Is Lord of the Rings just an expanded version of The Hobbit?

Brian G Turner

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#1
the-hobbit.png


Having just read both, it's really stands out how similar the basic story elements are in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. For example, both have the following - and in the same order:

- Start out with a carefree Hobbit in the Shire
- Given a Call to Adventure by Gandalf
- Waylaid after leaving the Shire
- Visiting Elrond in Rivendell
- Trying to go around the Misty Mountains, only to be forced back by a storm
- End up crossing through the Mines of Moria, only to flee for their lives
- Then end up in an enchanted forest with Elves
- Travel away by river
- Hobbit ends up in a desolate land
- Heads to a mountain in said wasteland to complete his quest
- Major battle outside said mountain
- Hobbit returns home only to find a ruckuss

There other similar elements, differently used:

- Magic forest where you must stick to the path
- Gollum as an antagonist
- Giant spiders
- How possession can corrupt (the One Ring vs the Arkenstone)
- A descendant of kings reclaims his lost crown (Aragorn vs Bard)

Obviously, it's not as simple as LOTR being an expanded or updated version of The Hobbit - while many story elements are repeated, they are dealt with very differently in each book, and usually with more depth in LOTR.

However, it would be interesting to get some feedback from more widely read Tolkien readers and resident Tolkien scholars as to what the official story or suggestions are for the similarities.
 
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#2
Considering the characters remark on coming across Bilbo's trolls-turned-to-stone, and the way Tolkien approaches writing in general, maybe this is a very conscious choice to keep the events of the upbeat Hobbit as a format while telling a much darker story. In other words, is he purposely using similarity to provide contrast?

Or do you think it is an accident or fault of Middle Earth's East-West geography that Tolkien fell into the same string of events?
 

aThenian

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#3
Well, they are both quest stories in the same world (therefore similar geography).

But the feel is very different. For example, to take bullet points one and two - the hobbit isn't carefree in LOTR, but already haunted by the past; and Gandalf doesn't really call him to adventure so much as tell him he's got to flee for his life.

But I hadn't really appreciated how similar they were until you set down the structure like that. I'll buy the idea that The Hobbit in a way provides a simple template for LOTR, as well as giving a richness of backstory.
 

picklematrix

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#4
If memory serves, tolkien wrote the hobbit before he had planned out Lotr. My feeling is that he wrote the hobbit on order to find his style and figure out how to make a story work. Next time round he went in guns blazing, with his exhaustive notes at hand.
I have read the backstory to his writing process and the full history, but a long time ago, specifically his letters to lewis which illuminated his thought process.
 

hopewrites

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#5
What strikes me more is that the story elements quoted are specific examples of what Joseph Campbell covers in Hero With A Thousand Faces. I assumed (after reading Campbell's book) that it's just standard story telling progression.

As ever, I'm willing to be wrong.
 
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#6
What strikes me more is that the story elements quoted are specific examples of what Joseph Campbell covers in Hero With A Thousand Faces. I assumed (after reading Campbell's book) that it's just standard story telling progression.

As ever, I'm willing to be wrong.
I think Brian is pointing out the specific coincidences of geography, rather than just plot points.
 

hopewrites

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#7
Ok, and if you have a well developed world, with a set group of leaders, movers, and shakers, wouldn't subsequent sets of heroes visit said landmarks on their quests?
I dont personally find the two stories similar enough to say one is a retelling of the other. Frodo goes out into the world, something Hobbits are known for Not doing, and before he goes he gets advice on who can help him from his Uncle who also went adventuring. He then encounters many others and under different circumstances.



Everyone who drives from Walla Walla to Portland stops in the Dales. Not because it's a great plot point for the journey, but because it's like Elrond's. A last stop on a long road from nowhere to somewhere, before the empty nothingness of the Gorge really sets in, a place to get food and gas enough to get you to Troutdale without having to stop and see the giant rocks and gaping trough that is the landmark you're traveling through.

If you'd never driven from Walla Walla to Portland, and you asked me where to stop, who to see, along the way. You would have a similar travel experience to the one I was put through on an almost annual basis for a good 14yrs of my life. You would cite me as an experienced traveler. But by no means would your experience at Cousins be exactly the same as mine. Your view of the Gorge would be different. Your reason for going to Portland may be more pressing than mine was.

Which would make your trip different from mine. Though we traveled the same roads, faced the same/ similar foes, and found respite at the same landmark watering holes.
 

