"The Hobbit" has to play catch-up with what we're presumed to know
Even if you read "The Hobbit," some parts of the new film could raise questions
In "The Lord of the Rings" films, there's one main dwarf, but "The Hobbit" has 13
Those who remember "The Lord of the Rings" will recall Elrond's foster child was Aragorn
Now that you’ve watched “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” you may have some unexpected questions.
Even if you read the book long ago or quite recently, some material was not from “The Hobbit” proper, but from the appendixes to “The Lord of the Rings,” which helped connect the stories. Of course, we had the benefit of seeing “The Lord of the Rings” films first. Despite being a prequel, “The Hobbit” has to play catch-up with what we’re presumed to know – that there exists a Ring of Power that Sauron has lost and Gollum has found/stolen, which Bilbo finds/steals during a detour on a separate adventure.
This is the main connective tissue – the Ring itself – but since everything else can get confusing pretty quickly, we’ll try to sort out some of the pressing matters for you.
How do you tell the dwarves apart?
In “The Lord of the Rings,” films, we had one main dwarf – Gimli, played by John Rhys-Davies. In “The Hobbit,” we have 13. The tallest one (and the leader, with the most lines) is Thorin Oakenshield, played by Richard Armitage. After that, it gets a bit harder. If the dwarf is bald, that’s Dwalin, the first to arrive at Bilbo’s home.
If the dwarf is older with a white beard, that’s his brother Balin (whose tomb you visit in “The Fellowship of the Ring” in the Mines of Moria scene). If the Dwarf looks like Gimli, that’s Gloin, Gimli’s father, who was present during the Council of Elrond scene in “Fellowship.” If the dwarf is older with a gray beard, he’s either Dori (chin-strap beard) or Oin (no chin-strap beard) – unless he has also has an ax in his head, which would make him Bifur. Bifur doesn’t speak much, because of the whole ax-in-the-head thing.
If the dwarf wears a hat and has an Irish accent, that’s Bofur. If the dwarf is fat, providing comic relief, and has an extreme beard (compared to the others), that’s Bofur’s brother Bombur – they’re both cousins of Bifur.
Of the youngest dwarves, there are two subsets – the ones who are hot (Fili the blond and Kili the brown-haired one) and the ones who are not (Nori with three braids and Ori with a perpetually perplexed look on his face – both younger brothers of Dori). Ori, by the way, is the one who wrote about Balin’s death in the book found in the Mines of Moria, so he’s a bit of a historian.
Why is Gandalf so eager for Bilbo to risk his life?
Gandalf tricks Bilbo into “advertising” as a burglar by putting a rune on his door to indicate his availability to help the dwarves retrieve some gold from the dragon Smaug. But why would a wizard of Gandalf’s stature care whether the dwarves got their gold – and their homeland – back or not?
Because he doesn’t want Sauron, now known as the Necromancer, to have access to Smaug, and so killing the dragon is their common goal.
In scenes from the appendixes that might be depicted in the upcoming “Hobbit” films, Gandalf has run-ins with Thrain (Thorin’s dad, who gives him a map and key to Erebor before he dies) and then with Thorin himself, en route to the Shire.
According to the appendixes, Gandalf knew that Sauron was plotting war and intended to attack Rivendell. What was to stop him? “Only the Dwarves of the Iron Hills. And beyond them lay the desolation of the Dragon. The Dragon Sauron might use with terrible effect. How then could the end of Smaug be achieved?” So Gandalf convinced Thorin that they could be of use to each other, and that a Hobbit could be of help, considering his scent would be unfamiliar to the Dragon.
How come Gandalf doesn’t do more? How many wizards are there anyway?
The wizards, or Istari, were apparently sent to Middle-earth “to contest the power of Sauron, and to unite all those who had the will to resist him.” But they were forbidden to confront him directly, according to the appendixes. So while Gandalf could face off against a Balrog in “Fellowship,” or the Mouth of Sauron in “Return of the King,” he can’t go mano-a-mano with Sauron.
Gandalf, as we know from “The Lord of the Rings,” isn’t the only wizard in Middle-earth, and in “The Hobbit,” we meet a new one: Radagast the Brown.
So is there a wizard for every color of the rainbow? No – but there are at least five and maybe as many as seven. We’ve now met three. (Tolkien mentioned two others, Alatar and Pallando, both Blue in his notes).
And Radagast’s role has already been inflated from the books. (In “Fellowship,” Gandalf tells of Radagast’s warning about the Ringwraiths, and how Saruman mocked the Brown wizard as “Radagast the Bird-tamer! Radagast the Simple! Radagast the Fool!” so at least that’s intact).
Why don’t we see Aragorn?
We get some familiar characters in the Rivendell scene, such as Galadriel and Saruman, who join Elrond and Gandalf for the White Council confab. But those who remember “The Lord of the Rings” will recall that Elrond’s foster child at the time was Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), son of Arathorn and heir of Isildur. As a child, he was called Estel, meaning Hope, and his true name and heritage were kept a secret. But if the events in “The Hobbit” take place as written in the books, with Aragorn born in the year 2931, and Gandalf, Bilbo and the dwarves visiting Rivendell in 2941, he would be about 10 years old. Sixty years pass, and then Bilbo has his 111th birthday party.
“The Lord of the Rings” films, however, condense the timeline between Bilbo’s birthday in 3001 and Frodo’s quest in 3018, at which point, the long-living Aragorn is supposed to be 87.
Given this flexibility, Aragorn could have been depicted as either a child or a grown man in “The Hobbit.” Maybe this passage in the appendixes explains where he is right now: “When Estel was only twenty years of age, it chanced that he returned to Rivendell after great deeds in the company of the sons of Elrond.” So he’s away, doing great deeds. With any luck, we’ll get to hear about those in later films.
Has Gollum ever had a girlfriend?