monthly fandom

Eagles: Plot Hole or Plan?

One of the most common criticisms of the story in Lord of the Rings is as follows: “Why didn’t Gandalf and Frodo just fly the Eagles to Mordor?”

People who enjoy finding plot holes in books and movies like to point out that walking to Mordor was the most arduous, least practical way to get the Ring destroyed. (As Boromir pointed out, “one does not simply walk into Mordor.”) And Middle Earth has these convenient, huge flying creatures who are strong enough to carry a man for a long distance and happen to be friends with Gandalf. Why spend months getting pursued by evil minions, wearing out your hobbit feet and running out of supplies, when you could just call up the Eagles?

This seemingly obvious solution  to all the Fellowship’s problems has produced some amusing parodies, like this one from HISHE:

But in fact, as everyone who has read the books and Tolkien’s other works knows, the Eagles are not great big flying plot holes. Tolkien hated plot holes more than most fantasy writers, which is why it took him so long to write The Lord of the Rings in the first place. He worked over every single detail until it was just right, and the Eagles were far from an oversight. Here’s my take on why.

First of all, let’s get one thing straight. Riding the Eagles to Mordor would not have solved all of Frodo’s problems. It would still have taken a few days, at least, for the Eagles to get there from Rivendell, and they aren’t the only flying creatures in Middle Earth. The Nazgul would still be a threat. Remember, “wraiths with wings!” And once Frodo got to Mount Doom, he would still have the whole “letting go of the Ring” issue to deal with. Remember, only two people in the Ring’s history have given it up willingly, and it was a struggle for both of them, even with the help of Gandalf and hobbit-sense. One does not simply drop the Ring into Mount Doom.

Now let’s get a second thing straight: only people who saw the Lord of the Rings movies first think of the Eagles as a plot hole. That’s because the movies portray them basically as Gandalf’s pets. They come when he calls, they do whatever he needs them to do without hesitation, and they don’t even talk back.

Tolkien’s original portrayal of the Eagles is quite different. For one thing, they’re intelligent, not trained animals. They talk, and they even have their own society and leadership. They’re also consistently described (in The Hobbit) as “wild” creatures. They don’t answer to anyone except themselves. Gandalf actually asked, during Bilbo’s first encounter with the Eagles, whether they could fly him and the Dwarves over to the Lonely Mountain, and they said no! 

“The Lord of the Eagles would not take them anywhere near where men lived. ‘They would shoot at us with their great bows of yew,’ he said, ‘for they would think we were after their sheep. And at other times they would be right.'”

See? They’re just regular birds, not Southwest Airlines. One does not simply buy a ticket to ride an Eagle.

Of course, later in that book, the Eagles do swoop in to become the fifth contender in the Battle of the Five Armies, but that’s more because of their hatred for the Goblins than their love for any of the other armies. And they do become good friends with Gandalf, which is why Gwaihir, the Lord of the Eagles, is so willing to help him in The Lord of the Rings (though incidentally, Radagast and Galadriel, respectively, were the ones who asked for his help both times he came to the rescue, not Gandalf himself).

The Eagles show up in The Silmarillion and other writings, too, and they’re always unpredictable. No one ever expects them to show up, and no one asks for their help unless they’re already friends. They only come to the rescue when someone is in their most desperate need, and being threatened by something very evil. The Eagles don’t like Goblins or Balrogs or any creature of darkness, and they will fight them in a crisis (and they usually win). But the rest of the time, they steal sheep from farmers and mind their own business.

I actually think Tolkien was trying to do something very profound with the Eagles. They’re the personification of what he called the “eucatastrophe,” the unexpected happy ending brought about by something far beyond the heroes’ efforts. You could even look at them as a symbol of divine intervention–the unexpected grace that saves people when they seem to be far beyond saving.

However you look at the Eagles, they’re definitely much more than a feathery mode of transportation. Suggesting that the Fellowship ride them to Mordor is a bit cheap when you think about it. I’m pretty sure Gwaihir would be offended. And one does not simply offend the Lord of the Eagles.

And finally–The Lord of the Rings is a novel. It’s supposed to be entertaining. How boring would it be if Frodo had just hopped on an Eagle’s back and dropped the Ring in the Cracks of Doom? I can tell you one thing–they never would have made a movie out of it.

