‘The Hobbit’: 19 Changes from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Novel to Peter Jackson’s Movie

Dec 14, 2012 - The Daily Beast

Peter Jackson’s much anticipated The Hobbit hits theaters today. Resident Tolkien-ite Anna Klassen compares the film to the original novel, revealing 19 differences between the Tolkien classic and the movie

“All good stories deserve embellishment.”

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Actor Martin Freeman, left, confers with director Peter Jackson on the set of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." (Warner Bros. Pictures)

This quote, delivered by Gandalf the Grey in Peter Jackson’s interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic children’s book, The Hobbit, acts as a warning to its viewers: This is not your grandpa’s Hobbit.

Along with shooting the film in revolutionary 48 frames per second (presented in 3D), the adaptation was radical in its content, hand-picking what would be included from the book, and turning sentence-long descriptions from the novel into 20 minute scenes in the film. Earlier book-to-big-screen trials of The Hobbit, animated and otherwise, kept the medium in its original context: a book created for children. But Jackson’s version, coming off of the steam and success of the more mature Lord of the Rings (LOTR) series, presents a darker, adult adaptation.

As a novel The Hobbit is 276 pages in its 75th anniversary edition. The Hobbit as film is two hours and 40 minutes long, and encompasses only one-third of the book—and mathematically speaking, we knew there were bound to be some modifications. 

What follows is a comprehensive (and perhaps exhaustive) list of changes we saw in the transition from book to film. 
Warning: Major spoilers ahead.

1. Tolkien is famous for inserting his own voice into his novels, and in The Hobbit, he holds our hand through the entire journey, often using the terms “we” or “us” to describe himself and the audience. In the film, Tolkien’s voice is replaced by Bilbo’s in an introduction that sets the scene for the story that follows.

2. There is a prologue, similar to that in the LOTR films, which explains the history of the Hobbits, Middle Earth and the Dwarves’ current circumstances. However in the book, these snippets of history are given on a need-to-know basis, and sprinkled throughout the story.

3. Elijah Wood’s character of Frodo makes a cameo at the beginning of the film, in an attempt to tie the LOTR films into its novel predecessor, The Hobbit. In an awkward scene, Frodo speaks with his uncle (an elderly version of Bilbo) about an ambiguous adventure he had long ago. This exchange never happens in the novel.

Read all 19 here