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The events depicted in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey are set 60 years before what happens in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but just because it’s an origin story doesn’t mean that all of the answers are out on the table from the very beginning. There are plenty of people who will go to see The Hobbit having never seen Jackson’s original trilogy, and, as a result, will have a harder time going in simply because they don’t know exactly what a Hobbit really is. For those folks I am happy to be of service.
The Hobbit is in theaters today and in celebration I have thrown together a quick guide breaking down all of the most important elements of the story so that you know exactly how they fit into the new film. Check it out below!
WARNING: This article contains some minor spoilers about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Adventure. While the first seven entries are safe, the last two may affect the surprise element for those 100% unfamiliar with the film’s story, and, has a precaution, they are clearly marked.
What Are They? The hobbits are a race of tiny creatures living in the world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. Populating an area of the map called The Shire, most members of the species are known for being very reserved and quiet, never finding a reason to put themselves in danger or even slightly at risk. The usually don’t stand between more than two to four feet tall and typically have curly mop of hair on their head and big, furry feet. They live in what are called Hobbit holes, which are small houses built directly into the ground.
How Do They Fit? As the singular article implies, there is really only one Hobbit at the center of The Hobbit, but as you might have guessed it’s a pretty damn important part. The entire story is told through the eyes of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who is selected to go on an quest with a group of dwarves to help them defeat an evil dragon. While he acts like a normal Hobbit when it comes to the idea of adventure, rejecting the thought and instead wanting to stay in his own world, the truth is that Bilbo has dreams that extend beyond The Shire and is driven to explore them.
Who Are They? Unlike Hobbits, Dwarves, Goblins and Orcs, who have entire populations living in Middle-earth, there are only five wizards: Gandalf The Grey, Saruman The White, Radagast The Brown and Alatar and Pallando The Blue. Wizards look similar to the race of men, but have the power to control magic. Though they may look like feeble old men, the truth is that wizards are some of the most powerful beings in all of Tolkien’s writings.
How Do They Fit? We were introduced to Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) and Saruman (Sir Christopher Lee) in the Lord of the Rings movies, however, The Hobbit not only shows different sides to them, but also introduces us Radagast (Sylvester McCoy). Because of the earlier timeline, the two former characters are quite different than when we last saw them, as Gandalf is back to being the funny, jovial Gandalf The Grey (as opposed to the strict, no-nonsense Gandalf The White) and Saruman hasn’t been revealed as evil yet and still appears to be on the side of good. As a new character, Radagast is portrayed as a bit of a nervous bumbler who lives as one with nature.
Who Are They? The dwarves are yet another race featured in the world of Middle-earth, and just like the rest they have their own character type. Much like Hobbits, they are short in stature, but they are also very aggressive, stubborn and proud and won’t back down from a fight. They are also a very greedy kind that is drawn to gold and treasure and are skilled miners as a result of their passion.
How Do They Fit? Fili, Kili, Oin, Gloin, Dwalin, Balin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Dori, Nori, Ori and Thorin Oakenshield. If you’re planning to get fully invested in the world of Middle-earth then those are 13 names you should really get used to. All of them, along with Bilbo Baggins, make up the company that sets out on an adventure to the Lonely Mountain where they plan on defeating the evil dragon Smaug and not only reclaim their lost homeland, but also the incredible treasure that’s within it. To read more about the individual personalities of each dwarf, be sure to head over to the guide that I made following my visit to The Hobbit set.
Who Are They? Much like wizards, elves are an immortal race of beings from Middle-earth and some of the most beautiful to boot. In addition to being incredibly powerful creatures, with enhanced senses, unparalleled archery skills, and amazing speed and agility, they are also known for their amazing beauty – most standing about six feet tall with flowing blonde hair and pointed ears.
How Do They Fit? The elves play a very small role in the first Hobbit movie, but definitely look to see them play a much more expanded part in the two sequels. What we are meant to gather from the first movie is the origin of issues between elves and dwarves that has left the two races as bitter enemies. Bilbo and his company arrive at Rivendell, an Elven outpost in Middle-earth, for help in their quest at one point in the movie, which, as you could probably guess, isn’t the most stress-free of unions.
