Cold Iron & Rowan-Wood

January 11, 2012

Gene Deitch’s Hobbit

Filed under: review — Tags: — Sam @ 11:11 pm


It’s The Hobbit – in twelve minutes, from 1966. With a courageous princess (and love interest), no orcs, no riddles, no dwarves, a traditional Chosen One plotline, gorgeous Czech artwork, and a hobbit Macgyver. The changes are really interesting, and in some ways add a bit of coherence to the plot – but then again, part of the charm of The Hobbit is its bumbling, sprawling arbitrariness. In others, they subvert the Professor’s original intent. The hero only thinks he’s unlikely, and becomes a king (or prince consort – it isn’t specified) and the Arkenstone is the dragon’s doom rather than the cause of strife.

Because I wanted to, here’s a summary!

Dale, the City of Golden Bells, is attacked and ravaged by the dragon Slag the Terrible. The city burns, and the myriad jewels of its treasury – but especially the heart of the city, the shining Arkenstone – are carried off into the jewel mine under the Lonely Mountain.

The only three who survived the flames – a watchman, who slept at his post; General Thorin Oakenshield, of the now-destroyed Garrison of Dale; and (Mika?), the last Princess of Dale – head to the lonely tower of Gandalf the Grey. As is usual with Wizards, Gandalf has a plan.

“It is clear that the time has come. The time of the hobbit!”

Enchantingly, the narration refers to Bilbo being very different from his “great-great-grandhobbit”, over a shot of a family photo showing said great-great-grandhobbit standing in triumphant safari pose on a dragon.

He doesn’t really like Gandalf’s assertion that he is “the chosen dragonkiller”, who will lead this group “over the Impassable Barricade Mountains, through the Impenetrable Mirkwood Forest, across the poisonous Desolation of Slag, to the Lonely Mountain itself, wherein the horrid creature lies”. (Well, would you?) However, when the “furious, impatient” princess scolds him (“if you are so afraid, then I shall go alone”) he realises he has no choice.

The party’s first challenge is a pair of Groans, hungry thick-skinned brutes whose favourite food is people-meat. The three survivors of Dale are quickly trussed to a roasting-spit, but the clever hobbit (who “was a good mimic”) tricked the Groans into arguing with each other until dawn took them and they turned to dry trees.

Gollum is still here, as is the One Ring of Power, though there’s no riddle contest. “Magically, the One Ring of Power had found its true bearer. It was Bilbo Baggins the hobbit!”

Under the Lonely Mountain, Slag sleeps cuddling the Arkenstone. Conveniently, it’s actually shaped like a heart, and Bilbo realises what he must do: sneak down, climb the sleeping dragon, steal the gemstone, build a ballista out of old mining tools, and shoot Slag dead with a giant bolt tipped with the Arkenstone itself.

After that, the brave hobbit marries the Princess of Dale, and they reign there together – but finally they returned to that quiet comfortable life in Hobbiton, until the next time that Gandalf the Grey would knock upon the round green door.

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