Friday, February 20, 2009

Assorted Thoughts about LotR

The further I delve into J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, the more I fall in love with it. The books are central to the obsession, of course, but around the books is also the extended universe of the movies, the musical, and things like that. And it's always so heartening and encouraging when they do the adaptions well.
Take the song Now and For Always from the musical based on the book:

Great song right? Well, it's even greater to a hard-core fan when he examines the correlation between the lyrics and the original book.

"Sing me a tale of Frodo and the Ring!
Fearless and bold,"
"Tired and cold!"
"A sword at his side, an elf-blade called Sting,
Crossing a miserable land.
Wouldn't retreat, just follow his feet,
Now and for always."
Then later:
"Sing me a tale of the bravest of them all,
Comrade and guide, at my side.
Stout-hearted Sam who wouldn't let me fall,
Holding my life in his hands.
True to the end, no finer friend,
Now and for always."

Compare that to an (abridged here) passage in the book the Two Towers:

Sam: "Still, I wonder if we shall ever be put into songs or tales. We're in one, of course; but I mean: put into words, you know, told by the fireside, or read out of a great big book with red and black letters, years and years afterwards. And people will say: 'Let's hear about Frodo and the Ring!' And they'll say: 'Yes, that's one of my favourite stories. Frodo was very brave, wasn't he dad?' 'Yes, my boy, the famousest of the hobbits, and that's saying a lot.'"
Frodo: "But you've left out one of the chief characters: Samwise the stouthearted. 'I want to hear more about Sam, dad. Why didn't they put more of his talk, dad? That's what I like, it makes me laugh. And Frodo wouldn't have got far without Sam, would he, dad?'"
"Now, Mr. Frodo, you shouldn't make fun. I was serious."
"So was I. And so I am."

AHH!!! I can't ever stop geeking out about how awesome that passage is and how well they adapted it for the song. I can't speak for the whole musical because I haven't seen it and have only heard the soundtrack, but that song is just amazing....

But, on the other side of the equation are the things that they didn't do so well. ((from here on out is highly opinionated ground, just to warn you)) There are many examples, some of which are forgivable, (like the elves showing up at Helm's Deep) and some which are unforgivable. (Arwen in general, Haldir dying, Frodo leaving Sam on the stairs at Cirith Ungol, Anduril not coming it when it was supposed to)

But the one unforgivable change I specifically want to discuss is Faramir's character.

Faramir is my absolute favorite character in the whole book, so as I've been re-reading the book, I have been very disappointed with a lot of the changes that were in the movie. Many of these changes are humorously illustrated in this great fanfiction story.

We can laugh at the story and how the different Faramirs compare notes, but more seriously, the movie did miss alot of things. As Mom put it, "The people who wrote it didn't seem to GET his character."

The wikipedia article discusses the book fans' negative reaction to the change and notes,
"Co-screenwriter Philippa Boyens and actor David Wenham defended the changes to Faramir's character in order to increase dramatic tension: Faramir's "sea-green incorruptible" nature in the book would not have "[translated] well filmically".

I remain in the group of fans that is "unimpressed and unconvinced" with their pithy justifications. He was "sea-green incorruptible" because he was educated and wise. The book tells us that when Mithrandir (otherwise known as Gandalf) was around, Faramir always loved to listen to him talk and study with him. He probably took that studious wizard-like habit with him long after he saw Mithrandir and kept studying.

I personally think that he thought about what he would do if he came across Isildur's bane. He probably knew that anyone who used it became corrupted and evil and decided what he would do if he ever got the chance to have it. He says before even knowing what Frodo carries,
"I would not take this thing, if it lay by the highway. not were Minas Tirith falling in ruin and I alone could save her, so, using the weapon of the Dark Lord for her good and my glory." Then once he does know about the ring, by way of Sam's slip, he says, "Even if I were such a man as to desire this thing, and even though I knew not clearly what this thing was when I spoke, still I should take those words as a vow, and be held by them. But I am not such a man. Or I am wise enough to know that there are some perils from which a man must flee."

Another "what were they thinking?" moment for me was the removal of one of the greatest lines in the trilogy that was spoken by Faramir.
"War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend."


