Tag Archive | The Hobbit

Lessons From Bilbo Baggins in 2014

Happy (belated) New Year!

I know, I know…I’m a little late to the New Year’s posting party.  With the holiday season finally winding down and things getting back to normal, I thought I’d take a break from writing and share my thoughts on the past year.  In the words of Charles Dickens, it was the best of times and it was the worst of times.  And yet, like many years past (and many more to come), the days were filled with life lessons that will certainly stay with me for the rest of my life.

I could give you a list like “14 Things I learned in 2014” (I admit that was the original title of this post, but you know how writing works-once you start typing, you automatically change your mind 30 seconds in.)  Instead of giving you my original idea, however, I thought I’d share some of the lessons I’ve learned using examples from Bilbo Baggins, everyone’s favorite Hobbit burglar!

  1. If you have a dream, live it.  Last New Year’s, I bought a Hobbit daily calendar.  On January 2, the picture for the day showed Bilbo Baggins walking out the door of Bag End and heading towards the great adventure that awaited him.  What was ironic about that, however, was that was the exact day I decided to finish and publish The Ripple Affair.  I had a dream of writing, but for so long (ten years, actually), I had delayed pursuing it.  On January 2, 2014, that all changed.  I made up my mind that no matter what, I was going to go on an adventure!  At least of the literary sort.  A few months later, my book was finished and headed to the publishing company.
  2. Be confident.  I have to admit that pursuing your dream is easier said than done.  Like what Bilbo faced, there’s a lot of scary things out there when you go out on your adventure.  There are (internet) trolls who will mock your work.  There are people (like Thorin) who might be unsure if you’re really qualified to accomplish that dream.  But the fire in your heart can only be quenched by you.  Believe in yourself.  Remember that you have a purpose.  And at the end of your adventure, your life will be golden knowing you’ve accomplished your dream.
  3. Have compassion.  There are a lot of hurting people in this world.  Maybe (like the Dwarves of Erebor), they lost their home.  Maybe (like Thorin), they lost a family member.  Or maybe they’re just plain having it rough and struggling with burdens (like Gollum and the One Ring).  Sometimes it isn’t easy to have compassion.  Sometimes we’d rather ignore the hurts and cares of others instead of listening or helping.  In the end, kindness triumphs, but only if we allow it.  Be kind.  Be compassionate.  And like Bilbo, you’ll be a history-changer.
  4. Let go of the past.  Maybe this would be a good time to play that one song from Frozen.  And in all honesty, I think this lesson should be based on Bard and Thorin instead of Bilbo.  Maybe we used to have it all and then a dragon swooped up and took it.  Maybe we come from a shamed family background that didn’t quite live up to expectations in saving the town from said dragon.  Or maybe we’ve just had a string of bad breaks, one after the other.  But like Bard and Thorin, we can choose how our past affects our present and future.  Will we obsess over what has happened and dwell on it until it consumes us, or will we let it go and let our past strengthen us for the days to come?  Will we be a Thorin, spending years over what used to be only to find our future spent?  Or will we be a Bard, remembering the past but knowing it doesn’t have to paralyze us, using what we’ve learned as preparation for the destiny in store.
  5. If you ever go on an adventure, hide the spoons.  Because we all have a Lobelia Sackville-Baggins in our family who would just love to have them.

I hope 2015 fills your days with joy, peace, prosperity, and purpose.  Have a wonderful New Year, everyone!

Getting a Little Crowded…

So I’m in the process of a re-write of my novel and I’ve noticed how different the story is compared to a year ago when I thought the story was finished.  The plot is deeper, the characters can be more easily related to, hints and clues to the overall story are being put here and there.  I’ve also given minor characters some bigger roles.  All of these changes are helping my story become bigger, better, and stronger.

As I was writing the other day, though, I came upon a bit of a puzzle.  I have a new character who will *eventually* become a big part of the story (this is a planned series so said character was supposed to show up somewhere towards the latter part).  But with the plot going through some major changes, I began to debate with myself-do I want to introduce this character a little earlier than planned?

Normally this wouldn’t be much of a problem, but I’ve got more than one or two main characters.  And if I introduce the new character now, I worry whether it may be too many new names and side-stories for my readers to keep track with.

Recently, my Mom and I went to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  I was going into the film already familiar with the books and lore while my mom was going into the film as a casual movie-goer.  Throughout the film, I cheered with the appearance of Beorn, Thranduil, Bard, and Smaug, while my mom constantly asked questions.

“Who’s Thorin?”

“Which one was Smaug?”

At the end of the film, I found myself having to explain the story all over again because my mom had trouble following all of the characters and sub-plots.  This doesn’t mean that The Desolation of Smaug was a bad movie (it was actually quite good, at least in my opinion), nor does it mean my mom can’t follow a story line.  It just means that for people who are unfamiliar with Middle Earth, all those characters and subplots may make them feel lost when jumping into the middle of the story with no background knowledge.

