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 Post subject: Aragorn vs movie Aragorn
PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 7:29 am 
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I want to explain before I state the following that I do enjoy the movies very much, and like with any adaptation I try to treat them independently. I realize no adaptation is perfect, nor can it reflect the many wonderments of the books because of the sheer scope and size of the work.

So again, I am not meaning to come across that I hate the movie's or am a purist on them, but there are a few things PJ changed that I disagreed with. So with out any further comment . . . .

Voronwë and I briefly touched on this subject and he offered to share his thoughts and I look forward to seeing them. Aragorn is one (keyword ONE) of my favorite characters from LOTR. In the books he sets out to reclaim the throne of Gondor to fulfill the requirement of Elrond for Aragorn and Arwen to wed. Aragorn's conflict in the book comes after Gandalf's fall in Moria. At that point the leadership of the company, with an entirely different goal of escorting Frodo to Mt. Doom, falls to Aragorn and he leads the company from that point. Prior to Frodo's departure at Parth Galen, Aragorn was torn between his duty to Frodo, and his troth with Arwen. That debate was resolved with the departure of Frodo and Sam, the slaying of Boromir and the abduction of Merry and Pippin. Aragorn's heart told him that the bearer was out of his control and he could not give Merry and Pippin up to be tormented and slain. At this point Aragorn takes the route open to him, to pursue the Orcs and is at peace with his decision.

Some of the differences then between the book and movie are that in the book, though Elrond as a father does not want to lose Arwen, and sets conditions for her marriage, he does not appear to be against Aragorn and Arwen so openly as in the movie. Arwen's choice is made prior to Aragorn setting out and there is "no what we had was a dream sequence" when Aragorn takes leave of Arwen at Rivendell. Aragorn's faithfulness to Arwen and their troth in the book, shows to me, Tolkien's ideal of love and commitment. For me then, the notion that movie Aragorn has rejected/turned from seeking the kingship, gives in to Elrond and renounces his commitment to Arwen, and only seeks the kingship to save Arwen and Gondor is a lessening of the character that I did not enjoy.

Now, to some degree, I know in the movie I need to suspend my knowledge of the story so I can accept Aragorn in the context of the movie, though I don't necessarily like it. Why was it done? In my opinion to create a love story with tension so that those attracted to that type of sub-story would continue to come back to the movies to follow that development. The love story is not fulfilled in the movie until the coronation of Aragorn and then the wedding. The events leading up to it also show the notion that this love, despite the obstacles is not to be denied (I guess).

To pick it up in the ROTK movie shows this I guess. Elrond informs Aragorn that Arwen is dying and Elrond coming with Anduril is about Daddy trying to get future son-in-law (who is inferior in Daddy's eye for his daughter), to save the life of his daughter even at the cost of having to accept the marriage; or the notion of Arwen dying and tied to the fate of the ring is the motivation of Aragorn to go to the Paths of the Dead, seek the Kingship, and then give Frodo time to destroy the ring so Arwen can live, and go into the West (I think this is why Aragorn is so shocked when he sees her after his crowing). This conflict in the relationship is what I guess kept some fans coming back. Then the uniting of Aragorn and Arwen gives these movie goers what they wanted, the fulfillment of "true love" (which is a classic movie that I love to watch in and of itself) despite all the challenges and obstacles.

So, I would love to hear Voronwë's and others thoughts on why the drastic change to the Aragorn and Arwen story? Also which love story do you think is more romantic, the notion of two people in love, staying committed to that love despite the challenges placed before them (book), or the breaking up of that love, the sacrifice of it to allow one immortality (when she doesn't want it) and then the eventual reuniting of that love at the end despite all the challenges it faced (movie)?

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 9:07 am 
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I come from a different place to you AJ, in that Aragorn as a character never really captured me, and in the books as much as the movies I have to willfully suspend disbelief to make his character credible. He strikes me, in the book, as a vague achetype, necessary for the plot, but not really part of it. His only interest for me was in his actions and interactions with others. I was never interested in the man. In a word, he was boring.

Movie Aragorn never bothered me because I got the actions and interactions with the rest that I wanted, and the changes were ones that didn't affect the parts of the character I was interested in. Its funny the things that bother other people. I can happily let Osgiliath slide, but I hate the Ents making the wrong choice. The reason I differentiate is because Faramir makes the right choice, just a little late. The Ents are tricked into it. That annoys me.

Nothing about Aragorn has this same effect for me besides the Cliff dive, which is a plot point, not a character point. As a character, I find movie Aragorn infinitely more interesting. That said, there's still a credibility issue.

