People. This is a public service announcement. Please read carefully. In order to prevent the administrator of this website from inflicting further ire upon well-meaning but (grinds teeth) mistaken persons who keep (Grrrr!) missing the point whenever she expresses criticism of those who insist upon calling the fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings an "allegory" when they mean, well, a work of fiction, please first memorize these definitions:
al·le·go·ry: The representation of abstract ideas or principles by characters, figures, or events in narrative, dramatic, or pictorial form.
fic·tion: An imaginative creation or a pretense that does not represent actuality but has been invented.
And then read this essay, Faith and Fantasy: Tolkien the Catholic, The Lord of the Rings, and Peter Jackson's films, which is so far the best-written and clearest explanation of what Tolkien's work really means in the context of his religious beliefs, and most important, why the book he wrote is not and never will be an allegory.
(Link to the essay via a reader who is probably shaking singed fingertips and muttering "Damn? What the hell did I do?" My apologies, binkley.)
Oh my god. Lord of the Rings is a "pagan fantasy world"? Kill me now -- I can't take it any more. In the Corner Stanley Kurtz says this in an aside in a post about the possible decline of Christmas observation in an increasingly secular world. I look forward to all the Tolkien admirers on NRO tearing Kurtz a new one for this -- probably in vain, since it was just an aside.
(Link via open book.)
Update: well, here's Kurtz's reaction to emails containing, among other things, complaints about this -- but unfortunately they were from stupid (okay, less informed) people saying "it's a catholic (sic) allegory." And Kurtz just reiterates his shtick: LOTR has a "pagan veneer." Asshead. LOTR has a Christian veneer. See, unlike members of some other religions Christians (or at least, Christians like Tolkien) don't dismiss the time pre-Crucifixion as a to-be-ignored "time of ignorance." Instead, they are forever trying to see signs of God's presence in the pre-Christian past; some go so far as to call the other sacrificial cults (that involved Christ-like deities who became human and were slain, etc.) and so on of pre-Christian times evidence of the "foreshadowing" of the Incarnation. Is it so strange to think that Tolkien looked at his imaginary past through a Christian outlook, and certainly did not mean for all the pagan-like cultish behavior that has sprung up among his fans (and which I am guessing are the real source of Kurtz's "pagan veneer" remarks) to be the result of reading his story? Oh whatever -- I am beginning to think it is no use.
PS: I went ahead and opened comments -- I need you to berate me for my nasty, druggie, uterus-having ways.
Colby Cosh has a brief commentary on the matter of leaving the chapter "The Scouring of the Shire" out of the Lord of the Rings movies. (This really should be no spoiler to anyone anymore.) Colby agrees with this person that it should have been left in the movie.
[THE FOLLOWING CONTENT DOES NOT REFER TO COLBY COSH IN ANY WAY]* You know, I wouldn't blame Jackson for telling people who say things like this** to raise their own dough, hire their own camera crew and actors, and filming the goddamn book to their own purist demands. Be that as it may, while it would have been nice to see every single word and scene in the books filmed intact (I do think that so far -- haven't seen part 3 yet -- the best moments in the films are the ones that are straight out of the original text, there's a thrill to them that the other scenes lack), I acknowledge that it would have taken more money than god has, not to mention infinite patience on the part of studios and moviegoers, to endure the ten-movie (each five hours long) marathon that would no doubt result. Or something like that -- I don't know. By the way, I'm not interested in arguments to the contrary; if you think it's so important that the book be "done right, unlike the way that hack Jackson did it" then you do it.
By the way, Tolkien originally started writing because he wanted to read stories he enjoyed reading, and he had noticed that there was a dearth of that type of thing about in his day. He didn't just sit and whine and complain about the inadequacy of the fiction that other authors put out. After a point complaints become redundant, and you start to look as if you are simply engaging in mental masturbation instead of doing anything useful about whatever irritates you. Of course, I understand that movie-making is more expensive than writing a book, but with the price of video cameras dropping every day... I wonder if one day people making their own movies will do to the vast Hollywood machine what blogs seem to be starting to do to the vast news media machine... (See Jeff Jarvis for more on that subject.)
But to continue, before I finally succeed in prying myself away from my computer so I can catch the bus to the movie theater, the writer that this woman (whose post Colby referenced) cites got one significant detail wrong that makes me suspect his purist credentials. This Ian Rowan states, after the Shire had been scoured:
The ruffians are driven out after a proper application of the citizen militia, and Samwise returns to his wife and daughter.
Uh. Samwise did no such thing after the thugs had been ejected from the Shire. Samwise was unmarried. What Samwise did was get married, after finding out that Rosie Cotton had been unhappy at his leaving the Shire. Samwise returned to his wife and daughter after seeing Frodo off at the Grey Havens, in the final chapter "The Grey Havens." Really, all it would have taken was for Mr. Rowan to reach behind him to his bookshelf where I assume that his copy of the novel has its place of honor. Or so I assume. Don't mess with a real Tolkien fan. [END PART ONE OF NON-COLBY COSH CONTENT]*
And yes, Colby, I have read the Appendices, and I knew that the cute hobbit names in the book were "Anglicizations" of their "real" names.
[PART TWO OF NON-COLBY COSH CONTENT]* (And you know, I haven't even touched upon Claire Wolf's end spiel about this movie being "...swords and sorcery amount to nothing more than sound and fury; an army of special effects and dazzling cinematic visions, desperately in search of a greater meaning." In other words: "this movie didn't tell me what I wanted to be told or relieve me of some possibly unrelated mental baggage so on some level it failed." Whatever. There are so many problems I have with that attitude that I don't have time right now to list them all. One day I may sit down and do so, but not today.) [END PART TWO OF NON-COLBY COSH CONTENT.]*
*Jesus. I get back home, after being lifted and transported by the viewing of Peter Jackson's great achievement, in no small part because I was finally rid of stupid fears like I would get hit by a truck or have a meteor land on me before I got to see it, and that it would suck donkey balls or something instead of being the amazing work of art that it is, and I get dragged right back down to fucking earth. Thanks, human race.
**This is not meant to be directed at the authors of this post linked here particularly, but if the shoe fits that isn't my fault. YMMV.
First, the character of Gandalf is not, as the writer (one Kevin Miller) states, "clearly a Christ figure." There is nothing so clear about the "resurrection" of Gandalf -- in fact, it is more correct to state (and one could find this out from simply reading Tolkien's own commentary on the book, available in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien) that Gandalf is clearly an angelic messenger and aide -- mostly as a morale-builder -- to "free men and creatures everywhere" in the war against "the Shadow" -- aka, Sauron (who, by the way, is not meant to represent Satan but only one of his lieutenants). Jesus wasn't, according to what I was taught in church in my "long ago youth," a mere angel.
Then Mr. Miller goes off into a slight tangent where he outlines what I presume are some of the objections Christians might have to seeing the film: "How can one reconcile the scenes of violence, destruction and occult-like practices with the above information about Tolkien's faith? How could the love of Christ spawn such a monstrosity? Perhaps, you may be thinking, reading all that pagan mythology from the Middle Ages seriously messed with Tolkien's head, co-opting his faith rather than the other way around."
Excuse me for not entirely understanding what Miller is talking about here -- the only "pagan mythology from the Middle Ages" that I am aware of Tolkien being much involved with is Beowulf -- and he came to the conclusion in studying it that that poem was in fact a Christian rewriting and/or composing of a work with pagan characters that was yet meant to resonate with Christian listeners.* (Somewhat like his own work.) Again, this information is available with a little bit of research; in fact, it is easier to get one's hands on a copy of "The Monsters and the Critics" than it was before the movies came out -- I had to borrow it from the community college library.
But I suppose this is meant to be a bit of parental reassurance rather than a serious scholarly treatise on the man and his work. Miller has read the thumbnail bio of Tolkien that just about every writer on this subject has had time to peruse for the last three years, and seems to at least have a better idea of the plot and characters than many movie reviewers, though he makes the theme sound like Christianity Lite: "If you're good enough, and merciful enough, then doggone it, Jesus will love you!" Actually, he seems mostly to have gotten his ideas from the films; that's the feeling I get anyway. (Perhaps that is where his misconception of Gandalf as the Messiah comes from -- all that white light and stars and the makeover when he "returns.")
It would have been nice, though, if he had done more than (it seems) skim the book. The films, while excellent adaptations of the novel, are not really the best source for understanding its author's religious beliefs.
*Disclosure: I wrote a paper a couple of years back for a Medieval Humanities class on the Christian themes in Beowulf, so I am not just talking out of my behind. I may scrounge up the paper and put it online one of these days; it was all right, though not one of my best.
Since this was a particularly annoying Monday, I don't have much to say tonight. But there is one thing I forgot to mention in my post from the weekend, and that is what greeted my eyes as I came back from my errands (click for larger pic):
I took the picture this morning, but it looked just the same then as it did Saturday. Apparently some bimbo, driving god knows what, had managed to crash into the mail kiosk. I can't quite figure out how she managed, because if you will take a look at the next photo (again, click for a larger one):
-- you can see that there is a rather high concrete rise from the parking lot to the walkway. I can only suppose that she was trying to pilot a Uhaul truck, or perhaps a small yacht, and backed into the thing. It must have made the most godawful noise; I'm glad I wasn't there to hear it, as my nerves are not what they used to be.
Anyway, the upshot is, I have no idea where my mail is going. The girl at the manager's office said to call the post office on Hiawassee Road.
Oh well. Here is another piccie for you all to enjoy (clicky clicky for larger):
Weekend after next, come hell or high water, I know what I am going to go to the theater to see. I do need something to cheer me up; nothing like a long, incomprehensible, boring movie filled with characters nobody can possibly care about to make me feel better about myself. Oh wait, I'm not going to go see Seabiscuit; that was the bad dream. Seriously, why do people who have no appetite (apparently) for heroic fantasy movies go see them, only to complain that they were bored and felt as if they were being tortured? It's not as if ROTK is something new no one had ever done before; it is the last part of a three part movie. If you didn't like parts one and two, you aren't going to suddenly like part three, especially since the characters you didn't care about in the first two movies are also in the third movie. But then again, this person preferred, among other fare (like Peter Pan, a story I have always found to be creepy in the extreme), Gone With the Wind, a film I have never been able to watch more than five minutes of before changing channels.
By the way, I'd also like to see Master and Commander, and I plan to rent out that pirate thing that the Elf was in. That's about it for me and movies.
PS: yes, I know that the grammar in this entry sucks, but I don't care, I'm tired and posting anything at all tonight was like swimming through cold molasses.
Crooked Timber provides the valuable service of, among other things, being a sort of clearing house for all the sphere o' blogs' snobs to get together and dis whatever is the chatterati's bugbear du jour. This being that time of year, the big High Kulchah no-no is to admit that Lord of the Rings is one's favorite novel, or in one's list of favorites.
