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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Hobbit:
The case for a younger Bilbo
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Tiria
Bree

Jan 25 2010, 5:09pm

Post #1 of 84 (459 views)
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The case for a younger Bilbo Can't Post

While a few young names have been bandied around for Bilbo, most of the casting speculation so far has hinged on guys who are at least 40 or so.

Personally, I don't think this makes sense.

OK, hear me out!

First off, hobbits age more slowly than humans, yeah? There's the whole coming of age at 33 thing, for one, and then longer average lifespan. So, say average hobbit lifespan is 100, and average human lifespan at the time Tolkien was writing was around 70. Then that would mean that a hobbit Bilbo's age (50 at the start of his adventure) would actually be around 35 in human years.

Secondly, there's LOTR movie canon. Frodo at the beginning of HIS adventure was also around 50. And yet they got away with casting a very boyish teenager in the role. In Frodo's case, having spent nearly 40 years growing up in a household in which the Ring existed would've slowed his aging even further, so the teen thing makes sense there. (Plus there's the whole special elvish air thing...)

This does conflict a little with casting Ian Holm as Bilbo, though. Even at 111, he should've looked younger than Holm's nearly 70, given ~60 years of the ring's influence. Still, I think the Frodo casting--given how well Wood managed to embody the role--is a better precedent to go by.


MissAmused
Registered User


Jan 25 2010, 5:37pm

Post #2 of 84 (262 views)
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I agree [In reply to] Can't Post

I always imagined Bilbo to look quite youthful so an actor in his mid-30s sounds right to me.Plus a younger actor is more likely to be sprightly and good-looking Smile


Kangi Ska
Half-elven


Jan 25 2010, 6:01pm

Post #3 of 84 (275 views)
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No [In reply to] Can't Post

The whole point of the Hobbit is that it is about a comfortable middle aged Hobbit going on an adventure and discovering there was a lot more to life than the way he had been living. This is not a coming of age story. To cast a young person ignores this fundamental fact. In the Lord of the rings Frodo's age was not a critical factor in the plot. It is true that Tolkien wrote him older and this probably had to do with the symmetry of the two tales but it was not fundamentally necessary to the meaning of the quest.

And I really do not care about the Hobbit aging process versus Human. To cast Bilbo to young literally ruins the tale.

Kangi Ska

At night one cannot tell if crows are black or white.




macfalk
Valinor


Jan 25 2010, 6:40pm

Post #4 of 84 (248 views)
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why not [In reply to] Can't Post

cast a 40-year-old so all parties gets satisfied.


Lunamoth
Rohan


Jan 25 2010, 6:45pm

Post #5 of 84 (244 views)
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Cast whoever best meets the Director's vision [In reply to] Can't Post

Whether he be 40, 50 or 20, if he fits the Director's vision, that's who should be cast.

Besides, there are people who look "younger" at 45 than some people do at 30.


Luna's LJ
Tales of Elewir


macfalk
Valinor


Jan 25 2010, 6:53pm

Post #6 of 84 (242 views)
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true [In reply to] Can't Post

billy boyd for example looked much younger than his age (in my opinion)


sticklebat
Lorien


Jan 25 2010, 7:16pm

Post #7 of 84 (238 views)
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yeah... [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm starting to get a little weary of this debate...but here's one more kick at the mule...

as for the whole "Hobbits vs Men aging process therefore looking young, cute, cuddly
or hot and studly"...Crazy
*groan of groans*
ugh! I hope they don't travel that road again...yes, they got away with it once with Frodo...
but please not again...
Professor Tolkien is probably still looking down scowling with distaste over that,
(and the writers knew it well)
they can't sell that idea to me a second time...not with Bilbo...Bilbo is different...

