Hobbit sized editions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Yesterday I received in the mail my pocket sized copies of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings pictured here:

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Also here:

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The outside feels like this faux leather that bends easily like rubber but seems like it could take a lot of abuse.

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Since they are pocket sized of course the writing is small but the type is equal to any hardcover or paperback edition. In fact, it looks almost exactly the same like they were originally larger and went through a shrink ray.

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In fact, I was surprised to find The Return of the King still included the appendices and the index.

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As far as fitting into my pocket is concerned, it fits about as well as an iPhone 6+. They’re definitely not meant for small pockets or tight jeans but fit nicely in the pockets of my coats, sports coats and blazers.

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They’re a nice edition to my collection and I plan on annotating them to death. If you’re buying these books for the first time though I don’t suggest them.

A Word on the Desolation of Smaug – Extended Edition Trailer

The blu-ray for the extended edition of The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug comes out November 4th in the United States. My copy will hopefully arrive that day but in the meantime here’s a trailer that offer two major bits that got axed from the theatrical edition.

First of all, though he looks a little tall to me in the trailer, that is Thráin, Thorin’s father, confronting Gandalf in Dol Goldur and shouting that Thorin must never enter Erebor. Finally, after getting a name drop in the extended edition of An Unexpected Journey perhaps what has happened to the last dwarven ring of power will be explained. Also, with the jumbling of time Jackson has done I can’t wait to see how he explains Gandalf getting the key and map from Thorin’s father before they’ve actually met in Dol Goldur, that being originally how he got it in the books.

Second, there’s Beorn, barely even in the theatrical release it seem, and this is just my guess, most of what was cut from the film involves Beorn. Before the release of the film there was talks of Beorn hunting down orcs at night to corroborate Thorin and Gandalf’s story. The other part seen in this trailer involving Beorn is in his garden with him chopping wood, possibly for a scene of exposition between Gandalf and Beorn or perhaps the introduction of the dwarves and the telling of what has happened to them so far just as in the books. Also, it looks like a scene in the forest involving Beorn and Gandalf is included as well. It could be possible that Beorn escorts Gandalf part of the way to Dol Goldur considering that the wizard has one of his horses.

Also in the trailer, besides reiterating what was in the theatrical release are scenes involving a conversation between Thorin and Bilbo upon arriving in Laketown and one between the Master of Laketown and Alfred of what Thorin’s quest means to him.

Not included in the trailer but released earlier this summer is extended Mirkwood scene mirroring the one in the book where they have to cross the river and poor Bombur falls into the enchanted water and the company is forced to carry him. You can see most of that scene here:

In interview, Richard Armitage mentions Bilbo and Thorin seeing the white stag, just like in the books, but this stag is projection of Thranduil into the forest. Thorin will try to kill it of course, because dwarf king no like elf king.

It’ll be interesting to see what else was cut that are scenes from the book and what Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh made up for their version of The Hobbit.

In Praise of The Hobbit Illustrated by Jemima Catlin.

Recently, I purchased a new edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit illustrated by Jemima Catlin thinking hey, this might be a great version to read to my nephew in the future or my kids if I decide to have any. I was taken aback when my copy arrived in the mail on Saturday.

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The Illustrated Hobbit

 

You can’t discern it from the photo but this edition is heavy. Not heavy like a big leather bound version of The Lord of the Rings but more like a children’s book that would endure the abuse of being carried around by a child.

To claim our long forgotten goldddddddd.

The cover is flecked with gold bit that shine in the light.

Not just in the title but in the tree Bilbo is leaning and and the animals on the right is bits of gold that really makes the cover stand out. The outside of the cover feels like felt, soft like a stuffed animal.

The Green Door of Bag End.

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

Each chapter begins with an illustration like this. I must admit this is one of my favorite illustrations of the green door of Bag End.

"Who spilled ale on the map, who was it? huh?"

Let’s have no more argument. I have chosen Mr. Baggins and that ought to be enough for all of you.

