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Heroism, objective hazard, and believability
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Beren IV
Gondor


Feb 4 2009, 4:17am

Post #1 of 66 (1480 views)
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Heroism, objective hazard, and believability Can't Post

First the context: in mountaineering, any particular mountain climb has associated with it a certain amount of risk, a finite chance that the climber will not come back, regardless of the skill or competence of the climber. For example, if you are going up Everest by the standard route, every second you are in the Khumbu Icefall, there is a chance that one of the giant ice blocks (called 'serracs') will fall on you and kill you. This kind of danger is called "objective risk" or "objective hazard" - it is a risk that is unavoidable given the activity you are engaged in, in this case climbing a particular mountain by a particular route.

Although I have only heard this phrase used in the context of mountaineering, the concept is certainly applied to warfare as well. To quote one forummer on this board, the current thinking is that there is either a bullet with your name on it or there isn't. Part of this is due to the nature of modern warfare, and probably depends on your situation. The importance of subjective risk, that is the extent by which you can reduce the danger by skill, is probably greater if you are piloting a fighter plane than if you are an infantryman. Similarly, if you were fighting in a war in the past, especially if the size of the armies is much smaller, the relative importance of objective rather than subjective risk also favored the subjective more than it does in modern warfare. Still, you could die just by being unlucky.

Now, on to the issue: Tolkien's fantasy is full of legendary heroes taking extraordinary risks against seemingly incredible odds. Aragorn leaps out at the top of the list, with his long military and adventuring career before the War of the Ring, as well as his participation in numerous battles both huge and minor during the conflict. He and Tolkien's other heroes prevail in a large part because of their prowess: their skill, physical might, and quick wits, as well as the superiority of their equipment. Depending on the situation, these things can count for a lot, both in terms of surviving combat (in a one-on-one swordfight, the more skilled opponent almost always wins), and in terms of avoiding situations that expose you to objective risk (he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day).

In many fantasy stories and settings, particularly Dungeons and Dragons, the use of magic also can make the heroes all but invulnerable except to terrible monsters and other heroes, but that's generally not the case in Tolkien: of the Fellowship of the Ring, for example, only two of the nine companions are wearing any armor. Yet, the Fellowship of the Ring still gets shot at several times by orcs showering volleys of arrows, but apart from Frodo, nobody gets hit (Frodo gets shot repeatedly, which is where the aforementioned armor does come into play!). If one of those arrows that hit Frodo, by chance, had hit somebody else in the Fellowship (perhaps excluding Gimli), the story might have turned out very differently!

It does make you wonder, though: of those heroes that have long careers in military or adventuring settings, how believable is it that they don't, for the most part (there are some exceptions, of course), wind up getting killed by stray arrows, or overwhelmed by enemies in a battle during a few second window in which their less mighty friends immediately around them are slain? Do these heroes have some great magic that helps protect them, causing arrows to miss narrowly (remember, a lot of these heroes are elves)?

The paleobotanist is back!


Ghills
The Shire

Feb 4 2009, 4:49am

Post #2 of 66 (1040 views)
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Munchkin Heroes Need No Latrines, and other issues [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree with the general point; Tolkien's heroes suffer from the same uber-munchkin issues that D&D characters do. But that's part of their appeal. People want to hear about heroes. Authors frequently do not mention irrelevant objects or actions to shorten a narrative. This is why we do not hear all about armor, or how to clean orc blood off your ax, or even every day of travel. Authors also avoid killing off their heroes, which is probably the only reason so many survive for so long.

Modern warfare, with huge casualties and area-effect weapons and distant enemies, is really very new. Medieval battles often devolved into little knots of melee, and arrows weren't used once battle was joined. Elvish archers might make a difference to this, but it's really very difficult to hit a randomly moving target while avoiding your randomly moving ally a foot away. Overall, I think there was less random chance and more skill involved than a modern person might think.