Bilbo should look his age...the actor should at least appear to be 35-40 in my opinion.
he is middle aged, stubborn and set in his ways, somewhat timid, bumbling and fuddy duddy.
the journey he goes on teaches him some important lessons about compassion, courage,
generosity and integrity...

they need to cast the most appropriately aged actor with the right look and credible acting chops,
and I have faith that they will.

if they cast a young twenty something actor this time around just because "it's the movies"
or to satisfy a young demographic just so fangirls will swoon over him...
(and Peter Jackson has stated he is not in favour of catering to a demographic
when he makes movies)...
in the words of Gollum...
"What's it doing? It ruins it!"...
...spoiling nice Bagginses...
indeed, I agree with Kangi Ska on this.

was the casting of Elijah Wood as Frodo a result of studio pressure?

leave the swooning for Bard and Thranduil
if you need to drool over eye candy to enjoy the real story...not Bilbo Studmuffins....

Tri duath telich na estel lin...a si gerich naid bain anirach.

(This post was edited by sticklebat on Jan 25 2010, 7:20pm)


Lunamoth
Rohan


Jan 25 2010, 7:17pm

Post #8 of 84 (236 views)
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Perfect example! [In reply to] Can't Post

I was shocked to find out Billy was so much older than the rest of the guys. He's blessed with youthful genes. :)


Luna's LJ
Tales of Elewir


macfalk
Valinor


Jan 25 2010, 7:25pm

Post #9 of 84 (226 views)
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no studio pressure [In reply to] Can't Post

no sticklebat, from what i can record, peter, fran and philippa was mainly searching for english men. When Elijah sent a videoclip or something of himself and explaining how much he desired the part, and PJ felt instantly that they've found frodo.


Elladan
Rivendell

Jan 25 2010, 8:01pm

Post #10 of 84 (213 views)
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I have to dissagree [In reply to] Can't Post

This is not a tale about a middle aged hobbit, but neither is it a coming of age story. In the book Bilbo is heading into his comfortable years, he is becoming doughy and portly and beggining to forget his dreams of adventure and travel his is not there yet, he is still very much in a late 30s kind of mind set, he does not think of himself as old, as a middle aged person may do.

I agree they cannot cast too young or the essence of the story is lost but that does not mean casting a 50 year old is any more sensible, I have to fully agree with the OP assertion that Bilbo to a human eye would appear to be around 35-40, he cannot possible be older, Hobbits come of age at 33 are we to suggest that 0-33 are teenage years to a hobbit 33-50 is the young reproductive stage, and 50-100 is middle aged to old?

Thats just 17 years of potential reproduction, even in humans we are looking at at least 22 years of potential reproduction, and for a species that lives on average for longer than humans 17 years would not only be absurd but probably a significant hinderance on the species ability to survive.

Of course if we completely ignore any source outside the original hobbit we are left none the wiser to this unusual quirk of hobbits, but as we all know the film makers arnt going to ignore the lord of the rings or any change to the hobbit after the initial publication.

You can continue to argue for a 50 year old Bilbo but I suspect most people will fall into the 30-40 camp.


Tiria
Bree

Jan 25 2010, 8:38pm

Post #11 of 84 (205 views)
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Not teen heartthrobs, just not middle-aged [In reply to] Can't Post

For the record, when I say "younger" I don't mean 20's. Just younger than the 45-year-olds that have been talked about most often.

I think 30-35 is an appropriate age.

As for the "coming of age" at 33, I've always percieved that to be a social milestone and not a physical one. Rather than the onset of puberty, for instance, it would be (in our culture) the age at which someone's graduated college and gets their first job. For us, that might be 22-24, so a 33-y/o hobbit would probably look like a grad student.

This actually works with a formula, even: If human ages are ~70% of hobbits', you'd get this:

Age of majority: Hobbit = 33 / Human = 23
Average lifespan: Hobbit = 100 / Human = 70

So that would make a 50-year-old hobbit a 35-year-old human. Definitely younger than most of the top candidates for the role.

I'm not suggesting Robert Pattinson, here. (Gads, no.) Just saying that someone more James McAvoy's age would make more sense than someone like Ricky Gervais.

