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'The Hobbit' For Beginners...

Ian McKellan in The Hobbit
Warner Bros.

"The Hobbit" films, due in two parts (in two consecutive Decembers), are starting to get a lot of heat. It's a ongoing Twitter topic and it's a stronger contender for one of 2012's biggest movie events, according to numerous sites including NextMovie.

Well, great, but what if you haven't read the book? What if you didn't watch "The Lord of the Rings" films over and over (or even at all)? What if the thought of 13 hairy dwarves isn't driving you insane with anticipation?

Can you still care about this film?

You can. And we're willing to bet you will. To get you started, here's a simple guide to "The Hobbit" for beginners.

Main Characters

The cast is sprawling, but there are really just a few names you absolutely need to know:
1. Bilbo Baggins is THE HOBBIT and he will (mostly) be the way viewers experience all the fantasy elements of the film without it feeling unreal. He is a close relative of Frodo Baggins ("LOTR" main character, played by Elijah Wood) but here he is younger and lets us experience the story through his eyes.
2. Gandalf The Grey (Ian McKellan) is back and pulling all the strings. He seems to enjoy putting hobbits in terrible danger, now recruiting one (Bilbo) for a big adventure to hike across a mountain range and slay a dragon inside The Lonely Mountain... without much of a plan.
3. Thorin Oakenshield is the leader of the dwarves. He's a king without a kingdom, intent on getting it back, and willing to wage war on the dragon that destroyed his people and disgraced his ancestors.

Returning characters

The Hobbit
New Line

There are a bunch of familiar faces from the "LOTR" movies and it sure helps that most of them are, as written, immortal or at least ageless. Orlando Bloom is back as Legolas — he's not in the book, but his father is, so Bloom's appearance makes sense. Elves like Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and Elrond (Hugo Weaving) are back as well, joined by the good wizard turned bad: Saruman (Christopher Lee), before his corruption. Oh yea, and Bilbo meets a familiar creature called Gollum who owns a magic ring.


Thirteen dwarves want revenge on a dragon, so Gandalf gives them a hobbit and sends them across Middle-earth with a secret and a map. They meet goblins, elves, giant wolves, a shape-changing bear and a town on a lake. Gandalf keeps disappearing to talk to the wise people of the world while Bilbo turns out to be more than meets the eye (which isn't saying much).

More plot:

The smart, chatty dragon likes to eat people and burn towns and sits on enough treasure to bring everybody the dwarves met together for a giant, complicated war.

The book is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, so we don't want to give everything away — some of you might actually decide to buy it and director Peter Jackson will surprise us anyway — but that's enough of the big picture to get you going.

Check out the teaser trailer for "The Hobbit" below:

Check out all the "Hobbit" photos so far: veteran Larry D. Curtis is NextMovie's regular "Hobbit" gollumnist, exploring Middle-earth and all things halfling as we gear up for the December 14 release of Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" prequel, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

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