The Hobbit (1977 film)
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The Hobbit was a 1977 animated television movie by Rankin/Bass Productions based on the book of the same name. It manages to retell most of the story within its 77-minute span. An LP with the soundtrack and dialog from the movie was also released in 1977 by Disney through its Buena Vista Records label, and, by popular demand, an edited version (along with accompanying "storyteller read-alongs") was later reissued for the Mouse Factory's Disneyland Records imprint.
Cast[edit | edit source]
The film was produced and directed by Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass and adapted for the screen by Romeo Muller; with Rankin taking on the additional duties of production designer, and Bass adapting some of Tolkien's original lyrics, as well as contributing, along with Maury Laws, an original theme song, "The Greatest Adventure (The Ballad of the Hobbit)," sung by Glenn Yarbrough.
The same team, along with Bean, Huston, Theodore, Frees, Messick, Stephenson, and Ravenscroft returned for the 1980 adaptation of The Return of the King.
Synopsis[edit | edit source]
Bilbo Baggins the Hobbit is smoking outside when suddenly Gandalf the Wizard appears and tells him he wants to hire a burglar. With him are thirteen Dwarves: Thorin (their leader), Balin, Dwalin, Fíli, Kíli, Dori, Nori, Ori, Óin, Glóin, Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur. After they eat, they explain to Bilbo that the evil Dragon Smaug stole their treasure in the Lonely Mountain, and they need Bilbo to help them reclaim it.
They set out next morning, and eventually seek shelter from a storm in a forest. There they see three Trolls. Thorin tells Bilbo to steal some meat from them; however, the trolls catch them and try to eat them, until Gandalf returns and the sun rises, turning the three trolls to stone. Bilbo finds their cave and Gandalf and Thorin each take a sword. Bilbo also takes a smaller sword. Gandalf suspects that the trolls might have stolen them. He also gives Thorin the map of the Lonely Mountain (Erebor) and the key to the secret passage into the mountain.
They then arrive at Rivendell, the city of the Elves, where Elrond gives them food. He says that Gandalf's sword is called Glamdring the Foe-Hammer, and Thorin's sword is called Orcrist the Goblin Cleaver, and that they are elven blades. He holds the map up to the moon, revealing the moon letters on it, that says to stand by the grey stone when the thrush knocks in order to see the secret passage. Afterward, they continue their journey, but are caught in another storm and seek shelter in a cave. Once inside, Gandalf disappears again, and the ponies are stolen by Goblins. Bilbo and the dwarves try to save the ponies but are also captured by the Goblins. The Great Goblin tries to eat Thorin for carrying Orcrist, but is killed by Gandalf. They continue through the cave, but Bilbo falls into a hole.
Bilbo wakes up in a cave, where a dark creature named Gollum lives. After finding a golden ring on the ground, Bilbo is challenged to a riddle contest by Gollum: if Bilbo wins, Gollum shows him the way out, but if Gollum wins, he gets to eat Bilbo. After a few riddles, Bilbo asks what he has in his pocket. Gollum is unable to answer correctly and, thus, loses, but first decides to show Bilbo his ring, only to find it missing. By the time he returns, Bilbo puts the ring on and turns invisible. Gollum thinks Bilbo knows the way out and goes to head him off. Bilbo follows him and runs past him out of the cave.
After meeting up with Gandalf and the dwarves, Bilbo continues his journey with them only to run into Goblins and Wargs. They are chased up a tree, and the Goblins set the trees on fire, but Eagles rescue them. The Lord of the Eagles did so because Gandalf healed him from an arrow-wound a long time ago. The Eagles take them to the edge of Mirkwood, and it is here where Gandalf leaves them for good, leaving Bilbo in charge and instructing him to write a log.
Wandering through Mirkwood, Bilbo and the Dwarves are captured by Spiders, but Bilbo escapes by killing a spider with his sword. He then names his sword "Sting." He finds the Dwarves and cuts them free, killing a spider with a rock. While the Dwarves flee, Bilbo stays behind to put on his ring and then fight the spiders, who are forced to retreat. When Bilbo finds the Dwarves, they are captured by Wood-elves, but he follows them in secret with the aid of his ring. The Elvenking orders them locked away because, out of greed for the treasure, they won't tell him why they were in the forest.
After a while, Bilbo figures a way out: he steals a key from a drunken guard to get them out of their prison cells, and has them hide in empty barrels (with him riding on top of one) along the river, out of Mirkwood and toward Lake-town. When they arrive at Lake-town, Thorin introduces himself as the grandson of the king under the mountain. Bard the guardsman and his men give them food, and they continue toward the end of their journey at the Lonely Mountain.
Bilbo finds the secret door while the thrush knocks, and Thorin unlocks it with the key. Bilbo enters to steal treasure from Smaug, and puts the ring on to avoid being seen. He speaks in riddles to him, and observes that he has a weakness; a scale on his chest is missing. Bilbo takes off the ring before he leaves, taking a cup with him, and Smaug breathes fire at him. He believes Bilbo to be from Lake-town, and goes there to destroy it in revenge. A thrush, at Bilbo's command, tells Bard of Smaug's weakness, and Bard shoots Smaug with his black arrow, killing him, but destroying Lake-town in the process.