Now I am sure it is not news to my two or three readers that said book is definitely in my top ten. But you know, I can see why the litcrit brigade hates it so. It's too long. It's about imaginary places and made-up creatures, like a (shudder) fairy tale. All that monarchism -- how reactionary! There is no self-consciously beautiful language that calls attention to itself and screams "Look at me! I'm a Writer!" There is too much exposition -- for instance, the scenes between Gandalf and Saruman, which are real-time action sequences in the movie, take place in expository flashback in the book during the council of Elrond. In fact, all the rest of the scenes in the movie (both parts one and two) with Saruman are not in the book; Saruman's actions are only the subject of discussion and speculation, and there is no face-to-face meeting with him until after the Battle of Helm's deep, a scene which I assume will be in the third movie in some form or another.
But I digress. The commenters to the above-linked post mostly follow the Bloomist "Jane Austin rules, Tolkien drools" line of partisanship. There doesn't seem to be much room for the idea that one can read both authors and find them fine for different reasons. After all, they wrote in different times, about different things...
This is all part of the neverending fight over what constitutes Proper Litrachoor, as opposed to the "good reads" us hobbits grubbing around in our cottages like to curl up with. The idea on the part of the litcrit brigade seems to be "let them watch Survivor." If we won't read -- and praise! -- their idea of "the right books" then we are consigned to the caverns of the Morlocks.
The idea that "high" culture should be difficult and make one uncomfortable comes, I think, from the religious origins of academic culture. The university system, whose denizens are the de facto guardians of the culture, began as an offshoot of the church, and the religious attitude towards things High Educational remains though the term "secular" itself no longer refers to those daily things having nothing to do with scripture that are however necessary for the church to work in the temporal world, but instead now means the opposite of anything having to do with religion. This is why so many academics seem to approach their subjects like flagellants, and also why the opposite phenomenon -- Manic Fun!, i.e., Postmodernism -- has taken such a hold on academic life; this seems to be a particular disease of the Philosophy and Humanities departments of many universities. I have known many an English major who had a simple enjoyment of reading beaten out of him by course after mind-numbing course on theory and dialectics and what-have-you. I myself barely escaped with my sensibilities intact from a minor in Creative Writing. True, I got an "A" in my first course. I wrote a story, which focused almost entirely on character -- there was hardly any of that nasty plot stuff, and my hero -- well, my protagonist -- was almost entirely passive, as many modern short stories seem to call for these days. (Action implies plot, as well as sexism or some other -ism unless your protagonist is a carefully delineated Person of Color and Non-Male Gender -- then she can be a superhero with supernatural powers; you can call it "Magical Realism" and invoke the name of Borges or somebody. You think I exaggerate? Ha ha! Only slightly, I assure you.) I had it online once, maybe I'll put it back up; it wasn't bad, if I do say so myself.
But I'm one of those crass vulgarians who wants to read a story when I sit down; I am not particularly looking to be "shocked" or "made uncomfortable" or "introduced to new ideas," when doing so, though if this happens in the course of my reading I am not put out. But I don't consider that I have wasted my time if I haven't had my horizons blasted open by a breathtaking new insight (or whatever it is these people seem to be jonesing for) when I finish a book.
As it is, I recall the first time I read LOTR, I certainly felt as if I had changed somehow. For the better I hope, but that's something only time will tell. After reading Pride and Prejudice I didn't get this feeling, though I enjoyed the book. Quite frankly I consider most of Austen's work "light" reading -- but that is just my own personal classification system, not to be taken seriously by anyone else. I think that a lot of people invoke her name, though, because they identify her with everything that is "nice" high culture -- afternoon tea, lace and crumpets; people who say "Sir," "Ma'am" (and pronounce it "Mum"), and "Thank you"; men and women walking arm in arm across the Mall; in short, all those "English" things that people seem to associate civilized behavior with. (I blame Masterpiece Theater.) I like all those things too -- and I imagine that the reason I do is the same reason people seem to set up the Austen style as the opposite of Tolkien. Sure, they talk a great game about her "careful character delineation" and her "delicately nuanced language," all of which is bullshit, if I may use a term that Miss Austen would cover her ears rather than hear.
I say that Jane Austen's novels are, in this day and age, as fantastical as Tolkien's or any other fantasy writer's -- even more so, because Tolkien writes about all those gritty, downbeat things like war and violence and death, as well as about things like tea and parties and sitting by a cozy fire. The worst thing I think anyone does in an Austen novel is tell someone off. (Then again, this may seem devastating enough to people who would rather face a horde of ten thousand orcs single-handed than be cut dead at a party.) Okay, I exaggerate just a tad. But my point is....
Bilbo moment. What was my point?
Oh yeah. My point is that Tolkien dissers come off as snobs because their critiques all seem based on social approbation and being known as reading either what is "cool" or what is "civilized." Thus: Austen in, Tolkien out. Or -- (insert famous name in littrachoor) in, Harry Potter out, to link this to the wider world of "realistic" fiction versus straight "childish" fantasy. And by the way, speaking of how devoting oneself to higher culture is supposed to be "good" for one's character, I provide this anti-example: one commenter to the above-linked post snarked about wishing he could tell some hapless reader of Lord of the Rings that "Gollum dies." This pretty much seems to sum of the collective litcrit protest against the book. I left one response, but now I have thought of a couple others -- be really brave, tell someone reading Pride and Prejudice not to worry, Eliza gets to marry the lord of the manor; or, "Good. I hate that little stinker."
Updated/insert: I just wanted to mention that I am in full agreement with Gary Farber's statement that calling readers of Tolkien "witless" and "childish" and saying that all "literature" (as it is known today) is pretentious crap are not useful arguments. Even if I do believe that most modern "littrachoor" is pretentious crap. So is most of everything, some science-fiction writer said once. (Yes, I know who said it, and yes, I have tried to read Theodore Sturgeon's work. I found it to be pretentious crap.)
PS: if you want to hear some of the actual literary criticisms (as opposed to Literary criticisms) of Tolkien, as well as their demolishment by the same critics, get the extended dvd of The Two Towers. The verdict in short? Storytelling wins over perfect adherence to Rewls of Littrachoor.
PPS: if you want a laugh -- a painful one, that is -- listen to the actors' audio commentary over the movie on the same release. Of the two movies' audio commentaries, the actors' versions anyway, I prefer the ones for Fellowship. The actors, at least the principals -- yes, I mean you, Mr. Wood, Mr. Astin, Mr. Monaghan, and Mr. Boyd -- have had time to let their pretentions flower. Especially groan-worthy is to hear Astin and Wood babble on about how the book is really about "all religions" or can communicate to "all religions" and how "all religions are really all about the same thing" or something like that. (I don't feel like writing a transcript.) How can I put this delicately: I don't think that a) Tolkien would have seen it that way, and b) I don't think the actual members of most other religions think so either. It's all very sweet, this We Are All Children of the Universe mentality, but it's also the equivalent of covering your ears and singing "la la la" very loudly. Oh well, thank god for Hollywood, it's like having our own little Shire full of happy, ignorant hobbits.
PPPS: Look! Comments are open! I am curious to see what people think. For now.
Well, this is interesting: NRO's Jonah Goldberg is going to be on a minidocumentary on the Return of the King dvd. No, really.
[Later] By the way, sorry I haven't posted much of late. I have been "too" much of this and that -- too tired, too busy, too bored -- though for some reason I get my energy back when it comes to other peoples' comments. This can't be a healthy thing. For one thing, I had the idea of getting back into a hobbity mood and writing all about the movies and the books and so on -- for one thing, because they make me feel good. But then I made the mistake of getting into some sort of blogfight with a pedantic little scholar from Stanford (or so his email address claims), who made claims such as: Peter Jackson is an "artistic failure" for not following the book to the letter, or for not making the movie "Catholic" like the books were so people would rush out in droves to join up -- you know, I first read the book in my early teens and have read it umpteen times since, and I was never interested in the slightest in joining the Catholic church. And here I am, still not Catholic! It must be all Peter Jackson's fault, the heathen.
I don't know what was more annoying, the hyperbolic criticism, or the "from authority" voice in which the criticisms were given, which I have noticed is a habit common to many participants in the varsity drag. Perhaps it's merely a reflex, an unfortunate habit of spending too much time in an academic setting. Be that as it may, I told the person in my last comment that although I have many criticisms of Jackson's approach to the storyline I'll be damned if I write about them now. I'd feel like I were giving aid and comfort to an enemy of something -- maybe of just the simple ability to enjoy a play or a book or a movie without some yokel butting in and taking it apart bit by bit.
So I am going to nurse my inner hobbit (I have already dined well) and just ignore the doodleheads. To them the dubious comforts of faculty sniping and graduate work one-upmanship, and all the rest of the mishegas. I don't know what I'll be writing about here in the upcoming days, but I think it will be something different. Or maybe not. We'll see.
(PS: that's right, no link to the blogfight in question. I don't want it to develop any more than it has, and I'd feel bad if my sniping caused the blog owner's web server space to become overwhelmed. I'd also feel about as bad if nothing happened: "Hey! Where did my one or two readers go?")
(PPS: I feel more like working on (ominous bassoon music) my site design. Muahahaha.)
(Update: extraneous commas removed for increased ease of reading.)
They're from Return of the King, and they seem to give evidence that Jackson is going to follow the original of the third part of the story fairly closely, unlike the improvisations and "inspired by" additions that afflicted The Two Towers. How long until December? Not that long anymore. Drool, drool.
Everyone needs some cute hobbit pictures. Caution: I rather doubt this is work-safe.
I'd like to thank the kind reader who sent me the dvd of The Two Towers.
Excuse me, I have to go stick skewers in my eyes now.
This is so very, very wrong.
(PS: add to your geek cred by guessing where I got the title pun from! Both sources.)
The OneRing.net has a whole passel of images from the extended version of The Two Towers and the Return of the King trailer. (No permalink to the entry -- it's among those for today's date. Look for "spoilers!" in red.)
Here's a sample (click for full size):
Can you guess the scene? Win fabulous prizes! (Well, not really. But being right is its own reward, so they are always telling me...)
Obsessed? I don't know what you mean...
(Via Solonor's Ink Well.)
Oops, Arnie's got some some competition:
A sample of his, erm, campaign platform:
He proposes to rid California of “nasssty industrial factories” and return the area to its natural state, or a slightly altered version: swampland. He also proposes a new solution to the energy crisis that has plagued the state for some time: “When the yellow face goes down…nasssty lights stay off.” When the problem of the decreasing school budgets arose Gollum merely replied, “Teach them about fisssshesss…” In fact, Gollum would like to see California return to the bartering system, using fish as currency instead of dollars.
I wonder how many votes he'll get...
