The Barrow-Downs Discussion Forum


Visit The *EVEN NEWER* Barrow-Downs Photo Page

Go Back   The Barrow-Downs Discussion Forum > Middle-Earth Discussions > The Books
User Name
Password
Register FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read


Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 10-21-2003, 05:34 AM   #1
Essex
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Essex's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Essex, England
Posts: 887
Essex has just left Hobbiton.
Sting Dumbing down the Books

This thread follows on from “The Examples of dumbing down” thread in the movie section, as Eurytus and myself have been asked to carry on our argument somewhere else!

This thread is meant to be dealing with the supposed dumbing down of tolkien’s book to the movie. It has gone off on a tangent somewhat.
Essex is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-21-2003, 05:43 AM   #2
Essex
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Essex's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Essex, England
Posts: 887
Essex has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Eurtyus, my replies are in BOLD to your post as it would get confusing using quotes all over the place: (a few of my previous quotes you answer are left in)
Quote:
Maybe for a film (or radio drama) adaptation, but not for a book
Pretty much corroborates my main point. You say it yourself, a film is not a book. Therefore changes have to be made.

I am not disagreeing that changes have to be made. This does not mean, however, DUMBING DOWN in many cases.
Quote:
PS Tolkien built this book as part of his history of arda. he was a professor of anglo saxon as you may be aware. his stories are supposedly set 7,000 years ago, so he has (correctly) decided to give a more 'ancient' air to the language.
In regards to the above point. That is true of the Silmarillion. It was not originally true of the LOTR. That Tolkien later changes his mind is apparent from the sudden shift in the books tone subsequent to FOTR and especially after Rivendell. LOTR was originally started as a sequel to the Hobbit. Nothing more. Hence why Aragorn was originally a Hobbit called Trotter with wooden shoes!!

I don’t understand your point. The story starts in the shire (i.e. middle England). It then moves on to the broader world, where the language of the characters changes. What’s the problem with this? And yes I’ve read the return of the shadow. It shows the work tolkien did to make this story as perfect as possible. 10 years with numerous re-writes.
Quote:
one of Jackson's worst decisions in my view was giving the orcs cockney accents. this is an example of the improper use of language. (I am almost a cockney (i.e. not within the sounds of bow bells where I was born, but about 10 miles away), and it was embarrassing to hear them speak like this).
Actually I can see why this decision was made. There is a precedent within Tolkien’s own writing. The Trolls in the Hobbit talk with a distinctly Cockney feel and this may well be where the idea came from.

Good point. But the trolls were not altogether evil. The orcs are. I hate to hear them with my kind of accent!
Quote:
What motivation did the following have to 'follow' the ring in the film: 1/ Merry 2/ Pippin 3/ Legolas 4/ Gimli NOTHING. At least these characters had motivation in the book.
In my opinion their motivations were not much better handled in the book. Sometimes comically so. Legolas basically appeared to be on a jolly although it was hard to tell given his comparative muteness.

OK, motivations.

1/ Merry and Pippin. In the film they (out of the most ridiculous of coincidences) happen to ‘bump’ into Frodo and decide to follow him!!!!!!!! The biggest case of dumbing down in the entire film, really. In the book, they set up a conspiracy and explain their situation fully to Frodo in Crickhowell. In the council of Elrond they just run up and say the line ‘tie me up in a sack’ and Elrond then let’s them go. In the book the motivation for them to be allowed to go are explained by Gandalf to Elrond through FRIENDSHIP.

2/ Legolas. He turned up at the council of Elrond to apologise for the woodelves letting Gollum escape. This is motivation for legolas to earn some redemption for their mistake.

3/ gimli, son of gloin, whose father’s company’s trip through the mountains help get them into this situation in the first place! Also, he was sent to find an answer to sauron’s asking for details on the ring bearer and putting pressure on his people in the north. Helping to get rid of the ring was a perfect anecdote to this.



As to your other point,

Quote:
The most IMPORTANT thing in ANY story, be it film radio or TV, is not character (that is second) but PLOT. Tolkien’s is flawless.
Whilst I disagree to some extent with the first point. Great characters can effectively do very little in terms of plot and still make a story interesting.
BUT NOT IMPORTANT

Whereas a great plot will still be hamstrung by paper-thin characters if we debate it we will get in endless debates about their relative importance. They are not paper thin. We feel for these characters. Just because we don’t see what they are thinking internally in their heads doesn’t mean they are paper-thin!

However as regards the second point. Well I regard that as well wide of the mark. Firstly I will say that I cannot think of any work of art that can be termed flawless. Perhaps only Ein Kleine Nachtmusik by Mozart and Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony come close to me. Fine, well Tolkien’s lotr then, comes CLOSE to flawless for me.

In fact, take Salieri’s comment about Mozart’s music in the film Amadeus, “take away one note and there would be diminishment, take away a phrase and the structure would fall.” That is about as close to a description of flawless as one could get. Does it apply to LOTR. In my opinion, clearly not. Music and literature are two different mediums. You are using one to try and justify your position on another.

So what do I think are the flaws in LOTR? Well a couple would be as follows;

1. The Dark Lord Sauron. A being of supreme evil, already somewhat of a cliché even by the time LOTR was written. Hell even the Wicked Witch had more characterisation than Sauron. The best villains for me are the ones you can understand. You may not agree with them, you may hate them, but you should be able to see why (in their opinion) what they are doing is desirable. Can this be said of Sauron? Not really. Why does he want to conquer Middle Earth? What would he do with it when he has conquered it? Why? Because he was the lieutenant of Morgoth. He is willing to enslave the whole of middle earth because it was not set to the designs of his master. He wants to destroy all that was created because his master, who was thrown down by the powers that be who created middle earth.

None of these questions are clearly answered and all you are left out is a cardboard cut-out villain. No, it’s called mysterious. What, do you want a Jackson type end to the book. Out comes sauron and battles Aragorn at the black gate!!!!!???? You see another excellent version of this mysterious foe in Dracula by Bram Stoker. He is hardly seen throughout most of the book, but is STILL an amazing villain. You do not need to see these villains, just seeing their ‘work’ is enough.

He is evil because, well he just is, and all you need to know is that he opposes the good guys. For a great villain study the character of Jaime in a Song of Fire and Ice. For the first two books he is seen through the eyes of other characters and you hate him. But by book three you start to see things through his eyes and whilst it does not diminish the evil that he does. You can, at least, see why he thinks it necessary. The mark of great writing in my opinion. Tolkien was writing a character of pure evil. I have not read SoFaI so I cannot reply to this.

2. The ring. The ring was the only thing that Tolkien could think of to tie his two books together. He had originally planned to have Bilbo try to return his treasure but then settled on the ring as the important element. As a result some aspects of the Ring seem a bit haphazard. Firstly why does Sauron forge it? Well for power would be the obvious answer but do we really see any examples of the power this grants him. No. We don’t. Indeed shortly after forging it he is shown the worthlessness of his ring when the Numenoreans scare him rigid. No they don’t! This was a power play. He pretended to be ‘scared’ as you put it as this was his plan for their downfall. And it worked perfectly!!!!!!!!

It is interesting to note that he brings about their downfall without needing to rely on the Rings great power at all. In the book it does not appear to avail him any in the battle with Elendil and Gil-Galad either. In fact it seems to be more of a problem than a benefit. What this is showing, is that the ring is not altogether powerful. Tom Bombadil shows this perfectly in the book, and this is why he is such an important character. It still took the last alliance (or penultimate as Jackson no doubt calls it) 7 years to oust sauron from barad-dur, with the deaths of the 2 main protagonists to boot! Doesn’t appear to avail him? I think it does!

3. The Orcs. It has to be said that creating a race for your book that is born evil and incapable of anything other than evil is a little lazy. Basically it allows your pure-blooded heroes to slaughter thousands of them with total impunity. Far better to have some more shades of grey in there I think. Why? You have your shades of grey perfectly written by Sam’s thoughts on the (easterling?) who falls near his feet in ithilien. These people drawn into battle are not purely evil, but the orcs where created as a killing machine specifically for the purpose of evil.

4. Not dealing with the more interesting moral questions. One of the ones that interests me is the question of the Dunlendings. In the distant past they were evicted of their land by the blond haired, blue eyed Rohirrim. When they ally with Saruman to attempt to get their land back they are given a damn good kicking. Why is no attempt made to deal with the legitimacy of the Dunlendings claim to live on that land. Was it right that the Rohirrim evicted them from the lands? Seemingly it was fine. Why? Because the Rohirrim are the good guys so don’t ask questions. Much like questions were not asked when the native Americans were being thrown out of their land in the USA, for example. These things happen. It’s called the survival of the fittest. It happens all over the world and will continue forever unfortunately. This part of Tolkien’s history, is therefore TRUE TO LIFE. It deals with the morality of the point by showing in some cases it is inevitable that these things happen.

5. Lack of real loss. Tolkien vehemently hated being accused of this but I am afraid it does ring true. Frodo apart, no-one really suffers any in this story. Given that the heroes are often going up against near impossible odds the fact that they all come home again with hardly a scratch is very unrealistic and all the harping on about Frodo getting no credit and having to leave home won’t change that.
Losses other than Frodo’s
1/ sam – loses his beloved master
2/ pippin and merry to a lesser extent lose their friend and cousin.
3/ the hobbits lose their INNOCENCE
4/ Bilbo has lost his ring!
4/ gimli ‘loses’ Galadriel
5/ arwen loses her father
6/ Elrond loses his daughter
7/ Galadriel, for a time, loses her husband
8/ the elves finally now lose middle earth (i.e. lorien will fade, rivendell probably) and have to return to the west.
9/ Gandalf will no longer see the shire and the hobbits, which he loved.
10/ eowyn and eomer lose their uncle who was a ‘father’ to them
11/ merry loses theoden who was a ‘father’ to him.
12/ Faramir loses a brother and a father.
13/ Gollum loses his life!
14/ faramir, eowyn and merry almost die.
15/ Boromir loses his life
16/ wormtounge loses his pitiful life
17/ saruman is not allowed back to the west
18/ denethor goes mad and kills himself.

There are gains to go with these losses, but nearly all of the characters suffer in one form or another.


6. Cardboard characters. See Legolas and to a lesser extent Gimli. I can’t see how there is no time to develop them in a 1,000 page book. With Legolas the shallowness of his character is near ludicrous. Just because we don’t see these characters ‘think’ internally does not mean they are shallow. They build up a friendship together. Legolas pines for the sea and is suffering for it. Gimli pines for his love of Galadriel and suffers for it. They show suffering and joy throughout the book.
As well as that we have Boromir aka Bad Brother and Faramir aka Good Brother. Far too simple by far in the book. Boromir was far too simple in the film. I.e. a baddie from the first scene. In the book you can see his struggle with his pride and warrior feelings. Faramir too simple? He is one of the best characters. A master interrogator, and valiant warrior, but with a sensible head on his shoulders, who also craves for the love of his father.

7. Tom Bombadil. I have already stated how vital Tom Bombadil appears to be. i.e. he isn’t. All adaptations take him out. Why? Because he is an indulgence on Tolkien’s part. He was put in originally because he was based on a toy that one of Tolkien’s children owned and later Tolkien ascribed nuances of him being the spirit of the Oxfordshire countryside onto him. Either way totally non-vital to the plot. He was vital in two areas. 1/ for showing that the ring is not all powerful. 2/ for saving the hobbits at the barrow, and enabling merry to get the sword which helps destroy the witch king, which in turn helps save Minas Tirith.
Frankly nothing made me happier than when he was left out of the film. A stoned, dwarf hippy with yellow books would have invoked laughter from much of the cinema going public. And not in a good way.

