So I’ve learned (from Atomic Moo, naturally) that the new Hobbit movie will feature at least two characters who have little if any presence in the book, the Necromancer (a vile wizard) and Dain, Thorin’s cousin (who succeeds him after the Battle of the Five Armies). We can reasonably hope that these get better treatment than the buffoonish Mouth of Sauron, whom the director wisely cut from the theatrical version.
Their inclusion, as well as the purported length of the two (!) feature films, gives me worry that the aim is to produce a Lord of the Rings “prequel.” But The Hobbit is a very different book; it’s a young soldier/scholar’s escape from the horror of the Great War. The Lord of the Rings is about the modern world (and World War II) entering and destroying his escape, which is why the early chapters feature hooded riders in boots asking for Baggins by name. (As an adult reader, the specter of strangers knocking on doors with my name on their lips is far, far more terrifying than any giant spider.)
The Hobbit is sui generis, not another Middle-earth book. Tolkien filled The Hobbit with Puckish elves and Cockney trolls, a berserker whose table is waited by trained animals, goblins that sing funny songs and a dragon that loves riddles. Gollum is a fairy-tale enigma in one version of the story, a pitiable freak in a revision—he and he alone bridges the chasm between this story and The Lord of the Rings.
And there is the other of my fears: that the Hobbit film will be Gollum’s story and not Bilbo’s. Peter Jackson may well yield to the temptation to set up his protege Serkis for an Oscar! Let us pray that the Riddles in the Dark are properly truncated, and that the forty minute soliloquies are left to the extended Blu-ray discs only.