Extollager

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#8
I have time now only for a quick comment.

They are very different books. The Hobbit is about a quest to secure a treasure, while LotR is about a desperate attempt to destroy the most dangerous object in the world.

The Hobbit is a delightful, episodic tale of adventures and dangers overcome. LotR is about fighting the long defeat and about the passing of the Elves from Middle-earth. The Hobbit is about the world of long ago, a morning-time when magic was everywhere and the world was populated by wonderful peoples, while LotR is about the inevitable departure of (natural) magic from the world.

In The Hobbit the protagonist learns that there's a lot more to himself than he thought! In LotR the protagonist, Frodo, is brought to the point of defeat; at the climax, he cannot bring himself to surrender the Ring. He remains a hero, but a different sort of hero than Bilbo.

The dangers in The Hobbit are almost all outward-- spiders, goblins, the dragon, etc. In LotR there are plenty of outward dangers to be sure, but again and again danger lurks within the heart.

There is friendship and affection in The Hobbit, but (along with these) the other two loves, romantic love and self-giving love (agape. charity) are almost entirely reserved to LotR.

LotR is profoundly marked by Tolkien's wartime experience, The Hobbit hardly at all.
 

BAYLOR

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#9
I know this one sounds a bit foolish and probably impractical. But, I wish that he had turned the Silmarillion into a saga on the order of LOTR . What a great epic that might have been. There is so much potential there.
 
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Judderman

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#10
Has Brian just shocked the Fantasy community and revealed that The Lord of The Rings is a sham? :eek: A drawn out hack of a more concise work.

Overall I would have to say no. In such that a lot of authors have repeated themes in their works. But definitely a fair point Brian. Picklematrix suggesting that The Hobbit was his early foray into this type of story, before a larger effort, makes sense. Plus, without The Hobbit, the story of Golem would pack much less weight in LOTR.
 

Lafayette

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#11
I have understood for a number of years that there are no more original plots and/or characters only variations. If this is considered an imperfection of writing then Tolkien is not the only one guilty of this. I'm sure that many good authors are in the same prison cell. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the Mighty Shakespear is also guilty of this crime.

I have also found myself guilty of this. What is really important is how well you write these variations. I just hope I can do half as well as Mister Tolkien.
 

pyan

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#12

Grimward

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#13
Certainly, no one worried about spoilers is likely to read this thread, but if you do, you have been warned!







Hmmm, in order of appearance, my two cents (which is probably all that it's worth, if that!), expounding on a few of the comparison points:

Frodo always seemed a little more hagridden with cares than Bilbo did, which is mostly likely because The Hobbit was written for children. We get to know Frodo over a longer period of time than we were offered with Bilbo, for sure, so his early concerns have more time to bloom on the pages.

Similarly with the call to adventure. Unlike a hastily scratched wizard mark on the door and a busload of dwarven visitors who must be fed, watered and entertained while Bilbo tries to get his head around their story, Frodo gets a stern warning about keeping the ring secret and safe from Gandalf almost 2 decades before his call to adventure, and even then gets the better part of a morning devoted to a history lesson about the ring (again, from Gandalf exclusively if you ignore Sam's gardening) before ever having to decide about having an adventure.

Fair enough about being waylaid, although the dwarves and Bilbo put their heads in the noose by trying to pilfer from the Trolls, while Strider and the hobbits were doing everything in their power to avoid the Black Riders.

As for Elrond and Rivendell, well, if one must travel to the eastern side of the mountains, one has to cross them somewhere. Might as well take the route that benefits from Elrond's advice. Tolkien even said so in The Hobbit, and took his own advice in The Fellowship of the Ring, not that the hobbits and Strider really had any other alternatives. The difference is that the stop in the Hobbit (again, because it's a children's book) was more like a "Hey, it'd be a good idea to stop in Rivendell to get those runes read", while in the Fellowship Rivendell was a tactical destination, and the only hope of shelter from the Riders that side of the mountains.

Good point about the storm, although in The Hobbit the storm (and Storm Giants) technically forced them further INTO the mountains (and ultimately thru) while Caradhras (and Saruman) tossed the company back like yesterday's junk mail.

