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There and Back Again: ‘The Hobbit’ Through the Years

Tomorrow is the day many of us anticipated, the World Premiere of Peter Jackson’s last instalment of The Hobbit. Will it be glorious? Will it make us all cry like there is no tomorrow? What will deviate from the original story and how? Whether one likes the changes or not depends on personal taste, but one does wonder how Peter Jackson will conclude his epic interpretation of The Hobbit. Recent news of a new actor named John Tui, as revealed on, only increases the anticipation. These and more will be questions everyone will talk about in the weeks to come. However, now that everything comes to an end, it is also interesting to look at where it began.


When The Hobbit was first published in 1937, it was compared to children’s classics such as The Wind in the Willows in a review in The Times from October 8th 1937:

If you like the adventures of Ratty and Mole you will like The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien […] The truth is that in this book a number of good things, never before united, have come together; a fund of humour, an understanding of children, and a happy fusion of the scholar’s with the poet’s grasp of mythology […].

The unknown author of this review referred to Gollum, interestingly enough, as “the fish-man”. Only a few days earlier of that same year, C.S. Lewis has written a review in the Times Literary Supplement on October 2nd 1937:

To define the world of The Hobbit is, of course, impossible, because it is new. You cannot anticipate it before you go there, as you cannot forget it once you have gone […]For it must be understood that this is a children’s book only in the sense that the first of many readings can be undertaken in the nursery. [Alice in Wonderland] is read gravely by children and with laughter by grown ups; The Hobbit, on the other hand, will be funnier to its youngest readers, and only years later, at a tenth or a twentieth reading, will they begin to realise what deft scholarship and profound reflection have gone to make everything in it so ripe, so friendly, and in its own way so true. Prediction is dangerous: but The Hobbit may well prove a classic.

You can read C.S. Lewis’s entire review on

Early on, Tolkien’s imagined world inspired readers, artists and moviemakers alike. Due to its overwhelming success, many forget that Peter Jackson’s cinematic interpretation of The Hobbit was not the first adaptation of Tolkien’s classic. There are various earlier adaptations of The Hobbit. One of the earliest adaptations, directed by Gene Deitch, was a short film from 1966. This short film consisted mainly of non-animated illustrations and deviated drastically from its source material. Thanks to the internet, you can enjoy this short animation in its full lenght on youtube


In 1977, another animated adaptation of The Hobbit was produced. This time, Bass and Rankin produced their interpretation of The Hobbit. While the Rankin/Bass version was closer to its source material, several elements of the plot were either altered or even omitted. Nevertheless, this charming adaptation still remains a cult classic among fans.


In the mid-eighties another, rather curious, version was produced. In 1985, a Russian live-action adaptation was produced for a children’s fairy tale show. Keeping in mind that many cast members were from Leningrad State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre, the dancing Orcs suddenly begin to make sense. Two of my favourite aspects of this adaptations are sparkling Gandalf and orange Thorin. You can watch this gem in its full length on youtube.


Less than 10 years later, a Finnish television station produced another live-action mini-series of The Hobbit in 1993. Once again, a few changes have been done to the scource material, framing Bilbo and Frodo’s adventures into a “War of the Ring” oral history relayed by an elderly Sam Gamgee to his son.


Now that an era comes to an end, what are you most looking for to see in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies? Is there a particular adaptation you love the most or do you even know one that was not mentioned? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

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