Harry Potter and The Hobbit

The Hobbit is in production as 3 separate films, and will be released 1 year apart, with the first due December 2012. Head in to discuss your thoughts and reactions, and post any questions you might have about these films.

Harry Potter and The Hobbit

Postby AlatarVinyamar » Thu Jul 28, 2011 2:51 am

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!
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Postby merlyn » Thu Jul 28, 2011 3:56 am

Tolkien *does* explain why Gandalf left Bilbo with the Ring for all those years; as he explains to Frodo in "The Shadow of the Past".

There was little else that I could do. I could not take it from him without doing greater harm; and I had no right to do so anyway.


Only when Bilbo was about to pass the Ring on to Frodo, but found its hold interfering with his intentions, did Gandalf feel that he could act.
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Postby Gandalf'sMother » Thu Jul 28, 2011 7:23 am

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 to do gymnastics here.

-GM
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Postby The_Angel » Thu Jul 28, 2011 10:08 am

Hmm, I disagree that there's as much of a jump between the first two HP books as there is between The Hobbit and LOTR. I think Rowling did a good job of peeling back the layers as Harry and the other characters grow up.

It's not that Invisibility Cloaks are simply rare and expensive items; it's that Ron (who says that in the first book) doesn't know any better at the time he says that. As the characters get older and more informed, the exceptionalism of Harry's cloak becomes clearer. I wouldn't swear to it, but I think there's something about Invisibility Cloaks losing their magical effects, wearing out, as it were, prior to book 7. (Though I'm going to re-read all 7 to confirm this!)

In contrast, I think there's an absolutely massive "gap" between the first two films and those that followed. Chris Columbus seemed to think he was making twee, little kids films, so we have a superfluity of shots of Harry being amazed by magic, John Williams phoning in a "plinky plonk magician" score, and bizarre period costumes, which don't at all match those in the book.

Thankfully the producers allowed Cuaron to press a big fat reset button, and he completely redefined the look and feel of the series for his own and the five remaining films. That audiences could accept the massive tonal changes between HP2 and 3 suggests that something similar could work, in reverse, for LOTR and The Hobbit.

This is where I'm going to agree with GM's central point, if not the periphery of his argument: PJ et al should concentrate on making the best adaptation of The Hobbit that they can, without worrying unduly about consistencies with LOTR. That would, IMO, result in a whimsical fairy tale, as opposed to a carbon copy of their LOTR adaptations (correct, IMO) grittiness. I fear they've already junked that idea, but ah well.
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Postby Hobbituk » Thu Jul 28, 2011 1:59 pm

What little we've seen of the Dwarves 'in action' suggests a good deal of whimsy and I find that reassuring.

That said, I don't know how they could possibly have all 13 Dwarves and NOT make it a little bit whimsical.
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Postby Frelga » Thu Jul 28, 2011 9:54 pm

That was an interesting and thought-provoking post, Al.

To pick a thought at random, I don't think that the world of the two earlier Potter books is inconsistent with the later ones. It's just that until our hero reaches adolescence, he is capable of viewing this world as a simple marvel and the evil things as adventures. Part of Harry's journey is his ability to recognize the evil while still remaining a good guy.

Middle-earth is different, because the vast amount of invention that happened between it and LOTR really did turn it into a different world. Bilbo's ignorance plays a role in disguising some of these changes.

Still, even ROTK has talking Eagles, evil spiders, magic mirrors, intelligent horses, lazy and quarrelsome orcs.
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Postby merlyn » Fri Jul 29, 2011 4:03 am

Tolkien wrote "The Hobbit" as a bedtime story for his children, bringing in a few "in-joke" references to the Silmarillion (such as Glamdring, Sting, and Orcrist being forged in Gondolin or the reference to the quarrel between Thingol and the dwarves), but presumably without any serious thoughts over where it fitted into the framework of his "legendarium". It naturally had a fairy-tale atmosphere, with animals and inanimate objects being able to speak, and a wealth of unusual creatures.

This even appears in the early stages of "The Lord of the Rings"; "The Fellowship of the Ring" is filled with marvels (the trees of the Old Forest, Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, the Barrow-wights, the hints that Caradhras is aware of travelers and raises snowstorms to use against them, phantom wolves, the Watcher in the Water, etc.). But these become less frequent as we move into "The Two Towers". Increasingly, the story revolves around a "Beowulf-era" war in which Men play the crucial role in the struggle against Sauron (note that while Aragorn receives Ranger reinforcements, Legolas and Gimli do not receive Elf and Dwarf reinforcements - and although Legolas' explanation for this is a good "in-world" explanation, I think it is also thematic), Sauron's forces are largely Orcs (who have become increasingly like grumpy and mean-spirited human foot-soldiers rather than like fairy-tale goblins) and Men (it's clear in Tolkien's description of both the Battle of the Pelennor Fields and the battle before the Black Gate that the Haradrim and the Easterlings are the true backbone of Sauron's army) with only a sprinkling of "Secondary World" creatures (like the trolls). Of course, this makes sense within the story, since a major point of the book is that this is the beginning of the Dominion of Men, when the Secondary World creatures shall fade out.

