Geology and The Hobbit


I went to the movies yesterday to see The Hobbit. Overall I think that this movie was too long and many scenes were unrealistic. Perhaps I should not complain about it because I knew that I am going to see a fairy tale but fairy tales too should not be that silly and unbelievable. I have not read the book, so I do not think that I am the right person to criticize this movie but I made some geological observations which I would like to share with you.

I liked the scene with Gollum and Bilbo. It was well done and some riddles were geological.

Gollum’s riddle:

What has roots as nobody sees
Is taller than trees,
Up, up it goes,
And yet never grows?

Bilbo knew after some thinking that the answer is “mountains”. However, it is evident to a geologist that Gollum made a mistake. Mountains DO grow.

Even better one was another riddle given by Gollum again:

This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.

When I heard it I thought that this is a nice description of weathering. I was very interested to hear what Bilbo is going to say about it. He muttered “time” and it was the correct answer which surprised me positively. It is the next best thing to say and is also very geological because time is something that is in no short supply in geology and big geological things (like wearing down mountains) require very long time in human’s timescale.

Many other scenes in this movie were beautifully geological as well. Most of the rocks I spotted were sedimentary. In majority of cases they seemed to be carbonate rocks. New Zealand where this movie was filmed is definitely a wonderful country for hiking. It has been in my list of places to go some day for a long time and now I’d like to go there even more.


2 comments to Geology and The Hobbit

  • Caroline

    You know, as an ecology geek I watch movies for their plants in a similar way. I have not yet seen the Hobbit, but I found Lord of the Rings very frustrating because, since I’ve never been to New Zealand, I could not recognize the plants. Sometimes I can figure out where in North America movies were filmed, from the plants.

  • Aidan Karley

    The big geological riddle that I had was how the tectonics of Middle Earth, as drawn in the 1950s map that came with my 1970s book, would have worked. Obviously you’re assembling a series of terranes to put together Middle Earth (and take it apart if you’re looking back into the First Age), but they’re all suspiciously “blocky” to my eye. It looks as if Tolkein took the example of the Urals, and lashed down a few more straight lines.

    Isengard : a volcanic plug – as per “Devil’s Tower”?

    But long-standing volcanism at the Lonely Mountain … a hot spot? Mount Doom likewise, but with a komatiitic magma (hottest natural thing on the surface of the Earth, outside meteorite impacts).

    Obviously the Dwarves are the ones we need to talk to – which shouldn’t be too hard : check beards ; check excessive (to boring people) interest in rocks, minerals and fossils ; check females hard (for outsiders to distinguish from males (and rumoured to not exist). Yes, A BGS delegation to Kazadh-dum should be a diplomatic necessity.

    The Mines of Moria are artificial … relatively boring. But the natural caves at the back of Helms Deep sound like Tolkein had done his obligatory “Ooh” and “Ahh” at somewhere like the Cheddar caves. In fact, given the “monumental masonry” of parts of Cheddar, that’s an interesting combination of characteristics in one locale.

    There is a “paper” rattling around the Internet which purports to be a “geological overview of Middle Earth” ; the parts of it I read sounded like something I’d have written when I was doing my O-level geology (about the time that I’d read LoTR cover-to-cover on a weekend, as an alternative to a homework essay on desert geomorphology).

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