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Harry Potter and The Hobbit


Jul 28 2011, 9:52am

Post #1 of 23 (2016 views)
Harry Potter and The Hobbit Can't Post

Having watched the final Harry Potter movie, I find myself comparing the two franchises, as books, as movies and as adaptations. I think the two franchises are similar in many ways, and these similarities are what I want to discuss from an adaptation point of view.

Firstly, to look at the novels as series. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are set in the same world. Just about. Its a very uneasy marriage. The Middle Earth of The Hobbit is very different to that of Lord of the Rings. Much can be partially explained by the "Bilbo as Narrator" device, and the escalating danger as the War of the Ring approaches, but much simply has to be ignored. In The Hobbit we have a talking purse, Cockney Trolls who turn to stone in daylight, a talking thrush, a talking raven, a magic ring (of which there are many apparently), singing orcs, magic doors that only open at a certain time of the year under a certain moon (in other words practically useless except as a plot device), a magic arrow that never misses its mark, a were bear served by animal servants, including some who have been trained to walk on their hind legs and carry trays. In The Lord of the Rings, all of these are ignored, not mentioned or brushed under the carpet to serve the darker, more serious world. Early in Fellowship we get the sentient fox, but this feels almost like a mistake, an anachronism in the LotR. Bombadil also straddles the two worlds, having been brought in from another source and shoehorned into the story. As such Tolkien has to make an effort to explain him and his odd nature, fairly unsatisfactorily. We also have the disappearing Wargs in Hollin. However, by The Two Towers, we're in the "real" Middle Earth. The gritty one, where magic is subtle, where dangers are real and can't simply vanish with the dawn. Every reader of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings has had to make this mental bridge. Some still find the gap too far. Some go to extraordinary lengths to justify it. Most of us simply choose to ignore the seams.

The Harry Potter series was not written in the same fashion. J.K. Rowling states that she always intended it as a 7 book series, one for each of the years of school. But again, the Hogwarts of Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets is a very different world to that of the later novels. Students of Hogwarts sing the school anthem at the top of their voices to whatever tune they prefer, "Hoggy, Hoggy, Hogwarts" indeed. Harry has a magic cloak, but its just "really rare/expensive" and gets confiscated like a spud gun, not a unique item of all powerful wizardry. Most of the drama is around playing Quidditch and winning the House Cup rather than fighting evil incarnate. In this sense, the first two novels are more like Enid Blyton novels, simply kids outsmarting the adults and having a jolly good time, like a Famous Five for the new generation. With Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire we move into a more serious phase, much as Fellowship sort of bridges the gap between The Hobbit and LotR "proper". Now we have death and torture, and the politics of Evil. By the end of the series we're in a very different world. "You know who" isn't just a childish inability by adults to speak their fears aloud, one that the plucky kids ignore, its a real fear caused by a summoning curse that attracts Deatheaters when Voldemort's name is mentioned. The Invisibility Cloak is one of the Deathly Hallows, and part of a triumvirate of items that will grant immortality to Voldemort. Dumbledore is not just a kindly old man, he has raised Harry like a lamb for slaughter. Its a much darker world.

Aside from the superficial similarities, probably the most obvious comparison is the Invisibility Cloak. Like Bilbo's ring, its an innocent item, one of many. Rare, yes, but nothing really special. However, in Deathly Hallows it becomes a unique item of great power, that the dark lord must possess if he is to live forever. As in LotR we have to wonder what the hell Gandalf/Dumbledore were playing at. We, the readers, knew nothing of this, but Gandalf and Dumbledore both knew that their charges had in their possession items of immense power, yet allowed them to treat them as playthings. Again, we must willingly suspend disbelief to accept the storyline proposed.

