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Rings of Power: A New Thread to Rule them All


Ser Drewy
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The last thread has been locked. Promotion for Bezos gamble is increasing, with new ads popping up  and new images being released. 

SFX Magazine has an interview with director J.A Bayona. He apparently laid out what the show deemed important to capture about Tolkien's work. 

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"When you read Tolkien's books, you can tell how much he appreciates beauty, so the show is full of beauty," said Bayona. He further explained how optimism and love were at the heart of The Lord of the Rings: "Tolkien is inherently optimistic, warm and emotional. This is a man who went through some of the darkest things in human history [in the First World War] and he didn't come out of that and write a despairing, awful story."

Honestly, I don't think that's accurate. There's real despair and often tragic ends across his mythology - Turin in particular is 'despairing, awful' - and he was very obsessed with death & decline. He even saw Minas Tirith seeing corruption and evil after Aragorn's death. And the Second Age, which they're depicting, does not have a warm and happy ending. Even the Third Age doesn't strike me as an super optimistic ending. Sauron is defeated and there is great celebration, but it's alongside the elves leaving, the Ents going extinct, Saruman extacting gruesome & petty revenge on the Shire, and Frodo himself being so deeply scarred by his quest that he's unable to return to his previous life. 

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"[Tolkien] wrote a story about hope, and a little guy succeeding," Bayona explained. "We always felt that it was rule number one that there needed to be true optimism and love, even in the darkest, scariest moments of the show."

Frodo failed, dude. 

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I think from the article linked above, we got our first clue about the Second Age time compression.

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“There's a much more Elvish structure shown on the far left of the image, and that's the original court built by the Elves 400 years ago,” he said. “The humans of Númenor got to the point where they were done with the Elves' influence, and they built a palace that expresses the strength of men.

I would think if the Elves helped them build anything, especially the royal palace, it would have been done in the early centuries after Númenor was established.

I do like this bit:

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“We looked to art based in Egypt, North Africa, and the Middle East to inspire the bold shapes, rich colors, and geometrical ornament that are central to the Mediterranean sensibility of this kingdom.”

 

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7 hours ago, Werthead said:

The Quest succeeded, even if Frodo (kind of) failed. Frodo still got 99.9% of the job done, even if someone else needed to push the button, even if accidentally.

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Letter 181 to Michael Straight (early 1956)

"The Quest was bound to fail as a piece of world-plan, and also was bound to end in disaster as the story of humble Frodo's development to the 'noble', his sanctification. Fail it would and did as far as Frodo considered alone was concerned. He 'apostatized' – and I have had one savage letter, crying out that he shd. have been executed as a traitor, not honoured."

 

Letter 191 to Miss J. Burn (26 July 1956)

"If you re-read all the passages dealing with Frodo and the Ring, I think you will see that not only was it quite impossible for him to surrender the Ring, in act or will, especially at its point of maximum power, but that this failure was adumbrated from far back. He was honoured because he had accepted the burden voluntarily, and had then done all that was within his utmost physical and mental strength to do. He (and the Cause) were saved – by Mercy: by the supreme value and efficacy of Pity and forgiveness of injury."

"No, Frodo 'failed'. It is possible that once the ring was destroyed he had little recollection of the last scene. But one must face the fact: the power of Evil in the world is not finally resistible by incarnate creatures, however 'good'; and the Writer of the Story is not one of us."

 

Letter 192 to Amy Ronald (27 July 1956)

"By chance, I have just had another letter regarding the failure of Frodo. Very few seem even to have observed it. But following the logic of the plot, it was clearly inevitable, as an event. And surely it is a more significant and real event than a mere 'fairy-story' ending in which the hero is indomitable? It is possible for the good, even the saintly, to be subjected to a power of evil which is too great for them to overcome – in themselves. In this case the cause (not the 'hero') was triumphant, because by the exercise of pity, mercy, and forgiveness of injury, a situation was produced in which all was redressed and disaster averted."

"Frodo deserved all honour because he spent every drop of his power of will and body, and that was just sufficient to bring him to the destined point, and no further. Few others, possibly no others of his time, would have got so far. The Other Power then took over: the Writer of the Story (by which I do not mean myself), 'that one ever-present Person who is never absent and never named'* (as one critic has said).

*Actually referred to as 'the One' in App. A III p. 317 1. 20. The Númenóreans (and Elves) were absolute monotheists."

