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Re: [mythsoc] Are Hobbits white?

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  • Troels Forchhammer
    I agree, it *is* an interesting question. Ideally, I would like that the adapters (regardless of what medium the adaptation is meant for) should be guided only
    Message 1 of 26 , Dec 8, 2010
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      I agree, it is an interesting question. 

      Ideally, I would like that the adapters (regardless of what medium the adaptation is meant for) should be guided only by their own artistic concerns. This means that I hold that they, ideally, should be unrestricted by such other concerns as finance (why be satisfied with making a lesser work even if it does earn a bit more money?), public opinion (I won't go as far as to say that art must provoke or offend, but it should certainly not shy back from doing so), or the author's assumptions (it is their adaptation of the original work, not the author's adaptation). 

      Regardless of what choices the adapters make, they are bound to alienate some people, and personally I would rather alienate others for doing what I believe is right rather than for trying to please some other group. When casting actors, cinematic (or stage) adapters should, in my opinion, use the extras that best fit their vision regardless of both ideas of political correctness and the author's assumptions. 

      Of course I am well aware that such an ideal is impossible for adaptations that require huge budgets, such as the Peter Jackson films (it is easier for a single painter who needs to find just one single person who'll buy the painting, or the fan illustrator who does it entirely for their own satisfaction), and so Jackson of course has to take into account how many people he can afford to alienate.  In the LotR films, Jackson chose to portray Aragorn with a stubble, which contradicts Tolkien's explicit statement (whereas Tolkien is less explicit concerning the skin-colour of the Hobbits), and I distinctly remember thinking that this was 'wrong' only to forget about it immediately afterwards (whereas other changes have proved harder to come to terms with). 

      In this particular case, the whole thing of course also plays right into the hands of those claiming that The Lord of the Rings itself is a racist work, which I suppose has helped it gain even more attention. 

      -- 
      Troels Forchhammer

          Love while you've got
              love to give.
          Live while you've got
              life to live.
       - Piet Hein, /Memento Vivere/


      On 8 December 2010 02:02, David Bratman <dbratman@...> wrote:
      My point was, "This is a thought-provoking article."  If you were looking for a definitive opinion on this point from me, you may have to wait a while.  The question worth raising is, even if authors make assumptions about their creatures' race - and Tolkien's are not entirely clear, as I pointed out - are movie adapters obliged to reproduce them?  Certainly, as Darrell points out, there is plenty else in Tolkien's books that Jackson did not feel obliged to reproduce.

      The relevance of UKL and GRRM is that I wished to discuss the depiction of fantasy creatures in general, and not just Tolkien's hobbits.  I would have thought that was obvious, especially when I wrote "an author's assumptions about the skin color of his fantasy creatures" and not "Tolkien's assumptions about the skin color of his hobbits."  I think that compare-and-contrast parallels with other authors might be informative in discussing this question regarding Tolkien, and that's why I wished to discuss them.

      I said nothing about _Tolkien_ being white.  I wrote, "Tolkien was English" in contrast to GRRM being American; I would have thought it obvious that this is a reference not to his skin color but to his nationality, since that's what I wrote, and the concomitant default assumptions he might have.  If an Englishman of the past might be excused for racial assumptions, it's tougher for an American (of a more multicultural society, at least in the past) of today (a more multicultural time) to take the same excuse, yet GRRM ...   Well, it's an interesting question.

      DB

    • Darrell A. Martin
      ... David: I did not, apparently, make it clear enough (or at all) whose opinions I was responding to in each point. If in any of what I said I contradicted
      Message 2 of 26 , Dec 8, 2010
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        On 12/7/2010 7:02 PM, David Bratman wrote:
        > My point was, "This is a thought-provoking article." If you were
        > looking for a definitive opinion on this point from me, you may have
        > to wait a while. The question worth raising is, even if authors make
        > assumptions about their creatures' race - and Tolkien's are not
        > entirely clear, as I pointed out - are movie adapters obliged to
        > reproduce them? Certainly, as Darrell points out, there is plenty
        > else in Tolkien's books that Jackson did not feel obliged to
        > reproduce.
        >
        > The relevance of UKL and GRRM is that I wished to discuss the
        > depiction of fantasy creatures in general, and not just Tolkien's
        > hobbits. I would have thought that was obvious, especially when I
        > wrote "an author's assumptions about the skin color of his fantasy
        > creatures" and not "Tolkien's assumptions about the skin color of his
        > hobbits." I think that compare-and-contrast parallels with other
        > authors might be informative in discussing this question regarding
        > Tolkien, and that's why I wished to discuss them.
        >
        > I said nothing about _Tolkien_ being white. I wrote, "Tolkien was
        > English" in contrast to GRRM being American; I would have thought it
        > obvious that this is a reference not to his skin color but to his
        > nationality, since that's what I wrote, and the concomitant default
        > assumptions he might have. If an Englishman of the past might be
        > excused for racial assumptions, it's tougher for an American (of a
        > more multicultural society, at least in the past) of today (a more
        > multicultural time) to take the same excuse, yet GRRM ... Well,
        > it's an interesting question.
        >
        > DB

        David:

        I did not, apparently, make it clear enough (or at all) whose opinions I
        was responding to in each point. If in any of what I said I contradicted
        you, specifically, it wasn't intentional -- although I am not against
        that in principle [grin].

        My reference to Tolkien being white was a logical leap, imprudently
        skipping intervening steps; the point being that some will assume that
        being English and all that, Tolkien was a stereotypical White
        Anglo-Saxon Protestant -- ergo his characters would be. (His being white
        is the only part of the stereotype that is not either debatable or just
        wrong.) That is irrelevant as far as his characters go. Tolkien
        describes his Hobbits as if they were certain kinds of English folk.
        That *ought* to end the discussion, in my opinion.

        However, it is a cinematic tradition that what an author wrote is of
        little consequence. The contract is sometimes nothing more than
        protection against a claim of plagiarism. There are exceptions
        (Rowlings' unusually restrictive terms for the Harry Potter series comes
        to mind) but they are unusual. Some alteration is unavoidable because of
        the differences between the media, and some adaptation results in a
        clearly better movie; but sometimes there are changes that seem to arise
        solely from the filmmakers' desire to tell their own story, not the
        original author's. If Hollywood can do it to the Bible, what chance does
        the Hobbit stand?

        The thoroughly unsatisfactory answer to your original question, then, is
        that the author's authority extends only as far as the contract allows
        and his or her lawyers can enforce it.

        I fear I assumed something more specifically tied to Tolkien than you
        intended, in your reference to Le Guin and Martin. I have opinions that
        would not be considered Politically Correct about why many Americans, in
        our supposedly multi-cultural society, tend to like fantasies that are
        more or less based on northwestern Europe in the more or less Middle
        Ages.... I do not think it an accident that the "Game of Thrones"
        trailer shows actors that are white, or very VERY white.

        My biggest disappointment with "Game of Thrones" is not the lack of
        racial diversity in the cast (there is at least one little person,
        though). It is that it can be accused, in my opinion, of the failure
        which Le Guin described in her essay, "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie."
        That is, that it is too much like a modern international political
        thriller, just with swords and a dash of supernaturalism thrown in, for
        my taste. I may still like the TV series, eventually -- not immediately,
        I don't get HBO.

        Darrell
      • Darrell A. Martin
        On 12/7/2010 7:38 PM, Alana Abbott wrote: [snip] ... Alana: Two questions: -- Why would you love it if Hollywood erred on the side of diversity? -- What do you
        Message 3 of 26 , Dec 8, 2010
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          On 12/7/2010 7:38 PM, Alana Abbott wrote:
          [snip]

          > Where characters are not clearly described, I'd love it if Hollywood would
          > choose to err on the side of diversity (as appropriate to the time and
          > place, of course!), though I don't see that happening much in the film
          > industry. I'd also prefer it if ethnicities that were represented were
          > not only represented as villains (as I thought to be the case in
          > Jackson's /Return of the King/).
          >
          > -Alana

          Alana:

          Two questions:

          -- Why would you love it if Hollywood erred on the side of diversity?

          -- What do you think when, in an author's original, the "ethnicities
          that are represented" *are* all villains?

          Darrell
        • Alana Abbott
          ... Mostly because it reflects my own preferred worldview -- and because it would offer some contrast to Hollywood s history of, say, casting Italians as
          Message 4 of 26 , Dec 8, 2010
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            Alana:

            Two questions:

            -- Why would you love it if Hollywood erred on the side of diversity?