So how did the Harry Potter movies get away with this? In essence, they made the first couple of movies just a little bit more serious, to match the tone of the later movies more closely. Also, they simply didn't mention anything that they might have to explain away later. PJ and co obviously have the more difficult task. They need to move from the darker world back to the simpler, more light-hearted one. Because for The Hobbit, PJ can't simply pretend its the first movie. We've seen Middle Earth. We know the rules. We've seen Trolls in daylight. The Ring is all powerful and dangerous. Will PJ simply show the gap and let the audience ignore the seams? In some ways that's what happened in Harry Potter. No attempt was made to imbue the Invisibility Cloak with portentous symbolism. It remained a kids plaything until suddenly, it wasn't. Can PJ do that with the Ring?

I think its safe to say that, as with the first two Harry Potter movies, the really childish aspects will be excised. The talking purse will go the way of the Hogwarts Anthem. Where elements can be altered and retained, they will. Examples here would be the Trolls, the talking animals etc. These I could see being handled in a more realistic fashion, rather than a comical one. Use of telepathy/subtitles will show Bard understanding the thrush, and Balin understanding Roac, rather than actual spoken English in the case of Roac. However, its impossible to completely ignore the Ring. If the Ring had been introduced in the Hobbit movies first as it should have been, it could have been treated like the Invisibility cloak, and let its significance become clear over time. But we've seen the Wraith world. Putting on the Ring is a scary transportation to a world of dead kings and giant eyes of flame. Yes, I know Bilbo seemed to use it that first time in Fellowship with no worry, but for the Cinema goer this needs to be explained. Perhaps PJ and Co will start with a subtle effect that grows more pronounced as the movies progress, tying the wraith world effect of the Ring to the rise of Dol Guldor in some fashion. However, he still needs to make it innocuous enough that Gandalf does not seem foolish in leaving Bilbo to play with "One of the Great Rings, for clearly it was" for 60 years. Its a thorny problem, and I think, the most difficult one they will have to face.

Anyway, I've meandered a bit from topic to topic, but I hope there's enough here to merit discussion!


Jul 28 2011, 12:50pm

Post #2 of 23 (1385 views)
One subtle way Tolkien has provided us to show the darker nature of the Ring [In reply to] Can't Post

is Bilbo lying about it. In the original version of The Hobbit, Gollum was less dangerous and showed Bilbo the way out. He didn't get angry at Bilbo for stealing the ring or try to kill him. Tolkien realized he had to change this bit to make Gollum and the Ring fit with LotR, so he revised Riddles in the Dark in The Hobbit and explained away the old version in the LotR prologue by saying "Bilbo lied the first time."

I think PJ should have Bilbo telling Gandalf and the dwarves the untrue and more benign version of the story. This would be a good way of hinting that there is something dark and sinister about the ring, especially if Bilbo has been a straightforward and honest guy through most of the movie.

(This post was edited by kzer_za on Jul 28 2011, 12:55pm)


Jul 28 2011, 2:30pm

Post #3 of 23 (1325 views)
The difference is not huge [In reply to] Can't Post

LOTR is sometimes more mature and at times less mature. LOTR has talking/walking trees, and some very light-hearted and juvenile moments (Tom Bombadil and Goldberry) . LOTR also recycled many plot elements and characters from The Hobbit such as eagles saving the day for the heroes. The Hobbit also has the benefit of a much darker ending than LOTR - I have no worries it should turn out fine on the screen I think.

The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.

(This post was edited by macfalk on Jul 28 2011, 2:32pm)


Jul 28 2011, 2:46pm

Post #4 of 23 (1297 views)
The seams are what give it life [In reply to] Can't Post

The "seams" or the "inconsistencies" are what make Middle Earth, and Tolkien's mythos, work so well, IMO (including the Bombadil 'seam.') I, and I expect many others, certainly do NOT ignore them. Some things happened in the deep past, and different storytellers tell the story of what happened in different ways, often contradicting each other (the Bible is actually an excellent example of this). As Tolkien mentioned through the character "Ramer" in the Notion Club Papers , and as highlighted by Tom Shippey in the Road to Middle Earth :

"I don't think you realize, I don't think any of us realize, the force, the daemonic force that the great myths and legends have. From the profundity of the emotions and perceptions that begot them, and from the multiplication of them in many minds - and each mind, mark you, an engine of obscure but unmeasured energy (my italics)."