8. An inability to start the quest. How many ‘safe houses’ does Frodo visit en route to Rivendell? Answer, too many. Let’s see. He has supper with the Elves, has the same with Maggot, has a nice bath in Crickhollow, the same with Bombadil, gets looked after to an extent by Butterbur too. Those first 4 happen in the space of less than a week. Jesus Frodo, get going boy. But this is the book, not a 3 hour dumbed down movie. So he just keeps on running with no sustenance or rest does he? This is true to life.

9. Convenient events. All too often the good guys have something happen to get them out of a jam. The most talked about of which is, of course, the Eagles. Throughout the Hobbit and the LOTR they show up to rescue Bilbo and Co, help out at the Battle of the Five Armies, save Gandalf from Saruman, pick up Gandalf from the top of the mountains after his duel with the Balrog, turn up at the Battle at the Black Gate and then go to rescue Frodo and Sam. Forget about the Istari, Manwe should just have sent more Eagles. Added to them you have the Ents and Huorns sorting out Saruman and Saruman’s army at Helms Deep and The Deadmen sorting out the fleet of Corsairs near Pelagir. All in all there are too many occasions when the heroes are helped out. But this was a battle of the whole of middle earth! Please don’t think that one group of people (i.e. the Americans in independence day) can save the planet!!!!!! This is not Hollywood. The Eagles were an intrinsic part of the plot of the books. They were not a coincidence. They were part of Middle-earth.

PS (separate to this conversation) The old jibe ‘just give the ring to gwaihir and let him drop it in the crack of doom’ does not work. He was a Maia I believe? He would have been tempted just as Gandalf etc would have been to take the ring for his own.


10. As I have already mentioned you also have the preference of description of surroundings to what goes on inside the characters heads (the latter is always more interesting) and the pompous dialogue that takes over in ROTK. This is a style of writing Tolkien was basing the books on tales of old, and was building a legend/mythology for Britain (that does not have one).

11. The latter point also illustrates that the LOTR is an uneven book. It starts out as a sequel to the Hobbit and then progresses into a sequel to the Silmarillion and the transition is not as seamless as it could be. It was part of the history of middle earth. It is both a sequel to the hobbit AND the Silmarillion. Yes it starts this way BECAUSE WE ARE IN THE SHIRE. I believe this was done purposefully by Tolkien, and reading the history of middle earth series shows this.

I think in total that to describe LOTR as flawless is a stretch too far. Ok, it is near flawless, and the best book ever written.
It’s a good book certainly and we can give thanks that it invigorated (though did not invent) the Fantasy market. But when you start claiming that the book is sacrosanct and that any change is blasphemy I do not. I stated that the films have been dumbed down. Where have I stated that the book is sacrosanct?
well there is really only one solution that one can suggest isn’t there. Make a version that satisfies yourself. In other words, I can’t criticize Jackson because I’m not a filmmaker myself!!!!
Essex is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-21-2003, 06:14 AM   #3
Eomer of the Rohirrim
Auspicious Wraith
 
Eomer of the Rohirrim's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: The Netherlands
Posts: 4,988
Eomer of the Rohirrim is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Eomer of the Rohirrim is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Sting

I realise that it is very easy for me to just jump in and defend Tolkien, but I'm going to do it anyway.

That is, I would have done it, had Essex not argued the points in such an excellent way. I have nothing to add to the argument, only agreement with Essex.
__________________
Los Ingobernables de Harlond
Eomer of the Rohirrim is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-21-2003, 07:13 AM   #4
Eurytus
Wight
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: England
Posts: 179
Eurytus has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Ok Essex, now that we are in more legitimate surroundings let us continue. But first I would like to pull just one phrase out of your post.

Quote:
Fine, well Tolkien’s lotr then, comes CLOSE to flawless for me.
Now THAT I have no problem with. My original post was in response to people saying it WAS perfect and I have serious doubts that anything can be. But there we go let’s continue.

Quote:
I don’t understand your point. The story starts in the shire (i.e. middle England). It then moves on to the broader world, where the language of the characters changes. What’s the problem with this? And yes I’ve read the return of the shadow. It shows the work tolkien did to make this story as perfect as possible. 10 years with numerous re-writes.
My point can really be isolated to just the character of Aragorn who best illustrates this. Now in the FOTR he speaks in a way that is different to the Hobbits, that’s true, but it is still not too anachronistic. By ROTK he is spouting out Lo’s left, right and centre and speaking like he has swallowed the Old Testament. Now for a major character to change his speech patterns so much, well…. why? Is he trying to impress his new friends? Whatever it makes for a jarring disconnect between the FOTR and ROTK. Like it or not his speech changes too much to be believable.

Quote:
Good point. But the trolls were not altogether evil. The orcs are. I hate to hear them with my kind of accent!
Your view is understandable in much the same way as Hollywood’s love of bad guys having a British Accent is tiresome. But like I say, I can see where they were coming from.

Perhaps Cockney rhyming slang would have been even better. Just think, when they were complaining about having nothing to eat they could have said, “I’m bloody Hank Marvin”.

Quote:
1/ Merry and Pippin. In the film they (out of the most ridiculous of coincidences) happen to ‘bump’ into Frodo and decide to follow him!!!!!!!! The biggest case of dumbing down in the entire film, really. In the book, they set up a conspiracy and explain their situation fully to Frodo in Crickhowell. In the council of Elrond they just run up and say the line ‘tie me up in a sack’ and Elrond then let’s them go. In the book the motivation for them to be allowed to go are explained by Gandalf to Elrond through FRIENDSHIP.
As you say, it all boils down to friendship. I do not doubt that anyone would see that Merry and Pippin are Frodo’s friends in the film. And it did not need any long explanation to accomplish. It is brought out through how they interact with each other.

Quote:
2/ Legolas. He turned up at the council of Elrond to apologise for the woodelves letting Gollum escape. This is motivation for legolas to earn some redemption for their mistake.
3/ gimli, son of gloin, whose father’s company’s trip through the mountains help get them into this situation in the first place! Also, he was sent to find an answer to sauron’s asking for details on the ring bearer and putting pressure on his people in the north. Helping to get rid of the ring was a perfect anecdote to this.
Is this much better than the film? I wouldn’t think so. In the film it is pretty clear that both Legolas and Gimli are portrayed as spokespeople for their races. As such this would seem a reasonable reason to take part in the quest.

Quote:
Whilst I disagree to some extent with the first point. Great characters can effectively do very little in terms of plot and still make a story interesting.
BUT NOT IMPORTANT
I would argue that what makes a story interesting is the only thing of real importance. If it isn’t interesting then who cares?

Quote:
They are not paper thin. We feel for these characters. Just because we don’t see what they are thinking internally in their heads doesn’t mean they are paper-thin!
Don’t think we are ever going to see eye to eye on this issue. For my part I just cannot see how Legolas can be seen as anything other than paper-thin. Let’s put it this way, had Dungeons and Dragons been out at that point Legolas would have been the archetypal Elven Archer. He has no real personality of his own.

Quote:
Music and literature are two different mediums. You are using one to try and justify your position on another.
The same principles apply. Does not my statement, “take away one note and there would be diminishment, take away a phrase and the structure would fall.” Apply to a perfect book. I think it does. That would be what it would take for a book to be PERFECT. Change one word and there would be diminishment.

Quote:
Because he was the lieutenant of Morgoth. He is willing to enslave the whole of middle earth because it was not set to the designs of his master. He wants to destroy all that was created because his master, who was thrown down by the powers that be who created middle earth.
All of which really boils down to “because he’s evil”. LOTR’s success has unfortunately produced a whole lot of these ‘Evil/Dark Lords’ in Fantasy literature and I think that the genre is the worse for them. Besides which I do not know if Sauron did want to destroy everything. Not according to the Mouth he didn’t. Seemed more like he wanted ‘control’ to me.

Quote:
No they don’t! This was a power play. He pretended to be ‘scared’ as you put it as this was his plan for their downfall. And it worked perfectly!!!!!!!!
But it does not change the fact that he did not need his Ring to defeat his most powerful of enemies.

Quote:
It still took the last alliance (or penultimate as Jackson no doubt calls it) 7 years to oust sauron from barad-dur, with the deaths of the 2 main protagonists to boot! Doesn’t appear to avail him? I think it does!
There is no indication that Sauron needed the Ring for this. Did the Ring help him during the siege? It’s doubtful. The Ring seems more of a convenient plot device than anything else.

Quote:
What this is showing, is that the ring is not altogether powerful. Tom Bombadil shows this perfectly in the book, and this is why he is such an important character.
In my opinion you could have shown this without having a character who is basically a joke.

Quote:
Why? You have your shades of grey perfectly written by Sam’s thoughts on the (easterling?) who falls near his feet in ithilien. These people drawn into battle are not purely evil, but the orcs where created as a killing machine specifically for the purpose of evil.
Sam’s thoughts last a couple of lines. I am afraid that against this you have some rather dubious traits. People with purer blood living for longer. And the evil races being predominantly ‘dark’ skinned.

Quote:
Much like questions were not asked when the native Americans were being thrown out of their land in the USA, for example. These things happen. It’s called the survival of the fittest. It happens all over the world and will continue forever unfortunately. This part of Tolkien’s history, is therefore TRUE TO LIFE. It deals with the morality of the point by showing in some cases it is inevitable that these things happen.
Yes but Tolkien never presents us with any moral questions in this regard. The Dunlendings are portrayed as evil and the Rohirrim are portrayed as quite without their rights to slaughter them for daring to try and take back their homeland.
If we are talking about survival of the fittest then why is Sauron’s cause any less legitimate than say Gondor’s. If you look at what the Mouth proposed then how is that any less harsh than when the Numenoreans fled Numenor and took realms in Arnor and Gondor. I am sure the respective natives were damn pleased. So why is Sauron’s cause and desire to command the land any less valid?

Quote:
Losses other than Frodo’s
1/ sam – loses his beloved master
2/ pippin and merry to a lesser extent lose their friend and cousin.
3/ the hobbits lose their INNOCENCE
4/ Bilbo has lost his ring!
4/ gimli ‘loses’ Galadriel
5/ arwen loses her father
6/ Elrond loses his daughter
7/ Galadriel, for a time, loses her husband
8/ the elves finally now lose middle earth (i.e. lorien will fade, rivendell probably) and have to return to the west.
9/ Gandalf will no longer see the shire and the hobbits, which he loved.
10/ eowyn and eomer lose their uncle who was a ‘father’ to them
11/ merry loses theoden who was a ‘father’ to him.
12/ Faramir loses a brother and a father.
13/ Gollum loses his life!
14/ faramir, eowyn and merry almost die.
15/ Boromir loses his life
16/ wormtounge loses his pitiful life
17/ saruman is not allowed back to the west
18/ denethor goes mad and kills himself.
There are gains to go with these losses, but nearly all of the characters suffer in one form or another.
So basically you have come up with 3 deaths and some people leaving Middle Earth. I am sorry but compared to real warfare these ‘losses’ are ludicrously lightweight. Who comes back to find their children slaughtered, 1,000’s of people massacred for racial reasons, their womenfolk raped, ethnic enmity set in place that will poison the future for hundreds of years? These are the real consequences of war. See WWI, WWII or the Crusades. See the wars of conquest fought in Latin America. Some of the things that go on boggle the mind. Admit it or not the LOTR is horribly clean and nice in comparison.