Larger illustrations like this are sprinkled throughout the chapters. What I enjoy about, and this is no way a jab at Peter Jackson or Alan Lee (who a lot of Peter Jackson’s designs and looks are based on) but I am glad all the characters don’t just look like imitations of the movie versions.

Take that, words!

Considering The Hobbit, or There and Back Again as Bilbo names it, is actually written about Bilbo some people believe the stone giants were in fact made up by him.

Then in pages like this, with the battle of the stone giants, it spreads over the pages as if the words of the book are in the story itself. This similarly happens in the scene with Gandalf lighting the pinecones and throwing them at the wargs.

Beorn to be wild.

So soon they were all seated at Beorn’s table, and the hall had not seen such a gathering for many a year.

Then full page illustrations like this are done for big moments in the books like say, meeting a sleeping dragon. I’m not going to spoil that here as it is a nice surprise when you see it.

This isn’t a review of The Hobbit. I mean, the text is exactly the same as it is in any other volume of The Hobbit, except maybe The Annotated Hobbit. Where this volume stand out is the illustrations. If I were a teacher, this would be the volume I’d read to my kids to introduce them to the world of Middle-Earth and fantasy fiction. If I were a parent of a young reader this would be the volume I’d give them for Christmas or their birthday.

The binding is quality material, beautiful yet durable. The illustrations are beautiful yet still approachable for children and the story is of course a brilliant faerie (in the traditional sense of the realm of the fays) tale.

Jackson’s The Desolation of Smaug expands Tolkien’s The Hobbit for Film

 
     The director of The Hobbit film trilogy expands the film version of Middle-Earth for it’s second outing. While some have called turning the children’s novel into a three part film a stretch, Jackson manages to flush out the Tolkien’s world and characters. In the second part of the film trilogy Jackson continues to do without the slow pace some critics complained about in An Unexpected Journey.

     Right out of the gate the hobbit, the wizard, and the thirteen refugee dwarves of Erebor are still on the run from Azog the Defiler and his orcs. From there the breaks in the action are very short transitioning from Beorn’s House to Mirkwood to Thranduil’s Kingdom to Lake Town to Erebor. Beorn himself and the encounter with the spiders receive the short shaft of this film sure to be expanded upon in the extended edition.
     The second film is far more removed from the source material, but in doing so Jackson makes a better film than the first one. Adapting literally means to make suitable to requirement or conditions and Peter Jackson does a wonderful job in this film. It is different from the book and in one of the rare cases this change made it a better movie than if they strictly stuck to it.
     While Thorin continues down his path to Shakespearean-like tragic hero, Bilbo’s characterization takes a step away from the books that was refreshing. Bilbo struggles with the power of the ring, Unlike Frodo, who has information about the ring during The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo has no idea there is an outside force working against him. This makes his struggle with the power he now has a more inner conflict he needs to work out. In that way, he becomes a better foil to Gollum’s struggle with the ring then Jackson tried to do with Frodo.
     What is highly interesting is Jackson’s depiction of where Gandalf went off to during the journey. Technically, Jackson and company cannot use any material from Tolkien’s other works other than The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings that explains exactly what Gandalf was up to when dealing with the Necromancer. Instead, Jackson surprisingly skirts around the story depicting what happens differently while remaining as close as possible to how it Tolkien canon it actually went. This also gave him the opportunity to backtrack over his mistakes in The Lord of the Rings with his depiction of Sauron as a giant eye.
     Like the Riddles in the Dark scene in the first firm, the highlight of the second was easily Bilbo’s interaction with Smaug. Benedict Cumberbatch was the perfect choice to depict Smaug, which the trailers so far do no justice to how incredible of a dragon he is. Even the often criticised scene of the dwarves and Smaug together is enjoyable just to see more Smaug. The dwarves cowering outside of the Lonely Mountain as depicted in the book would not have worked for this film.
     Complaints of Tauriel’s inclusion will come unfounded as her addition add great dramatic conflict to Thranduil’s philosophy of withdrawal from the problems of the world. Legolas’ inclusion comes more into question as he remains there for pretty action scenes. Despite this, another criticised moment that was highly enjoyable was the barrel action scene depicting it in a fun way that shows off Legolas’ action and a good transition to Laketown what would otherwise be a slow moment.
     Laketown and it’s inhabitant was another expansion of the small scene in the book that served to make a better movie, as Bard the Bowman, The Master and the town itself are more flushed out to make a better conflict for the story. Overall, with a few minor quibbles like changing Bard’s ancestor from a king to a lord and the shortened scenes involving Beorn and the spiders of Mirkwood, The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug is an example of a film where change is welcome.
     J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit will still remain the way it is, and this film does no harm in highlighting what is great about the author’s creation.

