Thread: WHAT TOLKIEN MIGHT HAVE CHANGED IN LIGHT OF THE MOVIE
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Of course these doubts had to be resolved before he could take his rightful place as King of Gondor, and Aragorn has not been turned into a completely different character for the film. Jackson simply took those doubts and expanded upon them to create a character arc suited to modern film-making, and allowing a general audience to see the true Nobility of his character. And, If anything, it is those doubts that lead Aragorn (book or film version) to Wisdom and truly deserving the Throne. People who are absolutely certain that they deserve Power often have the least wisdom to use it responsibly (i.e. Denethor ).
Thus, I think Jackson/Viggo's portrayal of Aragorn captured the essence of Tolkien's portrayal perfectly .
An even better example of the disastrous effects of having to have a story arc for every character is Faramir, resulting in the horrible mess that is his capturing of the ringbearer and their march to Osgiliath. And even worse is the three way story-arc presented between Frodo, Gollum and Sam resulting in Frodo choosing Gollum over Sam and sending Sam home!- scenes I cannot watch for red mist.
But all these travesties arise from this idea that each character must have a story-arc with a beginning, middle and end and that all lose ends must be resolved by the finish. I think, when it came to adapting, the drive to provide story-arcs of this nature meant they deviated ever further from the original as the films progressed.
For ST:TNG fans out there its a bit like the excellent Q episode "Tapestry"- you pull on one seemingly insubstantial thread and further down the line the whole thing unravels.
I just wanted to stick my head in here and point out that Tolkien only added Bombadil because his daughter Priscilla requested it. It is really non-essential, and at the Council of Elrond that was stated explicitly. The tie-in with Merry's knife could have been handled by Aragorn mentioning that they were mathoms of his family, or some such thing.
I was curious what people thought of the treatment of Denethor. In the appendices to the movie the film makers explained every deviation from the books, except why they removed all the dignity and complexity from Denethor. Was it really possible that's the way they read the character? I think Tolkien would have been infuriated.
And welcome to the forum Halfwise . The more the merrier.
On the matter of Merrys's knife- I did think if they had to leave out how he got it and the significance of it they could at least have dropped a line in at Weathertop, where in the film Aragorn provides them with weapons. Off the top of my head something like "These were forged by the people of these lands long ago to fight the evil of Necromancer who once ruled these parts." something like that- just for the fans.
On your point about Denethor I could not agree more. I don't mind the actor or the performance- I think he does quite well with the script he is dealt. But the list of things wrong about the character as presented is huge. I assume the decision to make him outright crazy and to have no Captains or defences was more to do with a desire not to have to introduce the side characters such as the Prince of Dol Amroth than for any other reason- this does of course not only change the character but makes scenes where for exmaple Denethor questions "Is there no Captain here who will follow his Lords commands?" (going on memory here so prob not a direct quote but in the ball park) it is a little ludicrous that only Faramir is in the room.
Also leaving out the palantir Denethor is using is a bit like having a character whose actions can only be understood in light of a mental health issue or addiction- then forgetting to mention it. And because of this the character fails entirely and simply seems unhinged.
as a matter of interest when I re-edited the films I actually found away to imply Denethor's use of the palantir that took up only 3 secs of screen time! It was simply to insert a shot (from when Aragorn challenges Sauron in palantir) between Denthors lines to Gandalf "Do you think the eyes of the White Tower are blind? I have seen more than you know."- even for non Tolkien heads who have only seen my edit they get what's going on- how hard would it have been for PJ to do something similar?
But I do have to disagee that Denethor is essentially same man in both versions, book and film- in the film he is a broken man simply awaiting an inevitable defeat- in the books it is only the apparent loss of Faramir which finally tips hm over into this state of mind, previous to that the defence of Gondor is well under way, the beacons lit ("It's no good calling for aid once you are actually besieged." As Gandalf puts it). Denthor has emptied the city of civilians- for their protection and mustered as many maen as will answer Gondors call for arms. When he sends Faramir to Osgiliath it is not a suicide mission although many Captains think holding Osgiliath is an act of vanity and not tactically sound- this is a difference of opinion not the insistence of a raving mad man- and Faramir is sent to reinforce a garrison not to retake a city lost for ages.