The more "consistency" that is forced on the films, the more diminished the story will be, IMO. They will look more like standard fantasy, and less like the sui generis wonder Tolkien gave to the world. Philippa's recent comments about diminishing the 'episodic' nature of the book concerns me for that reason. I imagine they will more closely link Smaug, the Great Goblin and the Necromancer, giving us a neater plotline, but losing mystery and necessary bewilderment in the process. I think if they go for consistency between the Hobbit and the LOTR films, the story will further suffer. There is a reason why Tolkien abandoned that attempt. He likely realized that his obsession with attempting consistency was ultimately folly.

I'll half-quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, which I think is appropriate:

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds...

Just tell the story of the Hobbit, tell it well, and it will work. No need for to do gymnastics here.



Jul 28 2011, 2:52pm

Post #5 of 23 (1276 views)
The characterization of those elements [In reply to] Can't Post

...as "juvenile" is off, IMO. Simply because a certain type of thing, like a jolly enigmatic nature spirit/who knows what, or a talking tree (though Tolkien does not describe the Ents as talking trees) has been deemed 'juvenile' by a certain segment of the population, does not make it so. Arguably, these enigmatic elements of Tolkien's mythos are some of the most powerful and most mature. They defy classification, and they speak to deep and intangible truths, which cannot necessarily be said about all of the other allegedly more 'mature' elements of the story. The Battle of Helms Deep is arguably less 'mature' and less illuminating than the scenes with Bombadil and Goldberry. Indeed, Tolkien thought cutting it out of the story would not be a big deal. He said no such thing about Bombadil and the Ents.


Jul 28 2011, 3:01pm

Post #6 of 23 (1261 views)
Mass society as the dividing line. . . . [In reply to] Can't Post

The main difference between these two blockbusters (Rowling has sold nearly 1/2 billion HP books, Tolkien not far behind -- or slightly ahead) is that HP was always a mass society product and Tolkien was decidedly anti-mass society. HP's world was arguably a surviving remnant of a medieval age, BUT it was embedded in a muggle mass society. Likewise, the author always meant her works to be marketed through the greater mass media. This is definitely not the case with Tolkien. His works are way on the other side of even our Middle Ages, and as for his publishing arc, well, it reads like Frodo taking the ring to Mt. Doom, i.e., lots of harrowing experiences and lots of sheer luck. I don't believe Tolkien ever wrote a single word intending to make us mass society bunnies happy, whereas Rowling aimed straight at our mass society feel-good centers.

Starting with the Industrial Revolution, people like Marx and Weber et al began the modern science of sociology. One of their foundation points was just how isolated and alienated the mass society individual was -- despite being crowded into urban areas. Now look at how adept Rowling was at playing on our mass society needs: She gave us a loving family, a supportive mini-world, people who cared deeply and heroically about one another, i.e., things we mass society bunnies crave and will sit in dark theatres for to live vicariously.

Tolkien, however, had no such warm-fuzzies for us moderns. He gave us myth-legend not far in style from pre-Xian Norse myth-legend. Sure, we crave heroes, but nothing he wrote and subsequently got out to mass media supports or complements mass society's agenda, which is basically utilitarian.

Tolkien was very much anti-nihilist, anti-utilitarian, and to varying degrees anti-tech, anti-rationalist. Tolkien was to some degree pro-monarchist. Rowling probably could care less about such things. The things she openly promoted in her books were decidedly pro-mass society: multiculturalism, anti-elitism ergo anti-royalty.


Jul 28 2011, 3:47pm

Post #7 of 23 (1258 views)
I agree with with you absolutely... [In reply to] Can't Post

The strength of Tolkien's mythology for me is that it isn't just one novel, all neatly worked out and consistent. Just like real world history and mythology it grew over an extended period and takes in different narrative styles, changing ideas and understanding. I'd rather embrace the lot and enjoy it than start cherry-picking which bits are 'acceptable'. It's all acceptable, that's why we're still reading and discussing the books.


