Posts Tagged ‘Tolkien’

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Silmarillion

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

I read Tolkien’s “canon” every christmas, and while posting late, I managed to read through The Silmarillion this December too.

While reading The Silmarillion yearly, there are some passages that touches me more than others. Luthien’s rescue of Beren on Tol-in-Gaurhoth. Hurin’s last stand – Aure Entuluva! The killing of Beleg Cúthalion. Fingon finding Maedhros by song. But I am deepest moved by the Ainulindalë, the Song of the Ainur, that is, the creation of the World, simply because it is so beautiful.

God, Eru Ilúvatar, creates the The World, and not the Earth only, but the whole Universe. And how is this done? It is shaped by song. But he does not sing himself. He suggests a theme, and lets his Ainur sing in before him. He’s not even conducting. He sits back, and lets the Ainur sing, improvising in beautiful harmony, inspired by his thought. And when the song is finished, he says Ëa! – Let this be! And the World is created from the void, and the Ainur watches their song unfold in time and matter and space. This is probably the finest image of Tolkien’s idea of sub-creation, and of course, integrated in his own legendarium.

But wait, there is more. The mightiest and proudest of all the Ainur was Melkor, and he tries to turn his song to another theme, where his song stands out. The result is disharmony. But Illúvatar tells him that there is nothing Melkor can do, that has not its uttermost source from him. So when the World is created, there are valleys where there were sung mountains, cold winter where there were sung mild summer, and fires and heat where there were sung water and cool breezes. But thus, there were snowflakes and ice crystals, and there were clouds and rain. Ever more beauty is revealed from Melkor’s attempt to draw the song to himself.

Both Melkor and rest of the Ainur improvise with free will, and as real beauty comes from all the Ainur’s song, Evil also comes from Melkor’s fall from harmony. God did not want evil to be, but while it is often hard and cruel to the children of Ilúvatar – elves and men, afterwards it will have been good to have been, as God will make amends, and from it create more beauty in a better world.

While Tolkien seldom preaches the Christian gospel in his books, the problem of evil and the span between free will and God’s omnipotence, is seldom better discussed than in this text.

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 Hobbit (or The Battle of Five Armies)

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

I read The Hobbit again, and this time aloud to the youngest of the kids. So now, I have to wait for grandchildren. The target for this reading was of course to complete it before watching final chapter of the Hobbit movie series, so they can proudly tell, when they grow older, of course I read the book before I saw the film.

So instead of adding a deeper analysis of this cozy children’s book, I’ll share some thoughts about the film.

First: I enjoyed the film. A lot. There are always many things that you would like to include, but I think on the whole, they kept as much of the real story as to keep at least some of the Tolkien purists content. Including myself. This is still quite a different story than The Hobbit, but the movie makers did what they had to do, I suspect.

The good:
I loved the dragon. Smaug, the Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities, and his downfall was magnificent. The destruction of Lake Town and Bard’s shot was just great. Bard standing out as the real leader of the people of Esgaroth, and the heir of Dale, was heart-warming. I was again impressed by the immenseness of the halls of the Lonely Mountain. I actually enjoyed the fight of the White Council in Dol Guldur. I can even stomach the fight of Thorin and Azog. I of course loved the details of the costumes, the surroundings, the filming, all superb. I also enjoyed a lot of the action scenes, though Legolas doing a Mickey Mouse style run-up-falling-stones, was perhaps a bit too much. And the homecoming to Hobbiton, and building up the frame story was brilliant, though I missed the final visit from Gandalf and Balin.

The bad:
As in the previous movies, I hated the attempts to make comic relief based on plat jokes. The added figure Alfrid was on the whole unnecessary. There are enough comic points to fetch from the original story. Making up some coward dressing in drag to avoid battle, that’s not even funny.

Giant monster-worms eating rock? What? What?

Where was the good old thrush! As I lamented in the previous movie, it should be Bilbo that finds the weak point in Smaug’s armour, and the thrush retelling this to Bard, so he is able to slay the dragon. This makes Bilbo (again) the real hero of the original story. Why this point was neglected by the movie makers is hard to understand. It was used in The desolation of Smaug to build up the tension between Bard and the leaders of the city in Stephen Fry’s speech to the public, announcing a warm welcome to the dwarves, but still, this could easily be dealt with in other ways.

One of the most important parts of the battle in the original story was the eucatastrophe, when the Eagles and Beorn comes and turns the battle. That Beorn, this wild creature, and not overfond of dwarves, joins in on the dwarves’ side, wrecks havoc to the orc armies, and rescues Thorin from being hacked by the orcs of Bolg, is a major point. He goes from being a wild creature, at no one’s side, to being a chieftain of a woodland folk, joining in on the good side. Showing him for, what was it, 2.5 seconds, was a huge disappointment. Social media said it concisely, hashtag #blinkorbeorn.

Foul British language from a hog riding dwarf? Give me a break. Again, this is not funny (at least, not to my taste). Daín was a great leader of dwarves, and close kin to the kingship of Durin. Give him some credit, please.

