For any of you who have not read the Hobbit, thar be spoilers ahead. For those of you who have, I may be about to spew a whole mess of heresy.
I just finished re-reading the Hobbit for the first time since puberty and I gotta say, the experience was very different. Now, I am a long-time, huge Tolkien fan. I have re-read Lord of the Rings multiple times and watched the movies twice as much. However, I gotta say that while re-reading the Hobbit, I was really aware of just how poorly structured the story is.
I feel like the story starts off pretty well. At first it seems like it is going to be a classic hero journey focused on a sheltered and unassuming hobbit, overcoming his fears and proving himself in the world. Of the three paths to Shakespearean greatness, Bilbo is following path C... "thrust upon 'em..." by an old man and a bunch of dwarves.* But does Bilbo really ever live up to his hero status?
He's hired by the dwarves to rob Smaug the dragon and help them take back their kingdom. Why do they need his help, exactly? Well, there are 13 individuals in the party, which is unlucky... unless you count the fact that Gandalf was traveling with the dwarves, thus making their number actually 14, and mooting the stated need for Bilbo. Except that Gandalf apparently has better things to do than stick around with the dwarves for most of the journey... So, I guess Bilbo does bring the group number to lucky 14 for most of the trip and 15 when Gandalf isn't off getting stoned or something.
So, Bilbo's job is to rob the dragon and take back the kingdom. Does he do either? no! He steals exactly one piece of treasure from the dragon, pissing him off enough to send him rampaging around the countryside. Then, Bilbo (the supposed hero) is not even around when Smaug, (the main villain) is killed. In fact, Smaug is brought down by someone who is little better than an extra. Bard, the one who does the honor, isn't even introduced into the story until just before Smaug comes crashing into Lake-Town. Even then he manages to kill the dragon only because a bird (who is probably Gandalf in bird form) points out the dragon's secret weak spot. So... the bird is the hero?
|Seriously, this guy is in the book for like, one scene.|
Image by megatruh
Oh, back to the original reason for Bilbo even being there... Thorin gets his cousin to back him up during the battle of the five armies... so, why didn't he just go there in the first place to find his 14th party member and skip Bilbo altogether? The hobbit is irrelevant to the Hobbit.
Despite its unorthodox, dare I say, amateurish structure, I still enjoyed the re-read. It is fun. I may even read it again. However, it also left me really curious about what Peter Jackson is going to do with the next two Hobbit films. If the first film is any indication, he's not too concerned about sticking to the story, and honestly, I can't say that I blame him. The story as is would make an awful movie. However, if Jackson starts putting a dragon-killing bow in Bilbo's hands, or tries to give Bard an actual character arc, or makes Thorin anything other than a manic-depressive manipulative douchebag, he'll likely find a lot of nerd rage flowing his way. I am also reeeeally curious to see how he handles the elves. The elves of the Hobbit are a far cry from the ancient emo kids in white found in Lord of the Rings. No, the Hobbit elves are more like slap-happy Christmas elves, full of song and holly-jolly cheer. We'll see what happens, but I am definitely curious. I'd love to see Orlando Bloom wearing curly shoes with bells on them.
*I put on my robe and wizard hat -Twelfth Night Act II Scene V