Tom Shippey

Studies of the Written Tolkien Legacy: From Analysis, to Maps, to Philosophy and Ethics, to Philology
Post Reply
Riv Res
Manwë
Posts: 2111
Joined: Fri Jun 24, 2005 6:35 am
Location: Walking the fields of the Pelennor with the King

Post by Riv Res » Tue Feb 02, 2010 6:26 pm

Welcome back Bruce! :wave:

For me, as I said (patience not being my strong suit), it was flipping ahead, not necessarily to read all the continuing notes, but to make sure that Tolkien hadn't forgotten them. :lol: :lol:

For me also, it is still Tolkien's words, or perhaps rather his assembly of those word. Every single page has that one perfectly delightful line or two that keep you turning the page...case in point...

p50: ...but Frodo thought the old wizard looked unusuallybent, almost as if he were carrying a great weight. The evening was closing in, and his cloaked figure quickly vanished into the twilight.

p51: Frodo went tramping over the Shire with them; but more often he wandered by himself, and to the amazement of sensible folk he was sometimes seen far from home walking in the hills and woods under the starlight.

p52: But now Frodo often met strange dwarves of far countries, seeking refuge in the West. They were troubled, and some spoke in whispers of the Enemy and of the Land of Mordor.

p53: Orcs were multiplying again in the mountains. Trolls were abroad, no longer dull-witted, but cunning and armed with dreadful weapons. And there were murmured hints of creaturesmore terrible than all these, but they had no name.

p54-55: The grass was growing fast. But Sam had more on his mind than gardening. After a while he sighed, and got up and went out. It was early April and the sky was now clearing after heavy rain. The sun was down, and a cool pale evening was quietly fading into night.

You get the idea. :wink:

LOL...perhaps this is also what kept all of you glued to to the book and not wanting to look ahead.

Merry
Varda
Posts: 3263
Joined: Wed Aug 17, 2005 7:01 am
Location: Middle-west

Post by Merry » Tue Feb 02, 2010 10:31 pm

:lol: I first read the books when I was ten years old, and not particularly interested in how the grass was growing! I do remember tearing through the books, reading day and night to find out what happened--not very patient there. But I didn't look ahead: that's cheating! I do remember, though, being very glad to read clues. The title of the third book does give the whole thing away, right? And there would be things like 'and Sam bore the scar until the end of his days' or 'Merry ever after wept at the sound of a horn blowing in the distance'.

It did seem very likely to me that all my favorites would not be alive at the end of the book, so I was happy that they all fared so well--Boromir having only gotten what he deserved :wink: . But the joy at the Field of Cormallen put all other happy endings to shame.
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Lindariel
Posts: 1062
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2005 8:30 pm
Location: The Hall of Fire, Imladris (otherwise known as Northern Virginia)

Post by Lindariel » Wed Feb 03, 2010 4:09 pm

I first discovered the books at age 15, and like you Iolanthe, I was momentarily frustrated by the change in focus from one group of beloved characters to another. But The Professor always managed to draw me very quickly into the urgency of the moment for the new group, and I lost my impatience very quickly. The only time I ever "cheated" and peaked ahead was after this very alarming moment in FOTR:
And taking Frodo's hand in his, he [Aragorn] left the hill of Cerin Amroth and came there never again as living man.
I was horrified because I thought The Professor was foreshadowing the imminent death of Aragorn! After all, he'd already "killed off" Gandalf in Moria! I had the horrible feeling that, over the course of the book, we were going to lose each of these beloved characters one by one until only Frodo was left to attempt the impossible. I just couldn't bear the thought of Aragorn dying untimely, so I flipped towards the end of the book and scanned for his name just to make sure he was still around. I was quickly relieved of that notion and went right back to the goings-on in Lothlorien and never "cheated" again.

I think The Professor's construction of the book is actually quite ingenious, as it effectively keeps us pretty much as completely in the dark as his characters. In particular, the Mouth of Sauron scene was just excruciating, because at that point we don't know what has happened to Frodo and Sam, and we are left as shocked and horrified and bereft as Aragorn, Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, and especially poor, poor Pippin.

