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"Maybe Tolkien...never met someone my size."

Sunflower
Valinor

May 21 2012, 4:00am

Post #1 of 16 (1853 views)
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"Maybe Tolkien...never met someone my size." Can't Post

Oh boy, this is going to probably open up a can of worms, and it's probably in the wrong area, so if it is, admins feel free to move it.

The May 24 issue of Rolling Stone has a cover story on Peter Dinklage, and in his interview he spends some time discussing his aversion to playing stereotypical roles for short people (ie "dwarves.") The (perfectly reasonable, IMO) comment that had me slapping my forehead was this, from pg. 49:

"Dinklage had an almost physical allergy to pointy shoes, to fake beards, to playing any sort of magical or unearthly figure.
'I always wonder: Why are all these fantasy books, especially for children, fascinated with people my size being fantastical creatures? Growing up, I was always like, 'Really"? Maybe Tolkien or whoever never met someone my size. And if they did, maybe if they had been friends with somebody who was a Dwarf, they wouldn't have written it that way.' He sighs, then looks around the dreary diner where we're having breakfast. 'yes, we can cast magical spells, don't tell anyone. We don't need the waitress, I can refill your Diet Coke glass right now.'"

Now, I find this disturbing on several levels....and it isn't Dinklage's fault. It is obvious that he has never read any Tolkien, not LOTR and esp NOT The Silmarillion, or he would know that Tolkien obviously did NOT write his Dwarves in the odious Disnified way. (or that TH was the only "children's book" and the rest is for adults....ugh.) I wish I was sitting right there in that diner with them, so I could have told Dinklage that Tolkien despised both Disney and Shakespeare, for doing to Elves (and other mythical creatures) the same things that he accuses modern media of doing..of making them cute and otherworldly and, in that incomparable British expression, twee. Tolkien's reaction was about Elves but his ennobled race of Aule was in a similar vein.
Dinklage obviously, then, had Peter Jackson's Gimli in mind, not Tolkien's, and I wonder if the upcoming "Hobbit" films--and specifically the trailer, which he must have seen--were in his mind too. If he had never read Tolkien, and knew the films like he did, and esteeming them as much as we do (the article also favorably compares Game of Thrones for its "moral complexity", as specifically comapred with LOTR, another phrase that had me slapping my forehead), he must assume that they are a fairly faithful adaptation of Tolkien's novels, and therefore Jacksons Gimli was similar to Tolkien's, (Which of course he is not...in some aspects he is, but when you look at it from Dinklage's POV, making Gimli the comic relief was in fact, a giant step backwards for cinematic short people, whereas a character like Tyrion, who IS a fiathful rendition of a revolutionary character, I'll have to admit--I'm a huge GoT fan, books and TV show, (for the most part--I have issues with the "sexposition", though)--but the later books are...well, I won't spoil it...but Tyrion's adventures and fate are the only thing that keeps me interested past Dance With Dragons, I have to admit.) ...is in fact a giant leap forward, by making them, well, normal people, and even sex symbols.

Besides bringing up the thorny issue of whether LOTR even needed such "comic relief", it raise the issue that Jackson's films are powerful media icons, capeable of infleuncing those who might not remember a character or people otherwise...when thinking of a fantasy writer or story teller, the first and only person who leaped to mind for Dinklage was Tolkien....such is the power of cinema. It might not matter if you read The Sil, say "Gimli" and a whole generation of filmgoers might remember the "dwarf-tossing" joke or the infamous drinking contest. So much for the noble race of Aule.

Beyond that, how would Dinklage react to TH, when the noble Thorin might be overshadowed--for children, anyway--by the antics of Bombur. And I'd go out on a limb in saying that Tyrion's introduction in the TV version of GoT already puts Kili to shame..well, we shall see:). But you have to look at it from his POV....he's no activist but he is concerned, understandably, about media images and sterotypes of short people, and is trying to break that image. Would he view TH as another step backwards, after the character of Tyrion was a step forewards?