I still have a huge problem with the whole "Lost heir of Isildur" concept. In the film it seems to suggest that Aragorn is the only person to whom this applied. Of course, in the book, there were generations of "lost heirs to Isildur". Only one of these appears to have tried to claim the kingship, and was denied because he came of the "lesser" line of Isildur, and not Anárion. So what makes Aragorn so damn special? Was his dad, Arathorn, not equally capable of claiming the kingship? Or maybe he didn't because he knew Denethor would reject his claim also. Was Aragorn waiting till the bookish Faramir was Steward and wouldn't object? Seriously, the whole thing bugs me.

Finally, and most importantly, Tolkien seemed to believe in people who were born "better". Who inherited the right to rule. I dislike that notion. Even less do I like the idea of someone who was born "better" along with his entire line, but of all of them is the only one in generations to seek the Kingship. The whole axiom of "those who seek power are the least fit to lead" seems to fit here. Except of course, we have a convenient excuse. Its not that Aragorn "wants" the kingship. He just has to be king to get the girl, so he will.

Like I say, I try not to think about it when I'm reading or I get riled. ;)

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 12:21 pm 
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Alatar wrote:
The whole axiom of "those who seek power are the least fit to lead" seems to fit here.


Perhaps the filmmakers were influenced by the Tolkien letter (being discussed now in the letters forum) in which he claims that "I do not wish to be made a bishop" is the best reason for making someone a bishop. Especially if it simultaneously gives you a more relatable character with an arc.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 1:45 pm 
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All right, AJ. You asked for it. ;) These thoughts are more than five years old, so hopefully they aren't stale.

In order to understand my position, one must first review where Aragorn, the archetypal King-in-waiting, came from. For much of the drafting of the LOTR, of course, there was no Aragorn. His role in the story was played by Trotter the Hobbit, a mysterious "ranger" whose origins Tolkien was never quite sure about (the most developed concept was that he was one Peregrine Boffin, a Hobbit befriended by Bilbo who disappeared from the Shire the day he came of age and eventually was tortured in Mordor). However, as the sequel to The Hobbit more and more became subsumed by the greater depth of Tolkien's mythology, it became more and more apparent that this was not appropriate and that this character had a much more important role to play in the story.

Before embarking on the effort to create a sequel to The Hobbit, the major new component of Tolkien's mythology was the story of the fall of Númenor. This was a critically important conception for Tolkien, and in hindsight provided the perfect bridge between the older mythology of the Elder Days that would become the Silmarillion, and the more modern (but still ancient) story of the end of the Third Age that was The Lord of the Rings. For anyone not familiar with the story of the development of the Númenor legends, I highly recommend reading volume 5 of the HOME series - “The Lost Road and Other Writings.” It is a fascinating story and really shows how critical the conception of the Fall of Númenor was to Tolkien.

This is obviously not the place for a synopsis of that story (well known, I am sure, to most of you). Suffice it to say that it details how even the noblest of mankind (eventually conceived as the Children of Lúthien) can fall to the temptation of power unbridled. But included in this tragic tale is the idea that like the Phoenix, from the ashes will rise again a new hope, which became the Numenorian realms in exile. Yet we would later see in the story of Isildur the tragic flaw raise its ugly head again.

To make a very long story short, Tolkien eventually realized that this mysterious ranger character that he had created, but had such trouble identifying, actually was the culmination of this tale, which reached its tentacles back into the old tales and incorporated the conception of a touch of a ‘higher spirit’ elevating mankind, and that Trotter the Hobbit was actually Aragorn, son of Arathorn, descendent of the King of Men. Aragorn came to represent the redemption of mankind (the new New Hope) and ultimately, to quote Legolas “is he not of the children of Lúthien? Never shall that line fail, though the years may lengthen beyond count.”

In the book, enough of this backstory is captured (in the text and appendicies) so that Aragorn makes sense, even without the benefit of reading Tolkien’s other work (though Tolkien was absolutely right in believing that the Wars of the Jewels and the Ring should have been published together as they ultimately told one long connected story with Aragorn as in many ways the culmination of that story). However, in the context of the film, it is simply impossible to include enough of this back story to make such an archetypal portrayal make sense to anyone other than us Tolkien fanatics. This part of the story is largely told (a least so far) entirely through Isildur's failure and Aragorn's redemption of that failure, through his own journey of acceptance of his destiny.

I love the breadth and width of the tale that Tolkien weaved, and expect to find new patterns and seams in the fabric for the rest of my life. I don’t need to see the same exact story on the screen that I already have in the book(s); indeed, I believe an attempt to duplicate it would inevitably fail. It would have been futile for PJ to try to repeat with crochet what Tolkien created with fine needlepoint. Instead, he (IMHO correctly) he took the same themes and colors that Tolkien used and weaved them into a new pattern that is complementary of the original pattern. I for one am thrilled that he took this approach.


