Misc.

March into Middle-earth: The One Where Rinn and Claire Fangirl, Part Four

March Into Middle-earth

Part Four of the fangirl session – but not the last, because apparently Claire and I have a LOT to say about Tolkien’s works! If you missed the previous posts, you can find Part One here, Part Two here and Part Three here. This is part of a series of posts of the two of us discussing Tolkien and all things Middle-earth. Although we are asking each other the questions, we’d love to know your answers to them too – leave your responses in the comments! I ended the last post with the following question for Claire:

Rinn: My next question for you is: is there a moment in any of the books that feels completely pivotal to you? Perhaps it revealed a character’s true self, it changed the course of things, or was completely unexpected.

Claire: That art is so beautiful! I’ve never seen such work like that! And to grow up with it, you’re so lucky. A pivotal moment to me? I don’t think, for me, that Lord of the Rings has a lot of those grand gesture moments but is filled with a number of small moments, small points where the way story unfolded could have changed drastically if someone hadn’t stood up at that point, or made up their mind. I think that’s why I like the stories so much because it is so indicative of real life. There are very few moments when one large point changes everything but our lives are built up of small decisions that the determine the course of everything.

A few moments that stand out:

  1. When Sam gets caught by Gandalf: Sam could have kept quiet. Gandalf could have pretended to ignore Sam but 100% believe that Frodo would have stopped or died or gotten kidnapped or given up or just gotten tired if Sam hadn’t allowed himself to (1) get caught, and I think he did because Hobbits are uncommonly quiet and (2) went along with the darn plan.
  2. Boromir realising his mistake: Besides being utterly heartbreaking, he manages to save his friends, repent and in a huge way, proves to Aragorn that the race of men are capable of atoning for past wrongs.
  3. Eowyn going into battle: She was immensely stubborn and to not go into battle wouldn’t have seemed her, but she could have just gone home. And who would have killed the Witch King?
  4. Smeagol giving into Gollum: he had many moments to resist but the lure of the ring and Gollum’s strength proved too much to bear. Though bad in a sense, the final ending of the story wouldn’t have turned out the way it did if Gollum hadn’t made that final sacrifice. Even if it wasn’t really sacrifice but a clumsy moment of bliss.

I think this quote might sum it up nicely:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

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So those four moments stand out to me as crucial but small, glorious moments when a decision changed the lives of many. Before I ask my question I actually want you to name one or two large or small moments that you thought were crucial to the plot and characters as well.

My question has to do with gender: There aren’t tons of women in the Lord of the Rings series but the women that are there all have some part to play, be it warrior or the guiding hope of another. How do you feel about Tolkien’s portrayal of women?

Rinn: Okay, I never thought about the fact that Sam might have been caught on purpose, that’s a really good point – and I just read that bit today. Although I bet Gandalf has super good hearing too!

  1. The first moment for me is during the Council of Elrond. I think this is probably pretty pivotal for everybody, because it starts the whole quest proper. Everyone is arguing about what to do with the Ring – the Elves, the Dwarves, the Men and Gandalf, and Frodo is just quietly sat there. That is, until he stands up and offers to take the Ring to Mordor himself. He has no idea what this will entail, and this decision shapes the entire story. What if a Man had taken it? Would he have been overcome by its power, like Isildur, like Boromir? Even Gandalf is reluctant to touch the Ring, and Galadriel shows a darker side when offered the Ring by Frodo. Clearly, he was the only choice – but no-one would have ever thought of him, he had to offer to do it.
  2. The second is the ‘death’ of Gandalf, and his subsequent revival as Gandalf the White. The rest of the Fellowship had to learn how to deal without their resident Wizard, and it ended up dividing them. Whilst this might sound like a bad thing, it wasn’t at all. Would Rohan have given Gondor aid if Aragorn hadn’t given Theoden that push? Would Isengard still exist if it wasn’t for Merry and Pippin persuading the Ents to march on it? And the rest of the Fellowship been that eager to have Gollum as a guide to Mount Doom? Not only does Gandalf’s resurrection represent hope, but also helped the Fellowship to grow, whilst also taking their own paths.