Quote:
Legolas pines for the sea and is suffering for it. Gimli pines for his love of Galadriel and suffers for it.
With respect you could make this clear on a single piece of A4 and they are in a 1,000 page book!!
I’ve seen BoyBand profiles with more depth. Likes cars, doesn’t like Italian food, would like to visit Bermuda. That’s probably more depth than Legolas has right there!

Quote:
Boromir was far too simple in the film. I.e. a baddie from the first scene.
WHAT!! Sorry, I can’t even debate that point as it is, in my view, so wrong as to be beyond discussion. In fact you have it reversed. In the Book he is a pantomime villain. He hardly gets a redeeming mention from any of the major characters until he is dead. If you can’t see that the film showed the two halves of his nature better than I guess there is not point discussing it. His scene with Aragorn in Lorien, with Frodo before entering Lorien, telling Aragorn that the Hobbits needed more time after Gandalf fell……Yeah, classic baddie behaviour.

Quote:
He was vital in two areas. 1/ for showing that the ring is not all powerful. 2/ for saving the hobbits at the barrow, and enabling merry to get the sword which helps destroy the witch king, which in turn helps save Minas Tirith.
Both of these functions could have been dealt with by other means. Indeed it is plain that the ring is not all powerful. If it was then Frodo could have put it on and kicked Sauron’s arse. Of course he can’t because the ring gives power only to the measure of it’s bearer.

As to the sword. Why is getting it from the barrow any more valid than from Lorien. Does it really add that much apart from one sentence about it’s maker being glad to know its eventual use. Is this worth adding 45 minutes to the film for? And a fool in yellow boots?

Quote:
But this is the book, not a 3 hour dumbed down movie. So he just keeps on running with no sustenance or rest does he? This is true to life.
Within a couple of days march from Bagend he stops in 4 ‘safe havens’. Yes I’d call it too much. Just start the damn quest already. Next he’ll be going back for his keys.

Quote:
But this was a battle of the whole of middle earth! Please don’t think that one group of people (i.e. the Americans in independence day) can save the planet!!!!!! This is not Hollywood. The Eagles were an intrinsic part of the plot of the books. They were not a coincidence. They were part of Middle-earth.
I didn’t say that one group had to win it. But when you have effectively unstoppable forces (the Ents, Huorns and Deadmen) taking care of plenty of your foes then you have a case of Deux ex Machina. In takes away from what the heroes should be accomplishing on their own.

Quote:
PS (separate to this conversation) The old jibe ‘just give the ring to gwaihir and let him drop it in the crack of doom’ does not work. He was a Maia I believe? He would have been tempted just as Gandalf etc would have been to take the ring for his own.
Even Tolkien recognised this to be a weak point. And since it is the bearer of the ring that is tempted why didn’t Gwahir simply carry Frodo and drop HIM down the mouth of Mount Doom?

Quote:
This is a style of writing Tolkien was basing the books on tales of old, and was building a legend/mythology for Britain (that does not have one).
I’m not going to belabour the point but this was the Silmarillion NOT the LOTR. The LOTR was a sequel to the Hobbit first and foremost which is why the publishers would not publish the Silmarillion at the time. They wanted a sequel NOT a mythology.

Quote:
I believe this was done purposefully by Tolkien, and reading the history of middle earth series shows this.
Actually I think that reading the HOME series shows many instances of Lucas syndrome (making it up as you go along) and clearly shows that Tolkien lost control of the book and it changed DESPITE his intentions not because of them.

Quote:
Ok, it is near flawless, and the best book ever written.
Could agree with the first part but not nearly the second. Straight of the top of my head I could pick several of Dicken’s novels that supersede LOTR. Not to mention some Tolstoy. Or the Catcher in the Rye. Or A Clockwork Orange.

Quote:
I stated that the films have been dumbed down.
touches like the boys and old men being taken from their families in TTT prior to Helms Deep that add so much. As already stated Boromir is far superior in the film. And of course the lack of “Hey, Merry Dol Dollo” or whatever. Might as well have Gimli start singing “Hey, Ho. Hey, Ho. It’s off to work we go.” as put that in.
__________________
"This is the most blatant case of false advertising since my suit against the movie The Neverending Story!"

Lionel Hutz
Eurytus is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-21-2003, 07:53 AM   #5
The Saucepan Man
Corpus Cacophonous
 
The Saucepan Man's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: A green and pleasant land
Posts: 8,467
The Saucepan Man has been trapped in the Barrow!
Pipe

First point to make is that, in the "Dumbing-Down in the Film" thread, Estelyn asked that a new topic be started in this forum to continue the discussion that had arisen specifically with regard to the book. So, this discussion should focus on the book alone. Any discussion about the films should be continued in the Films forum.

Secondly, I'm not sure that the title really works for this thread. I don't believe that there is any suggestion that the book has been "dumbed-down". Eurytus is arguing that the book, while very good, is not flawless, and has cited a number of examples of aspects where he/she feels that they are open to criticism.

On the question of whether LotR is flawless, I would agree with Eurytus that very few works of art, if any, can be described as perfect in every respect. Indeed such an ideal is surely nigh on impossible, if not actually impossible, to attain.

I would also agree with Eurytus that LotR, as a book, cannot be described as technically flawless. In fact, I think that contrary view in unarguable. There are many respects in which LotR doesn't follow what are generally considered to be the standard requirements of a novel.

Character development is a clear example of this. However much Legolas may have longed for the sea and however much his relationship with Gimli developed, the fact remains that they are still incredibly underdeveloped characters for a work of fiction of this breadth. In fact, I would say the same about Aragorn. He really is a rather two-dimensional character too. The reason for this? The book is written from the persepective of the Hobbits, mainly Frodo and Sam, but also Merry and Pippin in parts. So we learn far more about their thoughts and feelings, and see far more of their development as characters, than with the other characters in the book. And personally I think that this works well, since the reader can identify with them more than with the likes of Aragorn. We follow these innocent, unprepossessing little characters as they are propelled into events of great magnitude, see them grow in the face of such events and see how their qualities (bravery, loyalty, friendship etc) can win even the mightiest of victories. For me, this is where LotR is coming from, and so it makes sense that we see it all through the eyes of the Hobbits. And what would they know about Legolas' inner thoughts? [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

Another fair point that Eurytus makes is that good and evil are overly simplified. It is all "black and white" and no "shades of grey". Again, however, I don't necessarily see this as a criticism. For all his absence from the pages, Sauron is an incredibly easy villain for all readers, young and old, to understand. In essence, he is evil and that is all there is to it. No further explanation is required because that's the way it is. If the book carried out a psychological study of Sauron and his motives it would certainly be a different book - but not necessarily a better one. Of course, we can discuss Sauron's motives by reference to Tolkien's other writings, but that is not necessary for the enjoyment of the book. Rather, Sauron's "one-dimensional" evil creates the perfect backdrop for the struggle which Tolkien portrays in LotR and, in many ways, Sauron's mystery makes him a far more oppressive and terrifying villain.

Similarly with the Orcs. The fact that they are born evil and remain evil may give rise to potential philosophical issues, such as whether they are capable of repentance etc, as Tolkien himself discovered in his later writings. But they make for perfectly simple and straightforward bad guys. Eurytus, you make the point that there are no "moral" issues with regard to the killing of orcs because they are inherently evil, and criticise this as being overly-simplistic. But it is for this very reason that orcs make such great bad guys. The reader does not have to worry about whether killing orcs is a good thing or not. Orcs are bad and so killing them is a good thing. There is no moral issue, and so we can sit back and appreciate the events that are being portrayed (whether they be Helm's Deep or Balin's Tomb) and their significance to the story that is being told, rather than being distracted by some moral dilemma. A story does not have to be morally challenging to be a good one.

And, if you want the "grey" areas, they are, as Essex points out, there in the Men that are pressed into the service of Sauron and Saruman. Sam's musings on the fallen Southron capture this issue perfectly. As for the Dunlendings, I don't think that Tolkien is suggesting that they are all bad and the Rohirrim are all good. There is, as with all these types of issue, fault on both sides (this comes out particularly in the Appendix, but is touched on in the book). And I believe that the Rohirrim showed the Dunlendings mercy following the battle of Helm's Deep and that the two races of Man made their peace thereafter.

As for lack of loss, I think that the loss that Frodo suffers is more than enough to cover this theme. Essex has noted a number of other ways in which the various characters suffered loss. Some of those losses are more grievous than others. But it is noticeable that Aragorn does not feature on the list. However, do we really have to see each of the characters suffer great loss in order for the story to work? For me, this theme is amply covered by Frodo's loss, which gives the book its bitter-sweet ending. It also ties in with the idea of the reader seeing the events throught the eyes of the Hobbits. It is one of these characters who we have "lived with" throughout the story that suffers the loss and so we feel it more keenly than had Aragorn, say, suffered in the same way.

You can look at the points discussed above as flaws. Or you can see them as strengths. It depends upon which angle you are coming at it from. Ultimately, it is all subjective. One person may regard a book as near as perfect, while another regards it as deeply flawed. It is the same book, but it resonates differently with each person.

In the end, I think that it is better to judge a book on its popularity and on the depth of affection that it generates, rather than on its technical qualities. LotR is not flawless. But, on these criteria, it must surely be counted among the all-time greats. On the basis of the odds assigned by the bookmakers, LotR looks likely to get a top five place in the BBC's search for Britain's favourite book, and it's still in with a chance of the top spot. And that, surely, makes it a pretty good book, flawless or not. [img]smilies/cool.gif[/img]

Edited having read Eurytus' post: Many of the more detailed points such as the Eagles/Deus ex Machina issue have been addressed in detail in other threads. It might be better to stick to the broader points here, or this thread could go of in all kinds of directions (such as provoking discussion on the old "racism in LotR" chestnut, which also has a number of threads devoted to it).

Quote:
Straight of the top of my head I could pick several of Dicken’s novels that supersede LOTR. Not to mention some Tolstoy. Or the Catcher in the Rye. Or A Clockwork Orange.
Eurytus, the point is, and my point is, that that is your opinion. Many others (myself included) would class LotR as their favourite book. Does that make it the best book ever written? It depends upon which criteria you are judgin it. In technical terms, no it's not. But the fact that so many people do class it as their favourite book must make it one of the most popular books ever written. And since books are written to be read, popularity is surely one way of defining quality. Ergo, I would say that LotR can justifiably be described as one of the best books ever written. [img]smilies/tongue.gif[/img] [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

[ October 21, 2003: Message edited by: The Saucepan Man ]
__________________
Do you mind? I'm busy doing the fishstick. It's a very delicate state of mind!
The Saucepan Man is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-21-2003, 10:38 PM   #6
Kalimac
Candle of the Marshes
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Flyover Country
Posts: 780
Kalimac has just left Hobbiton.
1420!

Just wanted to say that I'm in full agreement with Saucepan Man - very well done, O Corpus Cacophonous! The only thing I wanted to add is that it seems to me that it's precisely *because* we're seeing it from the hobbits' point of view that certain other issues might seem overly simplified.