Dave_LF wrote:
Alatar wrote:
The whole axiom of "those who seek power are the least fit to lead" seems to fit here.


Perhaps the filmmakers were influenced by the Tolkien letter (being discussed now in the letters forum) in which he claims that "I do not wish to be made a bishop" is the best reason for making someone a bishop. Especially if it simultaneously gives you a more relatable character with an arc.


Philippa Boyens had this to say in one of the previews of ROTK:

Quote:
How do you assume a mantle of a King? How do you take that on yourself? How do you say I'm the one that you must follow? I think that that is what he is struggling with, because he has seen what power can do.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 1:59 pm 
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I, too, am not an Aragorn fan, in book or film. So the film changes bother me less than others for the same reasons Alatar gives.

I feel obliged to say that my reasons for finding book Aragorn flat and uninteresting are related to what I enjoy in books, not to what I think all books and all characters in books should be like, and that I would not change a word of LotR as it is.

If you put a plate of perfectly and deliciously roasted Brussels sprouts in front of me, prepared and served with incredible artistry, I'm going to wish it were just some boiled peas. I acknowledge the skill of the cook, and am glad that so many other people around the table are greatly enjoying the dish, but sprouts are not my thing no matter how prepared.

I have the same problem with "archetypal" characters presented with high remoteness, who know from the beginning to the end of the story what they want and why, and who never waver. It's a style, but it doesn't engage me. If all the characters in LotR were like that, I would not be here. I would have read it once, admired the depth of creation and the vivid writing, and wished there had been someone, anyone, in the story I gave a damn about.

So I understand PJ's impulse to add an "arc" and some external conflict to Aragorn's character. By no means do I think it all works or even makes story sense, particularly "Arwen's life is now tied to the fate of the Ring," which came in for so much discussion at the time that as I recall we all just typed ALINTTTFOTR.

His uncertainty about seeking the kingship is not flattering to his character even if we assume he's not in the same act renouncing Arwen—that there is no understanding with Elrond that only as king of Gondor will he be allowed to marry her.

I'm going to be very bad here. If I were rewriting Aragorn for a movie, here's what I would have done. I'd have imposed a solid reason why he cannot make a public claim for the throne without endangering something or someone very important—so he wants to be king, and to marry Arwen, but believes that the time isn't right for a good strong reason. If conflict between Aragorn and Arwen is needed, make the reason something she disagrees with Aragorn and Elrond about.

Then Aragorn's "arc" would be learning to see that the time is right, that Gondor needs him, and that Arwen has seen more clearly all along. We could still have grumpy Elrond, who would think Aragorn still should wait and who would not be happy about losing his daughter to mortality (playing up this aspect of Elrond was one of PJ's good moves). In other words, Aragorn would always be strong and always know what he wants; he just would not believe, at the start, that the moment to act had come.

Edit: Cross-posted with Voronwë.

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 2:23 pm 
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Especially if it simultaneously gives you a more relatable character with an arc.


There it is- the gol-danged 'arc' shibboleth. One of those bloody Rules which second-rate writing teachers hammer into their students, so that the talentless among them can go out and become hacks like Philippa Boyens.

Not every novel is a bildungsroman, and to the extent LR is one (or even a novel), the jugend is Frodo, not Aragorn. How much 'arc' can we expect to see in eight months out of a two-century lifetime?

Though advanced in the name of 'realism,' it's not even realistic, but rather a convention, a mannerism, too often even a cliche. Most real humans don't in fact grow or change very much as adults.

Quote:
Tolkien seemed to believe in people who were born "better". Who inherited the right to rule. I dislike that notion.


Does King Arthur bother you? He did even less to "earn" his throne, merely yanking a sword out of a rock. "Just because some watery tart lobbed a scimitar at you...." The Pythons (Cleese and Chapman in this case) bullseyed the anachronism: unaffected by modern political notions, medievals (and denizens of cod-medieval fantasy worlds) were ruled by kings, and those kings inherited the job. Tolkien was writing a fairy-tale, not a political tract. Are we to assume that the Dúnedain (or the Noldor of Beleriand) ought, as Good Guys, to have established autonomous workers' collectives?

Nor is there anything at all wrong with archetypes (is Homer chopped liver?) or even (gasp!) two-dimensional characters. Visual artists realized this very early in the last century, and the mythic was approached far closer by, say, Paul Klee than by any number of mediocre "realistic" Baroque painters.