Of course, Aragorn & Gandalf did try to travel up a snowing mountain in the middle of winter. Maybe Tolkien just had to exercise his authorial powers to save them from their lack of common sense. Wink

For your specific point: there are several mentions of traveling coats, etc, in LoTR. I've always assumed that these were leather (in a few places it says so, I think), and functioned as the leather armor commoners and travelers wore on Earth. Also, I imagine Legolas gets a get-out-of-archery-free card for being an Elf, which is why he can wear light enough clothing to run around on top of snow drifts.


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Feb 4 2009, 5:49am

Post #3 of 66 (1043 views)
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Poet Prowess? [In reply to] Can't Post

During the Viet Nam war, the military had all of these draftees from as wide a range of backgrounds as one could hope for. So they did a study to see which profession had the highest survival rate. Much to their surprise, the people who listed "Poet" as their pre-military profession out-did everyone else in survival.

Could that be Aragorn's secret ace? Though we never actually read any poetry by him, Bilbo seemed to consider him a good enough poet to want to collaborate with him.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


squire
Half-elven


Feb 4 2009, 5:56am

Post #4 of 66 (1060 views)
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Great strides in oral poetry [In reply to] Can't Post

I've always understood that Aragorn is making up his funeral song for Boromir on the spot. Of course, it probably follows some conventions, or else Legolas would not be able to pick up the second verse so skillfully.

I also like to think that Aragorn spontaneously composes his "Gondor! O Gondor" lyric. Although it's certainly arguable that he's just reciting an oldie but goodie, the scene gets additional punch when you read it with my interpretation.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


sador
Half-elven

Feb 4 2009, 7:19am

Post #5 of 66 (1068 views)
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That's only in FotR [In reply to] Can't Post

After the Fellowship has played its part, and our heroes prepare for the War of the Ring - Aragorn and Legolas do wear mail, which they got in Rohan (Gimli gets a helmet and a shield there); Pippin receives mail in Gondor, and Merry a stout leather jerkin in Dunharrow; Sam and Frodo carry orc-mail into Mordor, taken in the tower - until they can't carry the load any more; which actually is the reason the company sets out without armour - they expect no fighting, and armour would hamper speed and secrecy.
Boromir tales a shield, and Gandalf - well, as Gandalf the White, no weapon the Three Hunters held could harm him, and I expect even when he was Grey there was no real need for it.

But yes, it is nothing short of fantastic that twice an orc-arrow finds a mark (in Moria, and next to Sarn Gebir) - and in both cases it hits Frodo, and just in the part of his body which is covered by the mithril coat.
Also worth of note is that in both cases, the leader of the fellowship is alotted an arrow in his cap!

"We are not bound forever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory" - Aragorn


Curious
Half-elven


Feb 4 2009, 11:22am

Post #6 of 66 (1043 views)
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The Silmarillion is full of untimely deaths. [In reply to] Can't Post

Bilbo, on the other hand, is almost comically lucky -- although his wits and courage help him take advantage of his luck.

LotR falls somewhere in between, with many lesser characters like Hama and Halbarad dying, but most of the Fellowship surviving. On the other hand, Frodo does not emerge from his adventure unscathed, and his wounds do not heal.

As for why Frodo gets hit in FotR and others don't, could it be that they were aiming for Frodo? That's certainly the case with the berserker orc in Moria, and perhaps with the bowmen as well.


Darkstone
Immortal


Feb 4 2009, 4:02pm

Post #7 of 66 (1059 views)
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Inspirational or absurdist? [In reply to] Can't Post

Grizzled veteran: "So there I was, alone, surrounded, out of ammunition, outnumbered a hundred to one."
New guy: "Wow! What happened then?"
Grizzled veteran: "'What happened then?' Why, son, I got killed!"
-Very old joke.


A combat soldier goes through a series of epiphanies.

