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YMMV / The Hobbit

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See here for YMMV tropes related to the Peter Jackson films.

The Hobbit (book)

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: To some degree, supported by the author's "The Quest of Erebor" in Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, which presents the story in a different light.
    • Thorin Oakenshield: stalwart, honourable leader of a mighty company of Dwarves, out to reclaim his ancestral homeland? Or an avaricious, stubborn fool in way over his head, who leads an inexperienced, underequipped group of bumbling idiots on a suicide mission for the sake of honour? Note that in the original story, the dwarves did not quite have any plans beyond getting to the mountain.
      • Thorin's deathbed apology. It's widely regarded as one of the saddest moments in the book, but putting that aside for a moment, one has to wonder about Thorin's sincerity, given he's gone through the entire story being absolutely unrepentently mean and self-absorbed. When he finally swallows his pride on his deathbed, one has to wonder if Thorin truly saw the light, or if he was just apologizing to Bilbo because he didn't want one more thing to be judged for after he passed.note  It doesn't help that again, he's done a lot of questionable things that deserve apologies, but the only thing he addresses was the one thing that happened in public and would probably have a tangible affect on his legacy. It's a beautiful speech, but because it only happens moments before Thorin's death, so we never see if Thorin truly meant what he said, or if he only made nice with Bilbo for selfish reasons. Who knows? Maybe he did try to bring the others he'd wronged in the dark to address his behavior, maybe not. Tolkien ultimately leaves a lot up to interpretation.
    • Gandalf: Many readers assume Gandalf's involvement with the quest is down to his noble character and sympathy for the Dwarves, but can be alternatively seen as a pre-emptive strike, essentially manipulating the characters into forming a hit-squad to keep Smaug from joining Sauron's army. This was suggested by Tolkien in Unfinished Tales and in the live-action movie it's explicitly both. And of course Gandalf wants to establish a Dwarvish Kingdom at Erebor, hoping it will oppose Sauron's troops if they use that route (which is what happens).
  • Aluminium Christmas Trees: In the chapter "The Gathering of the Clouds", Balin wishes the thrush was a raven so that he and the other dwarves could understand it, and he also tells Bilbo that the crows circling around the Lonely Mountain were rude and calling them ugly names as they travelled up the mountain. Some species of corvids, including crows and ravens, are actually capable of mimicking human speech in Real Life, though not to the extent that Roäc demonstrates later on.
  • Anti-Climax Boss: Bilbo only shares two brief interactions with Smaug before the dragon flies off and disappears. The dwarves don't even interact with Smaug, and it's then told through flashback how Smaug attacked Laketown for the span of three pages before being defeated by a new character who had never even been mentioned in the book before.
  • Anvilicious: Tolkien's message about greed sometimes comes across as too obvious, such as the comment that Smaug's rage is the sort "that is only seen when rich folk that have more than they can enjoy suddenly lose something that they have long had but have never before used or wanted". Considering that it's a comparison to something that just happened, it's quite redundant, and only seems to be there to prove a point.
  • Awesome Ego: Smaug. He's completely and utterly full of himself, but his bragging and elegant dialogue is such a blast to read, not to mention that apart from the one tiny chink in his armor, everything he brags about is true and genuinely awesome enough to warrant his boasting.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Because of Early Instalment Weirdness.
    • From the book, when Bilbo tries to pickpocket a troll, the money purse suddenly says: "Ere, 'oo are you?", leading to him getting caught. It's never explained how the bag can talk, and it never does so again, nor does it get any comment from any of the charactes. And the narrator just states that "Trolls' purses are the mischief". In the movie this was thankfully removed, instead the troll confuses Bilbo with a piece of cloth. However, in contrast to The Lord of the Rings movies, seeing trolls talk and being somewhat intelligent might seem strange in itself. Tolkien explicitly addressed this in supplementary materials, saying that by troll standards, these three were super-geniuses.