These might seem like minor alterations to some and each one I'm sure there is a filmic justification for in PJ's head - but the cumulative effect of all these alterations to one character is to substantially alter him so that he is very unlike the Denethor of the books; a proud, noble man certain both of his right to rule and very aware of his responsibility to preserve Gondor for future generations- it is a combination of these two facets which led him to look in the palantir in first place. The Denethor of the films is a mere shadowy distortion of this.
My problem isn't that Denethor was an arrogant jerk for the entirety of the movie, but that he was insane and unwilling to defend Gondor for the entirety of the movie; a state he was only in for part of the book.
I'll try responding to your post about Aragorn when I'm not so tired.
I'll try to go back and see if book-Denethor comes across as such a complete sod on rereading with a different frame of mind, but I don't think I can re-imagine him. Gandalf described him as "...in him the blood of Westernesse runs true, as it does in his son Faramir..." (quotes from memory may be a bit off) and I can't separate him from that air of tragic nobility and masterful complexity. Nor do I want to - the character is too good to ruin that way.
If you want to get in the right frame of mind to see the noble Denethor, maybe you should first read what Gandalf says of him, before Pippin meets him; and in the debriefing afterwards. "He is not like other men...". In the book the line "...you can use even your grief as a cloak.." is said in acknowledgement of Denethor's skill in cross examining Pippin while reading Gandalf's reactions (Gandalf could deflect questions in a way Pippin could not, and this also shows Gandalf who's boss by ignoring him), not derisively as in the movie. After which Denethor is willing to admit he needs Gandalf: "Let your wrath at an old man's folly run away..." The interchanges between "two such terrible old men" are Tolkien at his best, with so many hidden inferences as they talk over Pippen's head I keep making new discoveries. Breathtaking.
Anyway, if you haven't seen the noble/complex Denethor yet, go back and try again. He's worth it.
But it's a good question as to how much of the longevity is shared among Numenoreans. I believe that on the island they were all equally long lived (unfinished tales has a whole section on numenorean life), but upon coming to Gondor they began to mingle. In an attempt to preserve bloodlines we have assume the royal family would have less mixing than others, including the stewards. I'm guessing at the time of LOTR the stewards may have marginally longer life than the general population.
On another point you are right to point out that we don't *know* that Denethor suspects Aragorn is Thorongil, but it does seem like he's the type to put the pieces together and have suspicions. This all would have been too complicated for the movie, in fact it doesn't even show up in the main body of the text itself. Putting the puzzle together after the fact is one of the great pleasures of LOTR.
It is stated that almost all the Kings of Numenor reached their 400th year-there seems to be a contradiction in the work between Numeroreons possessing 3x the life span of normal men and them having 5x the span of men. Further it is indicated that Elros, brother of Elrond had a particulary longer span granted to him than was normal even for a Numeroreon.
Note 14 in the same section also references page 269 of the Silmarilion -which sadly following a tragic cup of tea incident I currently have no copy of to check- and states that;
"Gimilkhad died two years before his two hundred year, which was accounted an early death for one of Elros' line even in its waning."
Unfortunately as I have not a copy to check I'm not certain if this waning refers to a time after Sauron's influence but before the Fall or if it is a reference to a time after the Fall. But it would seem to indicate that the Royal Line even in decline remained longer lived than average men- so the question is did this extend to the line of the Stewards and any other surviving Numeroreons?
The lifespans of all declined during the waning of Numenor, however, and even more after the Fall.
It also occurred that there must have been a lot of survivors of the Fall not directly mentioned in the tales- household staff, shipwrights and rope makers etc not to mention any Numenoreans that happened to be on the mainland at the time- presumably some of the Nine are from these. But the matter of how long this group of people lived for seems a little muddled as it does with the line of the Stewards- perhaps further digging will turn something up to shed light on the matter.
[quote="pettytyrant101":7prqniyj]there must have been a lot of survivors of the Fall not directly mentioned in the tales- household staff, shipwrights and rope makers etc not to mention any Numenoreans that happened to be on the mainland at the time- presumably some of the Nine are from these.[/quote:7prqniyj]
Three of the Nine were Numenorean, but they had been corrupted long before (between the forging of the Ring and Sauron's coming to Numenor). Of those Numenoreans in Middle-earth before the Fall, the Faithful ones were concentrated in the north, in what would become Gondor, specifically around the port of Pelargir. Others, farther south, were King's Men; and the remnant of them that survived would become the Black Numenoreans.
was musing on the identities of the black riders- I may be wrong here as this is from memory as I don't have the books handy- but I believe Khamul was from somewhere in the east- perhaps the unseen lands the other 2 wizards travelled into. Is the identity of the Chief of the Ringwraiths ever revealed? I know in the guise of the Necromancer he helped bring about the destruction of the North Kingdoms around Weathertop and as far as the Barrowdowns but was he from this region originally?
