A short guide to the people & creatures in The Hobbit

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Here are some of the creatures and characters that you will meet in the second chapter of the Hobbit trilogy. Needless to say, Tolkien gave each of them extensive histories so the information below is to be considered as a mere introduction.

Hobbits: Despite the hobbits playing little or no part in the early history of Middle Earth they are nonetheless at the centre of its two most famous stories. Little is known about their origins although they seemed to be closely related to the race of Men. Tolkien often described how his writing of The Hobbit started out of the blue when, in the middle of marking exams, he found a page left blank by one of his students and wrote “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit”. Hobbits are usually very shy people, they do not like to take on risks and they prefer the comforts of home and good food to adventures. Their appearance is quite peculiar, being usually between 2-4ft tall, with hairy feet and pointy ears. The Hobbits initially inhabited the Valley of the River Anduin but during the Third Age they migrated North. At that time there were three main Hobbit families: the Harfoots, the Stoors (from which Smeagol/Gollum was descended) and the Fallohides, the more adventurous among Hobbits – Bilbo, Frodo, Merry and Pippin where all from this descent.

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Elves: also know as Firstborn because they were created first by Ilúvatar, the supreme divinity of Tolkien’s mythology. The Elves awoke beside the lake Cuiviénen and called themselves Quendi. After some time they were summoned by the Valar (the gods) to dwell in Valinor. Some refused and became known as the Avari, the others accepted and became known as the Eldar (meaning, “people of the stars”). Not all of them reached Valinor, those became the Sindar, or Grey Elves. Legolas and Thranduil are from that descent. Another group of Elves that dwelled in Valinor for a while, the Noldor, were later tricked by Melkor, the greatest and most evil of the Valar, and they set sail back to Middle Earth. Galadriel is from that royal lineage. Elves and Men often fought side by side and some of them married thus renouncing their immortality. Their sons and daughters became known as Half-Elves and they were given the choice to become Eldar (elves) or Edain (men). Elrond for example is one who chose to be an Eldar. Tolkien constructed many Elvish languages; perhaps the most famous are the Quenya and the Sindarin, both highly inflected languages (like Latin or modern German).

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Men: also known as Secondborn since they awoke after the Elves. Although all Men are related to one another, there are many different groups with different cultures. The main groups during the First Age where the House of Bëor, the House of Haleth and the House of Hador. After the battles fought against Morgoth, the Valar rewarded Men with a new land of their own called Nùmenor. The realm grew strong but when Sauron, Morgoth’s most powerful servant, allured some of the Men to fight against the gods they sank it. Some survivors managed to reach Middle-Earth; the character of Aragorn in “The Lord of the Rings” had Nùmenorean blood in his veins. In “The Hobbit”, the city of Lake-Town (or Esgaroth) is inhabited by Lake-men who are mostly survivors of Dale, the town destroyed by the fury of Smaug. Bard the Bowman is the heir of Girion, the last Lord of Dale.

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Wizards: also know as Istari, they were Maiar, that is, spirits of the same order as Valar but not as powerful. They came from Valinor in the Third Age with the purpose to guard over the people of Middle Earth. There were five of them and their names when in Valinor where: Curumo (Saruman the White), Olórin (Gandalf the Grey), Aiwendil (Radagast the Brown), Alatar and Pallando (the Blue wizards). Saruman was the most powerful of them and was appointed head of the White Council; the Steward of Gondor gave him the keys of Ortanch (Isengard) to take as residence. However, Saruman was later allured by Sauron’s power and succumbed to evil. After dying killed by the Balrog of Moria, Gandalf was sent back to Middle Earth to take Saruman’s place. Gandalf was the bearer of Narya, one of the three elven rings of power, also known as the Ring of Fire.

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Dragons: in Tolkien’s imaginarium dragons had been created by Morgoth during the First Age of Middle Earth. There were different types of dragons, some could fly, some could not. Most of them were known as “Fire-drakes” (or Urulóki) because they breathed fire, but Tolkien also mentioned a “Cold-drake” once. Glaurung was the first dragon to appear and the canniest of all; it slay many a heroes and destroyed the Noldorian kingdom of Nargothrond. It was later killed by Túrin, son of Húrin. The first winged Fire-drake bred by Morgorth was called Ancalagon. It was certainly one of the mightiest dragons so that even the Host of the Valar was driven back by him during the Dagor Bragollach (“Battle of Sudden Flame”). At length, Eärendil, with the help of the Eagles, prevailed, casting Ancalagon upon the triple-peaked towers of Thangorodrim and destroying both dragon and towers. Smaug in The Hobbit was both a Fire-drake and a winged dragon. It probably came from the Grey Mountains after hearing about the wealth of the Dwarves of Erebor; it first destroyed the Kingdom of Dale and subsequently took siege of the Lonely Moutain. In the book, it is sometimes called “Smaug the Golden” or “Smaug the Magnificent” since centuries spent sleeping atop his gold hoard caused gold and gemstones to become embedded in the flesh of his belly.

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Spiders: the first monstrous spider to appear in Tolkien’s universe was Ungoliant, a Maiar whom Melkor captured and corrupted long ago. She destroyed the Two Trees of Valinor by sucking the light out of them, and escaped with Melkor to Middle Earth. Before disappearing in the far south she left the northern lands infested with her offspring, including Shelob, which spread throughout the Ered Gorgoroth and gave it a reputation as a place of horror. The spiders infesting Mirkwood which appear in “The Hobbit” seem to be from Shelob’s offspring.

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Orcs: Orcs first appeared during the First Age of Middle Earth. Tolkien gave different explanations concerning their origins. According to some of his writings they were created by Morgoth (like the Elves by Ilùvatar), according to others, they were in fact Elves that Morgoth enslaved and turned into a corrupted race. We do not know much about the Orkish culture except that there was some kind of hierarchy and different types of Orcs. Occasionally Tolkien distinguished Orcs from Goblins and certainly from Uruk-hai, which were bred by Sauron and Saruman as a perfected and stronger race. Orcs communicated in the Black Speech, another language devised by Tolkien. The only example we have from the books is the inscription on the One Ring: “Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul” – “One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them”.

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Elisa was born in the small town of Udine, Italy, where she made her first short films. Aged 18 she moved to London where she achieved a degree in Film & Broadcast Production with her film "A Tragedy", based on William Shakespeare's "Macbeth". She recently pursued a Master degree in Screenwriting for TV and Film thus joining the group of struggling writers. Ssst! She's brainstorming.