Tag Archives: Riddles in the Dark

Riddles in the Dark: A Look at how Hollywood Changed The Hobbit

6 Jan

Changes in Bilbo’s Encounter with Gollum

After seeing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in theaters for the second time and rereading some more of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit I felt like it was time to continue on with my series of Redesigning the Hobbit. I have already discussed the changes in Roast Mutton and Over Hill and Under Hill, so now we will pick up with Bilbo’s encounter with all of ours favorite character, Gollum.

Gollum Riddles in the Dark in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

If you remember from my last post, the way that Bilbo finds himself in the dark with Gollum is quite different in both the book and the movie version of The Hobbit. For starters will will look at the movie. Bilbo and a small goblin both fall off a bridge during a struggle in which they are knocked unconscious. Bilbo awakens in a large mushroom patch down a deep whole next to the goblin that tried to kill him. His blade, Sting, which has yet to be named, is glowing a nice hue of light blue, when Gollum comes by and snatches up the goblin and beats him over the head with a rock. Great scene and I think we all loved it. However, that is not how it happened in the book.

Instead Bilbo wakes up all alone in the dark after falling off of one of the dwarves backs and is completely disoriented for a while. After trying miserably to smoke his pipe, I know its a pity he failed, he wanders around in the dark down a sloped passageway until he ends up running into the underground lake that Gollum lives on. He doesn’t watch Gollum throttle and eat the poor little goblin, but at least both stories do line up. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s original work Gollum had also just finished eating an imp goblin, which is when he lost his “birthday present”, but Bilbo and the audience does not get the show. Instead in the movie Bilbo just manages to stumble upon the ring of power while on his way down the path toward the lake.

The meeting itself goes a little differently as well. In the movie the Hobbit, sees Gollum first. This is not at all the case in the book. In it, Gollum takes poor Bilbo by surprise moving completely quietly across the underground lake by laying down on his boat and paddling with his feet. It is not until Gollum lets out a hiss at the unsuspecting hobbit that Bilbo has any clue that he is being watched. As for the Riddles in the Dark the movie is stays fairly true to the book. There are a couple more riddles included in the the original J.R.R. Tolkien work, but the majority are included and the feel of the encounter is right. Even the wager is true, except the word “whole” is not included in how Gollum would eat Bilbo if he lost the wager. Also Hollywood seems to have slightly exaggerated Gollum’s dental hygiene. He has but six teeth, not nine as indicated in the movie.

At the conclusion of the little game there is another twist. In the movie Gollum reaches into a little pouch to try to slip on his precious, the ring of power, only for him to find that it is missing. The difference in the book is that Gollum had stopped keeping the ring in his possession a long time ago. Instead he kept it in a little crevice on the rock in the middle of his little lake. Its a minor difference, but it better portrayed the burden that the ring would be for its bearer in the Lord of the Rings. This difference also allowed for Gollum to try and deceive Bilbo, by saying that he would take him to the exit, but first had to retrieve a special item.

Even during the chase there were a few places that Hollywood decided to change how things happened. The first difference is that instead of having his jacket buttons ripped off and falling while Gollum was chasing him, instead he tripped and the ring slipped on to his finger. The next minor change occurs near the opening of the back gate, the movie makes you believe that the reason that Gollum stops and will not go further is that he spots Gandalf, Thorin, and the rest of the dwarves. Actually, what really happened is that Gollum was afraid to go any further because he could smell goblins, and without his “birthday present” he felt vulnerable.

After jumping over Gollum, in the movie version Bilbo quickly meets back up with his party and that is how the chapter ends. In the book there was a little more to Bilbo’s escape from the dark. He had one last encounter with a group of goblins standing guard at the back gate. The ring plays one last trick on its new master, and Bilbo is seen by the guards, until he manages to slip it back on. Additionally it also adds one little fact to the ring that is not mentioned in the movie. In full daylight, the wearer of the ring actually cast a slight shadow. This shadow almost gives Bilbo away as he tries to sneak out the half closed gate, and is caught up on the buttons of his jacket. This is when the dramatic cinematic scene is duplicated, and Bilbo squeezes through, leaving the goblins his nice brass buttons as a souvenir present.

My next post will continue on with the final chapter of the Hobbit that is included in the movie version, Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire. Until next time, hope you have enjoyed it. If you have noticed anything that I have missed or gotten incorrect, I would love to hear your comments.