That is the primary reason why PJ eliminated that scene from the theatrical release of ROTK, because by having reintegrated the story, we already know that Frodo and Sam have escaped, and the suspense of the scene for the audience is lost. For myself, I think PJ just completely botched the scene anyway and would have been better off not filming it at all.

What frustrated me the most as a young person reading the book were the long passages describing the countryside, etc., etc., and I will admit to skipping over the long poem about Earendil the Mariner the first several times I read the book. I wanted him to get on with the story! I also ignored the appendices for quite a while, so you can imagine my shock when I accidentally dropped ROTK on the floor one day and it fell open to the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen! I proceeded to DEVOUR the appendices at that point, smacking myself on the head for never looking at them!

I gradually came to appreciate Tolkien's more descriptive passages as I got older and especially when I first read the books aloud to the elder Miss L (Meliel -- age 6 at the time). Reading them aloud really made them come alive for me, although I usually looked over to find Meliel asleep!
Lindariel Image

“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Riv Res
Manwë
Posts: 2111
Joined: Fri Jun 24, 2005 6:35 am
Location: Walking the fields of the Pelennor with the King

Post by Riv Res » Wed Feb 03, 2010 4:43 pm

Lindariel, I keep wanting to compare the vastly different writing styles of Tolkien and today's top seller, Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, and Lost Symbols). Here is where I think Shippey makes a key point in this chapter, although he is comparing different things...the vast amount of time Tolkien took to pen The Lord of the Rings and the time constraints that PJ had in filming his version, as well as the rambling length of Tolkien's work whereas PJ was necessarily forced to abbreviate.

In comparing the styles of Tolkien to Brown, I think we see full out the difference between Tolkien's basic need to include everything he could, plug in it all in wherever it felt right to him (or he remembered to do it). I think it was mentioned somewhere in this thread that Tolkien was writing for Tolkien.

If is very evident, however, that Dan Brown is a modern writer used to the very fast pace of today's world. His rapid fire chapters are designed for the multi taskers, and those of us who have the impatient need to know what is going to happen next...NOW.

I find there is a distinctly different way in which I personally these two authors. I find I want to curl up with Tolkien works (preferably on a rainy day) and go through them at a leisurely pace, savoring all of the Professor's nuances and beautiful words and phrases and poetry. I like to study his stories.

I find that while I like Brown's different style, I want to read them in the same fast pace as he presents his stories on the page. Only because of the controversies surrounding his Da Vinci Code did I care to explore (research) that book and it's premises more. Once I finished satisfying my curiosity there, I have put it away and not picked it (or the research material) up again.

To say I have a home library of Tolkien research material is putting it mildly. I love nothing better than spending hours looking for hidden meanings and figuring out why he wrote what he did in the way that he did. NOTHING is more fun on those rainy days.

Perhaps it is the rambling way in which he wrote his stories, and that Shippey speaks of, that keeps me going back for more...but...I suspect that it is simply because he wrote the best story I have ever read. :wink:

Iolanthe
Uinen
Posts: 2339
Joined: Thu Aug 25, 2005 2:21 pm
Location: Washing my hair in the Sundering Sea

Post by Iolanthe » Wed Feb 03, 2010 5:30 pm

When I say I looked ahead to see when characters were coming back and how many pages I'd have to wait until their story was picked up again, I mean just a peek for the names. I NEVER EVER read ahead. That would never have done :wink: :lol: .
Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...

marbretherese
Posts: 765
Joined: Sat Sep 17, 2005 1:42 pm
Location: Middle England
Contact:

Post by marbretherese » Thu Feb 04, 2010 1:56 pm

Iolanthe wrote:When I say I looked ahead to see when characters were coming back and how many pages I'd have to wait until their story was picked up again, I mean just a peek for the names. I NEVER EVER read ahead. That would never have done :wink: :lol: .
Absolutely - a quick peek for the name only. Then the delicious anticipation of how and when Gandalf will reappear in the story, for example . . . !
Lindariel wrote:I think The Professor's construction of the book is actually quite ingenious, as it effectively keeps us pretty much as completely in the dark as his characters.


That's so true, Lindariel, and as you say explains why PJ simply couldn't present the Mouth of Sauron scene in the same way as in the book (also it did grate on me that Merry went to the Black Gate with the others in the film . . .!). I too used to skip Tolkien's longer descriptive passages (and some of the poetry :oops:) when I was younger, in order to get on with the story. Even now I'm still finding things in the book which I don't recall ever having read before!