            Mostly because it reflects my own preferred worldview -- and because it would offer some contrast to Hollywood's history of, say, casting Italians as Native Americans in Spaghetti Westerns, just as an example. In a scenario where it's clear that diversity does *not* fit the world of the story, then I wouldn't ask filmmakers to sacrifice the story for aesthetics that I find appealing. But if they have to err, I'd rather the erred inclusively rather than exclusively.

            -- What do you think when, in an author's original, the "ethnicities
            that are represented" *are* all villains?

             That's a different scenario, one I struggle with on the level of both the original and the film. I acknowledge that some books that I love feature this-race-is-evil motifs. It's easier to swallow when these are fantasy races or nationalities that exist *only* in the work, of course. In modern works (meaning, ones being written right now), I struggle with it more -- historical works get more of a pass. Works are a product of the worldviews of their authors, which I do take into account when considering certain aspects of the story.

            But this is all just my opinion as a reader and movie-goer. :)

            -Alana
          • David Bratman
            ... Yet he says some hobbits were browner . And I asked, what did he mean by that? ... Indeed, and here we have an attempt by the movie-maker to stick to
            Message 5 of 26 , Dec 8, 2010
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              Darrell A. Martin wrote:

              > Tolkien
              > describes his Hobbits as if they were certain kinds of English folk.
              > That *ought* to end the discussion, in my opinion.

              Yet he says some hobbits were "browner". And I asked, what did he mean by
              that?

              > However, it is a cinematic tradition that what an author wrote is of
              > little consequence.

              Indeed, and here we have an attempt by the movie-maker to stick to (his
              perception of) the author's intent, where in other places he does nothing of
              the sort. It's a Jackson tradition to mix worshipful fidelity with complete
              mashed potatoes, and here, as often before, he manages to do both at once.

              > Some alteration is unavoidable because of
              > the differences between the media,

              So we are constantly told, but aside from condensation, I have yet to see
              any coherent argument explaining why particular alterations are necessary,
              nor have I seen any declarations of what is not possible in movies that some
              movie-maker hasn't violated with impunity.

              > but sometimes there are changes that seem to arise
              > solely from the filmmakers' desire to tell their own story, not the
              > original author's.

              Considering the number of "rules" of movie-making that Jackson discarded
              brazenly in his LOTR movies, in the service of telling a more Tolkien-like
              story (the epilogue to RK being the most blatant), it's obvious that the
              changes he did make were because he wanted to make them, not because the
              rules of movie-making forced him.

              > The thoroughly unsatisfactory answer to your original question, then, is
              > that the author's authority extends only as far as the contract allows
              > and his or her lawyers can enforce it.

              It's unsatisfactory because being legally permitted to do something has
              nothing to do with the question of why you actually do it, or whether you
              should.

              > I fear I assumed something more specifically tied to Tolkien than you
              > intended, in your reference to Le Guin and Martin. I have opinions that
              > would not be considered Politically Correct about why many Americans, in
              > our supposedly multi-cultural society, tend to like fantasies that are
              > more or less based on northwestern Europe in the more or less Middle
              > Ages.... I do not think it an accident that the "Game of Thrones"
              > trailer shows actors that are white, or very VERY white.

              My point was, that anybody inclined to criticize Tolkien, or even Jackson's
              casting agents, on this matter should be shouting from the rooftops about
              what's been done to Le Guin, or about the adaptation of GRRM which I presume
              (since I've never been able to read his doorstops) is faithful to the book
              in this respect.

              > My biggest disappointment with "Game of Thrones" is not the lack of
              > racial diversity in the cast (there is at least one little person,
              > though). It is that it can be accused, in my opinion, of the failure
              > which Le Guin described in her essay, "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie."
              > That is, that it is too much like a modern international political
              > thriller, just with swords and a dash of supernaturalism thrown in, for
              > my taste.

              Yet the amoral thriller aspect seems to be just what the book's fans like,
              and the actors and movie-makers in the promo film actually praise the story
              for having characters who are completely unpredictable. The appeal of this
              eludes me.
            • lynnmaudlin
              Darrell, I think it s a bit unfair to say, What do you think when, in an author s original, the ethnicities that are represented *are* all villains? IF
              Message 6 of 26 , Dec 8, 2010
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                Darrell, I think it's a bit unfair to say, "What do you think when, in an author's original, the "ethnicities that are represented" *are* all villains?" IF you're speaking of LOTR, the issue of PEOPLES really ought to be seen as dominant over the issue of the color of men.

                So there are Elves, primarily 'good' in LOTR; there are dwarves, primarily 'good' in LOTR; there are hobbits, primarily ignorant in LOTR; there are wizards, a VERY mixed lot; there are orcs, creatures debased and bred to be evil; there are men, another VERY mixed lot. There are tensions between all these different peoples. To break it down further and say, "within the humans, the good ones are 'light' and the bad ones are 'dark' and that is a political statement" is imho simplistic.

                It's rather like looking back at the aggressive violent spread of Islam up into Europe in the first millennium and characterizing it as a race war. In fact, arguably it wasn't even a religious war (like Northern Ireland: while being cast as Catholic versus Protestant, it wasn't a religious battle but a political one; the religious labels were simply the identifiers used) but rather one of imperialism and encroachment by people who happened to be Muslims against people who happened to be Christian. Yes, the impetus for Islam is the charge to convert the world, by force if need be, but it's the "by force" part that bothered the Austrians and Italians and Spaniards and French, *not* the religion per se.

                -- Lynn --


                --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Darrell A. Martin" <darrellm@...> wrote:
                >
                > On 12/7/2010 7:38 PM, Alana Abbott wrote:
                > [snip]
                >
                > > Where characters are not clearly described, I'd love it if Hollywood would
                > > choose to err on the side of diversity (as appropriate to the time and
                > > place, of course!), though I don't see that happening much in the film
                > > industry. I'd also prefer it if ethnicities that were represented were
                > > not only represented as villains (as I thought to be the case in
                > > Jackson's /Return of the King/).
                > >
                > > -Alana
                >
                > Alana:
                >
                > Two questions:
                >
                > -- Why would you love it if Hollywood erred on the side of diversity?
                >
                > -- What do you think when, in an author's original, the "ethnicities
                > that are represented" *are* all villains?
                >
                > Darrell
                >
              • Alana Abbott
                To break it down further and say, within the humans, the good ones are light and the bad ones are dark and that is a political statement is imho
                Message 7 of 26 , Dec 8, 2010
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                  "To break it down further and say, "within the humans, the good ones are 'light' and the bad ones are 'dark' and that is a political statement" is imho simplistic."

                  Lynn, thanks for this. To clarify my own response, I wasn't referring directly to LOTR. There are certainly books in which that sort of categorizing occurs -- which is, in itself, an overly simplistic way to build a world, in my thinking -- and I agree that LOTR isn't one of them. 

                  -Alana

                  On Wed, Dec 8, 2010 at 8:43 PM, lynnmaudlin <lynnmaudlin@...> wrote:

                  Darrell, I think it's a bit unfair to say, "What do you think when, in an author's original, the "ethnicities that are represented" *are* all villains?" IF you're speaking of LOTR, the issue of PEOPLES really ought to be seen as dominant over the issue of the color of men.

                  So there are Elves, primarily 'good' in LOTR; there are dwarves, primarily 'good' in LOTR; there are hobbits, primarily ignorant in LOTR; there are wizards, a VERY mixed lot; there are orcs, creatures debased and bred to be evil; there are men, another VERY mixed lot. There are tensions between all these different peoples. To break it down further and say, "within the humans, the good ones are 'light' and the bad ones are 'dark' and that is a political statement" is imho simplistic.

                  It's rather like looking back at the aggressive violent spread of Islam up into Europe in the first millennium and characterizing it as a race war. In fact, arguably it wasn't even a religious war (like Northern Ireland: while being cast as Catholic versus Protestant, it wasn't a religious battle but a political one; the religious labels were simply the identifiers used) but rather one of imperialism and encroachment by people who happened to be Muslims against people who happened to be Christian. Yes, the impetus for Islam is the charge to convert the world, by force if need be, but it's the "by force" part that bothered the Austrians and Italians and Spaniards and French, *not* the religion per se.

                  -- Lynn --

                • Linda DeMars
                  Two thoughts: a few years ago, when I was doing an on-line course (Tolkien-related) from Cardiff and researching my essay, I ran across two papers whose
                  Message 8 of 26 , Dec 8, 2010
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                    Two thoughts: a few years ago, when I was doing an on-line course (Tolkien-related) from Cardiff and researching my essay,  I ran across two papers whose premise which I felt compelled to  question. 

