Posts Tagged ‘lotr’

Foundational Books: The Lord of the Rings

I know this one sounds a little stereotypical, but bear with me, squiders.

Somewhere in my early teens I received a box set of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (and The Hobbit). I still have the books, though not the box. Okay, to be fair, I loaned The Two Towers to a friend in high school, who never gave it back (TODD), but I found an identical copy at a thrift store so it’s fine.

My dad read The Hobbit to me as a child, but I didn’t pick the rest of the books up until I was in late high school, when I was going through some emotional turmoil (my sister and my best friend were dating, and had hidden the relationship from me for some months before I found out, so I was feeling betrayed that they hadn’t told me and lonely because it felt like I’d lost my relationship with both in one fell swoop).

And there was something very comforting in that story at the moment in my life. Maybe it was the way that Sam stuck by Frodo through thick and thin, or Aragorn, or how Legolas and Gimli overcame centuries of racial hate to become the best of friends. Whatever it was, reading through those books, appendices and all, really helped me, and I will be forever grateful, even though re-reading them has never had anywhere near the same impact.

These were not my first foray into epic fantasy (I’d found the Shannara books by Terry Brooks when I was 12), so I didn’t personally run into the whole fact that a lot of epic fantasy is just LOTR rip-offs thing (and by the early 2000s epic fantasy was changing enough that it wasn’t necessarily true).

A few years ago I took an excellent course through Coursera, called Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative, offered through Vanderbilt University. It’s honestly one of the best courses I’ve ever taken. In it, we used the Lord of the Rings to explore differences in narrative between different forms of media. Each week we’d watch part of the movies, read part of the books, and play a section of Lord of the Rings Online (excellent game, little bit addictive, plus you can turn into a chicken and try out a chicken run, which is where you try to get from the Shire to somewhere else without getting eaten by anything). We also read a lot of romantic (the time period, not like, modern romance) poems and stories, which were the start of modern fantasy.

(I almost made it to Rivendell as a chicken once. It was in sight when I was killed by a giant bug.)

So, I appreciate the books for being there when I needed them. I appreciate the characters, who, for the most part, are good people and willing to help their friends and family, no matter what. I appreciate the movies, even though they are very long, and I appreciate the source material for being there to teach me really cool things years later.

Thoughts on the Lord of the Rings, squiders?

The Hobbit Movies: Actually True to the Book?

So, Squiders, I finally did it! I finally, after twenty years and who knows how many times of trying, have read The Hobbit.

(I’ve read the Lord of the Rings multiple times and had no trouble with The Silmarillion, so this has always baffled me a little.)

Anyway, it had to be done, since I’ve seen all the Hobbit movies and people have tried to have conversations with me about them. One person asked me if I remembered how the Battle of Five Armies went in the book and I had to admit I’d never finished the book (and had been totally unaware that there was anything of note past Smaug).

But now I have, and now I can have opinions.

The Hobbit movies have gotten a lot of flack, both for length (three movies out of a 300 page book!) and for content (new characters! too much Legolas! kdsfjdskfhdskfjs orcs!) and in some cases the complaints are justified. But for people who wanted a true-to-the-book, page-to-film translation–I just don’t think there was any way to do that.

Why? First of all, it would feel confined. If they’d done the Hobbit first, sure, it would be possible, but knowing that the Hobbit ties into LOTR, and knowing the world that exists, it would feel wrong to leave all that out just to conform to what’s on the page. The Hobbit was written first and, while Tolkien went back and revised it after LOTR to tie in a little more. And, while it’s more simplistic, there are hints throughout of something larger going on.

Gandalf is gone for most of the story (there’s a single line when he comes back that he was off dealing with the necromancer, and then he and Elrond have a vague conversation on the subject on the way back to the Shire), but why not show it? The book is from Bilbo’s point of view (well, it’s more omniscient, but most of the time we’re focused on Bilbo, though there is a long aside about Lake-town and Bard which is a little strange since Bard was not mentioned at all before Smaug, even when they’re in Lake-town) but movies tend to be from outside any particular character, so why not show what other people are doing too?

And honestly, I thought it was cool to show how the events of this time period were directly connected to the events from LOTR.

About content changes, well. It’s a matter of taste, I think. I was a little put off about the addition of Tauriel when I first heard about her, but in the end I thought she was okay. Plus there’s the fact that, without her, there is not a single female character otherwise (except for a couple of appearances by Galadriel–who is also not in the book–and whose handling I felt was very strange, honestly). And her addition helps differentiate Kili (and to some extent Fili) from the otherwise indistinguishable sea of dwarves. Changing Azog and Bolg to orcs instead of goblins? Ties into the LOTR storyline better, I suppose. I’m a bit iffy about them. The addition of the orcs hunting the dwarves the whole way certainly ups the tension but I’m not sure about it from a story telling point of view.

Overall, though? I feel like the Hobbit movies fit the world and the story that was established in the LOTR movies. Though I did feel that BotFA was kind of dumb action for most of it.

(And, if you are reading this, no, Bilbo only leaves the mountain once to talk to Bard/the Elvenking, just like in the movie.)

How did you feel about the movies, Squiders? What parts did you feel were okay changes, and which were unforgivable?

Oh, and I’ve got two announcements:

  • I’m now offering coaching services through my editing business.
  • I’ve set up a Patreon where you can get doodles, stories, updates and other assorted goodies.

Go check them out!