As for Dan Brown, Riv, he's always struck me as a writer whose main aim is to get the "key facts" of his narrative across above all else - I don't find his characters particularly developed, for example. Tolkien, on the other hand, always maintained that his languages were the important thing and the legendarium came out of those; the tale of LOTR is almost - not an afterthought exactly - but a bit like the tip of the iceberg. Much, much more under the surface! and that in itself is incredibly hard to portray on film.
"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back.
But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy."


http://www.marbretherese.com
http://marbretherese.blogspot.com/

Merry
Varda
Posts: 3263
Joined: Wed Aug 17, 2005 7:01 am
Location: Middle-west

Post by Merry » Thu Feb 04, 2010 3:51 pm

Well, when Gandalf died, I thought he was dead! So I was convinced it was Saruman in Fangorn--and I got to experience a little eucatastrophe there.

I also was sure that Pippin was not long for Middle-earth: Elrond said after the Council that his heart was against Pippin going, and I was so impressed with Elrond that I was sure this was prescience.

I enjoyed the Dan Brown books on a certain breathless level--he is quite skilled at ending a chapter at a place where someone is in peril or a new clue is about to be found, so one has to read the next one, and then the next. But I think this is a technique that masks the things you noticed, marbretherese. And of course, the anti-Catholic propaganda is offensive to me. (He has said in interviews that one of his goals, besides making tons of money, I'm sure, was to drive people away from the Church--most people don't do the research to find out which of his claims are true and which aren't.) So I haven't read the newest one, because I imagine it is just more of the same. I agree that one read is all it takes--no depth.
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Merry
Varda
Posts: 3263
Joined: Wed Aug 17, 2005 7:01 am
Location: Middle-west

Post by Merry » Mon Feb 08, 2010 4:18 am

Moving on, I just have to mention the Hollywood gossip that Shippey reports on in this article, that the 'suits' were sent to NZ to cut the scripts such that:

--Rohan and Minas Tirith were to be collapsed into one 'threadened people'
--Arwen would disappear and Aragorn would hook up with Eowyn
--No Faramir!
--Four hobbits were too many and one of them had to die.

Other than 'purists' such as I, I wonder if anyone would have minded!
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

marbretherese
Posts: 765
Joined: Sat Sep 17, 2005 1:42 pm
Location: Middle England
Contact:

Post by marbretherese » Mon Feb 08, 2010 11:28 am

I like to think a lot of people would have minded. I wonder if the Tolkien estate would have been able to sue? if so we might never have seen the films at all - or at least, not for ages! I might not agree with all the changes that PJ made but I can understand the thinking behind them.
"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back.
But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy."


http://www.marbretherese.com
http://marbretherese.blogspot.com/

Iolanthe
Uinen
Posts: 2339
Joined: Thu Aug 25, 2005 2:21 pm
Location: Washing my hair in the Sundering Sea

Post by Iolanthe » Mon Feb 08, 2010 7:33 pm

The very idea of rolling Gondor and Rohan into one! I wonder where the army to save the 'one threatened people' would have come from? I know :!: ! The elves :wink: (those that survived Helm's Deep of course :roll: ).
Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...

Merry
Varda
Posts: 3263
Joined: Wed Aug 17, 2005 7:01 am
Location: Middle-west

Post by Merry » Mon Feb 08, 2010 11:16 pm

Although another one of my complaints about the movies is that, after Rohan, with all its lovely culture, Gondor sort of gets short schrift. We need to get to know some ordinary Gondorians, like Beregond and his son, so that we'll care as much about them.
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Iolanthe
Uinen
Posts: 2339
Joined: Thu Aug 25, 2005 2:21 pm
Location: Washing my hair in the Sundering Sea

Post by Iolanthe » Wed Feb 10, 2010 3:09 pm

PJ should have made a tetralogy!
Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...

