Posts Tagged ‘The Lord of the Rings’

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Silmarillion; The bigger they are, the harder they fall

Friday, December 30th, 2016

I read Tolkien’s canon every year around Christmas. So also this year.

One of Tolkien’s themes revisited in several of his works, is the fall from greatness.

In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf tells us that “Nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so.” The all-evil Sauron, the big foe of the world, started out as a good guy, one of the sevants of Melkor. And in the Silmarillion it is told that his master, Morgoth, the black enemy of all elves and men, was once Melkor, the mightiest of the Mayar, the angelic beings of Eru Illúvatar. Instead of serving and building, Melkor rebelled, and in his pride, wanted to rule the world that the Maiar achieved. So Melkor, He who arises in might became he that fell to darkness.

The greatest of the Noldorin elves was Fëanor, for he was “made the mightiest in all parts of body and mind: in valour, in endurance, in beauty, in understanding, in skill, in strength and subtlety alike: of all the Children of Ilúvatar, and a bright flame was in him.” Fëanor makes great works. Tolkien, with his love for language, shows the greatness of him by telling how Fëanor bettered the runes, and created the letters for writing with pen, that were still used by elves and men in Middle-earth, thousands of years later. Even Gandalf recognices Fëanor’s gift for craft, when he feels the desire of the palantír, which he presumes was made by him: “to look across the wide seas of water and of time to Tirion the Fair, and perceive the unimaginable hand and mind of Fëanor at their work, while both the White Tree and the Golden were in flower!” And he even made the silmarills, greatest and most beautiful of all the gems of the World. But Fëanor turns to madness and evil. By his might in words, he turns the Noldor against the Valar, and sets them marching out of the blessed realm of Valinor. He fights and slays his kin at the Swan Havens of Alqualondë. He leaves his followers to shame or a terrible and dangerous march, when burning the stolen ships after crossing back to Middle-earth. He, the greatest of all the Noldor falls, and his fall is great.

Of the Ístari, the wizards, Saruman the White, is the chief and leader. He is the greatest in skill of mind and of lore, and has the gift of turning all to his will by speech. Gandalf calls him the head of his order. Later Frodo will not have Sharkey killed, for “he was great once, of a noble kind, that we should not dare to raise our hands against.” But as Gandalf says, “he will not serve, only command”, and Saruman falls from his noble quest of helping men and elves against Sauron, to become a war-lord, rivaling Sauron himself.

Tolkien’s themes about the great ones who fall, resembles the story of Ikaros, who achieved the gift of flying by gluing feathers to his body by wax, but in his pride, he flew too close to the sun, so the wax melted, and he fell from the sky.

The ones with the greatest power, are always in the danger of taking too much pride of their work and themselves, and turn from serving others in humility, to seeking power and dominion over others. That is evil in Tolkien’s works.

Of Balin and Thrór’s Ring (J.R.R Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings)

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

I read Tolkien’s canon (The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings) every year about christmas. This year’s pondering is over Balin and Gandalf and Thrór’s ring.

Thrór possessed one of the seven rings that the dwarves got from Sauron of old. Inherited from father to son through generations, it was an heirloom of immense value for the Durin line. It passed to Thrain, who was Thrór’s son, and Thorin Oakenshield’s father. When Sauron woke again during the Third Age, Thrain was taken captive in Dol Guldur, and the ring taken from him. He perished there before Gandalf could resuce him. All this Gandalf told in the council of Elrond.

Now, by the same council, Glóin reveals that one of Balin’s main reasons for attempting to recolonize Moria, was to find Thrór’s ring. But Gandalf knew that it was not in Moria, as it was taken from Thrain in Dol Guldur. When Gandalf knew this, it is quite obvious that Thorin knew too. Gandalf would not keep information hidden about Thrain’s condition and death from his only son. So both Gandalf and Thorin must have known that Thrór’s ring was taken. Still, Balin, did not know, even though he was a close friend and companion of both Thorin and Gandalf. Consider the last scene in the Hobbit, where Gandalf and Balin, on a journey all the way from The Lonely Mountain, visit Bilbo. It is a meeting between close friends. Yet, Balin knew not. So he went with his followers to seek for the ring, and the whole colony was killed cruelly, fighting a last stand against the orcs of Moria.

