The Tolkien Nerd’s Guide to The Hobbit - page 3 | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
Click the image above for a full-size version of this infographic (Rose Eveleth)

The Tolkien Nerd’s Guide to The Hobbit

Peter Jackson’s blockbuster movie draws upon stories behind stories behind stories, just as J.R.R. Tolkien’s original works did

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“At heart, Jackson and his team did a careful job of scouring The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings for more information about events at the time of Bilbo’s journey,” Rateliff said. “They made good use of these to flesh out events that occur off-stage in Tolkien’s original book, like the meeting of the White Council.”

Radagast the Brown

In the movie, Bilbo and the dwarves face imminent death by an approaching orc horde in the western lands of Eriador (not 100 percent clear since this meeting never took place in the books), when the wizard Radagast the Brown turns up with his sled of rabbits to save the day. Though a Jackson addition, this scene does pay homage to Tolkien with two much-appreciated nerd references. First, Gandalf warns that his friend cannot outrun the wolf-like Wargs, since they are from Gundobad. This seemingly made-up label actually refers to Mount Gundobad, the goblin kingdom to the north of Mirkwood forest. Radagast is not having it, however. “These are Rhosgobel rabbits, I’d like to see them try!” he retorts, making a second reference to his equally obscure homestead of Rhosgobel.

Radagast himself appears only briefly in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit when Gandalf mentions his existence. Radagast’s central role in the film—especially the rabbit chase scene, which made Drout wonder “if George Lucas was allowed to touch the script”—is Jackson’s invention.

(See the full-version infographic of where these plot points came from)

Ungoliant the spider

Even Ungoliant, an evil spirit who originated “before the world” and takes the form of a massive spider, gets a brief citation. “Ungoliant is mentioned in The Lord of the Rings in the description of Shelob, ‘last child of Ungoliant,’” Drout said. “But you’d only know the significance of the word Ungoliant if you’d read The Silmarillion.”

Potential plot threads for the next films 

Having a handle on the Tolkien lore can also clue fans in on potential scenes to come in the second and third Hobbit movies. (Warning: for those who prefer to avoid possible spoilers, skip this section!) For example: Will viewers be treated to a flashback of Gandalf wandering into the dungeon of Dol Guldur to recover the map and key for the Lonely Mountain from Thorin’s crazed, imprisoned father, Thráin? Will Galadriel’s forces take on the Necromancer as detailed in the appendices and hinted at in The Hobbit when she reassures Gandalf, “If you need me, call and I will come?” And will Bilbo meet an intriguing 10-year-old named Aragorn in Rivendell on his journey back to Hobbiton?

Of course, some fans will never be satisfied by Hollywood’s stab at Tolkien, no matter how faithful the films are to the original works. When technology reaches the point that Tolkien zealots can produce their own movies, however, this may change. “Some nerdy person like I was when I was 14 will sit in a basement for three years and come out with a film that perfectly renders everything,” Drout predicted. “At that point, there will be nothing that intellectual property lawyers can do to stop it.”

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