For me, I don’t think Thranduil got to find or even say goodbye to Oropher. But this is a nice rendering for the optimistic.
Or Thoughts on Reading Moral Ambiguity into the Characterizations of the Fëanorians
[Crossposted to the Heretic Loremaster]
Several weeks ago, I got irritated at a piece about The Silmarillion in a well-known blog that cast Fëanor in the role of the unmitigated villain. It was a rare show of negativity for me, and I almost didn’t post it because of that. But I did, and I’ve been thinking about why this particular interpretation of Fëanor as some evil entity irritates me to the point of uncharacteristic venom (especially since I’ve been known to roll my eyes at people who can’t be arsed to go out to vote because it’s raining but will tip over cars because of a football game or encourage teenagers to self-harm because they don’t like their fan fiction).
… … …
I feel like to reduce Fëanor (or his sons) to villains flattens one of the most interesting questions posed in The Silmarillion to where it isn’t even worth asking: What causes a person to “fall”? ….
… … …
But to acknowledge that a character like Fëanor is capable of villainous actions without existing purely as a villain is a scary proposition for a lot of people, I think. We like to imagine people like Fëanor as somehow different from us in their capacity for evil deeds. We—those of us who are good by nature—would never rob, murder, and betray our fellow humans like that. There is something extraordinary and wrong in the nature of Fëanor that he can and does.
Beautiful and insightful. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but it seems like our capacity for selective retention, and thus the rather interesting (but thoroughly exasperating) side effect of the spawning of fanon, is related to this phenomenon Dawn Felagund mentioned.
I believe, unless one’s comprehension ability is genuinely that low, that inside us there is a need to rationalise and compartmentalise, label things so our brains can process and accept or make sense of things. Often it seems this involves “othering” behaviour we have negative ideas of, or do not want to be associated with. It can even be behaviour, states or traits we feel, for some reason, unable (or perhaps the more appropriate word is reluctant) to try for, or attain personally (”Wow, he/she must have super willpower to lose that weight at all. I can never do what he/she did.”).
On the other hand, the romantising, elevation, and “pedestalling” of characters we like (or want to like, or wish to cast into perfection), that need to whitewash bad behaviour, is just as prevalent.
But is the world ever really so black and white? Honestly, the moral ambiguity of the Silmarillion characters is what makes it so interesting for me. The vagueness of Thranduil’s character arc and background amidst the opulent foundation of the Silm is what makes him so appealing to me.
Before anyone start making a swiss cheese imitation out of this post, I’ll just say this: I am well aware of the irony of being both a book!canon fan and a fan fiction writer. It may seem like semantics to some, but to me there is a very clear distinction between knowing and using canon to create a fan fiction, and spawning fanon and corrupting canon. I just hope I never develop blindspots and fall into the fanon trap, or if I did, to recognise I got in a hole and find ways to get out of it.
“If it had been in the movie it would have been… it would have been quite a nice shot.” – Alan Lee
With the home-entertainment release theatrical edition of The Battle of the Five Armies impending, I am finding myself wondering if we’re gonna get DOS’ed again with an extended edition with NO additional scenes featuring the Elves.
I was going to do this as part of a general overview post, but then it got long. The basic problem, though, is that Battle of the Five Armies suffered from a complete lack of storytelling.
This wasn’t a story. This was a series of events arranged in chronological order. Nothing really built, there was no arc for any of the characters, and most of it was pointless.
Cut for spoilers for The Hobbit (book and movies) and some mild spoilers for Lord of the Rings (books and movies).
Stumbled on this. Quite glad even though it’s long and actually is even longer, considering all the long sub-posts it links to. Because while I have neither energy nor time to go into detail about what my problems with botfa are and how I feel it, and the series, could be better, vicariously living the postulations is much needed therapy I didn’t know I need. Especially when the responses I got on a forum where I shared my thoughts tended towards vocal supporters determined to justify the problems I see with the movies (I wasn’t convinced by any shot), or had issues but were not expressed well or countered thoughtfully, this is an interesting find.
There is discussion on all the major characters, their characterisations and arcs. Bonus; the book is held up for reference too.
I am in total agreement with the premise the movie is basically a moving sequence of events. To me, it’s reminiscent of a quest game – hit certain marks in a certain order and score! Turn it on, finish it or don’t. Restart it, or give it up. It doesn’t matter. My problem is I WANT IT TO, DAMMIT!
I’ve said and expressed my piece, quite a few times, as recently as this morning but it bears saying again, so here goes.
This trilogy is based on a book, lovingly crafted with attention to details, but it is not quite with the book. It is a mass-market movie but strangely finely-tuned with rather significant nods and easter-eggs that fly right over the mass market audience.
The open secret is that knowledge of the book, and associated publications that is not going to be read by the average mass-market audience turns out to be at least beneficial to understanding the unexplained stuff in the movie. This in turn frustrates, if not infuriate, the reader, because it is replete with obtuse story-telling, unfathomable creative choices and hanging plotgaps for which resolution MIGHT BE delivered in the extended edition… which leaves the larger population of the mass-market theatrical release… where?
I’m not done with all the related posts on this post, and I’m sure I’m not going to be shouting “Aye!” at every point in every one of them, but based on what I’ve read so far, I have to encourage people with hobbit/botfa issues to try them on for size, just on principle.
