Nobody tosses a dwarf – Rewatching The Fellowship of the Ring (extended edition)

Tuesday, we took a break from Firefly to finish watching LOTR – The Fellowship of the Ring (extended edition), as we’d started rewatching it the other weekend. (Missed Firefly last week as J was out of town.)

It is hard to know what to say about these films that hasn’t already been said. One of the reasons for rewatching the films this year is in preparation for The Hobbit.  As I am very deliberately not reading the Hobbit until after I have seen the films, to create as little dissonance as possible, I have started reading The Lord of the Rings again.

Galadrial with Nenya the ring of water

One of the interesting differences between the book and the film is how they start. The book starts with Bilbo and hobbits, while the film starts with the elves and Galadriel, as she narrates the story of the Rings and the legendary war for Middle Earth. As a ring bearer, powerful Queen and history’s participant she narrates an ‘epic’ tale – wars, magic, powerful creatures, great heroes, kings and terrible deeds. “History became legend. Legend became myth.”

The film opens into darkness, as Galadriel’s deep, ancient voice breaks over the lament and speech of the elves, “The world is changed; I can feel it in the water, I can feel it in the earth, I can smell it in the air.” There is a world, a story coming into being from out of  prehistoric nothingness. There was time before the elves, but “much that once was is lost.” Galadriel begins her tale, not unsurprisingly, with the elves.  “It all began with the forging of the Great Rings. Three were given to the Elves; immortal, wisest and fairest of all beings … History became legend. Legend became myth.” Until finally we get to “a hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, of the Shire. For the time will soon come when hobbits will shape the fortunes of all.” And then Galadriel’s narration stops and Bilbo picks up the story with “concerning hobbits.” The first act of the film is to situate the story and the hobbits within the grand, sweeping saga of The One Ring of Power.

Hobbits being hobbits

Interestingly, the book does not do this. It starts with Bilbo in the Shire writing his book and thinking about his birthday and mulling over his life.  “When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.” It takes time for the reader to appreciate the significance and scope of Bilbo’s ring or the role hobbits are predisposed to play in the “fate of Middle Earth”.

(Of course the actual back story is a little move involved than what we get in the film prologue, but the main elements are all there. Also, I have it on good authority that the first line spoken by Galadrial was actually spoken by Treebeard to Galadrial.)

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In the film, it is interesting to see how the tone changes as the story switches from Galadriel’s point-of-view and narration to that of Bilbo. This interesting post has had me thinking about point-of-view and how that is being expressed in what I am currently watching and reading.

Concerning hobbits … music used to create a particular point of view.

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Do the films have a unifying message?

Fate and a character’s relationship to their fate seems to be an important and recurring theme.  There is a strong sense that lives are ‘bound’ to their fate, that consequences are predetermined, while actions remain under the character’s control. The forces at play in the world are stronger than any individual, who cannot know their fate, but what matters most is how the individual responds to  the “time that is given”.

I am not sure where this speech happens in the novel, but in the film it takes place in Moria, as Frodo expresses his feelings about the Quest.  It is interesting that for Frodo  it was a deliberate decision he made, but the elves see it as something he has been appointed to do.

Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.

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