We're seeing about 95% of the story from the perspective of creatures who have been oblivious to everything that led up to it and had no idea there was a crisis going on until being shoved right into the eye of the storm. This, I think, was quite clever of Tolkien, as anybody picking up LOTR for the first time was in exactly the same position as the hobbits as they began reading the book - Oh, how nice, how amusing, that's fun, and WHAT??? The reader, along with the hobbits, experiences Gandalf's (rather stripped-down) explanation of the Ring's history, and along with the hobbits we have no idea what the he** the Nazgul are when we first see them, and so forth. The hobbits, knowing as little about ME's and Sauron's history as a first-time reader does, are not going to spend a great deal of time analyzing what it is they're facing, and trying to figure out its motivations. To portray Sauron as a one-dimensional evil and unstoppable force is just right for the way this book is written, because the hobbits don't have the benefit of either previous historical study or sufficient distance to see him as anything else. Similarly for the Orcs. Their first encounter with the Orcs is in Mazarbul, and after an introduction like that - and their subsequent encounters - it's not surprising that they can't see the Orcs as anything except slavering ghouls who enjoy the prospect of tearing them to pieces - in what other capacity have they ever seen them?

The hobbits are living both in great ignorance and the daily, highly realistic expectation that they running a huge risk of dying horribly for reasons largely beyond their control. They're not going to waste time painting Sauron with shades of grey and trying to figure out whether it's possible for an Orc to be redeemed. Furthermore, they don't see the lands of the Southrons et al, or even much of Rohan and Gondor (and of course Frodo and Sam don't see these things at all). Doubtless there was massive rape/bloodshed/pillaging etc, they just were aware of it only as a distant fact, not something happening right in front of their faces - and in a situation like that, you're just too busy staying alive to spend a lot of time on other people whom you can't save and don't know. Not saying it's the most compassionate way, but it's true.

If the book were written from Aragorn or Gandalf's perspective (now there would be something) I'm pretty sure that Sauron and the Orcs would be seen very differently. Not necessarily seen as any *better* - but with the leavening perspective of knowledge of their history, not to mention a more realistic weighing of the odds. While the hobbits realize that they're in danger, I don't think it really sinks to anyone except Frodo, towards the end, that their odds of failure are about 99.99%. It's for that reason that I think that while LOTR from the perspective of a more knowledgeable character would be interesting, it also be very difficult to read, both for complexity and the sheer weight of its pessimism for most of the story.
__________________
Father, dear Father, if you see fit, We'll send my love to college for one year yet
Tie blue ribbons all about his head, To let the ladies know that he's married.
Kalimac is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-22-2003, 09:10 PM   #7
Finwe
Deathless Sun
 
Finwe's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: The Royal Suite in the Halls of Mandos
Posts: 2,609
Finwe has just left Hobbiton.
Send a message via AIM to Finwe
Sting

The greatest joy that I derived from reading the Trilogy was discovering that Frodo and Sam had that 00.01% chance of succeeding in their Quest, and that they did indeed succeed. The innate pessimism in the books up until that point seems to drag readers down, and then suddenly, as the Rohirrim ride onto Pelennor Fields, as Gollum falls into the fires of Mt. Doom, and as the dark towers of Sauron fall, that pessimism falls away from readers' hearts, and is replaced with a newfound hope. That is the true beauty of the Trilogy, and it does take some getting used to. I have heard many people complain about Tolkien's fatalism, and how all the characters seem to end up in bad situations, but those people have to realize that "Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer."
__________________
But Melkor also was there, and he came to the house of Fëanor, and there he slew Finwë King of the Noldor before his doors, and spilled the first blood in the Blessed Realm; for Finwë alone had not fled from the horror of the Dark.
Finwe is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-23-2003, 02:59 AM   #8
Eurytus
Wight
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: England
Posts: 179
Eurytus has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

After reading all the above posts I can say that Saucepan Man has my general point of view pretty well nailed down. As I have mentioned in this thread and the previous ones in the film forum, I like the book. It is one of my favourites. It contributed greatly towards the overwhelming fondness for books that I now have.
The point I really started by arguing against was the type of poster for whom ANY change from the book is flawed since the book is in itself flawless.
Hence I felt compelled to list some of the ones I have seen.

I have read countless books since LOTR and some of these have pointed out the flaws in LOTR that were not always apparent at the time. My point about the simplified nature of evil is really based on the view that great books get you to think. And moral questions are often the ones that promote the most interesting thoughts. LOTR is far too simplistic in a moral sense for this to work. We are told far to often what to think. What are opinion should be. Who is evil and who is good. A great book would simply paint the characters as they are and give enough information about their actions, their motivations and the consequences thereof that the reader can judge for themselves. Is this person evil? Are they misguided? Can I understand where they are coming from?

I think that the comments above about the book only seeing things from the Hobbits POV are valid, and that this is a factor in the two dimensional characters. However, I would say that the choice of which viewpoint to tell a book from is the authors, and if they choose one which restricts their story then it is a mistake in my view.
I would also state that Legolas in particular is two dimensional to an extent that is not excused by the book’s POV. A character whose viewpoint we do not see can still be interesting and be shown to have hidden depths. The greatest characters in Dickens are never the ones that possess the POV. They are the secondary characters, the Fagins, Micawbers etc.
With Legolas I get the impression that Tolkien put him there because the Elves needed a representative. He does not really accomplish any specific tasks. He does not undergo any GREAT changes, short of liking Gimli. He undergoes no real spiritual growth. He is just there. When he’s not specifically mentioned you forget that he’s there until he’s mentioned again.

And as to the lack of a sense of loss? Well I can see that Frodo has a bittersweet ending to his story. That’s true. But the fact remains that the events in this book are portrayed as being an Era Ending War. Something that will change the world. OK, Sauron is destroyed but there is relatively little damaged. We are told continuously that the West is facing almost certain destruction, there is no real hope (well just a fool’s hope) and they cannot win. Well in those circumstances, in real war, things get nasty. Some will find reserves of humanity they never knew they had, but many others will regress to brutality, an every-man for himself attitude. Old enmities are settled, historical slights avenged, children slain, women raped…..it really does resemble hell on earth.

In LOTR the moral compass is always pointing in the right way. Those that fail this test are usually shown to have had some flaw prior to their fall. As if to justify it. How much stronger would Boromir’s loss have been had he been a great man? Maybe even superior in strength of character and kindness to Aragorn. Instead we are led to dislike him almost from the first. Hence his fall is not really a tragedy at all. We don’t really care.
As I say, I like LOTR but it does bug me when people claim it is without flaw and that to change any aspect of it is akin to blasphemy.
__________________
"This is the most blatant case of false advertising since my suit against the movie The Neverending Story!"

Lionel Hutz
Eurytus is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-23-2003, 03:47 AM   #9
Essex
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Essex's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Essex, England
Posts: 887
Essex has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Eurytus,
your point:
Quote:
As I say, I like LOTR but it does bug me when people claim it is without flaw and that to change any aspect of it is akin to blasphemy
Where has anyone in this thread and the other thread on the movies section stated your second point (in bold)? NOWHERE.

If people who love the books and have somewhat blinkered views bug you, then what are you doing on an LOTR Fan's Forum?????

People have different viewpoints. Yours are different to mine, but you don't bug me.

The ONLY thing that bugs me is when people shoot LOTR down in flames WHEN THEY HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK!!! (unlike yourself obviously)
Essex is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-23-2003, 04:40 AM   #10
Eurytus
Wight
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: England
Posts: 179
Eurytus has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Quote:
Where has anyone in this thread and the other thread on the movies section stated your second point (in bold)? NOWHERE.
I guess this is the sort of comment I am referring to;

Quote:
Where we are witness to PJ's 'interpretation' we often see dumbing down, poor directing and generally a 'sliding down the scale/octave
'.
It is a testimony to the greatness of the LotR that it survives as well as it does!
Wherein someone complete overeggs their criticism of PJ's direction for example because they do not like the choices he has made in how he handles the material.

Plus of course you yourself did mention that the book was 'perfect'.

There is a common attitude that any changes can only be for the worse and hence a focus on those changes.
Whereas in my view, and a viewing of the EE FOTR documentaries confirmed this, is that everyone involved in the making of these films is a fan. They involved two of the most respected Tolkien artists in every stage of the production. Even items as small as buttons etc have patterns on them that make reference to things from the books. The wonderful attention to detail in Bagend (just compare it to the Playstation 2 FMV type sets of any of the Starwars prequels to see what I mean) is superb.
For myself I am more thankful than I can say that the people who made these films cared. And they captured the core essense of the books perfectly.
Some areas they improved. Some were worsened. Overall they hit the ball clean out of the park in my view.

Just think what could have happened if someone like George Lucas had made these films.

Quote:
If people who love the books and have somewhat blinkered views bug you, then what are you doing on an LOTR Fan's Forum?????
I have no problem with the first part of this comment. I don't know why I have to keep on saying this, but I have said several times that I love the books. OK.

It is only the blinkered views that do bother me, I will admit that. Blinkered views should, I think, be challenged. Whether it be in philosophy, politics or culture. In fact any view should be challenged. It is only though this that true growth and understanding can occur.

Why am I on a LOTR fansite.

A. I am a fan.
B. the site does say that it is a discussion forum. The site does not specify that the form of discussion can include no opposing viewpoints.
__________________
"This is the most blatant case of false advertising since my suit against the movie The Neverending Story!"

Lionel Hutz
Eurytus is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-23-2003, 05:21 AM   #11
Eomer of the Rohirrim
Auspicious Wraith
 
Eomer of the Rohirrim's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: The Netherlands
Posts: 4,988
Eomer of the Rohirrim is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Eomer of the Rohirrim is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Sting

Just a small point Eurytus. You have mentioned twice now that in 'real' warfare, women get raped and children get slain, yet this does not happen in the Lord of the Rings. I'm not sure thats quite true. Just because the author doesn't mention every detail of the war, there is certainly space for these evils to happen, in the defenceless villages of Rohan for example.
__________________
Los Ingobernables de Harlond
Eomer of the Rohirrim is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-23-2003, 06:14 AM   #12
Essex
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Essex's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Essex, England
Posts: 887
Essex has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

But again Eurytus, no one has said it is blasphemous that Jackson has changed things from the books.

This thread started by saying he has dumbed down in quite a few occasions.

That is fact.

As long as we don't see Sauron fighting Aragorn, then I can stomach changes to the books (even though I might not agree with a lot of them), but I'm not going to hunt down Jackson with my special edition hardback book to whack him over the head because of the changes, as they are not blasphemous (even the faramir/osgiliath one!).

