This week, I watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey for the second time. I have a somewhat complicated history with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. My exposure to the series has been sporadic. When I was a kid, we rented the old films, including the rotoscoped 1978 version and the animated The Return of the King (1980), featuring the classic ballad “Where There’s a Whip, There’s a Way”.

But I’ve never seen Peter Jackson’s original trilogy, nor have I read any of the books. Still, I’m a fan.

I imagine the marketability of the film must have been easy. The production of the Hobbit Trilogy took place only a few years after Peter Jackson completed the Lord of the Rings Trilogy so they essentially struck while the iron was still hot, producing an updated version of the story that began the entire series. For newer fans, it would have been an enlightening of how it all began. For older fans, it was a return of the story they already loved.

The majority of my Tolkien knowledge lies with Lord of the Rings. However, even as someone with limited hobbit knowledge, I can see the appeal of An Unexpected Journey. There is a great deal of heart mixed into the story. From the initial call to action of Bilbo Baggins to prove himself and find whatever it is inside that neither he nor the dwarves can see, to Gandalf’s optimism regarding the nature of man and the difference between having the courage to spare a life rather than take one.

There are several important lessons interspersed through the narrative which may go unseen initially, but to those who are familiar with the canonical story, it is cool to see the ways in which the ideas started in The Hobbit evolve. Bilbo’s actions in the first installment of the overarching story have repercussions on Frodo in the latter half.

For my own writing, my ambition is to one day create a narrative universe within which to set several stories and spinoffs. In looking at Tolkien’s works, I feel that he does an excellent job at building off of the seeds he previously established. There are payoffs to characters whom you love and hate, like Gollum, that are set up in The Hobbit and not fully paid off until his reappearance in The Lord of the Rings. This type of development shows that even when the world is presented on a page it is still alive and evolving even when the reader cannot see.

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