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Oh the controversy!
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Arwen Skywalker
Lorien


Mar 25 2011, 3:43am

Post #1 of 81 (765 views)
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Oh the controversy! Can't Post

We're all here because we're fans of Tolkien's works but there are some things about them where we're not all on the same page. There are certain elements of the books where it seems like people can never come to a consensus on whether they were good or bad. The movies brought these controversies even more to the forefront. People have resurrected these debates for ages but I don't think anyone has ever asked why these things are so controversial.

The most polarizing character I could think of is Aragorn. My impression is that people either like the book version and dislike the movie version or vice versa. There's just no middle ground. I found book-Aragorn to be arrogant while others liked him. It amazes me how such different conclusions can be drawn from the same text. I sometimes wonder if we're all reading the same book.

I also wonder how some find The Window on the West boring while others like it. I'm sure there are a few narrow-minded people who would say that those who find the chapter dull are schmucks with short attention spans and big fans of Michael Bay-style explosions. But I just don't think there could be such a simple explanation.

I'd love to hear some answers (or at the very least, guesses) to these questions. Or you could bring up any other controversy that I haven't mentioned.


Elizabeth
Valinor


Mar 25 2011, 7:36am

Post #2 of 81 (357 views)
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Not as many movie fans in the Reading Room... [In reply to] Can't Post

...as in the movie boards Wink

In general, I find those who loved the books before seeing the movies seem to be "imprinted" with the book images of the characters and resist changes. Just my observations, over the years:

* Many book fans like what Jackson did with Boromir. That's probably the most popular change, and I agree.

* The changes to Faramir, on the other hand, are almost universally reviled by book fans. I agree with that one, too!

* I observe mixed responses to book-Aragorn. Quite a few folks do agree with you, such as (most recently) macfalk. But for another recent view, see the discussion of Aragorn's character arc in the book just below this thread.






Join us in the Reading Room for LotR The Two Towers, Book IV! Discussion starts March 27!

Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'

(This post was edited by Elizabeth on Mar 25 2011, 7:39am)


jrpipik
Rivendell


Mar 25 2011, 11:48am

Post #3 of 81 (338 views)
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The book is the story. [In reply to] Can't Post

You can like it or not like it, but the book is the way the author created it and that's the real story. Adaptations may make changes and arguably for good reasons that are right for their medium and that's fine, but they're wrong -- not morally or legally wrong, not artistically wrong, but factually wrong. The book is The Lord of the Rings and the movie is something else based on The Lord of the Rings. And that's inevitable, really.

The only question up for debate is whether or not a change is aesthetically right. That's an opinion and everyone is going to have different ones. To paraphrase Tolkien, those parts of the work disliked by some are inevitably those liked most by others. So you can't settle it by argument or logic or a vote. But I tend to side with the author in these things, especially in the case of Tolkien who took great pains (and a long time) to get to the "right" story, the "real" story amid all the options an author has. Note that it's not the most logical story or the most reasonable story but the one that the author believes is right, what "really happens." If everyone went around acting logically, most of the best works of literature would disappear. Iago decides it would be silly to set Othello and Desdamona against one another, the end.

So if you want to argue that the leader of a guerilla troop in enemy territory is not being cautious or reasonable when he reveals so much to a couple of suspicious little guys he caught wandering around, that's fine. But if you want to argue that Faramir wouldn't do that, it's another story all together. Faramir is repeatedly refered to as bold, decisive, compassionate and insightful, touched even with divinity, just the kind of person who would ignore what is cautious and reasonable to give Frodo the "fool's chance" of completing the quest. Tolkien created a character who would do just what he did. So when you adapt the work and make him do the "believable" thing, you change who he is, you create a different character. To me, he's a guy walking around in Faramir's clothes, but he's not Faramir.


Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Mar 25 2011, 1:05pm

Post #4 of 81 (352 views)
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No, the book and the movies are different stories. [In reply to] Can't Post

There is no "the right LotR by JRRT" opposed to "the wrong LotR by PJ". The movies do not "change" the books. The books are their separate entity, and so are the movies. What ever PJ did, doesn't change even one letter JRRT wrote. And what ever is in the book stays in the book; the movies should be analyzed and judged on their own.


jrpipik
Rivendell


Mar 25 2011, 1:17pm

Post #5 of 81 (312 views)
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I don't think so. [In reply to] Can't Post

Listen to the commentaries. The screenwriters say "We changed this." And they did. The movies will always be compared to the books. Of course they will. To expect otherwise is unrealistic.

LOTR was around long before the movies. It's the real story.


macfalk
Valinor


Mar 25 2011, 1:51pm

Post #6 of 81 (336 views)
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So with that logic, what are the movies then? The "false" story?! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 



The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.


Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Mar 25 2011, 2:08pm

Post #7 of 81 (341 views)
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You don't understand the problem - or the lack of it. [In reply to] Can't Post

A guy called John wrote a book. That book is still there. Always will be. No a word is changed. You can kiss and hug it to your dying day.

Then another guy, called Peter, decided he'd want to make a film. He re-read that book written by the other guy, and started writing a new story with new characters. When ever possible, he wrote the story and the characters as similar to his interpration of the book he had read as possible. Sometimes, he didn't copy everything but added in or left out stuff, or wrote things in a way that was sort of but not exactly similar as in the book he had read. And then he filmed it. And the movie is and always will be just as it was written, acted, filmed and edited. Not one screen is changed until the day they release the remastered version. (And even then the original version will continue to exist.)

If there's some way to make this non-problem any simplier, I don't know it. Smile


Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Mar 25 2011, 2:13pm

Post #8 of 81 (363 views)
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There could have been "false Hobbit", had Tolkien had his way. [In reply to] Can't Post

As we all know, he inteded to rewrite the whole Hobbit to match LotR better in style and such. Had that happened, then we could have argued wether there is a real and a fake story. But now there's just his story, and the interprations made by other people.


(This post was edited by Faenoriel on Mar 25 2011, 2:14pm)


jrpipik
Rivendell


Mar 25 2011, 3:35pm

Post #9 of 81 (324 views)
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There is a story called The Lord of the Rings... [In reply to] Can't Post

And it's in the novel called The Lord of the Rings. The movie called The Lord of the Rings is a different story based on The Lord of the Rings, but it's not The Lord of the Rings, it's an adaptation of it. This isn't contravesrial. It says so in the credits.

As for The Hobbit: of course an author has the right to change his own work. Usually the last corrected text is the official one, though often corrections to typos and such as well as changes an editor feels were intended to be made can be done posthumously (and not without controversy).

(I don't think I've ever seen evidence that Tolkien intended to rewrite The Hobbit, only that he wished he had written it differently.)


acheron
Gondor


Mar 25 2011, 4:59pm

Post #10 of 81 (340 views)
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the first couple chapters of his attempted Hobbit rewrite have been published [In reply to] Can't Post

in John Rateliff's History of The Hobbit. He abandoned it early on, but he definitely intended to rewrite it and began the process.

For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much -- the wheel, New York, wars, and so on -- while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man, for precisely the same reasons. -- Douglas Adams


Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Mar 25 2011, 5:54pm

Post #11 of 81 (307 views)
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He indeed did [In reply to] Can't Post

intent to rewrite the Hobbit, and even started it. He then sent the draft to a beta reader, who commented that it was all nice but that it wasn't the Hobbit. I believe this is documented in the Letters.

You see, there is only one Lord of the Rings: the one made by Tolkien. No adaptation changes it, instead the adaptation is an independent work of art. As you said, it doesn't try to replace the source. Therefore, the source isn't any more real and the adaptation isn't fake either. It'd be fake if it claimed to be THE original LotR. But it doesn't, it claims to be an adaptation based on the interprations of a certain group of people. And it is very certainly the one and the real movie adaptation by PJ, the real deal in its own game.

Yes Tolkien would have had the right to rewrite his book, but we're not talking about rights - at least, I'm not. It's just that the only one who can write the "real" Hobbit was Tolkien, and if Tolkien had rewritten the Hobbit, then there would have been two arguing canons with theretically similar claim to authencity.


Arwen Skywalker
Lorien


Mar 25 2011, 6:12pm

Post #12 of 81 (295 views)
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I actually thought of putting this discussion on Main [In reply to] Can't Post

But since macfalk put up a thread of weak characters, I decided it would be more appropriate to put it on the same board where he posted. Not that I'm trying to steal his thunder or anything like that.


Quote
* Many book fans like what Jackson did with Boromir. That's probably the most popular change, and I agree.

There's a school of thought among some purists that one shouldn't use the "i" word (improvement) to describe changes the movies made. But even they make an exception for what PJ did for Boromir.



Quote
* The changes to Faramir, on the other hand, are almost universally reviled by book fans. I agree with that one, too!

While I found that the majority of book-firsters agree with you, I don't think that opinion is almost universal. Such dissenters include sador and weaver, who often mentions how her non-reader husband still came away with a very favorable impression of Faramir. However, I've found that those people tend to frequent the movie boards more than the RR. Except for maybe sador. I feel that the films changed the circumstances rather than the character and my earlier post explains why. One other thing I'm curious about is how you felt when Frodo lied about Gollum. While some books fans have complained about this, it isn't mentioned nearly as much as the change to Faramir. I wonder why that is.