Bard leads an army of men to the Lonely Mountain to inform Bilbo and the dwarves that Smaug is dead and that he has been made king, and requests a share of the treasure to help rebuild Laketown. Bilbo is willing to do this, as there is enough for all of them, but Thorin refuses. The Elvenking and his army arrive, also with the intent of getting treasure, and a three-way war is declared between Dwarves, Elves, and Men. The dwarves seem outnumbered until Balin informs Thorin that an army of dwarves led by his cousin Dáin is coming.
Just when the three armies meet up to battle, Gandalf appears and tells them that an army of Goblins is coming. Thorin, Bard, and the Elvenking join forces to fight the Goblins; however, they are at a disadvantage until the Eagles show up, making it a "Battle of Five Armies." The Goblins are defeated, but Thorin is mortally wounded, and dies from his injuries. He does, however, part from Bilbo in friendship. With his share of the treasure, Bilbo returns to his quiet life in the Shire, with Gandalf accompanying him on his way back.
Scenes[edit | edit source]
- "Bilbo's Visitors" (4:07)
- "Outlining the Adventure" (3:53)
- "Credits" (2:20)
- "Troublesome Trolls" (3:35)
- "Lonely Mountain Map" (3:06)
- "Elves of Rivendell" (3:04)
- "Goblin Attack" (3:33)
- "Gollum's Riddle" (6:20)
- "Follow the Leader" (4:28)
- "Funny Little Things" (2:12)
- "Flown to Mirkwood" (2:36)
- "Forest Diary" (3:04)
- "Spider's Web" (1:19)
- "Sting Strikes" (2:00)
- "Wood Elves" (2:50)
- "Laketown" (2:04)
- "Secret Doorway" (2:09)
- "Smaug's Lair" (4:14)
- "Weak Spot" (4:31)
- "Black Arrow's Mark" (3:08)
- "Treasure Clash" (2:59)
- "Five Armies Meet" (4:42)
- "Farewell, Thorin" (2:07)
- "Only Beginning" (1:50)
- "End Credits" (0:56)
Critical Reaction[edit | edit source]
The movie was first broadcast on NBC in the United States, on November 27, 1977, and was tailored to children: the story was done in a very light-hearted style, and featured a lot of songs (most of which came from the book). Much of the story was simplified and several key parts are omitted.
The art is both praised and criticized. Some reviewers regard it as a strong point of the movie. Inaccuracies in the depictions draws a lot of criticism from Tolkien fans: Gandalf has a hood instead of a hat, despite clearly being described in the book; Gollum looks like some sort of frog-creature (though the book does describe him having large eyes and webbed feet but little else of his appearance is said); Elrond has a beard despite the book outright saying that Elves do not have beards; the Wood-elves, rather than being the "fair folk," are almost as ugly as the goblins (and the Elvenking has a thick Austrian accent); Smaug is extremely hairy and cat-like for being a Dragon.
In 1977, NBC, Rankin and Bass won a Peabody Award for The Hobbit. The movie was also nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1978, but lost to Star Wars.
Differences from the book[edit | edit source]
While the movie is quite faithful to the story, it is at its core still a child-oriented musical adaptation, and therefore not a perfect adaptation of Tolkien's novel. Most of the changes are found as omissions rather than modifications of the plot.
- All the Dwarves show up with Gandalf all at once in the film rather than coming in groups the day after Gandalf meets Bilbo and puts a mark on his door.
- The only dwarves that speak in this film are Thorin, Balin, Dori, Bombur and one line by Dwalin as the gate of the mountain is opened, and the voices of Fíli and Kíli can be heard at Bag End, cursing Smaug in a cheer.
- The company leaves Bilbo's house on ponies, but after that the ponies are not seen until they are lost in crossing the Misty Mountains. In the book, the company rode ponies from Bag End to Rivendell.
- Bilbo is noticed by the Trolls as he sneaks up to steal some meat rather than disclosed by the Trolls' "talking" purse.
- The Dwarves flee in terror from the Trolls and are picked up one at a time instead of walking blindly into the camp and being ambushed (except for Thorin, who puts up a fight).
- Gandalf apparently has the power to make the dawn come earlier in dispatching the Trolls rather than tricking them by throwing his voice.
- The Troll cave does not have a locked door as in the book.
- Gandalf gives Thorin the Map of Thrór and the key in the troll cave rather than back at Bag End.
- The wrong runes are identified as the moon-letters reading "Stand by the grey stone [...]" on Thrór's Map. Instead of the moon-letters appearing beneath the "Desolation of Smaug" on the map, they are here shown to be the runes that appear beneath the hand pointing to the secret door into the Lonely Mountain, which actually read "Five feet high the door and three may walk abreast. -Th. Th.". However, they are here still read by Elrond as "Stand by the grey stone [...]".