Namarie,
Aldy

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monthly fandom

Happy Hobbit Day!

It’s September 22! One of the best days of the year!

Not only is today the first official day of autumn, it’s also the birthday of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins! As such, it is known as “Hobbit Day” among LOTR fans, and is generally considered the perfect occasion to listen to the Lord of the Rings movie soundtracks, drink a pint or two, and eat multiple hobbit-friendly meals (for ideas on how to do this, see my previous post).

In honour of the day, here is an excellent poem by Bilbo Baggins himself:

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.
 
Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.

Have a splendid Hobbit Day, and don’t forget to read some Tolkien!

Namarie!
-Aldy

 
 
 
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Adaptation Awfulness: The Hobbit

The Hobbit was my first introduction to J.R.R. Tolkien, as I think it was for many fans. A friend gave the book to me for my ninth birthday, and I have since worn that copy to tatters by reading it I-don’t-know-how-many times. It’s a funny, exciting, beautiful book, and a great entry point into the awesomeness of Middle Earth.

So ever since The Return of the King came out on DVD, I’ve longed for a Hobbit movie (the cheesy cartoon didn’t count). I was thrilled when I learned that Peter Jackson was finally making one. I wasn’t even too worried when I found out he was making it into a trilogy (despite the fact that The Hobbit is, at most, only a third of The Lord of the Rings‘s length). He did such a great job with the original trilogy, this one would surely be amazing too! Right?

Wrong.

Two Hobbit movies have now been released, with another one approaching all too soon, and I officially do not trust Peter Jackson anymore. I won’t list all the reasons why, since that would make this post too lengthy, but I will list the three things that made me cringe the most during those movies.

Disclaimer:

Let me be fair here. I don’t hate everything about the Hobbit movies. The first one didn’t even make me feel betrayed, until the ridiculously long slow-motion White Orc battle at the end. Martin Freeman is stupendous as Bilbo. He was born for the role. I love him to bits. And Benedict Cumberbatch voicing Smaug? Perfection. The Riddles in the Dark scene in the first movie was worth the price of admission all by itself, which is good, since I paid extra to go to the midnight showing. So, there. Those are the things I liked.

Back to the things that made me cringe:

1. I feel like I’m watching a video game. One of the many great things about The Lord of the Rings trilogy was the gritty realism of its cinematography. With the exception of a few obvious CGI moments, everything looked like it could be happening on a live news feed, even the huge battles, whose epicness has never been surpassed. The people and the monsters and the setting all look so real, it’s as close as any of us will ever get to visiting Middle Earth ourselves. But both Hobbit movies, thanks partly to old Pete’s decision to film them in 3D at 48 frames per second, look like video-game quality cartoons. EVERYTHING is CGI, and even the live actors are so heavily made-up that they almost look animated. And it doesn’t help that most of the uber-long, uber-unnecessary action scenes look like they came straight out of Mario Kart (falling wooden bridges, physics-defying barrels, etc.). This is NOT how Middle Earth was meant to look!

She should have stuck with him. At least they have equally fabulous hair.

2. I feel like I’m watching a bad fanfic. This applies only to the second movie. I was trying really hard to like The Desolation of Smaug…until the elf-dwarf romance happened. After that, I spent the rest of the movie trying to decide whether to laugh or cry. I understand Pete’s desire to add a female character, I do. It’s rough to have a whole movie trilogy completely devoid of ladies. I could even forgive him for wanting Legolas to have a love interest (which is what I assumed Tauriel was at first). But to make her Kili‘s love interest?? And then create a weird, super-awkward love triangle between him and Legolas??? I’m sorry, that’s the kind of absurdity I would expect a 13-year-0ld girl to post on her Tumblr page. I don’t care how hot the movie version of Kili is–dwarves do not carry on with elves. They are VERY different species–way more different from each other than elves and men. I’m pretty sure it’s a biological impossibility. *shudders at every implication*

Healing your interspecies love interest with athelas and glowing light. What does THIS remind you of?