I don't think Bilbo's journey is one of a midlife crisis nor a coming of age. More sort of a... Ok, I have my life, now what?


Tiria
Bree

Jan 25 2010, 9:06pm

Post #12 of 84 (203 views)
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Addendum [In reply to] Can't Post

Just noting what I posted below about "younger" meaning 30's rather than 40's, and not some teen dream! Sean Astin, for instance, would be a perfect choice at his current age if he hadn't already played Sam.

For example, some of the others that might work: TR Knight (no, really!), Sam Troughton (currently playing Much in the BBC Robin Hood) and my current top pick, Andrew-Lee Potts (who looks a smidge young for his age, but not too much, and has a very hobbity body language. Give him 20 lbs and a bit of age makeup and he'd be perfect.)

Martin Freeman and Simon Pegg might work, but they both just seem slightly too much on the middle-aged side, to me. Bilbo isn't some old married guy who's tired of the wife and kids and wants to run off to Mirkwood in a Porsche. He's more just like an aging bachelor who's been too stuck in his chosen life to do anything more than the day-to-day grind.


Patty
Immortal


Jan 25 2010, 9:16pm

Post #13 of 84 (194 views)
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I wonder if the age of the viewer/fan impacts how old s/he sees Bilbo to be? [In reply to] Can't Post

That may explain why, as one of the older posters here, I see Bilbo in his 40's. At least.

Permanent address: Into the West


Kangi Ska
Half-elven


Jan 25 2010, 9:59pm

Post #14 of 84 (188 views)
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"beggining to forget his dreams of adventure and travel ' [In reply to] Can't Post

These things were not in Bilbo's thoughts at all. In fact they were the exact opposite of his desires. As to the age thing 30 to 50 is a good range, I depends on the actor. The point is that a twenty-something just will not do. And to add a note: The reproductive span of hobbits has nothing to do with this. I believe Tolkien wrote nothing on the subject so all is speculation.


Kangi Ska

At night one cannot tell if crows are black or white.




Eldorion
Rohan


Jan 26 2010, 12:50am

Post #15 of 84 (166 views)
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Should not the director's vision... [In reply to] Can't Post

...be as compatible as possible with the facts of the book?


Lunamoth
Rohan


Jan 26 2010, 12:58am

Post #16 of 84 (168 views)
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Facts in the book? [In reply to] Can't Post

I see a lot of readers' interpretations of what the facts are in the book. As far as I know, the Professor didn't say anywhere, "Bilbo looks like a human aged 50 or so years... except for the fact that Hobbits look like children to the men of Rohan."

The men of Rohan must look pretty haggard in that case.


Luna's LJ
Tales of Elewir


Tiria
Bree

Jan 26 2010, 1:02am

Post #17 of 84 (163 views)
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The professor wasn't that specific, though [In reply to] Can't Post

The facts of the book are that hobbits have a longer lifespan and an older age of majority than humans.

Exactly how those facts get translated to the screen is up to the director, no?

After all, Aragorn was in his 80s. Should they have cast an 80-year-old to play him?


Finrod
Rohan


Jan 26 2010, 1:14am

Post #18 of 84 (158 views)
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no facts [In reply to] Can't Post

Ahem! Works of fiction do not have facts.

This just shows how successful were the Professorís efforts at subcreation.

…all eyes looked upon the ring; for he held it now aloft, and the green jewels gleamed there that the Noldor had devised in Valinor. For this ring was like to twin serpents, whose eyes were emeralds, and their heads met beneath a crown of golden flowers, that the one upheld and the other devoured; that was the badge of Finarfin and his house.
The Silmarillion, pp 150-151
while Felagund laughs beneath the trees
in Valinor and comes no more
to this grey world of tears and war.
The Lays of Beleriand, p 311




FarFromHome
Valinor


Jan 26 2010, 2:02am

Post #19 of 84 (158 views)
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Yes... [In reply to] Can't Post

what any given reader thinks is a "fact" is really just his or her personal interpretation of a whole lot of hints and general description. Tolkien is very good at getting his readers use their imagination, while giving them the illusion that what they're imagining is "real". Every reader ends up with a whole different set of "facts", which you only discover when you come to a board like this and see just how different everyone's Middle-earth turns out to be.