I'm not sure if this qualifies as a big controversy but I've found that while the majority of people think that Tom Bombadil wouldn't work in the films, the ones who disagree feel very strongly about it.


jrpipik
Rivendell


Mar 25 2011, 6:12pm

Post #13 of 81 (296 views)
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Thanks for the information about The Hobbit. [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd never heard that before.

I don't see how anyone can say the movie is an independent work. It's a dependent work that couldn't exist without the book. As I said before, the credits themselves say the movie is based on the book. That's pretty much the definition of being dependent, isn't it?


Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Mar 25 2011, 6:27pm

Post #14 of 81 (280 views)
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It's not made by Tolkien, therefore it's independent from him. [In reply to] Can't Post

Had Tolkien taken part in the movie project, the work wouldn't have been independent. But as it is, the source material is just the source material, and the whole thing is a piece of art made by group of people from film industry.

You know, if it isn't independent.... then what is it? The only logical answer would be that it should be counted among the works of J.R.R.Tolkien.

But I don't hold Homer responsible for the movie Troy. Tongue


(This post was edited by Faenoriel on Mar 25 2011, 6:28pm)


Elizabeth
Valinor


Mar 25 2011, 6:40pm

Post #15 of 81 (325 views)
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Frodo's lie... [In reply to] Can't Post

...is certainly one of the more inauspicious changes, and I (like, probably, most book fans) feel it destroys Frodo's moral purity. I'm sure Jackson did this because he was sure that "everyone" in the modern audience would expect it, and would do the same thing. Which, of course, is why not lying would have been a powerful moment. It's unfortunate.

But not nearly as unfortunate as "Go home, Sam," which is illogical and hopelessly out of character. To be sure, Tolkien found it necessary to separate Frodo and Sam in the caverns, but he did it in a credible and consistent way. It was an unnecessary change.

Tom Bombadil would certainly work in a film, just not LotR (or The Hobbit, despite some murmurs to that effect on that board). Somebody ought to get the rights to make "The Adventures of Tom B."






Join us in the Reading Room for LotR The Two Towers, Book IV! Discussion starts March 27!

Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'

(This post was edited by Elizabeth on Mar 25 2011, 6:42pm)


jrpipik
Rivendell


Mar 25 2011, 8:05pm

Post #16 of 81 (263 views)
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What is it? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
You know, if it isn't independent.... then what is it?


Dependent. As in "not existing without." Tolkien doesn't write the book, there's no movie. If that isn't logical to you, I don't know what else to say.


The Party Tree
Lorien


Mar 25 2011, 9:00pm

Post #17 of 81 (289 views)
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The movies are in no way independent. [In reply to] Can't Post

The entirety of The Lord of the Rings and Middle Earth was created by Tolkien and belong to him. I don't understand how you could say an adaptation is "independent" of the original work it's based on.

I'm perfectly fine with accepting that the books and the movies are different things, and that attitude certainly helps me stomach some of the changes that ruffled my feathers. But ultimately, I think the people who are borrowing an author's characters and story should be held responsible for showing respect to that author (upon whom they depend for their own adaptation).

Discussing books vs. films can't be a non-issue, because Tolkien owned all of the ideas in the book, and the filmmakers took those ideas, changed them, added their own, etc.


Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Mar 25 2011, 9:47pm

Post #18 of 81 (261 views)
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Ontology [In reply to] Can't Post

I suppose we understand words differently. Perhaps there's some special meaning to "independent" in this context I don't know. But yes, in a way that I painfuly fail to express the movies are indeed entirely separate pieces of fiction from the book. I suppose it doesn't matter much. My original (and current) wish is just the express how wrong it is to say that the movies are in any way "fake LotR"; they have an independent existence from the book, and nothing in the movies changes anything in the book. I mean, they can't be "less real" something they don't claim to be in the first place.

It's getting more into ontological philosophy than Tolkienism, though.


(This post was edited by Faenoriel on Mar 25 2011, 9:52pm)


Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Mar 25 2011, 9:50pm

Post #19 of 81 (285 views)
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Let's call this off [In reply to] Can't Post

It's useless to continue from this on, we're seeing the problem from such different view points. I guess I'm thinking too philosophically for my English skillz to handle it.


jrpipik
Rivendell


Mar 25 2011, 10:09pm

Post #20 of 81 (288 views)
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Amateur? [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien was not an amateur writer. He had all the credentials any writer could ask for: advanced degrees, substantial publishing history, critical regard, publishers hounding him for more work. He made a substantial part of his living from his writing. His writing is regarded by many as the standard in fantasy writing for timeless, clear prose in the epic style.


Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Mar 25 2011, 11:14pm

Post #21 of 81 (253 views)
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And yet it has plenty of well ackowledged defects [In reply to] Can't Post

or if you want, points many - me included - feel to be defects.

