By Kelsea Stahler, Hollywood.com Staff
Pictured: Gandalf, one of the five wizards
Warning: May contain minor spoilers for those who've not read Tolkien's works.
You know what a ""warg"" is, right? It's okay if you don't. J.R.R. Tolkien's works are full of words that require the ability to store an entire encyclopedia in one's head. Even Tolkien sometimes got his wires crossed. Naturally, as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey's release approaches, you're likely filled with a nice balance of excitement and the sweaty terror indicative of the moment you're confronted with a pop quiz, whether you've already read the book (or all of Tolkien's books) or your only form of Middle Earth education includes film iterations of the beloved author's works.
Fear not. We're here to hold your hand, sway like an Ent's (That's a tree-person - see? It's not that tough!) branches in the wind, and commune with the necessary pieces of Tolkien's legendarium so that when it's time for the opening credits of the first installment of the trilogy, we're as calm as a hobbit smoking a pipe in his easy chair...
Legendarium: Sorry about that. I threw you a little curveball back there. The Tolkien legendarium is a more accurate term for Tolkien's mythology, which is actually more of a fictional universe.
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Hobbit (Plural: Hobbits, or Hobbitses, Gollum's English): This list is for everyone, so if you already know this one, chill out. Hobbits are related to Men, but live much longer (average of 100 years) and are much tinier. They are about three to four feet tall, have point ears and hairy, leathery feet. They also don't wear shoes, but it's not unhygienic somehow. Hobbits have their priorities straight: their interests include food, parties, ale, quiet time, sitting around, and smoking. They fear the outside world, Men, and most other things. Unfortunately for them, they've got a useful skillset: good hearing, eyesight, and nimbleness.
Dwarf (Plural: Dwarfs, colloquial or Dwarrows, nerd): Not to be confused with Hobbits, these humanoids are also very short. If you find yourself confusing them with hobbits(es), just remember: Dwarfs are stout, stocky, broad, heavy, and they live for up to 250 years (which is probably why they don't often get married - DAD JOKE'd!). If that's tripping you up, look for the ornate, braided, body-entwining, bedazzled beards. Yep, that's a dwarf. They're also fast learners, much stronger than other humanoids, good at mining, adept at ignoring extreme temperatures while everyone else is whining, and really good at holding a grudge - hell, the entire race has a long-standing intolerance for elves, what with their smug beauty and pretty hair. Shut up, they're not just jealous.
Wizards (Synonym: Istari, but no one calls them that, so don't worry): These are actually spirits sent to help the "Free Peoples of Middle Earth" (see: everyone) and there are five of them. Gandalf (the one you know) is the second oldest, which helps when giving weight to his every victory. Wizards appear as old men, but they actually age slowly and are very vigorous. Though they have power of mind and body, don't be fooled: it's all about that staff, baby. (That's where the "magic" happens.)
Stone Giants: They are exactly what they sound like. Giant stone people. Their interests include throwing rocks. Their dislikes include not throwing rocks.
Wargs: They're basically vicious, nasty wolves ridden by orcs. But unlike your average barking wolf, these creatures are smart, understand orc language, and seem to draw their powers of vindictiveness from their pig-noses (okay, Tolkien does not explain why these guys are so ugly, but this seems like a good explanation, no?).
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Goblins vs. Orcs (See: Confusion): Even Tolkien was confused about where to draw the line between these two types of slime-covered gremlin. Various theories exist as to the origin of orcs versus goblins, but for the purposes of The Hobbit, use this guide:Orcs: These slimy creatures have a higher stature than goblins, and are significantly more built.
Goblins: Unlike Orcs, they are crouched and low to the ground. They're basically perpetually limping. But they're pretty good at scaling cliffs, so that's got to be worth something.
Shared Qualities: Both referred to as "goblins" in The Hobbit text, despite evidence of orc-hood. They hate sunlight, are filthy and inherently evil, cannot function without some sort of leader, adept at creating clever and crude weapons, and possess an unyielding hate of dwarfs. Fire-Drakes (See: Dragons): This is basically the worst kind of dragon to encounter, ever. Good thing the main antagonist of The Hobbit is the most powerful one around. Fire-drakes are intelligent, speak more languages than a U.N. ambassador, and have the power of compelling folks to do their bidding with their sultry dragon stares. (Come on, tell me something that breathes fire isn't sultry.)
Pictured: Trolls (Pronounced: Trolls.)
Stone-Trolls (See: Yuck): Trolls should not be confused with dwarfs. Though both surly, trolls are huge (8-10 feet) and absolutely disgusting, in every sense of the word. They will eat just about anything that moves, but that could be because they're complete dolts as evidenced by their Cockney British accents (oh, and also all the stupid things they do). These guys come with a neat little party trick too: They turn to stone in the sunlight!
Misty Mountains (See: Subjects of Led Zeppelin songs): They're misty. They're dangerous. They're the main setting for most of the movie.
Rivendell: This is basically the opposite of the Misty Mountains or any dwarf dwelling. This Cliffside community looks like Naboo from Star Wars mated with a magical rain forest, and was redesigned by the most beautiful, wealthy people on the planet.
Elves: Speaking of the most beautiful people on the planet, Elves fit that bill for Middle Earth. They're immortal, strangely pale, beautiful, agile, graceful, wise, lighter-than-air, and did we mention beautiful? They put Twilight's gorgeous creatures to shame. Of course, instead of drinking blood and possessing super sharp teeth, elves have leaf-shaped ears and are skilled archers and telepathic communicators. Sorry, Edward.
Erebor (Synonym: The Lonely Mountain): This mountain is full of treasure and, unfortunately, a dragon. It used to be home to Bilbo's dwarf friends, but the whole dragon-in-residence has been a bit of a problem for a while.
Gollum (Synonyms: Precious, Smeagol): Gollum, in case you forgot, is not a creature. He's just a Stoorish Hobbit (fun fact: stoorish hobbits can grow beards, so if hobbit lands were New York boroughs, they'd be from Brooklyn) who was corrupted, twisted, and made to live longer by possessing the One Ring. He's got an issue with plurals, both in speech (Bilbo Baggins becomes "Bagginses" and hobbit becomes "hobbitses") and also in life (the poor guy has two battling personalities in his little, twisted person).
Granted, this list will only get you through the first installment of The Hobbit trilogy. But don't worry, we'll be back with the next set for the sequel.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: Warner Bros (2)]
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