not to go until he is rushed out of his hobbit hole by Gandalf.  He doesn’t help the dwarves in a fight against the trolls, but rather manages to escape while the trolls fight among themselves and with the exception of Thorin is unable even to warn the dwarves, who are neatly bagged without much of a fight.  He most certainly does not rush to Thorin’s aid against the orcs and the wolves, but, like Gandalf and the rest of the dwarves, is helplessly and hopelessly up a tree—a tree that Tolkien’s Bilbo can not even get into without the help of the dwarf Dori. In Tolkien even Gandalf does not save himself and the rest of the party by sending a message to the eagles.  The eagles see the fires and hear the howling wolves and decide to steal the goblins’ prey from them.    

            Some of these errors can be attributed to Jackson’s mistaken attempts to make the story more exciting and giving into the irresistible urge to use special effects, but the problem is much deeper. Jackson has the concealed Bilbo see Gollum drop the ring and then take it.  In the novel Bilbo has been accidentally dropped by Dori as they are fleeing from the goblins, then is crawling in the dark when he just happens to touch a ring—the ring—and puts it in his pocket.  He does not guess the riddle concerning time because Gollum makes a mistake but rather unwittingly asks for time and serendipitously saves his life.

            What makes Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy more than a ripping good story is his fictional presentation of eucatastrophe in which heroes fail and evil defeats itself (See “Harry Potter Part II: The Good and the Not So Good”  The happy accidents in The Hobbit prepare us for the epic vision of The Lord of the Rings

            Unlike his version of the Ring trilogy, Jackson’s film adaptation of The Hobbit has his heroes, like Bilbo, too active in bringing about victory.  Eucatastrophe is gone.  The movie is entertaining, but it will not make our hearts swell with an inexplicable joy as our imaginations soar to a hope that is real but beyond humanity’s reach.


6 thoughts on “Hobbits as Heroes: A Review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit

  1. Thanks Bill,
    I new that Jackson could not make a film of the Hobbit or any other Tolkien or Lewis woek that i’d want to watch. Modern concepts of popular entertainment seem to doom insight and deeper thinking.
    No film version can compete with the pictures and sounds in my own imagination!

  2. My dear William,

    You have missed the whole point of Hollywood! It is not to create eucatastrophe – it is to perpetuate a daring story line that captures the idiotic pea brains of American movie goers who need to be thrilled by the fantastic and are unmoved by nuance – thus making the most money possible – to bring about more mediocrity – which perpetuates the stupidity.
    How could you be so blind? It is not hearts that swell in Hollywood – it is ego and bank account. This is why reading a good book is infinitely better than watching a movie when the book has been written first. Rare is a movie better. And, when there is no book to compare a movie to, we are easily thrilled because that is all there is.

    Your review is correct in its’ intent and right factually but to be honest – only brilliant minds like mine will appreciate it.


    1. I got to love you, Ron, er, your humbleness. Of course, you are right. I seriously doubt that there can be any other reason besides financial for making The Hobbit into more than one film.

  3. Bill,

    Thanks for this. I felt this problem, but I couldn’t put it into words. Thanks for introducing me to “eucatastrophe.” That really helps to understand what’s flopping in this new series.


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