Jul 28 2011, 3:52pm

Post #8 of 23 (1226 views)
I don't know that I fully agree, but I hear what you are saying [In reply to] Can't Post

Though I do see more similarities between the two authors than you suggest...when you said "She gave us a loving family, a supportive mini-world ... The things she openly promoted in her books were decidedly pro-mass society: multiculturalism, anti-elitism.." I thought immediately about Sam and his family at the end of LOTR, I thought of how an Elf and Dwarf started as enemies and became best friends, I thought of how the new crown king said to 4 hobbits "you bow to no one". I don't think Tolkien was necessarily pro-monarchist or completely anti-utilitarian against mass society.


"You shall not pass!"


Jul 28 2011, 5:01pm

Post #9 of 23 (1208 views)
Interesting post [In reply to] Can't Post

If I'm reading you correctly (pun intended), you are saying that the first two Harry Potter books are much more different from the later books, in comparison to the movies whereby the first two movies are not quite as different from the 6 that follow...!?

When you say:
"...the Hogwarts of Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets is a very different world to that of the later novels."
I assume you mean the novels only and not the movies, because the movies don't seem quite so diffent to me. They progress away from a more youthfulness with each movie, but in line with how the actors are getting older, though each movie has both light and dark moments.

"...Dumbledore is not just a kindly old man, he has raised Harry like a lamb for slaughter."
In the movie it appears that was just from Snapes perspective and Dumbledore appears to explain it a bit to Harry, or at least Harry seems to understand better and that Dumbledore wasn't a heartless old man that led him to the slaughter house. When I asked my daughters who have read the books, they said that Dumbledore explains to Harry that he had guessed that Harry would be ok in the end, and comically says that his guesses were usually pretty good...or something to that affect.

"...most obvious comparison is the Invisibility Cloak...charges had in their possession items of immense power, yet allowed them to treat them as playthings...Again, we must willingly suspend disbelief to accept the storyline proposed."
I don't think (at least from the movie perspective) we have to suspend any disbelief here. Dumbledore trusted Harry and knew that he was the one would eventually need this powerful object. Also, if I understand correctly, alone it is just a cloak of invisibility, but only when you have all 3 objects do they become more powerful...

I think your conclusion is quite good and I would guess you are right on most of it, but I am curious about one point you made:
"...However, he still needs to make it innocuous enough that Gandalf does not seem foolish in leaving Bilbo to play with "One of the Great Rings, for clearly it was" for 60 years. Its a thorny problem, and I think, the most difficult one they will have to face."

In the movie Gandalf says that the ring was here all along, right under our vary noses...basically that he didn't know that Bilbo had the ring. Is this different in the book? If not, then Gandalf never let Bilbo play with the ring as you suggest, and just didn't know he actually had it in his posession.


"You shall not pass!"


Jul 28 2011, 5:47pm

Post #10 of 23 (1219 views)
One key difference of course [In reply to] Can't Post

is that HP was written as a coming of age tale from a child's perspective and as the series progresses both the characters and the readership mature. There is no real inconsistency in her world, just a steady shifting of tone, after all, the whole seven books were planned out quite meticulously from day one.

I think framing the movie as PJ has decided to do goes along way to satisfying both the need to keep the film in line with the LOTR movies and the Hobbit book tonally. Beyond that, there will be quite a difference with visualisation than with the written word. Because of the perspective and personality of the writing in The Hobbit alot of it came off a lot simpler and siillier than it does if simply recreated neutrally on screen. The BO5A is a good example.

All you have to decide, is what to do with the time that is given to you...


Jul 30 2011, 3:31am

Post #11 of 23 (1084 views)
Well I will have to pass on this one... [In reply to] Can't Post

Comparing J.R.R. Tolkien to J.K. Rowling is way too much of an heresy for me to write something about that matter, sorry.