This musing also led me to consider your comment Halfwise abut Tolkien and race- there can be no doubt Tolkien equates White with good and Black with evil, the broader question of wether this is racist or not is an interesting one though in light of the question posed by this thread- would Tolkien alter it for a modern reader- last time I read Fellowship- particularly scenes in Bree- there are many lines along the manner of "I won' let any black men through the door" etc that to a modern reader can seem uncomfortable (as this is at an inn reminded of old signs in hotels from 50's and 60's saying "No Irish, dogs or blacks."- in Tolkiens defence the Nazgul have no flesh under the robes and therefore no skin colour- nevertheless I'm not sure in todays pc clmate he might have rethought how he worded certain passages. PJ obviously felt this needed readdressed- the Black Riders are never referred to in the film as Black Men and he changed the skin colour of the Haradrim so they were not black skinned. This may be one of the few areas I think Tolkien would have altered his work had he written it today- if only because he might find publishers reluctant to publish it in the modern climate.
About the "black men" lines; as you point out, it refers merely to the colour of the Nazgul's robes. The hobbits had no idea that the Nazgul lacked skin colour and had likely never seen someone with black skin, so it's a huge stretch to call that line racist (not saying you are, but some have).
On the point of racism in LoTR I personnaly have never found it so, for me in the film the Haradrim should have been either arabic or black skinned- not for some association with evil but because of geography. By the same token the north is white centred because its in the north where the white folk live. However having said that I did think it spoke volumes that the film altered some of these racial aspects presumably because they thought it would, in todays climate, cause offence.
And Eldorion is right. The Witch-king of Angmar is presumed to be one of the three Numenoreans among the Nine Men who received Rings of Power from Sauron.
on the point of the Haradrim in the film -and I might be wrong here- but I think for appearence they went more south pacific than Indian but the fact people complained anyway is kinda of my point- does that not make it more likely that if tolkien were revising his work in light of the film he may have acknowledged in a changing world some things can be taken offensively even where no offence is meant - personnaly I find this a sad state of affairs but it does seem to be how things have gone.
On the point of the Witch-King I am just curious who he was originally, before he got a ring, and when he lived. If he was a king of men which men and where?
Tolkien constantly assigns character traits to different 'races'; nobility to the Numenorians and Rohirrim, while referring to Dunlanders as lesser men. At the battle of Helm's deep Aragorn refers to the shouts of Saruman's recruits as sounding to him as no more than the cries of beasts. I always found that comment particularly jarring given who it came from. How much of this Tolkien assigned to culture and how much to race is of course impossible to tell. I feel that for the most part Tolkien was responding to the old British sense of aristocracy, which was much stronger at the time he was writing.
In Tolkien's defense, in my favorite book of lore - Unfinished Tales - the description of the Druadain elevates them from the wild man portrayal in LOTR to rather mystical and noble beings. During Sam's sighting of an Oliphaunt when a swarthy man falls dead right in front of the hobbits, Sam wonders rather touchingly about the man's name and if he had a family who would wonder what happened to him. To Sam all men are as one.
I think Tolkien is an interesting mix of universalism and classism. Mostly he rises above the ingrained classism of the early 20th century, but at times you can still see his mind moving in the old grooves. It's only evident in a few places, and I think if it was pointed out to him he would recognize and alter some of it. Not to be PC, but to more truly reflect his intent.
thanks Tinuviel I took a look at UT but couldn't find anything that helped- the former life he remembers is from when he was at angmar and attacked the people of the barrowdowns region, unfortunately its who he was before all that I'm curious about as it seems to be a mystery that Tolkien doesnt refer to often, yet one must assume given the Witch Kings special powers compared to other ringwraiths that he was a man (and King) of some stature in his day.