1. I'm me, I'm special, I won't get killed.

2. Whoa! I could get killed! But if I'm careful, smart, and remember my training I'll get out of this alive!

3. It doesn't matter what I do. It's all chance whether I get killed or not.

4. What will be, will be. It's all in the hands of Providence/God/whovever. I can only do my duty.

If you talk with combat veterans, they'll probably tell you tales of how they miraculously escaped from death. However, they are just as likely to tell you of how they saw others get killed by ridiculously random one-chance-in-a-billion circumstances. That's the type of thing that literally drive vets nuts: "Why did I survive and they didn't?" Was it determined by random chance, or by a higher power with a definite plan? Accepting the first possibility makes you crazy, accepting the second makes you humble.

That's the beauty of the scene at Oroduin. If Gollum falls in by the design of a higher power, then LOTR is an uplifting story about faith, hope and Providence. If Gollum's fall is purely by accident, then Tolkien is an anti-war writer on a par with Dalton Trumbo and Richard Hooker.

So, to answer your questions. First, their survival is believable precisely because they survive by inches. That's how you notice you survived death. "Boy, that was close!" Second, if they didn't survive, then they wouldn't have survived, and thus there would have been no story. How many other heroes of Middle-earth could have told us many stories of miraculous survival except for the one chance that killed them?

Our heroes either survived by totally random chance, or they survived by the design of Providence. You takes your pick.

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”



FarFromHome
Valinor


Feb 4 2009, 5:27pm

Post #8 of 66 (1034 views)
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Yes and it's not just war [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
First, their survival is believable precisely because they survive by inches. That's how you notice you survived death. "Boy, that was close!" Second, if they didn't survive, then they wouldn't have survived, and thus there would have been no story. How many other heroes of Middle-earth could have told us many stories of miraculous survival except for the one chance that killed them?



There's a similar story that people who frequent the Movie board are familiar with - how many close shaves did Peter Jackson have in getting the movies made? They came so close to not being made at all, and there were many other chances along the way that just worked out at the last moment against all the odds. To the point that people have sometimes commented that there must have been someone Up There keeping an eye on things (although others presumably suspect it was more likely someone Down There instead!)

I suppose all projects that are successful have lots of 'miraculous' stories to tell, and the ones that aren't successful we tend not to hear about.

Sam is a very interesting theorist on this aspect of storytelling, in fact - as he points out to Frodo on the Stairs of Cirith Ungol, if the heroes of old tales hadn't done their great deeds, "we shouldn't know, because they'd have been forgotten."


Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship’s beside the stony wall.
Foam is white and waves are grey;
beyond the sunset leads my way.
Bilbo's Last Song



Beren IV
Gondor


Feb 4 2009, 6:17pm

Post #9 of 66 (1022 views)
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The problem with that, [In reply to] Can't Post

and this is the problem with the "great deeds", is if the heroes of old had failed, then there would be nobody left to remember them. If Beren and Lúthien hadn't gotten the Silmaril, for example, then Morgoth would have won the War of the Jewels, and the entire world would have been destroyed. The very fact that Sam and Frodo are alive to talk about it signifies that B&L, and many other heroes, succeeded.

So how, given the overwhelming odds that Morgoth should have utterly defeated all resistance in Arda and still be reigning from his throne in Angband today, did he lose?

The paleobotanist is back!


Beren IV
Gondor


Feb 4 2009, 6:22pm

Post #10 of 66 (1019 views)
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Tight knots of combat are still chaotic [In reply to] Can't Post

This is what I meant when I said that medieval warfare was more skill-dependent than modern warfare. Nonetheless, if you get into a tight knot of melee, and by chance the enemy gets a brief upper hand, you're still going down when you're the last man standing on your side in your knot.

The paleobotanist is back!


Beren IV
Gondor


Feb 4 2009, 6:23pm

Post #11 of 66 (1017 views)
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A curious observation... [In reply to] Can't Post

...my question is "what kind of statistical robustness does this result have?"

The paleobotanist is back!