I could go on and on and on about how much I love Faramir and how most of the movie's changes are deplorable, but I've only scratched the surface of his character in the Two Towers. I'll save Return of the King and other things for another post.

But before I shut down entirely, I want to leave y'all with one of my favorite passages in the entire book. This is right after Sam's slip, and Faramir has told them he's not going to take the Ring from them.

"Frodo had felt himself trembling as the first shock of fear passed. Now a great weariness came down on him like a cloud. he could dissemble and resist no longer.
'I was going to find a way to Morder,' he said faintly. 'I was going to Gorgoroth. I must find the Mountain of Fire and cast the thing into the gulf of doom. Gandalf said so. I do not think I shall ever get there.'
Faramir stared at him for a moment in grave astonishment. Then suddenly he caught him as he swayed, and lifting him gently, carried him to the bed and laid him there, and covered him warmly. At once he fell into a deep sleep.
Another bed was set beside him for his servant. Sam hesitated for a moment, then bowing ver low: 'Good night, Captain, my lord,' he said. 'You took the chance, sir."
'Did I so?' said Faramir.
"Yes sir, and showed your quality: the very highest.'
Faramir smiled. 'A pert servant, Master Samwise. But nay: the praise of the praiseworthy is above all rewards. yet there was naught in this to praise. I had not lure or desire to do other than I have done.'
'Ah well, sir,' said Sam, 'you said my master had an elvish air; and that was good and true. but I can say this: you have an air too, sir, that reminds me of, of-well, Gandalf, of wizards.'

18 musings:

Q said...

Don't kill me--but I have never read or seen LotR. Just The Hobbit.

Princess Jasmine Geo said...

yeah, and I haven't read any of the books, so I can only base my opinions by the movie.

Somnite said...


One of my top pics. In fact, I am watching the first one later tonight(as in starting it around 11:00 or so) I agree on the changes, but have decided that I can watch the movies and read the books as two separate entities and not look at them as being the same. Both are good as individuals, but when you compare, it absolutely ruins the movies.

Q said...

Sorry, Somnite! I tried to read Fellowship but halfway through realized that I had no idea why I was reading it (other than that it's a classic, which doesn't rank high in my reasons-to-read-a-book), so I stopped.

Lady Brainsample said...

Q: Nuts, I was about to hunt you down. ;)

Jas: READ the books! Someday, read the books.

Somnite: I KNOW!!!!!!
And you're absolutely right; the movies and books do really have to be viewed as separate entities, but some of the things they did still annoy the crud out of me. Ah well, part of being a geek for me is obsessing over the non-canonicity of stuff.

Q again: Does that mean you haven't read Jane Eyre? Because that's a classic definitely worth reading.

Countess Madeline Forbes said...

I'm the same--the more I read LotR, the more I love it.

The movies have often troubled me. I really think that they were amazing, and it was so thrilling to see what I had pictured in my imagination actually happening right in front of me, but they ruined some key parts to the books. The movies also greatly affected the way people view the books. I think that Tolkien would have been sad to see people celebrating LotR as an entertaining story rather than a great work of literature, the EXTREME fandom that followed, and all those silly girls infatuated with Aragorn and Legolas.

And finally, no one HAS to read the books, but it is VERY STRONGLY recommended that you do.

Q said...

I've read Jane Eyre. I hated it. The characters drove me crazy. I can't think of a single one who didn't--oh, wait, St. John's sisters weren't bad.

It's not that I don't like classics as a rule (I LOVE To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, and A Tale of Two Cities (though that one took some working on)), it's that I don't want to read a book just because it's a classic. Make sense?

Lady Brainsample said...

Countess: I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with your evaluation that "Tolkien would have been sad to see people celebrating LotR as an entertaining story rather than a great work of literature..." because in the preface of Lord of the Rings he says explicitly about the motive of writing the books, "The prime motive was the desire of a tale-teller to try his hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them."
And yes, the movies "trouble" me sometimes with their certain moments (like any movie based on a book) but I love them too much to stop watching them.