Oh god, another useless column that strings together a bunch of words so the writer can make a paycheck and the publication can fill some white space and drag some eyes to its adverts. This time the publication in question is This is London, and the subject is J.R.R. Tolkien vs. J.K. Rowling. There are (all together now) several inaccuracies in this little thing. One: both authors did not feature "a young, innocent hero." The only version of Lord of the Rings where Frodo is both young and innocent is the current movie version. In the books Frodo is actually nearly fifty, which in "hobbit years" is meant to represent a period of past youth but not middle age -- say, equivalent to a human in his mid-thirties. Obviously, this Malcolm Burgess fellow has not bothered to do the most cursory research before he typed up his column. I daresay he would not even have had to read the actual book to find out Frodo's actual age; he could probably have found a fan site on the internet with more info than he needed or wanted.
"Lots of places with Capital Letters." Er, what? English grammar rules demand capitalization of place names, of made-up countries as well as real ones. I'm not getting this. It's filler in a filler column.
Evidence for the assertion that people who read Rowlings books will be reading "only one book this year" comes from where?
The rest is crap. Into the Fiery Mountain with it.
(Via the Onering.net.)
Something (my calendar) tells me "no." Bastards. Oh well, anyway, I'm just passing this on:
Hey, I know Viggo's a hippy dork, but come on. Let's be good winners.
If you are vertically challenged or very self-confident, then this is the Middle Earth Species for you.
At heart, aren’t most males really just fighting the urges of their inner Uruk-Hai?
Lust, lust, lust, you tarty thing YOU.
They are always up for a party, love a good time and do well in pubs…its rather like fraternity boys all over again, isn’t it?
Then there is the The Tolkien Traveler’s Guide to Middle Earth (on the other side of the same page):
Location: The Shire
[...]You are more in danger of bumping your head after falling off a pub table during an extended night of drinking at a local tavern than anything else in The Shire. [...]Be sure and bring hangover remedies with you.
Fast Facts: Often thought to be the Ancient Aspen of Middle Earth, Rivendell is at once, old and mystic, modern and on the move.
Attractions: Well, the price is certainly right. Another plus: You will have absolutely no problems getting a reservation. Truly. Locals are ready to take your call as we speak (1-888-MORDORSUCKS).
Climate: For those of you looking to soak up some rays, Mordor is the tanning Mecca of Middle Earth. Just be sure and pack plenty of sunscreen.
(Via the Onering.net.)
My The Two Towers extended edition DVD, that is. Here's a rundown of the added footage that will be on the release.
What do you mean I have to wait for November! ::shakes:: (Then again, by that time I'll be able to afford it.)
This is just so... wrong: The Lord of the Rings Harley Davidson. I've never been on a motorbike, but from the looks of it you could have a symbol of the Ring right in your crotch. Um. Okay. (Via The Onering.net.)
If I lived in Wilmington, Delaware, I could live on the banks of the Brandywine River. This has been your six-degrees-of-separation-from-Middle-Earth moment.
Here's a little something to keep us all occupied while we all wait until December to roll around: Tolkien computer games.
Or you could go play Tolkien Baseball.
(Yes, I am feeling to ill to post anything of note tonight. Darn stomach virus.)
There are some new images available of the upcoming third part of Lord of the Rings. It's looking good so far.
There were also some other pictures up on this site earlier today, but they were removed at the request of the filmakers. The reason given is that they were of poor quality -- I can vouch for that, having seen them; for the most part they were dark, blurry, and barely recognizable to someone who hadn't already seen parts one and two of the trilogy.
Cable teevee hell has already started. I turned it on only to see a message that my service had been turned off, to call the service. So I call. "Oh, they changed some software, call this number to have your box turned back on." So I did, and after twenty minutes of unsuccessful fiddling I have another appointment with a cable guy on Thursday. All hail technology! Frankly, I think it's a conspiracy to get me to wake up early.
Oh well, I still have my dvd player. By the way -- I just wanted to point this out: the opening words of The Fellowship of the Ring where Galadriel is "the world is changing, I feel it in the water, I feel it in the air" etc., are actually in the book -- Treebeard says them to Pippin and Merry in The Two Towers. It strikes me as quite clever of the scriptwriter to choose those words to open the movie with. (With which to open the movie? Bah, you're not getting good grammar from me at this hour.)
Oh come on. Like I'm the only one.
One ring to fool them all. The Orcs were just protesting against being marginalized!
(Via alert reader Joe McNally.)
Here's a treat for the Billy Boyd obsessives out there: an interview with the ex-hobbit. He answers fan questions. (Via TheOneRing.net.) Check out the reference to a movie he and fellow ex-hobbit Dominic Monaghan are cooking up set in my ex-home town. Have I used "ex-" enough?
I was just looking around (innocent stare) and found this, from around this past New Year's. Maybe I should set up a new category: "Things to Upset Hippie Vegans."
Heh heh. I was just complaining to Dave Tepper that I couldn't find the Lord of the Rings AIM Buddy Icons. Then I remembered that they are on the movie site. Now I'll show up as Frodo. I'm so pathetic.
Update: I've just made an icon of myself, so I may or may not change to that. I look pretty good, I think.
Update the second: I have now made the AIM name linkable -- you can click on it to send me an instant message. (Thanks to Andy at World Wide Rant.)
Peter Jackson plays with aeroplanes:
Film maker Peter Jackson turned to directing of a different sort yesterday as he helped choreograph a World War I battle scene in the Marlborough skies.
"...and you'll find an actress." -- Dorothy Parker.
It seems that someone thinks Elijah Wood is Very Very Gay. Now why would someone think that? (Actually, it is my theory that all actors are gay, and all actresses are straight, which is why they -- the actresses -- are so bitchy. Why do you think La Sarandon really has that look on her face all the time like she just bit into an underripe lime?)
Update: oops! I forgot to say -- via Dave Tepper, who's been a very naughty boy. Probably.
Here's some release info for the 2-disc set. I wonder if this time I will be able to hold out for the extended release...
This might appeal to some people: you can buy a home in Rivendell. Of course, it looks like you'll be needing to make a troll's hoard of a salary to afford it, but livin' large Elf-style don't come cheap. (Caveat: these homes don't really look anything like Elrond's digs, but instead seem to be the usual higher-end, vaguely "rustic" style suburban ranch-type home. Some of them even have those hideous, useless entry-archway things that are too big to to be called "stoops" and too small to be any type of porch. Via Dustbury.)
At the bottom of this post Steven Den Beste complains about the dull, prosaic names Americans tend to give wars:
Unfortunately, these things have a tendency to name themselves rather than being susceptible to any deliberate naming. "Operation Desert Storm" was a reasonably catchy title, but eventually Americans came to call it "The Gulf War". (As if it was the only war which anyone had ever fought in the Gulf.) I suspect the current operation will end up being called "The Second Gulf War" or something equally prosaic. Somehow it seems a shame that we should end up giving such uninspiring names to places and times where we think the issues are so important that we're willing to send our young people fight, and kill, and die.
I was reminded -- of course! what were you thinking? -- of a passage in The Lord of the Rings -- the book, not the movie. It's in the chapter "The Grey Havens." The problem of what to call a new street of hobbit-houses, built as part of the restoration of the a battle-damaged neighborhood, has come up:
"The was some discussion of the name that the new row should be given. Battle Gardens was thought of, or Better Smials. But after a while in sensible hobbit-fashion it was just called New Row."
Bwahahaha! (Click for larger.)
It's been a while, and I know you're all panting for more inane chatter about The Lord of the Rings films and related subjects. Here goes:
Apparently there is a scene from upcoming part three The Return of the King on the Two Towers Xbox/Gamecube game discs. Though from the scene described here, it could just as easily be an outtake from The Two Towers that will turn up on the dvd version of that film. Then again, that all depends on the sequence of how Jackson filmed the story's scenes.
Orlando Bloom (Legolas) may appear in a movie about Colditz Castle, one of the places the Nazis kept Allied POWs. I only mention this because there is an odd remark made by the screenwriter. (This is in reference to a controversy involving the possible whitewashing of the Nazis in that film.) The screenwriter says: "I think it's refreshing to see the German army of that period portrayed in a good light for a change." Okay, sure he's the screenwriter and he's going to say nice things about his own script, but what is it with this urge to spread niceness all over every damn thing? Some stuff that happened is evil, some people are just plain bad, and there is no need to nice them up. It's just another example of the mistaken notion that portraying evil as evil will somehow make more evil.
Here's a nice, interactive "Come to New Zealand" promo based on the films. it's got maps and interviews and things.
Sure, Peter Jackson is a great director, but I still have no interest in his latest project, a remake of King Kong. I can't think of a less necessary remake, though I'm sure anything will be an improvement over the Dino Di Laurentiis fiasco (of which I have only been able to endure tidbits). I've never understood the appeal of this film in any of its manifestations. Sorry, guys, giant ape movies just don't do it for me.
For some reason the thought of Ari Fleischer kicking back at night to watch Fellowship of the Ring is hilarious.
Here's an interesting interview with Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, on the need for the government of New Zealand to start offering tax breaks if they really want to boost the film industry in that country. He's quite sensible on this matter -- his films were the only ones allowed to take advantage of a tax loophole that the government promptly closed. But apparently the government is inhabited by wacky Green Socialists of some sort to whom the words "tax incentive" are like garlic to vampires, so I don't hold out much hope for his scheme. (You can also get a realvideo of the interview here -- I recommend doing a "save target as" and downloading it to your own hard drive. The video also has him talking about the reasons he didn't go to the Oscars -- 1) he was busy finishing up ROTK, 2) he just didn't think it was appropriate at this time, no security worries or antiwar shizzle, just he thought partying at this time inappropriate. Personally, I think the thought of flying twenty hours just to go to the Oscar hullabaloo struck him as being about as much fun as going to the dentist. He did call the LOTR-themed Oscar party some fans threw in L.A. instead.)
Well, since I can't sleep, this goes out to Mike, who requested it. I don't usually do requests, so don't be all thinking you can ask me for stuff. It don't work that way. The mistress gives only when she's in a givin' mood, see what'm sayin'? Now go show Mike some love.
(psst: hold your mouse cursor over the pic for the secret message!)
Here's a break in the war stuff: if your computer has the capabilities, you can watch clips of The Two Towers as well as interviews with Elijah Wood and Peter Jackson on MSNBC. You can even watch bits of all those other movies that are up for Oscars, if such things interest you.
That's what Canada's government has taken, according to John Robson, who gets bonus points for quoting from the book, not the movie.
(Via Sharon Ferguson. The hobbits will be back soon -- trust me.)
No, Tim -- she means World War Eleventy-One!
In looking for an Anglo-Saxon translator (Google has a Klingon and a Faroese and a h4X0r translator but no Anglo-Saxon! Bummer) I found this neat Runic translator, which will translate English words into the letters J.R.R. Tolkien used for some of his Middle-Earth writings. (It occurred to me that it's been a while since I had a Tolkien post. How long until December?)