I just wish, again, that I could put a copy of The Sil in his hands so he could understand that Tolkien, at least, like George RR Martin, was a progressive thinker (or was it the other way around?)


(This post was edited by Sunflower on May 21 2012, 4:03am)


Milknut
Rohan


May 21 2012, 4:28am

Post #2 of 16 (903 views)
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Interesting post. Not much to add, really. [In reply to] Can't Post

If he's talking about dwarves in LOTR, I can see how looking at PJ's Gimli might make one make a generalization (I personally loved that performance!). However if you go shorter still you run into the main characters, the hobbits, who not only possess no powers but are the most compelling and fully-fleshed characters in the world. Tokein, in my mind, was a champion for the short people!

Also, I LOVE his work in GOT. He's so so so so so fantastic so I can't get mad at him for making a casual slight on my beloved Tolkein.

The cake is a lie.
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alienorchid
Lorien


May 21 2012, 5:33am

Post #3 of 16 (913 views)
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Maybe [In reply to] Can't Post

after spending his entire life with these concepts of dwarves as fantastic beings around him, he might just be sick of the idea that dwarves are not human beings - whether they're treated respectfully in fantasy or not. I would imagine that's why he doesn't mind playing Tyrion, because Tyrion is a human just like Jaime, or Ned, or Shae.

He is such a brilliant actor, and I'm absolutely loving his portrayal of Tyrion.


Silverlode
Forum Admin / Moderator


May 21 2012, 5:51am

Post #4 of 16 (889 views)
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That's my guess. [In reply to] Can't Post

Sadly, traditionally in Hollywood the only roles available for dwarfs/short people have been in fantasy films. Munchkins, dwarves, goblins, fairy-like beings, aliens, etc. If they're not one of those, they're circus performers. I take his comments as being complaints about not being treated like a "real" person and not being able to play normal human roles. Tolkien is just a big target to shoot at, being both the originator of what have become standard fantasy tropes, and being much more in the public eye lately than the Disney dwarves. Mr. Dinklage is probably not terribly thrilled that there are two Snow White adaptations coming either. Even if they are more "realistic" than the Disney version, they're probably still very much fantasy creatures. Whereas his role in Game of Thrones, though the story is fantasy, is a human role not a fantastical non-human one. I wonder how he feels about the Hobbit dwarves actually being played by normal sized actors and not actors with dwarfism? I have heard some people complain the other direction, that "real" dwarfs should have been cast.

Anyway, I can see his point. I imagine it's intensely irritating to be typecast in that fashion, and it doesn't do anything to help overcome real-world prejudices either. I'm glad he's got a role to play that gives him better range. I haven't seen GoT myself, but I hear lots of raves about his performance.

Silverlode

"Of all faces those of our familiares are the ones both most difficult to play fantastic tricks with, and most difficult really to see with fresh attention. They have become like the things which once attracted us by their glitter, or their colour, or their shape, and we laid hands on them, and then locked them in our hoard, acquired them, and acquiring ceased to look at them.
Creative fantasy, because it is mainly trying to do something else [make something new], may open your hoard and let all the locked things fly away like cage-birds. The gems all turn into flowers or flames, and you will be warned that all you had (or knew) was dangerous and potent, not really effectively chained, free and wild; no more yours than they were you."
-On Fairy Stories


Lissuin
Valinor


May 21 2012, 7:29am

Post #5 of 16 (906 views)
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Another article, from the New York Times [In reply to] Can't Post

http://www.nytimes.com/....html?pagewanted=all

There is a brief reference to the dwarf tossing line from the FOTR. The article is an in-depth recounting of Dinklage's career and his choice to turn down stereotypical roles, with quite a lot of information on his Game of Thrones role.

There's no way to explain away a reference that someone finds offensive. It's offensive to them. Period. I can't feel how Dinklage feels when he sees or hears yet another reference to cute, magical, inhuman dwarves. Men can't feel what I feel when I take exception to downgrading remarks about women. It's no good telling me it wasn't meant to be offensive. I can only try to maintain my dignity and maybe attempt to educate someone about it if they seem open, as he is doing.

