Alan Lee’s illustration from the opening of The Hobbit.

With Peter Jackson’s first part of The Hobbit adaptation a mere 11 months away (!) I decided to construct a straw poll over Christmas about what people recalled of the story, there were usually three elements:

Bilbo Baggins

The confrontation with Gollum

The dragon

I confessed that I’d remembered a little more than this but not much, so re-reading the novel was a revealing thing to do and made me wonder how some of these elements would be handled in the movie.

1. The Timescale

It takes Bilbo a whole year to go ‘There and Back Again’ and the seasons play a key part in the events that unfold. Despite the apparent urgency of the dwarfs’ quest this doesn’t stop Tolkien throwing in the odd reference to the time spent at certain locations. They spend a fortnight at Rivendell, a fortnight locked in cells in the castle of the Elvenking and fortnight in Lake-town before setting off for the Lonely Mountain. Anyone familiar with the classic 1982 ‘The Hobbit’ adventure game by Melbourne House will be aware of the phrase: ‘You wait. Time passes…’, the movie could actually turn out to be a lot like this.

2. The Singing.

Everyone in The Hobbit sings. The dwarves sing, the goblins sing, the elves sing, the men sing, Bilbo sings while attacking giant spiders. It’s tune after tune. If you thought Tom Bombadil was easily ditched for the Lord of the Rings movies, you have to wonder what they’ll do here. We do know that one of the songs (the dwarves’ second that explains the quest) is featured in the movie. You hear it in the trailer.

3. Beorn – the Man-Bear

Beorn is a big hairy fellow who lives on his own in a magnificent cabin, surrounded by pets, who also happens to be a bear. As a gay icon he’s up there Sam Gamgee. He’s also responsible for a very cool moment when he interrogates a Warg and a Goblin, while being a bear, which, with any luck, we’ll get to see.

4. The whole business with the Necromancer

At the opening of the book Gandalf reveals that he recovered the map to the Lonely Mountain from Thorin’s father in the dungeons of the Necromancer. At the end of the book, Gandalf tells the party that he led an attack on the Necromancer with the help of the White Wizards. Two whole lines for two rollicking adventures! That the Necromancer is being played by Benedict Cumberbatch (as well as the  voice of Smaug) should guarantee we get some Wizard battling action in the second movie.

 – Fantasy artist David Ogilvie’s interpretation of the Necromancer.

5. The love of language

Tolkien was a linguist and the use of words, names and translations are a key part to The Hobbit. Some of this is nowadays amusing, such as Gandalf telling Bilbo he must not use the word ‘muff’, while learning the runes is an excellent introduction to code-breaking for children. The book itself has an interesting translation history. In 1938 a German publisher wanted to translate The Hobbit, but Tolkien refused when the publisher asked whether Tolkien was Jewish. Angered by the anti-Semetic attitude, Tolkien replied he was not of the blood of that ‘talented race’ and the translation was off. A few decades later and a group of Israeli POWs passed their time in Egyptian captivity during the Yom Kippur War by translating the novel into Hebrew. A talented race indeed.