You all want to see this: The Lord of the Rings Captions Site. Sample:
And it's a favorable one. It's also rather long and heavily footnoted, so I really don't have time to get into it right now. I will just note a slight misconception on page two of the article, where the author says:
Much has been written about the historicising framework of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and how The Shire in particular is presented as a pre-industrial, agricultural society. Indeed it can almost be termed a pre-modern society, in that Tolkien took some trouble to eradicate anachronistic references to New World vegetables such as tomatoes and potatoes, and especially tobacco--which in the hobbit lexicon becomes pipeweed.
Well, I wouldn't call that "careful eradication" myself -- Sam refers to "taters" constantly, which is a common word both in England and America for potatoes -- and that word is also used. If Tolkien really wanted to make his society historically premodern right down to the food, the vegetable referred to would have been some native Old World root such as turnips, and there would have been no smoking whatsoever of anything, since that was something Europeans did not do until their discovery of the Americas. (When the Native American practice was first observed by Europeans they didn't even know what to call the activity -- it was first referred to as "drinking smoke.") But it's a nitpick.
Oh dear -- looks like someone at Wal-mart's website committed a site design faux pas, and put up the wrong description for The Hobbit. Excerpt:
On the Battersea Reach of the Thames, a mixed bag of eccentrics live in houseboats. Belonging to neither land nor sea, they belong to one another. There is Maurice, a homosexual prostitute; Richard, a buttoned-up ex-navy-man; but most of all there's Nenna, the struggling mother of two wild little girls.
Funny, I don't remember anything about houseboats in the book...
It's the journal of the creator of the Very Secret Lord of the Rings Diaries. The latest episode: could there be a rival to Legolas' stature as The Prettiest? Come on, you know you want to know.
How come they get a trailer for Return of the King? Grrr.
Then again, this guy could have hallucinated the whole thing. Or just made it up. I trust no one when it comes to movie rumors.
(There's also some other, trivial, political reason to hate the Belgians, but I can't remember what it is. Something to do with how they want to run the EU and turn all of Europe into a Franco-Belgian slave state or something like that. I'm sure there are plenty of articles on Google.)
Peter Jackson, director of you know what, is finding out some things about his homeland that were apparently an unwelcome surprise. For on thing, there were only 37 organ donators in New Zealand last year. Here's a Middle-Earth parallel that is not so cute:
“There is something Hobbit-like in the ‘she’ll be right’ complacency among most New Zealanders,” said Jackson. “ I was shocked to discover the low level of organ donation in this country as we are all in the position of potentially needing the replacement of a vital organ. This little girl will die, as will others like her, unless we all make an active effort to address this problem.”
And that's not all:
Mr Jackson also urges the Ministry of Health to buy a ‘liver bypass’ machine.
“End-stage liver patients have died, only to have a suitable organ become available shortly afterwards. A bypass machine would buy such patients a bit of extra time.”
He said he was dismayed to learn that New Zealand does not own one of these machines, which, at a cost of $25,000, should be within the Health Ministry’s budget.
“Liver bypass machines are standard health care in every other part of the world, China recently bought 60 of them.”
Hey, here's an idea: you've just directed a couple of movies that has earned you zillions of dollars. Why not check out how much a downpayment for one of those things will be, and donate one to the "Ministry of Health" yourself? Just a thought. Perhaps, now that the scales have seemingly fallen from his eyes, he'll realize that you don't have to wait for the "Ministry of Health" or any other government body to do things, not when you have money. (Though I wonder just how much of his earnings is taken out in taxes.)
Tired of comparing today's situation to World War II? Try this on for size. Sample:
Many of the people protesting war in Mordor agreed with Saruman’s remarks. “Sauron says he’s destroyed his Rings of Mass Destruction (RMD) and that’s good enough for me,” said one fellow carrying a sign that said “Elrond is a Balrog.” Another demonstrator urged, “Give the RMD inspectors more time. There’s no reason to rush to any judgment just because Mount Doom is belching lava, the Dark Tower is rebuilt, and Osgiliath has been decimated.” A third protester piped up, “I haven’t heard a single bit of convincing evidence connecting the Nazgul with Sauron. I think they destroyed Osgiliath on their own initiative without any support from Sauron. Besides, it’s understandable they’re angry with Gondor. We haven’t done nearly as much for the Orcs and Goblins and Easterlings as the Nazgul and Sauron have. It’s understandable they throw their support to them. It’s our own fault really.”
Oh, but you really must read it all.
Note: I decided to change the title -- if any of you read this in the last three seconds.
Taking a break from peace fools and cybertrolls, here's some news from Middle Earth:
This interview with Billy Boyd reveals that he will be in upcoming high seas adventure film film Master and Commander, with Russell "Ladies' Man" Crowe. Hmm. Watching the British Horatio Hornblower series last year gave me quite the taste for high seas Napoleonic-era adventure movies. (Iaon Gruffudd helped.)
Scroll down on this page to the entry titled "JRD Shoots 'Dragon' In Bulgaria" for news of a film that John Rhys-Davies will be in. Excerpt:
The film is called "Dragon Storms" by director Stephen Foerstein. Filming will take place in the medieval fortress Baba Vida and the dungeons of the "Venetian depot" in Vidin for 18 days. John Rhys-Davies plays the role of the evil king.For more news on this, check out Sofia Sideshow -- this is the film jkrank is working on. Oh, and by the way, add another actor to the list of Actors Who Are NOT Idiots.
For those of you who did not know: Orlando "Legolas! Squeal!" Bloom is going to play Paris in the upcoming film Troy. And Sean Bean (who played Boromir) is cast as Odysseus. Can't wait for that one either.
This interview with Ian McKellan contains the following amusing tidbit:
But, yes, it’s agreeable for a one-time Burnley boy to sit next to Meryl Streep at the Oscars, or have Colin Powell introduce himself as “your mailman” at the same ceremony and drop a missive from his niece into his lap[...]
|Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.|
The Elijah's World AOL Chat (April 30, 1995)Heh.
Lionrobby: Elijah, I've noticed you sign "God Bless You" on autographs, What religion are you?
Guest EJW: lion, I'm Christian
The Prodigy Chat (September 12, 1997)
Question: What are your religious beliefs?
Elijah: Well, I'm a Christian. I was raised a Christian. I'm not highly religious in some people's eyes because I don't go to church. It's not that I've made a choice saying that I do not want to go to church... It's more circumstantial than that. But since our family has not been to church in so long, it's not really something we've considered doing.
I don't feel that in order to be a "good Christian," that you have to go to church. You can be religious without going to church by just praying and living your life for God. And living your life by God's teachings, or the bible. It interesting...every bible for every religion says basically the same thing.
And here's a favorable Christian review of Fellowship of the Ring. However, there is one puzzling note: a "moderate" rating on the film for "drug alert." I can't understand what they mean: are they referring to the "leaf"? Repeat after me, people: "leaf" is just what Tolkien calls "tobacco." It is not cannabis: ignore the hippies.
In lieu of looking at pictures of idiots and their stupid signs (I'm sorry, but the intellectual level of the antiwar protests as displayed in these photos is on no higher level than "infuriatingly, blockheadedly stupid") I will post some Lord of the Rings tidbits.
First, for all you Billy Boyd (Pippin) fans, here's his diary. It is a very infrequently updated, and rather generic "to the fans" sort of thing, but the latest entry with the missing letters due to a wonky keyboard is promising.* Get that man a wee blog of his own.
Second, the Baltic Blogger finally went to see The Two Towers in Tallinn today. He has the cheering news that they get their Hollywood movies pretty soon after their domestic debut, so we can start on the cultural indoctrination right away. Also, he says they never dub their movies either; subtitles are cheaper. Good, I hate dubbed movies in any language. So if I ever find myself in Estonia and have an urge to see a non-Estonian movie, I won't have had to learn the local language to understand it. (You know Americans don't want to lurn no danged foreign languages. Speak English, world!)**
[GEEK] A couple of minor quibbles with his review: 1) Saruman did not build the tower, the ancient men of Numenor did, back when they had the technical shizzle. It wasn't intended to be a fortress, but a kind of astronomical observatory and (at some point) a place to keep the palantír when they were used by the Numenorians as communications devices, pre-Sauron. Saruman just decided to live there one day after it was left vacant. Also, in the book, the reason the Ents were able to flood the plain around it was because they diverted a bunch of rivers and streams, and dammed up the valley, and one reason for all the water was to put out the fires in the caves underneath Orthanc. This was described in the book as a slow process, and the dam-smashing, sudden flooding scene was not in the book at all; that was made up for the script for dramatic effect; and 2) the fortress of Helm's Deep was considered impregnable because of its outer walls, which were described in the book as sheer, with an overhang, nearly impossible to scale. The builders obviously didn't count on explosives. Once the outer walls were breached, it didn't matter what the door was made of. I don't remember what the doors were made of at the Helm's Deep fortress; I do remember that the gates to the outer wall of Minas Tirith were made of iron and steel, and they were no match for the gate-smashing hammer and the spells of the Captain of the Nazgul during the siege of the battle of the fields of Pelennor. And in that part of the book the only reason the orc forces didn't invade immediately after the gate was smashed was due to the fact that a) Gandalf was in the way, and b) the Rohirrim appeared in the nick of time, and the Captain of the Nazgul unwisely decided to attack them instead. You all know what happened next. Well, all of you who have read the book anyway. I have no idea what Peter Jackson did with this part of the story; we'll all find out in December. Anyway, people with more knowledge of medieval-type warfare than I have feel free to barge in here. [/GEEK]
*Well, I thought it was funny.
**All this is supposed to be only semi-serious. Yes, for some reason I feel like putting up disclaimers for the humor-impaired. Maybe it was sights like this that reminded me that there are so many morons in the world and some of them might visit this blog by mistake and become confused.
(Via Sharon Ferguson.)
Ooh, look at my new desktop wallpaper:
(Click for larger)
Get that and more here. (I have a theory about this scene, which I will expound upon later when I feel like posting more. As far as I am concerned, this shot made the movie for me. When I get The Two Towers on dvd, I will be doing stop-back-replay on this scene quite a bit. Everyone else is like, battle battle battle, or Legolas jumping on the horse, and I'm like, yeah yeah, those are good scenes, but for me it's Nazgul on the bridge. Rock.)
Remember this clever Photohopped image? (Click to see it larger.)
The joke of this bit of computer imagery is, of course, that Bush is the real Dark Lord. Well, in the novel Lord of the Rings, the one character that can put on the ring and not disappear is Tom Bombadil. The ring has no power over Bombadil, the text implies, not so much because he is more powerful than Sauron but because he has no ambition for power for himself. This character was written out of the movie because of time and continuity constraints, so many people laughing at this joke won't have thought of this. (I didn't think of it until yesterday, and I have read the book almost as many times as Christopher Lee has.) It sort of ruins the joke, though, doesn't it...
Somethingawful.com has been having fun with Photoshop at Lord of the Ring's expense. (Don't forget to click the "next" arrow at the bottom for more pages.) Here's my favorite. It's subtle, yet cruel, the way a good joke should be. (And you get to take a drink, too!)