PS Stop moving the goalposts. You first stated that, apart from Frodo, no one loses anything or really suffers in the books.
Quote:
Frodo apart, no-one really suffers any in this story
When I corrected you with approx 16 examples, you then stated that these pieces of loss or suffering weren't 'enough'. Make your mind up!

i.e. your ‘moving the goalposts’ point

Quote:
So basically you have come up with 3 deaths and some people leaving Middle Earth. I am sorry but compared to real warfare these ‘losses’ are ludicrously lightweight. Who comes back to find their children slaughtered, 1,000’s of people massacred for racial reasons, their womenfolk raped, ethnic enmity set in place that will poison the future for hundreds of years? These are the real consequences of war. See WWI, WWII or the Crusades. See the wars of conquest fought in Latin America. Some of the things that go on boggle the mind. Admit it or not the LOTR is horribly clean and nice in comparison.
1/ Dying or 2/ losing a loved one are about as bad as you can get. None of us have experience of the first one, but I have experience of the second one. So trust me, in that on a personal level, what these characters go through is heartbreaking. That’s one of the things that make this book so special (and perfect).
Essex is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-23-2003, 07:46 AM   #13
Child of the 7th Age
Spirit of the Lonely Star
 
Child of the 7th Age's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 5,135
Child of the 7th Age is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Sting

I have been reading this thread for a few days and was intrigued with your interchange and decided to jump in. First, only the foolhardy would dispute your basic premise that the Lord of the Rings and Tolkien's other writings have certain flaws. If Tolkien was alive today, he would be the first one to admit this. His Letters are filled with self-reflective passages that pinpoint what he regarded as the greatest of these flaws.

The real questions boil down to these three:
  • 1. Are the flaws such that they prevent us from understanding or appreciating the story as a whole?
  • 2. Are their instances where PJ has done a "better" job of interpretation than the original author?
  • 3. Are the particular instances you cite in the book legitimate instances of "flaws"?

I think we're all in agreement on the first point. No one on either side is suggesting anything different. The problem lies with your second and third questions.

First, in regard to PJ making improvements...Yes, I do think there are certain instances of this. My own favorite example is the character of Boromir. If you look in the Letters, you can see that there were some unique personal reasons why Tolkien "favored" Faramir in his story. This personal bias colored his handling of Boromir, even though he was trying to show an honorable character who was ensnared by the Ring. PJ's Boromir is a more sympathetic character than Tolkien's and I actually think this is an improvement and ironically more in line with what tha author meant to convey.

But, in general, I would say that PJ hits the mark best not when he "changes" Tolkien, but when he faithfully depicts what is contained in the writings. You yourself mention the example of the two Tolkien illustrators who provided the artistic input for the visual depiction of Middle-earth. I think PJ is right on the money here; nowhere does the movie ring more true for me than in these visualizations.

On changes in general.....Some changes are definitely necessary in plot and timing but I do think there are instances in the movie where PJ would have been better off sticking closer to what Tolkien set down on paper. And nowhere does this ring more true than in the case of characterization. PJ's changes do not "improve" the book; they merely take away from the integrity of the story. Frodo and Faramir are two cases in point, which I won't get into because these have been discussed to death down in Movies.

It is on the third point where I most strongly disagree with you. And here I'm going to zero in on your central criticism.

Quote:
1. No one really suffers in this story.
Quote:
So basically you have come up with 3 deaths and some people leaving Middle Earth. I am sorry but compared to real warfare these ‘losses’ are ludicrously lightweight. Who comes back to find their children slaughtered, 1,000’s of people massacred for racial reasons, their womenfolk raped, ethnic enmity set in place that will poison the future for hundreds of years? These are the real consequences of war. See WWI, WWII or the Crusades. See the wars of conquest fought in Latin America. Some of the things that go on boggle the mind. Admit it or not the LOTR is horribly clean and nice in comparison.
These points you make are related and I think you are off base on both of them.

First, the specifics.... Let me approach this as an historian, which I am. Tolkien is writing about warfare before the modern era. The kind of war you describe in the paragraph above simply did not come into existence until the technology was there to support it. Not that war wasn't hellish in any period, but the widespread conflagration or an intentional mass genoicide would make no sense in the context of this book.

Warfare just wasn't like that. It was self-limiting because the weapons were self-limiting. Yes, you could have a plague come through and wipe out one-third of Europe's population, but warfare itself wasn't going to do that.

Tolkien simply wasn't interested in depicting that side of the story. His model (also his training) was "mythological" -- the old epics focus on individuals and their fate rather than depicting deaths on a massive scale. Tolkien was more interested in depicting the impact of evil on the soul than in showing mass deaths and confusion. He never said the wider deaths weren't there and sometimes alludes to them but in a very personal way. I am immediately reminded of the scene where Sam has an enemy soldier fall dying into his lap and he wonders where the folk was from, how he got involved in the war, etc.

This kind of personal approach is far more effective and poignant to me than depicting general carnage and mayhem. What if Tolkien had ripped out that scene with Sam and instead put in a general description of all the battle dead? Would that have been a more powerful statement? Personally, I don't think so. It's when you get down to the level of the individual that it begins to touch your heart.

You mention "1000s of people slaughtered for racial reasons." Obviously, that wasn't a factor in this story. But I will say this. I have read widely in the history and literature of the holocaust. I have read books that listed and even showed photographs of the bodies piled up -- the kind of general horror that you suggest Tolkien might have wanted to include. But none of these had the impact on me of a simple book like Elie Wiesel's Night which showed how the world of one or two folk was totally distorted. Statistics and general carnage do not make me weep, but I can not read those passages of personal loss without having an emotional response.

This post is too long and I won't get into the specifics of loss in the LotR. You are oversimplifying things by saying only Frodo is involved. Just look at the relationship of Elrond/Aragorn/Arwen -- in one sense this is a "lose, lose" scenario. Whatever happens, someone will lose, a fact that is made amply clear by Arwen's death scene, when she still can not truly accept the bargain she made so many years earlier. As far as Frodo goes, I would say that the sense of loss is overwhelming. Here is someone who has voluntarily given of himself, who has done the "right" things, the things that any of us would hopefully step forward and do. Yet, even as he sails away to the West, we are left wondering if he can put the pieces back together within the circles of Arda. Yet to this day, we don't have an answer for that and neither did Tolkien. We have the wonderful depiction of the curtain pulling back to reveal a sparkling new land where healing seemed possible, but we also have the poem "The Sea Bell" ascribed to Frodo which suggests a far less optomistic outcome.

Indeed, to me the sense of loss in LotR is overwhelming and is admittedly one of the reasons that I return to this book again and again. An entire era is passing away. Something has been preserved but so much has been lost. There will be no more Elves, the dwarves are dying out and, as Tolkien said, hobbits are rarely to be seen today. Man will remain dominant but all alone. Think about it... All alone.... That is our fate as a race. In many respects, I find that scenario chilling and one which is all too frequently mirrored in our own personal situations. The "loss" is there all over the book...you just have to be tuned in to sense and feel it.

Sorry about this monstor post, but I felt the need to say these things.

[ October 23, 2003: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]
__________________
Multitasking women are never too busy to vote.
Child of the 7th Age is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-25-2003, 05:21 AM   #14
Eurytus
Wight
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: England
Posts: 179
Eurytus has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Quote:
When I corrected you with approx 16 examples, you then stated that these pieces of loss or suffering weren't 'enough'. Make your mind up!
Essex, I have and had made my mind up. These examples do not create enough feeling of loss. Like it or not the depiction of war within Tolkien is horribly sanitised.
In general the good boys go to war, kick the enemies behind and come back again.
A couple of exceptions does not an era ending war make.

Also, I should point out that you cannot claim 16 examples.

Nearly dying is not an example.

Claiming 2-3 examples for one death is not a way to increase your count either.

Likewise for keeping Sam and Merry & Pippin's loss of Frodo seperate so that you increase your example count.

Elrond losing Arwen, Arwen losing Elrond being seperated into two seperate examples.

I think it is obvious you were stretching it a bit to even reach 16 examples.

[ October 25, 2003: Message edited by: Eurytus ]
__________________
"This is the most blatant case of false advertising since my suit against the movie The Neverending Story!"

Lionel Hutz
Eurytus is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-25-2003, 05:35 AM   #15
Eurytus
Wight
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: England
Posts: 179
Eurytus has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Child of the 7th Age, I agreed with some of your post but there are a couple of things I disagree with.

Quote:
PJ's changes do not "improve" the book; they merely take away from the integrity of the story. Frodo and Faramir are two cases in point, which I won't get into because these have been discussed to death down in Movies.
I do not agree that the changes to Frodo or Faramir hurt the story and since I have found others with the same view I do not think that this is a universal viewpoint.

Quote:
Let me approach this as an historian, which I am. Tolkien is writing about warfare before the modern era. The kind of war you describe in the paragraph above simply did not come into existence until the technology was there to support it.
If you are a historian then I hope you do realise that the things I talked about did in fact happend throughout the history of warfare and conquest. Just because the scale may have been smaller it does mean that this did not happen.

Whilst the Bible may not be a historically accurate record of events, the manner of warfare it often depicts in the Old Testament was not unusual. This often involved wiping out the other tribe.

Take a look at Boudica's revolt in Britain to see that warfare was not 'clean'.

Or at what happened to the cities of Troy and Carthage.

Or what happened to cities that tried to fight the Mongol hordes.

Or the aforementioned Crusades.

Cromwell's campaigns in Ireland.

The conquest of the new world and in particular, Latin America.

Leading right up until the modern era. One thing they all show is that inhumanity to man is not new, or confined to the modern era of war.
Racial and religious intolerance, mistreatment of women and children, the obliteration of other cultures...
They have all been around for as long as we have and the more sanitised depiction of warfare in LOTR is not realistic.

Quote:
His model (also his training) was "mythological" -- the old epics focus on individuals and their fate rather than depicting deaths on a massive scale.
So focused on the individuals in fact that they were all paper-thin depictions.
__________________
"This is the most blatant case of false advertising since my suit against the movie The Neverending Story!"

Lionel Hutz
Eurytus is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-25-2003, 05:38 AM   #16
Eurytus
Wight
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: England
Posts: 179
Eurytus has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Quote:
Just because the author doesn't mention every detail of the war, there is certainly space for these evils to happen, in the defenceless villages of Rohan for example.
Eomer, the question I was debating here was about the flaw that the LOTR did not show much of the consequences of war, the suffering.
Hence the fact that the book does not show these things combined with the minimal casualties amoung the main characters shows that the book has this flaw.
__________________
"This is the most blatant case of false advertising since my suit against the movie The Neverending Story!"

Lionel Hutz
Eurytus is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-25-2003, 06:35 AM   #17
Maéglin
Haunting Spirit
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Australia
Posts: 99
Maéglin has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

I agree with Eurytus on this one [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]
Everything in LOTR seems all nice and clean, no nitty gritty details about the sacrifice of people in Numenor for example, nor anything about the 'great slaughter' that Men did to the orcs. When the bad guys are killed in Tolkien's world the audience feels "Alright! look at Hurin! 70 trolls!" and the fact that the main villains are not even human makes it even less likely for us to sympathise with them.

But of course this does not necessarily make it a bad book albeit imperfect as has already been justified. Personally I appreciate LOTR and other related works because of its almost biblical scale. It is really an epic and mythological work, as Tolkien admits. I do want to know about Anarion and how he died, or what happens to the Dunlendings and Easterlings after the war. But IMHO the details are not what makes the books so great. So even we cannot settle this, let's just all agree to disagree.

Bah, how did we talk from dumbing down the books to this [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
Maéglin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-25-2003, 10:08 AM   #18
Child of the 7th Age
Spirit of the Lonely Star
 
Child of the 7th Age's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 5,135
Child of the 7th Age is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Sting

Eurytus,

I only have time for a quick response, but here goes.

First regarding the quote you disgreed with..you have chopped off the first half of it which actually explains what I was saying.

