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PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 8:28 pm 
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This letter focuses on Tolkien's comments on the film's 'treatment' of The Lord of the Rings.

I was reading this letter and based on some discussions thought this would perhaps offer some insights into his views on some of the things that went on in the movie.

Having said that, I don't mean or want this to be a bash on the movies, perhaps just a few insights into what Tolkien may have liked or disliked on the films.

I think Tolkien's initial views are seen that Zimmerman (who was adapting the work into a movie in the 1950's I believe). Tolkien comments that Zimmerman was focusing on irrelevant parts like "magic, blue lights and focusing on sword fights." Also Tolkien felt that Zimmerman or Z as he calls him "
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has made no serious attempt to represent the heart of the tale adequately: the journey of the Ringbearers."

In this I think Tolkien would have had to acknowledged that PJ did represent the heart of tale. It would have been interesting to know if he would have felt is was adequate though.

Tolkien seems to not like Gandalf's interpretation. He stated that Gandalf
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"should not 'splutter.' Though he may seem testy at times, he has a sense of humor, and adopts a somewhat avuncular attitude to hobbits, he is a person of high and noble authority, and great dignity."


I think Tolkien would have really liked Gandalf the Grey but I wonder what his take would be on Gandalf the White? I know Sir Ian preferred Gandalf the Grey over the way the White was written. In dealing with Pippin at Minis Tirith Gandalf the White was very avuncular, though I think he lost some of his humor in the movies after he transformed to Gandalf the White.

Zimmerman must have made one of his many eagles named Radagast and Tolkien was not happy with that. He states that
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"Radagast is not an Eagle-name, but a wizard's name; several eagle-names are supplied in the book. These points are important to me."

Don't mess with the names of Tolkien and I have to agree with that. It is one of the fears in any adaptations. Each characters had a name and I really believe a purpose. It is probably why people were so upset with Arwen replacing Glorfindal.

I find it very interesting that Tolkien acknowledge that in a "picture" "Time must naturally be left vaguer than in a book.
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" Yet Zimmerman disrupts the very seasons itself. Tolkien hints here that starting the book in autumn and passes through winter to a brillant spring; this is basic to the purpos and tone of the tale."

Did PJ convey this transformation from fall to winter to spring good enough in the movie? I think it could have been done better, visually as least as Tolkien hints here.

In another sense I speculate (and yes it is my speculation) that Tolkien would not have been entirely happy with PJ's Black Riders or Nazgûl. Tolkien states in speaking of the Black Riders
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"Their peril is almost entirely due to the unreasoning fear which they inspire (like ghosts). They have no great physical power against the fearless; but what they have, and the fear that they inspire, is enormously increased in darkness.


Tolkien also states
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"The Black Riders do not scream, but keep a more terrifying darkness, and do not 'spur.'"


Based on that I think Tolkien would have had issues with how the Black Riders were displayed at times. I love the image of the Shire and then the Black Rider on the horse appearing on top of the hill. That struck fear into me and my wife the first time we saw it. Also when the Riders appeared out of no where and silently chased the party. Also, Aragorn using a sword at Weathertop is addressed and Tolkien did not like Zimmerman's fight scene there. He states that Aragorn's sword was broken and so "Why then make him do so here, in a contest that was explicitly not fought with weapons?" To me this implies that weapons were not the contest, but the will of the ring, the will of the ringbearer were what was at stake here.

I do like how Tolkien paints the Weathertop scene when he states

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"A scene of gloom lit by a red fire, with the Wraiths slowly approaching as darker shadows -- until the moment when Frodo puts on the Ring, and the King steps forward revealed -- would seem to me far more impressive than yet one more scene of screams and rather meaningless slashings."

This makes me think that overall he would have been happy with that scene.

In this Letter Tolkien hints to me his answer for why the Eagles just didn't fly the Fellowship to Mordor. Zimmerman has the Eagles appear and Tolkien in no uncertain terms makes it clear Tolkien
"
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feels this is to be a wholly unacceptable tampering with the tale." He further states "Nine Walkers and they immediately go up in the air! The intrusion achieves nothing but incredibility, and the staling of the device of the Eagles when at last they are really needed. It is well within the powers of pictures to suggest, relatively briefly, a long and arduous journey, in secrecy, on foot with the three ominous mountains getting nearer."