And in terms of gender: I would of course appreciate more female roles, but I don’t really have a problem with the way Tolkien represents women. Arwen is a lesser role than most people realise, as much of what she does in the film was actually performed by Glorfindel, a male Elf, in the book – for example, saving Frodo from the Nazgul after he is stabbed with a Morgul blade. I’m glad that her role was bumped up in the film. Her main purpose seems to be a reason to motivate Aragorn. Eowyn, on the other hand, has a more active role. The women of Rohan are trained in the use of weapons, because as Eowyn so aptly puts it:

“‘The women of this country learned long ago, those without swords can still die upon them.’”

But whilst Rohan clearly has a lot of badass ladies trained in the art of combat, they are still forbidden from actually going to war or putting themselves into danger in any way, as shown by Eowyn disguising herself as a man named Dernhelm in order to fight. And in one of the most absolute BADASS FEMALE EMPOWERING moments of all fantasy fiction:

‘“Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!”

A cold voice answered: ‘Come not between the Nazgûl and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.”

A sword rang as it was drawn. “Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may.”

“Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!”

Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. “But no living man am I!”’

And with that she kills the Witch King. Like i said: BADASS.

eowyn gif

What’s interesting is that all female characters of note are in positions of power. Arwen is the daughter of Elrond, Lord of Rivendell, Eowyn the niece of King Theoden of Rohan, and Galadriel the Golden Lady of Lothlorien, and appears to hold more power than her husband Celeborn. Rosie Cotton might be the exception here, but she is barely more than a mention until the very end. Testosterone definitely wins, but I’ve kind of gotten used to that in fantasy fiction. And that’s really quite sad. The lack of female characters is probably my main grumble with The Lord of the Rings, but I absolutely have no problem with which they are represented.

So we’ve discussed LotR video games, and you’ve said you haven’t played any – but what would be your ideal Middle-earth video game experience?

Claire will answer the next question in Part Five of our fangirling! If you want to answer any of the questions in this post, let us know your responses in the comments 🙂

Buddy Read

March into Middle-earth: The Fellowship of the Ring Buddy Read, Part Four

March Into Middle-earth

Alas, it is time for the fourth and final part of my reread/buddy read of The Fellowship of the Ring! If you’ve missed the previous discussions, you can find Chapters I – V here, Chapters VI – XI here and Chapters XII – XVI here. The buddy read is also taking place on my Goodreads book group, Dragons & Jetpacks if you’re interested in joining over there.

This discussion will cover Chapters XVII– XXII of The Fellowship of the Ring, and will contain spoilers for the book.

  • Only now can I link the Ori in The Hobbit with the Ori who kept histories in Moria. I think the films have helped me to remember more of the dwarves names.
  • It is stated that Oin was killed by the Watcher. Poor Oin. And Ori is that dusty old skeleton in Balin’s tomb, clutching the huge book that Gandalf picks up…
  • ori gif

  • GANDALF’S LAMENT NO NO NO. Even though I know he doesn’t die, I know he is reborn as Gandalf the White, the reaction of the Fellowship to his death is heartbreaking. And then the elves mourn Mithrandir – which was beautifully done in the film I must say, every time I hear that song I want to cry.
  • THE DWARF BREATHED SO LOUD WE COULD HAVE SHOT HIM IN THE DARK. Okay, it’s not written in quite the same way, but I liked how the film used a similar line and altered it into one that everyone remembers.
  • haldir gif

  • There is a seriously awkward moment where Gimli basically hits on Galadriel in front of Celeborn, and then there is a long silence:
  • “[Gimli] rose clumsily and bowed in dwarf fashion, saying: ‘Yet more fair is the living land of Lorien, and the Lady Galadriel is above all the jewels that lie beneath the earth!’

    There was a silence.”

  • Gimli again proves himself to be prime comic relief material by gobbling down an entire lembas bread in one go – which is pretty much three days worth of meals. How the boat didn’t sink after that, I don’t know.
  • Boromir. Oh Boromir. You break my heart. The moment when he realises what he has done after trying to take the Ring from Frodo just absolutely tears at my heart strings, even though I know it’s coming.

Thank you to everyone who took part in this read-along, or followed and commented on these posts!

lotr gif

Misc.

