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2.18.14 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Film Comments 19, “On the Doorstep,” Part 1)

2.18.14 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Film Comments 19, “On the Doorstep,” Part 1)

J.R.R. Tolkien, "The Front Gate" (from The Hobbit, 1937)

J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Front Gate” (from The Hobbit, 1937)


Good Morning, Everyone!

The Desolation of Smaug: Dale (by Alan Lee)

The Desolation of Smaug: Dale (by Alan Lee)

Almost finished assessment of how Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug cinematically adapted J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel, The Hobbit. For this 2nd of 3 films, Jackson & his fellow screenwriters (Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens, & Guillermo del Toro) adapted Chapters 7-12, leaving 13-19 for December’s The Hobbit: There and Back Again.

We’ve now reached “Chapter XI, On the Doorstep,” whose narrative in Tolkien’s work contains the phrase that gave Jackson his title for the film:

Erebor: The Front Gate (by Alan Lee)

Erebor: The Front Gate (by Alan Lee)

J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien

It was a weary journey, and a quiet and stealthy one.  There was no laughter or song or sound of harps, and the pride and hopes which had stirred in their hearts at the singing of old songs by the lake dried away to a plodding gloom.  They knew that they were drawing near to the end of their journey, and that it might be a very horrible end.  The land about them grew bleak and barren, though once, as Thorin told them, it had been green and fair.  There was little grass, and before long there was neither bush nor tree, and only broken and blackened stumps to speak of ones long vanished.  They were come to the Desolation of Smaug, and they were come at the waning of the year. [From “Chapter 11, On the Doorstep,” in The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien]

Gateway to Erebor (John Howe)

Gateway to Erebor (John Howe & Alan Lee)

Chapter XI relates the following events:

— a five-day journey to the foothills of the Lonely Mountain and increasingly depressing nights camping closer & closer to the Front Gate

— scouting trips to see the River Running from the Front Gate, and, finally, the discovery by Fili, Kili, & Bilbo of the hidden stairwell that led to a “little steep-walled bay, grassy floored, still and quiet” with a space in the wall that could only be the “hidden door”

"...the thrush knocks..." (by David Wenzel)

“…the thrush knocks…” (by David Wenzel)

— the dwarves’ hike to the hidden door, and then the frustrating attempts to open it by pick-axes and mining tools, complaints about Bilbo (!), and the hobbit thinking about the situation until a coal-black thrush knocking a snail on a stone reminds him of the Map’s prophecy, “Stand by the grey stone where the thrush knocks, and the last light of the setting sun will shine upon the keyhole.”

— Bilbo’s gathering the dwarves and all seeing the very last shaft of sunlight shining upon a keyhole, insertion of Thorin’s key, and Tolkien ends the chapter with this paragraph:

"On the Doorstep" (by Alan Lee)

“On the Doorstep” (by Alan Lee)

Now they all pushed together, and slowly a part of the rock-wall gave way.  Long straight cracks appeared and widened. A door five feet high and three broad was outlined, and slowly without a sound swung inwards.  It seemed as if darkness flowed out like a vapor from the hole in the mountain-side, and deep darkness in which nothing could be seen lay before their eyes, a yawning mouth leading in and down.

Next time:  Peter Jackson’s Adaptation of Chapter 11: On the Doorstep!

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