Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More Of The Many Faces Of Bilbo Baggins

Since my last post on "The Many Faces of Bilbo Baggins," the part of Bilbo has been cast for Peter Jackson's two upcoming movies based on The Hobbit. The crucial part has at last gone to Martin Freeman, best known to me previously for his role as Arthur Dent in the movie The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. As satisfied as I was with his work in that film, I was not totally convinced about Freeman until I saw an interview that he and all the actors cast as Thorin and Company gave in New Zealand. When I saw him out of other context and simply in himself, I caught a glimpse of his potential as Baggins.

Part of this potential is his comic English diffidence, the sense of self-worth tempered by humility that tries not to be "uppity," and then feels chagrin when that is taken at face worth. The greatest danger in making The Hobbit is, perhaps, the temptation to make Bilbo into an action hero. He is a hero, of course, but his heroism is a different kind of courage, and he only wields Sting defensively. The story of The Hobbit is (besides a Quest) the story of a culture conflict, of the modern sensibility (and Bilbo, with his morning letters, butcher's meat, and handkerchiefs, is to all intents and purposes Modern) with the tenets of a Heroic Age, typified mainly by Thorin. As in any dialectic, the two viewpoints meet, clash, and change each other. Bilbo's virtues are mercy, pity, non-possessiveness and (when in a pinch) the courage to face horror with hope. These will take a steady hand to translate into film.

So, the pictures are, in order: 1) Martin Freeman; 2) Bilbo reading Tolkien's manuscript, looking rather like Leo McKern, a picture by Tony de Terlizzi of Spiderwick fame; 3) Bilbo and Gandalf by Iain McCaig; and 4) Bilbo and Gandalf by Ted Naismith.

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