                    One was on Harry Potter and questioned the lack of diversity in the books- the author had the impressions that all the characters were white.  I wrote her and pointed several black characters who were romantically involved ( if briefly) with some of the main characters.  There was also an Asian, probably Chinese, who was Harry Potter's girlfriend for a bit.  I pointed out that these young people were naturally assumed to be included in the student body- and that their backgrounds would have been part of the British Empire.

                    Another article was concerning the elves being characterized as "fair"- which made the writers looking at things from a racial angle. I pointed out that often a Brit might use the word  "fair" as a synonym for beautiful, remembering a friend's husband who said about my first born son . "Ah, he's very fair, isn't he?"- to which I replied, "Well., he's not as fair as Elizabeth but maybe fairer than Laura."  (He was of course trying to compliment me on my beautiful baby, while I was thinking of complexions)

                    Linda

                    I'm not sure if the "Brown " hobbits would be as brown as Pakistanis but they could be darker.. In my own children there are two who are very fair (pale with dark hair) ,  two who  are more rosy ( blondish and brown hair) and the youngest who, like his mother, tend to be browner or more sallow (but we burn).  My husband is more probably like the fair ones.

                    On Wed, Dec 8, 2010 at 9:13 PM, Alana Abbott <alanajoli@...> wrote:
                     

                    "To break it down further and say, "within the humans, the good ones are 'light' and the bad ones are 'dark' and that is a political statement" is imho simplistic."

                    Lynn, thanks for this. To clarify my own response, I wasn't referring directly to LOTR. There are certainly books in which that sort of categorizing occurs -- which is, in itself, an overly simplistic way to build a world, in my thinking -- and I agree that LOTR isn't one of them. 

                    -Alana

                    On Wed, Dec 8, 2010 at 8:43 PM, lynnmaudlin <lynnmaudlin@...> wrote:

                    Darrell, I think it's a bit unfair to say, "What do you think when, in an author's original, the "ethnicities that are represented" *are* all villains?" IF you're speaking of LOTR, the issue of PEOPLES really ought to be seen as dominant over the issue of the color of men.

                    So there are Elves, primarily 'good' in LOTR; there are dwarves, primarily 'good' in LOTR; there are hobbits, primarily ignorant in LOTR; there are wizards, a VERY mixed lot; there are orcs, creatures debased and bred to be evil; there are men, another VERY mixed lot. There are tensions between all these different peoples. To break it down further and say, "within the humans, the good ones are 'light' and the bad ones are 'dark' and that is a political statement" is imho simplistic.

                    It's rather like looking back at the aggressive violent spread of Islam up into Europe in the first millennium and characterizing it as a race war. In fact, arguably it wasn't even a religious war (like Northern Ireland: while being cast as Catholic versus Protestant, it wasn't a religious battle but a political one; the religious labels were simply the identifiers used) but rather one of imperialism and encroachment by people who happened to be Muslims against people who happened to be Christian. Yes, the impetus for Islam is the charge to convert the world, by force if need be, but it's the "by force" part that bothered the Austrians and Italians and Spaniards and French, *not* the religion per se.

                    -- Lynn --


                  • not_thou
                    Minor clarification: while their stories may have followed many Hollywood conventions and they often featured minor American actors in the leading roles,
                    Message 9 of 26 , Dec 8, 2010
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                      Minor clarification: while their stories may have followed many Hollywood conventions and they often featured minor American actors in the leading roles, Spaghetti Westerns were thus named because they were produced or co-produced by Italian companies in Europe, usually in Spain, and thus quite understandably with a supporting cast of Italian and Spanish actors. It is, however, quite true that genuine Hollywood productions would often employ darker-complexioned actors of any ethnicity to portray Native Americans.

                      -Merlin


                      ---Alana Abbott <alanajoli@...> wrote:
                      >... it would offer some contrast to Hollywood's history of, say, casting Italians as Native Americans in Spaghetti Westerns, just as an example.
                    • John Rateliff
                      ... Actually, it s fairer to say that the Elves in THE HOBBIT are mostly good; those in LotR are ALL good. ... How about reversing it? the light ones are good
                      Message 10 of 26 , Dec 9, 2010
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                        On Dec 8, 2010, at 5:43 PM, lynnmaudlin wrote:
                        > So there are Elves, primarily 'good' in LOTR;

                        Actually, it's fairer to say that the Elves in THE HOBBIT are mostly good; those in LotR are ALL good.


                        > To break it down further and say, "within the humans, the good ones are 'light' and the bad ones are 'dark' and that is a political statement" is imho simplistic.

                        How about reversing it? the light ones are good (mostly--don't forget the Dunlendings) and the bad ones are dark (mostly -- cf. Ghan-buri-Ghan). But, having deliberately established that in broad strokes, Tolkien takes pains to provide many exceptions: he's more subtle than folks give him credit for (a point Marjorie Burns makes over and over in her book).


                        > It's rather like looking back at the aggressive violent spread of Islam up into Europe in the first millennium and characterizing it as a race war. In fact, arguably it wasn't even a religious war (like Northern Ireland: while being cast as Catholic versus Protestant, it wasn't a religious battle but a political one; the religious labels were simply the identifiers used) but rather one of imperialism and encroachment by people who happened to be Muslims against people who happened to be Christian.

                        That ethnicities and politics played a part doesn't mean that religion didn't play a part as well. I think most of those who fought on one side or the other in the Troubles in Northern Ireland wd be startled to be told that religion was irrelevant to that disaster. And it's hard to say that the Crusades targeted people "who happened to be Muslims".


                        .....................................................

                        On Dec 7, 2010, at 1:29 PM, David Bratman wrote:
                        > Tolkien says that Harfoots "were browner of skin" than other hobbits. How brown? English Caucasian working-out-in-the-sun-all-day brown,

                        Yes

                        > or maybe Pakistani brown?

                        No

                        > What of Le Guin's Ged, whom the author envisaged as resembling a Native American, but whom illustrators and film-makers tend to reproduce as white?

                        I wish Le Guin had made this clearer in the original book, and then re-inforced it in the later ones. As it is, it's v. easy to miss that she means more than darkish Caucasian -- as evidenced by the fact that most of her readers DO miss it. She had a similar problem in THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS where she wrote scenes in which she pictured one character as female but, since she throughout describes that character as "he", readers take her at her word and picture him as male. I think sometimes her internal visualization is so strong that she forgets to convey it all to the reader.


                        Ironically, the D&D rulebooks are ahead of the curve here, having years ago changed the descriptions of Halflings to state that they come in all the colors that humans do. Not that this has prevented anybody from playing them as twee little Englishmen.

                        --John R.
                      • Darrell A. Martin
                        ... Lynn: My question was intended to be somewhat hypothetical, to elicit a response from Alana. I was not referring to Tolkien in particular, at least not
                        Message 11 of 26 , Dec 9, 2010
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                          On 12/8/2010 7:43 PM, lynnmaudlin wrote:
                          > Darrell, I think it's a bit unfair to say, "What do you think when,
                          > in an author's original, the "ethnicities that are represented" *are*
                          > all villains?" IF you're speaking of LOTR, the issue of PEOPLES
                          > really ought to be seen as dominant over the issue of the color of
                          > men.
                          >
                          > So there are Elves, primarily 'good' in LOTR; there are dwarves,
                          > primarily 'good' in LOTR; there are hobbits, primarily ignorant in
                          > LOTR; there are wizards, a VERY mixed lot; there are orcs, creatures
                          > debased and bred to be evil; there are men, another VERY mixed lot.
                          > There are tensions between all these different peoples. To break it
                          > down further and say, "within the humans, the good ones are 'light'
                          > and the bad ones are 'dark' and that is a political statement" is
                          > imho simplistic.
                          >
                          > It's rather like looking back at the aggressive violent spread of
                          > Islam up into Europe in the first millennium and characterizing it as
                          > a race war. In fact, arguably it wasn't even a religious war (like
                          > Northern Ireland: while being cast as Catholic versus Protestant, it
                          > wasn't a religious battle but a political one; the religious labels
                          > were simply the identifiers used) but rather one of imperialism and
                          > encroachment by people who happened to be Muslims against people who
                          > happened to be Christian. Yes, the impetus for Islam is the charge to
                          > convert the world, by force if need be, but it's the "by force" part
                          > that bothered the Austrians and Italians and Spaniards and French,
                          > *not* the religion per se.
                          >
                          > -- Lynn --

                          Lynn:

                          My question was intended to be somewhat hypothetical, to elicit a
                          response from Alana. I was not referring to Tolkien in particular, at
                          least "not yet", although he obviously comes to mind. Regardless, both
                          she and I used the term "ethnicities", not "races".

