What Would Tolkien Say?

I wasn’t that surprised when I heard originally that The Hobbit would be expanded into more than one movie. Harry Potter 7 and Breaking Dawn have set the precedence. But I was stunned (pleasantly, I must admit) that somehow the thin, children’s book is going to take as much time as Lord of the Rings, volumes of which are well-known for many attributes, not least that of a competent doorstop.

Still, I thought, in Peter Jackson I trust. LOTR is an amazing movie trilogy, so why not have the hobbit and dwarves trudge through countless woods and mountain ranges. Offer a few character insights, and smoke a few more pipes around the fire. Works for me and I doubt a particular Oxford linguistics professor would have minded.

But, now I hear that Peter Jackson has actually invented some new characters and I must admit to feeling somewhat perturbed. Is J.R.R. Tolkien sitting in his celestial study puffing his pipe furiously? 

It had occurred to me that we are a bit short on the females in this book, less noticeable for a book, but an issue for the screen. This has obviously occurred to Mr. Jackson as well, as he introduces Tauriel, an elven warrior, who according to the info released is head of the elven guard. Lost star Evangeline Lilly plays this fearsome (and no doubt sexy warrior) and she is quoted as saying:

“She is a warrior. She’s actually the head of the Elven guard. She’s the big shot in the army. So she knows how to wield any weapon, but the primary weapons that she uses are a bow and arrow and two daggers. And she’s lethal and deadly.”

While I am the last to complain about introducing any elf, I feel uneasy. And it has nothing to do with her resembling a Mord Sith. I’m feeling rather traumatized, having (after watching Legend of the Seeker on TV) just listened to Wizard’s First Rule – Terry Goodkind – on audio alone in my car, which fleshes out (excuse the extremely accurate pun), the Mord Sith techniques. Let’s just say that if any woman in red leather comes within 50 feet, I’m running.

But the question is not what this humble elfwriter thinks, but what Tolkien would say. I have a number of books on the master, but never met him. However, I can’t help feeling he would not be amused. 

I can’t imagine someone taking my books and inserting new characters. It seems to be one step too far. What do you think? How loyal should Peter Jackson stay to the original work?

When does The Hobbit become The Hollybit?


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He has written three epic fantasy novels and the first reached the Quarter Finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award as of March 2012. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

10 comments on “What Would Tolkien Say?

  1. lisafender says:

    I wonder what he would say too, but i am sure it will add to the movie and the story. I am looking forward to it!

  2. Sorry about this long winded post:

    I too felt that LOTR and The Hobbit were a bit short on females but it was understandable given when Tolkien was writing and the world he was basing his mythology on. However Tolkien’s women had a depth and complexity that I overlooked when I read the books as a teenager in 1970.

    Mythology and history is full of strong females warriors (although outnumbered by the men – or were they just the ones in charge of the recording!!). Also beyond LOTR and The Hobbit there are other strong female warriors – best example being Lúthien Tinúviel.

    As for what would Tolkien say: Supposedly Tolkien created the mythology and history of Middle-earth to serve as the poetic legend he felt his homeland, England – lacked. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/ngbeyond/rings/myth.html.

    As Christina Scull in The Development of Tolkien’s Legendarium: Some Threads in the Tapestry of Middle-earth said. “Practically speaking, of course, none of the Matter of Middle-earth was ‘finished’ but continued to evolve, and was open to second thoughts, while Tolkien lived.” So if Tolkien was still alive would he have continued with those second thoughts. I have read in a number of lectures, articles and books that he wanted his ‘mythology’ to be evolve just like others have done. Shouldn’t that include 21st century reinterpretations like films or online game eg: LOTRO) as long as they are firmly rooted in the lore?

    Jackson & team as devoted Tolkien fans have lifted most of their material from LOTR, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion and other writings as well.

    • Elf Writer says:

      Great response, Roland. Thank you for taking the time to write this. I think you are absolutely right.

      Perhaps Tolkien would like to know that his work continues to evolve decades later. I think many authors of epic fantasy continue in his footsteps, so why not movie producers?

      I will stand first in line when the movie comes out. I just wish I could invite an old Oxford professor to join me and hear his comments afterwards over a pint.


      website: http://www.alonshalev.com/

      blog: http://www.elfwriter.com/

      twitter: @elfwriter

      “All that is gold does not glitter; not all those that wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

  3. Lisa says:

    I think the Tolkien FANS are more perterbed by this than Tolkien himself would be hehe! Needless to say, I am looking forward to the movies because it isn’t just the Hobbit – parts of the History of Middle-Earth will also be included! 🙂

    • Elf Writer says:

      So true, Lisa. I didn’t realize until people began to comment here and on twitter (@elfwriter) that Peter Jackson is drawing on work from Tolkien’s other works. I’m pumped. Roll on december!

      website: http://www.alonshalev.com/
      blog: http://www.elfwriter.com/
      twitter: @elfwriter
      “All that is gold does not glitter; not all those that wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

      • Lisa says:

        I just love the meme I have seen around on social media – something like: “Don’t worry! The Mayans were only counting down to the first Hobbit movie!” 🙂

  4. adtrosper says:

    I’m one of those people that feel if you they can’t stay true to the book, then don’t make the movie.

  5. As a Tolkien fan I’m a little dismayed that Peter Jackson is adding characters, even if they are female.
    But if Tolkien were alive today, I think he’d realize, like Stephen King, that a movie is a different art form than a book, and changes are made to adapt the story. Not only that, but movies are created by the collaboration of many artistic minds, each adding their own ideas.
    Given the fee and royalties he would make if he were alive today, I think Tolkien could adapt.
    louise3anne twitter

  6. fonch38 says:

    I am a fan of Peter Jackson, but i have admited one thing that the presence of Evangeline Lilly do me very nervous, i do not understand because Peter introduce this character, i have he has to be good with the feminist section. Respect that Tolkien aprove the change i have my doubts, he has unsuitabel with the time who live, i do not believe that he did not apreciate the changes. Other surprise is the apparition of the brown Wizard Radagast, who does not appear in the book, although is mentioned in the Hobbit when Gandalf meet with Beorn. Curiously Radagast appear in The Lord of the Rings, and he transmit the message of Suraman, who do fall in the trap, although he helped to Gandalf to scape he transmit the message to Gwahir that he save Gandalf.
    I totally agree with Roland i believe that Tolkien has a very interesting female character Arwen sacrifice your inmortal life for love, Luthien, without a dominatrix she was a heroine who saved Beren to the Morgoth`s hand. Eowyn who defeated the Witch King from Angmar. Goldberry is sugestive woman the wife of Tom Bombadil. Idril demostrate her character rejected the dark Maeglin. It is true Jackson introduce the war against the necromancers Sauron, and it is possible that appear more part of the Apendix of the Lord of The Rings, i have to recognise that Bolgo it had not been a good villain. The necromancer is much better. The strength point of the movie can be Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch (Smaug, and the Necromancers) and Armitage the actor who starred Thorin the leader of the Dvarves. I like much better the Hobbit than the Lord of the Rings.

  7. […] Is Peter Jackson out-of-line to make such radical changes to The Hobbit as including a character who is not from the […]

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