Bethany. 25. Bi. Married. Alaska resident. Likes: Dinosaurs. language(s). linguistics. history. maps. space. science. lgbt folk. science fiction. fantasy. books. movies. literature. and Dinosaurs. Dislikes: mean people. head colds. ignorance.
songs of middle earth ► the misty mountains song
The hobbit film is loosely based on it’s source material, it shares the name and the characters but the story is far off and comes off as tolkien fanfiction rather than something made by the man himself.
Yep! That’s what I enjoy about the films so much - transformative works like fanfiction and movie adaptations can give the source material so much more depth than it had before.
For “The Hobbit,” they’re very obviously taking both the original 1937 children’s book, the changes Tolkien himself made for the re-published version, and all the legally available information from the LoTR trilogy in order to tell a bigger, more nuanced, and ultimately more meaningful story about just what was really going on while Bilbo was having his adventure. Because according to Tolkein, while the Quest of Erebor took place the Necromancer was also being driven out of Dol Goldur, Saruman was beginning his descent, and all sorts of chess pieces were moving around that would lead to the war sixty years later. In a sense, it’s doing what fanfiction does so well - turning the camera (so to speak) and shining light on things that you couldn’t see in the original work.
And the movies also emulate the best of what fanfiction does by interrogating the source material to a certain degree - though how much is intentional and how much is purely “we want a cooler-looking story” is certainly up for debate. For instance, Tolkien very clearly modeled the dwarves of Erebor and dwarvish culture on Jewish people and culture as seen by a Christian in the 1930’s. Which would’ve been great except the perception of what Jews were like back at that time was decidedly not-great; if you’ve read the Hobbit, no doubt you remember the quote:
There it is: dwarves are not heroes, but a calculating folk with a great idea of the value of money; some are tricky and treacherous and pretty bad lots; some are not but are decent enough people like Thorin and Company, if you don’t expect too much.
Which was a sentiment held by most non-Jews in the early part of the 20th century, and one we as a people have labored under for literally millennia. By allowing the dwarves of Erebor to be heroic figures, with their own complicated backstories and interests, the film shows them as people to be admired rather than detested.
Similarly with the addition of Tauriel, who if she had been in a fanfic would be referred as an OC or OFC (Original [Female] Character), the film shines a light on one of Tolkien’s greatest weaknesses as a writer; his disinterest in writing about female characters. I phrase it like this because from what he wrote, it is clear that there are women around; he just doesn’t talk much about them, with the exception of Eowyn. This is all the more frustrating because of the glimpses we get of truly amazing women: Belladonna Took, the remarkable daughter of the Old Took who went on adventures, probably with Gandalf; Gilraen, who marries too young against her father’s wishes (but with her mother’s aid), only to lose her husband two years later and who takes personal responsibility for the entire line of Isildur by taking her young son into the protection of Rivendell, and whose last words to Aragorn are “I gave hope to our people and kept no hope for myself,” which is sad but you’ve gotta love an old lady who can make a pun into a heartbreaker; Luthien, who fell in love with a mortal man and chose her heart over her grace; Arwen, who followed in those footsteps but who chose mortality not just for love of a man but for love of Middle-Earth, because she had faith that it would endure; Galadriel, who defied the very gods of her people and conquered the temptation of the One Ring; Shelob, a monster and mother both, whose hunger is insatiable but who chooses to linger in her caves rather than roar into the world; Dís, the last of the line of Thror, who is widowed and orphaned and left childless and brotherless by the actions of those husbands and fathers and sons and brothers; Eowyn, who is remarkable all the more because she is not seen as so, but rather seen as one of the many proud shieldmaidens of Rohan, whose contributions go unremarked but not unremarkable. Women who are not even named - Theoden’s wife, Denethor’s wife, Thranduil’s wife, Gloin’s wife, Bard’s wife, Thrain’s wife - but who are stamped on the husbands and sons they loved in the most fascinating of ways.
All these women are there, in Middle Earth; all of them are worth trilogies of their own. And the films, and fanfiction, can show them in ways Tolkien never did. And so in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” we can see Galadriel helping to defeat the power in Dol Guldur, or an elf-maid fight and kill to protect her king and people, or even [possible spoilers for Extended Edition, if the rumors are true] Belladonna Took greeting Gandalf as an old friend and companion and equal. We can take a look at the things that the man himself did not bother to show, but that we want to see.
The films and filmmakers do not integrate as well as they should; the racism of Tolkien’s all-white Middle Earth goes largely unchallenged, with POC actors playing orcs and goblins or hidden behind CGI or pounds of makeup to play scale doubles or stuntmen. The conflagration of physical attributes with morality is, if anything, played up in the films, with the Goblin King a grotesque figure and the evil Azog shown as even more monstrous with his prosthetic arm. The relationship between Legolas and Gimli, which is so profound that it moves Legolas to demand (of his gods) that Gimli be permitted entry into the afterworld of the elves - moreover, moves Gimli to spend eternity amongst elves rather than his own kind - is portrayed as nothing more than amiable comradeship.
But these are shortcomings that all transformative work can fall prey to, and should absolutely be challenged but should never be dismissed. The films and fanfiction allow people to talk about stories and spin stories themselves, taking part in a world that Tolkien gave us - a world he wanted other people to visit. If we change things along the way, if we show things that Tolkien didn’t illuminate, well - the original stories are still there, unchanged by anyone (except of course the man himself, who re-edited The Hobbit extensively). And we can read the books, and see the films, and decide for ourselves what we want to believe.
There it is: the films are fanfiction, to their credit.
YES THIS. Tolkien was what I call an ‘exploratory writer' - he was constantly expanding on his own universe, filling out fragments that he’d only mentioned in passing in previous works, essentially doing what anyone else would have called fanfiction, except that it was about his own work. I am convinced that he would have approved of the spirit of these movies, even if we can’t say with any authority whether he would have created the particular details that Jackson, Walsh, &co are creating.
Angel Coulby as
BilboBramble Baggins—burglar, Ring-bearer, poet, translator, Elf-friend and scholar. After an adventurous youth, she spent her twilight years in Rivendell, working on her memoir, There and Back Again, as well as the compendium of lore, Translations from the Elvish. She was granted the great privilege of traveling to the Grey Havens with the last of the Elven lords, and passed into the West in her 131st year.
(because nonsenstalare mentioned it and I am contractually obligated to make a gifset for every genderswap that catches my interest.)