March into Middle-earth: The One Where Rinn and Claire Fangirl, Part Three

March Into Middle-earth

And we’re onto Part Three of the fangirl session! If you missed the previous posts, you can find Part One here and Part Two here. This is part of a series of posts of the two of us discussing Tolkien and all things Middle-earth. Although we are asking each other the questions, we’d love to know your answers to them too – leave your responses in the comments! I ended the last post with the following question for Claire:

Rinn: Now my next question for you: the musical score for the films, composed by Howard Shore, was such an important part of creating the right atmosphere. To me, it is perfect and completely sets the mood. Are there any other songs or pieces of music that remind you of Middle-earth or The Lord of the Rings?

Claire: I agree with you, in everything that you say (and you say it so eloquently as well!). I’d love the idea of that kind of magic, or that world as you say. The magic is in the earth and ground and how we read it and survive and live with it is key. Being from the Caribbean, an especially rocky, almost treeless place I can imagine our own version of this Middle-earth. We wouldn’t have forests or volcanoes or horse masters, but I can image island fiefdoms and oceans filled with magic. We’d have talking dolphin guides and yes- mermaids even!

But to get back on track, to answer your question: I loved the Lord of the Rings series soundtrack. I am a huge fan of movie soundtracks in general, I am planning to see Hans Zimmer in concert soon (April!) and would love to see something by Howard Shore as well. The soundtrack was a big influence for me in how much I loved the film series because it set that mood, it made that place so real and tangible to me. I have always been a fan for choirs, violins and dramatic drums and Shore totally uses them to his advantage here- especially in battle scenes!

This one always makes me cry. I get such goosebumps.

I’ve also been a lifelong Enya fan (I grew up with her music) and I thought she was the perfect choice for May It Be! Any Enya song will always remind me of this world- its potential and love of country. So whenever I hear a violin, piano or harp I have to imagine an Elf in a wood or Hobbits laughing in a country side. I don’t know a lot of songs like this but I’d love it if you shared any that inspired you or made you think of Lord of the Rings and Middle-earth!

Now, something I’d like to know (besides your LOTR music loves) is what you think of the art this series inspired. Artists have always been captivated by Tolkien’s world and I, myself, discovered many an artist through their LOTR pieces. There are some classically known artists like Alan Lee who illustrated the covers for an edition as well as doing the storyline art for the films and covers in the special extended editions. I AM A HUGE ALAN LEE FAN, but are there other artists or pieces inspired by Lord of the Rings that you like?

Rinn: First of all, SUPER jealous that you’re seeing Hans Zimmer! I’m a big fan of his, and film soundtracks in general, like you.

GANDALF FALLS NO NO NO. Now that I’m listening to it, I can perfectly picture that scene just after the Fellowship leave Moria, where it’s all in slow motion and we see Merry and Pippin sobbing, and Frodo turns slowly to the camera with a single tear rolling down his cheek. IT HURTS. Even though, obviously, we known Gandalf is fine. It was a beautifully acted, scored and shot scene.

My absolute favourite piece of music from the series is Concerning Hobbits, to me that is the ULTIMATE Lord of the Rings piece and just sums everything up. It’s gorgeous and peaceful and so wonderful. I also love any of the vocals, like when Pippin sings to Denethor, or others in the background – for example, the ‘Houses of Healing’ song is sung by Liv Tyler, who played Arwen, and of course Aragorn/Viggo Mortensen sings too. I like that the cast were involved in the music as well, it ties it all together nicely. And like you say, May It Be is gorgeous, as is Gollum’s Song and Into the West, the end title songs for The Two Towers and The Return of the King respectively. And if we’re venturing into other territory, all of The Hobbit end songs are awesome too – especially the final song of the trilogy, The Last Goodbye, which just makes me want to cry because it means it’s all over. Goodbye to various characters, goodbye to Middle-earth.

Frodo understands my feels.
Frodo understands my feels.

