LoTR and dwj

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Wed Feb 18 08:06:24 EST 2004

BTW, Robyn, I assumed that the subject you gave this thread meant that it
would be something about DWJ's essay on LotR.

Katta wrote:

>The only bit of animism I can think of that didn't make it into the film was
>Tom Bombadil, and the quite obvious reason for that is that he doesn't move
>the story along one bit. He's a lovely character, but I don't think there
>was ever any doubt in anyone's mind that he couldn't make it into the film.

I don't care one way or the other about the character of Tom Bombadil, but
I think the section of the book between the Shire and Bree is needed for
the hobbits to discover that it's a big bad world out there, and that there
are nasty creatures in it who will *get* them if they are not careful, for
no better reason than that they can and that they are nasty creatures.  Old
Man Willow and the Barrow Wights are not actually allied to the Dark Lord
at all, directly: they are just Perils, and the hobbits are made to grow up
and learn a bit about themselves and their capabilities, at a point at
which most of them could if they had to chicken out and run away home
again.  They need a gradual increase of danger, in order to be "trained"
for the greater dangers to come.

Looking at the behaviour of hobbits who haven't gone through that sort of
thing before they have to face unpleasantness of a serious sort: it's clear
that the hobbits of the Shire allow themselves to be enslaved and subverted
by Saruman's minions without any great rebellion against the intolerable.
Without some sort of build-up, they can't cope with the idea of resistance
to bullies and murderers, but simply knuckle under and grumble whilst they
starve.  I don't think Merry, Pippin, Sam and Frodo would have been able to
cope if they had been landed as they are in the film straight from the
Shire to Bree, without having learned that as well as perils, there may be
allies such as Tom, and without having earned themselves swords -- as it

My main problem (almost my only problem) with the first film of the three
was that any suggestion that, as Aragorn puts it in the book, "There are
many evil and unfriendly things in the world that have little love for
those that go on two legs, and yet are not in league with Sauron, but have
purposes of their own," seems to be ignored: every single peril is "The
Enemy", including the mountain Caradhras, which specifically *isn't* one of
Sauron's following in the book, just a mountain that is inimical to
two-legged folk.  It's a bit simplistic: there is one bad guy, and once he
is beaten everything will be tickety-boo.  I haven't yet seen the last
film, but I gather that too has lost the bits that would show that Sauron
wasn't the only thing to contend with, and that his destruction hasn't made
everything magically ok again: I'm told the scouring of the Shire is missed
out as well.

I can see why (length, and simply the man in charge didn't like those bits
of the books) these bits were cut out, but I think it a shame, because the
balance is quite well worked out in the books, and with the build-up and
ending chopped off all that is left is aa admittedly terrific but
essentially standard fantasy of derring-do (Perilous Quest,
Dark-Lord-inspired nasties, defeat of Dark Lord, finish), rather than
something just a bit cleverer and more subtle and more about how things and
people grow and there are shades of grey as well as black and white.

Mention of Perilous Quests with capitals reminds me: my son once produced a
fine and entirely accidental Spoonerism: "Your Querilous Pest, should you
choose to accept it..."  There are a lot of fantasy books in which I feel
that fits the Missing Heir character among the Companions rather well. :-)


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