It's ok to open a can of worms, Sunflower. Kudos for bringing it up. Tolkien got people thinking about lots of issues with his writing. This might be an inadvertent one, but welcome, I would hope. Only time will tell how Sir PJ's portrayal of dwarves is received by little people. Probably with mixed opinions as in any other group, but if even a few did find it offensive, then it would show it's past time for society to start a real dialog on what image is being perpetuated.

It's gotten us thinking about it, hasn't it?


geordie
Tol Eressea

May 21 2012, 12:22pm

Post #6 of 16 (843 views)
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Some observations - [In reply to] Can't Post

- v.quickly, 'cos this is my lunch-break. I can't see any reference as to what Mr. Dinklage's height might be, but as far as I can tell, Tolkien was not averse to short people, nor did he hold them in disdain. As someone has already mentioned, what about hobbits? Two to four feet high in our measurement - Tolkien says (in a letter IIRC) that four feet ain't so unusual - he'd known people who were that height. And of course there's that BBC interview, where he said that hobbits are just rustic English people - made small because of the reach of their imagination, not due to any lack of courage or latent power (paraphrase, from memory).

As for beards and pointy shoes - Tolkien made a painting which he variously titled 'Fangorn' and 'Mirkwood', but is really 'Beleg finds Gwindor in Taur na Fuin'. The figure of Beleg, picking his way through the tree-roots, looks to be bearded - and, he's wearing red pointy shoes. And Beleg was a tall 'un. if I recall correctly.

Based on what I've read in the o/p, I think Mr Dinklage could do well to read some Tolkien. Just my opinion..

Smile


(This post was edited by geordie on May 21 2012, 12:27pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


May 21 2012, 1:41pm

Post #7 of 16 (805 views)
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As Milknut points out... [In reply to] Can't Post

The Hobbits, not the Dwarves, are the shortest characters in the story and they are also the most human. The four of them, but especially Frodo and Sam (and just Bilbo in The Hobbit), are our everyman, point-of-view characters and our chief protagonists. If Professor Tolkien had held any disdain for short people, I'm sure that The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings would have never come into existance.

"Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man's part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house." - Aragorn


Darkstone
Immortal


May 21 2012, 4:29pm

Post #8 of 16 (830 views)
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Dunno if I'd give him a copy of The Sil. [In reply to] Can't Post

The treatment of the petty-dwarves always seemed so cruel and outrageous.

And The Children of Hurin would be right out.

Then there's that thing with the Nauglamír and how the trouble over it was all the Dwarves' fault. We can only imagine the Dwarves' version in the Elven suppressed "Translations From the Khuzdul".

Tolkien's entire Legendarium is Elvish Historical Revisionism. Of course the Dwarves are going to get short shrift.

As for the hobbits, note the main thing that impressed everyone in The Shire about M&P was that they were taller.

******************************************
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.”



NottaSackville
Tol Eressea

May 21 2012, 5:30pm

Post #9 of 16 (768 views)
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And then there's the name "petty-dwarves" // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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Snaga
Lorien


May 21 2012, 6:39pm

Post #10 of 16 (795 views)
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A case of unfortunate semantics, methinks [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it's sort of an unfortunate case in which someone looking for a clinical name to describe the condition we know as "Dwarfism" reached onto the mythology shelf instead of elsewhere.

Others probably know this better than I, but I'd just about bet my next paycheck that when Tolkien did his writing the term "Dwarf" was not common usage to describe little people or persons with one of the various sorts of Dwarfism. I think there's a very good chance that the other term, the one beginning with an "M" that little people now find somewhat offensive, was household use when Tolkien was an active author. As those of us who know Tolkien could tell Dinklage, in many ways it is the "little people" of Tolkien's world that he has imbued with some of the greatest traits such as courage, honor and loyalty.

Dinklage's opinions and outlook about current stereotypes and the kinds of roles he (Dinklage) accepts certainly have merit, but I think Tolkien is hold harmless on this.


