Upon Finishing the Lord of The Rings (books)

Okay so proper blog post. Here goes.

As usual, we’ll start out with some casting news for the upcoming Hobbit movies: Benedict Cumberbatch, who I’ve never seen in anything (but has a fabulous name), will be playing two roles, evidently the voices of Smaug and the Necromancer. Luke Evans will be playing Bard to Bowman of Lake Town, and Evangeline Lily will play an elf called Tauriel – and I’m a bad fan, or they invented this character. Just, you know. FYI.

More exciting for my money are the pictures that have been released! There aren’t very many, and they don’t give anything away, but you DO get to see Martin Freeman in make up, and he looks adorable perfect. You can see the pictures here.

I was biking yesterday through the neighbourhood where I grew up, so I was feeling very nostalgic as I prepared to write this post. There are a few ravines in the area, and I remember going in there to read as well as play Lord of the Rings. I specifically remember one instance when I was around 11, and I was going through a phase where I was obsessed with rain ponchos, because they felt like cloaks. It was rainy, so I put on my poncho, grabbed a big gnarled stick, and decided I was Gandalf. Good times.

I also realized that I forgot to tell you guys about my Collector’s Edition Trivial Pursuit for the movies. I haven’t watched them again yet, but I was testing myself with the cards yesterday and not doing too badly. I’ve still got it.

Anyway, I’ve finished reading the books. I thought I’d be blogging all the time, but what would I really say about the books as I was going through them that could fill several interesting posts? I recorded stray observations, and put them all here. I’ll watch the movies and do the same thing – one long post for all three of them. Hopefully I’ll find other things to write about in the meantime.

I’m not going to review the books, because I couldn’t do so even remotely objectively, and anyone who has considered reading them/decided not to will not be swayed by my opinions. These are just things that I noticed or thought about as I was reading, so the rest of this post is going to be rather episodic.

Near the very beginning of The Hobbit, Tolkien describes hobbits, and how they “had a bit of magic to hide from the Big People.” I wanted desperately to see a hobbit after reading that, and was sure that they wouldn’t want to hide from me, although I can’t remember what reason I gave myself for that assurance. I was a bit confused, I admit, when parts of LoTR (such as the appendices) were told like a real history – the idea of fabricating a world down to such minutae was foreign to me, and I remember a brief moment where I believed that what I was reading was true – that hobbits and elves and magic had existed, but had passed out of the world long before I had entered it (I remember having similar difficult grasping the idea of my father ever having been a child).

Unfortunately, I read most of The Hobbit on the way to and from work, but I did manage to get in some serious LoTR reading at my family’s new cottage, which seems like the most appropriate place to be reading them. The first time through we vacationed in the wilderness of Canada (Algonquin Park, among other places), and since so much of the story takes place outside, it just feels right. Granted, my cottage ain’t exactly Fangorn or Lothlorien, but you take what you can get. So I had a nice time reading the books again under some trees.

I also totally cried at the end. Well, I hyperbolize; it wasn’t a sobfest, but I did shed one manly tear when Frodo left Middle Earth, so I’m obviously still very attached emotionally. I maintain that these characters are not the most elaborate, but there are subtle characterizations I missed initially – distinct manners of speech and other small things to make them seem more real or human. I still only really believe the hobbits, Gimli, and Gandalf as people though – the elves are too perfect and infallible, and Aragorn, while almost there, is still kind of a checklist of all “kingly” attributes. Legolas was at his most believable with his adorable bromance with Gimli. I somehow forgot the prominence of their relationship in the books. What a pair.

On a related note, I really like the way the romances are handled. Aragorn is given a bit of an implicit back story, and you know it’s sad, but we don’t have to watch montages of Arwen in bed and whatever other crap PJ added to the movies for her. I remember loving Eowyn as kid, and I still do, but less as a character and more as a symbol.  She doesn’t have any dimensions, but I respect her feminism and all that. Although she does “soften” and give up all of the “man” things as soon as she realizes that she loves Faramir. I better understand her feelings for Aragorn too now that I’m older. The book does say that she loved what he represents rather than him as a man, which is good, because she falls for him awfully fast. But still, Faramir falls for her because she’s sad and lonely, rather than because she’s a huge badass, and then she’s like “…OH I guess I love you too? I’ll stop wanting to kill things and be happy in domestic life now,” which I found kind of problematic. But I do love Eowyn and Faramir as a couple. Actually, while we’re on the subject, why are there so few women in this book, Tolkien? Arwen’s part in the books (and in the appendices) is mostly to look pretty and then give up her life/immortality for her man, which could be romantic I guess, but he seems to only love her because she’s pretty, and she loves him because, well, who doesn’t? She also complains about her decision when he decides to go die, which is also less romantic. Eowyn kicks ass and takes names, and Galadriel is a pretty powerful woman, so at least Tolkien isn’t a huge sexist, but there’s definitely room for improvement.