Boyens' comments illustrate powerfully and unintentionally that the screenwriters just didn't Get It: like monkeys trying to put a clockworks back together, they didn't understand what they were messing with, and rather blunderingly assumed that wherever Tolkien violated the Rules of Hollywood pap he was wrong. Which is rather like some nonentity presuming to re-compose Le Sacre du Printemps because Stravinsky didn't follow the nineteenth-century Rules of composition.


Last edited by solicitr on Wed Jul 09, 2008 2:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 2:38 pm 
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Or, perhaps, they were trying to write a screenplay?

I don't defend all of their decisions by any means. But if some nonentity is set the task of transcribing Le Sacre du Printemps for accordian, I'm not going to complain about the result because the depth of orchestral color has been lost.

Media have drawbacks. One of commercial film's drawbacks is that it is external and cannot contain huge swathes of back story and exposition without ceasing to be commercial. I've been close witness to the writing process, over months and years, of both novels (published) and screenplays (one produced), and based on my understanding of the process and the trade-offs, I have to say that at least some of your scathing contempt is misplaced.

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 2:42 pm 
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Indeed Prim.

Soli, if you don't like Movies don't see them.

If you don't like movies based on books you like, don't see them.

Your arrogant dismissal of professional, academy award winning screenwriters does you no service and merely makes you look like a schoolboy having a tantrum.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 3:09 pm 
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Your arrogant dismissal of professional, academy award winning screenwriters does you no service and merely makes you look like a schoolboy having a tantrum.


Temper, temper...

I would be interested in the assumptions behind suggesting that a little gold statuette, bestowed by the votes of the luminaries who wrote Porky's 3 and Ernest Goes to Camp, constitues a guarantor of talent.

Of course lowbrow Hollywood is not alone in failing to comprehend Tolkien- the rarefied Booker-prize sorts never have, either (again, because he violates their Rules). Tolkien is sui generis and must be taken on his own terms, or not at all.

Prim- yes, prose and film are different media, and adjustments are necessary in any adaptation. However that verity does not constitute carte blanche to rewite without limit, simply because one is conceited enough to believe one can 'improve' Tolkien. Nothing in the nature of adaptation mandated the alteration of Aragorn's character, still less the vandalism done to those of Faramir and Denethor.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 3:24 pm 
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I don't defend the quest for the holy arc, by the way, but it's pretty clearly something the writers thought they needed to have. If they were, in addition, aware of the letter I alluded to above, it's not much of a surprise that Aragorn ended up the way he did.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 3:44 pm 
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Their Oscar was well deserved, and actually it is a meaningful award a fair amount of the time. Perhaps, though, you've never seen a film you thought was genuinely good, or that people who practice a craft are, on the whole, fairly good judges of how well other people do it.

I suspect you would assign arrogance as motive to anyone attempting to adapt Tolkien to another medium, and perhaps Alatar's advice is apropos.

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 3:48 pm 
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There was really no temper involved in my post Soli.

I just don't understand your need to spit vitriol at everything you dislike.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 3:51 pm 
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Prim wrote:
Perhaps, though, you've never seen a film you thought was genuinely good, or that people who practice a craft are, on the whole, fairly good judges of how well other people do it.


That's unfair. Plenty of people who know far more about cinema than I do disliked Jackson's films. And plenty of people who love cinema dislike Hollywood movies.

Edit to add: Al, speaking purely as a poster, I thought that your calling solictr a "schoolboy having a tantrum" was unnecessary and inappropriate.

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Last edited by Voronwë the Faithful on Wed Jul 09, 2008 3:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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I apologize and withdraw the remark.

However, if soli thinks the screenwriters of Ernest Goes to Camp vote on the Oscars, he clearly doesn't understand how those awards work, and therefore doesn't know what they mean.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 3:59 pm 
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solicitr wrote:
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Especially if it simultaneously gives you a more relatable character with an arc.


There it is- the gol-danged 'arc' shibboleth. One of those bloody Rules which second-rate writing teachers hammer into their students, so that the talentless among them can go out and become hacks like Philippa Boyens.

Not every novel is a bildungsroman, and to the extent LR is one (or even a novel), the jugend is Frodo, not Aragorn. How much 'arc' can we expect to see in eight months out of a two-century lifetime?

Though advanced in the name of 'realism,' it's not even realistic, but rather a convention, a mannerism, too often even a cliche. Most real humans don't in fact grow or change very much as adults.

Quote:
Tolkien seemed to believe in people who were born "better". Who inherited the right to rule. I dislike that notion.