Who Are They? Orcs are bad news. While perhaps not inherently evil, they tend to be the footsoldiers of evil-doers, which makes them pretty damn evil by proxy. In The Lord of the Rings they are created in the depths of Mordor to help Sauron regain power over Middle-earth. They are violent, ugly, filthy, disgusting creatures, and if you have one on your trail it’s time to bolt. Needless to say, it’s a very good thing that Bilbo’s sword, Sting, actually glows blue whenever orcs are nearby…
How Do They Fit? While orcs are present in Tolkien’s novel, Jackson’s adaptation features the creatures in a much more specific capacity. A storyline that isn’t actually in the book, the movie adds a plot about Azog The Defiler, a one-armed albino orc who swears revenge against Thorin Oakenshield, as it was the Dwarven prince who cut off Azog’s appendage during battle. While Bilbo and his company of dwarves are making their way to the Lonely Mountain Azog picks up on their trail and riding in on giant wolf-like wargs they cause more than a little bit of trouble for our main characters.
Who Are They? While Tolkien didn’t actually really differentiate between orcs and goblins, they seem to exist as two separate species in Peter Jackson’s movies. Much like orcs they are a very ugly, violent species, but are also very advanced when it comes to technology (they are very skilled at crafting weapons that can kill people). To borrow words from the writer himself, “goblins are cruel, wicked, and bad-hearted.”
How Do They Fit? Goblins only show up briefly in The Hobbit, but it’s one of the better sequences in the movie, so I’ll refrain from saying too much about their involvement. What I will say is that they put Bilbo and company is a very serious predicament and a whole lot of danger.
The Lonely Mountain
What Is It? The Lonely Mountain may simply look like a spot on a map, but it’s actually filled with a rich history and is one of the most significant locations is all of Middle-earth. The mountain, also known as Erebor, was originally the homeland of the dwarves where they built incredibly successful mining operation. Sadly their home was taken away from them when the great dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) flew in, raided the city, and took over.
How Does It Fit? Every journey needs a destination and for Bilbo and his company of dwarves the Lonely Mountain is the place. The main story of the entire trilogy sees the group traveling from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain with the plans to finally defeat Smaug and reclaim rights to the dwarf homeland. We only see the city briefly during the movie’s first scene, as we learn about the history behind the adventure, but we are surely going to see more of it as the rest of the films come out.
What Is It? The Necromancer is mentioned exactly once in the novel version of The Hobbit.Mentioned only once and simply as a danger of the outside world beyond The Shire. As a result, you’d think it would have very little impact on the new movie, but that simply isn’t the case. After all, the reality about The Necromancer is that it’s actually the ultimate lord of evil and forger of the rings: Sauron.
How Does It Fit? The Hobbit includes more than a few storylines that were absent or simply “implied” in Tolkien’s first book that Jackson picked up to help better fill out each movie in the new trilogy. The story of The Necromancer is not only one of them, it looks as though it’s going to be an element that runs throughout the entire new trilogy. It’s because of the evil force that we are first introduced to the aforementioned Radagast The Brown, and will certainly be a subject for discussion as we wait a full year for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug to finally arrive.
The One Ring
What Is It? I’d hope that even those who know absolutely nothing about Tolkien’s work at least have heard of The One Ring, but it’s only fair to have all bases covered. In the Lord of the Rings movies we learned that Sauron had created a total of 19 rings of power that he shared with all of the great races across the land. What Sauron never told anybody, though, was that he also forged a twentieth ring, a.k.a. The One Ring, in the fires of Mount Doom that would allow him control over the world. The original trilogy has Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and his fellowship traveling back to Mount Doom to destroy the tiny golden ring so that Sauron wouldn’t be able to regain power. The trinket also has the ability to turn its wearer completely invisible, but it comes at a price…
How Does It Fit? In The Lord of the Rings movies Frodo actually gets the One Ring from his Uncle Bilbo, and The Hobbit explains how the young Halfling got the valuable piece in the first place. While I won’t go into too many details, let’s just say that it’s by far the most iconic scene in the book and will probably be the scene at the front and center of your mind as you exit the theater.