Our local Bishop Penny Jamieson wrote a commentary piece the other day where she said that she wasn't sure who would be Sauron, Bush or Saddam.I think I can clear up her confusion:
Hope this helps.
Lord of the Rings vs. Star Wars, Onion style.
"Lord Of The Rings gave me things Star Wars never could," Janus said. "If it hadn't been for Peter Jackson showing me what a fantasy saga can be, I might have settled for [summer 2002's] Attack Of The Clones as the best I could ever hope for."The course of true love never did run smooth.
I meant to blog this tidbit about Sean Astin (a.k.a., Samwise the Brave, a.k.a. My Favorite Hobbit -- sure, Frodo is all that, but we all know he wouldn't have gotten anywhere without Sam) joining some President's Council to Help Children Do Something Or Other (read the press release). I remember thinking, "Ah! How nice for a change to see a Hollywood actor not treat the current administration as if it had cooties." Well, it looks like some tiny minds aren't too thrilled with Astin becoming a "tool of the man." And -- horror of horrors -- apparently Astin was in Washington last September 11th for "something concerning this." (Note to Tiny Mind: it was for the ceremony. Oh no! A prayer was said! Release the hounds!) Yeah, I remember how uncool concepts like "patriotism" were when I was a teenager too. Then I grew up.
(Big Arm Woman reminded me of this.)
Here is an interesting interview with the writers of the Lord of the Rings films, explaining some of the difficulties they had translating the book to the film, the decisions they made, and so on. An interesting fact is given at the end: apparently Phillippa Boyens' next project is an adaptation of Ursula K. LeGuin's Earthsea Trilogy. That's another of my favorites; something to look forward to.
Winner of the Flagellant's Whip and Hairshirt Award goes to the writer of this blockheaded critique of Lord of the Rings and its author, and even the author's friends. Apparently the book is full of "occult imagery," Tolkien is to be faulted for not attempting to write a "Christian allegory," the dreaded Satanic game Dungeons and Dragons was all his fault, and C.S. Lewis wasn't Christian enough to suit the writer of this web page. LOTR gets props, though, for not being "as overtly and sympathetically occultic as the Harry Potter series." Silver lining and all that.
(Note: this site has more goodies, such as a page on the "Homosexual Agenda." Hint: it's got nothing to do with passing laws forbidding people to wear white belts and shoes before Memorial Day. And don't miss the Harry Potter problem! Yeah, I can't wait for the fifth book to get here either -- oh, that's not what you meant? Never mind...)
Hee hee -- this has been making the rounds: you've seen the Bad Engrish captions for bootleg versions of Fellowship, now marvel at the ones for The Two Towers. My favorites, just from the first page, are
(Link sent to me by Dean Esmay. Uh... thanks!)
In honor of all those bloggers who post whatever the hell they want, I bring to you this little image of Frodo and Sam for no reason whatsoever. Because it occurred to me that I haven't blogged about LOTR lately. Apparently there are some people out there who who object to people posting about whatever they want on their very own blogs. Apparently there are some people out there with no lives.
James Lileks saw the Two Towers. The movie passed his (not really very high -- Nemesis? Eek!) Geek Meter of Approval. The audience did not. I must say that I have been lucky each time (only three! shut up) I saw the movie that I had a pretty decent audience. Even if there were irritating giggles at some of Gollum's speeches, they all shared this characteristic: during the last scene of the movie, which is where Gollum has his final, going-back-to-the-Dark-Side speech, there was Absolute. Dead. Silence. I mean it, you couldn't hear a pin drop. It wasn't because everyone had fallen asleep out of boredom either: as the credits started and the lights came up, instead of springing up from their chairs like chickens released from a crate the way most movie-goers tend to do at the start of credits, the audiences to this movie got up slowly and thoughtfully. Anyway -- if there was any absurd pantomime being done by anyone at the theaters I was at, it was out of my field of vision.
I agree about the disappointment of the "Tolkien-inspired" Led Zeppelin lyrics, but not because they were inspired by Tolkien -- it was because they sucked. Led Zeppelin's lyrics were hardly their strong point. "Squeeze my lemon, baby, 'til the juice runs down my leg..."
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the invention of a certain inedible sugary thing, I bring you Lord of the Peeps. I also have a confession: I still have my peeps from last Easter in the fridge. My plan is to make them part of some sort of postmodern art thing, which I will sell for thousands of dollars to some rich liberal art collectors with more money than sense. Baby wants a new Miata.
Oh dear, the intrepid researchers at the Landover Baptist Church have uncovered the truth about The Two Towers. Another facet to the Film Industry Cabal's plot to destroy the moral underpinnings of Western Society has been uncovered! Curses! Foiled again! On to Plan B: Return of the King, aka, Frodo Lights Gollum's Fire. Included in the article: a snippet of the film that apparently was deemed too avant-garde for the theatrical release; hopefully it will appear in the extended dvd. November, kiddies!
(Yes, I am aware that the "Landover Baptist Church" is a parody site.)
Click to see the full graphic:
For all you numismatists out there, New Zealand has released a set of stamps commemorating the Lord of the Rings movies. Drool. (Hey, I used to collect stamps. I think I still have them somewhere. Shut up.)
Update: I meant "philatelists," of course. Well hey, I used to collect coins too. Don't know what happened to my non-valuable coin collection. Oh well.
Now I shall go off and forget more words for things.
Is it Elijah "Froggie" Wood (Frodo) or Orlando "Potato Nose" Bloom (Legolas)? Come on, you know you want to know.
Quite frankly, I think Sam's the diamond in the rough here. He might be fat, but he's loyal (girls appreciate that) and he can cook (girls appreciate that too.)
Oh yeah. I found and watched the MTV Council of Elrond spoof that is the second dvd "easter egg" on the Fellowship of the Rings extended dvd. I am now permanently traumatized by the sight of Jack Black's bare behind.
If he thinks the first film had amazing special effects, wait until he gets a load of Gollum.
Here's a rather silly article comparing the female characters in the Lord of the Rings novel to the movie versions'. It was originally in the Orlando Sentinel, which we here like to call the "Slantinel," and is the usual piece of puffery. Some laffs:
It’s a man’s world, this Middle-earth of J. R. R. Tolkien. "Tolkien created an entire world of medieval warriors and feudalistic practices in which women are not only lacking in positions of power but missing altogether," writes Raj Shoan in The Tolkien Archives. "Other than a few notable females, this is a story by a man about men for men." The wizards don’t date. The Urk Hai and other evil goblin soldiers are not of woman born, but built by wizards. And when the decision is made to march off to destroy the "one ring," it is carried out by a fellowship — emphasis on fellow.You know, I don't wonder that boys and men like to form "He-Man Woman-Hater" clubs where they can get away from yeasty femalisms like this.
With Arwen and Eowyn, an elf and a human who compete for the affections of Aragorn, Tolkien didn’t even put much effort into distinguishing their names.Funny, I don't have any trouble telling the names apart. Sure, they both have five letters in them and begin with vowels and end with "n." I can only hope this guy hasn't had any girlfriends with similar names. "You called me Ann!" "I did not -- I said Nan!" "You did too!"
I can only imagine the trouble Peter Jackson will have if he ever does try to film The Hobbit. That story has no female characters at all.
Hey, people with the Fellowship of the Ring extended dvd, this website has instructions on how to find the neat "easter eggs" hidden in the discs. There is the Two Towers trailer (which I notice shows scenes that were not in the theatrical release, so I assume they will appear in the extended release of that film), and an MTV spoof of some sort (I haven't watched it yet).
(Via Silflay Hraka, who also has implemented some sort of trackbacking program to work with Blogspot sites. How'd they do that?)
Well, it's been at least a day or so since I blogged anything to do with Tolkien, so it's time. Herewith, my thoughts on female characters and such in the films so far:
In retrospect, it looks as if the inclusion/build up of existing female characters in the movie, supposedly to assuage the sensibilities of modern females who are used to seeing women on film doing stuff Just As Good As Men If Not Better (or at least hanging around with the guys like pretend equals), was a mistake. I don't think I have read one review or comment from a female saying things like: "I'm so glad we see more of Arwen!" At best the general consensus seems to be: "Arwen, eh." In fact, there are some women who could cheerfully dispense with her character altogether. Eowyn, now, is getting a lot more favorable notice -- but gee, it just so happens she is an active character in the actual book, while Arwen is in the background and doesn't even have a speaking part unless you count a message she sends to Aragorn through her brother. Go figure! Women are more concerned with faithfulness to the work of art being translated into film than in being good little feminists.
What's my take? Well, I see what Jackson and the screenwriter (scriptwriter? Whatever.) Philippa Boyens did -- for the first part of the film they gave Arwen the part (mostly) of Glorfindel -- which is no problem because we never see Glorfindel in the story again after the race to the Ford. And they pulled some stuff out of the "Arwen and Aragorn" story that is in the Appendices -- oh blah blah blah. Let me be frank. Liv Tyler is quite pretty and at least has dark hair, and her acting isn't bad -- it's not a complex part. And the flashback scene in The Two Towers with Aragorn and Arwen on the [I WISH] balcony of my house looking out across my back yard [/I WISH] is also very pretty, kind of like a Maxfield Parrish painting -- but it slows the film nearly to a crawl, and is an unnecessary diversion from the main action in a whole long sequence that they made up out of almost whole cloth. (Except for the Warg attack, which actually occurred in the first book before the attempt to climb Caradhras, and was perpetrated on the Fellowship, and no one got killed -- and [PEEVE] why does Háma have to get offed by a Warg, why doesn't he get to die before the gates of the Hornburg in battle, so the king can mourn him? Whatever. [/PEEVE]) I could cheerfully have dispensed with the love scenes so as to have either more battle scenes, or better yet, more scenes with Faramir that might have disclosed to us more of an idea of just what it is Jackson and co. thought they were doing with his character. I think that that notion, the whole we-must-build-up-the-distaff-side idea, is a sad side effect of living in these modern times, where even someone who dared take on something as unfilmable as Lord of the Rings still can't quite bring himself to tell the PC crowd to stuff it. Even so, this film is being tediously referred to as "a boy's film," even by the principals (I have the interviews on the dvd), so I can only imagine the outcry that would have rattled the cages of the filmworld if they had stuck closer to the story. Well, when I get the dvd I can always skip the mushy Arwen scenes. That's what that little fast forward button is for.