Does King Arthur bother you? He did even less to "earn" his throne, merely yanking a sword out of a rock. "Just because some watery tart lobbed a scimitar at you...." The Pythons (Cleese and Chapman in this case) bullseyed the anachronism: unaffected by modern political notions, medievals (and denizens of cod-medieval fantasy worlds) were ruled by kings, and those kings inherited the job. Tolkien was writing a fairy-tale, not a political tract. Are we to assume that the Dúnedain (or the Noldor of Beleriand) ought, as Good Guys, to have established autonomous workers' collectives?

Nor is there anything at all wrong with archetypes (is Homer chopped liver?) or even (gasp!) two-dimensional characters. Visual artists realized this very early in the last century, and the mythic was approached far closer by, say, Paul Klee than by any number of mediocre "realistic" Baroque painters.

Boyens' comments illustrate powerfully and unintentionally that the screenwriters just didn't Get It: like monkeys trying to put a clockworks back together, they didn't understand what they were messing with, and rather blunderingly assumed that wherever Tolkien violated the Rules of Hollywood pap he was wrong. Which is rather like some nonentity presuming to re-compose Le Sacre du Printemps because Stravinsky didn't follow the nineteenth-century Rules of composition.
:bow: :bow: :bow: :bow: :bow: :bow: :bow: :bow: :bow:

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 4:03 pm 
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There's a difference between disliking them and dismissing them Voronwë.

Its perfectly fine to dislike something.

Its not ok to dismiss someone as "monkeys trying to put a clockworks back together".

They were writing something which had to work as a movie. They did so, in a spectacularly successful fashion. To criticise the fact that their multi-million dollar Hollywood film wasn't the same as the book is pointless. They were writing a Hollywood screenplay, not a novel.

I personally dislike many of their choices. I don't therefore assume that they are too stupid to understand what they were doing.

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Alatar wrote:
There's a difference between disliking them and dismissing them Voronwë.


I agree, Al, and as you know, my position on the films is much closer to yours than to solicitr's. But I still don't think it is necessary to call someone names in order to disagree with them. Even strongly disagree with them.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 4:11 pm 
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Book Aragorn grew on me. He didn't strike me much until probably the 20th or 30th time I read the book. I was older by then, maybe that's why.

Although I am not an advocate of a hereditary ruling class, in stories a man born to be kind is just fine. That the man is utterly honourable and noble makes it even better. That he rejects any shortcuts, that he keeps his eyes on the main prize, that he earns it and his reward without once falling from the standard he set himself: I loved that. Aragorn is not very " real" but what else is, in LOTR? He suits the story perfectly, just as perfectly as Sam and Frodo.

If we bring Arthur into it, Arthur, even as a literary construct, is recognizably more like a "real human". Arthur makes the usual mistakes of the ambitious highborn: he gets a bastard child, he marries a woman who doesn't love him, etc., etc. Various versions of the Arthur tale drag a weepy and fervidly icky Christianity into it. All of it could be true, based on what we know about real history.

Arwen would never have an affair with Lancelot. She might be a beautiful cypher (she is a beautiful cypher, actually) but she does very well as the love object of the not-very-real Aragorn. Tolkien was right, IMHO, to have the love story "off screen" in the book. It was a nice surprise, the first time I read it. And I never read the appendices until about the 10th time I read the book, for some reason, likely thinking it was the usual boring "notes" that old-fashioned writers liked to tag onto their work.

I would have made the movies differently and solictr and I could sit and watch them and nod approvingly whilst munching popcorn. :D Not microwave popcorn. :rage: But I would die in debtor's prison since the billions it would cost me would bankrupt me and solictr would not bail me out, I'm pretty sure of that.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 4:34 pm 
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I'd love to see your version, vison, and I'm pretty sure I'd love it, as would almost anyone who loves the books.

Two things, though. There's the annoying fact (and I know you know this) that movies have to pay for themselves—which means that if they cost a lot, they have to appeal to a lot of people.

The second point is one that slips by some people (not you): any film adaptation involves interpreting the text and determining how that information is going to be conveyed visually. So decisions have to be made about how characters and settings will look, what the countryside will be like, how people will sound, what music there will be, and how the story will be cut down (because it has to be cut down, except in something like Tosh's serial TV adaptation).

No doubt each of us can imagine an adaptation that's still very true to what we see when we read Tolkien: a truly purist adaptation.

But that version is going to be different for every single one of us. We all value different parts of the story differently. And even where we don't, we see and understand them differently.

In other words, the perfect purist adaptation can't be made, except by and for an audience of one.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 5:53 pm 
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*sighs*

IAWP.

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