Merry
Varda
Posts: 3263
Joined: Wed Aug 17, 2005 7:01 am
Location: Middle-west

Post by Merry » Thu Feb 18, 2010 3:58 pm

Someone at TOR.n has posted a synopsis of two of Shippey's talks at Swarthmore College. It looks like the first talk is pretty much the content of the article we're discussing:

http://www.theonering.net/torwp/2010/02 ... more-35281

I'd like to keep discussing this article, but I'm really swamped these days! Maybe more this weekend?
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Merry
Varda
Posts: 3263
Joined: Wed Aug 17, 2005 7:01 am
Location: Middle-west

Post by Merry » Wed Feb 24, 2010 11:37 pm

Me, again! So what do you all think of Shippey's claim that PJ et al made significant changes to the movie plot specifically to please the American audience, with our different political experience?
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Lindariel
Posts: 1062
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2005 8:30 pm
Location: The Hall of Fire, Imladris (otherwise known as Northern Virginia)

Post by Lindariel » Thu Feb 25, 2010 2:23 pm

Merry, I don't know that I quite buy his argument here:
After sixty years of almost unchallenged military superiority, 21st century American viewers need another and less matter-of-fact explanation for failure, and it is given as disunity and despair.
The problem I have is that this theme is far from absent in Tolkien's story. The elves have withdrawn so far within the borders of their realms that the peoples of Rohan and Gondor regard them as mythic beings long gone from this world. Both Theoden and Denethor HAVE fallen deeply into despair. Theoden is awakened from this state by Gandalf, but Denethor ultimately succumbs to the selective truths of the palantir.

Now, I will grant you that PJ took this theme a really ran with it. His Theoden, once released from Saruman's influence, is still deeply shaken by what has happened and doubts both his capacity to lead and the wisdom of expecting any help from outside his own borders -- and in the book, the only outside help Theoden receives at Helm's Deep is from Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, and Gandalf, so how wrong is this expectation of isolation? PJ, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens have all stated that the appearance of the elves at Helm's Deep was for the purpose of honoring the contributions that the elves DID make to the War of the Ring -- namely the battles Celeborn and Thranduil fought against the forces of Dol Guldur culminating in Galadriel throwing down the fortress itself with her power. They wanted to bring this element from the Appendices into the movie proper in some way, and Helm's Deep was a geographically logical choice.

Also, I recall that PJ was particularly enamoured of a movie about the Zulu wars (can't remember the title) in which a small band of men inside a fortress faced an enormous army -- almost insurmountable odds against them. Then, at the last moment, an small and unexpected army of allies arrives to help support them. Even the oops! moment with the unintended release of an arrow by the old man that ignites the beginning of battle was inspired by this movie. So I really don't think PJ & Co were thinking about American political sensibilities so much as trying to bring in elements of the Appendices and satisfy PJ's desire to reference aspects of one of his favorite war movies.

I DO agree with Shippey's assertion that PJ's complete character assassination of Tolkien's Denethor was for the purpose of working the "son trying desperately to gain the love of his father" theme to the max. Personally, I think it not only destroyed the character of Denethor (I'll spare you the repetition of my rant on this subject), but it also weakened the Faramir character a great deal as well, as he spends most of his time angsting over the lack of his father's regard rather than being given the opportunity to demonstrate the remarkable qualities of leadership and wisdom that Tolkien had embued into this beloved character.

I also take issue with this statement:
One might say that there are no neutrals in Jackson's vision, or that those who wish to remain neutral, like Theoden, or the Ents, or the elves turning their backs on Middle-earth, are made to see the error of their ways.
Where on earth did he get this notion? The ONLY neutral character in Tolkien's tale was Tom Bombadil -- and he wasn't so much neutral as just completely above it all. Theoden was ensorcelled, not neutral; once Wormtongue/Saruman's influence was lifted, Theoden become extremely active. The Ents also were not neutral, just uninformed; once Merry and Pippin had done their job to awaken the Ents to what was happening, they were a TREMENDOUSLY active force! And the Elves were most certainly not neutral or "turning their backs on Middle-earth;" they were simply being true to the nature of their creation. Their time in Middle-earth was ending; many were heeding the sea-longing; non-combatants were being sent to safety; but the elven warriors most certainly DID fight, and the Great Elves -- Elrond, Galadriel, Celeborn, Cirdan, Thranduil, etc. -- were extremely active on their own fronts. I think Shippey completely lost his mind here.

Thoughts?
Lindariel Image

“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Post Reply