Quote
Hobbits look like children to the men of Rohan." ... The men of Rohan must look pretty haggard in that case.



Well, hobbits are plump and fresh-faced and beardless. That might be enough of a reason (besides their size) for the hobbits to look like children to weatherbeaten, bearded warriors.


They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



Kangi Ska
Half-elven


Jan 26 2010, 2:18am

Post #20 of 84 (156 views)
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The Men of Rohan were not in the Hobbit [In reply to] Can't Post

Bilbo turned fifty on a barrel floating toward Lake Town.

Kangi Ska

At night one cannot tell if crows are black or white.




Kangi Ska
Half-elven


Jan 26 2010, 2:20am

Post #21 of 84 (147 views)
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In good fiction there are internal facts. [In reply to] Can't Post

If the author violates his own rules it is poor to bad fiction.

Kangi Ska

At night one cannot tell if crows are black or white.




FarFromHome
Valinor


Jan 26 2010, 4:17am

Post #22 of 84 (143 views)
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I was responding [In reply to] Can't Post

to Lunamoth's comment about hobbits being described as looking "like children to your eyes" by Aragorn when he's asking Eomer about Merry and Pippin. I suppose we could say that only information provided in The Hobbit should be used to justify how Bilbo is meant to look, but that seems unnecessarily restricting. Evidence from LotR about the physical appearance of hobbits is surely admissible too.

Actually I'd go further and say that filmmakers need not be bound by physical details from the book at all, providing they can come up with a strong, consistent look that works with the story as they are telling it - although of course, to be successful, it would have to be strong and convincing enough to stand up against people's preconceptions.

At the moment, I tend to agree with those who say that Bilbo's middle-aged outlook is a fundamental part of the story, and that a young actor wouldn't work, not because of looks but because of character. But you never know - I recall that Han Solo was meant to be an old, grizzled kind of space explorer, but Harrison Ford showed how you could take that world-weary persona and make it work with a younger actor. Maybe the same could happen with Bilbo - after all, you don't have to be 50 to be a stick-in-the-mud!

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



Tiria
Bree

Jan 26 2010, 4:33am

Post #23 of 84 (139 views)
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I agree: No 20somethings. But a 30something would do nicely, IMHO [In reply to] Can't Post

Far more nicely than a 40something.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Jan 26 2010, 4:55am

Post #24 of 84 (143 views)
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The reproductive span [In reply to] Can't Post

of Sam is pretty well documented. As far as I can see, he was born in 1380, his first child was born in 1421 and the last in 1442. That means Sam's reproductive span was from the age of 41 to 62 (and would probably have started a year or so earlier, if not for the adventure he had to go on first!)

So at 50 Bilbo would have been the age of a settled paterfamilias - like the fathers of the children who are reading the book. Quite a surprising and subversive idea for them to absorb!

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



squire
Valinor


Jan 26 2010, 5:21am

Post #25 of 84 (150 views)
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Bilbo must be at least 50, or I'm not going to this movie!!! [In reply to] Can't Post

Oh! um...er...I just wanted to see what it felt like to stamp my feet and pout about my vision of The Hobbit.

Feels childish.

Well, I had thought the case for Bilbo being distinctly 50 - yes: middle-aged, fat, balding, greying, starting to wrinkle, fussy, spoiled, rich, self-centered and set in his ways after decades of bourgeois bachelor boredom - was inarguable simply because that is what the book says (and shows) he is.

I am very surprised to find so many people here arguing for a younger or much younger man, for whatever reason. I wonder if that is indeed the direction the director and producer will go in.

Oh well, perhaps The Hobbit film won't be very close to my 53-year-old vision after all. I'm certainly looking forward to seeing it anyway.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary

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