Review: The Hobbits / Author: Lynette Porter / Publisher: I.B.Tauris / Release Date: Out Now
With the world premiere of the first part of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy taking place in November, the publication of this book could hardly be more timely. It aims to present a survey of the ways in which our furry-footed friends have been presented in various media, and to consider what this tells us about the changing face of hobbits over the decades.
It manages the first part very well. As you would expect, a lot of time is devoted to Jackson and to Ralph Bakshi's well-known part live action, part animated LotR. But, to her credit, Porter also offers lengthy and worthwhile examinations of the Rankin-Bass cartoon versions of The Hobbit and RotK, the BBC's celebrated 1981 radio broadcast of LotR and popular spoofs such as VeggieTales' Lord of the Beans. Fans and collectors will also enjoy the section on '70s Tolkien calendars.
Throughout, Porter is tireless in cataloguing the minutest divergences from Tolkien's vision, with the underlying assumption that the sine qua non of a good adaptation is that it has to be scrupulously faithful. But there's little or no attempt to place hobbits in popular culture and show what, if anything, they have meant to succeeding generations. There's a flat, academic quality to some of Porter's writing, too, which is unlikely to appeal to a general reader. As a result, this is for diehard Tolkien fans only, or Middle-Earthers in search of ammunition for future chat room debates.