I recently made the mistake of re-watching the three Hobbit movies. Aside from whatever other complaints I could make about the film trilogy, what bugs me most about the Middle Earth films is how they cement a singular vision of that world in my memory. Granted, the LotR films in particular owe no small debt to existing visions of Alan Lee, John Howe, the Hildebrants, Bakshi, and the many others who came before. But I find it a common problem with books turned into films: however I imagined them originally in my head, the images and concepts from the movies tend to replace the book-fueled imaginations from my childhood, even overriding other artists’ and illustrators’ visions in my mind. It’s not a personal problem, either; Justin Gerard covered the topic in a blog post that led to his illustrations below.
Imagination is a strangely personal thing; no matter how descriptive a book is, ten different people can interpret the same paragraphs in ten different ways, influenced by their own personal style and aesthetic. I made a brief comparison of different artists’ takes The Hobbit, a wide array of styles interpreting key scenes and characters. They’re not just different from the movies, they are very different from each other, and yet all are vibrant and accurate depictions of the books. I’m always fascinated by how the same scene plays out in different minds, different styles, different perspectives, especially with something as iconic as The Hobbit.