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it's not in Tolkien

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  • David Bratman
    Mike Foster gave a good reply when asked how he, as a teacher of Tolkien studies, responds when student papers include facts that are only true of the Jackson
    Message 1 of 84 , May 5, 2007
      Mike Foster gave a good reply when asked how he, as a teacher of Tolkien
      studies, responds when student papers include facts that are only true of
      the Jackson films and not of the book. He tells them, "This came from the
      movie you saw, not from the book you were supposed to read."

      It's about time to start keeping track of so-called Tolkien scholars who do
      the same thing. It's especially egregious when they're writing just about
      Tolkien, but those who are comparing Tolkien and Jackson have a particular
      obligation to keep track of which one said what.

      I found an article as early as 2003 that quoted from Jackson's Saruman and
      attributed it to Tolkien (see _Tolkien on Film_ p. 41), but by this point
      we might as well begin classifying the prominent confusions.

      The most common seems to be the identification of Aragorn as a reluctant
      hero. Jackson's is; Tolkien's isn't. I was particularly amused by the
      National Geographic "Behind the Movie" documentary narrated by John
      Rhys-Davies, who intoned "Aragorn's reluctance is surprising," as indeed it
      is to anyone who's read the book. Of course the documentary mixes the book
      and films indiscriminately and isn't scholarship at all, but that was too
      golden a moment of irony to miss.

      But I have another candidate for an equally widespread confusion, this one
      even more insidious because fewer people realize that applied to Tolkien
      it's an error. I've seen it several times now, and its latest appearance
      is the most appalling yet.

      In the new issue of _Mythlore_, the journal of the Mythopoeic Society -
      _Mythlore_, which really ought to know better - is an article by Allison
      Harl contrasting the use of the visual gaze of evil watchers in Tolkien and
      Jackson. FIrst she discusses "The Gaze in the Book" (p. 62-65), then "The
      Gaze in the Movies" (p. 65-69). OK, that's clear enough. But on p. 63,
      when she's still discussing the book, she writes, "In his disembodied
      state, Sauron is reduced to a single large, unblinking eye".

      No, no, no! This came from the movie you saw, Ms. Harl, not from the book
      you were supposed to read.

      Did anyone, before Jackson, ever mistake the phrase "The Eye of Sauron" for
      meaning that Sauron was physically a disembodied lump of vitreous matter?
      I can't recall that they did, but they do it all the time now. Applied to
      the book, it's a mistake. (And apparently it was Jackson's mistake: this
      isn't a change he made deliberately but his sloppy misreading of the book;
      see _Tolkien on Film_ p. 31). "The Eye of Sauron" is a synecdoche; "of"
      here means "belonging to." In the book, Gollum twice refers to Sauron as
      "The Black Hand", and that doesn't even have "of" in it - does anyone
      reading that imagine Sauron as Thing from the Addams Family movies, a
      disembodied hand running around on its fingers?

      When would Sauron have been reduced to eyehood anyway? His body was
      destroyed in the wreck of Numenor, but as an Ainu he constructed a new one
      and wore the Ring on his finger. We see Jackson's version of that body in
      its armor in the prologue scene, wielding its +10 Mace of Power. Isildur
      cuts the ring finger off and takes the Ring, but he doesn't have the
      capacity to destroy the body. "He has only four [fingers] on the Black
      Hand, but they are enough," says Tolkien's Gollum, and one wonders if he'd
      seen that hand personally.

      To my mind, the vague, undepicted image of Sauron crouched over his
      palantir, peering into it, sending his gaze out in the form of his Eye even
      to such safe havens as Galadriel's Mirror, is evocative and terrifying.
      But Sauron the physically helpless - no hands, no legs, no mouth [did
      anyone imagine that the guy who calls himself "The Mouth of Sauron" meant
      anything other than the Mouthpiece of Sauron? That he was literally his
      mouth and that his boss couldn't speak?] - a big lump of vitreous humor
      stuck up there at the top of Barad-dur, is comic, ridiculous, absurd. That
      big comic double-take it takes when it realizes it's been fooled - it's one
      of the silliest things in the movie.

      And there are people out there who actually think this is Tolkien's idea?
      Shame, shame. Let Jackson be Jackson, but let Tolkien be Tolkien. Shame
      for writing it, shame for publishing it.

      - David Bratman
    • William Cloud Hicklin
      ... which a man from our present day ... hamburger. The futurians ... German city of Hamburg. Were you ... Kennedy being a jelly doughnut? ... LOL!
      Message 84 of 84 , May 25, 2007
        --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, David Emerson
        <emerdavid@...> wrote:
        > >There was once a science-fiction story in
        which a man from our present day
        > >wakes up in the distant future and asks for a
        hamburger. The futurians
        > >reply, "A hamburger is a citizen of the
        German city of Hamburg. Were you
        > >cannibals in those days?"
        > Does this have something to do with John F.
        Kennedy being a jelly doughnut?
        > emerdavid

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