After seeing my mom’s experience, it made me start questioning on whether adding more characters to my story was a good decision or a bad one.  Grant it, what I’m writing is nowhere near the scale of Lord of the Rings, but it got me thinking as to whether there is a thing such as too many characters.  Is it possible to have your story too detailed or too deep?

I may not ever know the answer to that question.  I often wonder if there really is one.  It may just depend on the story.  Lord of the Rings, in its vast lore, has many characters that an entire novel can hold just their names, and yet it’s hugely successful.  There have been other stories that have been met with failure because of “too much, too soon.”  But whether full or light on characters, maybe it’s not just the number that is important, but the quality.  Sure, Tolkien had many characters, but they had a high quality about them.  They were exciting, memorable, and unique.  Each reader (or viewer) could find a character they could relate to.

So instead of asking whether I can remember all of my characters, maybe I should ask if I have characters worth remembering?

From Book to Film: Interpreting Story on the Big Screen

So in about a week the new Hobbit film is coming out.  I admit I’m already planning on seeing the film with my little bro and maybe, just maybe, dressing up like Bilbo when I go (I dressed up as Frodo for Return of the King, so I might as well make it a tradition.)  That is, assuming it doesn’t snow.  Hobbit feet don’t exactly feel too good on ice and gravel…

Anyways, I’m already hearing from others about the addition of a few characters in the film that were not in the book.  You may recall (if you have ever read “The Hobbit”) that there was no rear-kicking lady named Tauriel defending Mirkwood like an Elvish Katniss Everdeen.  And though Legolas (*insert fangirl swoons here*) was a major part of The Lord of the Rings, he was not a very present character in “The Hobbit”.  The spotlight instead settled on his father, Thranduil, since he’s the king of Mirkwood and a major player in the quest for all that Dwarven gold hoarded up in Erebor.

Though these changes may not compromise the entire plot of the story (I’m fairly sure we all know that Smaug, Bilbo, and Thorin’s fates will remain the same as in the book), many fans are not happy that such a change has taken place.  The book was a success for a reason, they state, and rather than add a potentially poor plot point to sour a story, why not keep the good story there already is intact?

Film adaptations of a book are a tricky subject.  Some film adaptations work really, really well.  An example could include The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter.  Some film adaptations, however, do not work so well.  (I’ll let you insert your own films in this one.)  Regardless, adapting a book to film is tough because not only do you have to please the fans of the book itself, but also try to win over an audience who either didn’t read the book or didn’t like the book after reading it.

I’ll confess that I did not read The Lord of the Rings before seeing The Fellowship of the Ring in theatres.  I hadn’t even heard of the story until seeing a copy of the book on display in the mall with a movie tie in showing off Elijah Wood holding Sting.  After seeing the film with family, though, the movie got me so intrigued that I went out and bought the trilogy and read the books over the course of a month.  Now being familiar with both the story and the movie, I didn’t mind that Tom Bombadil didn’t make an appearance and the Barrow-Downs were skipped over while the Hobbits made their way to Bree.  It was a part of the books I didn’t mind to part with because the film (for me) still stayed true to the overall story and was so well done that it left me with wanting to know more about the characters and story universe.

Now when The Two Towers came out, it was a tad different.  I was already familiar with the books and the second part of the trilogy was my favorite part of the series.  It introduced my favorite character, Faramir, and I already had some pre-conceived ideas of how that whole scene with Shelob was going to be.  And let’s not forget the Battle of Helm’s Deep.  That was going to be epic.

When I eventually saw the film, I enjoyed it.  Gollum was well done (that scene with him and Frodo talking about “Smeagol” was breath-taking film work.)  I also enjoyed the introduction of Eowyn and Eomer.  But once we got to Faramir and Helm’s Deep, my opinions started to change.  Faramir was quite different in the film than he was in the books (you’re taking the ring to Denethor?  Whaaaaaaaaa?) and then Haldir (my favorite Elf) died at Helm’s Deep?

Yeah, I didn’t like that part.  Considering he wasn’t even there in the books.

It was then that I learned just how tricky adaptations could be.  Don’t get me wrong-I loved The Two Towers.  It was a great film.  But those slight changes sort of lowered my affection for the film when compared to the first movie because it changed something that I really loved from the books.  That being said, I know others who are familiar with both the books and the films and they swear that The Two Towers is the best film of the trilogy, changes or no.  Faramir’s character shift and Haldir’s death didn’t bother them in the slightest.

