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Re: Faithfulness to Tolkien (was Re: [mythsoc] Re: My own RotK review)

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  • Carl F. Hostetter
    ... A film-maker would have just as much of an option to fill in the blanks as a reader does, in places where Tolkien provides no description in the book. So
    Message 1 of 23 , Jan 2, 2004
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      On Jan 2, 2004, at 10:13 PM, David Bratman wrote:

      > An author is free to be vague or incomplete in physical descriptions
      > of persons, places, and things; a film-maker doesn't have that option.

      A film-maker would have just as much of an option to "fill in the
      blanks" as a reader does, in places where Tolkien provides no
      description in the book. So again, I fail to see how one could possibly
      need information not in the book in order to be faithful to the book.

      > It was his script that sucked.

      Boy howdy.
    • David Bratman
      ... That s why I wrote, additional source material may help one be faithful, not strictly to the book, but to the author s intent in writing the book. Forget
      Message 2 of 23 , Jan 2, 2004
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        At 10:50 PM 1/2/2004 -0500, Carl F. Hostetter wrote:
        >
        >On Jan 2, 2004, at 10:13 PM, David Bratman wrote:
        >
        >> An author is free to be vague or incomplete in physical descriptions
        >> of persons, places, and things; a film-maker doesn't have that option.
        >
        >A film-maker would have just as much of an option to "fill in the
        >blanks" as a reader does, in places where Tolkien provides no
        >description in the book. So again, I fail to see how one could possibly
        >need information not in the book in order to be faithful to the book.

        That's why I wrote, "additional source material may help one be faithful,
        not strictly to the book, but to the author's intent in writing the book."
        Forget about films: as a reader I'm grateful for any additional information
        I can get that will help me fill in the blanks in a way consistent with the
        author's intent. And Tolkien thought so too, or else he wouldn't have
        written all those letters explaining things.

        Just as one example, many fantasy writers who don't include pronunciation
        guides in their novels often wish they had. There is in fact nothing in
        the text of LOTR, though there is in the appendices (whether those are part
        of LOTR or not depends on definition and circumstance) to instruct you to
        say "Keleborn" instead of "Seleborn". And many people who haven't read the
        appendices, or haven't read them closely enough, do say it with an S. But
        no matter how independent the pronunciation guide is from the story, that
        doesn't make it equally OK to say it with an S.

        - David Bratman
      • Michael Martinez
        ... Tolkien wasn t making movies. Quite a few of the questions I was asked could have easily been answered by looking at details provided only in THE LETTERS
        Message 3 of 23 , Jan 4, 2004
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          --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, Carl F. Hostetter <Aelfwine@e...>
          wrote:
          >
          > On Dec 30, 2003, at 10:00 AM, Michael Martinez wrote:
          >
          > > I never expected the movies to be faithful to the book. I have
          > > long maintained that Peter wasn't legally able to be completely
          > > faithful to Tolkien because he would have had to use material
          > > from many other books to be so.
          >
          > I've been thinking about this statement for days, and even with
          > Michael's further explanation it still boggles my mind. If
          > _Tolkien_ could be faithful to Tolkien using only the material
          > he put into his book -- and how else is faithfulness to be
          > measured? -- then how can it be that one could possibly need
          > material not in the book to be faithful to it?

          Tolkien wasn't making movies.

          Quite a few of the questions I was asked could have easily been
          answered by looking at details provided only in THE LETTERS OF J.R.R.
          TOLKIEN. Some of the questions could have been better answered by
          looking at THE HISTORY OF MIDDLE-EARTH.

          For example, at one point, they wanted to know how the Elves would
          have rendered numbers. The only example I could find was in
          Aragorn's letter to Samwise. Oops. Can't use it.

          On another occasion, I mentioned the three page replicas Tolkien made
          for the Book of Mazarbul. Oops! Can't use them.

          Could they have been more faithful to Tolkien's descriptions in THE
          LORD OF THE RINGS? Sure. When I first saw a picture of Bree, I was
          disappointed and told them so. I said, "This looks medieval. Why?
          Tolkien's description of Bree is detailed enough to show that this
          concept is wrong." I received a nice reply and some reassurance that
          it would look cool at night in the rain (and I thought it did). But
          it still wasn't Tolkien's Bree, or really anything like his Bree.

          Still, how many people would know the difference? How many people
          here, for instance, know what material was used to construct Bree's
          houses (without checking the book)? And the Prancing Pony layout was
          done wrong, too. And Hobbiton was done wrong. And...and...

          Sure, I can nit-pick them to death in terms of their lack of
          faithfulness to Tolkien's detail, but there were also many points
          where they had to make up stuff. For example, what does a Middle-
          earth cart look like? I have no idea. But Peter wanted to have
          Gandalf come rumbling down the road in a cart for Bilbo's birthday
          party.

          What did the glowing lamps of the Elves look like? No idea. Tolkien
          never really described them, except for one brief mention in a
          Feanoric essay. Too brief to be of use, in my opinion, but there
          were plenty of cool Elvish lamps in the first two movies.

          What material was Gandalf's robe/cloak made of? How was it woven?
          Who made it? How expensive and tattered did it look?

          What did the tomb of the Gondorian kings look like? No idea. It
          was "Gondorian", whatever that means.

          How many branches should the White Tree have had? No idea.

          How high is the wall of Minas Tirith? No idea. (Of course, they got
          the color wrong anyway, but none of the Tolkien purists seem to have
          cared about so small a detail.)

          How do Elves dress? No idea, really.