The coldness of the king of the elves is strange to me. While it must be hard to him to watch the slaying of his folk by the orcs, suggesting to just give up and go away seems strange. The elves were valiant warriors, and should be in front of the battle, as their hatred for the orcs was cold and bitter. Also, the king’s attitude against Gandalf is strange. Gandalf was a long time friend of the wood-elves of Mirkwood, and surely, the king knew him well.

That thing about Legolas unable to go home after the battle did not give any meaning to me. Why was this so? One reason was of course his sorrow for Tauriel? But what more? For revenge? For lonely mourning? Please, we need more information here. And even much stranger was the comment from Thranduil, go check out this man called Strider. What?? Why? This may be just a silly attempt to bind the movie forward to the Lord of the Rings series but in the context it gave no meaning at all. I guess we will get the full meaning in the directors cut, when it hit the blue ray players in a year or three.

But all this are just details. What disappointed me most was the lack of character building. One of the really strong points in the original Hobbit, is Bilbo’s change. He starts out as a respectable Baggins, but listening to his Took genes, he joins in this wild adventure. In the end, it is his Baggins’ side, wanting to negotiate peace on simple financial Baggins style respectable terms. This joining his Took and Baggins personalities to a whole is almost completely missed. Similar, the only person that actually has a character change during the movie is Thorin, winning over the bewitchment of the treasure, and running to the help of his natural allies.

And finally, when Bilbo leaves the Mountain, what is there? No funerals. No consolidation of the peoples of wood, mountain, and town. No new king under the mountain. No coronation in Dale. Only a very, very few words from Balin, and then just a wave goodbye. I need more closure.

We saw The Battle of Five Armies in 2D. Sitting for several hours with 3D glasses gives me headache, and we also thought the impact would be lessened on the smaller of the kids (the Norwegian age limit was set to 11 years). So we missed all the fancy 3D stuff. When using 3D as much as they used in the previous films, the movie makers tend to loose, at least in my opinion, a lot of other story telling effects. Too close shots of faces because the 3D effect would disturb the dialog with wider shots. Dwelling on effects that turns the stomach of the viewers, instead of larger scenery. But perhaps I’m just old fashioned.

After six movies, I’m content that this was the final chapter of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien adventures. If anyone should bring Tolkien to the big screen again, I hope it will be something completely different.

Tolkien Coffee mug project

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014


A few months ago I set out to get a copy of one of the versions of The Hobbit that has Tolkien’s original illustations. After a bit of searching, I found an available copy of the 1962 swedish translation, Bilbo en hobbits äventyr. Some editions of that translation, at least the one I got, the 10th reprint from 1979, have the illustrations.


So now, I can enjoy my own private printed copy of these nice illustrations.


Another thought came to me. What about having these pictures on coffee mugs? I could have a complete set! (more…)

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Friday, April 18th, 2014

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J.R.R. Tolkien: The Silmarillion

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. I always do around Christmas. I’m still moved by the creation of Ëa, the Earth, and of the many stories, I find The Tale of the Children of Húrin the most intriguing. The story variant in the Silmarillion is almost too short, and for those who want the longer version, I would recommend the standalone book The Children of Húrin.

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” * **.

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

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

I read The Lord of the Rings again. I always do around Christmas. And I always try to find a new angle, case or person to look into. This year: Gandalf’s coup.

Last year, I considered Denethor, and it seems, I’m not all finished yet. Denethor’s view of Gandalf is that he is using Denethor as a shield against Mordor, while behind his back bringing this upstart of a ranger to supplant him, and become king in his stead. The story, as seen in retrospect, of course makes Gandalf’s actions the morally right ones, at least from the reader’s view. But was Denethor really that wrong?

First argument: The stewards had ruled Gondor for 969 years (2050-3019 Third Age), and most of that time in hereditary fashion, that is, as kings, only not in the name. The until the king returns was just cermony words, and had no real meaning anymore. In European history style, in that time, a country would have been created, united with a few others, split up, and been reestablished at least twice. While the Northern branch of the Númenorian kings’ heirs never died out, I’d say it is a bit far fetched to come almost 1000 years later and claim the crown. It’s like, let’s see, a priest should come and claim that some ancestor of king Olaf II (that’s actually saint Olaf for you catholics), should gain kingship over Norway, and not these Danish upstarts that have been kings in Norway the last few years. And if that priest succeed, well, even with the good will of the people, few would call that less than a coup.

Second argument: Gandalf could have averted Denethor’s death, but didn’t. According to the text, first Gandalf reveals his strength by jumping up on the table where Denethor’s son Faramir is to be burned alive, and carries him away. But in the next moment, he is not fast enough to hinder Denethor frying himself on the same table. Not fast enough? Or did he just choose only to save Faramir, which he knew would subdue to a new king?

Third argument: Denethor is right! It is Gandalf’s project to use Gondor’s might against Mordor, and make Aragorn king. He needs Gondor’s army, under a leader that is willing, to grab Sauron’s attention, for Frodo and Sam to succeed in their suicide mission.