The key here is the journey had to made in secret and using the Eagles would ensure that it wasn't. The Eagles were to be used when they were most needed, at the Battle of the Black Gate and to rescue Frodo and Sam. More importantly the Eagles would have eliminated the "long and arduous journey" which is the heart of the story, the secret and arduous journey of the Ringbearers and the impact it has on them.

He did not like how Zimmerman treated Galadriel or the Elves of Lórien or Orcs. Tiny fairies don't cut it for his Elves and Orcs with beaks and feathers didn't either. Finally ignoring Galadriel and her temptation did not show respect for Tolkien's work.

Tolkien also felt that Zimmerman in parts II and III did follow his two main branches of the story, the Prime Action which is the Ringbearers and the Subsidiary Action which he called the rest of the Company leading to the 'heroic' matter.
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"It is essential that these two branches should each be treated in coherent sequence. Both to render them intelligible as a story, and because they are totally different in tone and scenery."

I think PJ in his adaptation did a very solid job.

Tolkien goes on to discuss the Halls of Théoden, a private chamber for Théoden, glass windows in Edoras, the defense of the Hornburg and the meeting Merry and Pippin with their "Subway Sandwiches" at Orthanc. Also the death of Saruman and Tolkien's comments I found interesting.

Anyway, in reviewing the letter in terms of PJ movies I think some things Tolkien would have been okay with, some changes made Tolkien would have taken PJ to task. In the end though I wonder as he states at the end of the letter if he would feel that PJ's version of LOTR in a "picture" garbled The Lord of the Rings?

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1. " . . . (we are ) too engrossed in thinking of everything as a preparation or training or making one fit -- for what? At any minute it is what we are and are doing, not what we plan to be and do that counts."

J.R.R. Tolkien in his 6 October 1940 letter to his son Michael Tolkien.

2. We have many ways using technology to be in touch, yet the larger question is are we really connected or are we simply more in touch? There is a difference.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 8:58 pm 
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Quote:
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"A scene of gloom lit by a red fire, with the Wraiths slowly approaching as darker shadows -- until the moment when Frodo puts on the Ring, and the King steps forward revealed -- would seem to me far more impressive than yet one more scene of screams and rather meaningless slashings."



This makes me think that overall he would have been happy with that scene.


??????????????

I would say on that very basis he would have been very unhappy with that scene- "screams and meaningless slashings."


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 9:09 pm 
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Aldrig nogen sinde Kvitte
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To clarify, I think Tolkien would have been ok with the fire and Frodo waking up and then the four seeing the Wraiths approach minus the scream. I think he would have been ok with the scene of Frodo putting on the Ring and the Witch King advancing. I don't think he would have liked Aragorn coming in sword in hand fighting them off as that was not part of the book and this was not an armed conflict. No torch in the face either.

So certain elements yes, certain elements no.

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1. " . . . (we are ) too engrossed in thinking of everything as a preparation or training or making one fit -- for what? At any minute it is what we are and are doing, not what we plan to be and do that counts."

J.R.R. Tolkien in his 6 October 1940 letter to his son Michael Tolkien.

2. We have many ways using technology to be in touch, yet the larger question is are we really connected or are we simply more in touch? There is a difference.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 9:13 pm 
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The weakening of Frodo's character is quite dramatic in this portion of PJ's films.

He stumbles backward and falls on his bum, then puts the Ring on. No 'fighting back' at all.

(This is continued with the Flight to the Ford scene.)

I will admit that, once Frodo puts the Ring on, the Nazgûl becoming suddenly visible as glowing white specters probably did match Tolkien's conception, at least a little bit.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 9:23 pm 
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I hated the fact that they had Sam, Merry and Pippin fight back, and Frodo act like scared little puppy.

Overall, I think Tolkien would have been very happy and quite moved by some things in PJ's films, and utterly infuriated by many others (I'm not sure that he could have survived seeing Frodo send Sam home).

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 9:24 pm 
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The scene isn't helped, in this particular instance, by the generally admirable Howard Shore. Instead of eerie suspense we get thumping war-music and shrieking violins- turning the episode into a 'fight scene' even before any fighting takes place.


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