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Feb 4 2009, 7:06pm

Post #12 of 66 (1007 views)
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The Other Knights of the Round Table [In reply to] Can't Post

If Beren and Luthien had failed, then perhaps someone else might have stepped into their place. Perhaps others attempted what they did and failed before them, and we never heard about them, because they died before they could tell anybody what they tried.

In Arthurian legend, all of the knights ride forth in search of the Holy Grail. Only Percival (or Galahad, in some versions) actually attained it. All the rest failed.

If something thwarts Providence, Providence will simply summon someone else to try again. We see this even in the Bible. Judas betrays Christ, then kills himself, leaving eleven apostles. God then calls Saul, who had been persecuting Christians, to become the replacement apostle. The plan required a penitant who could prove the power of redemption. The original never made it to the final step, so God had to patch in a replacement.

We're all replaceable, and/or potential replacements for others.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Feb 4 2009, 7:10pm

Post #13 of 66 (1015 views)
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I have no idea. [In reply to] Can't Post

You're talking about an article I read some thirty, thirty-five years ago. I can't even recall for sure which magazine I read it in.

Still, it has always buoyed up my spirits. Having written my share of poetry in my day, I like to imagine that it improves my chances of survival overall. I suppose that what it comes down to is that poetry exercises the creative part of the brain, which in turn finds creative ways to survive when the standard ways fail.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Beren IV
Gondor


Feb 4 2009, 8:27pm

Post #14 of 66 (1011 views)
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"Lies, damn lies, and statistics" [In reply to] Can't Post

This is the problem with factoids like that: they can themselves be the result of random chance! Wink

The paleobotanist is back!


Beren IV
Gondor


Feb 4 2009, 8:35pm

Post #15 of 66 (1009 views)
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Why is it always the royalty who succeed, then? [In reply to] Can't Post

The Knights of the Round Table I guess is more likely, then. What we're seeing in the Sil is the equivalent of Arthur (or Mordred) finding it - either the king himself or the king's son.

As for Providence, that's one of the things that I'm wondering, actually. In a typical D&D game, as I mentioned, the legendary heroes have magical enhancements to their armor that make the run-of-the-mill orc arrow not much of a threat to them. Is Varda shielding the Fellowship from random death? Action on the part of Ilúvitar would be unsatisfying, because then the Fellowship still couldn't fail, but the Valar aren't almighty.

The paleobotanist is back!


FarFromHome
Valinor


Feb 4 2009, 8:49pm

Post #16 of 66 (1026 views)
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What are the odds... [In reply to] Can't Post

that you, or I, or any individual came to be born at all? Any small accident happening to any of our ancestors, or even a slight change of plans made by our parents at a crucial moment, would have resulted in us not being here at all. And yet, here we are.

What are the odds that you will win the lottery this week? Vanishingly small, and yet someone will win.

I've been trying to remember which book I read that provided a number of thought experiments to illustrate just how hard we humans find it to assess odds realistically. Even without invoking Providence as Dreamdeer does, her point remains valid - mere chance provides vast numbers of possibilities, any of which will give a result that, in hindsight, will seem inevitable. As you say, the odds were high that Morgoth would win. If he had, either there would be no stories from Middle-earth, or there would be stories in which Morgoth was the hero...

The chance that he would be defeated (like the chance that you or I would one day be born) was certainly a long shot in the greater scheme of things. But long shots happen.

Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship’s beside the stony wall.
Foam is white and waves are grey;
beyond the sunset leads my way.
Bilbo's Last Song



Darkstone
Immortal


Feb 4 2009, 9:07pm

Post #17 of 66 (1029 views)
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Nothing succeeds (and ennobles) like success. [In reply to] Can't Post

Did they succeed because they were royalty? Or were they royalty because they succeeded?

For example, what exactly happened to legitimize the claim of Isildur's line between the time of Gondor's refusal of King Arvedui and its acceptance of King Elessar? Basically success. If Aragorn had failed then history would remember him as "last of a ragged house long bereft of lordship and dignity" and someone else would be king of Gondor.

