mandag 20. desember 2010

The Fellowship of Pain and Suffering

When we're talking about pain and suffering and cruelty and stuff ... This really can't be avoided during a Tolkien month:


lørdag 18. desember 2010

Christopher Lee and the sound of death

So, well, it's like Tolkien month here, and, well, this clip is obviously Tolkien related. It's, like, the movie and stuff. So ... well ... I really don't need any excuses to show it. Just when you thought Christopher Lee couldn't get any cooler ...


tirsdag 14. desember 2010

The Father Tolkien Letters



After a short interval ... Tolkien month resumes. Witn none other than John Tolkien talking about The Father Christmas Letters.

fredag 3. desember 2010

No way to treat an ent

Yesterday, the second day of our Tolkien month, we introduced Christopher Lee as Treebeard. So it seems fitting to dedicate today's posting to the wooden one himself. This is a piece I originally published elsewhere November 23 last year. And though I've come to Rohan since then, and though autumn is only a distant memory by now, it is still more or less fitting:


It's autumn. Late autumn, actually. And, as it’s autumn, I have gotten the urge to return to Middle Earth. I picked up where I left off – as Merry and Pippin enters Fangorn forest.

I read Tolkien like that: Read a few chapters, then stay away for a long time, sometimes a year, then pick up again from wherever I left. I know the story, after all.

And Tolkien himself left the company outside the gates of Moria for more than a year. Now, that’s a bleak place to spend twelve months or more. (There was a war coming in Europe.)

Though Merry and Pippin doesn’t know, entering Fangorn is the start of great things – for them personally and for Middle Earth. It rouses the ents, as Treebeard realizes he can no longer stay out of worldly things. Which spells the end for Saruman’s dreams of power. Which again means that Gondor is not threatened from two sides at once – and that the forces of Rohan are free to ride to Gondor’s support.

All this because of two hobbits that only want to get away from their orc(ish) captors.

We can none of us know the whole story of our times. We are all part of the great narrative that is history, but we have no way of knowing what – if any – influence we will have on it. An ethics that focuses on consequences only is pointless. Because we have no way of knowing the consequences. And sometimes our actions are of importance for entirely unintended reasons. For good – or for bad.

Merry and Pippins actions are of pivotal importance for the victory over Sauron, but they cannot know that as they enter Fangorn – or as they meet Treebeard.

Neither can we know the ultimate consequences of any single action.

All of this just to state my annoyance at Peter Jackson's movie. There are three things in the movie that still annoy me. One is the compressing of time at the beginning, where 17 years turns into a few months. Which means that a lot of things go slightly unfocused in the story.

Like Saruman, who uses those 17 years to go from bad to worse. Or the ring wraiths, which must already be at the gates of The Shire as Bilbo gives Frodo the ring (by way of Gandalf). Or Gandalf himself, who should have spent some of those years to uncover the secret of the ring – and now has to do it in mere months.

It simply doesn’t add up. And all that Jackson had to do was put up a poster that said “17 years later”. He could even have kept Frodo looking like a German disco kid, as he doesn’t age much in those 17 years – thanks to the power of the ring.

The two other tings that really rile me about the movie, is the treatment of two of its heroes: Faramir and Treebeard.

Faramir, who in the book is a noble man – one of the few that instantly sees the dangers of using the ring – in the movie becomes a silly, scared kid. And all because they needed a cliffhanger to end the second movie.

It is an ending alien to the book – that also gives us the unbearably stupid scene were Frodo actually waves the ring in front of one of the ring wraiths. So much for a secret mission.

And poor Treebeard. He is the tree herd. OK, we have to repeat that: He is the tree herd of Fangorn. He knows what goes on in his own forest.

Instead of deciding to go to war at the entthing, they decide to stay away. And Treebeard only changes his mind after Pippin (all of this is done simply to make it seem like Pippin is getting smarter) lures him to follow them towards Isengard. Only when he comes to the edge of Fangorn does he see the destruction which has been done to his forest.

He roars with anger, and seconds later a whole gang of ents (that have no reason whatsoever to be there) come out from Fangorn and they march towards Isengard.

His anger tells us one thing: That he didn’t know of the destruction until this moment.

Once again: He is the tree herd. And he doesn’t know that thousands of trees have been cut down to fuel Saruman’s war machine? That is utter nonsense.

I can forgive the compression of time at the beginning. I dislike it, but I realize that it was important for creating the urgency that drives Jacksons’s version of the story. I can almost forgive what is done to Faramir. It is a disgrace, but I understand the need for a cliffhanger at the end of the second movie – even if it is a stupid one.

