Tolkien, His Work and Our World Today

An Essay By Aisling // 5/19/2003

A number of thoughts have been running through my mind of late, on the subject of J. R. R. Tolkien in relationship to the recent films put out, based upon the first and second books of his trilogy. I would be apt to suppose the dear man in a most wearying state of despondency if I did not believe him to be in Heaven by now. If he is, it is a wondrous mercy, and if not, alas! I pray he shall be there shortly. One can hardly suppose him to be rejoicing at the moment, in consideration of the two recent films. At least I, for one, cannot. Hence I take a moment to clarify my own thoughts to myself, and wonder ‘why?’.

I am fully aware of the fact that there are many people, of my small acquaintance alone, even, that are well pleased with the films, and my design is not to condemn, criticize, or even contradict them, in any way.
I will begin what you might call my ’essay’ by giving my opinion, in brief, on the two films. Of the first I have the ability to speak as one who has seen it, and so been free to form absolutely my own opinion.
It was poorly done.
I was disappointed with Peter Jackson- nay, perhaps more so at the two women who wrote the script, for straying so far, so frequently, and so seemingly unnecessarily, from the story line. I think the cast, in general, was fairly good, however, as far as looks are concerned. I think the greatest, and most fittingly cast characters are Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, and Saruman. Despite my conclusion that the film in general was disappointing, I was greatly impressed by Boromir’s death scene, which, being at the end of the movie, gave one a general feeling of it being well done, until one’s thoughts moved back to the movie’s beginning and considered it from there.
Speaking of the second, however, I have not very good ground as I have not seen even a small part of it. From my father’s account of it, which I have heard extensively and trust entirely, I am easily able to conclude my own opinion. It was badly, unfairly, even cruelly done. One justification or reason for my opinion is the fact that Jackson, along with his whole crew, deliberately left the spirit, flow and plot of the book, only to add, to their film, something utterly unnecessary, unfitting, and crude, in my opinion. I will not go into further particulars, as I cannot easily do so, having not seen the film myself.
Going back to my question of, ‘Why can I not suppose Tolkien to be rejoicing at the films?’ I will continue, with the hope that I have not appeared to voluntarily give offense to any of my fellow Tolkien followers by expressing my view on the two films.

When someone writes anything, a certain part of themselves will be breathed into their work, whether they mean it to be or no. Whatever we do will always reflect who we are. Whatever we make will always be uniquely affected by ourselves. This can be a negative thing, in some cases, but it is more often positive than negative when writing is concerned- or at least that is to be hoped. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is filled to overflowing with Tolkien’s spirit. So much of himself he unconsciously intertwined into the story, and so much of it was intertwined into his life! You do not have to know Tolkien well, or be deeply acquainted with his life to know that God was more than half of it. He was an ardent Roman Catholic to his death, and he lived the faith with every moment of his life, every movement of his pen. To have Tolkien’s spirit in The Lord of the Rings means to have God’s spirit there. Tolkien himself says, “The Lord of the Rings is a decidedly Catholic work. Unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.” (Or something very near to that. I wrote the statement down out of my memory). No one can deny what Tolkien meant the books to be. I believe no one can any more easily deny that the films are, for the most part, not what Tolkien intended the books to be.
It seems to me that Peter Jackson, and also, (even more so than himself), the two women who wrote the script, took the books, cast out from it all of what was uniquely, and especially Tolkien, and added their own spirits in place of his. So that they used what Tolkien has written, and made it what they have produced. Bereft of its author’s spirit, breath, and life, The Lord of the Rings can no longer much resemble its true, original form; hence it shall be but words, poor, material things. Just as we, bereft of our Author’s spirit, breath and life, should be nothing but clay, a natural, material substance with no supernatural, spiritual essence.

I have seen ever so many films based upon books in the course of my life, all of which have been- at one point or another- at least disappointing. But I can honestly say none has had such a deeply felt, negative impact upon me as have Peter Jackson’s films. I feel the reasons must be, 1) I have never thought and conversed so extensively on any other film as I have on these, 2) I have never loved any other author so much as I do Tolkien, 3) I have never read another book so good as J. R. R. Tolkien’s trilogy, and 4) I have never seen another movie which so wholly alters the book it is based upon as does, at least, the second of Jackson’s films. I cannot help but wonder how he shall contrive to reconcile his wild fancy and bring everything together in the third movie.
The answer, then, to my ‘why?’ is most assuredly that the movie is bereft of Tolkien, and filled with its producers.

I returned home last week Tuesday from a two-week trip to Petaluma, California to assist my aunt with the care of my cousins, and her house, while she recovered from surgery. At mass, there, I saw a boy who was wearing a very vexing T-shirt. That is, I was very much disturbed, even enraged by it. On the shirt the logo for the company ‘Big Dog’, (a big white dog with spots), was wearing a hat and tunic identical to that of Gandalf’s in the movie. The T-shirt read: ‘The Lord of the Dogs’. Something about it seemed so disrespectful, so detestable, so horrid, it quite upset me. I was infuriated with the company for making it, with whoever it was for buying it, and with the boy for wearing it. I admit that looking back it seems a slight overreaction, but I cannot write it in any way to properly portray the utter betrayal and misuse of Tolkien’s resplendent work I felt it expressed.
My whole heart went out to him, when I imagined what I should feel if I had written something even half so good, and saw it so caught up and carried away in the most horrid manner by the world. For a while I was wound up in distress, and resentment. I suppose my conclusion must be that the films were, for me, even more disappointing as there was such a potential to do so much good by making it accurate, true, and worthy of the title of The Fellowship of the Ring, and The Two Towers. Now, when our world is so in need of a light to penetrate the darkness, especially in Hollywood, a wondrous film of J. R. R. Tolkien’s trilogy had such a potential to be a promising flame.
However J. R. R. Tolkien, like all worthy authors, did not write for the esteem, the appreciation, or the fame of the world. He wrote because he knew God wanted him to. He wrote because he knew there was a chance that one, small, insignificant person might read what he had written and be the better for it, and that one, small, insignificant person was significant enough, was worth the effort.

Comments

Hmm

I realize you wrote this four years ago but i felt like i should comment it. Being a lover of everything by J.R.R. Tolkien and especially The Lord Of The Rings trilogy when i saw the title of this i had to read it. While i have to say that the books are way better than the movies i did like the movies. It always makes me really mad when movies are made from books that I absolutely love and then nothing like the book. For some reason, although The Lord Of The Rings movies did tend to stray a bit from the books, it didn't bother me so much. And it isn't like i have hardly read the books, on the contrary i have read all three books a good five or six times and i've started reading The Fellowship Of The Ring again. I agree that they did a good job with the characters, at least most, especially the ones you mentioned, but i have to pretty nearly whole heartedly disagree with you on just about everything else. I'm afriad i don't have much of an argument against it but i can say i really like the movies. I actually just watched them again the other day. I do kind of wonder whether J.R.R. Tolkien woulnd't have liked the movies being made, especially when it lost so muich of his spirit in the making. But i think deep down if you sudy the films you can still find the original allagory there.
I really can't believe you wrote this when you were fourteen. Even in sharing your oppinion you are a great writer and even so many years ago! I guess some people just know how to write :)

Tamerah | Thu, 07/19/2007