RE: [mythsoc] it's not in Tolkien
- I'm working up a reply, but off the record, this is one of the papers
Ted accepted, so I had to publish it. "Disembodied state" was probably
not the best phrase to use, but I skimmed over it because I was pretty
sure what she meant - but I'll explain further on record.
(In fact I just heard from Joe Christopher that Ted accepted two papers
from him that I have no record of - so there may be more out there. If
you think you have anything pending with Mythlore, let me know - I don't
have anything from you in my "under consideration" file.)
Janet Brennan Croft
Head of Access Services
University of Oklahoma Libraries
Norman OK 73019
Editor of Mythlore http://www.mythsoc.org/mythlore.html
Editor of Oklahoma Librarian
"There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free
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From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf
Of David Bratman
Sent: Saturday, May 05, 2007 9:24 AM
Subject: [mythsoc] it's not in Tolkien
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
the Jackson films and not of the book. He tells them, "This came from
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
the same thing. It's especially egregious when they're writing just
Tolkien, but those who are comparing Tolkien and Jackson have a
obligation to keep track of which one said what.
I found an article as early as 2003 that quoted from Jackson's Saruman
attributed it to Tolkien (see _Tolkien on Film_ p. 41), but by this
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
is to anyone who's read the book. Of course the documentary mixes the
and films indiscriminately and isn't scholarship at all, but that was
golden a moment of irony to miss.
But I have another candidate for an equally widespread confusion, this
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
Jackson. FIrst she discusses "The Gaze in the Book" (p. 62-65), then
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
you were supposed to read.
Did anyone, before Jackson, ever mistake the phrase "The Eye of Sauron"
meaning that Sauron was physically a disembodied lump of vitreous
I can't recall that they did, but they do it all the time now. Applied
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
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
and wore the Ring on his finger. We see Jackson's version of that body
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
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
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"
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.
big comic double-take it takes when it realizes it's been fooled - it's
of the silliest things in the movie.
And there are people out there who actually think this is Tolkien's
Shame, shame. Let Jackson be Jackson, but let Tolkien be Tolkien. Shame
for writing it, shame for publishing it.
- David Bratman
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, David Emerson
>which a man from our present day
> >There was once a science-fiction story in
> >wakes up in the distant future and asks for ahamburger. The futurians
> >reply, "A hamburger is a citizen of theGerman city of Hamburg. Were you
> >cannibals in those days?"Kennedy being a jelly doughnut?
> Does this have something to do with John F.