But I really can’t forgive what is done to Treebeard. Ents have been in Middle Earth almost since the world began. They are a proud race and a truly original one – together with hobbits one of Tolkien’s great feats of true sub creation.

To imply that Treebeard doesn’t know what is happening in his own forest – he has, after all, known some of the cut down trees since they were acorns – isn’t merely to change the plot a bit. It is to fundamentally change one of the races in Tolkien’s world.

It’s an insult to Treebeard, an insult to ents and an insult to Tolkien. It is, in truth, quite unforgiveable, Mr. Jackson.

torsdag 2. desember 2010

Christopher Lee as Treebeard

Yesterday, JRR himself was singing here on Flotsam & Jetsam, to kick off our Tolkien month. And there is no reason not to follow that up with more singing. None other than Christopher Lee himself, singing In the willow-meads of Tasarinan, the poem Treebeard chants to Merry and Pippin on their way to his dwelling, on the  day they first met in Fangorn.





The song is form the cycle The Road Goes Ever On, and the music is by Donald Swann. Lee is accompanied by The Tolkien Ensamble.

Here is the poem:

In the willow-meads of Tasarinan I walked in the Spring.
Ah! the sight and the smell of the Spring  in Nan-tasarion!
And I said that was good.
I wandered in Summer in the elm-woods of Ossiriand.
Ah! the light and the music in the Summer by the Seven Rivers of Ossir!
And I thought that was best.
To the beeches of Neldoreth I came in the Autumn.
Ah! the gold and the red and the sighing leaves in the Autumn in Taur-na-neldor!
It was more than my desire.
To the pine-trees upon the highland of Dorthonion I climbed in the Winter.
Ah! the wind and the whiteness and the black branches of Winter upon Orod-na-Thôn!
My voice went up and sang in the sky.
And now all those lands lie under the wave,
And I walk in Ambaróna, in Tauremorna, in Aldalómë,
In my own land, in the country of Fangorn,
Where the roots are long,
And the years lie thicker than the leaves
In Tauremornalómë.

onsdag 1. desember 2010

Tolkien singing

It's December, and December is Tolkien month here at Flotsam & Jetsam. We kick off with a real gem, JRR himself singing Troll sat alone on his seat of stone, the song Sam sings after they stumble across the three trolls that turn to stone in The Hobbit.

Storywise, their travel to Rivendell is coming to an end. Just pages later they meet Glorfindel and he and Frodo rides off towards the Ford of Bruinen, chased by the nine.





"Troll sat alone on his seat of stone,
And munched and mumbled a bare old bone;
For many a year he had gnawed it near,
For meat was hard to come by.
Done by! Gum by!
In a cave in the hills he dwelt alone,
And meat was hard to come by.

Up came Tom with his big boots on.
Said he to Troll: 'Pray, what is yon?
For it looks like the shin o' my nuncle Tim,
As should be a-lyin' in graveyard.
Caveyard! Paveyard!
This many a year has Tim been gone,
And I thought he were lyin' in graveyard.'

'My lad,' said Troll, 'this bone I stole.
But what be bones that lie in a hole?
Thy nuncle was dead as a lump o' lead,
Afore I found his shinbone.
Tinbone! Thinbone!
He can spare a share for a poor old troll,
For he don't need his shinbone.'

Said Tom: 'I don't see why the likes o' thee
Without axin' leave should go makin' free
With the shank or the shin o' my father's kin;
So hand the old bone over!
Rover! Trover!
Though dead he be, it belongs to he;
So hand the old bone over!'

'For a couple o' pins,' says Troll, and grins,
'I'll eat thee too, and gnaw thy shins.
A bit o' fresh meat will go down sweet!
I'll try my teeth on thee now.
Hee now! See now!
I'm tired o' gnawing old bones and skins;
I've a mind to dine on thee now.'

But just as he thought his dinner was caught,
He found his hands had hold of naught.
Before he could mind, Tom slipped behind
And gave him the boot to larn him.
Warn him! Darn him!
A bump o' the boot on the seat, Tom thought,
Would be the way to larn him.

But harder than stone is the flesh and bone
Of a troll that sits in the hills alone.
As well set your boot to the mountain's root,
For the seat of a troll don't feel it.
Peel it! Heal it!
Old Troll laughed, when he heard Tom groan,
And he knew his toes could feel it.

Tom's leg is game, since home he came,
And his bootless foot is lasting lame;
But Troll don't care, and he's still there
With the bone he boned from its owner.
Doner! Boner!
Troll's old seat is still the same,
And the bone he boned from its owner!"