    • The first edition of The Hobbit, before Tolkien got the idea of integrating it into his wider legendarium, mentions lamp-posts and policemen. These were removed in subsequent editions.
    • The giants and their "thunder battle" make very little sense in the overall lore of the world. In The Hobbit they're treated like a normal part of the world; in The Lord of the Rings the hobbits regard them as a dubious rumor;note  and they're not even mentioned in The Silmarillion.
  • Evil Is Cool: Smaug. There's a reason he's seen as a highlight of the book.
  • Fanfic Fuel: Given the One Ring's later-established effects as an Artifact of Doom, one really has to wonder what Middle-earth would look like and how The Lord of the Rings would have transpired if Bilbo had murdered Gollum under the Misty Mountains.
    Gandalf: The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.
  • Franchise Original Sin: Though a common point of critique for the later films in the Jackson trilogy was how little character focus the dwarves got, the original book was also rather uninvested in their stories beyond that of Thorin, with the other twelve (barring perhaps Bombur, Dori, Fili, Kili, Oin, Gloin) being fairly flat and almost a collective character more than anything. The book doesn't tend to get critiqued for it as much, though, given that it never really makes any pretense that the dwarves are the focus, keeping things squarely on Bilbo. The films, meanwhile, spent a lot of time fleshing out the dwarves and giving them distinctive looks and character dynamics, making things far more deleterious when they started being pushed into the background—and it didn't help matters that it was usually not in favor of Bilbo.
  • It Was His Sled: The narration and comments by characters lead the reader to believe Smaug is a feral animal acting on instinct without expressly saying so. Up until the moment he speaks, there is no indication that he can, much less that he is so intelligent. But, not only is this scene so iconic that it's probably one of the reasons the reader is picking the book up, nowadays talking dragons are just as common in fiction as animalistic ones.
  • Narm Charm:
    • To some, the beginning of the story can feel a bit...narmy, as it was written for children, and not as exciting as the darker sequel. Tolkien himself was disappointed with how this part was written. However, the story gets increasingly better as it goes on, culminating in the wonderful encounter with Smaug and the devastating battle.
    • After the success of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien considered re-writing The Hobbit to match the more serious tone of its sequel, along with fixing a few of the inconsistencies between the two. After completing a few chapters, he asked a friend (we don't know who) to read it. Her response was, "This is wonderful, but it's not The Hobbit." Tolkien decided to leave the Narm Charm intact and never completed the revision. The re-written chapters and notes can be read in The History of the Hobbit.
  • Older Than They Think:
    • The dwarves' names come from old Norse mythology.
    • Gandalf's name is taken almost wholesale from a character in the Voluspa known as Gandalfr, a Dwarf who wields a staff and is king of the elves. Other aspects of his personality are taken from The Kalevala.
    • Tolkien wasn't the first person to write about "hobbits," though it's unclear whether he unconsciously borrowed the word or thought it up independently — see the main article for details. The gist is that while “hobbits” may have existed before Tolkien, hobbits as we know them still came from him.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Given how well-known a character he's become, it can be easy to forget that Smaug isn't actually in that much of the story, comparatively speaking. But he's easily the most memorable part of it.
    • Gollum is also only in one chapter, but it is a very memorable one, a turning point in Bilbo's career, and he ended up becoming one of the most important characters in the sequel.
    • Beorn is one of the most popular characters, despite only showing up in one chapter for more than a handful of lines.
  • The Ship's Motor: A popular piece of fanon is that Yavanna, the wife of Aule/Mahal who created the dwarves, was the creator of the hobbit race and thus has a special fondness for them. This has no basis in book or film canon, with supplemental materials clearly stating that hobbits originated as an offshoot of the human race, but it's very common for this fanon to be treated as widely-known fact in fanfic to legitimize a relationship between Bilbo and Thorin or have Yavanna help them reunite in the afterlife.
  • Signature Scene:

