Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tolkien Females

While on vacation on Prince Edward Island this summer I reread J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit again.  This is my third time reading it.  I mainly wanted to read it again in preparation of the new Peter Jackson adaptation coming out this December. When a film is made of one of my favorite books, I feel both excitement and trepidation. I am glad that Peter Jackson is doing it because he did such a great job with The Lord of the Rings, but I don't like what happens after you see one of your favorite books in movie form. The images from the film take over the images you have in your head from the book. For example, whenever anyone mentions John Irving's The World According to Garp, I cannot help but think of Robin Williams from the George Roy Hill film of the same name. I prefer to keep my image of the characters rather than have the tyrannical Hollywood images taking over. After seeing a film it seems the intimate relationship between reader and writer is disturbed.  It is for this reason that I sometimes don't see the film versions of my favorite books. I still haven't seen Johnathon Demme's version of Toni Morrison's Beloved. I have no interest in having the image of the main character Sethe being overtaken by Oprah Winfrey.

Regardless, with Peter Jackson doing The Lord of the Rings, I really couldn't have missed it. He did an amazing job. The thing I am most impressed with is how much of the book made it into the film.  I noticed two major parts of the trilogy that didn't make it into the film. There are a lot more, I am impressed with this website that compares the book and film scene by scene. The first major difference I noticed in the first book when the character, Tom Bombadil, was completely written out of the story. For this, I am grateful.  This is probably the worst part of The Fellowship of the Ring.  Peter Jackson says he removed the character because Tom doesn't little to advance the plot, which I agree with, and he wanted to make room for Gandalf's capture by Saruman.  The second thing, I notice is a good part of Book 6 in The Return of the King is not in the film. When Frodo returns home, he has to deal with the corruption and evil that have overtaken The Shire during his absence. I have read the entire trilogy twice and each time I get to this point in the book, I wish it had been cut out.  After read 2,000 or so pages about Middle Earth, I could care less about the Shire.

Basically, I agree with the changes that Jackson did with the book. He made it his own without taking too much license with it. I hope he does the same with The Hobbit, but unfortunately, I am already irritated with it after only seeing the trailer.  I notice one very interesting thing in my most recent reading of it. There are no female characters in this book. The Lord of the Rings had very few, but at least had some.  Only three female characters are referred to in the entire book but are not actually in it.  Bilbo's mother, Beladonna Took, is mentioned, Kili and Fili's mother is mentioned yet not named and the unnamed wife of Girion of the Dale is also mentioned.  I also believe the narrator mentions "women and children" running for their lives when Smaug the Dragon is destroying Laketown.  So why, oh why, is Cate Blanchett in the trailer?  She played Galadriel the elf, in The Lord of the Rings but what is she doing in The Hobbit? Don't get me wrong, she is great actress, but this film should have no main female characters. This is a very short novel, written for kids. Specifically, Tolkien wrote it for his son. They are making this into a two part film.  Does this really constitute two films? So I get it, he's going to add a bunch of stuff so that he can get another $8.00 out of me. If I walk out of the first film and Smaug isn't dead, I am going to be pissed ... (deep sigh ... breath Mark, count to ten).  

Why are there so few female characters in Tolkien's books?  Some believe (like Jerry Seinfeld) he just didn't feel comfortable writing female characters.  He had little exposure to women.  He had one sibling, a little brother. His mother died when he was twelve.  After her death, he was brought up by a catholic priest.  He went to all boys' schools, served in the military during World War I and then was an academic.  Other than his wife Edith, he had very little exposure to women.  

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