The Hobbit is a fantasy novel written by J.R.R. Tolkien. It went on to become a children classic and Tolkien followed it by writing one of the all-time greatest works The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit was adapted into a series of three films directed, co-written and produced by Peter Jackson. Here are 10 interesting facts about the epic novel and the trilogy of films.
#1 Hobbits have hairy feet
A hobbit is a member of a race of imaginary creatures related to and resembling humans, living in underground holes and characterized by their good nature, diminutive size, and hairy feet. The concept of hobbits seems to be inspired by Edward Wyke Smith’s 1927 children’s book The Marvellous Land of Snergs, and by Sinclair Lewis’s 1922 novel Babbitt. Tolkien has also admitted that the poem Beowulf is among the “most valued sources” in writing The Hobbit. Tolkien was an accomplished Beowulf scholar and he took several elements from it for the novel, including a monstrous, intelligent dragon.
#2 After a controversy Tolkien was credited with inventing the word ‘hobbit’
In the early 1930s, while grading examination papers, Tolkien found a blank page and was suddenly inspired to write – “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” The line became the introductory words of The Hobbit. Tolkien believed that he had coined the word ‘hobbit’ but it was later found that there is prior evidence of the word, though with a different meaning. In 1971 Tolkien stated that he remembered making the word ‘hobbit’ himself but that there was nothing but his word to support the claim. Since the 1970s the Oxford English Dictionary has credited Tolkien with the invention of the word.
#3 A ten year old kid contributed in getting the novel published
By late 1932 Tolkien had finished writing The Hobbit. He then lent his manuscript to several friends including a student of his, Elaine Griffiths. In 1936 Elaine was visited by Susan Dagnall. Susan was a staff member of the publisher George Allen & Unwin. Dagnall got the manuscript of The Hobbit through Elaine and was impressed by it. She showed the book to Stanley Unwin who gave his ten-year-old son, Rayner, a shilling to write a report on whether he should publish it. Rayner’s favourable comments made Allen & Unwin publish the book.
#4 The Hobbit is considered a classic in children’s literature
The Hobbit was published on September 21, 1937. It was sold out by December because of favourable reviews. In 1938 it was awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune for best juvenile fiction. The Hobbit still remains popular and has been translated in over forty languages. It is regarded as a classic in children’s literature.
#5 Nazis wanted to know Tolkien’s race before publishing the book in German
Before releasing The Hobbit in Nazi Germany, the German publishing house Rutten & Loeing Verlag asked Tolkien if he was of Aryan origin. Tolkien had many Jewish friends and was considering “letting a German translation go hang.” Tolkien provided two letters to his publishers and told them to send whichever one they preferred as a reply to the German publishers. The first one simply stated that he was of Aryan origin. In the second one Tolkien wrote, “If I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people”. The first letter was sent as the reply.
#6 Its sequel The New Hobbit went on the become LOTR
In December 1937 Tolkien was asked by George Allen & Unwin for a sequel to The Hobbit. Tolkien began work on The New Hobbit, which would eventually become The Lord of the Rings. Though LOTR is its sequel, it is different from The Hobbit in many ways. LOTR has a more complicated plot structure, more complex themes and much less humorous tones. The reason for these thematic and stylistic differences is that Tolkien wrote The Hobbit as a story for children and LOTR for the same audience, who had subsequently grown up since the publication of The Hobbit. As he worked on the sequel Tolkien also made few conforming changes to The Hobbit. These changes were integrated in the next edition of the novel.
#7 Only two films were being made initially
The Hobbit was originally being made as a two part film but on July 30, 2012 Jackson confirmed that his adaption of The Hobbit would be a trilogy. The third film made extensive use of the appendices that Tolkien wrote to expand the story. The subtitles of the three films are – An Unexpected Journey (2012), The Desolation of Smaug (2013), and The Battle of the Five Armies (2014).
#8 Initially Guillermo del Toro was directing The Hobbit
Peter Jackson almost didn’t direct The Hobbit at all. In April 2008, Guillermo del Toro was hired to direct the film with Peter Jackson only down to co-write and produce. However in 2010 del Toro left the project due to financial complications and on-going delays. Thus Peter Jackson took over the task of directing The Hobbit.
#9 New Zealand would have lost $1.5 billion if the location of the movies was changed
In September 2010 a row erupted over union representation for actors on the set of the movie and the producers threatened to move the Hobbit project out of New Zealand. On October 25, 2010 thousands of New Zealanders organized protest rallies arguing that if the production of the film was shifted outside New Zealand it would cost the country’s economy up to $1.5 billion. Two days later, after the New Zealand government had struck a deal with Warner Bros studio, it was announced that The Hobbit movies would be made in New Zealand as planned.
#10 New technology was explored in the trilogy
Peter Jackson explored an interesting new technology in The Hobbit. Films were shot at 24 frames per second, meaning that every one second of film is made up of 24 individual frames. But in The Hobbit Jackson has employed cameras that shoot at 48 frames per second. He has said that this enables him to capture more vivid, realistic and life-like images. At an industry event screening in April 2012, the new 48 fps format was described as receiving “an underwhelming reaction at best”. However Jackson said that he wasn’t surprised as “it does take you a while to get used to it. Ten minutes is sort of marginal, it probably needed a little bit more”.