Sunday, 9 December 2012

Seeing Tolkien's Long Defeat

If the six books of The Lord of the Rings gave three films, and the one of The Hobbit will give three too, what next? If Jackson et al. follow Lucas/Disney to push for a third trilogy, there's no lack of sources.

Most obviously "The Scouring of the Shire" was left out last time. By this rule of increasing bloat, could this one chapter be stretched over three more? It's not hard to imagine a spin-off mini-series, just one with less emphasis on the 'mini'. How about those Adventures of Tom Bombadil? He was also left out.

But why? What justifies such major removals? Is it as simple as overlong running time? After all, Jackson's LotR was three long films and special editions. Pacing is a better argument, but Tolkien left them in. And rightly so I think. To my mind the Scouring and Tom Bombadil are more or less the heart of it all.

Bombadil especially. Have a read of this overview if you haven't seen the arguments.

If so, maybe that's why both were cut, as supposedly unfit for a 21st-century audience.

What could that mean? There's plenty at this post from earlier today, on zombies too.

Tolkien once wrote: "I do not expect 'history' to be anything but a 'long defeat'", and we have Galadriel verbalise the thinking in the fiction, or rather in the generally recognised fiction: "together through the ages of the world we have fought the long defeat." Really?

Why all the gloom? My reading of Bombadil suggests Tolkien did see, maybe even see, past. As he wrote of Bombadil: "he represents something that I feel important, though I would not be prepared to analyse the feeling precisely." As his Goldberry says: "He is."

Look at the feel for landscape Tolkien has, in fine distinctions. He sees the wood for the trees, and surely saw the cycles, the flow of atoms. It may be that if we spend too much time worldbuilding, a demiurge of sorts, we see a little further than the paradigm, even if we have to use the language of that paradigm to communicate this and to understand it.

If Spinoza was a bee, what is Tolkien? And what are we? Who's your Bombadil? We get to choose, and happily Jackson has given us space to do that so far, although if he has Stephen Colbert playing him (we don't know yet), it may go from one extreme to another.

So which Bombadil are you making, know it or not, as Tolkien's long defeat rumbles on?


John Till said...

Thank you for the Spinoza poem. I needed that today.

Joe TwoCrows said...

Yep, the poem reminded me of a favorite Tom reference, more than slightly irreverent, and wholly within character:
Tim, Tim, Benzedrine!
Hash! Boo! Valvoline!
Clean! Clean! Clean for Gene!
First, second, neutral, park,
Hie thee hence you leafy narc!

(From Bored of the Rings, 1969, The Harvard Lampoon).

Jedediah said...

Whenever I'm tempted to treat the three LotR-movies as something with more than a slight connection to the actual book, I stick my fingers in my ears and hum real loud.

I love the book and I love (for the most part) the movies, but I keep them well apart, it's better for my mental health. So I'm not particularly bothered about any cuts to the book for the movie version.

Call me weird, but I'd love to see Tom Hardy or a young Derek Jacobi in that role if I could chose.

Porky said...

Judging by the traffic this post is getting, and the rhyme and thoughts, Tolkien is something many of us have ideas about, in whatever way.

I've also managed so far to keep the books and films very separate, and based on the clips I've seen of the latest release, Tolkien's own The Hobbit is in no real danger either.

As for the poem linked to in the post, there's real beauty and insight in the best of the work of that time and place, and contrast with the horrors.