I'm going to be wildly optimistic today and assume that Peter Jackson's version of "The Hobbit" does get made. What changes to the verbatim- written books do you think would most benefit THE MOVIE? Keep in mind that many thousands of folks who liked the LotR movies have never read the books and will never do so. So, continuity of some kind to the larger work would be important to keep them on board. (I'm ignoring the issue of whether or not a completely "standalone" movie could succeed.)
What changes would best accomplish bridging the gap?
It would tie in the One Ring with the Wizards, Elves & Sauron (with the same actors so that there is continuity... BEFORE Christopher Lee gets too old to be believably strong). I would also like to see an expansion on the story of how Gandalf came to be involved with Hobbits before the Quest of Erebor.
I'm not the best person to answer that...
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I don't think it was ever revealed how he first encountered them, but they could refer to his having helped the Hobbits during the Fell Winter, so that people can get a sense of just how long the association has been between Gandalf and the Hobbits.
I think having Gandalf bring up the subject of Sauron would do the most to tie the Hobbit to LoTR, but I don't see why that eliminates your other options. Technically, Arwen was in Lorien with Galadriel at that time, but the whole point is that this is about the movie, not the books, and that would be a relatively minor change. Certainly Legolas could have been at Thranduil's court, and Drogo and Primula could certainly have been hanging around in the Shire at the start of Bilbo's adventure.
If Estel was a typical 9-year old, he would have been fascinated by Master Elrond's small guest and it wouldn't have taken long before they "accidentally" got into some kind of scrape together. And kids and Hobbits seem to get along pretty well with each other -- look at Pippin and Bergil.
??? I always assumed that's what happened already, which Bilbo mentions
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to Frodo during the Council of Elrond, after saying loud his little poem 'All that is gold...' on Aragorn: 'I made that up myself,' he whispered to Frodo, ' for the Dunadan, a long time ago when he first told me about himself.' Where could the two have met already 'a long time ago' before, if not in Rivendell, at the time of Bilbo's own Adventure??? Or could have it been at Thranduil's Court, precisely, during the same Adventure?... My own idea for this thread was to suggest exactly that in fact: Thranduil's Court was where Aragorn would have met with Legolas, who then would have become the fast friend of Aragorn son of Arathorn that he is, and remarkably so, in the FOTR film, obviously since long already, without any background info being given to us about where and when they had met. I must say I am now totally confused by the calculations by others, who seem to conclude unanimously that Aragorn was only a child when Bilbo came to Rivendell on his way to Smaug's treasure!...