Q: I know what you mean about not wanting to read classics just because they're classics. I had to read quite a chunk of Moby Dick for school, and I quite frankly hated it. So yes, I understand that motivation.
You found almost everyone annoying in Jane Eyre? Interesting.

Q said...

Jane: Weak and helpless.

Rochester: Bipolar.

St. John: Control freak.

Need I go into more detail? ;)

Lady Brainsample said...

Q: Though I am slightly with you on St. John, we shall have to agree to disagree on this one. ;)

Countess Madeline Forbes said...

Right, but what I meant was that for a lot of people, the movies are centeral to their obsession so they view the books as complimentary to the films. But then the problem is not with the movies, it is with the people who watch them. Don't get me wrong here. I don't hate the movies; I love them! I just get upset with the way any film adaption of a great book fails to do justice to the original story. But who needs my stupid opinion anyway?

Lady Brainsample said...

Wow, this has been one of my most commented posts ever! Thank you everyone who has been and who is currently engaging in the discussion.

Countess: Ahhhh, ok I see what you're saying. Kinda like how alot of people on voted for LotR as being a book whose movie was better, only because they saw the movie first.
So then we have to go back to what Somnite was saying and try to enjoy each as separate entities.
And don't belittle yourself! I always love hearing your opinions. Don't stop commenting! Please!!!

PMF Superman said...

I feel the same thing about the new Watchmen movie. The book was written with a specific type of media in mind (comic). The movie cannot capture many of the nuances of the book.

More importantly, I have a feeling that some themes will be twisted to fit current, left of center, popular movie themes. Any distortion of Rorschach will, in my mind, ruin the experience because to me the entire story was about him. Maybe that’s because I am strange; but that’s art—different meanings to different folks.

Yes. I know that no one on this blog has any idea what I am talking about. Sorry dudes. It’s a generational thing; and even in my generation, only a few of us have an appreciation for the Watchmen. If when the words “Frank Miller” and “Daredevil” are combined you do not feel goose bumps, then it’s hard for me to explain. Think of the feeling of standing in front of a piece by Degas, on a Saturday afternoon, at the Met, when it’s raining outside, without two young boys in a double stroller. Ahhh….I think I will go make myself a good cup of tea.

PiningForTheFjords said...

Bipolar people are both scary and fascinating.

So-called required classics: Billy Budd, Heart of Darkness. Yuck and yuck. One man's classic is another man's crap.

Aren't you glad I made you read the LotR books before seeing the movies? You seemed annoyed at the time, but then you were just a little kid.

I think the butchering of Faramir's character is the change in the movie that would have bothered Tolkien the most. Like you said, they just didn't get him. Oh wait, it was I who said that. Anyway, the story already had enough "dramatic tension" - didn't really need to sacrifice the essense of Faramir to get a bit more.

If people are going to require classics to be read, here's a good one: Three Men in a Boat (by Jerome K. Jerome). I know it's one of your favorites, Brainsample, but if any of you various and sundry readers of this blog feel like reading something completely different, give it a look. Very British, very funny. Sort of a combination of story, humor, and philosophy.

Countess: We've been missing you since the trip! See if your parents will let you come visit for a while the next time you're off of Elsie duty.

Countess Madeline Forbes said...

Lady B: Exactly! That's just what I mean.

PFTF: I miss y'all too! My mom says that it would be fine for me to spend a few days with you at the lake in September, so I'd still like to do that if it's all right with you guys. It would also be great to get together sooner than September. Bessie will be dry by the end of April, so I will be completely free from then until she calves.

PiningForTheFjords said...

Yaa! Consider it on the calendar! We'll start working out the details soon.

Lady Brainsample said...

PMFS: "Maybe that’s because I am strange; but that’s art—different meanings to different folks."
Like what PftF said, "One man's classic is another man's crap."
Y'all think alike. ;)

PftF: YES! I am very glad you made me read the books before seeing the movies.

Countess: After April, we are SO going to have an EJC convention. My house, more than one day. We are going to brainstorm and do more silly films than we have in ages. Mwah ha ha!!!

Countess Madeline Forbes said...

PFTF: Hooray! Thank you so much!

Lady B: Yesssss! Awesome!