Side note: since I seem to be stuck on Anne Wilson's blog tonight, I'll talk about this post where she says that the ancient Germanic tribes the Rohirrim are possibly based on (they aren't really, actually -- not to the letter, but read on) were not really like the actual ancient Germanic tribes as recorded by Tacitus, of whose account she gives an example. For one thing, instead of being scared and weeping during battles, actual ancient Germanic tribal women were encouraging and cheered their men on, and so forth. Well, no doubt it would have been more true to history to show the women of Rohan shoving their boys out into battle, but that would never play in Peoria. (Or would it? Who knows.) I think the weepy women scenes were a) part of the buildup of doomy emotion Jackson seemed to be going for, and b) a rather tedious emphasis on The Horrors of War on the Helpless. And of course, keep in mind that the enemy besieging them was not, for the most part, human, so the fear factor has to be greater. For myself, I would rather have seen Tolkien's idea of what the Rohirrim were like: "...a stern people, loyal to their lord, and little weeping or murmuring was heard, even in the camp in the Hold where the exiles from Edoras were housed, women and children and old men. Doom hung over them, but they faced it silently." But maybe that wouldn't play in Peoria either. But we'll never know.
I see someone's been bitten. Myself, I am feeling like starting a Return of the King trailer countdown -- if I only had a date to count down to.
That's the main subject of this article in Frontpage. It makes some interesting claims, such as:
While Jackson’s action-packed films have obvious appeal, the novel’s popularity is harder to understand. Tolkien’s book moves at a deliberate pace and features a hero (Frodo Baggins) who eventually loses the sympathy of most readers.He does? Not this reader. But then, I'm not a shallow, "I need a hero!" happy-ending type of person. Take that, all you Frodo detractors!
Here's a paragraph (excised) that I liked:
Tolkien’s world creation outdoes others because of his deep understanding of the roots of Western culture: his comprehension of myth, epic, and language touches everything in the novels from the magical but familiar Elvish language to his descriptions of Earth-shaking battles. Without his academic training and position, Tolkien probably could not have written a novel nearly as good. (Nearly every medievalist I know under 40 considers LOTR a major influence.)Note that last sentence. Ha HA, fantasy-destroys-interest-in-scholarly-pursuits people. (I will never tire of making digs at that article.)
Here's a surprising claim:
Tolkien’s own politics, in any case, were mostly left-of-center.By what definition? Not one I ever read... AFAIK, Tolkien was pretty conservative. Maybe he voted Labour or something? Whatever. I haven't researched his politics (because I really. Don't. Care.) but this sounds like a dig at the supposed "anti-industrialism" in the novel from a member of TAE, not the result of actual knowledge of what side of the spectrum the late professor voted on.
Via TheOneRing.net, news of The Hobbit being published in Luxembourgish. That, kiddies, is the language they speak in Luxembourg. I think I was there for one whole day during my one and only trip to Europe. It was a Saint's Day, and everything was closed.
Here's a sample of the language. Can you guess what they are saying?
Dräi Réng fir d'Elwekinneken, déi éiweg liewen,
Siwwe fir d'Zwakenhären an hiren Hale vu Steen,
Néng fir Mënschen, d'Leit déi misse stierwen,
A fir den Här um däischtren Throun, just Een.
Am Land vu Mordor, do wou d'Schieder schwiewen.
Ee Rank regéiert se all, Ee Rank dee fënnt se,
Ee Rank dee bréngt se all an an der Däischtert bënnt se,
Am Land vu Mordor, do wou d'Schieder schwiewen.
Alan K. Henderson presents The Lord of the Rings as bloggers might have written it. He got one thing wrong, though: that recipe would have only fed one hobbit, and probably would only have been considered a light snack.
Here are more other-author parody versions of LOTR.
Update: there's more here (scroll down). Love the Samuel R. Delany one. (Note: this seems to be a copy of the Straightdope site, so linking to that one will probably bring up the same results; this link just loads faster.)
In which Gandalf gains a new perspective on his heretofore unexamined mission:
It was a pleasure to burn.
It was a special pleasure to see Hobbits eaten, to see them blackened and changed. With the wooden staff in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous pitch upon the Shire, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history. With his pointed hat on his wizened head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he mumbled a Word of Command and the Great Smials jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black. He strode in a swarm of fireflies. He wanted above all, like the old joke, to shove a haunch of mutton on a spit in the furnace, while the flapping, ridiculous Hobbits died on the porch and lawn of the great Hobbit-hole. While the Hobbits went up in greasy, sparkling whirls that blew away on a wind turned dark with burning.
Gandalf grinned the fierce grin of all men singed and driven back by flame. Fools of Tooks! he thought with an inward chuckle, as the smell of burnt foot-hair filled his nostrils, as welcome as the smell of a fresh-baked apple pie cooling on the sill.
He knew that when he returned to Lothlórien, he might wink at himself, a minstrel man, burnt-corked, in the Mirror of Galadriel. Later, going to sleep, he would feel the fiery smile still gripped by his face muscles, in the dark. It never went away, that smile, it never ever went away, as long as he remembered.
Eowyn felt her heart flutter when she saw him. His raven hair flew in the breeze off the plain, and his piercing eyes caught her gaze as if by magic. He bore a kingly attitude; surely he was a prince. Her mind turned to forbidden things, things which would be forbidden to the King's niece, but surely allowed for a free shieldmaiden. She knew that she was made to love this ranger.and, last but not least:
-Mark of the King, Danielle Steele
If it was written by Robert Jordan it would be 10 books long.(Via Silflay Hraka.)
Elijah Wood, indie hobbit.
Some differences in the way women in Europe, or Britain anyway, perceive things and the way that American women (at least those I have associated with, spoken to, corresponded with, and so on) do are on display in this little article, which is supposed to be an explanation of why Lord of the Rings appeals to the ladies. I must admit this is a question that did not even come to my mind. All my women friends loved the movie; but I don't think it occurred to them that they were doing anything strange or unfeminine, or "horning in on the boys' action." They've all read the books too. But apparently in Britain the books are a boys thing. I just find that weird.
The article is the strangest mix of sense and silliness. Ms. Ellen goes from burbling something as foolish as
Because actually, guys, women have heard of the books, even though we probably didn’t bother reading them, having had much more time for Max Factor than Tolkien when we were teenagersa line that made me immediately think: "Speak for yourself, micro-brain"; or the pseudo-deep pseudo-analysis of:
Movies such as The Lord of the Rings are a good way to spy on men, see within the most primitive areas of their psyches — all those yearnings for transcendence, nobility and majesty that still tickle away deep within the male soul.Here's the intrepid girl journalist being "feisty" here -- cute, non-threatening, charmingly scamp. Gag.
But then she reveals the fist inside the velvet glove, re the sort of films usually considered fit for females:
Jackson is actually lucky we’re still in the market. Considering the level of swill aimed at them, it’s a wonder that women bother to go to the cinema at all. While the guys get Pulp Fiction and The Usual Suspects, all the women get is patronised. Sometimes you get a semi-decent chick flick, a Bridget Jones’s Diary or a Kissing Jessica Stein, but mainly it’s “Kissy-kissy, boo-hoo, hurrah, he loves me, the end”.Pretty good for a girl.
USA Today wants to know: What do you think about 'The Two Towers'?. The comparison they are using is the Star Wars films. (I see blood in the water. Can you say: "chum-fest"?) They'll publish the answers. Come on, all you geeks. What are you waiting for? (I'm waiting to wake up.)
Update: My answers to the questions are up:
1. Do the The Lord of the Rings movies show signs of having enough of a cultural impact and popularity to become the Star Wars for this generation?
"This generation" is a meaningless term, because both movies have a certain amount of cross-generational appeal. However, that is where the comparison ends. For example: The Lord of the Rings films have nothing in them aimed at very young children the way the Star Wars films do (even the first one had cute, barrel-shaped Cee-threepio, its burbles and squeals sounding very like a baby in a cradle). This does not mean that children aren't "sophisticated" enough to like The Lord of the Rings films, it means only that there is no blatant attempt to appeal to their "baser" toy-collecting nature. (I do not count the spinoff merchandising of both sets of films -- the dolls and accessories and video games and so forth -- in this assessment of the actual amount of child-appeal in the actual films. In Lord of the Rings the only creatures that come close to being even halfway child's-toy-like are the Ents, but they are far outclassed in the cuteness department by the Ewoks.)
2. Is Peter Jackson, the director and effects wizard behind the Rings movies, the new George Lucas?
I certainly hope not. Lucas, after a promising start, has become a hopeless windbag with delusions of grandeur, and no sense of story or characterization.
3. Are you one of the original Star Wars fans who have been disappointed by the recent episodes The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones in the series?
Oh god, yes. I haven't even bothered to go see Clones. I saw The Phantom Menace on video. I wasn't impressed.
Has The Lord of the Rings replaced Star Wars as your film series of choice? If so, why?
Well, quite a few movies had already replaced Star Wars as my movie of choice. One reason was the increasing sophistication of movie-making technology, which makes the early Star Wars films look lame. Dazzling special effects are no longer sufficient to hide a weak storyline from the audience. The storyline in Lord of the Rings exposes the Star Wars "mythos" as a randomly pasted-up pastiche of old fifties sci-fi, Saturday matinee serials, rescue-the-princess fairy tales, and badly-digested kung-fu-movie pseudo-mysticism.
4. If you are age 25 and under, do you find that the Rings movies mean more to you than the Star Wars films. And why?
I don't qualify for this question.
5. Which film are you looking forward to the most Star Wars: Episode III (due in 2005) or The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, due this Christmas?
Return of the King, hands down. I doubt I'll even bother to go see this nth episode of Star Wars: The Movie That Wouldn't Leave, in the theater.
I went ahead and emailed them to the USAToday folks. This should get me universally hated...
And they call Lord of the Rings "simplistic": check out the latest installment in the exaggerated claims department, this time that Tolkien was a "pure Luddite." I am not going to argue here that the late professor would have been a huge fan of digital technology, though from what he had to say about previous attempts to make an animated film of his book* I think I can safely say that he probably would have been pleased with at least some of the effects in Jackson's films. But he was hardly a "pure" Luddite. If "nostalgia" for a bucolic past makes one a "pure" Luddite, then a lot of people can be accused of holding that belief.
More ignorance abounds: Orcs were not "born fully-grown from a monster-making assembly line of Saruman's design" -- they already existed in Tolkien's world before Saruman. Then the writer complains because the battles in the fantasy novel aren't exactly like real-life historical battles! Tolkien wasn't trying to re-create the battle of Crécy! Why not argue that a battery of JDAMs would have made a paste of Helm's Deep! Argh! Talk about missing the point.
In any case, the battle scene in the book is not quite like the film's -- for one thing, no Huorns show up in the film to take care of the remaining Orcs. The explosion in the book is not quite as spectacular as in the film (there was no "suicide Orc" scene, the entire wall did not crumble, etc.), and so forth. Also some frankly unrealistic scenes in the film -- Gandalf and co. charging a wall of pikes with horsemen -- is not in the book. I could go on, but you get the idea.