In retrospect, a bit more openess about the ring would perhaps have been advisable. But the keeping and the keeper of the ring was constantly kept a tight secret in the Durin line. No one knew for sure who had the ring, until it was given to its next keeper. The appendices tell us that the dwarven rings were treacherous. Though not making the dwarves into shadows and slaves of Sauron, the ring keepers of the dwarves became jealous, and a constant hunger for more gold was set in them. Thus, the ring was often the base for a large hoard of treasure, which in turn could cause grieves like wars and dragon plunder.

Perhaps Gandalf considered this, when he kept his knowledge about Thrór’s ring hidden. It is still a bit of a mystery to me though.

J.R.R Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings (BBC dramatization)

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

Inspired by a tweet I’m unable to find at the moment, I listened to BBC’s excellent full-cast dramatization of The Lord of the Rings again, for the first time in 15 years or so. While there are some choices I find strange, like Aragorn’s voice and style for instance, this is still a mighty interpretation of Tolkien’s masterpiece. And it includes quite a bit of song and music too. The intro theme still fills me with anticipation for a new episode, and almost gives me goosebumps.

If you think the complete audiobook too massive, this variant of The Lord of the Rings is a highly recommended abridged variant.

The heroes of The Lord of the Rings

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Every year around christmas, I read Tolkiens “canon”, that is The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. As earlier years, I’ve also this time tried to find a new angle or figure to watch closer. This year, let’s talk about heroes.

Who is the true hero of The Lord of the Rings. Frodo everybody yells at once, of course. Or Gandalf! Gandalf for president! – an american slogan from the sixties. Or even Aragorn, the high king returned.

I tend to disagree.

Of course, Frodo is the main character, the Ringbearer, our beloved protagonist, and the hero of the story, as he goes forward, constantly dodging dangers and all the time trying to avoid the lure of the Ring itself. But what does he do? (more…)

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Since it’s that time of the year again, I’m reading Tolkiens “canon”, that is The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. As earlier years, I’ve also this time tried to find a new angle or figure to scrutinize. This year, the turn has come to Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth.

Imrahil is a bit strange to me. His name would have another kind of etymology, I think. Imrahil sounds more Arabic-like (or Harad, if you like) than of Nùmenorean origin. And he’s too good to be true. Being but Denethor’s brother-in-law, he appears even more noble than Faramir!

When Imrahil first enters the story, he’s the bright hero warrier knight in his shining armour, on his white horse, and his soldiers are marching behind him singing. Wow! And through the story, he barely jumps from his high horse, and then either to save prince Faramir from certain death, or to find that Eowyn is still alive, (and thus saving her as well): ‘I deem she yet lives.’ And he held the bright-burnished vambrace that was upon his arm before her cold lips, and behold! a little mist was laid on it hardly to be seen. And when finally Aragorn is revealed as the heir of the throne of Gondor, Imrahil bows his head, and calls him his liege-lord.

What a man, what a hero, and he is even humble in all his glory. It’s almost too much. And he even has the looks; he is part elvish, according to Legolas: Legolas looked at him and bowed low; for he saw that here indeed was one who had elven-blood in his veins..

Stop. Brakes on. Part elvish? There’s something fishy here. Skipping forward to Appendix A, subchapter The Nùmenorean Kings, it is stated that there were only three unions of elves and men; Lúthien and Beren, Idril and Tuor, and Arwen and Aragorn. Of course, Imrahil could be of Nùmenorean race, but that doesn’t rhyme with the rest of Legolas encounter: It is long since the people of Nimrodel left the woodlands of Lórien, and yet still one may see that not all sailed from Amroth’s haven west over the water. And Imrahil answers: So is the lore of my land.

Now this is a little mystery. What’s the story about elves mingling with men in Dol Amroth? I thought I could remember having read something about that somewhere, but being unwilling to read my volumes of The History of Middle-Earth again, I humbled my pride, and searched the Internet. Wikipedia had the answer, of course. I’m obviously not the first to dig into this. The story is is found in a note in Unfinished Tales, in one of the variants of the founding of the line of Dol Amroth. It is shortly told that Mithrellas, a Silvan elf-lady of Nimrodel’s company became lost in the mountains, but was found and harboured by the Nùmenorean Imrazôr of Bel Falas, who wedded her. She bore him two children, a girl Gilmith and a boy Galador. Thus Nùmenorean blood was mingeled with Silvan elves, and the line of Dol Amroth was established. Shortly after, Mithrellas left, and was never heard of again. It is an, a bit sad story I think, and with Mithrellas leaving, not to say escaping, her wedding to Imrazôr is not mentioned by the “official” unions of elves and men – or it could just be one of the many discrepancies in Tolkien’s stories.