And why yes Tolkien was amateur. I've heard that word has a bad tone in some places (N.America perhaps?) but here it just means someone who doesn't do something for profession and doesn't have education for it. Tolkien was a linguist, a brilliant linguist, and he knew tremendously about both languages and mythology. That doesn't make him professionalist in all matters. Like book writing. Not all his characters all brilliant masterpieces of character building, not even on satisfactory level, and some of the devices he used, such as telling many of the important, climatic events later on by in-universe narrator, can be discussed. Also many feel is prose is looong, thick and purple, and can't get past the very long and slow start of the story. Not to mention the "Not another f*****g Elf!" comment referencing the gazillion and one hi-bye characters popping in and out the story. And Tom Bombadil. Though privately I adore Tom, I understand them who'd want to nuke him.

And this is just for LotR. The Sil is possibly my favorite book ever, but many find it soul crushingly boring and they aren't wrong in doing so.


jrpipik
Rivendell


Mar 25 2011, 11:19pm

Post #22 of 81 (259 views)
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What are your standards for being an amateur? [In reply to] Can't Post

Lack of critical praise? Not getting paid? Not being publishable? Not selling huge numbers of books? No academic credentials? No long history of publishing from his earliest years?

Because by all those standards Tolkien was a professional.

Not meeting everyone's critical standards?

By those standards everyone is an amateur.


Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Mar 25 2011, 11:33pm

Post #23 of 81 (262 views)
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Sorry for hijacking your thread.... [In reply to] Can't Post

But I excuse myself with the claim that we've discussed some of the points you made in our little ontological adventure to the nature of "independent".

It's indeed very curious how the same character or the same chapter can cause such opposite reactions in readers. But mostly it can be explained simply by different personalities and tastes. You know, "Others like the mother and others like the daughter..."

You mentioned Aragorn as a controversial character. And yet the worst he does is being somewhat overly proud (on the other hand, he's the frikking king of Reunited Kingdom, he ought to be bold about that) and sometimes losing his temper. And this is unbearable awful because....? You know, M-E is inhabitated by must worse douchebags, and they didn't entitle their whole life to fighting Evil forces alone in the wilderness, despised by everyone they worked so hard to guard. If Aragorn was the most nicest, cheeriest guy after leading such a life, I'd say there'd be something seriously wrong with him.

But perhaps we are harder on Aragorn because he's filling the role of the hero, and thus we expect him to act in a heroic manner. Those bad guys? Yeah, it's their job to kill, steal and burn. It's actually kind of amusing when they do so. But the lost king? He just said something angry at some other guy? DOWN WITH HIS IMPOSER!

What about Gandalf? He gets angry easily and can be quite harsh, and even plain jerk-y, not to mention all the other characters are just his tools in his war plan. There's much to be annoyed with, but I can't remember people seriously whining about it.

As for different chapters, I find myself enjoying most the parts that describe the nature and the quiet life. The sequence between leaving Bag End and reaching Bree is my absolute favorite part of the whole book, followed all the similar parts of FotR. But many others find these painfully boring and uninteresting, and mostly care about TTT and RotK because of all the action and battles. And I couldn't care less about the battles... adventures of smaller scale are great though. Oh the wargs howling in the night!


Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Mar 25 2011, 11:38pm

Post #24 of 81 (255 views)
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No, no, no [In reply to] Can't Post

And I explained it already. "Amateur" doesn't mean "bad" and "professional" doesn't mean "good". It's just that an amateur is doing something for a hobby, and a professional is doing the same thing as his day job.

There's no need to feel hurt or attacked. Tolkien wouldn't have minded. Possibly he would have gotten himself engaged in monologue about the origins of the word "amateur" (which by the way means something like "lover".)


(This post was edited by Faenoriel on Mar 25 2011, 11:39pm)


jrpipik
Rivendell


Mar 25 2011, 11:46pm

Post #25 of 81 (270 views)
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I don't feel attacked... [In reply to] Can't Post

I assume everything said is meant as spirited discussion and nothing more. That's certainly what I intend.

But everything you said about his amateurism was that people didn't like his characters, he was purple and boring.

******************************************************
Quoting (couldn't figure out how to get the function to work right):
Not all his characters all brilliant masterpieces of character building, not even on satisfactory level, and some of the devices he used, such as telling many of the important, climatic events later on by in-universe narrator, can be discussed. Also many feel is prose is looong, thick and purple, and can't get past the very long and slow start of the story. Not to mention the "Not another f*****g Elf!" comment referencing the gazillion and one hi-bye characters popping in and out the story. And Tom Bombadil. Though privately I adore Tom, I understand them who'd want to nuke him.

And this is just for LotR. The Sil is possibly my favorite book ever, but many find it soul crushingly boring and they aren't wrong in doing so.
******************************************************

My point is he is as professional a writer as anyone. The fact that he also had other work and other passions doesn't lessen his professionalism.

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