The Hobbit is a prequel of sorts to The Lord of the Rings, or at least, that is how it seems today. At the time when LotR was being written, the new book (which went by various titles) was the sequel to The Hobbit; The Hobbit has since been eclipsed by its far more famous (and longer) sequel.
The two books form a sequel (of sorts) to the Silmarillion mythos; however, The Hobbit was not originally intended to be set in the same world as the Silmarillion tales, but simply borrowed some of the language to give the novel more depth, leading to some unresolved inconsistencies between the two.
The plot follows the adventures of a hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, when he is recruited to join a group of thirteen dwarves in their quest to retake a dwarf kingdom, the Lonely Mountain (or Erebor), lost to a fire-breathing dragon named Smaug. Bilbo is chivvied unwillingly into being the party's lucky fourteenth member by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, who also accompanies the dwarves partway for reasons of his own. Although Bilbo begins the journey feeling more or less like useless baggage, his fortunes change when he finds a magic ring that grants him the power to become invisible when worn. With the help of the Ring, Bilbo finds his adventuring feet and ultimately aids the dwarves in their quest.
Since The Hobbit was originally written as a children's story, it is more lighthearted than The Lord of the Rings, with Bilbo complaining about missing his comfortable hobbit-hole and escaping from dire situations with cleverness and a lot of luck. Notably, early editions of the book included a version of the 'Riddles in the Dark' episode in which Bilbo really was given the Ring by Gollum as a prize for winning their game. However, Tolkien later revised the book to resolve some major inconsistencies with The Lord of the Rings, and that scene, along with some others, was changed to its present form.
The Movie Series
The first movie of a trilogy came out in December 2012. In order to make a fairly short book into a trilogy, the movies expand on the dwarves' backstory and on Gandalf's activities away from the main quest, using details from the appendices of The Lord of the Rings and other sources. However, pretty much everyone agrees that three movies is at least one too many.
So far, fan opinions of the first movie are divided. It tries at once to be as serious as the Lord of the Rings films and as humorous as the original book, including lots of comical CGI effects and physical humor cheek by jowl with intensely dramatic backstory sequences and action scenes. Some respond positively to the combination, others find it to be a tonally discombobulated, poorly paced mess.
The second movie, released December 2013, is generally perceived as better than the first, though the inclusion of female elf OC Tauriel, not to mention the rather prominent presence of Legolas, and the way Thranduil forbids them from being in a relationship because Tauriel is 'a lowly Silvan elf', is rather bewildering. Even moreso once the film starts hinting at romance between Tauriel and Kili the Dwarf. There is also a scene during the dwarves' escape from Thranduil's halls in which Bombur goes bouncing about in his barrel, flattening orcs like goons in a video game. While this is hilarious, it also makes the Laws of Narrative Drama weep. Still, there is no doubt that Benedict Cumberbatch's Smaug is awesome.
The third movie, released December 2014, features lots of large creatures popping out of plotholes and vanishing back into them, never to be seen again. Legolas pulls a lot of fancy physics-defying stunts. Tauriel disappoints feminists by failing to take her own vengeance on the big orc that slays Kili despite previously stating her willingness to die for her love, and also by needing Legolas to save her from said orc. Despite being the entire reason for there being three movies in the first place, there is no epic showdown with the united White Council arrayed against the Necromancer; instead, Gandalf is freed from a cage and healed by Galadriel, then carted off on Radagast's bunny-sled while Elrond (noted master healer) and Saruman do all the fighting. Galadriel does use her Rings of Power to put an end to the battle, but since openly using one of the very secret, hidden elven-rings is dumb, this does not count.
On the plus side, Smaug continues to be awesome, and Bard and his son Bain also have a fair showing. And now Peter Jackson can't hurt us any more.
The Hobbit in Fanfiction
The Hobbit archive grew exponentially after the release of the movie. Many Sues were attracted to it due to unexpectedly good-looking dwarves, often attaching themselves as a "Fifteenth Walker" (It's like the Tenth Walker, except... less symbolically attached. Still a breach of Canon though) in order to nab Fili, Kili, or Thorin (or all three). There is also a sizable amount of Thorin Oakenshield/Bilbo Baggins slash, and since Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch of Sherlock fame play Bilbo and Smaug respectively, there are also a number of implausible crossovers.
The Hobbit and the PPC
Missions in this Continuum
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