Milknut
Rohan


May 21 2012, 6:40pm

Post #11 of 16 (798 views)
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Well of course it impressed people [In reply to] Can't Post

If a seven-foot-tall person walks into the room you're going to notice.

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Otaku-sempai
Immortal


May 21 2012, 8:13pm

Post #12 of 16 (759 views)
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You would lose that paycheck [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Others probably know this better than I, but I'd just about bet my next paycheck that when Tolkien did his writing the term "Dwarf" was not common usage to describe little people or persons with one of the various sorts of Dwarfism. I think there's a very good chance that the other term, the one beginning with an "M" that little people now find somewhat offensive, was household use when Tolkien was an active author. As those of us who know Tolkien could tell Dinklage, in many ways it is the "little people" of Tolkien's world that he has imbued with some of the greatest traits such as courage, honor and loyalty.



Sorry, both midget and dwarf have been common terms since at least the 19th century. And, although Tolkien changed his mind by the time he wrote The Hobbit, at first his dwarves were evil creatures of Melkor and full of malice. See The History of The Hobbit for reference.


"Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man's part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house." - Aragorn


Xanaseb
Tol Eressea


May 22 2012, 12:50am

Post #13 of 16 (743 views)
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Darkstone, loving your reference to "Elvish Historical Revisionism" [In reply to] Can't Post

Cool


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Calmandcloudless
Lorien


May 22 2012, 3:37pm

Post #14 of 16 (694 views)
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I agree [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
There's no way to explain away a reference that someone finds offensive. It's offensive to them. Period. I can't feel how Dinklage feels when he sees or hears yet another reference to cute, magical, inhuman dwarves. Men can't feel what I feel when I take exception to downgrading remarks about women. It's no good telling me it wasn't meant to be offensive. I can only try to maintain my dignity and maybe attempt to educate someone about it if they seem open, as he is doing.



This.


Sunflower
Valinor

May 23 2012, 5:51pm

Post #15 of 16 (710 views)
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You don't know. [In reply to] Can't Post

From what I gather, Peter's issue seems to be less the type of character short people play, (ie good or evil, hero or villain) and more that they are one-dimensional and fantastical (ie childlike or less than "human." I think if he read the Tolkien legendarium in its entirety, or the main books, he'd gather that it was, as Darkstone says, "Elvish Revisionaism"..and that readers of Tolkien did not come away from his books with a negqtive opinion of Dwarves/short people in general. Such characters as Mim are more to be pitied or sympathetic at least, and they are hardly to be demonized when everyone else around them in the First Age is so much better. Mim and his like don't stack up to Eol or Feanor or any number of treacherous, turncoat Men or Elves.

Who knows, maybe he'd be appreciative of a complex Dwarfor someone who was "evil."


Oin K
Rivendell


Jun 3 2012, 12:30am

Post #16 of 16 (856 views)
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All good points, but I don't think it applies to The Hobbit [In reply to] Can't Post

The main reason being that for most of the film - or film one, at least - it's twelve dwarves and a hobbit, so here they're all more or less the same height, though Bilbo is just a wee bit smaller. In this case it's Gandalf, the tall one, who's the "magical creature".

The dwarves are actually the baseline here, the protagonists we'll identify with. When we're in the theater, we'll all imagine ourselves dwarves and hobbits as we see the world from their perspective, and it'll be Gandalf, the Elves, and Beorn who are outside of the norm. Maybe the "tall=noble" stereotype holds true here, but at least you can't accuse the film of perpetuating the "short=magical" trope in this case.

"The Naugrim were ever, as they still remain, short and squat in stature; they were deep-breasted, strong in the arm, and stout in the leg, and their snouts were long. Indeed this strangeness they have that no Man nor Elf has ever seen a snoutless Dwarf - unless he were rhinoplasted in mockery, and would then be more like to die of shame than of many other hurts that to us would seem more deadly. For the Naugrim have snouts from the beginning of their lives, male and female alike..." (History of Middle Earth, volume 11, The War of the Truffles, p. 205)

 
 

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