Where has all the magic gone? Audience interpretive strategies of The Hobbit's film-novel rivalry

J. Ilan, A. Kama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The complex relations between words and images are debated in various disciplines and have been in a variety of modes a thorny issue for centuries. Words are constantly used to represent or embody images (conceptualized as ekphrasis) and vice versa. At the same time, however, words are also considered not sufficient to represent the visual sign, which cannot rely entirely on text. Similarly, the visual cannot rely entirely on the verbal; its understanding should come from representational practices alone, as there is something in the image that is 'purely image'. Films and novels are accordingly opposed, considered as two separate 'pure' entities that are not translatable, and yet share stylistic, narrative, and cultural connections.
This essay tackles such relations as they are manifested in audience members' discussions of the cinematographic Hobbit adaptation(s). More specifically, it is focused on their interpretive strategies in the ways these relate to the novel-film rivalry. Based on qualitative thematic analyses of the 251 Israeli respondents' open-ended answers, we demonstrate how the film-novel rivalry unveils itself in the audience reception of the film(s) adaptations. Findings reveal diverse and even paradoxical tensions: From a standpoint that the movie is considered a perfect or even 'better' representation of the novel, to vehement criticism that it vandalizes the original and 'misses' its 'purpose' completely, designed entirely to make profit.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)289-307
Number of pages17
JournalParticipations: journal of audience and reception studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016


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