Your comments in the thread:

Quote:
The part of my post you quoted: PJ's changes do not "improve" the book; they merely take away from the integrity of the story. Frodo and Faramir are two cases in point, which I won't get into because these have been discussed to death down in Movies.

Your response: I do not agree that the changes to Frodo or Faramir hurt the story and since I have found others with the same view I do not think that this is a universal viewpoint.
Now here's what I actually said:

Quote:
Some changes are definitely necessary in plot and timing but I do think there are instances in the movie where PJ would have been better off sticking closer to what Tolkien set down on paper. And nowhere does this ring more true than in the case of characterization. PJ's changes do not "improve" the book; they merely take away from the integrity of the story. Frodo and Faramir are two cases in point, which I won't get into because these have been discussed to death down in Movies.
As I stated earlier in my post, changes in plot and timing are frequently necessary. Changes in characterization alter the nature and spirit of the story, and I am not comfortable with them.

It seems to me that the author's preferences in this instance -- that of film adaptation -- outweigh those of either of us. Tolkien said exactly the same thing I did in the Letters when he was discussing a movie script. He was willing to consider other changes but not dramatic alterations of character.

Secondly, I do not agree with your assessment of traditional warfare. Yes, war is horrible in any context, but modern and pre-modern war are not the same. It is possible in the middle ages to have a battle with 1000 people where 999 are killed. It is also possible to have a raid on the part of a band of soldiers who go looting villages, raping and killing. But it is not possible to have this happen on such a widespread level that the entire civilian populace is wiped out. You do not have the railway trains to drag people off wholesale to a death camp or the weapons to decimate a city and flatten every building in just a moment or two. The late nineteenth and twentieth century can be proud of the fact that this age was the one to make such wholesale slaughter possible.

In pre-modern society, pestilence and famine, or hundreds of years of slaving raids, were far more likely to accomplish this than a series of battles on the field. This is precisely what happened with the Spanish in South America....even with their deceit and lies, the "explorers" could never do the damage to the Indians that smallpox did.

Could you have more vivid depictions of the widespread effects of war in the LotR? Absolutely. Tolkien could easily have added passages describing the battle deaths, villages being looted, etc. He had seen modern warfare at work in WWI, the father of all such beasts but he chose not to focus on that.

Instead he stressed individual heartache and loss and character interaction, and I am glad for that. There are many modern books, movies and tv episodes that give us widespread graphic horror. What we are in danger of losing is the personal side....something that elicits an emotional response because we actually care about the people involved. It becomes more than just characters shot down in a video game. And this is what I think Tolkien has done.

Quote:
So focused on the individuals in fact that they were all paper-thin depictions.
If you really believe the words above, I am puzzled why you choose to read Tolkien or discuss his books. Perhaps just because you enjoy a good back-and-forth? How can you enjoy a "good yarn" if you feel the characters are so lacking? Also, I did not see you make this same charge of PJ's movie. Do you feel PJ has done a 'better' or more multi-dimensional job with his characters than Tolkien?

If you truly feel Tolkien's characters are "paper thin", what is there that draws you back to read and discuss the book?

[ October 25, 2003: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]
__________________
Multitasking women are never too busy to vote.
Child of the 7th Age is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-25-2003, 11:55 AM   #19
Essex
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Essex's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Essex, England
Posts: 887
Essex has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Eurytus,

Your earlier point:
Quote:
Lack of real loss. Tolkien vehemently hated being accused of this but I am afraid it does ring true. Frodo apart, no-one really suffers any in this story.
I rattled off 16 examples (off the top off my head - I could find many more)

And then your quote:

Quote:
Elrond losing Arwen, Arwen losing Elrond being seperated into two seperate examples.
Of COURSE they're seperate examples. You asked who suffered?

They both did!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Let me (again) state WHO SUFFERED other than Frodo and you can explain why I'm wrong. See my earlier post for details on why…

1/ sam
2/ pippin
3/ merry
4/ Bilbo
4/ gimli
5/ arwen
6/ Elrond
7/ Galadriel
8/ Gandalf
9/ eowyn
10/ eomer
11/ theoden
12/ Faramir
13/ Gollum
14/ Boromir
15/ wormtounge
16/ saruman
17/ denethor

[ October 25, 2003: Message edited by: Essex ]
Essex is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-25-2003, 12:21 PM   #20
Lyta_Underhill
Haunted Halfling
 
Lyta_Underhill's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: an uncounted length of steps--floating between air molecules
Posts: 844
Lyta_Underhill has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Quote:
Could you have more vivid depictions of the widespread effects of war in the LotR? Absolutely. Tolkien could easily have added passages describing the battle deaths, villages being looted, etc. He had seen modern warfare at work in WWI, the father of all such beasts but he chose not to focus on that.
Actually, Child I think he DID focus on an aspect of that, although not in the realm of the thick of battle and loss of human life, so I agree to an extent but not all the way. The aspect I speak of is the loss of the rural way of life and the intrusion of the modern mechanized and imposed system of life (a sort of "rape of the Earth" if you will). This is illustrated not only in the Shire, but also in the despoiling of Saruman's own surroundings in Isengard, his felling of Fangorn's trees for the fueling of a larger scale war that included both Rohan and the Shire and had aspirations for even more. I think perhaps it could be argued that his focus on the Good forces struggling in the way they did against Saruman and Sauron illustrates a deep desire that the deluge that overwhelmed Britain and the whole world in WWI and WWII could have been diverted and brought into a new, more idealistic age if only there was a return to the old heroic traditions in their truest form, a purity of individual hearts and a purity of action as illustrated most keenly in Frodo and Aragorn.

I used to think as you may do now, Eurytus that some of the characterizations were thin. Aragorn is the main case in point here for me. I find, though, that the more I reflect and the more I read of Tolkien's stories, the more I find depth in his characters. I see the difficulties of Aragorn's position and the uncertainties in his mind more because of the richness with which the entire situation of Middle Earth on the brink of war is drawn. Tolkien's strength was in the intricate and complete drawing of an entire realm, and this does not allow for as many momentary glimpses into the trivialities of everyday life, or even the not so trivial events that seem to hold sway in more socially focused novels today.

I find there are refreshing aspects of his choice to tell the story from the hobbits' POV, and I also admit there are uneven parts where the level of the language is hoisted above those same hobbits, but I do not begrudge this to him, for I also realize that the language is slowly rising with the level of involvement of the hobbits in the greater affairs of Middle Earth, and it is in the paradigm of language that Tolkien is most at home.

One could argue the flaws until doomsday, but I'll leave off soon! I would only say that your views of the novels being flawed, Eurytus seem to issue from expectations that Tolkien's work does not address, a sort of modern mentality that Tolkien was running from as fast as his legs could carry him. Certainly there is massive loss in the War of the Ring that he admits he does not address. He only briefly relates that, in addition to the massive Battles of Pelennor Fields and at the Gate of Morannon, where there was, of necessity, great loss of life, there were also battles at Erebor and in Lothlorien, where the Dwarves and Elves sustained great losses. It was truly a "World War."

Thanks for allowing me to spout off a bit! I do enjoy discussion forums for just that property!

Cheers,
Lyta

[ October 25, 2003: Message edited by: Lyta_Underhill ]
__________________
“…she laid herself to rest upon Cerin Amroth; and there is her green grave, until the world is changed, and all the days of her life are utterly forgotten by men that come after, and elanor and niphredil bloom no more east of the Sea.”
Lyta_Underhill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-25-2003, 05:35 PM   #21
Child of the 7th Age
Spirit of the Lonely Star
 
Child of the 7th Age's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 5,135
Child of the 7th Age is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Sting

Lyta,

I think your points are well taken about the depiction of "loss" in the desecration of the land, the felling of the trees, and the imposition of modern mechanized methods despite the hobbits' dislike and resistence. I came to Lord of the Rings while I was at college in the late 60s and it was this aspect of the book, the rape of the land and the rejection of the excesses of industrialization, that initially intrigued many of us.

And these points tie in very nicely with the wider argument you make later:

Quote:
One could argue the flaws until doomsday, but I'll leave off soon! I would only say that your views of the novels being flawed, Eurytus seem to issue from expectations that Tolkien's work does not address, a sort of modern mentality that Tolkien was running from as fast as his legs could carry him. Certainly there is massive loss in the War of the Ring that he admits he does not address.
I think I was hinting in my post at what you've said much more clearly here. Tolkien chose to write a certain book in a certain way with a certain mindset: on the one hand focusing on individual loss and change, and on the other depicting the passing of an age, the widest canvas anyone could ask for. And laced throughout that book is an underlying sense of sadness, and a rejection of certain attitudes and modes of thought that are generally part of the modern mentality.

If that message of bittersweet change from one era to the next resonates with you, if the wide canvas Tolkien paints evokes a response, then the book will strike a cord. Yes, you may have specific characters and scenes to criticize but your overall assessment will remain postive. But if your own expectations are widely divergent from these, if you're looking for an author to give you scenes of gritty realism in the depiction of battle scenes and widespread images of suffering, such as is true in much literature that speaks with the voice of modernity, then I believe it's prudent to seek your meaning and enjoyment in another work. You're asking for something the author never intended to deliver.

[ October 25, 2003: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]
__________________
Multitasking women are never too busy to vote.
Child of the 7th Age is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-26-2003, 01:44 PM   #22
Eomer of the Rohirrim
Auspicious Wraith
 
Eomer of the Rohirrim's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: The Netherlands
Posts: 4,988
Eomer of the Rohirrim is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Eomer of the Rohirrim is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Sting

Never have I read a messier thread. There are so many points that we keep jumping back and forth between! Very good discussion though.

Eurytus, in every story, there are main characters and minor characters. Earlier you gave the example of Legolas and how he is not afforded great character detail. I think he is given sufficient detail for what he is, that is a minor character.

And I do disagree with the view about Aragorn, that he is not detailed enough. I think Aragorn is a very good character who intrigues me exceedingly every time I read or think about the books.
__________________
Los Ingobernables de Harlond
Eomer of the Rohirrim is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-27-2003, 03:00 AM   #23
Eurytus
Wight
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: England
Posts: 179
Eurytus has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Ok, I will deal with many of the different posts in one reply, and be as brief as I can be since I think this discussion is approaching its limit.

Point one. The title of this thread is somewhat misleading as it was starting by Essex as a place for us to discuss the presence of ‘flaws’ in the book. He had indicated a viewpoint whereby he thought the book was perfect (later downgraded to nearly perfect) and I was arguing against that.

Point two. I standby my view that not really showing the impact of war is a flaw when you are trying to portray something as being the ‘end of all things’. Essex, I am really not going to argue any more about your list. You have a couple of deaths in that list and the others are things like “lost her father”, “lost their friend” etc. Those are pretty damn minor in terms of the potential losses in times of war. At the end of the day the good boys go to war (8 of them) and they all come back. The fact that one needs to take an extended rest break in some west coast Saga holiday is not really a great hardship.

Point three. As regards 7th Childs views on pre-20th century war. Sorry, but I going to continue to disagree with you. The North African city of Carthage was basically completely destroyed by the Romans. You might want to see the example of Anglesey too, the population of which was nearly wiped out by those pesky Romans. There are other examples too. All of which were completed without the need for 20th century weapons or transport systems. And with the example of the Smallpox, you have to remember that in North America it was a deliberate policy of spreading with infected bed sheets that helped this problem arise.