 

I guess this is a testament to the films’ casting, because in my mind’s eye, I always imagine Aragorn as the lovely Viggo Mortensen. However, I imagine Faramir as someone more… well, attractive than David Wenham. I mean, he did a fine job with what he was given, but book Faramir was far more capable and interesting that his filmic counterpart. I may have had a bit of a book crush on Faramir this time around, since he was a good soldier (badass), but not a huge fighter, except when needed (sensitive). Plus, like Aragorn, he was kind of broody. His Dad straight up says “I wish you’d died instead of your awesome brother” and he’s upset about it, but he still goes out and does what needs doing. Sensitive, but pragmatic. So… yummy.

Now, one thing I always defended the books against as a kid were the gay jokes about the hobbits’ relationships. Now that I’m older and jaded, I can’t help but say that maybe those jokes were not completely unjustified:

“[Sam] shook his head, as if finding words useless, and murmured: ‘I love him. He’s like that, and sometimes it shines through, somehow. But I love him, whether or no.'”

In certain scenes there’s definitely some homo… not eroticism, it’s all very chaste, but a deep homo-social relationship. Maybe it’s more like a child’s relationship, since it never seemed abnormal or questionable to me as a child. Although now I can’t help but notice that Rosie Cotton doesn’t really come up until The Return of the King when Sam is getting kind of gay… I’ve got a sense of humour, I get the jokes now more than I did when I was younger. But their relationship is very interesting. Sam always idolizes Frodo and puts his master above himself, and Frodo is very thankful to have Sam there, but he spends the entire Fellowship attempting to separate himself from his companions until it’s really down to him and Sam. Their relationship doesn’t become incredibly sentimental until it they’re alone, and they become for each other symbols of everything they’re fighting for – and everything they’ve left behind. So forming an intense homosocial bond based on shared experience is only natural, really, and one that would be hard to shake after the fact. Sam is always far more sentimental towards Frodo, but I guess that’s explainable by the fact that he’s looked up to Bilbo and Frodo for his whole life, as well as a very strong sense of honour toward the man he swore to protect. Plus Sam is just super sensitive and adorable and brave and funny and sensible and I just love him to bits. When Faramir implies that Frodo may have had something to do with Boromir’s death, Sam can’t help but step in and speak to Faramir, heir to the Stewardship of Gondor, with “his hands on his hips, and a look on his face as if he [is] addressing a young hobbit who had offered him what he called ‘sauce’ when questioned about visits to the orchard.”

And that is why I love Sam the most. You know what, I just love hobbits. All of the hobbits. The elves, especially in Lothlorien, are very magical and mysterious and cool, and I kind of wanted to be an elf when I was younger, but I think now I just want to be a hobbit. They just seem to have so much more fun, even if their idea of fun mostly revolves around food and quiet, they are relentlessly cheerful and that’s actually so respectable, and kind of refreshing after all of the brooding in this and many other “serious times” epic novels (although I guess Frodo is the exception – he does enough brooding for all of the hobbits). Pippin is the most unshakeably cheery, but even Merry, when he wakes up after slaying the Witch King (and nearly dying as a result) immediately requests food, as though he were a guest at a casual friend’s house. He and Pippin are also both very casual and calm smoking pipes and eating among wrecked Isengard, which is another beautiful image. There’s also something that I can’t quite explain that I find incredibly charming about hobbits’ emphasis on “sense.” Temporarily bearing the Ring, Sam has visions of himself as a renowned and powerful warrior with the aid of the Ring, but quickly shakes these visions using good old hobbit sense. And their battle against “Sharkey’s” men is also very neatly organized and executed, then cleaned-up after. They aren’t a very violent people but get together and get the job done when the time comes. Although, I just love the Tooks for holing up with their bows and shooting intruders, they’re spunky. The Rangers had worked hard for years to ensure that the Shire went relatively untouched by the troubles of the rest of Middle Earth, and it was worth it for these charming, but surprisingly hardy folk. And I love them to death.

So no, that was far from a comprehensive look at the books, but those are some things that stuck out to me as worth talking about. I can answer questions about things if people have any I guess? I mean, I don’t know why you’d ask me anything, but if for some reason you wanted my opinion on something I didn’t talk about, I can address inquiries…

Either way, I still really love these books, and they elicited many giggles from me along the way. I’m glad I read them initially when I did, but I’m equally glad to have them re-enter my life like this. I am very excited for The Hobbit and look forward to re-watching all of the LoTR movies, and will report back when I have done so! I hope that I won’t go so long without posting this time.

 

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