On the subject of racism I work with the elderly and find its easy to misconstrue their attitudes because of the language and phrases they use. Most I have looked after fought alongside various races in the second world war and never seemed to consider them anything other than fellow human beings but the words they use in refrencing them can seem racist to a modern ear without context. I think Tolkien prob falls into this category, I dont doubt his belief in a universal humanity- theres plenty in text to support it- but on individual ideals like white for good etc he is following traditional patterns of his age. If Tolkien was writing LoTR now in the modern world he too would be concious of modern sensibilities and some phrases may have disappeared but I wouldn't see that as admitting racism just of changing views in society.
Hey! If we were all honest and thoughtful about it, we'd realize that we are all a wee bit racist or sexist or bigoted, both male and female, just like heterosexuals are a wee bit homophobic and homosexuals are a wee bit heterophobic. We're all human beings - but differences abound. We are are all a wee bit uncertain about our racial, sexual and religious differences - but some of us are haters to the nth degree while some of us try to be tolerant about differences - you know, to put ourselves in the other persons position!
Poltical correctness...Please! Give me a break! In Australia we have this idea of giving everyone a "Fair Go." Just an ideal, and not always one that is adhered to, but it's a good idea nonetheless. Human beings have their likes and dislikes - that's why tolerance is a good policy!
Apologies for the blather! But ever sice I grew old and wise enough to detect the presence of Politcal Correctness, I have blanched and got pissed off. It's Mind Police stuff! Political Correctness [i:1vej6zft]always [/i:1vej6zft]stinks of insincerity! It's no good telling people not to be [i:1vej6zft]anti[/i:1vej6zft] anything, it's better to find out why people are[i:1vej6zft] anti[/i:1vej6zft] anything and discuss the issues honestly, isn't it? (Um... [i:1vej6zft]tolerance[/i:1vej6zft] is a good place to begin, isn't it...? Mmm yep...)
Really, this issue is worth a whole Thread of it's own, and would take several essays to do it justice; especially as it intersects so many other aspects of Tolkien and Lewis's views on religion and politics.
I found the following ISI lecture to be rather interesting and well worth reading despite Professor Birzer's misinformed views on Socialism and "National Socialism" (which was neither Socialist nor particularly Nationalist). Still, it raises some very interesting points about Tolkien (and Lewis) and his (their) views on politics (even as it exposes Prof Birzer's own biases):
[quote:qs45wi4f]"My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control
not whiskered men with bombs)-or to 'unconstitutional' Monarchy," Tolkien wrote to his son Christopher. "I
would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inanimate realm of England and
its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute
them if they remained obstinate!"[/quote:qs45wi4f]
This is a stunning admission from a man who had previously claimed to dislike "democracy", and tended to vote Conservative. Yet like many other writers from his era (such as the Anarcho-Situationalist Sci Fi writer Robert Heinlein) Tolkien seems to have had an evolving view of Political/Economy that couldn't easily be pigeonholed as "Left" or "Right". And this sense of "Anarchism" seems to fit more with his desire to make his works Universally acceptable than someone with a rigid sense of ideology.
So, though he may indeed have bristled at modern "Political Correctness", I think Tolkien might be more amenable to revising phrases that caused offense than one might initially think.
When Sam saw an enemy human slain (by Faramir's men) he felt compassion. Close up the enemy is harder to hate, presumably, irrespective of whether you're black, white or puce! Common humanity sometimes shines forth beyond enmity and difference. Surely anyone with half a brain knows that Racism is the preserve of the pathologically stupid, not of people who are willing to open the mind. And most people are open to understanding, given a chance, and making a few unkind comments about different racial/cultural differences is not true Racism I feel, so long as there is a genuine give-and-take and a lack of malice between Races. The Politically Correct by being so ultra-anal-retentive about everything only make things worse (yes, not just on the issue of Racism!)
So there - I'll just put my soapbox back in the cupboard, shall I?
I like you on your soapbox Odo, very forthright (very Australian of you-is that racist?) in fact if you don't mind I'm going to borrow your box from the cupboard for a posting.