Point four. Paperthin characters. Sorry but I cannot see any room for manoeuvre here. Legolas IS laughably paperthin. It is not possible to start saying that he is a minor character. He is one of the nine members of the fellowship. Is that minor?
And then Aragorn is not a lot better. One of the books is named after him and yet he is also an archetype of a character.

Point five. As I have said MANY times before, I still like the book. None of this flaws are by themselves critical. But this discussion was originally started to debate just how flawless or not the LOTR is. Hence I have pointed out some.
__________________
"This is the most blatant case of false advertising since my suit against the movie The Neverending Story!"

Lionel Hutz
Eurytus is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-27-2003, 08:06 AM   #24
Essex
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Essex's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Essex, England
Posts: 887
Essex has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Eurytus,

Quote:
The fact that one needs to take an extended rest break in some west coast Saga holiday is not really a great hardship
Nice one! Ok, so Frodo leaving behind his beloved Shire and his friends and family FOREVER is not a great hardship!!!!!????

So then you wouldn't mind leaving behind your friends and loved ones then? Oh dear, I hope none of your relations visit the Barrow-Downs Forums!
Essex is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-27-2003, 08:27 AM   #25
Eomer of the Rohirrim
Auspicious Wraith
 
Eomer of the Rohirrim's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: The Netherlands
Posts: 4,988
Eomer of the Rohirrim is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Eomer of the Rohirrim is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Sting

Just because Legolas hung out with Frodo for a time doesn't mean that he wasn't a minor character. And once again I must state that I don't think Aragorn is a paperthin character. I can see his motivations and emotions and I feel for him in his hardships. Granted, he is hardly the most detailed character in literary history (not even this book) but to call him paperthin is going way over the top.
__________________
Los Ingobernables de Harlond
Eomer of the Rohirrim is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-27-2003, 09:23 AM   #26
Lyta_Underhill
Haunted Halfling
 
Lyta_Underhill's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: an uncounted length of steps--floating between air molecules
Posts: 844
Lyta_Underhill has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Quote:
And once again I must state that I don't think Aragorn is a paperthin character.
I certainly agree with you now, Eomer; however, it took a few readings for me to come to the realization, and the first time I read the books, Aragorn DID strike me as paper-thin, but I've learned better in subsequent readings. Aragorn is a "slow burn" character for me, but he just gets better every time. As for Legolas, he isn't terribly developed, but he doesn't need to be, either. He accomplishes what he needs to do without a whole lot of personal detail. And after having read the Silmarillion and seen the Elves of the First Age at work, it resonates interestingly with the modest character of Legolas so as to work to his advantage--Son of the King of Mirkwood and yet never one mention of it. Legolas strikes me as having to some extent, a receptive and humble personality that must stand some indoctrination, but that bears it gracefully and to advantage. The good thing about characters that aren't overdrawn to the last line on the face is that we, as readers, can see within the "webwork" of the construct and draw a more personal relationship with that character. (I hope I got that across OK). Legolas is not my personally favorite character, but for those for whom he is the focus, I can sympathize and understand their POV, even if there is a dearth of direct detail.

My summarized point, I suppose, is: Tolkien adds just enough detail to draw the scene and place the characters, but does not ruin an idealized inner picture of the characters with too much detail. For many stories, this will not fly, but Tolkien makes it work because of the grand scale of the world he draws around his characters, and for other reasons I'm sure I haven't figured out yet!

Cheers,
Lyta
__________________
“…she laid herself to rest upon Cerin Amroth; and there is her green grave, until the world is changed, and all the days of her life are utterly forgotten by men that come after, and elanor and niphredil bloom no more east of the Sea.”
Lyta_Underhill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-27-2003, 10:13 AM   #27
Eurytus
Wight
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: England
Posts: 179
Eurytus has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

I must admit that I find it surprising that people are very accepting of the lack of characterisation and will say things about how it allows you to fill in your own details and is the better for it.....

....and yet Tolkien describes scenery in mind-boggling detail. In my view it makes the work unbalanced and indicates that Tolkien is more interested in the world that he had created than those that inhabited it.

In my view a person is always more interesting than a mountain and therefore deserves more attention.
But maybe that's just me.
__________________
"This is the most blatant case of false advertising since my suit against the movie The Neverending Story!"

Lionel Hutz
Eurytus is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-27-2003, 10:57 AM   #28
Essex
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Essex's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Essex, England
Posts: 887
Essex has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

I'm trying to think what mountain Tolkien described in "mind-boggling" detail....

To repeat, in my opinion I don't need to know exactly what all the characters in a novel are thinking. As mentioned before by others, just the main characters thoughts will do. If I want great characterisation I will read other authors (Stephen King springs to mind) but if I want a story with a superb plot AND great characters (not what you think Eurytus) I will read LOTR.

Because the book is so MOVING I return again and again, as do other people. You only get this feeling from a book where you FEEL for the characters, and therefore how can they be paper thin? I feel mainly for the characters of the hobbits, probably because the story is based around them and that they are believable and strong characters.

PS We are going round in circles and repeating our opinions which is a waste of time. I've been here before (on a different forum) and it can turn into an unpleasent experience. We should agree to disagree and leave it at that.

(Of course Eurytus I'll let you have the last word if you like.........)
Essex is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-27-2003, 12:05 PM   #29
Aiwendil
Late Istar
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,140
Aiwendil has been trapped in the Barrow!
Sting

Eurytus wrote:
Quote:
In my view a person is always more interesting than a mountain and therefore deserves more attention.
Tolkien seems to subscribe to the idea that character should be revealed through actions rather than through description. This is at odds with the modern trend, but a great many examples can be found in earlier works. Take the Iliad or the Odyssey. Or the Aeneid. Or even Beowulf. In each of these works (as in LotR) we learn about the characters not by being told about their inner thoughts, hopes, and desires, but rather by being shown what they do. And, again as in LotR, there is a multitude of characters of intermediate importance about whom we learn very little. If you call Tolkien's characters paper-thin, you will have to level the same charge against the characters in these works.

A mountain cannot act, and thus must be described.

It is only modern literature that has developed a curious preoccupation with the inner lives of the characters, and has drawn a disjunction between the internal and the external.

Each way has its advantages and disadvantages. Tolkien's way has the virtue that it presents the characters in a book in the same way that we are actually presented with characters in real life - that is, through their actions. It also makes characterization less burdensome a process, allowing a superior flow of plot. And if done well, it can imply a great deal, and in great detail, about a character's inner life (a prime example in Tolkien is Turin).

The modern way has the advantage that it often allows closer sympathy with the characters and provides us with a more comprehensive characterization. And if done well, the inner lives of the characters can be made into focal points for the plot, so that the plot can proceed relatively unimpeded.

Maybe you prefer the latter way, but I don't think that it is in any obvious way better than the former.
Aiwendil is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-28-2003, 02:33 AM   #30
Eurytus
Wight
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: England
Posts: 179
Eurytus has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Quote:
Tolkien's way has the virtue that it presents the characters in a book in the same way that we are actually presented with characters in real life - that is, through their actions. It also makes characterization less burdensome a process, allowing a superior flow of plot. And if done well, it can imply a great deal, and in great detail, about a character's inner life (a prime example in Tolkien is Turin).
I find it interesting that your prime example is Turin, which might imply that a character in one of Tolkien's unfinished works is better drawn than those in the LOTR.
And you may be able to develop character by showing their actions but since most of Legolas's actions consist of nothing more than shooting, fighting or running there is little character description obtained. Indeed there is only some throw away details about him walking on the snow etc to show that, hey he's not a man he's an Elf! Beyond that his actions tell us absolutely nothing about him at all. No more so than watching a guy working on the roadworks could indicate that he is interested in chess, or spends his free time re-enacting medieval battles or any number of things.
Is it more interesting watching him wield a pickaxe than to get inside his head and see what makes him tick? Does it tell us more about him?
I personally think not?

As to it following the trend set by the Iliad and the Odyssey.
That may be so, but constructing a pastiche of a style 2,000 years old is not really the way to go about writing a book for a modern audience.
After all, very few modern readers will read either of those books.

And there is no way I am ever going to believe that it is not a flaw to ascribe more detail in describing the development of Pipeweed by Hobbits than to the motivations, character quirks etc of Gimli and Legolas put together (nearly a quarter of the fellowship before anyone complains about them being minor characters).
__________________
"This is the most blatant case of false advertising since my suit against the movie The Neverending Story!"

Lionel Hutz
Eurytus is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-28-2003, 11:21 AM   #31
Aiwendil
Late Istar
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,140
Aiwendil has been trapped in the Barrow!
Sting

Quote:
I find it interesting that your prime example is Turin, which might imply that a character in one of Tolkien's unfinished works is better drawn than those in the LOTR.
Well, I think that Turin is his best character. But there are also good examples in LotR - Boromir, Denethor, Wormtongue. I would say Gollum, but this is one of the few instances where Tolkien does give us something approaching a look inside the character's head.

Quote:
And you may be able to develop character by showing their actions but since most of Legolas's actions consist of nothing more than shooting, fighting or running there is little character description obtained.
As I said, in many works that lie in the tradition of characterizing through action, characters of less than central importance are not given more than minimal characterizations. Is this good? Certainly not. But does it really detract from the work? I don't think so.

Quote:
That may be so, but constructing a pastiche of a style 2,000 years old is not really the way to go about writing a book for a modern audience.
After all, very few modern readers will read either of those books.
So the Odyssey and the Iliad are no good?

Or perhaps they are good but it is the duty of modern authors to write for modern audiences that aren't familiar with the classics? But as the popularity of LotR seems to show, modern audiences don't need to be familiar with those works to find elements of their style effective.

In other words, if you are claiming that the Iliad and the Odyssey are not good, then I must simply disagree. But if they are good, then there is no reason that their styles ought not be used.

And I'm not sure why LotR is "pastiche" simply because it utilizes a style found in earlier works. Is the Aeneid pastiche because it resembles the Odyssey in style? Surely not; and yet the Aeneid is far more like the Odyssey than is The Lord of the Rings.

I do agree that The Lord of the Rings has a few minor flaws. But I don't think that the style of characterization is in itself a signficant one.
Aiwendil is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-28-2003, 11:36 AM   #32
Eurytus
Wight
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: England
Posts: 179
Eurytus has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Quote:
In other words, if you are claiming that the Iliad and the Odyssey are not good, then I must simply disagree. But if they are good, then there is no reason that their styles ought not be used.
Just because something is good does not mean that its style should be used.
Is A Clockwork Orange good. Clearly. Should you write a book in the same style? Probably not, it would clearly be a pastiche of the former.

Is Beowulf (the original poem) a great work of fiction, again clearly. Should it's style be used now? Again no, it would come across as blatantly false.

I have little problem with Tolkien aping the Illiad for the Silmarillion. That after all was attempting to be a mythology.
But the LOTR was not. It was written primarily as a modern book, a sequel to the Hobbit which was likewise, a modern book.

Compare FOTR to ROTK and you can see how Tolkien totally changes the style and it jars.
__________________
"This is the most blatant case of false advertising since my suit against the movie The Neverending Story!"

Lionel Hutz
Eurytus is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-28-2003, 11:56 AM   #33
Aiwendil
Late Istar
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,140
Aiwendil has been trapped in the Barrow!
Sting

Quote:
Just because something is good does not mean that its style should be used.
Is A Clockwork Orange good. Clearly. Should you write a book in the same style? Probably not, it would clearly be a pastiche of the former.
Is Beowulf (the original poem) a great work of fiction, again clearly. Should it's style be used now? Again no, it would come across as blatantly false.
This is a view that I think is surprisingly common and with which I must say I disagree fairly strongly.