Jul 30 2011, 6:11pm

Post #12 of 23 (1060 views)
How mature of you ;) [In reply to] Can't Post



Jul 30 2011, 7:10pm

Post #13 of 23 (1060 views)
Yes I am ;) [In reply to] Can't Post

Actually it is my maturity that allows me to state without any shame how much I dislike Harry Potter... Evil

Tol Eressea

Jul 31 2011, 9:41am

Post #14 of 23 (1044 views)
One small point - [In reply to] Can't Post

- but a significant one is that the line 'You bow to no-one' does not come from Tolkien.

Tolkien's Aragorn bowed to Sam and Frodo only, and before he was crowned. Merry and Pippin were in their proper roles, as knights of Rohan and Gondor respectively. Their place would have been in the ranks with their fellow-soldiers, but as this was a special occassion they were permitted to wait upon the guests at the Field of Cormallen.
(see RK; 'The Field of Cormallen')

Tolkien was not an egalitarian - in his world, everyone had their proper place. As the Ring-bearers, Frodo and Sam were being exalted above others who'd fought in the War of the Ring, including their friends, who as sworn knights of their respective lords had done no more than duty and fortune allowed (to paraphrase something Tolkien's Gandalf said).

(This post was edited by geordie on Jul 31 2011, 9:44am)


Jul 31 2011, 11:04am

Post #15 of 23 (1018 views)
Comparing these books... [In reply to] Can't Post

Just doesn't work. The Harry potter books are not very well written compared to lord of the rings the hobbit and other such books. The only reason they got so popular over other fantasy books out there was because of the very unique theme.

Wizards in a school, a perfect teenage book. The movie that was made 2 years after the books release only made that particulary book more popular. There are many fantasy books out there that are just like Harry Potter in style. Twilight is another one of those books that are popular but not necessarly good.

Comparing lord of the rings to Harry Potter is like comparing movies with tv shows. Tolkien created an entire world with races places and history. Rowling created a school filled with teenage drama...


Jul 31 2011, 12:17pm

Post #16 of 23 (1046 views)
Sigh... [In reply to] Can't Post

There is a reason I posted this in The Hobbit Movie forum, and I'm not really sure why it got moved. I'm not comparing Tolkien with Rowling, or Harry Potter with Lord of the Rings. I'm comparing and contrasting the approaches in adaptation to movie of both franchises, and as part of that pointing out that both works are uneven and, to quote Tolkien, "grew in the telling". The differences in tone and style were not planned for in either case, and in both cases left a gap that needs to be addressed in the adaptations.

Really, it would help in these discussions if people assumed that the other party was more literate and informed, rather than less. You'd be surprised how often that's the case. Wink

Grey Havens

Jul 31 2011, 6:04pm

Post #17 of 23 (1036 views)
I'm not sure if you considered this... [In reply to] Can't Post

What about the fact that Rowling had a great deal of careful input on what from the books was kept in the films and what were okay to leave out? Unlike Tolkien, who is unable to directly tell Jackson what he should leave in or take out, Rowling's input played a significant enough role in the Harry Potter films that any perceived uneven-ness (is that a word?) would have likely been in part from her.

I don't see the uneven tone you refer to between the first few Harry Potter movies vs. the later ones. One thing Rowling did well (and I sometimes get annoyed on this board by people saying she didn't write well, because on a developmental level, she was incredibly astute) was she had Harry & his friends grow up. I have read very few children's or young adult novels where the characters, as they grew up, showed actual realistic developmental changes. Harry clearly went through some points in the latter books where he really was acting like a teenager. He went from having unwavering trust in Dumbledore as a child to questioning him and everyone else in typical teenaged fashion in the latter books. I think Harry's development set the tone. I also think the movies got that. The reason the earlier films were simpler and more childlike is because Harry was simpler and more childlike. As he grew older, the complications of his situation came more and more to the foreground. That's kind of what growing up is. You learn to see the complexities of life that you never noticed as a kid, when everything seems black and white. Where a Snape was clearly bad, only to find out in the end that his actions were a lot more complex.

“Tell me one last thing,” said Harry. “Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?”
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”


Jul 31 2011, 8:00pm

Post #18 of 23 (978 views)
So Middle-earth = Feudalism? // [In reply to] Can't Post


The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.