          What does a Hobbit tea-kettle look like? No idea. I would assume
          something like a modern tea-kettle, if for no other reason than that
          I regard it as one of Tolkien's cute anacronisms (and if I recall
          correctly, someone on this list complained that they INCLUDED a tea-
          kettle in "The Fellowship of the Ring").

          Where was Bilbo's garden? No idea.

          So, when it comes to VISUALIZING Tolkien's Middle-earth, I think
          Peter deserves a little slack on the details, even if he DID put
          plate-armor on the soldiers of Gondor and make the whole thing look
          medieval. It was still HIS movie (or set of movies) to make. It's
          not like Tolkien attached explicit instructions on what to do/not to
          do when he sold the movie rights.

          He may have wanted Art, but in the end he opted for Cash.
        • Carl F. Hostetter
          ... First, this sort of thing is not at all what I consider important in terms of faithfulness to Tolkien or the book. The new reader of Tolkien s novel knows
          Message 4 of 23 , Jan 4, 2004
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            On Jan 4, 2004, at 8:46 PM, Michael Martinez wrote:

            > For example, at one point, they wanted to know how the Elves would
            > have rendered numbers. The only example I could find was in Aragorn's
            > letter to Samwise. Oops. Can't use it.

            First, this sort of thing is not at all what I consider important in
            terms of faithfulness to Tolkien or the book. The new reader of
            Tolkien's novel knows no more than what Tolkien put into the book; a
            filmmaker needs no more than what Tolkien put into the book to be
            faithful to it. The sort of faithfulness that concerns me, and that
            Jackson and Boyens had no concern for (or, perhaps, awareness of)
            whatsoever, can be gleaned from my movie review of earlier today.

            Second, if this sort of reasoning were of any concern to the
            filmmakers, they have violated their legal limits repeatedly: for
            example, most of the pseudo-Sindarin dialogue fabricated for the movie
            utilizes information found only in the _Etymologies_, which was
            published in _The Lost Road_. Apparently, the filmmakers had no qualms
            with using such unlicensed sources.
          • Michael Martinez
            ... I would regard it as extremely important to being faithful to TOLKIEN. In fact, when they asked me how I thought they should render the signs, I suggested
            Message 5 of 23 , Jan 4, 2004
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              --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, Carl F. Hostetter <Aelfwine@e...>
              wrote:
              >
              > On Jan 4, 2004, at 8:46 PM, Michael Martinez wrote:
              >
              > > For example, at one point, they wanted to know how the Elves
              > > would have rendered numbers. The only example I could find was
              > > in Aragorn's letter to Samwise. Oops. Can't use it.
              >
              > First, this sort of thing is not at all what I consider important
              > in terms of faithfulness to Tolkien or the book...

              I would regard it as extremely important to being faithful to
              TOLKIEN. In fact, when they asked me how I thought they should
              render the signs, I suggested they use Tengwar or Cirth as seemed
              appropriate, and then fade to English translations (as was common in
              movies in the 1940s). They instead opted for that cutesy-looking
              English-Tengwar blend which elicited many comments two years ago (in
              particular, I recall many people asking why the Tehtar were necessary
              for an "a").

              > ...The new reader of Tolkien's novel knows no more than what
              > Tolkien put into the book;

              [snip]

              Which is all the more reason why one SHOULD be faithful to the
              author's vision. Millions of people did not read the book (or return
              to finish reading it) until after they saw the movies. The movies
              had a tremendous impact upon the visualizations new readers have
              formed.

              Being faithful to the smallest details could have enhanced the new
              reader's experience tremendously. Instead, it has forever created a
              rift between those who read the books first (and thus formed their
              own visualizations) and those who read the books second.

              Now, it can reasonably be said that any such rift would have been
              inevitable, and that is true. Millions of readers argue about the
              details of Tolkien's vision all the time. Nonetheless, the imagery
              provided by the movies is riveting and will stay with people for a
              very long time.

              Instead of seeing Middle-earth caressed by Tengwar, cradled by Cirth,
              they see it draped with "Happy Birthday Bilbo".

              I have spent way too much time arguing with self-proclaimed Tolkien
              purists who haven't bothered to read the books in ten years. And in
              my old adage, I have come to regret speaking out so harshly about
              David Day's books, not because I have changed my mind about their
              valuelessness, but because every time I open my mouth, I spoil a
              treasured experience for someone.

              Now I find myself in the bizarre position of liking/disliking the
              movies and having to defend/criticize them at the same time. I am a
              man of two minds, but I am (unlike those who have seen the movies
              first and not yet read the books) cursed by the knowledge of just how
              different Peter's Middle-earth really is from Tolkien's.

              There are insensibilities which the general Tolkien community has yet
              to dwell upon (and perhaps would be better off never recognizing).

              > Second, if this sort of reasoning were of any concern to the
              > filmmakers, they have violated their legal limits repeatedly: for
              > example, most of the pseudo-Sindarin dialogue fabricated for the
              > movie utilizes information found only in the _Etymologies_, which
              > was published in _The Lost Road_. Apparently, the filmmakers had
              > no qualms with using such unlicensed sources.

              Ah, but all they did was hire a Tolkien linguist to fabricate
              dialogue for them. If they knew Sindarin to begin with, they
              wouldn't have had to turn elsewhere for help, would they?

              Perhaps they were only blowing me off politely and intended to pick
              and choose among the details as they saw fit.

              In which case, I am grateful they did not rob Morton Grady
              Zimmerman's script.
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