The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey comes out this weekend, and I can’t be more psyched! I’ve got my midnight showing tickets and everything.
When I was in high school, the Lord of the Rings movies came out, and I was very much in one of my first real fandoms, in tandem with Harry Potter of course. I owe a lot to the Lord of the Rings, the way I owe a lot to Harry Potter and The Hunger Games as well.
While The Hunger Games is grounded very much in a possible future reality (as in several hundred years in the future, the Hunger Games could happen), Tolkien’s books are more a fantasy story disguised as a (fictional) history. There are tons of differences between the two, but at the heart of it, they are very similar.
Keep in mind, The Hobbit is very much about an adventure whereas The Lord of the Rings is a tale of war and good vs. evil. While they are of the same universe and by the same author, they are distinct in tone. The Hobbit is often called a children’s book because of this (that is something I would contest, though).
Themes very important to both The Hunger Games and Tolkien’s books, mainly the Lord of the Rings trilogy, are war and loss. While Suzanne Collins drew inspiration from her father’s time in the Vietnam War and the affects it had on both of them, Tolkien served in the British Army during World War I, spending time in the trenches and losing some of his closest friends. The Dead Marshes in particular were his interpretation of the effects of trench warfare.
As movies, The Lord of the Rings trilogy – and likely The Hobbit trilogy will follow in its footsteps – is a cinematic masterpiece, what I like to refer to as THE Standard for all book-to-movie adaptations. It’s what I hope The Hunger Games movies aspire to be like. We hope that, like with Peter Jackson’s movie adaptations, the changes from book to movie make the story better. We hope that the technical aspects, from direction to editing to effects to score and everything in between are of LOTR quality. If done correctly, The Lord of the Rings could have opened some doors for The Hunger Games (especially when Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2 come out) to be accepted with similar critical acclaim, despite prejudices against its genre.
Not very many of the folks reading this blog (including the writers themselves) were alive when Tolkien’s books were released. We don’t really know first hand what that phenomenon was like. But I do have my dad’s old Lord of the Rings books (he lent his Hobbit book to his brother who never gave it back) in my possession so I can imagine it. It makes you appreciate the Hunger Games fandom even more, since as The Hunger Games became quite the phenomenon, The Lord of the Rings came before and helped pave the way.