How Faithful Are ‘The Hobbit’ Films to Tolkien’s Books? by Corey Olsen, the Tolkien Professor

The Desolation of Smaug Review by Aaron Diaz, author of webcomic Dresden Codak

Movies Will Never Be Books, and TV too! by Me

More like a grocer than a burglar – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Part I

     Last year’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit was met with mixed reviews ranging from people who were either expecting the book, or people who were expecting The Lord of the Rings films. I, on the other hand, loved it. I saw it three times in the theater and about eight times repeatedly on blu-ray. The movie is a strange case for movie adaptations because it takes a lot of liberties with the story of the book, but it manages to keep in little aspects of the book that you’d think would be cut day one for a movie script. What else it manages to do is keep to key themes Tolkien often included in his books.

      Let’s get the negative out of the way first.

Three changes from the books I disliked.

Grocer vs. Burglar – I want to note the distinction really quickly that I used “dislike” instead of “hate”, two very different meanings. In the film when the line “He looks more like a grocer than a burglar” is delivered by Thorin, everyone has a nice laugh and Bilbo looks at Thorin and then to Gandalf in confusion, as he has yet to be informed he’s to be hired for burglarious activities. The entire dinner scene after Thorin’s arrival has Bilbo basically trying to get out of whatever adventure Gandalf is planning. 
     Switching the line from Gloin after hearing the details of the adventure to when Thorin makes his entrance not only takes away a good line from one of the secondary dwares of the film but makes the line seem more cliche movie-like. By that I mean, “hey Thorin’s the main dwarf so he gets the best lines as soon as he makes his entrance.” My bigger problem though is Bilbo’s reaction, and this might be one of those changes that without the inner monologue the screenwriter’s felt it would be hard to convey. In the book, we see Bilbo’s inner conflict with the two sides of him, the bookish Baggins side and the adventurous Took side. In the film there’s is no conflict at all until the argument between Gandalf and Bilbo in his sitting room where the family line is mentioned. We don’t get any visual confirmation of Bilbo’s inner conflict until the brief scene of Bilbo awake in his bedroom listening to the dwarves singing Thorin’s song. I have no doubt that Martin Freeman would have been able to give a performance to show this inner conflict beforehand as someone else said “Martin Freeman might be the best hobbit who ever hobbited.

Azog’s Hand – I honestly don’t mind Azog the Defiler not being killed off and his son taking his place. This might confuse moviegoers who didn’t see the difference between Saruman’s orcs and Sauron’s orcs with how they created, given the scene with the Uruk-hai basically being born from mud and slime of the ground, the question of how orcs reproduce would come into question. The scene I bring into question is the flashback to the Battle of Moria, in which Thorin Oakenshield earns his nickname. It’s all fine and good until Thorin cuts off Azog’s hand. I get what they’re trying to do, link the evil of Azog to the evil of Sauron, raising the unexpected villain up to the level of the Dark Lord and foreboding the darkness settling in on Middle-Earth. The problem is, it seems rehashed more than repeating thematic and not only does it not raise up Azog as a villain, but lessens the scene in the Fellowship prologue with Isildur and Sauron, putting Sauron on the same level as an orc.