The Hobbit (animated)

  • Anvilicious: The anti-war elements are very blatant and Bilbo comes off as rather preachy at points.
  • Awesome Music:
    • So much of the soundtrack, with "Misty Mountains Cold" and "Rollin' Down the Hole" being standouts. And they even used Tolkien's lyrics from the book with many of the songs! "Misty Mountains Cold", in particular, became so iconic (perhaps the most iconic song of the animated Tolkien adaptations) that it's often suspected that the feature film version had to work very hard to not simply be that song again, and still didn't really succeed because the way the song is "supposed" to sound is simply too iconic.
    • "The Greatest Adventure" is astounding, particularly Glenn Yarbrough's performance of it. It was so good that, decades later, South Park would pay homage to it with "The Ballad of Lemmiwinks".
    • Both goblin-sung songs, "Down, Down to Goblin Town" and "Funny Little Things", are pretty remarkable, managing to be both catchy, rhythmic, harmonious, and intimidating, with a deep-voices choir mixed with strong brass and percussion instruments.
  • Can't Un-Hear It:
    • Orson Bean's Bilbo more or less set in stone how the Hobbits talk and sound for an entire generation of fantasy-lovers. It's very clear that later castings for both Bilbo and Frodo have been influenced by trying to achieve a similar tone.
    • John Huston as Gandalf for many, especially for those who grew up with the cartoon. His rich yet comforting voice work creates a very memorable performance.
    • Gollum's voice, provided by "Brother" Theodore Gottlieb, including his self-naming Verbal Tic, was considered a Tough Act to Follow by a great many and has generally informed virtually every performance of the character that has followed.
  • Complete Monster: Smaug is a mighty dragon defined by greed and savagery. Ages ago, after immolating the entire civilizations of Dale and Erebor to claim their treasures, Smaug laid in wait until someone dared to trespass on his hoarded gold. Smaug, enraged by Bilbo's presence, vows to destroy the nearby city of Laketown and all its inhabitants as an example of what happens to those who dare to oppose him.
  • Cult Classic: The cartoon is somewhat obscure in the new millenium (though in the 1970s and 80s saw wider circulation and significant airtime on television, especially on children's networks like Nickelodeon), but has its own solid fan-base, some who even consider it far superior to the later film trilogy by Peter Jackson. It also helps that it was the first publicly released visual adaptation of Tolkien's work.
  • Fridge Brilliance: "Your story has the ring of truth. Yes, it rings true."
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Cyril Ritchard, the voice actor of Elrond in this film, died just a few weeks after it was released. The same thing would happen the following year to his successor André Morell, who voiced Elrond in Ralph Bakshi's The Lord of the Rings.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Bilbo exclaiming "This Is Madness", to which Thorin responds "This is WAR!" recalls a memetic scene from a much later movie.
  • Narm:
    • The appearance of some characters, such as Smaug and the Mirkwood elves. Smaug looks rather cat-like, a trait more typical of Chinese dragons, and also looks far too fat to fly. The elves have blue skin and a much less appealing look than expected. At least Elrond looks closer to how elves are described in the source.
    • The voice acting is mostly good, but some of the characters have very strange inflections (the wood elf king) and/or have an awkward stiltedness to their speech (Bard).
  • Narm Charm: Sure, the character designs are silly and the songs are cheesy, but it still manages to capture the spirit of Tolkien's book and tell a very solid version of the story in only 77 minutes.
  • Older Than They Think: This film is not the first time Thranduil was depicted as speaking with a Germanic accent, since he also had one when he was voiced by Leonard Fenton in the 1968 radio adaptation.
  • Questionable Casting:
    • The very Teutonic Otto Preminger (primarily known as a director, though he played one of the versions of Mr. Freeze from the Adam West Batman) as Thranduil. No reason in-story is given for why the elf king sounds German.
    • Similarly, "Brother" Theodore Gottlieb — whose primary occupation was as a comedian — being cast as Gollum. This one at least made some sense, because Brother Theodore's style of humor was that of long, stream-of-consciousness rambles that often dipped into absurdism for humor. Gollum doesn't really dip into humor, per se, but once you think about it, it's at least possible to see the logic. Eventually. It also worked amazingly well, with Theodore's take on the character considered a Tough Act to Follow.
    • Also, Orson Bean — mainly known as a longtime panelist of To Tell the Truth and the host of the 1985 pilots of Concentration (with the bizarrely-altered main game) — as Bilbo. With this one, though, the thing is, it works (despite looking insane on the face of it), and for a long time the Bean Bilbo was very much the definitive Bilbo in much of the zeitgeist. One of the reasons Martin Freeman's casting was so hailed was because he was definitely one of the only people who could for-sure deliver an equal or better Bilbo than Bean had.
  • Retroactive Recognition: The animation was sneered at the time as "Japanimation". This was before Studio Ghibli (which was, incidentally, formed by several Studio Topcraft alumni)...
  • So Okay, It's Average: Common among those who didn't grow up with the film or who watched Peter Jackson's trilogy first, though even some of the people who grew up with it admit it hasn't aged entirely well. Not many fans are going to argue against it being a good adaptation, but are often still put off by the cheesiness, odd character designs (especially Smaug), and completely skipping Beorn.
  • Ugly Cute: Bilbo. He looks much younger and more jolly than most everyone else.