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Why 'The Hobbit' superfans should let Evangeline Lilly into their treehouse

June 20, 2011 |  3:52 pm

Evangeline Lilly cast in "The Hobbit" as an elf

Peter Jackson has inserted a new character into his upcoming "The Hobbit" two-parter -- a character that J.R.R. Tolkien did not write. Repeat: Peter Jackson is messing with the sacred texts. Again. This time, it's via "Lost" star Evangeline Lilly, who shall don the pointy ears and become a new woodland elf named Tauriel.

Judas! It’s only a matter of time before armies of dweebs ball up their disapproval into fiery wads of nerd rage and catapult their ire into the blogosphere. After all, when Jackson announced the creative casting of Saoirse Ronan as another made-up elven character earlier this year, talk among the superfans grew dire.

"To Hobbit purists, this is grave news," Hobbit Central intoned.

But according to academics who have studied Tolkien -- yes, there are those -- purists may wish to step away from their keyboards and let the tar cool. Movies and books are different animals; readers and viewers have different demands. (Translated into superfan-speak: Storytelling in a novel versus storytelling in a film is like, er, the Teleri versus the Noldor. They're both elves, but it goes without saying that a sea elf is nothing like a deep elf.)

In truth, the elves of "The Hobbit" novel don't have much to say. They capture our heroes, who later escape. The elves also go to war, but otherwise we know little to nothing about them on the written page. So is it really any surprise that Jackson has created a new elf to bridge a few gaps in the movie adaptation?

"The wood elves in 'The Hobbit' are pretty underdeveloped," notes Corey Olsen, a Washington College educator who has a website called  The Tolkien Professor. "The only elf who has much of a role is the king, and he's not even named.

"It doesn't surprise me that Peter Jackson would want to invest at least one or two elves with more character, because they are pretty faceless in the book," Olsen explains.

So, superfans: Stay thy rage! After all, the rest of the casting is pretty amazing: Sherlock Holmes as Smaug, anyone?

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-- Leslie Gornstein

Photo: Evangeline Lilly as Kate in "Lost." Credit: Art Streiber / ABC


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