And Tolkien began writing "The Lord of the Rings" only because his publishers wanted him to; what he really wanted to do was to go back to "The Silmarillion" and its "Heroic Age tales". The shift in "The Lord of the Rings" from fairy tale in the early chapters to heroic saga in the latter shows this desire winning out, I believe.
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Re: Harry Potter and The Hobbit

Postby here2fore » Fri Jul 29, 2011 1:18 pm

AlatarVinyamar wrote: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.


But we've also seen stone trolls in LOTR, both book and film. So there is absolutely no way PJ can pretend that he didn't show them on FOTR. As for the ME canon on trolls, some can stand daylight, some cannot:



Stone trolls: None too bright.
Hill trolls or Olog-hai: Strap 'em to a harness and crack that whip.
Cave trolls: As in "They have a ..."
Mountain trolls: Great against Minas Tirith gates
Snow trolls: Like Sasquatch, nobody's seen one.
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Postby Drogo Baggins » Tue Aug 09, 2011 9:06 am

This is an interesting discussion. As a fan of both here are my thoughts.

I'd say Middle Earth is more consistent than the Wizarding World. The Hobbit is a small story in the bigger world. It doesn't need to address socio/political issues that are swirling around it. LOTR is in the same world but focuses on the bigger picture. Sure there is magic in this world, but it "fits" with the realities of the world. And the magic doesn't necessarily change what is happening in the world. Bilbo's ring doesn't seem like a big deal until Gandalf reconsiders what is happening. It's not that he leaves the One Ring with Bilbo on purpose. He doesn't actually accept it is the One Ring until late.

As entertaining as the Harry Potter books and movies are they are much more simple minded too. As was mentioned the books follow children through their school experience and get darker and more complicated as they grow older. But unfortunately Rowling bends the rules and pulls unknown options out to solve problems. Why wouldn't they use the "Time Turner" to go back and find out who put Harry's name in the Goblet of Fire? Or to stop the murder of Cedric? Or to stop Voldemort completely? Instead it's just a way to take extra classes...until the end when it helps save the day.

Love them both...but hard to compare too...
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Postby Hamfast Gamgee » Wed Aug 10, 2011 1:16 am

There is a subtle shift in the Hobbit as well. Somewhere in the book around two-thirds through, it's hard to say precisely were, the tale somehow changes from a simple adventure tale 'there and back again,' and becomes more about the Lake-men, the Wood-elves and armies of Goblins. This is a subtle change from say 13 Dwarves a Wizard and a Hobbit wandering across the Misty Mountains! Admittedly there is only one army of men, but to make up for that the others seem to act more man-like.
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Postby Crucifer » Tue Aug 16, 2011 5:43 am

Re: trolls freezing, a possible explanation that PJ could use could be that with the Ring dormant under the mountains, and Sauron still lurking in mirkwood, the evil creatures were hugely weakened. Then, once the Ring was passed to Bilbo and as Sauron started massing his forces in Mordor, sending out wraiths to search for the Ring etc., the evil welling up in the world gave these creatures more strength, such as the trolls ability to go out in sunlight.

There's something about orcs not being able to go out during the day (hence the Uruk Hai being so great.) What happens to an orc in the sun? Does it just burn? I seem to remember them just really really not liking it, because it burns, or something like that. Perhaps as Sauron gains strength, and the Ring becomes more active, the trolls' tolerance to sunlight is heightened so that instead of being turned to stone, they just experience the same discomfort as orcs?
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Postby Gandalf'sMother » Tue Aug 16, 2011 6:30 am

It naturally had a fairy-tale atmosphere, with animals and inanimate objects being able to speak, and a wealth of unusual creatures.


I don't think this is the distinguishing factor, as his heroic legendarium - The Silmarillion, includes talking hounds, talking eagles and yes, even talking swords. And, of course, LotR also includes talking (and singing) eagles.

I think it is the tone of the events that set them apart. The Hobbit has a lighter, whimsical tone. In the Hobbit, wallets in troll pockets talk and animals carry food-laden trays. In the Silmarillion, swords talk about how they would be delighted to drink their owner's blood.

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Postby Frelga » Tue Aug 16, 2011 1:19 pm

Crucifer wrote:Re: trolls freezing, a possible explanation that PJ could use could be that with the Ring dormant under the mountains, and Sauron still lurking in mirkwood, the evil creatures were hugely weakened. Then, once the Ring was passed to Bilbo and as Sauron started massing his forces in Mordor, sending out wraiths to search for the Ring etc., the evil welling up in the world gave these creatures more strength, such as the trolls ability to go out in sunlight.


Yes, and this could be handled by a single line of dialog.

GANDALF: Trolls can't abide sunlight, unless protected by some evil sorcery or sunscreen with SPF of at least 60.
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Re: Harry Potter and The Hobbit

Postby Begather » Thu Oct 13, 2016 12:33 am

AlatarVinyamar wrote: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 facts 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!


I think the last movie of harry potter series is the best among all. And i also agree with your point that earlier seasons was not so good as compared to the newer seasons.
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