Tol Eressea

Jul 31 2011, 8:16pm

Post #19 of 23 (1002 views)
I don't think so - [In reply to] Can't Post

- in feudalism, (as far as I understand it) there are lords who own land, and also the serfs who work the land. That's not the case in M-e. There is a hierarchy, of course; with kings and nobles at the top, and everyone else in various layers underneath.


Jul 31 2011, 9:05pm

Post #20 of 23 (995 views)
Twilight and Harry Potter [In reply to] Can't Post

did have mass media on their side, including (and perhaps more importantly) the Interwebs. But that is one of AlatarVinyamar's premises explaining Harry's meteoric success.

It is a thought provoking article Alatar. At first blush I was expecting a surface comparison of the movies (which would have been too easy). Your assessment of Lord of the Rings, especially as it fits with The Hobbit is quite good. I would comment further but I am not familiar at all with the Harry Potter books (and not many of the films). Just wanted to say, well done.

(This post was edited by SirDennisC on Jul 31 2011, 9:06pm)

Arwen Skywalker

Aug 1 2011, 2:50am

Post #21 of 23 (997 views)
You're not passing on the discussion....... [In reply to] Can't Post

if you bothered responding to the OP at all.

Grey Havens

Aug 3 2011, 3:49pm

Post #22 of 23 (943 views)
I think the HP books have been much easier to adapt... [In reply to] Can't Post

...for the simple reason that they are told in a relatively linear and simple fashion (not Stephenie Meyer simple, but still simple) compared to LotR. The language is not confusing or archaic, but modern. The Professor wrote most of his works, even the one's for children, in a fancier linguistic form, because of his specialty in language (some of the dialogue in the Hobbit is beautiful, even for a lighter tale). So one could definitely say the HP adaptations have been much smoother to translate to the movies. The books themselves seem to me to be already in the form of a film when you read them, it's much easier to imagine the characters interacting in a way that suits film. The Hobbit and LotR are not so kind however, to the screenwriters, because of the complicated nature of the timelines and structure. I'm kind of biased however, because I've only been able to sit through one or two of the HP films, as the rest bore me to tears. But Rowling is definitely a talented storyteller, no question about it.

I'm one of those people though that think the writers did about as good of a job as they could have, adapting such an expansive story into 3 feature length movies. Even though there were some deviations, they really hit it out of the park, as far as telling the main plot and fleshing out their characters.

"I warn you, if you bore me, I shall take my revenge"
--J.R.R. Tolkien

The Shire

Aug 4 2011, 12:47am

Post #23 of 23 (1037 views)
Also... [In reply to] Can't Post

There are many things that make the adaptations very hard to compare: in HP, there were books that haven't still been written when the movies started, also as taeko says, Rowling was involved in the making of the movies. I believe that the inconsistency you mention, is due to the different directors that had different approaches, you do not find as many differences in the books. PJ filmed the three movies together, with the scripts written from day 0, and didn't have Tolkien telling him what to show and what not.

Now, about the 'two Middle Earths': at the ending of TROFK, Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin return to a Shire were everybody seems unaware of what just happened, so with that last image in mind, you go to TH and it's logical this more 'innocent' world. But then, the dangers and the evil starts to show. And if PJ intends to put part of the appendices (I got that right, right? I hate spoilers, so I'm not really into the possible plot of TH), that will also help to that notion of increasing danger.

Also, I recall something about Gandalf saying he thought the ring would be safe for a while in Bilbo's hands... Maybe I'm just delusional... What I'm sure about, is that when Bilbo lies about the ring to Gandalf ant the dwarves, Gandalf knows he's lying and that he used something to escape from the goblins. I got the impression that he knew about the ring.

-¡Ningún hombre viviente puede impedirme nada!
-¡Es que no soy ningún hombre viviente! Lo que tus ojos ven es una mujer. Soy Éowyn hija de Éomund.

-After all this time?
-Always, said Snape.


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