In terms of your question – I actually own a book entitled ‘The Art of Tolkien’ which shows just how much he has inspired artists all over the world. Some of my favourite pieces (apart from the great, great Alan Lee) include those by Dutch artist Cor Blok. The style is just so unique and all the characters look adorable. And on doing some more research, I have discovered that he actually lectured at my alma mater, the University of Leiden! I wish I’d known that when I was there. That just goes to show though, you can find links to Tolkien just about anywhere. Here is Blok’s illustration of the Mumakil:

Mumakil Cor Blok

And his version of Gollum is like a little duck, look!

image07

Aren’t they interesting and unusual? (Also Claire, this Gollum is less creepy 😉 ) But I have to say, Tolkien’s very own illustrations are just magnificent. That classic image of Smaug, that beautiful anniversary edition of The Hobbit – those are both his works. This means we get to see scenes exactly as Tolkien imagined them, which is not something you often get with epic fantasies. In fact the Bodleian Library sells postcards and posters with Tolkien’s illustrations on, and I really need to buy some…

My next question for you is: is there a moment in any of the books that feels completely pivotal to you? Perhaps it revealed a character’s true self, it changed the course of things, or was completely unexpected.

Claire will answer the next question in Part Four of our fangirling! If you want to answer any of the questions in this post, let us know your responses in the comments 🙂

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #5: The Hobbit Movies

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: Peter Jackson’s film versions of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

I am of the opinion that Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Tolkien’s well-loved classic, The Hobbit, is a wonderful thing. As with his version of The Lord of the Rings, it is a work of love, Jackson’s own spin on Tolkien’s fantasy masterpiece. It is Jackson’s film version of The Hobbit, not a film of Tolkien’s version. When you adapt something with such a passionate and devoted fanbase, you’re never going to please everyone. You will most definitely piss people off in some way – their favourite character doesn’t look anything like that! What on earth possessed you to film that scene that way? When does Thranduil ever make a Mean Girls reference? And why on earth is that character in this scene?? – but that’s just how it is. On the other hand, you’ll also have a fanbase devoted to you, or in this particular case, Mr. Peter Jackson, and the way he has filmed Tolkien’s work.

Wait, what? I don’t remember this in the book! (image source)

The Hobbit has been a favourite book of mine for a long, long time. I remember when I was seven or eight, my mum bought me the graphic novel version, and then at the age of eight or nine I progressed onto the book proper. I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time when I was ten, and have re-read it almost every year since, so I would say I’m a pretty big fan! So you can imagine that I was incredibly excited when the films were announced.

I want to talk mostly about one particular film today: The Desolation of Smaug. I watched it the day of release, and although I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as An Unexpected Journey, I still loved it. Maybe I’m one of those types who loves it just because it’s Tolkien and Peter Jackson, I don’t know. But I just want to talk about the things that were completely new additions to the plot:

  • The character of Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lily, and therefore any dwarf-elf flirtations
  • The presence of Legolas
  • Certain events that happen in Laketown [spoiler]Kili, Fili and Bifur staying behind, orcs attacking Laketown[/spoiler]
  • Pretty much anything involving Azog – he is mentioned in the book once.
But you know what?
  • Tauriel is one of the few female characters in the story, AND she was an addition. She’s also a bit of a badass. So kudos to Peter Jackson for choosing to add some more women to a male-dominated story, and extra kudos for making her pretty awesome.
  • Legolas is used to tie together The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, a familiar face, and also clearly shows how elves do not age. He looks exactly the same in both films (okay, apart from his eyes in The Hobbit which are super creepy.)
  • Events like the extra ones in Laketown are used to demonstrate the skills of certain characters. However (book spoiler ahead): [spoiler]I’m not sure why Kili was injured and then healed. This makes me think they won’t kill him off in the Battle of Five Armies at the end? He has proven to be a fan favourite after all.[/spoiler]
  • Azog gave Thorin a bit more of his own story, and also allowed Jackson to showcase the history of the character. He is also a constant threat, when Smaug is nowhere near, making the viewer expect an attack at any time.

And you can’t forget that absolutely brilliant take on the barrel scene…

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Despite the fact that Peter Jackson made a lot of changes to characters and events in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, I still love those films because they are products of Peter Jackson’s imagination, inspired by that of Tolkien. If you’re watching them for a totally faithful representation of Tolkien’s Middle-earth, you will most likely be disappointed. But if you go in with an open mind, you’ll end up watching some truly fantastic films by a genius director, inspired by a genius author. Personally, for me, the additions only demonstrated the skill of everyone involved in making the films.

In conclusion: I see Peter Jackson’s films as a wonderful homage to the works of Tolkien, as well as Jackson’s own home country of New Zealand.

What do you think of Jackson’s films of The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings? Were you happy with his use of creative license?

Oh, and as for waiting another bloody age for the final part of The Hobbit

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