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Re: [mythsoc] Re: Are Hobbits white?

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 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 6 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 7 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 8 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 9 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 10 of 26 , Dec 10, 2010
                      • 0 Attachment
                        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 11 of 26 , Dec 10, 2010
                        • 0 Attachment
                          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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