                          As someone who has delved, just a bit, into the world of Eastern Roman >
                          Byzantine history and politics, especially vis a vis the Huns and Goths,
                          I am aware that equating physical race with either political
                          organization or cultural identity must be done with care -- when it can
                          be done at all. Nevertheless there is evidence that Tolkien did make
                          such connections, not rarely, and that he went farther by attaching
                          moral value to race.

                          There is also evidence that Tolkien wrestled with the implications of
                          his tendency to equate racially tall, light-skinned peoples with light
                          colored eyes, with "the good side"; and to see shorter, dark-skinned
                          peoples as "on the bad side". The equation is not, as you said,
                          simplistic. Among the worst peoples -- or at very least the most morally
                          ambiguous -- were the tall, grey-eyed, light-skinned Numenoreans under
                          Ar-Pharazon; among the best were the decidedly short, mostly brown-eyed
                          Hobbits, whose skin color was, without moral overtones, explicitly
                          variable (within a range that is the current topic of conversation).

                          The blunt fact is, Tolkien had a "deep response to legends ... that have
                          what I would call the North-western temper and temperature. In any case
                          if you want to write a tale of this sort you must consult your roots,
                          and a man of the North-west of the Old World will set his heart and the
                          action of his tale in an imaginary world of that air, and that situation
                          ..." as he wrote to W.H. Auden in 1955. It is an equally blunt fact that
                          the "North-west of the Old World" is the ancestral home of people with
                          distinguishing physical characteristics. They are part of "that air, and
                          that situation" and Tolkien consciously identifies himself with them. He
                          is proud of them when they behave admirably and pained by them when they
                          do not. And, rather than apologize for the identification, he affirms
                          it, and is angered by those such as Hitler who sully his people's
                          reputation.

                          In the context of his times, Tolkien's racial opinions pale in
                          comparison with some others. H.G. Wells in his "Outline of History"
                          (editions from 1920 to 1949), discusses at length the races of mankind
                          and their relative development. He describes races as advanced, lower,
                          higher, and degraded. He is also quite judgmental in some cases,
                          although like Tolkien he is no blind advocate of "our" superiority. He
                          is particularly harsh on the Romans, delightedly mentioning the
                          discussion among Greeks whether the Romans of the Empire were "barbaroi"
                          (the consensus seems to be they were). He openly admires the Indian king
                          Asoka.

                          By the way, Wells's "Outline" shows "dark whites" settling in western
                          Ireland and southern Wales. This is pertinent to the discussion of
                          racial variations in the British Isles, and thus to the question of Hobbits.

                          I am very positively disposed toward those who refuse to make value
                          judgments based on skin color. However, our current refusal to evaluate
                          *behavioral* differences is intellectually questionable, and may be from
                          a sociological standpoint cultural suicide. Humans connect with those
                          they call "us" and prefer "our" behavior. When someone does not know who
                          "we" are, or do not see "us" as admirable, it is every bit as
                          dysfunctional as the stereotypical family of that ilk. I wonder whether
                          Science Fiction and Medieval High Fantasy serve as surrogates for
                          mainstream culture for many people of European ancestry, when so much of
                          what Tolkien called the "air of the North-west of the Old World" is
                          under attack among the intellectual elite of urban North America. In
                          popular culture, Tolkien *IS* Medieval High Fantasy. Consciously or
                          otherwise, I think Peter Jackson and the "Game of Thrones" people know
                          which side of their bread is buttered, and the appearance of "people of
                          color" in leading positive roles is to that extent unlikely.

                          My opinions of Islam would best be left for a different forum and a more
                          propitious time of day for writing cautiously (it now being 3:45 a.m.
                          CST-US).

                          Darrell
                        • Darrell A. Martin
                          On 12/9/2010 2:09 AM, John Rateliff wrote: [snip] ... [snip] John: I think that sometimes the reader has to have his or her feet held to the fire (regardless
                          Message 12 of 26 , Dec 9, 2010
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                            On 12/9/2010 2:09 AM, John Rateliff wrote:

                            [snip]

                            > I wish Le Guin had made this clearer in the original book, and then
                            > re-inforced it in the later ones. As it is, it's v. easy to miss that
                            > she means more than darkish Caucasian -- as evidenced by the fact
                            > that most of her readers DO miss it. She had a similar problem in
                            > THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS where she wrote scenes in which she
                            > pictured one character as female but, since she throughout describes
                            > that character as "he", readers take her at her word and picture him
                            > as male. I think sometimes her internal visualization is so strong
                            > that she forgets to convey it all to the reader.

                            [snip]

                            John:

                            I think that sometimes the reader has to have his or her feet held to
                            the fire (regardless of risk to whatever hair might be there). Someone
                            who misses the sexual context in "The Left Hand of Darkness", in which
                            an alien race is completely human except it has only one gender -- after
                            being beat about the head with it in the first sentence, it is the
                            *point* of the book -- is primarily at fault, not the author. And that
                            may be one of the lessons to be learned from this extraordinary novel.
                            In some ways it doesn't even make sense to say "scenes in which she
                            pictured one character as female" -- only that at that time the
                            character was in a role that for non-fictional humans is female. Yet
                            gender is a fundamental aspect of humanity, and language reflects that.

                            Darrell
                          • Alana Abbott
                            Whoops! Merlin, thanks for the correction! I knew they were filmed in Italy, and thus drew on the local population for the extras, but did *not* realize they
                            Message 13 of 26 , Dec 9, 2010
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                              Whoops! Merlin, thanks for the correction! I knew they were filmed in Italy, and thus drew on the local population for the extras, but did *not* realize they were not exclusively Hollywood productions. Sloppy example on my part (though, as you kindly note, the point does stand).

                              -Alana

                              On Thu, Dec 9, 2010 at 1:12 AM, not_thou <emptyD@...> wrote:
                               

                              Minor clarification: while their stories may have followed many Hollywood conventions and they often featured minor American actors in the leading roles, Spaghetti Westerns were thus named because they were produced or co-produced by Italian companies in Europe, usually in Spain, and thus quite understandably with a supporting cast of Italian and Spanish actors. It is, however, quite true that genuine Hollywood productions would often employ darker-complexioned actors of any ethnicity to portray Native Americans.

                              -Merlin




                              --
                              Alana Joli Abbott, Freelance Writer and Editor (http://www.virgilandbeatrice.com)
                              Author of "Nomi's Wish" (http://coyotewildmag.com/2008/august/abbott_nomis_wish.html), featured in Coyote Wild Magazine
                              Contributor to Origins Award winner, Serenity Adventures: http://tinyurl.com/serenity-adventures
                              --
                              For updates on my writings, join my mailing list at http://groups.google.com/group/alanajoliabbottfans
                            • lynnmaudlin
                              Yeah, I wasn t sure if either you or Darrell were thinking of LOTR but Tolkien often gets tarred with that brush so I figured I d address LOTR head-on. Suffice
                              Message 14 of 26 , Dec 9, 2010
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                                Yeah, I wasn't sure if either you or Darrell were thinking of LOTR but Tolkien often gets tarred with that brush so I figured I'd address LOTR head-on. Suffice it to say it's easy to do these things badly and it's easy to inadvertently hurt feelings. I wish we could all "presume good will" but that may just be the Pollyanna in me...