- Up in the mountains, there are no stone giants playing games amidst the storm.
- Gandalf is missing in the cave when the goblins emerge, rather than sleeping when it happens. The Dwarves run into the tunnel rather than being grabbed.
- The Dwarves do not fight the goblins in the tunnel.
- Bilbo specifically asked Gollum what he has in his pocket rather than muttering it aloud to himself. Gollum does not even try to guess instead of demanding three guesses. Only four riddles are said in the movie (there were ten in the book).
- Bilbo pulls the ring out of his pocket after Gollum says he's looking for his "golden ring, magical ring."
- Bilbo has no trouble getting out the back door; no Goblins to sneak by or tight spots to fit through.
- Rather than meet the Wargs in the forest, the Goblins come with them, riding on them and wielding torches (despite the Wargs' fear of fire in the book).
- The Great Eagles do not take the company to their eyries, but to the edge of Mirkwood, bypassing Beorn (who does not appear in the movie).
- The incident at the enchanted river, including Bombur's magical sleep, is omitted.
- Bilbo has to fight and kill only four spiders rather than dozens and dozens. Bilbo's sword, Sting, always glows in the movie regardless of whether goblins are nearby or not.
- Thorin is captured with the other Dwarves by the spiders and then the Wood-elves rather than before them.
- The feasts of the Wood-elves are omitted (yet are referred to in Bilbo's log after the Wood-elves capture him and the Dwarves).
- There is no stop over from the journey via barrels from the Wood-elves' castle to Lake-town.
- There is no Master in Lake-town; Bard the guardsman runs the city.
- The company does not make camp at the base of the mountain.
- Balin does not go with Bilbo into the secret entrance.
- Bilbo has only one audience with Smaug and the thrush is present. Bilbo orders the thrush to seek Bard to tell him of Smaug's weakness.
- The Arkenstone and all that goes with it is omitted.
- Roäc the raven is omitted. In the book, the ravens tell the Dwarves that Smaug is slain and is sent to Dáin to call for assistance. In the movie, the Dwarves wait, lost inside the Lonely Mountain for a week and it is never explained why Dáin arrives at such an opportune moment.
- The company discovers the two armies coming when they are on the doorstep rather than being warned in advance.
- Since the Arkenstone is omitted, Thorin instead loses respect for Bilbo through his supposed lack of understanding of honor and war.
- Thorin and the dwarves plan a suicidal last stand against the elves and men in a pitched battle outside the mountain and are pleasantly surprised when Dáin's army arrives.
- Ravenhill is not mentioned.
- The armies in the Battle of the Five Armies are divided differently (Bilbo counts the Goblins and Wargs as one army; the Eagles are counted as a separate army).
- Beorn is not present in the Battle of the Five Armies. Also, Bolg is never mentioned or seen.
- In the book, only Thorin, Fíli and Kíli die from the battle, leaving 10 survivors from Thorin's company. In the movie, Thorin, Bombur and five other unnamed dwarves are all killed. (In fact, Bombur was one of the few Dwarves in the quest known to be still alive in the days of The Lord of the Rings.) Glóin is the only other dwarf whose fate is officially revealed in the movie, as he is seen covering up Thorin with a blanket after he dies. Another dwarf (who does not clearly resemble anyone from the company) then lays Orcrist on top of Thorin's body. It's possible that this could be Dáin.
- Most of the return journey, including winter at Beorn's home, a stop at Rivendell, and digging up gold they buried by the troll camp, is omitted.
- The auction back at Bag End is omitted.
- Gandalf and Balin's visit to Bag End years later is omitted.
Follow-up[edit | edit source]
At the end of the film, Gandalf reveals to Bilbo that he is not only aware of Bilbo's ring, but knows that it is in fact The One Ring, and foreshadows the events of The Lord of the Rings. In the books, the ring is not discovered to be The One Ring until The Fellowship of the Ring. Such an indication would lead one to believe that Rankin/Bass was always intending to do a follow-up using story elements from The Lord of the Rings. Indeed, production had already begun on their adaptation of The Return of the King before The Hobbit had even originally aired. However, it remains a mystery as to whether or not their plans for what story elements from The Lord of the Rings were originally intended for inclusion in this follow-up were at all affected by the 1978 theatrical adaptation by Ralph Bakshi, which was also in production at that point.
External Links[edit | edit source]
- "Will the Video Version of Tolkien Be Hobbit Forming?" dated 27 November 1977, The New York Times (accessed 27 November 1977)
|Licensed screen adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's works|
|Animation||The Hobbit (1966) · The Hobbit (1977) · The Lord of the Rings (1978) · The Return of the King (1980) ·The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim (2024, upcoming)|
|Live-action||The Lord of the Rings film series||The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) · The Two Towers (2002) · The Return of the King (2003)|
|The Hobbit film series||An Unexpected Journey (2012) · The Desolation of Smaug (2013) · The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)|
|TV series||Hobitit (1993) · The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (2022-present)|