First of all, I still don't understand why you equate imitation with pastiche. It seems to me that a work is pastiche only if it poorly applies the techniques of earlier works. Again - is the Aeneid pastiche because it's similar to the Odyssey? If an author were to employ the style of A Clockwork Orange well, surely it wouldn't be mere pastiche.

Second, I think this view is mistaken in attaching critical importance to the circumstances under which a work is written. If it were discovered that Beowulf was in fact written in the early 20th century and that claims of its antiquity were part of some massive conspiracy, would that make it a lesser work? Clearly not, it seems to me.

It seems that this view values works of literature only for their historical value rather than as works of literature in themselves.

I hope I haven't mischaracterized your view.

Quote:
But the LOTR was not. It was written primarily as a modern book, a sequel to the Hobbit which was likewise, a modern book.
Where was this ever declared? I don't claim that LotR is not modern; but on the other hand I don't think it's quite right to call it a modern book and then judge it by standards peculiar to "modern books". The Lord of the Rings simply is what it is. It should be judged simply as a work of literature, not as a modern book, not as an ancient epic.

Quote:
Compare FOTR to ROTK and you can see how Tolkien totally changes the style and it jars.
Ah! This is a complaint of a completely different kind. This kind of criticism seems perfectly valid to me. I personally disagree that the stylistic change is jarring, but I do take your meaning.

Last edited by Aiwendil; 09-09-2004 at 04:48 PM.
Aiwendil is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-28-2003, 12:45 PM   #34
The Saucepan Man
Corpus Cacophonous
 
The Saucepan Man's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: A green and pleasant land
Posts: 8,467
The Saucepan Man has been trapped in the Barrow!
Pipe

Quote:
Compare FOTR to ROTK and you can see how Tolkien totally changes the style and it jars.
Although it never really occured to me before, I do see your point here Eurytus. But I think that this goes back to the book being written primarily from the Hobbits' point of view. FotR largely portrays situations where the Hobbits are interacting with the other characters on a one to one (or four to one [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img] ) basis and where their adventures are the focal point. This begins to change at the Council of Elrond and with the formation of the Fellowship when the much wider struggle, of the free peoples of Middle-earth, comes into play. By the time we get to TTT and RotK, we are witnessing these events of global significance more directly, and frequently the Hobbits (specifically Merry and Pippin) become virtual bystanders.

I think that this change in style is intentional and that it actually works well since it serves to convey this sense that events of great significance are taking place. Merry and Pippin can only stand by and record them, feeling rather useless (like unwanted baggage, as Merry says) until they are pitched directly into the action. The fact that Merry and Pippin actually tell us of their discomfort at being on the periphery shows, I believe, that this was intentional on Tolkien's part.

I would disagree that this characterises the whole of TTT and RotK. The chapters depicting the journey of Frodo and Sam and the adventures of Merry and Pippin in Fangorn still contain those close inter-personal relationships that characterise the early parts of FotR. But, when we are reading of the great events taking place in Rohan and Gondor, the transition in style is evident. And I don't feel that it jars. Rather it reflects the scale of the events being portrayed.

In effect, the narrative style mirrors the transition of the story from the parochial to the global, but always seen through the eyes of the parochials. And by the end, these parochials have become sufficiently mature and worldly-wise to take on the challenge of their own nation's struggle.
__________________
Do you mind? I'm busy doing the fishstick. It's a very delicate state of mind!
The Saucepan Man is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-29-2003, 03:26 AM   #35
Eurytus
Wight
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: England
Posts: 179
Eurytus has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

OK, this time its going to have to be my last post on the subject or I am going to just keep on going forever (well unless there is something I feel I just have to comment on of course).

As regards using an archaic style like the Iliad being wrong. I truly believe this to be true, in fact I also believe it to be extremely pretentious. Put it this way, the Iliad is written in that form because that is how they chose to write at the time it was written. To purposely copy that form of writing now is just false.

Or to put it another way. If Robert Jordan’s next fantasy book came out and he started using “Lo’s” everywhere and deliberately archaic language, what would people think? Somehow I doubt he would get praise. It would come across as an affectation and rightly so.

It is not necessary to use the language of the old epics to write an epic. War and Peace is an epic but its writing language is pretty ageless. To imitate antiquity for the sake of making your story appear more epic seems wrong to me.

As to the changes in language jarring. Again I truly believe this. The biggest example is Aragorn of course. His speech patterns change totally from FOTR to ROTK. In ROTK he is practically Fingolfin, whereas in FOTR he retains the DNA of a hobbit with wooden shoes called Trotter. Either he was purposely speaking ‘down’ to the hobbits in the first book or the change is not realistic. Either way its bad.

And in fact, it is the fact that LOTR is supposed to be written from the point of view of the hobbits and from he recollections of their friends that makes the change all the more jarring. I take the point about Frodo and Sam’s story retaining the same style. That is true. But take the chapters where Pippin or Merry are the hobbit representatives in the hosts of Gondor and Rohan. Things are described in terminology that a hobbit simply would not use. Take the quote from the post Mount Doom celebrations where the host’s joy is described as being “like swords”. Would a hobbit talk in such a manner? There is not prior or post indication that he would. Or the description of Theoden charging the leader of the Southrons. Again language is used that just doesn’t fit with the view of a hobbit relating this story.

For as long as I read the books I will believe that Tolkien made a mistake here. It was started as a sequel to the hobbit but by the latter stages he wanted to make a publishable Silmarillion. I think his desire for this overcame his logic. He should have gone back and fixed the earlier part of the book if he wanted to have ROTK written in the way that it was. And he should certainly have removed the suggestion that LOTR was the memoirs of hobbits.
__________________
"This is the most blatant case of false advertising since my suit against the movie The Neverending Story!"

Lionel Hutz
Eurytus is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-29-2003, 03:46 AM   #36
The X Phial
Shade of Carn Dûm
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Out there with the truth. Come find me.
Posts: 320
The X Phial has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

While I disagree with the idea that imitation of older styles is wrong, I am not going to argue the point. It's an opinion, fair enough. What I take issue with is the characterisation of Aragorn's change in character as affected.

Aragorn is a complex character. If he acted the same way in Gondor as he did in Bree he would not make a very good leader. He is old enough to be able to change roles with the situation. Tolkien changes his tone and his behavior as he gets closer to taking on the new role as King. He is sincere in his simple care for the hobbits in FotR, and he is also sincere in his more complex motivations in RotK. Just because a person can adapt does not make them false or affected.

Also, the hobbits change as the story progresses. The hobbits of FotR might not use the simile you mentioned, but a blooded Pippin or Merry certainly could have. If the tone changes, it is to reflect the differences in how the hobbits perceive the world. And, though they are people of simple pleasures, they are not stupid. Bilbo writes poetry with imagery not common to hobbits. Why hem them into a particular style? Do all humans write the same way?

So, in short, while I agree that the tone changes, I disagree about the motivation behind it. Aragorn is not false, the hobbits can and do grow and change, and Tolkien's use of archaic language is to simulate a culture that no longer exists, not to make his prose more "important" sounding.

Ok, those are my two cents. Toss them in the next wishing well you find.
__________________
But then there was a star danced, and under that was I born.
The X Phial is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-29-2003, 04:26 AM   #37
Eurytus
Wight
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: England
Posts: 179
Eurytus has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Quote:
Tolkien's use of archaic language is to simulate a culture that no longer exists, not to make his prose more "important" sounding.
If you write a story set in Ancient Greece do you need to write it in Ancient Greek? Do you even need to write it in a style similar to the way the Ancient Greeks wrote.

A good writer should be able to evoke any era or situation he chooses without needing to change his language forms to support it.
__________________
"This is the most blatant case of false advertising since my suit against the movie The Neverending Story!"

Lionel Hutz
Eurytus is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-29-2003, 05:47 AM   #38
The X Phial
Shade of Carn Dûm
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Out there with the truth. Come find me.
Posts: 320
The X Phial has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

How do you change tone without changing the use of language? That doesn't make any sense to me. Gondor is the last remnant of an ancient people. If someone is writing about, say, Romans and Celts, they use different expressions and turns of phrase when people from those two groups are talking. This is a common literary device. Perhaps it is more pronounced because Tolkien was a philologist and, as such, relied on that device more than others would. Still, it makes sense, at least to me, that people from different areas speak differently. Using archaisms is one way to indicate that the area is older and more formal and traditional, that is all.
__________________
But then there was a star danced, and under that was I born.
The X Phial is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-29-2003, 06:24 AM   #39
Eurytus
Wight
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: England
Posts: 179
Eurytus has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

I was not just talking about language that the characters speak although that is certainly part of the problem. I certainly do not see the need for the men of Gondor to speak in a more archaic way that do other men, and Elves who are more ancient than anyone. If Gondor spoke in an antiquated style then we would have seen hints of it in Boromir but we do not.
The jarring difference in language I spoke of was more than just how people talk. Take this passage;

“Then Theoden was aware of him, and would not wait for his onset, but crying to Snowmane he charged headlong to greet him. Great was the clash of their meeting. But the white fury of the Northmen burned the hotter, and more skilled was their knighthood with long spears and bitter. Fewer were they but they clove through the Southrons like a fire-bolt in a forest. Right through the press drove Theoden Thengel's son, and his spear was shivered as he threw down their chieftain. Out swept his sword, and he spurred to the standard, hewed staff and bearer; and the black serpent foundered. Then all that was left unslain of their cavalry turned and fled far away.”

Would you see a passage like that in FOTR? No, you would not. You would see it in the Silmarillion. Would a hobbit write such text? I doubt it, especially when there was no hint of such language being used in FOTR. And it is no use saying that the hobbits have grown and hence use this language by ROTK. They were not writing the book as a diary as it happened. They were writing it years later, hence there is no conceivable reason why Frodo would change his style so greatly within the same book.

And I truly believe that if a fantasy book came out by any other author and used that sort of language it would be derided as “trying to be more epic than it is”.
For some reason Tolkien gets a free pass though.

Basically "Great was the clash of their meeting" is not really good writing.
__________________
"This is the most blatant case of false advertising since my suit against the movie The Neverending Story!"

Lionel Hutz
Eurytus is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-29-2003, 06:48 AM   #40
Liriodendron
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Liriodendron's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Indiana
Posts: 532
Liriodendron has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Writers should feel free to use any language they wish...to create whatever they aim to! When I paint a picture, I may do it in a beautiful, (imitative) classical style, because I want that. I see no reason why a story cannot be written with speech or language of different eras, to invoke a aura of something different! This is artistic expression! (IMO) If that is the effect the author wishes to create, go at it! Whether it works or not depends on the skill of the writer. I like the "lo's" and formal flowery speech of certain characters, at certain times. This makes it fun, much enjoyed escapism, for me. I really don't think there should be "rules". Reader's will enjoy it, or they won't! Tolkien wins! [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] Of course, people are also free to criticise at will... [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

[ October 29, 2003: Message edited by: Liriodendron ]

[ October 29, 2003: Message edited by: Liriodendron ]
__________________
http://www.lizmargason.com
Liriodendron is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 07:46 PM.



Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.