                                -- Lynn --


                                --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, Alana Abbott <alanajoli@...> wrote:
                                >
                                > "To break it down further and say, "within the humans, the good ones are
                                > 'light' and the bad ones are 'dark' and that is a political statement" is
                                > imho simplistic."
                                >
                                > Lynn, thanks for this. To clarify my own response, I wasn't referring
                                > directly to LOTR. There are certainly books in which that sort of
                                > categorizing occurs -- which is, in itself, an overly simplistic way to
                                > build a world, in my thinking -- and I agree that LOTR isn't one of them.
                                >
                                > -Alana
                                >
                                > On Wed, Dec 8, 2010 at 8:43 PM, lynnmaudlin <lynnmaudlin@...> wrote:
                                >
                                > > Darrell, I think it's a bit unfair to say, "What do you think when, in an
                                > > author's original, the "ethnicities that are represented" *are* all
                                > > villains?" IF you're speaking of LOTR, the issue of PEOPLES really ought to
                                > > be seen as dominant over the issue of the color of men.
                                > >
                                > > So there are Elves, primarily 'good' in LOTR; there are dwarves, primarily
                                > > 'good' in LOTR; there are hobbits, primarily ignorant in LOTR; there are
                                > > wizards, a VERY mixed lot; there are orcs, creatures debased and bred to be
                                > > evil; there are men, another VERY mixed lot. There are tensions between all
                                > > these different peoples. To break it down further and say, "within the
                                > > humans, the good ones are 'light' and the bad ones are 'dark' and that is a
                                > > political statement" is imho simplistic.
                                > >
                                > > It's rather like looking back at the aggressive violent spread of Islam up
                                > > into Europe in the first millennium and characterizing it as a race war. In
                                > > fact, arguably it wasn't even a religious war (like Northern Ireland: while
                                > > being cast as Catholic versus Protestant, it wasn't a religious battle but a
                                > > political one; the religious labels were simply the identifiers used) but
                                > > rather one of imperialism and encroachment by people who happened to be
                                > > Muslims against people who happened to be Christian. Yes, the impetus for
                                > > Islam is the charge to convert the world, by force if need be, but it's the
                                > > "by force" part that bothered the Austrians and Italians and Spaniards and
                                > > French, *not* the religion per se.
                                > >
                                > > -- Lynn --
                                > >
                                >
                              • lynnmaudlin
                                John, good points (and Marjorie Burns! A fave). One of the things that isn t generally well-known is that in the mid & late 1990s, many people who wanted peace
                                Message 15 of 26 , Dec 9, 2010
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                                  John, good points (and Marjorie Burns! A fave).

                                  One of the things that isn't generally well-known is that in the mid & late 1990s, many people who wanted peace in Northern Ireland started having shared prayer services, getting together to prayer for the peace of the land, Protestants and Catholics. I think that made a big difference. My point (however badly made) is that the troubles weren't inherently religious: it wasn't about the perpetual virginity of Mary or sola scriptura.

                                  Likewise, the reason Europeans fought Islam in the 7th & 8th centuries is because Islam was invading Europe (yes, the reason Islam was invading was their religious charge to bring all people into submission under their faith); Europe fought back because they wanted to remain their own nations, not because the people invading them were of another religion or color. I mean, if the reason for fighting was religion and color, there would be no long history of wars between France and Germany, two white Christian nations. Am I making any sense? I know what I *mean* but I don't know if it's coming out through my fingers or not! ;)

                                  -- Lynn --


                                  --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, John Rateliff <sacnoth@...> wrote:
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > On Dec 8, 2010, at 5:43 PM, lynnmaudlin wrote:
                                  > > So there are Elves, primarily 'good' in LOTR;
                                  >
                                  > Actually, it's fairer to say that the Elves in THE HOBBIT are mostly good; those in LotR are ALL good.
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > > To break it down further and say, "within the humans, the good ones are 'light' and the bad ones are 'dark' and that is a political statement" is imho simplistic.
                                  >
                                  > How about reversing it? the light ones are good (mostly--don't forget the Dunlendings) and the bad ones are dark (mostly -- cf. Ghan-buri-Ghan). But, having deliberately established that in broad strokes, Tolkien takes pains to provide many exceptions: he's more subtle than folks give him credit for (a point Marjorie Burns makes over and over in her book).
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > > It's rather like looking back at the aggressive violent spread of Islam up into Europe in the first millennium and characterizing it as a race war. In fact, arguably it wasn't even a religious war (like Northern Ireland: while being cast as Catholic versus Protestant, it wasn't a religious battle but a political one; the religious labels were simply the identifiers used) but rather one of imperialism and encroachment by people who happened to be Muslims against people who happened to be Christian.
                                  >
                                  > That ethnicities and politics played a part doesn't mean that religion didn't play a part as well. I think most of those who fought on one side or the other in the Troubles in Northern Ireland wd be startled to be told that religion was irrelevant to that disaster. And it's hard to say that the Crusades targeted people "who happened to be Muslims".
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > .....................................................
                                  >
                                  > On Dec 7, 2010, at 1:29 PM, David Bratman wrote:
                                  > > Tolkien says that Harfoots "were browner of skin" than other hobbits. How brown? English Caucasian working-out-in-the-sun-all-day brown,
                                  >
                                  > Yes
                                  >
                                  > > or maybe Pakistani brown?
                                  >
                                  > No
                                  >
                                  > > What of Le Guin's Ged, whom the author envisaged as resembling a Native American, but whom illustrators and film-makers tend to reproduce as white?
                                  >
                                  > I wish Le Guin had made this clearer in the original book, and then re-inforced it in the later ones. As it is, it's v. easy to miss that she means more than darkish Caucasian -- as evidenced by the fact that most of her readers DO miss it. She had a similar problem in THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS where she wrote scenes in which she pictured one character as female but, since she throughout describes that character as "he", readers take her at her word and picture him as male. I think sometimes her internal visualization is so strong that she forgets to convey it all to the reader.
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > Ironically, the D&D rulebooks are ahead of the curve here, having years ago changed the descriptions of Halflings to state that they come in all the colors that humans do. Not that this has prevented anybody from playing them as twee little Englishmen.
                                  >
                                  > --John R.
                                  >
                                • lynnmaudlin
                                  Yeah, I wasn t sure whether you were being Tolkien-specific or not. The shared love of northernness was one of the things that connected Lewis & Tolkien...
                                  Message 16 of 26 , Dec 9, 2010
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                                    Yeah, I wasn't sure whether you were being Tolkien-specific or not. The shared love of "northernness" was one of the things that connected Lewis & Tolkien... I've not read the Wells "Outline of History" (eeek!) and I'm very aware that, just as we can look at Tolkien and his chronological contemporaries and see evidence of an assortment of "isms", future generations will look at us and do the same thing *and probably in areas we of which we're completely oblivious.* I fear it's an inescapable part of the human condition, at least on this earth.

                                    I'm sure you know LOTS more than I do about the Byzantine empire - it would be interesting to pick your brain some day. :)

