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Old 09-05-2022, 07:52 PM   #1
Cryptic Aura
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Join Date: May 2002
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Bęthberry is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Bęthberry is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Bęthberry is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Bęthberry is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.
Boots How We Read Rings of Power

If folks have learnt nothing over the last forty years or so of literary study and reading, it is that how we approach a book or movie is what contributes as much to our interpretation or enjoyment of the text as the text itself. Readers don't come to a book as a blank slate,ready to be written on by the book itself. Tolkien revolutionised study of Beowulf by bringing to it expectations of poetic or narrative assumptions, rather than assumption then current that it was simply a text with which to learn a language. Toni Morrison changed that expectation when she disagreed with Tolkien over the monster, when she brought her thoughts about marginalisation to the reading.

Nowhere is this importance of how we approach a text (or movie) more true than in Tolkien fandom where the "purists" who brought deep and profound knowledge of Tolkien's texts soundly routed Peter Jackson's movies, but whose victory nevertheless failed to convince those who loved the movies. These viewers did not seem at all bothered by the fact that Jackson did not produce, as he claimed his did, a faithful rendition of Tolkien.Not knowing the beautiful and subtle intricacies of Tolkien's writing they were free to appreciate what was there on the screen and in the audio projection before them; they were a kind of tabula rasa. Some even ended up--surprise-- reading the original texts themselves and loving them. This split is being reproduced with the appearance of Amazon's TV serial The Rings of Power, where the learned loremasters of The Silmarillion and Tolkien's many epitexts are crying foul about the new video adaptation. And others unimpressed by current cultural norms (or values) are equally complaining about violations of the sanctity of Tolkien's texts and characters.

So how are readers/viewers expected to approach the series if they have any hope of enjoying it? The problem is acerbated by the fact that the showrunners and writers can use only limited material from Tolkien, not the Silm or even LotR itself, only the appendices. One approach is to think of RoP as not directly telling a story written by Tolkien but instead as adapting the history of Middle Earth and creating a new narrative around it. This won't of course satisfy the loremasters of the Silm but it might provide a way into appreciating RoP as something in its own right and not as something beholding to a previous text. Another approach is to think of RoP simply as fanfic, but fanfic usually depends upon readers' knowledge of the original in order to make its claims to success.

One of the more interesting ways to resolve this hermeneutical dilemma is instead to read The Rings of Power as alternative fiction. Here I will withdraw my own words and quote something I found on the Tolkien Society's page on Facebook by Robert Berry.

The conversation to be having about RINGS OF POWER is not one about fanfic (for this is a licensed property) but altfic. Without the rights to THE SILMARILLION the [writers] cannot have storylines that come from that property. Finrod’s death, the silmarils, even the greater history of Numenor cannot resolve themselves as that last posthumous book established them or the writers would be infringing on copyright.
Altfic comes from a point of view where history, fictional or otherwise, turns aside from its established path. To watch this show and understand what the writers are trying to accomplish under the laws of copyright we must pretend that THE SILMARILLION never existed and that all we know of the history of Middle-earth is what we know from the appendix of LoTR. But we also need to go one step further and recognize the obligation of the writers, working under copyright law, to provide us with stories that cannot be seen as similar to what is in THE SILMARILLION.
That’s a tough task for a writer; abandoning and willfully changing much of what you love from a work to keep the other, often sketchier parts you have the rights to. If [you] look at ... the show this way I think you’ll [see] just how good it is. They were given the best toys in the box but with very strict instructions on how to use them.
PS. And just to remind some who may have forgotten, I was no fan of the Jackson movies. But I am intrigued by what readers bring with them to a text, which might in fact hinder their enjoyment.
I’ll sing his roots off. I’ll sing a wind up and blow leaf and branch away.

Last edited by Bęthberry; 09-05-2022 at 08:00 PM. Reason: typo nazi
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