On your earlier point on tolerance and Gandalf Beards response to it- I'm not sure you shouldn't stretch tolerance to the intolerable, deciding something is intolerable is a decision someone has to make- who decides what's intolerable? An interesting illustration to this is a story a resident (read patient but were not allowed to call them that anymore its not PC- if you don't laugh you cry!) of mine told me. He served in WW2 and was demobbed in London for VE day- and the local London branch of the Nazi party choose that day to hold a rally. Now you would think they would have been torn limb from limb by a braying crowd, but they weren't, just laughed at or ignored, but no-one stopped them. When I asked the person telling me this why no-one was furious he replied "We'd just fought a war, lost family and friends to save our right to say what we like, even if what people say you don't agree with." This a version of the old maxim "I don't like what your saying, I don't agree with what your saying but I'd die for your right to say it."
It is I think the loss of this to the world of PC that has led us into current trouble on this area- in UK we tie ourselves in knots trying to decide wether a speech given by a Muslim cleric is his right to speak or an attempt to rouse his listeners into taking action- the point is stupid because he wouldn't be giving any speech if he was not trying to influence and the same can be said for every other religion in the world and anything said anywhere, at any time, by any politician. We should not silence these people we should present better arguements than them if we disagree.
To illustrate one of the other points made with another old folk ( very un-PC) story my Uncle served with Arab nations in WW2 and he says of the Arabs "there the best people I ever met," and he clearly has a great fondness for them but he also habitually refers to them as "towel-heads and rag-heads" and they called him (and no doubt every other Scot they ever met) "Jock". (They actually thought he was English at first but there's something about a heavily armoured Scot that means you only make that mistake once!). So what I'm saying here is I agree with the point you can call people you don't know all sorts of names (not always flattering) but it does not mean there should be an assumption of racism behind it, that's PC thinking which didn't exist in Tolkiens day.
Right that's my turn on the soapbox over- next!
When Tolkien ascribes the ebb and flow of middle earth history to the ebb and flow of the various races, well, up until recently that's the way European history played out. It wasn't until the late 1960's that culture and race began to detach throughout the world. The same can be said of sexism. It's interesting to read writers that span the decades and watch the hidden assumptions change. Tolkien wrote before this great awakening, so we should expect to see the old order in his writing.
What I mean is, please soapbox all day, boys, especially when you utilize the above two tools in forming your arguments! Also, I love the fact you have been philosophic, rather than political. And hey! anyone who is prejudiced against PC can't be prejudiced at all, and I don't even think what I'm saying here is a [i:2jg6lsis]conundrum[/i:2jg6lsis]! (Don't you just love the English language!)
We know that [i:2jg6lsis]Tolerance[/i:2jg6lsis] doesn't mean you can't kill someone who is trying to kill you (not to stand up against oppressors is insane in my opinion - sorry Jesus!) but unless someone is trying to kill you for their ideas, well I say, live and let live. I know this concept is too simple to always manifest itself perfectly in the real world - we're too complicated a species for that - but I feel it can be applied in most situations.
Unfortunately, up front, I can't think of anything disparaging to call you by. I could try making something up. Nah... it has to come naturally somehow, else it won't resonate or stick. Can you think of something disparaging to call yourselves? Of course, not something maliciously insulting. Mind you, if you can think of something to call yourselves that you'd absolutely hate being called, please let me know - just in case you upset me like a certain duo of Tolkien Liberals did oh so recently!
As to offensive names- cant think of any off hand- maybe the english folks here have some opinions! We dont like the kilt being referred to as a skirt mind you, but then we tend to only wear them at weddings, Burns nights (if even then) and when abroad where it acts as a sort "I'm not English" calling card.
NB Do any Englishman actually play in the EPL?
As to Football: The World Cup! I've been told by the Footbally Wise that Australia won't get anywhere near winning it for fifty to a hundred years. And yet, Australians live and breathe sport - so I wouldn't be so sure. In any case - we'll take it on a tour of England and show it off to the Poms long before England gets anywhere near touching it! Sadly, this applies to Scotland as well... I hope this doesn't sound Racist?
yes, pommy land. yorkSHIRE gods country they called it. They not me, i'm an athiest.
YorkSHIRE great countryside. Almost shire like (almost)
NB Hey you might be confusing YorkSHIRE for Australia - "God's Continent" - don't you think?
Edit: Funny thing. I posted. It disappeared. I posted again. The former post appeared. Spooky!
It's been a few days since J Dwarf has posted. Hope he pops up again soon. But perhaps we're just being too irrelevant for him to bother responding .