                                    -- Lynn --


                                    --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Darrell A. Martin" <darrellm@...> wrote:
                                    >
                                    > On 12/8/2010 7:43 PM, lynnmaudlin wrote:
                                    > > Darrell, I think it's a bit unfair to say, "What do you think when,
                                    > > in an author's original, the "ethnicities that are represented" *are*
                                    > > all villains?" IF you're speaking of LOTR, the issue of PEOPLES
                                    > > really ought to be seen as dominant over the issue of the color of
                                    > > men.
                                    > >
                                    > > So there are Elves, primarily 'good' in LOTR; there are dwarves,
                                    > > primarily 'good' in LOTR; there are hobbits, primarily ignorant in
                                    > > LOTR; there are wizards, a VERY mixed lot; there are orcs, creatures
                                    > > debased and bred to be evil; there are men, another VERY mixed lot.
                                    > > There are tensions between all these different peoples. To break it
                                    > > down further and say, "within the humans, the good ones are 'light'
                                    > > and the bad ones are 'dark' and that is a political statement" is
                                    > > imho simplistic.
                                    > >
                                    > > It's rather like looking back at the aggressive violent spread of
                                    > > Islam up into Europe in the first millennium and characterizing it as
                                    > > a race war. In fact, arguably it wasn't even a religious war (like
                                    > > Northern Ireland: while being cast as Catholic versus Protestant, it
                                    > > wasn't a religious battle but a political one; the religious labels
                                    > > were simply the identifiers used) but rather one of imperialism and
                                    > > encroachment by people who happened to be Muslims against people who
                                    > > happened to be Christian. Yes, the impetus for Islam is the charge to
                                    > > convert the world, by force if need be, but it's the "by force" part
                                    > > that bothered the Austrians and Italians and Spaniards and French,
                                    > > *not* the religion per se.
                                    > >
                                    > > -- Lynn --
                                    >
                                    > Lynn:
                                    >
                                    > My question was intended to be somewhat hypothetical, to elicit a
                                    > response from Alana. I was not referring to Tolkien in particular, at
                                    > least "not yet", although he obviously comes to mind. Regardless, both
                                    > she and I used the term "ethnicities", not "races".
                                    >
                                    > As someone who has delved, just a bit, into the world of Eastern Roman >
                                    > Byzantine history and politics, especially vis a vis the Huns and Goths,
                                    > I am aware that equating physical race with either political
                                    > organization or cultural identity must be done with care -- when it can
                                    > be done at all. Nevertheless there is evidence that Tolkien did make
                                    > such connections, not rarely, and that he went farther by attaching
                                    > moral value to race.
                                    >
                                    > There is also evidence that Tolkien wrestled with the implications of
                                    > his tendency to equate racially tall, light-skinned peoples with light
                                    > colored eyes, with "the good side"; and to see shorter, dark-skinned
                                    > peoples as "on the bad side". The equation is not, as you said,
                                    > simplistic. Among the worst peoples -- or at very least the most morally
                                    > ambiguous -- were the tall, grey-eyed, light-skinned Numenoreans under
                                    > Ar-Pharazon; among the best were the decidedly short, mostly brown-eyed
                                    > Hobbits, whose skin color was, without moral overtones, explicitly
                                    > variable (within a range that is the current topic of conversation).
                                    >
                                    > The blunt fact is, Tolkien had a "deep response to legends ... that have
                                    > what I would call the North-western temper and temperature. In any case
                                    > if you want to write a tale of this sort you must consult your roots,
                                    > and a man of the North-west of the Old World will set his heart and the
                                    > action of his tale in an imaginary world of that air, and that situation
                                    > ..." as he wrote to W.H. Auden in 1955. It is an equally blunt fact that
                                    > the "North-west of the Old World" is the ancestral home of people with
                                    > distinguishing physical characteristics. They are part of "that air, and
                                    > that situation" and Tolkien consciously identifies himself with them. He
                                    > is proud of them when they behave admirably and pained by them when they
                                    > do not. And, rather than apologize for the identification, he affirms
                                    > it, and is angered by those such as Hitler who sully his people's
                                    > reputation.
                                    >
                                    > In the context of his times, Tolkien's racial opinions pale in
                                    > comparison with some others. H.G. Wells in his "Outline of History"
                                    > (editions from 1920 to 1949), discusses at length the races of mankind
                                    > and their relative development. He describes races as advanced, lower,
                                    > higher, and degraded. He is also quite judgmental in some cases,
                                    > although like Tolkien he is no blind advocate of "our" superiority. He
                                    > is particularly harsh on the Romans, delightedly mentioning the
                                    > discussion among Greeks whether the Romans of the Empire were "barbaroi"
                                    > (the consensus seems to be they were). He openly admires the Indian king
                                    > Asoka.
                                    >
                                    > By the way, Wells's "Outline" shows "dark whites" settling in western
                                    > Ireland and southern Wales. This is pertinent to the discussion of
                                    > racial variations in the British Isles, and thus to the question of Hobbits.
                                    >
                                    > I am very positively disposed toward those who refuse to make value
                                    > judgments based on skin color. However, our current refusal to evaluate
                                    > *behavioral* differences is intellectually questionable, and may be from
                                    > a sociological standpoint cultural suicide. Humans connect with those
                                    > they call "us" and prefer "our" behavior. When someone does not know who
                                    > "we" are, or do not see "us" as admirable, it is every bit as
                                    > dysfunctional as the stereotypical family of that ilk. I wonder whether
                                    > Science Fiction and Medieval High Fantasy serve as surrogates for
                                    > mainstream culture for many people of European ancestry, when so much of
                                    > what Tolkien called the "air of the North-west of the Old World" is
                                    > under attack among the intellectual elite of urban North America. In
                                    > popular culture, Tolkien *IS* Medieval High Fantasy. Consciously or
                                    > otherwise, I think Peter Jackson and the "Game of Thrones" people know
                                    > which side of their bread is buttered, and the appearance of "people of
                                    > color" in leading positive roles is to that extent unlikely.
                                    >
                                    > My opinions of Islam would best be left for a different forum and a more
                                    > propitious time of day for writing cautiously (it now being 3:45 a.m.
                                    > CST-US).
                                    >
                                    > Darrell
                                    >
                                  • Darrell A. Martin
                                    ... David: Inserted and indented. ... That they were somewhat darker of skin than other Hobbits. After that it gets fuzzy [wry grin]. ... Apart from
                                    Message 17 of 26 , Dec 9, 2010
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                                      On 12/8/2010 11:57 AM, David Bratman wrote *IN PART*:
                                      > [in response to what] Darrell A. Martin wrote *IN PART*:

                                      David:

                                      Inserted and indented.

                                      >> Tolkien
                                      >> describes his Hobbits as if they were certain kinds of English folk.
                                      >> That *ought* to end the discussion, in my opinion.
                                      >
                                      > Yet he says some hobbits were "browner". And I asked, what did he mean by
                                      > that?

                                      That they were somewhat darker of
                                      skin than other Hobbits. After
                                      that it gets fuzzy [wry grin].

                                      >> Some alteration is unavoidable because of
                                      >> the differences between the media,
                                      >
                                      > So we are constantly told, but aside from condensation, I have yet to see
                                      > any coherent argument explaining why particular alterations are necessary,
                                      > nor have I seen any declarations of what is not possible in movies that some
                                      > movie-maker hasn't violated with impunity.

                                      "Apart from condensation" is
                                      a bit like, "Apart from that
                                      awkward moment with Mr. Booth
                                      and Mr. Lincoln, the evening at
                                      Ford's Theater went well." The
                                      effects of condensation flow
                                      through every cinematic work.
                                      Well, maybe not "The Grinch
                                      Who Stole Christmas" (the
                                      real *animated* version) but
                                      the exception proves the rule.

                                      The primary alteration, though,
                                      is that a book creates sense
                                      input through the reader's
                                      imagination; a movie shows the
                                      same thing, or pipes it through
                                      speakers -- the "Grinch", in
                                      the case of sound, NOT being
                                      an exception.

                                      Of course, saying what is not
                                      possible in movies, these
                                      days, is pointless. If money
                                      can be made from it, not only
                                      *can* it be done, it most
                                      likely *has* been done. That
                                      reminds me ... OK, rewatched
                                      Gollum's acceptance speech
                                      for MTV's 2003 "Best Virtual
                                      Performance" award. QED.

                                      >> My biggest disappointment with "Game of Thrones" ...
                                      >> is that it can be accused, in my opinion, of the failure
                                      >> which Le Guin described in her essay, "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie."
                                      >> That is, that it is too much like a modern international political
                                      >> thriller, just with swords and a dash of supernaturalism thrown in, for
                                      >> my taste.
                                      >
                                      > Yet the amoral thriller aspect seems to be just what the book's fans like,
                                      > and the actors and movie-makers in the promo film actually praise the story
                                      > for having characters who are completely unpredictable. The appeal of this
                                      > eludes me.

                                      But for those who like that sort
                                      of thing, this may be just the
                                      sort of thing they will like....

                                      I find the amoral aspect of
                                      GoT means I am forced to, say,
                                      "suspend dislike"; but there is
                                      enough creativity to keep me
                                      interested. It is not, however,
                                      a book that I will reread at
                                      least once a year for the rest
                                      of my life, like LoTR.

                                      Darrell
                                    • David Bratman
                                      In this context, it s worth remembering that the Telmarines in the _Prince Caspian_ film were played by experienced Italian and Spanish-language actors. They
                                      Message 18 of 26 , Dec 9, 2010
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                                        In this context, it's worth remembering that the Telmarines in the _Prince
                                        Caspian_ film were played by experienced Italian and Spanish-language
                                        actors. They were not only darker-complexioned than the English children,
                                        they were also _much_ better actors, which did tend to tamper with my
                                        sympathies for the characters.

                                        DB

                                        "not_thou" <emptyD@...> wrote:

                                        > Minor clarification: while their stories may have followed many Hollywood
                                        > conventions and they often featured minor American actors in the leading
                                        > roles, Spaghetti Westerns were thus named because they were produced or
                                        > co-produced by Italian companies in Europe, usually in Spain, and thus
                                        > quite understandably with a supporting cast of Italian and Spanish actors.
                                        > It is, however, quite true that genuine Hollywood productions would often
                                        > employ darker-complexioned actors of any ethnicity to portray Native
                                        > Americans.
                                      • David Bratman
                                        ... I profoundly disagree. Not that you re wrong about your main point: condensation does indeed, as you say, affect the entirety of any cinematic adaptation.
                                        Message 19 of 26 , Dec 10, 2010
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                                          "Darrell A. Martin" <darrellm@...> wrote:

                                          >> So we are constantly told, but aside from condensation, I have yet to see
                                          >> any coherent argument explaining why particular alterations are
                                          >> necessary,
                                          >> nor have I seen any declarations of what is not possible in movies that
                                          >> some
                                          >> movie-maker hasn't violated with impunity.
                                          >
                                          > "Apart from condensation" is
                                          > a bit like, "Apart from that
                                          > awkward moment with Mr. Booth
                                          > and Mr. Lincoln, the evening at
                                          > Ford's Theater went well." The
                                          > effects of condensation flow
                                          > through every cinematic work.

                                          I profoundly disagree. Not that you're wrong about your main point:
                                          condensation does indeed, as you say, affect the entirety of any cinematic
                                          adaptation.