And conversely, I dare people who love and support the divisive hobbit/botfa stuff (you know of what/who I speak) to have a look, and not develop a shred of agreement at all.
I’m disappointed with a lot in the movies, but there are still things I like. And I am still hanging on to the one saving grace, to my mind, that this trilogy is not what Episodes I, II, III are to the Star Wars franchise. At least so far. But I am not going to let that stop me from finishing this excellent series of critiques by lawyernovelist.
I loved the first two thirds of BotFA. Everything I didn’t like about the last third, Gandalf was so kind to summarise for me.
An essay with pictures about Thranduil’s scars, Elven magic, Elven healing, and Tolkien’s lore vs. the movie.
So, I’ve seen fans posting about Thranduil being blind in his left eye; I frowned 😡 and decided to try to help clear the air. Tolkien would have wtf’d the whole thing, if he ever wtf’d,…
Even with just this bit, I had to laugh and agree all at once. Bless elf-esteem for her detailed and thorough essay. The premise goes beyond movie!Thranduil’s scars to the physical constitution of Elves themselves. Just perfect meta on the scars of movie!Thranduil. Canon-heads should be chuffed as kitties after an indulgence of cream.
Beautiful rendition of Thranduil’s scar vanity. (Source: xi zhang’s art station site)
They make for a great visual, but really, as elf-esteem puts so succinctly:
We, the fans, in this case, are the thick-skulled Dwarves that Jackson was pandering to because actually understanding the subtleties of Elves, which Tolkien spent years explaining, is ‘complicated’ without reading the explanations.
Sadly, within the strangely compressed, and yet drawn out spiel of the movie!Hobbit, devices that shock and awe seem par for course (sometimes even favoured) by the powers that be.
Yet, where did the powers pluck the interesting bits from?
Canon. Book canon that is.
If you’re one for it, it does preclude those scars as they were presented in the movie.
Look, everyone who watched the movies know Sauron’s almighty. But when even Sauron’s boss, who’s another level of almighty, couldn’t rid himself of the gimp he got in a fight with an Elf, lesser beings (among whom Elves figure, and among whom Thranduil number – shocking, I know) aren’t going to suddenly leapfrog him and self-regenerate and live forever young all at once. (Being able to do BOTH is the exclusive province of these guys.)
Even though it lacks the visual drama of those scars, still canon has its own distinctive allure. It reaches to Ages far, far back and long, long ago.
Nothing wrong with being exclusively movie-devout, but as a movie-firster myself, I contend that anyone intensely interested in Thranduil could do far worse than attempt the effort to (at least try) understand the character’s true origins.
Admittedly, Thranduil himself doesn’t grace the works much at all, but the peripherals still informs who he was. In itself, it is richly textured and much more interesting than the headcanon spawning visual drama of those scars. elf-esteem’s comprehensive essay is a GREAT start. Besides, reading’s always FUN, what more Thranduil studies? =)
I’ve always been very much on the side of “Thranduil and Legolas had a good relationship” when it comes to their history together, especially given Galadriel’s statement of how Legolas grew up in joy (admittedly that wasn’t in the movies, tho) and, while watching the movies, I was initially wary of how things were portrayed, the closer I looked, the more I’m still firmly on the side of, “Yeah, that little elfling was totally doted on.”
(This is helped by the actors confirming that father and son love each other incredibly deeply, as well as Phillipa Boyen confirmed that, yeah, of course they reconcile between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.)
My view on this largely comes from the way they react to each other, even when there’s doubt and hurt and strife there. I mean, this is not the face of an elf who was not encouraged to speak his mind:
No, I’m pretty sure that’s an elf who was brought up to ask questions, to say his thoughts, to have strong convictions. (As well as maybe being a little spoiled, because—well, I’ll get into that.) As well as, when you look at the way Thranduil reacts to Legolas, there is no point at which Thranduil is cruel to him or yells at him or expresses anger towards him, even when he would be justified in doing so. There’s never any, “You sit back down, shut up, and mind your place.”
When Legolas says harsh words to his father, the reaction is instead:
So, I’m going to look at their scenes across the movies and see just what kind of dynamic they really do have. This is entirely movie-based (as it would have to be, of course), so I will be focusing on their personalities and interactions here for this post.
Bravo to myrkvidrs for a detailed look at this. As myrkvidrs postulates in this deep-dive analysis, there is a lot that confirms the relationship between Thranduil and Legolas is not as negative as the initial impression that one gets.
Even though the characterisations serve the scripts, which can be so maddeningly problematic while paying attention to nuances, much of the details and nuance are down to the actors’ ability to convey the emotion and intensity; with all due respect to Orlando Bloom, on Lee Pace’s part in particular.
The pity is that the general audience is not going to spend time studying the nuances, not even if they do see the movies repeatedly. They will, and do, form initial impressions and leave with those initial impressions.
And therein again the rub is while the brilliant portrayal is brilliant, the effort of the talent and the detailed layers crafted is wasted on a big population of the audience. Within the framework of a movie series that has so much going on, some things do need to be DEMONSTRATED overtly. Ironically, despite my gripes about the movies, I do feel this is a case where the common denominator needs to be given consideration and paid attention to. Editing is so tight, and the focus so otherly placed, there is no time for character moments to breath, and this particular relationship suffered, badly.