When news first broke that J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit would be adapted into a two-part film, the initial plan was for the second part to act as a “bridge” movie between The Hobbit and the ever-famous Lord of the Rings trilogy. The bridge film would take us many years after The Hobbit, to events just preceding the beginning of the Lord of the Rings, allowing for special return appearances of characters and talent who wouldn’t otherwise appear in the prequels.

As the script treatments were underway, further news indicated that this may not be the case, despite interviews with cast members such as Viggo Mortensen and Dominic Monaghan who thought it possible and hopeful that they could play Aragorn & Merry once again. Would we ever see the return of our favorite Lord of the Rings characters who were never in The Hobbit novel? The answer we all now know is yes, but how significant are their roles?

We always knew that Sir Ian McKellen was a must to return as the lovable wizard, Gandalf, and that it was equally important for the talented Andy Serkis to also return to play the voice and physicality of the ring-seeking Gollum.

Other returning characters include Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Elijah Wood as Frodo and Orlando Bloom as Legolas, all three of which are not in Tolkien’s original work on The Hobbit. Hugo Weaving will also return as Lord Elrond and it’s possible that Christopher Lee will play Saruman once more.

For diehard fans, there’s nothing better than seeing cast members return after a decade to replay their iconic roles. It helps keep the The Hobbit authentic and in canon, allowing the series to work as a true Middle-earth pentology, just as Guillermo del Toro and Peter Jackson described prior to del Toro exiting the director’s chair of the films.

Knowing that we’ll once again see Frodo and Legoloas on screen, how significant will their roles be?

Heat World, who we are not familiar with and who have no listed sources of information, claim that Orlando Bloom will be earning a hefty paycheck of $1 million for a mere 2 minutes of screen time. If true, his appearance, likely restricted to when we meet his father, Elf King Thranduil (rumored to be played by David Tennant).

As for young Frodo Baggins and his hairy feet, Elijah Wood chatted with IGN yesterday about his return to the project:

“No, we thought we were finished and the character doesn’t even exist in [the book of] The Hobbit, so it was not even a pipe dream to imagine the possibility would be there for me to reprise the role of Frodo. But they’ve come up with something that I think is kind of interesting and I think very fitting that doesn’t necessarily infringe upon the integrity of the original novel. It’s great. I’m really excited… Those films marked a huge, massive experience in my life. It’s been 11 years, basically, since I went to New Zealand, so it’ll be a beautiful reunion and I’m just excited to go back and see everybody again.”

Wood continued, explaining that he believes his role is “minimal” but that he has yet to read any of the script.

It’s not expected that these two characters would have a significant role, as it doesn’t fit into The Hobbit story. Their return, and the return of other potential characters from the trilogy are there as a nod to the fans and even more importantly, as a marketing tool to help familiarize moviegoers to a story that wouldn’t otherwise include faces they recognize.

So, will Aragorn make a cameo appearance as well?

Peter Jackson will direct The Hobbit, with Part 1 hitting theaters on December 19th, 2012 and Part 2 in December 2013.

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Sources: IGN, Heat World (via MovieWeb)