Re Moria, Gimli would be rather unhappy to have the Goblin caves even mentioned in the same breath, much less so associated, and while you can definitely make the argument that Gandalf put an end to both, the Great Goblin's end was an afterthought, while the Balrog cost Gandalf one version of his Maiar self (yes, I drank some of the Istari origins cool-aid!), completely changed the plans laid by the Council of Elrond, at least as far as the entire Fellowship was concerned, AND was the catalyst for allowing Manwe, Varda, Illuvatar or whomever had their hand in the mix to serve Saruman his comeuppance for betraying their trust (more Silmarillion historical cool-aid and supposition!).

Your other points align more closely, but if I'd taken all the time and trouble to create that many calendars, languages, alphabets, MAPS, etc., I'd certainly use them again and again. Who can therefore blame JRR if he had favorites among his many creations (whether he admitted it or not)? :D
 

Brian G Turner

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#14
Just to reiterate that I'm very aware that both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are very different stories. :)

I just presumed there might have been something in Tolkien's letters explaining why he re-used the same pattern of story elements.
 

svalbard

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#15
What strikes me more is that the story elements quoted are specific examples of what Joseph Campbell covers in Hero With A Thousand Faces. I assumed (after reading Campbell's book) that it's just standard story telling progression.

As ever, I'm willing to be wrong.
Off topic but there is a great series on Netflix where the late Joseph Campbell was interviewed for a number of 1 hour shows. He came across as a really engaging conversationalist.
 

Hugh

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#16
Some well-known points:

LOTR was only begun in response to pressure from the publisher for a sequel to the Hobbit.

After the first chapter (with Bilbo's nephew Bingo Bolger-Baggins in the lead role) had been shown to Rayner Unwin, and he had been given the go-ahead, Tolkien wrote to Stanley Unwin: “I find it only too easy to write opening chapters – and at the moment the story is not unfolding. I squandered so much on the original “Hobbit” (which was not meant to have a sequel) that it is difficult to find anything new in that world.”

As we know, the story grew in the telling: the appearance of the Black Riders, Strider, and many others subsequently, were all unexpected developments.

Both The Hobbit and the LOTR are products of Tolkien’s unconscious/ inner landscape. The first was only ever intended as a children’s story for the Tolkien children, and publication was accidental. The second was written for publication, and while it may have begun as a children’s sequel, it quickly became much more than that as the story progressed.

I think there’s a lot to be said for the argument that the LOTR is a re-working of the Hobbit material and landscape, though obviously with much greater depth and meaning. I think this is demonstrated in the parallels that Brian has listed. When I use the term re-working, I do not mean that this was intentional, just that this was what was there in Tolkein.
 
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Extollager

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#18
As Tolkien, drafting the book, tried to meet his puiblisher's wishes, LotR starts out as a sequel to The Hobbit -- it was "the new Hobbit" for a time, with the Inklings. But it really changes. Who, picking up The Fellowship of the Ring in 1954, starting with the first chapter and knowing Tolkien only as the author of The Hobbit and Farmer Giles of Ham, would have guessed where this work was going to go?
 

Stephen Palmer

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#19
The books have a similarity because they both use the quest idea.
I think, apart from that, they are not only dissimilar, but radically dissimilar. Tolkien is on record as saying that with LOTR he wanted to have a go at a really long story. The Hobbit is a children's book, albeit an unusual and brilliant one.
 

Overread

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#20
I think that there is always a danger when you rend a story down to its barest components, in that you lose the story itself and can even, through that process, lose the actual story in a bid to make it simpler. And when rendered down enough a lot of stories can appear very similar to each other even if there's no actual intent.

Also when many people simplify stories down to their bare components there's always variation in where they draw the line and the bits that get cut out and the bits that get left in - sometimes intentional to further their argument, and sometimes simply as a matter of personal opinion without any angle.


I think you can rend Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit down and see that both have a similar beginning when presented to the reader; however they fast diverge from each other. Furthermore whilst some of the components are the same the actual cause and effect and resulting story that accompanies them is drastically different Bilbo's journey to Elrond is totally different to Frodos.
Also as both focus on the Hobbits, and as Hobbits live in but one small region of the world and the Hobbits in question are from the same family; it stands to reason that they'd both start in the same place; both would involve questing across a similar tract of land and both would focus on heading toward key persons within the world.


Lets not forget that whilst both use a quest and party system early on, in the Hobbit its formed right in Bagend, whilst in The Lord of the Rings its stretched out and they pick up and lose people through the whole length of the story. In fact they only spend a very short time as a single party of adventurers.
 

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