Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Hobbit as prequel

First in other news ... since Google deleted my Adsense account (see here) I have had more visits to this blog than ever before. April comfortably saw the largest number of visitors in any month since I started the blog. So thanks for visiting.

Watching The Desolation of Smaug (The Hobbit, part 2), I was interested in how strongly the theme of the returning king was brought out in the context of Thorin. The Lord of the Rings is an interesting book in many ways. The most memorable part of the story is arguably what happens to Frodo and Sam, as they travel to Mount Doom with the one ring. And yet there are several other big stories taking place. One is the return of Aragorn. He is the descendant of the great king Isildur, who failed to do what he was supposed to do at a key moment in his story. Aragorn has to battle with temptation to take power for the sake of power, and also to turn away from power for fear of failure. As a teenager reading the books, I don't remember picking this up. But it is a theme that Peter Jackson et al. fairly strongly brought out in the film - from Boromir's first comments on meeting Aragorn ("There is no king in Gondor", or words to that effect), through the journey along the Paths of the Dead, when Aragorn as the heir of Isildur has the power to offer the ghosts in the mountain the opportunity to fulfil their oaths, to the coronation scene near the end of the final film.

I guess fairly deliberately, Jackson chose to echo this in the film of the Hobbit. In the same way that Aragorn is being encouraged to take up his role as the heir of Isildur, Gandalf strongly urges Thorin to return to rule in Erebor. Although Thorin has just twelve motley companions, he travels towards his destiny in his ancestral home, and is recognised as the king by the forces of good (Gandalf), the crowds (the inhabitants of Laketown) and the forces of evil (the orcs, and the Necromancer by proxy).

Unlike Aragorn, however, we know from reading The Hobbit that Thorin fails under temptation. I shan't go into more detail. But Thorin doesn't become the king under the mountain - a role which, it seems, Gandalf had hoped he would to provide another layer of defence against the oncoming onslaught from the powers of evil. It's possible to imagine that Gandalf's idea was almost that the dwarves would be able to provide a strong barrier to the rise of Sauron - and indeed, reading The Lord of the Rings, we do find that the dwarves of the North do provide a defence against the Dark Lord. But they never have the strength that they might have hoped to have - they aren't able to permanently reclaim Moria, for example. How much of this is ultimately down to the failure of Thorin to become the ruler he was supposed to is not clear. But there are striking contrasts between the role of Thorin in the films of The Hobbit and that of Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings.

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