Or another example, was Sam a hero because he had Fallohide blood? Or was it "discovered" that he had Fallohide blood because he was a hero?

Not only history, but genealogies are written by the victors.


As for a typical D&D game, there are generally two types of Dungeon Masters. One goes strictly by pre-prepared tables and the roll of the dice. Survival is strictly dependent on chance. The game is purely a statistical exercise.

The other type is more interested in the storyline. He wants the adventure to end a certain way and by golly that's how it's going to end. If the dice and tables say the characters all die in the first fifteen minutes, then he "fudges" the game. The skill here is to not let on to the players that he's doing it.

The question with LOTR is, which type of Dungeon Master is Eru?

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”



Beren IV
Gondor


Feb 4 2009, 9:16pm

Post #18 of 66 (1018 views)
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But is our birth remarkable? [In reply to] Can't Post

One of the leading theories out there for why the Solar System is the way that it is - and this theory seems fairly compelling now - is that otherwise, there would be nobody here to observe it. However, if the universe is indeed infinite, then however unlikely it may be for a star to form with a planet that develops intelligent life, sooner or later it must happen. It's a real-world version of the infinite number of monkeys with their infinite number of typewriters: not only will they reproduce the complete works of William Shakespeare, but they will do it an infinite number of times!

So no, the chance that you and I would be born is miniscule, but, as you point out, it had to be somebody, so why not us?


Arda is not infinite. It's perfectly plain that even if we accept that Eä is our universe, infinite and scope and number of worlds, that nonetheless Arda is still unique within Eä as being singled out as the birthplace of the Children of Ilúvitar. It is also the world upon which most of the Valar descended. By what mechanism does this inordinate number of history-changing unexpected events take place there?



Quote
If he had, either there would be no stories from Middle-earth, or there would be stories in which Morgoth was the hero...


Now, if that were a real-world history and Morgoth were a more human character with admirable qualities as well as despicable traits, then that is undoubtedly what would have happened. But unless the Elven mythology is lying or distorting the truth (you could always suggest that, of course!), then Morgoth really is the bad guy. How is it that the good guys overcame him? Did they really just get unbelievably lucky, or did they get help?

The paleobotanist is back!


Darkstone
Immortal


Feb 4 2009, 9:27pm

Post #19 of 66 (1028 views)
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"God not only plays dice, he's rigged the game." [In reply to] Can't Post

You're right about statistics. For example, after a coin comes up heads a million times in a row, it's still a fifty-fifty chance that the coin will come up heads the next time. Most people find that counter-intuitive. (Unless, of course, the game is rigged.)

As for Morgoth, if he had won I'm sure people would be sitting around pointing out all the times he just missed being defeated by the narrowest of margins, and wondering how Eru with all his many advantages had managed to lose.

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”



FarFromHome
Valinor


Feb 4 2009, 9:47pm

Post #20 of 66 (1033 views)
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I'm afraid I must... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
But unless the Elven mythology is lying or distorting the truth (you could always suggest that, of course!)



I do read Elven mythology as no more accurate than real-world mythology. In fact, since all we have is a "translation" of Elven myths by Bilbo, who clearly didn't understand everything he heard, I think there's a lot of room for speculation!


In Reply To

Arda is still unique within Eä as being singled out as the birthplace of the Children of Ilúvitar. It is also the world upon which most of the Valar descended.



How is it any more unique than the Earth as viewed through any of the many mythologies that explain the origins of our own world? All cultures have their own mythology, and all assume that theirs is the uniquely true one! Why should the mythology that's in the Red Book be any different? Of course, within the story it's true, because the story is told from the point of view of the culture for whom it is true.

But once you try to move the story out of its own world, it becomes no more than another mythology, and the world it depicts can be seen to be just our world viewed from a different perspective.


Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship’s beside the stony wall.
Foam is white and waves are grey;
beyond the sunset leads my way.
Bilbo's Last Song



sador
Half-elven

Feb 4 2009, 10:41pm

Post #21 of 66 (1033 views)
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It's common with Holocaust Survivors [In reply to] Can't Post

My grandmother was the only one of her family who survived (she actually left Eastren Europe a few months before the War); and she never got over that - even after she built her life, and raised her daughter and grandchildren, nothing seemed worth it. It made no sense to her that she was the only one still around, with all the better people brutaly murdered.

I know another person, who has also wondered why he was singled out for survival - and after all the occasions in which death somehow missed him, he believed God had some mysterious purpose in letting him live.
I'm not sure he know what the Purpose is - but he did become a very great man in his field.

"We are not bound forever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory" - Aragorn


burrahobbit
Rohan


Feb 4 2009, 11:16pm

Post #22 of 66 (1001 views)
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Yes I think so [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
if the universe is indeed infinite, then however unlikely it may be for a star to form with a planet that develops intelligent life, sooner or later it must happen

I agree that the laws of probability mean that in our inconceivably vast universe there are likely many planets suitable for life. (Adding another angle to this theory there may be an infinite number of parallel universe where only in our own do the physical laws of the universe allow life to be possible). But does this make intelligent life inevitable?

We don't really understand how the earliest forms of life emerge from organic compounds, or how these make the leap to more complex organisms (which took billions of years to happen on earth) or how what we call consciousness and intelligent life emerged. Maybe life springs up on every two-bit planet around, or maybe we are the only form of intelligent life that ever has or ever will exist. For me, the baffling complexity of life is at the very least remarkable.


        
     View my Hobbit Film Adaptation Discussion


burrahobbit
Rohan


Feb 4 2009, 11:39pm

Post #23 of 66 (1008 views)
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The way that he tells it [In reply to] Can't Post

I think the perception of risk and believability has everything to do with sharing the emotions of the characters, their fears and narrow escapes. We can't really put an objective hazard rating on a nazgul attack for example, we can only guess at the risk through the atmosphere and excitement that the author creates.

If the perception of risk and lives being at stake is unconvincing, then an adventure story certainly loses a vital ingredient. In the films Jackson's portrayal of superhero Aragorn and Legolas left me feeling they were invincible and so feelings of danger and excitement were lost a bit.

Your mountaineering example just made me think of an interesting film relating to perceived risk. In Touching the Void two climbers recount a nightmare climb in South America where they both almost died in a terrible accident. Clearly both climbers survived, as otherwise they wouldn't be there to tell the tale, but somehow the story is so compelling that their survival doesn't change the fear you feel as you follow their story.


        
     View my Hobbit Film Adaptation Discussion


simplyaven
Grey Havens


Feb 5 2009, 12:47am

Post #24 of 66 (1031 views)
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Soldiers also survived miraculously [In reply to] Can't Post

It's not always royalties. For example I knew an old man who survived both World Wars as a regular soldier thus always at the front line. He fought during all his best years of youth and maturity. He didn't even got wounded seriously, just what he would call "scratches".
As about royalties, in history they have usually been surrounded by too many defenders so the last one should fall for the royalty to be threatened. Earlier royalties fought like the rest of the men but later they realised it's better to survive than to prove nobility (sadly).
Still, there are soldiers who were crazy lucky too and it's true veterans have many stories like that as well as stories about generals being killed while protected by all possible ways. Fate, purpose or higher power, whatever one likes more.

Culinary journey through Middle Earth continues! Join us on January 30 on the Main board for a visit at the "Prancing pony"!

I believe


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Feb 5 2009, 5:18am

Post #25 of 66 (1054 views)
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For that matter... [In reply to] Can't Post

...the curious case of Tolkien himself, sidelined by fever just in the nick of time to avoid one of the bloodiest battles in history. I wonder if he had any survivor's guilt? Or if it strengthened his faith in Providence? Or if he figured that, having been spared by perhaps more than chance, this put him under an obligation to justify his survival by a great work?

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!

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