So with The Desolation of Smaug coming out, I don’t doubt that there will be some fans who are disappointed with the addition of Tauriel and Legolas while other fans will love it.  Right now my own opinion is indifferent until I see the movie.  But even though I know going into the film there’s going to be some changes from the book, I’m going to be asking myself these questions:

  • Do the changes add, take away, or do nothing to the overall story?
  • Does the overall message of the story remain the same?
  • Does the visual story impact me as much as the literary story?

If the changes add to the story and if the messages remain the same, then in my opinion, the changes are a good thing.  If the changes take away and the overall message does not remain, then the changes are not a good thing.  And as far as the visual story goes, for me the purpose of film is to connect with an audience primarily using the senses of sight and sound.  With reading a book, you’re interpreting what’s being read and imagining what it looks and sounds like.  Is the film pleasing to the eyes?  Do the actions of the actors, music in the background, and sights/sounds/visuals of the setting create a visually pleasing world for the story to grow in?  If they do, then you’ve got one good film adaptation.

My Love/Hate Relationship with Thorin Oakenshield

It pains me to admit this, but when I first read “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien, I hated Thorin Oakenshield.

After I read it a second time, I still hated him.

And the third time.  And the fourth.

There was just something about him that I didn’t quite get.  He was nothing like Bilbo, all cute and cuddly and innocent.  He wasn’t like Gandalf, powerful and clever.  He wasn’t like Balin, wise and practical for the sake of the Company.  He was just…Thorin.  Rash.  Arrogant.  A gold-hoarder in some ways like the dragon he fought to drive out of the Mountain.

And that’s why I didn’t like him.  He was the epitome of traits I had grown to despise.

Yet just like people in real life, I found myself starting to understand Thorin the more I got to know him as a character.  And that all started when the first Hobbit film by Peter Jackson was released in theatres last December.

I was ecstatic over the movie.  We Tolkien fans waited a long time after the Return of the King to see our beloved Hobbit become a live action film.  When I went to the theatre and saw it, I wasn’t disappointed.  The characters, the setting, and the story was everything I had hoped it would be.

But before I sat to watch the film, I expected to hate Thorin.  I was going in as a Bilbo fan.  (And a secret Thranduil fan.  I mean, the guy is Legolas’ dad!  What fangirl wouldn’t adore him?!)  Then the first sequence of the film started.  There was Bilbo and Frodo talking with Bilbo working on his book.  And then Bilbo began telling the back story of how Smaug invaded Erebor and took over the Dwarven kingdom.

The back story of the Erebor invasion is mentioned briefly in The Hobbit.  We get a glimpse of why Thorin had to leave (yeah, we know there’s a dragon somewhere in that mountain) but we don’t get as much detail about what happened that day except in other stories that Tolkien wrote.  Out first glimpse of Thorin (in the book) isn’t in a detailed cinematic scene of him defending his home and losing everything or feeling betrayed by the Elves.  It’s him showing up at Bag End with a bunch of Dwarves at a frantic Hobbit’s house.

I admit I hadn’t read much of Thorin’s back story when I read The Hobbit all those times.  Yes, books like “Unfinished Tales” and “The Silmarillion” sat on my bookshelf, but being the busy person that I am, I really hadn’t taken the time to read them.  Because of that, I never quite got to know Thorin as I should have.

After seeing the film, I decided to give Thorin another chance.  I familiarized myself with what Tolkien had wrote about Thorin in tales besides The Hobbit.  I re-watched The Hobbit film after it came out on DVD.  And then I decided to read The Hobbit again, this time with familiarity of Thorin’s past.  After I read The Hobbit, I looked at Thorin in a new light.  Before, I only saw the rash and arrogant Dwarf who wanted his gold back.  Now, I saw a hurt and sorrowful king who lost his family and kingdom.  I finally understood the brilliance of Tolkien’s character and how his past connected with his (later) emotional turmoil.  Instead of a villain or anti-hero, Thorin became more of a tragic character for me, and after I finished the chapter where Bilbo sees Thorin after the Battle of the Five Armies, (spoilers!) I cried.  I was honestly sad about Thorin’s fate.

In the end, I knew I had always believed the phrase “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”  It’s an analogy that rings true in both literature and real life.  The same thing goes with characters in a story.  Often times, we judge a character by a few actions and think we have him/her pegged.  Sometimes we’re right (Gandalf started off awesome and he was still awesome by the time The Return of the King ended), but sometimes there’s more than meets the eye.  The more we dig into a tale, and into a character’s own personal story, the more we come to know why the character does what he or she does.  We get to know them inside and out-the real person, the real character.  Sometimes, a character can surprise us.

And after I’ve gotten to know Thorin Oakenshield, I’ve come to realize I don’t hate him after all.

And I’m going to bring LOTS of tissues to the final Hobbit movie.