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Who's who in 'The Hobbit'

Everything you need to know about the characters old and new

By Myriam Gabriel-Pollock
MSN Movies

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." This simple first sentence of the 1937 children's book "The Hobbit" was the catalyst for our fascination with the world of big and little folk created by author J. R. R. Tolkien.

We became immersed in the cinematic Middle-earth with the epic "Lord of the Rings" trilogy (2001-2003).  Now, after nine years and 266 days of shooting, we will be revisiting it as "The Hobbit" comes to the big screen. Peter Jackson, who also directed the original trilogy, has filmed "The Hobbit" as a trilogy, too. The films' release dates, by subtitles, are Dec. 14 for "An Unexpected Journey," December 2013 for "The Desolation of Smaug" and July 2014 for "There and Back Again."

Bing: More about 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'

If you're a fan of the "Lord of the Rings" films, you'll be interested to know the many characters in "The Hobbit." If you somehow neglected to see the original trilogy, then we'll help you figure out who's who in this fantastic, perilous adventure.

It really will feel like you've been there and back again, as the "Hobbit" films have been written, directed and produced by most of the creative talent behind the first three movies: Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens co-wrote the scripts; illustrators and Tolkien visual experts John Howe and Alan Lee did the conceptual art; Weta Workshop and Weta Digital executed the props, sets and visual effects; and Howard Shore composed the film's score. 

Related: 10 things you need to know about 'The Hobbit'

There has been no definite word on how the story is split into three parts, and where they've filled it out with backstory and other material from Tolkien's various appendices. We know that Bilbo Baggins is the central character, but it's a much younger, respectable Bilbo. Gandalf, Elrond and, of course, Gollum, will all be back. A few are returning who are not actually in the "Hobbit" novel, so that should be interesting. Plus, 13 dwarves, giant spiders and a dragon!  Here's our list of all the major characters we can't wait to see in the first installation of "The Hobbit."

(Warner Bros.)