                                          Yet it is possible to discuss the causes and effects of other changes
                                          independently of those of condensation. For instance, in Jackson's LOTR's
                                          case, the changes of the characters of Denethor and Faramir were not driven
                                          by the need to condense the story; indeed, they hardly were condensed
                                          relative to the rest of the story at all, and indeed were expanded in
                                          relative importance somewhat, with new material invented by the
                                          screenwriters added.

                                          It is also necessary to make that distinction, if one wishes to criticize
                                          movie adapations in any form other than sweeping condemnation of the entire
                                          idea. The comparison with Lincoln's assassination suggests that you believe
                                          that condensation in adaptations is so poisonous that there's no point in
                                          discussing them further. I disagree. I believe it is possible to make a
                                          good movie adaption of at least some literary works, and that this has
                                          occasionally happened.

                                          I further find that, when I'm discussing Jackson with his defenders, that no
                                          matter how often I explain that I'm looking for something that conveys
                                          Tolkien's tone and spirit, not the entirety of his story, and that longer
                                          movies would not have been better - indeed, I think Jackson's films would
                                          have been superior had they been shorter - I have to keep fending off claims
                                          that the only kind of adapation that would satisfy us "book fans" is
                                          something 70 hours long with Bombadil in it, and that since that's obviously
                                          impossible we're just being unreasonable.

                                          No, that's not what I want at all, and I don't think it's what others who
                                          agree with me want, but comments like yours, comparing condensing a book
                                          with interrupting a play by assassinating the President, don't help.

                                          DB
                                        • Darrell A. Martin
                                          ... David: The Lincoln comparison was not an allegory. I used it to make one point, and one point only, that one *cannot* set aside condensation as a factor in
                                          Message 20 of 26 , Dec 10, 2010
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                                            On 12/10/2010 2:05 AM, David Bratman wrote:
                                            > "Darrell A. Martin"<darrellm@...> wrote:
                                            >
                                            >>> So we are constantly told, but aside from condensation, I have yet to see
                                            >>> any coherent argument explaining why particular alterations are
                                            >>> necessary,
                                            >>> nor have I seen any declarations of what is not possible in movies that
                                            >>> some
                                            >>> movie-maker hasn't violated with impunity.
                                            >>
                                            >> "Apart from condensation" is
                                            >> a bit like, "Apart from that
                                            >> awkward moment with Mr. Booth
                                            >> and Mr. Lincoln, the evening at
                                            >> Ford's Theater went well." The
                                            >> effects of condensation flow
                                            >> through every cinematic work.
                                            >
                                            > I profoundly disagree. Not that you're wrong about your main point:
                                            > condensation does indeed, as you say, affect the entirety of any cinematic
                                            > adaptation.
                                            >
                                            > Yet it is possible to discuss the causes and effects of other changes
                                            > independently of those of condensation. For instance, in Jackson's LOTR's
                                            > case, the changes of the characters of Denethor and Faramir were not driven
                                            > by the need to condense the story; indeed, they hardly were condensed
                                            > relative to the rest of the story at all, and indeed were expanded in
                                            > relative importance somewhat, with new material invented by the
                                            > screenwriters added.
                                            >
                                            > It is also necessary to make that distinction, if one wishes to criticize
                                            > movie adapations in any form other than sweeping condemnation of the entire
                                            > idea. The comparison with Lincoln's assassination suggests that you believe
                                            > that condensation in adaptations is so poisonous that there's no point in
                                            > discussing them further. I disagree. I believe it is possible to make a
                                            > good movie adaption of at least some literary works, and that this has
                                            > occasionally happened.
                                            >
                                            > I further find that, when I'm discussing Jackson with his defenders, that no
                                            > matter how often I explain that I'm looking for something that conveys
                                            > Tolkien's tone and spirit, not the entirety of his story, and that longer
                                            > movies would not have been better - indeed, I think Jackson's films would
                                            > have been superior had they been shorter - I have to keep fending off claims
                                            > that the only kind of adapation that would satisfy us "book fans" is
                                            > something 70 hours long with Bombadil in it, and that since that's obviously
                                            > impossible we're just being unreasonable.
                                            >
                                            > No, that's not what I want at all, and I don't think it's what others who
                                            > agree with me want, but comments like yours, comparing condensing a book
                                            > with interrupting a play by assassinating the President, don't help.
                                            >
                                            > DB

                                            David:

                                            The Lincoln comparison was not an allegory. I used it to make one point,
                                            and one point only, that one *cannot* set aside condensation as a factor
                                            in adapting books to film, any more than one could discuss activities at
                                            Ford's Theater the evening of 14 April 1865, and ignore the historical
                                            event which took place. It will not bear a heavier load than that.

                                            You said, "The comparison with Lincoln's assassination suggests that you
                                            believe that condensation in adaptations is so poisonous that there's no
                                            point in discussing them further." I meant to suggest no such thing, and
                                            I don't believe it. It was a figure of speech with limited application.
                                            I could have said "condensation is the 800 pound gorilla in the
                                            book-to-cinema room" and I would not have been alerting anyone to danger
                                            from large primates. I made no "sweeping condemnation of the entire
                                            idea" of condensation because I do not condemn it at all. It is simply a
                                            crucial fact about the process of adaptation.

                                            My Lincoln reference may not have been the best choice -- I have made
                                            that mistake before and am unfortunately likely to do so again,
                                            especially when attempting humor -- but even so I do not think it
                                            supports your characterization of it.

                                            In fact, I agree that Jackson's films *could* have been superior had
                                            they been shorter, depending on what was cut. Not only superior as
                                            artistic efforts in their own right, but possibly superior *adaptations*.
                                            - Why so much time spent on the Birthday Party, if there is to be no
                                            Scouring of the Shire?
                                            - I think Arwen is superfluous in the books (in the main narrative),
                                            but in her minor role she does not get in the way. In the films her role
                                            is expanded to the point of intrusion.
                                            - Bilbo could have been off visiting Bombadil with no damage done.
                                            - We waste time watching Saruman grow his Uruk-hai (wrong in many ways).
                                            - Where did Aragorn-over-the-cliff come from? What does it add to the
                                            story?
                                            - The journey of Frodo to Mordor bored me nearly to literal tears, it
                                            dragged so; to a lesser extent, same for the Entmoot.
                                            - Faramir, one of my favorite characters in LoTR, could have been
                                            dispensed with, perhaps.
                                            - Etc.

                                            I also agree with you that Jackson made alterations that profoundly
                                            departed from Tolkien's concepts, with no seeming rationale.
                                            - His Orcs are way too fearsome individually, and worst of all way too
                                            inhuman.
                                            - Gimli is unrecognizable comic relief, a Tolkien Dwarf in height and
                                            beard only. "Toss me. But don't tell the Elf." Gack!
                                            - The Rivendell Robot Drill Squad that joins Aragorn at Helm's Deep
                                            resembles neither Elves nor the Dunedain.
                                            - Denethor somehow acquired a quivering lower lip. Mad? Obviously. A
                                            weakling? Hardly.
                                            - Etc.

                                            My greatest disappointment is that the two events with the most
                                            emotional impact for me are butchered, and they are in the same part of
                                            the story. The Ride of the Rohirrim is not about the Riders, but about
                                            squadrons of Oliphaunts, and Legolas preparing his Olympic gymnastic
                                            routine. And the arrival of the black ships, instead of the end of all
                                            hope turned suddenly and gloriously to victory with the unfurling of
                                            Aragorn's banner, is merely the end of a ferry ride for the Army of the
                                            Dead.

                                            There is plenty to like about Jackson's LoTR. I was particularly
                                            impressed by the scenes at Bree, by the drowning of Isengard, by Merry
                                            and Pippen at the gate afterward, and by Gandalf vs the Balrog. Both
                                            Gollum and Sauron are fiendishly good, as is Wormtongue (illustrating
                                            Jackson's greater success in portraying evil as opposed to good). And I
                                            do love the New Zealand scenery, even when it does not look at all like
                                            Middle-earth, especially in Rohan.

                                            Last but not least, Peter Jackson is not Ralph Bakshi, a huge point in
                                            his favor.

                                            What I think we are both saying is that Jackson could have done better,
                                            and that does *NOT* mean that every last word Tolkien wrote, and not a
                                            letter more, had to be slavishly duplicated on film. (At $375 per set,
                                            the DVDs would have sold like Picassos.)