So, Gandalf and Aragorn’s takeover is a coup. Even willingly received by Denethors heir, and Gondor’s people.

Far fetched? Of course. And next year, I’ll not write about Denethor. I promise.

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

I read through Tolkien’s canon every Christmas. So I of course reread The Hobbit this year as well. And I have written about it several times before, so I’d rather say a couple of words about the new Hobbit film, “An unexpected Journey”, which I saw just before Christmas.

First: I enjoyed the film. And as one, well, let’s say, a bit over the average interested in Tolkien and his works, that’s probably a good thing. Obviously, the film’s creators had to make a choice: Should they follow the book, and make a story for children, or should they follow the success of The Lord of the Rings, and continue with an action packed medieval romance for grown-ups? Of course, they went for the latter, and that was probably a wise move, though lots of the comical points and pedagogical build-ups from the book have been lost in the process, and replaced with more scary stuff, like the coming of the Necromancer, and the terror of the orcs of Moria.

I was concerned the film would be too long or too short, to bite over too much, or take a tour too fast over the events, skipping important bits, or drown in special effects. But I really think the final product has been well done.

First, I like Bilbo. In Martin Freeman’s interpretation, he’s more down to earth than Frodo seemed in the sequels. He’s more like, well, like what I would suspect from a Hobbit. He’s anxious, nervous, stammering, stressing down with a nice cup of tea, or happy enjoying a good meal, but still fantastic brave when needed.

Of couse I enjoyed Ian McKellen as Gandalf. Not much more need to be said about that. From the first meeting with Bilbo, almost to the letter after the book. That’s just brilliant.

Then it’s Thorin. Making him a young dwarf, and building the character up as a lost heir in a row of old kings, though still worthy of honour from the older dwarves is a genius move. It makes his entrance to Bag End a lot more interesting, than just letting him fall over the doorstep in the pile of the rest of his company. The other dwarves are a mixed lot. Balin is excellent, just what I would expect. Dvalin a bit too warrior-barbarian to my taste, but all right, why not. The rest of the lot; funny in their ways. Only Bombur is a failure, though not by the actor. He’s doing his very best. But why do they always have to make comic relief from heavy people falling? That’s not funny!

I liked the troll scene. I liked Rivendell. I loved that they rolled in the discussion of the White Council. Of course, fleshing out the story with stuff from the other books was necessary to make the story long enough to span over three films, but I think this was a wise move. It gives the story deeper background, and ties it forward to the sequels.

The gruesome orcs are well performed, and make the film a bit darker. Azog is not dead. Okay, so they skipped a generation, and Azog is the main foe, and makes the threat from the orcs more personal and physical. That’s an allright move as well. And of course, I loved the riddle game with Gollum. It’s almost perfect.

The shooting is state of the art, probably using camera tech that is almost not invented yet. The music is of course great. Themes known from the sequel movies, majestic music for the majestic mountain scenery, men’s choirs, boys’ choirs, they are all perfect – of course. I specially liked the dwarves’ song at Bag End. It was even better than expected.

Now, what did I not like?

Poor, poor, Radagast the Brown. In this film, he has become just what Saruman describes him as in The Lord of the Rings; a fool, and again, just a bringer of comic relief to the audience. And that’s just sad. Making him less nervous and rather strong and bitter against the change of the forest would have made him much more interesting. With his fast santa-claus-like rabbit sleigh, he’s just a clown. A sad move.

That it wasn’t Bilbo that alarmed Gandalf and the dwarves about the goblins in the cave. Except for a small detail with the trolls, this is the first (in the book) time Bilbo actually makes himself useful. In this film, he is interrupted by the goblins while trying to sneak away from the company. Why this very change? We are rewarded with some hobbity heroics at the end of the show that makes up for this. Perhaps the film makers want to make a point of the span between the coward and the hero within Bilbo, but this misses absolutely background from the book. Bilbo might a careful, boring, predictable, and lazy Baggins, but he is is not a coward.

The goblin king. While probably using Alan Lee’s drawings again (though these usually are great), he just resembles a fat, cancer-leprosy-infested goalkeeper with short temper and bad jokes. That’s just terrible. And the goblin mines. They should be narrow and dark tunnels, not open airy clefts. And the platform-video-game-like escape, ending with a bumpy roller-coaster run down through the mountain. Sorry, that was just to make use of fancy 3D effects. Why not use those to make our stomachs roll, dangling from an eagle’s foot? That’s what I would like to see.

And speaking of effects. The film was shot in 48 fps, probably to make the 3D even more realistic. But this makes the film too real. It misses the blurry effect that gives us the film feeling, that makes us believe in the unbelievable. It should not be real, it’s fantasy. the first 20 minutes or so, I have the feeling, I’m in an outdoor theatre, with actors running about me in folk costumes. Like in a live museum. Not in Middle Earth. Luckily, after some time, that effect runs off, or at least, I stopped noticing. But I should have loved to see the movie in a cinema in 2D. Now, I have to wait for the DVD.

So: Was the movie worth seeing? Absolutely. Was it worth all the hype? Perhaps not.