J.R.R Tolkien: The Hobbit

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Since it’s that time of the year again, I’m reading Tolkien’s “canon”. And since the Internet is full of posts about the book, I’d rather post a few comments on the new Hobbit movie, The Desolation of Smaug, which I watched just before Christmas. (Yes, the Internet is full of those posts too, I know.)

I was a bit surprised by this film. I quite enjoyed last year’s chapter of the story, but this time I was a bit baffled. I mean, yeah, this is a cool film, and I kind of liked it, but this is … another story. It could be described as “loosely based on a story by J.R.R. Tolkien”. But while watching it, I thought, well, OK, let’s see what happens. I might be surprised. And as beeing one that knows the original story, well, let’s say, in more detail than the average, that’s probably a good thing, isn’t it? And with that, I found the film quite entertaining.

There were a few things to note, though, if I may.

First, the meeting of Gandalf and Thorin in Bree, in retrospect. That part is fetched from the appendixes of The Lord of the Rings. I very much liked that part. And perhaps especially because it picks one of the main weaknesses of the book: What is the mission of the dwarves? They should understand that addressing a dragon, and go burglaring for several hundred tons of treasure is just a mad quest. Making the Arkenstone the primary target, as it gives royal power over the rest of the dwarvish clans, see that’s a quest that might be possible to achieve using a smart and quiet burglar. And it also shows Gandalf’s master plan: To get rid of the dragon before Sauron may use it for his own purposes. Nice!

Beorn and his house. Gone is the rather comical encounter of Gandalf and his story, and the dwarves popping up like jack-in-a-boxes. Gone is the laughing, jolly huge man, and his wonderful animals. In his place, a dreadful beast, and a rather mystical, dreamlike figure. I missed the children’s book’s Beorn.

Gandalf finds that the Necromancer has released the Úlari, the nine Nazgûl from their well bolted up tombs in the mountains. A bit far fetched, I think. According to legend, the ring wraiths never died. The rings made them live forever, under Sauron’s dominion. They did not have to rise from death. But this is what happens when one tries to combine the stories. The Nazgûl did not exist yet in Tolkien’s mind when he wrote about the Necromancer in Dol Guldur. Actually making him Sauron, as Gandalf discovers, did not appear to Tolkien before he had started writing The Lord of the Rings.

Bilbo’s heroism against the spiders in the forest is rather ignored. That’s sad. Instead, the general fight, and the fierceness of the elves, and in particular this totally new character, Tauriel, is emphasized.

Tauriel, I actually quite liked, but why was she there? In the compulsory discussion with a colleague, the obvious suspecion appeared: There is no women at all in the original book. And this far in the films, the only female figure that has appeared has been Galadriel. Nice, but quite remote. So here is a heroine for our female audience. Good for them. This is our fight!. Ah, of course, this is evil speculation on the motives of the film’s creators, I know, I just couldn’t resist.

Then, the elven king. With the looks and temper of Lucius Malfoy. ‘nough said. I didn’t like that at all.

An action movie needs action scenes. Legolas jumping from dwarf to dwarf on the river while constantly beheading orcs. It’s a laugh! And that surfing-on-a-shield detail from The two Towers was revisited twice, or was it three times? Or four?

Making Bard a kind of agent for People’s Liberation Front against the Tyrant, was an interesting move, I think. At least more than the original variant of an acid-stomached watchman. But again, Bilbo’s rôle and heroism is ignored. It should be Bilbo that discovers the weakness of the dragon. It should not be a well-known fact from the stories from Dale. Why is Bilbo’s courage diminished for this?

An elf-dwarf love story. Now that’s way too far fetched. Sorry, that would never happen. Orcs attacking Esgaroth? Uhm, well, okay. But parting some of the dwarves from the rest of the company. Now that was a strange move. Didn’t see that coming.

I loved the scene where the keyhole is found. It almost gave me goosebumps. The dragon was great. The dwarves try to fight the dragon using dwarvish tech. Well, there had been at least four minutes without an action scene, and if you have to fill up a film, why not go for the spectacular. I can stomach that.

All in all, while making quite a different story than Tolkien’s own Hobbit, I enjoyed this. And to quote a Norwegian ex-politician, caught while lying about so-called facts: “But it could have happened” * **.