                                            Darrell
                                          • David Bratman
                                            Darrell - I understand what figurative comparisons are, so you need not insult my intelligence by suggesting that I don t. I did not imagine that you were
                                            Message 21 of 26 , Dec 10, 2010
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                                              Darrell -

                                              I understand what figurative comparisons are, so you need not insult my intelligence by suggesting that I don't. I did not imagine that you were saying that anyone actually gets shot in the making of a movie adaptation, nor that Jackson trashing LOTR is as objectively bad for the world as the assassination of Lincoln.

                                              I would agree, too, that you cannot discuss the changes made for a movie adaptation without considering that condensation is the most important factor.

                                              But that is not what I was disputing. What I _am_ saying is that, in the course of a detailed discussion of the merits or demerits, success or failure, of that adaptation, you can take the necessity for condensation as a given, and consider other changes, not directly related to the need for condensation, by themselves. This gives you the opportunity of saying how the adaptation could have been better or worse, more or less faithful, than it was, while still remaining in the realm of what could realistically be done.

                                              Your assassination comparison opposes any argument of the sort. It says that you consider condensation itself to be a crime against the work so massive as to render any further discussion ridiculously bathetic. Either it means that or it means nothing at all.

                                              DB
                                              -----Original Message-----
                                              >From: "Darrell A. Martin" <darrellm@...>
                                              >Sent: Dec 10, 2010 3:34 AM
                                              >To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                                              >Subject: [mythsoc] How Jackson's LoTR could have been better
                                              >
                                              >On 12/10/2010 2:05 AM, David Bratman wrote:
                                              >> "Darrell A. Martin"<darrellm@...> wrote:
                                              >>
                                              >>>> So we are constantly told, but aside from condensation, I have yet to see
                                              >>>> any coherent argument explaining why particular alterations are
                                              >>>> necessary,
                                              >>>> nor have I seen any declarations of what is not possible in movies that
                                              >>>> some
                                              >>>> movie-maker hasn't violated with impunity.
                                              >>>
                                              >>> "Apart from condensation" is
                                              >>> a bit like, "Apart from that
                                              >>> awkward moment with Mr. Booth
                                              >>> and Mr. Lincoln, the evening at
                                              >>> Ford's Theater went well." The
                                              >>> effects of condensation flow
                                              >>> through every cinematic work.
                                              >>
                                              >> I profoundly disagree. Not that you're wrong about your main point:
                                              >> condensation does indeed, as you say, affect the entirety of any cinematic
                                              >> adaptation.
                                              >>
                                              >> Yet it is possible to discuss the causes and effects of other changes
                                              >> independently of those of condensation. For instance, in Jackson's LOTR's
                                              >> case, the changes of the characters of Denethor and Faramir were not driven
                                              >> by the need to condense the story; indeed, they hardly were condensed
                                              >> relative to the rest of the story at all, and indeed were expanded in
                                              >> relative importance somewhat, with new material invented by the
                                              >> screenwriters added.
                                              >>
                                              >> It is also necessary to make that distinction, if one wishes to criticize
                                              >> movie adapations in any form other than sweeping condemnation of the entire
                                              >> idea. The comparison with Lincoln's assassination suggests that you believe
                                              >> that condensation in adaptations is so poisonous that there's no point in
                                              >> discussing them further. I disagree. I believe it is possible to make a
                                              >> good movie adaption of at least some literary works, and that this has
                                              >> occasionally happened.
                                              >>
                                              >> I further find that, when I'm discussing Jackson with his defenders, that no
                                              >> matter how often I explain that I'm looking for something that conveys
                                              >> Tolkien's tone and spirit, not the entirety of his story, and that longer
                                              >> movies would not have been better - indeed, I think Jackson's films would
                                              >> have been superior had they been shorter - I have to keep fending off claims
                                              >> that the only kind of adapation that would satisfy us "book fans" is
                                              >> something 70 hours long with Bombadil in it, and that since that's obviously
                                              >> impossible we're just being unreasonable.
                                              >>
                                              >> No, that's not what I want at all, and I don't think it's what others who
                                              >> agree with me want, but comments like yours, comparing condensing a book
                                              >> with interrupting a play by assassinating the President, don't help.
                                              >>
                                              >> DB
                                              >
                                              >David:
                                              >
                                              >The Lincoln comparison was not an allegory. I used it to make one point,
                                              >and one point only, that one *cannot* set aside condensation as a factor
                                              >in adapting books to film, any more than one could discuss activities at
                                              >Ford's Theater the evening of 14 April 1865, and ignore the historical
                                              >event which took place. It will not bear a heavier load than that.
                                              >
                                              >You said, "The comparison with Lincoln's assassination suggests that you
                                              >believe that condensation in adaptations is so poisonous that there's no
                                              >point in discussing them further." I meant to suggest no such thing, and
                                              >I don't believe it. It was a figure of speech with limited application.
                                              >I could have said "condensation is the 800 pound gorilla in the
                                              >book-to-cinema room" and I would not have been alerting anyone to danger
                                              >from large primates. I made no "sweeping condemnation of the entire
                                              >idea" of condensation because I do not condemn it at all. It is simply a
                                              >crucial fact about the process of adaptation.
                                              >
                                              >My Lincoln reference may not have been the best choice -- I have made
                                              >that mistake before and am unfortunately likely to do so again,
                                              >especially when attempting humor -- but even so I do not think it
                                              >supports your characterization of it.
                                              >
                                              >In fact, I agree that Jackson's films *could* have been superior had
                                              >they been shorter, depending on what was cut. Not only superior as
                                              >artistic efforts in their own right, but possibly superior *adaptations*.
                                              > - Why so much time spent on the Birthday Party, if there is to be no
                                              >Scouring of the Shire?
                                              > - I think Arwen is superfluous in the books (in the main narrative),
                                              >but in her minor role she does not get in the way. In the films her role
                                              >is expanded to the point of intrusion.
                                              > - Bilbo could have been off visiting Bombadil with no damage done.
                                              > - We waste time watching Saruman grow his Uruk-hai (wrong in many ways).
                                              > - Where did Aragorn-over-the-cliff come from? What does it add to the
                                              >story?
                                              > - The journey of Frodo to Mordor bored me nearly to literal tears, it
                                              >dragged so; to a lesser extent, same for the Entmoot.
                                              > - Faramir, one of my favorite characters in LoTR, could have been
                                              >dispensed with, perhaps.
                                              > - Etc.
                                              >
                                              >I also agree with you that Jackson made alterations that profoundly
                                              >departed from Tolkien's concepts, with no seeming rationale.
                                              > - His Orcs are way too fearsome individually, and worst of all way too
                                              >inhuman.
                                              > - Gimli is unrecognizable comic relief, a Tolkien Dwarf in height and
                                              >beard only. "Toss me. But don't tell the Elf." Gack!
                                              > - The Rivendell Robot Drill Squad that joins Aragorn at Helm's Deep
                                              >resembles neither Elves nor the Dunedain.
                                              > - Denethor somehow acquired a quivering lower lip. Mad? Obviously. A
                                              >weakling? Hardly.
                                              > - Etc.
                                              >
                                              >My greatest disappointment is that the two events with the most
                                              >emotional impact for me are butchered, and they are in the same part of
                                              >the story. The Ride of the Rohirrim is not about the Riders, but about
                                              >squadrons of Oliphaunts, and Legolas preparing his Olympic gymnastic
                                              >routine. And the arrival of the black ships, instead of the end of all
                                              >hope turned suddenly and gloriously to victory with the unfurling of
                                              >Aragorn's banner, is merely the end of a ferry ride for the Army of the
                                              >Dead.
                                              >
                                              >There is plenty to like about Jackson's LoTR. I was particularly
                                              >impressed by the scenes at Bree, by the drowning of Isengard, by Merry
                                              >and Pippen at the gate afterward, and by Gandalf vs the Balrog. Both
                                              >Gollum and Sauron are fiendishly good, as is Wormtongue (illustrating
                                              >Jackson's greater success in portraying evil as opposed to good). And I
                                              >do love the New Zealand scenery, even when it does not look at all like
                                              >Middle-earth, especially in Rohan.
                                              >
                                              >Last but not least, Peter Jackson is not Ralph Bakshi, a huge point in
                                              >his favor.
                                              >
                                              >What I think we are both saying is that Jackson could have done better,
                                              >and that does *NOT* mean that every last word Tolkien wrote, and not a
                                              >letter more, had to be slavishly duplicated on film. (At $375 per set,
                                              >the DVDs would have sold like Picassos.)
                                              >
                                              >Darrell
                                              >
                                              >
                                              >
                                              >
                                              >------------------------------------
                                              >
                                              >The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.orgYahoo! Groups Links
                                              >
                                              >
                                              >
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