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Great essay. I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of Jackson's films.

However, Tolkien had given some thought to putting a new light on the events told in "The Hobbit" after getting some way into his trilogy. He now regarded the novel "The Hobbit" as Bilbo's account of what happened, with Bilbo cast as unreliable narrator.

Gandalf relates an altogether non-childish account of Bilbo and Company's adventures in "The Quest for Erebor" in "Unfinished Tales". Though Tolkien decided not to include either of the two drafts in "Return of the King" as planned, they offer a fascinating window into his latter day view of "The Hobbit" as seen through the lens of his greater work.

Here's a snippet of Gandalf's tale:
"Better and better!' I thought. 'I think I shall risk it.' Time was getting short. I had to be with the White Council in August at the latest, or Saruman would have his way and nothing would be done. And quite apart from greater matters, that might prove fatal to the quest: the power in Dol Guldur would not leave any attempt on Erebor unhindered, unless he had something else to deal with.

"So I rode off back to Thorin in haste, to tackle the difficult task of persuading him to put aside his lofty designs and go secretly - and take Bilbo with him. Without seeing Bilbo first. It was a mistake, and nearly proved disastrous. For Bilbo had changed, of course. At least, he was getting rather greedy and fat, and his old desires had dwindled down to a sort of private dream. Nothing could have been more dismaying than to find it actually in danger of coming true! He was altogether bewildered, and made a complete fool of himself. Thorin would have left in a rage, but for another strange chance, which I will mention in a moment.

"But you know how things went, at any rate as Bilbo saw them. The story would sound rather different, if I had written it. For one thing he did not realize at all how fatuous the Dwarves thought him, nor how angry they were with me. Thorin was much more indignant and contemptuous than he perceived. He was indeed contemptuous from the beginning, and thought then that I had planned the whole affair simply so as to make a mock of him. It was only the map and the key that saved the situation."

It is very much a Lord of the Rings version of the adventure, and one suspects there were few if any elves "tra-la-lalling" in it. In fact, I suspect that the Gollumn that would appear in Gandalf's version is the LotR creature that stole babies from their cribs and ate them as he sought news of his ring in Erebor, and not the riddle-spouting sprite of Bilbo's tale.

Based on Tolkien's own work in revising his earlier narrative, I think a somewhat "grown-up" approach to the film would not violate the spirit of Tolkien's vision, though I would not like to see the tale twisted too far into a Jacksonian shape.

I gift this meme to you in thanksgiving for a marvelous post:

The movies were made by...

AOL Time Mordor

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