3. I feel like I’m watching a bad Lord of the Rings remake. I think it’s pretty clear by now that The Hobbit does not contain enough material to fill three three-hour movies. So, to fill up space, the first two movies borrowed material from the original trilogy. They said it was from The Silmarillion, but it’s really all just a rehash of certain scenes in the old movies. For example: the Evil White Orc is to the first movie what the Black Riders were to The Fellowship of the Ring. He even gets the exact same theme music in his fight with Thorin at the end. Sure, he’s named after the goblin Azog from The Silmarillion, but that guy died centuries before the time of The Hobbit, and the movie version is totally different. He’s just a stand-in for the creeping menace of the Ringwraiths (until he starts randomly showing up all over the place in the second movie, which is when he just becomes ridiculous). There are multiple examples in TDOS: the gratuitous opening scene at the Prancing Pony (wouldn’t Butterbeer’s grandfather have at least rearranged the furniture between then and TFOTR?), Esgaroth (basically Rohan on a lake–complete with short, black-clad evil adviser), and Gandalf’s captivity by the Necromancer (I’ll bet anyone fifty bucks he talks to a moth in the next movie). Need I go on? I mean, where the heck did all Pete’s originality go?

I will probably end up watching the final Hobbit movie, but I’m going to try and wait until it’s available at RedBox. I just can’t pay thirteen bucks to get my Tolkien fangirl’s heart ripped out again. Fortunately, I still have my worn-out copy of the book to read!

Okay, rant over. Namarie!

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Fandom of the Month: The Lord of the Rings

Well, folks, September is finally here, and that means it’s time to talk about the godfather of all fandoms!

As you may have gathered from the picture above my blog name, Middle Earth is my favourite fantastical place to visit. It became my first nerdy obsession when I read The Hobbit at age 9, and I haven’t looked back since. In my opinion, The Lord of the Rings is the greatest fantasy novel–if not the greatest novel, period–ever written. I’ll explain the reasons why in some future posts.

Oh yeah, and the movies are pretty good, too. 🙂

If you’re not familiar with The Lord of the Rings, shame on you. Go read it right now. But in case you live in a cave in Siberia and have no access to the book or movies, here’s the basic summary: The Lord of the Rings is a book by British writer and linguist J.R.R. Tolkien, which was published in three volumes back in the ’50s. It takes place in the ancient fantasy world of Middle Earth and tells the story of a small creature (hobbit) named Frodo who goes on a journey to defeat the Dark Lord Sauron by destroying the magic ring which is the source of his power. Of course, that’s a major oversimplification. The story is actually very complex and has dozens of main characters who travel to all kinds of scary and wonderful places. And The Lord of the Rings is only one small part of the huge mythology Tolkien created for Middle Earth, which can also be found in books like The HobbitThe Silmarillion and The Children of Hurin.

 

Peter Jackson directed a trilogy of movies based on The Lord of the Rings in the early 2000s, and he’s currently putting out a trilogy based (sort of) on The Hobbit. (More on that later.) The movies made Middle Earth a bigger part of popular culture than it was before, but the LOTR fandom had been around long before that. This has always been a pretty dignified, intelligent fandom, including lots of college professor and author types who like to write books and give lectures on their favourite stories. Which seems appropriate, since that’s the kind of guy Tolkien was. But that doesn’t mean LOTR fans don’t dress up, sword fight and drop movie quotes into casual conversations as often as the next nerd.

Even if you don’t love LOTR, you have to appreciate the impact it has had on nerd culture. J.R.R. Tolkien practically invented geeks as we know them today. Before him, fairy tales were for kids and sci-fi was mostly for the uneducated masses. Nobody really took speculative fiction seriously, and they certainly weren’t dressing up like their favourite H.G. Wells characters and going to conventions. But after LOTR was published, Elvish graffiti started appearing in subway tunnels and fans started dressing up for hobbit-themed picnics. Tolkien made it okay for adults to read fantasy, and not only read it, but make its imaginary world a part of their daily lives.

And that, kids, is how Harry Potter, Game of ThronesStar Wars and every other fantasy or sci-fi epic of the last fifty years came to be. I’m pretty sure you can also thank Tolkien for the existence of ComicCon. Respect the LOTR fandom!

And stay tuned! This month I’ll be posting fun Middle Earth facts, my favourite quotes, a few rants and raves about new developments in the fandom, and of course some recipes and costume ideas.

As the Elves would say, Namarie!

 

 

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