Bilbo’s Sword – This one stems from my study of Corey Olsen, The Tolkien Professor’s criticism of The Hobbit but has been so ingrained into my understanding of the book now that I can’t shy away from it. In the book, Bilbo’s discover the knife he would later call Sting on his own in the Troll’s cave along with Gandalf taking Glamdring and Thorin taking Orcrist while in the film Gandalf discovers Sting on his own, handing it to Bilbo with a bit of exposition and how it’ll glow blue. Gandalf’s explanation takes away from the development of Bilbo later on in what Corey Olsen and I believe is the turning point for Bilbo.

But in slapping all his pockets and feeling all round himself for matches his hand came on the hilt of his little sword – the little dagger that he got from the trolls, and that he had quite forgotten; nor fortunately had the goblins noticed it; as he wore it inside his breeches. Now he drew it out. It shone pale and dim before his eyes. “So it is an elvish blade, too,” he thought; “and goblins are not very near, and yet not far enough.” But somehow he was comforted. It was rather splendid to be wearing a blade made in Gondolin for the goblin-wars of which so many songs had sung; and also he had noticed that such weapons made a great impression on goblins that came upon them suddenly.

The scene in the film yet again establishes Bilbo as a humble hobbit and not an adventurer or someone who intends to use a sword, setting up the scene in which he shows Gollum mercy, but it takes this turning point away from Bilbo in the film. It’s after he realizes his sword is the stuff of legends that he decides there’s no going back. It’s an important moment for him, on his own, without Gandalf or the dwarves to help him when he encounters Gollum. Sting is just as important to Bilbo’s development as is the One Ring and the film sort of fails to establish this.

Additions to the film I enjoyed.

Radagast the Brown – Even though he does a terrible job of drawing off the Wargs and Orcs the addition of Radagast the Brown imbeds An Unexpected Journey with a theme very familiar to Tolkien’s work that the Lord of the Rings film trilogy failed to realize at times. The theme of nature and the natural world being affected by the dark power infected Dol Guldur as well as the theme Gandalf mentions to Galadriel later in the film.

Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.

His addition also brings a lighter tone to the film that I believe is refreshing.

Dol Guldur, The Necromancer, The Witch-king of Angmar and the Morgul Blade –  While everyone was complaining that they turned the Hobbit into three films, I got excited because this meant everything only mentioned in the appendix of The Lord of the Rings would come to fruition in these movies. In the book Gandalf just disappears for a bit, says he took care of the Necromancer and wanders back into story. Now in these films we have Sauron in his Necromancer body bringing back the Nazgul, including the Witch-king of Angmar who I believe was underused in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Gandalf and the White Council basically on their own side-quest that will have grave repercussions for The Lord of the Rings. I really hope we get to see the Necromancer in the two films, as we know Benedict Cumberbatch did some acting for it.

Everything changed about the dwarves (so far)- Until the very end of the Hobbit, after Smaug has been taken down the dwarves are kind of goofy, falling over each other, getting captured by trolls, orcs, and elves. None of them are very distinctive at all except with a line or two here and there until later on when Thorin becomes infected with dragon-sickness. In the films, they’re much more unique with drastically different physical appearances, personalities, speech patterns and motivations though sometimes subtle. In the film you can see Balin and Bofur taking a liking to Bilbo, and how Fili and Kili are young warriors trying to prove themselves to their Uncle Thorin, with a bit of youthful mischief still in them. You can see Ori as the baby of the group, a bit more naive than the rest of them and Balin is the eldest, wise grandpa dwarf, friendly but a bit cynical and cantankerous.
     Then there is Thorin Oakenshield, the tragic king of the likes of Hamlet or Macbeth as compared to Aragorn’s King Arthur. Thorin is kingly but filled with anger and mistrust, unable to discern friend from foe, easily holding grudges against those who have wronged him. His progression from dismissing Bilbo to embracing him was great for this story and I am even more excited to see his development in the next two movies.
     Keep reading for Part 2 in which I discuss what I am glad they left out from the books and what I was surprised to find they put in.