There is a faint whiff of "Lo, what have we wrought with our Evil Technology" underlying the premise of this article despite the author's disapproving tone on Tolkien's supposed Luddism. Also, Mr. Surowiecki seems to have forgotten a few things. Tolkien died in 1973, thirty years ago, when the world was quite frankly a lot dirtier than it is now, and an argument could then be made that society was going to pollution hell due to demon tech (if we weren't all going to starvation hell due to overpopulation). But today, at least in the "industrialized" West, the air and water is cleaner, technology is a lot "lighter" than it used to be, and a big worry is not overpopulation, but low birth rates and infertility. In 1973 computers were still perceived as big scary beasts that could take over the world. Today does anyone, outside of Hollywood where they still make movies based on this premise, seriously believe that the iMac on their desk is going to turn them into a zombie slave and then take over the world? You can't use Tolkien's, or anybody's, views of the technology of sixty, fifty, thirty years ago to criticise (or not) the current technological trends. In any case he didn't write his book in order to criticise the industrial age. It is a misuse of the book for us to use it to do so. You might as well accuse Grimm's Fairy Tales or The Odyssey of being an anti-industry tract.
*Source, as always, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Always go to the Original Sources, my professors are always telling me, so I do.
(Brought to you via the End of the Internet.)
Via James Hudnall comes this link to some (small) scans from a calendar for the last installment of LOTR. Take a gander: so far so good, I say. (I dunno how long these will be up. I don't know if Onering.net leaves everything up in its "spy" section or if the link rots after a while; that is, if they will have to take this stuff down like the site they got it from did.)
Update: on the front page of the Onering.net site are links to higher resolution pictures; get 'em while they're hot: Aragorn (almost groomed!), Arwen (dreamy), Gandalf (badass!) Gollum (looks rather like an earlier conception of Gollum to me), Sam & Frodo (this one's for you, Sean!). Apparently these are "promotional" items that are for industry people only. Or that would have been the case if not for the internet. Now all your "exclusive freebies" are belong to us.
Dave at Dave Does the blog reviews the Fellowship of the Ring DVD set. His reactions pretty much agree with mine. I'll have more on this later. (Contains spoilers, if you care about such things.)
Jonah Goldberg needs to learn to use the "blockquote" tag -- or simple quote marks. Otherwise he is spot on in his observations on the idiocies of commentators who have been running around shrieking "racist!" about the portrayal of Orcs, which are -- here, take my hand, I know this is going to be difficult -- IMAGINARY CREATURES. Christ on a stick people are stupid sometimes... Oh -- and I missed what looks to be a deliciously stupid review of The Two Towers by NYT reviewer Karen "Agh! War Scary!" Durbin. (To get it off their website now would cost me US$2.95. It's called "'Lord of the Rings': Serious Issues." Forget it.) Oh poor me, I feel so deprived.
All that being said, Goldberg should have taken a little more time over this column. It's a little confusing the way he goes into a side bit about the awful Starship Troopers movie (when will filmmakers quit doing "hommage" to Leni Riefenstahl's sure hand with a bunch of saluting Nazi soldiers? When devils are selling snowcones in hell is my guess), and then he sort of ponderously segues into a discursion on metaphor, where he misses the fact that Tolkien intended Sauron not to be evil incarnate from the beginning, but a fallen creature just like -- well, like everyone. But that isn't explicit in the main three books nor in the movie, so I'll let it slide. His column is at the least a welcome addition to the voices of reason regarding what, after all, is only a movie.
Update: here is the link to the Karen Durbin article, kindly provided by Angie Schultz. I don't know why I could only find the for-pay link using the NYT's search engine. Then again, maybe I do... Anyway, the article was barely a review. Durbin starts with a recap of Viggo Mortenson's diatribe on Charlie Rose, then a couple of paragraphs on Tolkien's attitude towards Nazis and Hitler (he was not a fan), and then acknowledges that the movie was a "grand adventure tale," then goes off into a brief froth of anxiety about it being "war propaganda" and some babble about "dehumanizing the other guy." See what I mean? Do they not teach about metaphor in journalism school anymore?
We wants it, we wants it, we wants it! The heck with those girly elf-jewels.
Here's another British science-fiction (and fantasy) author who states his contempt for Tolkien, or at least Lord of the Rings, though he says "Tolkien," even after he states earlier on this page how Tolkien was kind and encouraging to him. I offer no comment to that, though appreciation for kindness certainly should not result in slavish admiration of the generous one's published works, still if it were me I would at the very least refrain from using words like "contempt" and so forth... but I am a little toady, not a soul of adamantine uncompromising dedication to my own ideal.
I have read some of Moorcock's stories, mostly a few of the Elric series. I found them not to my taste after a while; they all seemed to have the same plot: Elric's a crazy psycho, his sword makes him kill someone he likes, interspersed with lavish descriptions yadda yadda. I wondered if they were written to counteract all that hippy-dippy happy-elf fairy stuff as well as that triumphalist sword 'n' sorcery heroic stuff that was popular in the sixties and seventies. This reminds me of a book I read not so long ago: Bimbos of the Death Sun, by Sharyn McCrumb. It's an amusing little satirical mystery based on scifi fandom and writers who cynically exploit same.
Anyway, I have a problem with this statement of Moorcock's:
Growing up during the Blitz, you became used to seeing whole buildings and streets suddenly disappear. After the Blitz, new buildings and streets appeared. The world I knew was malleable, populated, violent and urgent. After the war, everything seemed dull and certainly the obsessions of most politicians and writers didn't bear much relevance to my experience.Well, they hardly disappeared; they were blown up, and the rubble of them was everywhere, I am sure, for quite some time, not to mention the half-burned ruins, and the empty cellar holes. And new buildings didn't "appear," they were built, over a period of months and years. I remember reading English novels -- nothing notable, just whatever was in the YA section at the library -- set in the fifties and sixties which talked about the bombed out Blitz neighborhoods. And aren't there still patches of London that are still not built back up? I don't know, I've only been there once, and we didn't tour the entire city.
I don't know what my problem with Moorcock is, beyond the usual fact of "he got LOTR wrong," which I will let pass since I've already said what I've had to say about that attitude in other posts. I'll just leave it at: he's coming from a different place, and I do not agree with it -- in fact, I see gaps in the logic, assumptions being made (again), which I can't quite put into words. Something about someone whose response to bombed out buildings is to become bored... no doubt I am miscontruing what he said. But I saw the Towers fall on tv. (By the way, I wonder if Jackson is going to show that great scene of Barad Dûr crumbling and collapsing? It would be against all the laws of movies and spectacle not to do so -- and it's only one tower; Isengard doesn't crumble, it become a centerpiece to a pool and a garden once again under the care of the Ents. That's what the new World Trade Center needs on its design board: some Ents.) Anyway, I saw them fall, and my first thought was not: the World is Malleable, Populated, Violent, and Urgent! But then I didn't grow up in prewar (though really, post World War I, and that was supposed to be as traumatic if not more so than the following War?) England. No, I lived here, in America, that not a day before September 11th 2001 was contemplating pulling back, becoming more isolationist. disengaging even further from the world's pettier squabbles. Remember the outcry against Bush, the isolationist president?
Then September 11th happened and all that was revealed to be the flimsiest of fantasies. I remember the silent days that followed, the giant pall of depression that seemed to settle on the entire nation from coast to coast, despite some belligerent talk here and there. I don't know where I am going with this, except to say that a thirty-eight year-old woman had a different response to buildings "disappearing." I certainly didn't sit around thinking "Oh, goody, war! Peace is so dull." Give me dullness.
Anyway, I am reading another in Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey mystery series. I read somewhere that mystery stories are emblematic (or something) of the search for truth. Well, duh.
Update: Amritas actually read more of the Moorcock internview than I was able to do, thus exposing himself to an ungrateful Eurobastard (sorry, European people who aren't bastards) who has been living in America but obviously never learned at his momma's knee that you don't stab your host in the back, much less spit in his or her face or piss in their milk. Ho hum, another uncivilized creep pontificates on how much Amerikkka and the Whiteman sux. Not to mention Moorcock brings up that ancient bugbear of social mavens, the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. Geez, 'my people' haven't been boogiemen since the Eighties, when the Yuppies took over as Most Hated Group. Amritas also laments the fact that Andrea Dworkin and I share a first name. You and me both, buddy. What I do is run her names together into one word: "Andreadworkin." It makes it better somehow.
Now they've gone too far: using Elvis to promote their movie! Shame!
Well, my cable has been going on and off a lot. Fun. Anyway, while I'm still on, as a service to Blogburst participants (not to mention me) I'm putting up these links to all the Tolkien-related posts from my old blog. These are the ones with substance anyway. Enjoy:
December 18, 2002: What do they eat when they can't get hobbit? -- a critique of a David Brin article on the films and fantasy in general that I thought showed surprising cluelessness towards the genre for a science fiction author.
December 21, 2002: Revenge of the Nerdy-Eyed -- the famousest one of all! (Addendum to this: I said "Deconstruction" when I meant any number of other soul-desiccating academic theories -- the writer I'm attacking doesn't seem too interested in the marginal, the other, or the different, despite his litany of titles of the myth-collections of the entire earth; that was just the one that came to mind, probably because I am still recovering from having to read Derrida last semester.)
December 22, 2002: Banned in Massachusetts, burned out in Middle-Earth, a short smack upside two movie reviewers' heads.
December 28, 2002: Diversions -- this one's not very serious.
The Tolkien Blogburst has begun.
Reader Chip Haynes passed along this link to an article on the various "Tolkien's Eleventy-First Birthday" celebrations that are being planned in the Hollywood area: Happy eleventy-first birthday, Mr. Tolkien. The article makes me nostalgic for other reasons totally unrelated to Middle Earth business: on my one and only trip to Los Angeles in 1998 I went to the Cat and Fiddle, and the Hollywood Athletic Club is the place where I saw Bauhaus play its very first show ever after reuniting for its tour of that year. I recall being more impressed with the city of Los Angeles than appalled, but after all I lived in Miami, an equally, if not more so, appalling town.
More babbling after I have finished my coffee.
Strangest Lord of the Rings nitpick ever: Jim Henley wonders why the sea isn't featured more in the tale. (Original question here; or you can start at the previous link and scroll downwards.) All I can say is: the sea and boats do not figure much in this particular set of Middle Earth goings-on because the sea and boats don't figure much in this particular set of Middle Earth goings-on. The story has nothing to do with the fact that England IRL is an island and was often (though not always) a seafaring power. I do think that there is a slight misreading of Tolkien's "intentions of creating a mythology for England" going on here. For one thing, Tolkien was not really trying to do this: trying to pass off his fictional characters and countryside as actual native mythology, rather he was using the tools and trappings of myth to create an imaginative story such as those he liked to read, and he filled it with all sorts of English things and motifs, as well as frank anachronisms from his own life such as "pipe-weed" (tobacco, a plant unknown in the real Middle Ages of the actual England), because he was English and he liked those things. Of course, that's a simplistic reading of Tolkien's motives and intentions, but I do think that people are taking the "he was creating a mythology!" and are running with it off into some strange places.
