The Hobbit

Legacy

The Lord of the Rings

While The Hobbit has been adapted and elaborated upon in many ways, its sequel The Lord of the Rings is often claimed to be its greatest legacy. The plots share the same basic structure progressing in the same sequence: the stories begin at Bag End, the home of Bilbo Baggins; Bilbo hosts a party that sets the novel's main plot into motion; Gandalf sends the protagonist into a quest eastward; Elrond offers a haven and advice; the adventurers escape dangerous creatures underground (Goblin Town/Moria); they engage another group of elves (The Elvenking’s realm/Lothlórien); they traverse a desolate region (Desolation of Smaug/the Dead Marshes); they are received and nourished by a small settlement of men (Lake-town/Ithilien); they fight in a massive battle (The Battle of Five Armies/Battle of Pelennor Fields); their journey climaxes within an infamous mountain peak (Lonely Mountain/Mount Doom); a descendant of kings is restored to his ancestral throne (Bard/Aragorn); and the questing party returns home to find it in a deteriorated condition (having possessions auctioned off/the scouring of the Shire).[111]

The Lord of the Rings contains several more supporting scenes, and has a more sophisticated plot structure, following the paths of multiple characters. Tolkien wrote the later story in much less humorous tones and infused it with more complex moral and philosophical themes. The differences between the two stories can cause difficulties when readers, expecting them to be similar, find that they are not.[111] Many of the thematic and stylistic differences arose because Tolkien wrote The Hobbit as a story for children, and The Lord of the Rings for the same audience, who had subsequently grown up since its publication. Further, Tolkien's concept of Middle-earth was to continually change and slowly evolve throughout his life and writings.[112]

In education

The style and themes of the book have been seen to help stretch young readers' literacy skills, preparing them to approach the works of Dickens and Shakespeare. By contrast, offering advanced younger readers modern teenage-oriented fiction may not exercise their reading skills, while the material may contain themes more suited to adolescents.[113] As one of several books that have been recommended for 11- to 14-year-old boys to encourage literacy in that demographic, The Hobbit is promoted as "the original and still the best fantasy ever written."[114]

Several teaching guides and books of study notes have been published to help teachers and students gain the most from the book. The Hobbit introduces literary concepts, notably allegory, to young readers, as the work has been seen to have allegorical aspects reflecting the life and times of the author.[104] Meanwhile, the author himself rejected an allegorical reading of his work.[115] This tension can help introduce readers to readerly and writerly interpretations, to tenets of New Criticism, and critical tools from Freudian analysis, such as sublimation, in approaching literary works.[116]

Another approach to critique taken in the classroom has been to propose the insignificance of female characters in the story as sexist. While Bilbo may be seen as a literary symbol of small folk of any gender,[117] a gender-conscious approach can help students establish notions of a "socially symbolic text" where meaning is generated by tendentious readings of a given work.[118] By this interpretation, it is ironic that the first authorized adaptation was a stage production in a girls' school.[47]

Adaptations

The first authorized adaptation of The Hobbit appeared in March 1953, a stage production by St. Margaret's School, Edinburgh.[47] The Hobbit has since been adapted for other media many times.

The first motion picture adaptation of The Hobbit, a 12-minute film of cartoon stills, was commissioned from Gene Deitch by William L. Snyder in 1966, as related by Deitch himself.[119][120] This film was publicly screened in New York City.[119][121] In 1969 (over 30 years after first publication), Tolkien sold the film and merchandising rights to The Hobbit to United Artists under an agreement stipulating a lump sum payment of £10,000[122][123] plus a 7.5% royalty after costs, payable to Allen & Unwin and the author.[124] In 1976 (three years after the author's death) United Artists sold the rights to Saul Zaentz Company, who trade as Tolkien Enterprises. Since then all "authorized" adaptations have been signed-off by Tolkien Enterprises. In 1997 Tolkien Enterprises licensed the film rights to Miramax, which assigned them in 1998 to New Line Cinema.[125] The heirs of Tolkien, including his son Christopher Tolkien, filed suit against New Line Cinema in February 2008 seeking payment of profits and to be "entitled to cancel... all future rights of New Line... to produce, distribute, and/or exploit future films based upon the Trilogy and/or the Films... and/or... films based on The Hobbit."[126][127] In September 2009, he and New Line reached an undisclosed settlement, and he has withdrawn his legal objection to The Hobbit films.[128]

The BBC Radio 4 series The Hobbit radio drama was an adaptation by Michael Kilgarriff, broadcast in eight parts (four hours in total) from September to November 1968. It starred Anthony Jackson as narrator, Paul Daneman as Bilbo and Heron Carvic as Gandalf. The series was released on audio cassette in 1988 and on CD in 1997.[129]

The Hobbit, an animated version of the story produced by Rankin/Bass, debuted as a television movie in the United States in 1977. In 1978, Romeo Muller won a Peabody Award for his teleplay for The Hobbit. The film was also nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, but lost to Star Wars. The adaptation has been called "execrable"[48] and confusing for those not already familiar with the plot.[130]

In Decembers of 2012,[131] 2013,[132] and 2014,[133] Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and New Line Cinema released one part each of a three-part live-action film version produced and directed by Peter Jackson. The titles were The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

A three-part comic-book adaptation with script by Chuck Dixon and Sean Deming and illustrated by David Wenzel was published by Eclipse Comics in 1989. In 1990 a one-volume edition was released by Unwin Paperbacks. The cover was artwork by the original illustrator David Wenzel. A reprint collected in one volume was released by Del Rey Books in 2001. Its cover, illustrated by Donato Giancola, was awarded the Association of Science Fiction Artists Award for Best Cover Illustration in 2002.[134]

ME Games Ltd (formerly Middle-earth Play-by-Mail), which has won several Origin Awards, uses the Battle of Five Armies as an introductory scenario to the full game and includes characters and armies from the book.[135]

Several computer and video games, both licensed and unlicensed, have been based on the story. One of the most successful was The Hobbit, an award-winning computer game published in 1982 by Beam Software and published by Melbourne House with compatibility for most computers available at the time. A copy of the novel was included in each game package.[136] The game does not retell the story, but rather sits alongside it, using the book's narrative to both structure and motivate gameplay.[137] The game won the Golden Joystick Award for Strategy Game of the Year in 1983[138] and was responsible for popularizing the phrase, "Thorin sits down and starts singing about gold."[139]

Collectors' market

While reliable figures are difficult to obtain, estimated global sales of The Hobbit run between 35[98] and 100[140] million copies since 1937. In the UK The Hobbit has not retreated from the top 5,000 books of Nielsen BookScan since 1995, when the index began, achieving a three-year sales peak rising from 33,084 (2000) to 142,541 (2001), 126,771 (2002) and 61,229 (2003), ranking it at the 3rd position in Nielsens' "Evergreen" book list.[141] The enduring popularity of The Hobbit makes early printings of the book attractive collectors' items. The first printing of the first English-language edition can sell for between £6,000 and £20,000 at auction,[142][143] although the price for a signed first edition has reached over £60,000.[140]


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