That being said, the lack of sea and boat travel (except for the takeover and subsequent sail upriver to beseiged Minas Tirith of the the black ship of the Corsairs that Aragorn undertakes in the Return of the King, and of course the boat ride down the Anduin), in the story is because most of the story takes place very far inland in Tolkien's world, in places nowhere near the ocean or any large bodies of water. In any case, as someone has already pointed out to him, the sea is a constant background theme in the story, with the Elves leaving Middle Earth and sailing to Valinor, the background of the Atlantis-like Numenor for the tales, and so on. Someone also wrote with an idea that since Tolkien was a "modern" Brit he had a "modern" concept of distance and travel, and thus was used to being able to get around without bothering with boats, but that won't wash either. Tolkien was very firm about the medievalish setting of the story: people in the Middle Ages rarely traveled far from their native towns and villages, and so it is the case with the average inhabitant of Tolkien's imaginary world. Furthermore, most of the countryside outside of the landlocked Shire is at the time of the story mostly desolate and unpopulated except for a few isolated communities, and there are only a couple of roads. Thus travelling anywhere outside one's community a dangerous undertaking that only someone who was rather cracked would do voluntarily (like Bilbo), or at absolute necessity (like Frodo carrying the ring out of the Shire). Also, unlike the real England, the story takes place on a continent. And lastly, the characters are heading towards Mordor, which is not only landlocked but has no contact with the shore, and no rivers flowing into it, and it is a desert.
More "other-author rewrites" of Lord of the Rings -- much, much more. Sample:
Frodo jacked in.Heh heh. And this, to remind me of the torments of an AP English course on the Absurdist playwrights I took in high school:
He felt huge, invincible, unstoppable. Some small part of him knew that was the hits of pipe-weed talking, skewing his sense of self, making his nerves scream like they were being raked over rusted chrome. Knew, and didn't care.
Over his shoulder he could feel Sam hovering, a hollow nonentity. It was eerie knowing he was back there, like having an itch in a limb long amputated. All around him the middle-matrix arced off into an impossible blue infinity, gridlines benchmarking the empty nonspace.
"There it is," came Sam's voice. "That's the ice. Good luck breakin' in there, man, that was made by a military AI. Name of ephelduath. You ain't seen nuthin' like it. They say it's two-way ice. Not only will it fry your brainpan tryin' to get in, nuthin' inside can work its way out. Leastaways, not without sarumancer's say-so."
Sam: Come on, let's leave this place.(Guess the authors. Go ahead: I'll wait.)
Merry: We can't.
Sam: Why not?
Merry: We're waiting for Frodo.
Sam: Ah! (Pause) You're sure it was here?
Sam: That we were to wait.
Merry: He said by the tree. (They look at the tree.) Are there any others?
Sam: No, they were all torn down by Saruman. What is it?
Merry: I don't know. An Ent.
Sam: I don't see any leaves.
Merry: It must be dead.
I should probably study the technique of folks like Dallas Observer film reviewer Gregory Weinkauf, in case I get offered a snazzy paying job writing sarcasm-filled stuff like this review of The Two Towers. Oh, it was an inoffensive enough review -- he didn't seem as proudly ignorant of the plot as some other reviewers were. But all the smart quips get tiresome after a few paragraphs.
Side note: is it me, or are online journalists letting their fuck flag fly in their writing (and shit shirt, and bitch blanket, and so on)? I can be pretty potty-mouthed, but I'm not writing for a professional publication. I seem to remember not so long ago when you would not ever encounter a four-letter word in a newspaper, and I know this is a website, but the Dallas Observer is also a dead-tree paper if I am not mistaken. Of course, I can remember the misty days back when there were no online publications. I have never really thought about this until now. I'm not a prude about swearing, but I regret the fact that curse words now seem to have no more significance than any other words. That can't be good for society.
(Via Dagger in Hand, whose Blogspot December archives are so screwed up they go to some girl's porn-blog. Just scroll down for this and other links to Tolkien essays.)
Update: CMNewman says the archive links no longer go to any porn. Good, because that was weird.
Okay, time for the daily geekness. I've been reading (re-reading, actually) The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. It's a useful book for those who are mystified by the idea of a respected scholar writing a fantasy novel. Since these are all his own words, they can't be said to be "interpreted" through the partisan viewpoint of an admirer. This isn't a review, I just wanted to quote some passages. For starters, Tolkien was semi-involved in an ultimately abortive effort to put the thing on film. Here are are samples of his hilarious critique of the film "treatment" he received -- basically, he "fisked" the thing; I am only sorry that for whatever reason the editors decided not to include the letter in its entirety:
Z.... has intruded a 'fairy castle' and a great many Eagles, not to mention incantatons, blue lights, and some irrelevant magic[...]And so on... So as you can see, Peter Jackson is by no means the first person to try and film Lord of the Rings. Of course, there is the animated effort by Ralph Bakshi of part of the series, which I have only seen snippets of (I understand it was an uneven affair, and personally I wasn't impressed with what I saw; a friend of mine gave me the soundtrack on vinyl, but I haven't listened to it yet). I can't really say from all this whether Tolkien would be pleased at all with Jackson's interpretation (I think he would hate the treatment given to Faramir, for instance, and considering his complaints about the contraction of time in this letter, he probably would not care for the same in the current film); but I think I can safely say that whatever departures were taken from the text in the film's screenplay, at least they aren't ludicrous.
Gandalf, please, should not 'splutter'.
The Eagles are a dangerous 'machine'. I have used them sparingly, and that is the absolute limit of their credibility or usefulness. The alighting of a Great Eagle of the Misty Mountains in the Shire is absurd...
The landlord does not ask Frodo to 'register'! Why should he? There are no police and no government[...] If details are to be added to an already crowded picture, they should at least fit the world described.
Rivendell was not a 'shimmering forest'[...] It could not be seen from Weathertop: it was 200 miles away and hidden in a ravine.
Why does Z put beaks and feathers on Orcs!? (Orcs is not a form of Auks.)
Now it is obvious that Tolkien took his work seriously, but he was also under no illusion as to its "importance," which is something I think people don't realize in this day and age of self-aggrandizing literary mavens who think entirely too well of themselves. From a letter to a fan, one Rhona Beare (he seemed to treat his fans, and their nitpicky lists of detailed questions, with much more respect than many bestselling authors would seem capable of; but then he was a college professor in a very nitpicky field):
I have only just returned from a year's leave, one object of which was to enable me to complete some of the 'learned' works neglected during my preoccupation with unprofessional trifles (such as Lord of the Rings)...His reasons for preoccupying himself with such a "trifle":
I write things that might be classified as fairy-stories not because I wish to address children... but because I wish to write this kind of story and no other.He also repeats throughout several of his letters that he does not like allegory, at all -- Aragorn is not Churchill, the Orcs are not the Germans, etc., etc., etc. I keep seeing this idea pop up here and there in commentary on the films (and thus the story) that we can directly apply the goings on in it to our time, and that is no more true now than it was then. The Orcs are not the hapless citizens of the various Middle Eastern countries that seem to be terrorist factories now, and the Ents' battle with Saruman is not an advocation of the Kyoto Accords. The most we can say is that the story is concerned with the universal issues of honor, perseverance, and loyalty; and the greater issue is not even power and who should have it versus who should not, but "Death and Deathlessness."
Later, I will finally get around to reviewing the film so far, and also write on what it means for an American to so admire a story that is chock full of non-American issues such as inherited rule.
[Note: I have rearranged this slightly.)
I Was a Teenage Language Geek: the official website for the LOTR films has several international counterparts. One is for Finland, and there we find out that "Lord of the Rings" in Finnish is "Taru sormusten herrasta" Now Finnish has always been a fascinating language to me, being that it is so different from Indo-European languages. (It is a member of the Finno-Ugric family of languages.) I figure that "herrasta" must mean "lord," or maybe "lord of" -- Finnish has fifteen different cases, as opposed to the mere four in German or six in Russian, and the case a word belongs to is shown by the suffix appended to the word, which suffix often causes a change in spelling and pronounciation of the rest of the word, etc., etc. -- because "herra" is how you say "Mister," which probably once had the designation "Master" or "My Lord." My interest in Finnish and other odd languages predated my discovery that respectable grownups like Tolkien could have similar interests. Growing up in Miami, I got to hear a lot of Spanish, and they had already instituted mandatory lessons in that language in the public grammar schools down there. The consequence was, for me, to become bored with Spanish specifically (I have never learned to speak it very well), but I became interested in other languages, especially ones that were different from Spanish and English. When I enrolled in junior high (they call it "middle school" everywhere now) I started taking German. The next year I added French to my list of foreign language classes, and then Italian when it was offered in my high school. I took a couple of semesters in community college of Spanish, finally. I don't really know that my intentions regarding the use of all these languages were realistic; I had some vague idea of becoming an interpreter and leading a glamorous life of international travel and intrigue. (That was before I had ever really been anywhere.) Unfortunately, I have let my knowledge of the vocabulary of all these languages slide, but phrases still come back to me from time to time, and I don't find subtitled movies to be the headache-inducing inconvenience that other people seem to.
All Tolkien, All the Time: Not really; but via Colby Cosh comes this fascinating little tidbit on that professor's work on the Oxford English Dictionary. A sample of Tolkien's handwriting is included; apparently he always wrote in Elvish.
Addendum: as concerns manual typewriters; I've got an old Olivetti "portable" (meaning it's small, and has no "1" key -- you have to substitute the small "L"). I bought it for US$75.00 at a local old office stuff place; it's got little round black keys, and the rest has the sort of immovable solidity that one rarely sees nowadays, when everything that wasn't wood or cloth was made in a forge. Pounding on it is indeed a satisfying experience, and good exercise too, or at least better on your carpal tunnels than computer keyboards.
Nikita Demosthenes reviews the movie The Two Towers by comparing it to the book. I would comment but I've been drinking this sparkly wine that tastes like raspberry soda and I'm listening to the Cult's Love album (vinyl!) so I can't really come up with anything coherent right now except to say this is an interesting and in-depth look at the film vs. the book. I disagree though, about the actors picked to play the Elvish characters (Galadriel, Elrond, and so forth). It is quite frankly impossible for actual human actors to be made to look like the physically perfect specimens of Unfallen Man that Tolkien conceived of his Elves as being, so Peter Jackson did the next best thing and picked actors that had a commanding presence, and used costuming tricks (pulling back the hair, nicer clothes, and so on) to differentiate them from the slightly rougher-looking humans. (Notice, for instance, that the major human characters are either bearded or short in the case of the hobbits, and rather unkempt or at least grizzled, and so forth). Cate Blanchett seems especially perfect to me -- and she has one requirement down pat: her voice, like Galadriel's is "deeper than a woman's wont."
Anyway, read it for tips on differences from film to book. (Brought to you by Carnival of the Vanities, hosted this time by Solonor.)