 

Now, what I'd like to know, is where the heck did they find Tolkien stating that there ever was any dwarf, including any female dwarf, without a bloody beard?

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Yes, the Quest succeeded despite Frodo individually failing. Frodo considered that he had personally failed at the last hurdle. Although I note that he didn't refuse all the honours and thanks afterwards for succeeding.

11 hours ago, Clueless Northman said:

Now, what I'd like to know, is where the heck did they find Tolkien stating that there ever was any dwarf, including any female dwarf, without a bloody beard?

The Nature of Middle-earth states that all dwarven men had beards at all times. He did not mention dwarven women. This was probably a modification of his original assertion in The War of the Jewels that all dwarves were bearded at all times. They seem to have taken the interpretation (similar to Pratchett's version) that dwarven women have beards naturally but may choose to cut or shave them for aesthetic reasons, whilst the men always have beards.

I'm not sure we have information on when the two statements were made (both books draw on Tolkien's later writings from his last few years), as it seems the idea was somewhat in flux.

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8 hours ago, Werthead said:

The Nature of Middle-earth states that all dwarven men had beards at all times. He did not mention dwarven women. This was probably a modification of his original assertion in The War of the Jewels that all dwarves were bearded at all times. They seem to have taken the interpretation (similar to Pratchett's version) that dwarven women have beards naturally but may choose to cut or shave them for aesthetic reasons, whilst the men always have beards.

Doubt it about aesthetics. You weren't supposed to be able to tell females from males, except arguably by their voices.

Still, not yet there in Nature of Middle-Earth. I'll see it in a few days. Right now, I'm just done with Tolkien's guesstimates of the number of Elves up to their arrival in Valinor. He put a lot of thoughts into it obviously.

Though I spotted a massive issue he hadn't considered, or we don't have these notes: how many Elves would there be in Beleriand to fight Morgoth? When Elves stayed for 40.000 years in Valinor, it wasn't much of an issue, no matter how slowly their numbers grew - even by 1.5 every thousands years according to his latest schemes -, but if Elves just stayed 3.500 in Valinor before Morght was let loose, destroyed the Trees, took the Silmarils and went back to Middle-Earth, then the slow rate of Elvish population growth makes no sense - they would be too few to put siege to Angband or to face Morgoth's legions and the terrible losses of the first battles, and to begin with they would barely populate some very sparse spots of the entire area.. And of course it would be even worse for the numbers of Elves who actually stayed behind, either in Beleriand with Elwe or deeper inside Middle-Earth.

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Hope and despair are two sides of the same coin. A guy who coined the term 'eucatastrophe' was not obsessed solely with things ending terribly. Both deep joy and horror are present in his writings. Life is paradoxical (this is right there as an underylying theme - death being a gift to Men). I don't see why this is so hard to accept. 

On Frodo's failure and the concept of the higher power - as an atheist, one aspect of LOTR which I enjoy enormously is the stripped back spiritiuality in the background of the story. I think it was incredibly clever of Tolkien to remove all overt religious references from the story but still allow people to see the higher power/hand behind the curtain at certain moments in the story if they choose to do so and actually this ambiguity in LOTR is one of my favourite things about it. Ambiguity is far more powerful than an absolute description of what happened; allowing the reader to inform what is in the text with their own experience so that it has greater meaning for them is what great fiction is all about. 

Specifically about Frodo, it is right there in Letter 191 - Frodo's task was doomed to fail but he still had to try. Gandalf even says "there was never much hope...just a fool's hope..." He couldn't succeed, on his own, without aid from others*. LOTR is a story which works on many levels. I believe that the more levels you are willing to perceive, the more enjoyment you will get out of it. 

NB I am not telling anyone how to enjoy LOTR. I am saying that if you want to argue about themes/events etc, then Tolkien has likely provided a response somewhere in his writings.

*others, including those higher powers

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15 hours ago, DMC said:

I mean, if you can't find/identify hope, optimism and love in lotr, I don't know why you bother to read it.

Never said there wasn't. But I find Tolkien the optimist a bit of a strange reading. I think it denies an important part of his work tonally. For me, there's a deep sorrow woven into in his writings: victories are often tinged with great sadness. Beauty and loss, hope and defeat, struggle and repreive are all interwoven in his work. (I'm also not talking specifically about LOTR, but his stories as a whole; Rings is more hopeful than the First or Second Ages, though I wouldn't call its ending happy - bittersweet, victory tinged with great loss). 

I'm not saying Tolkien is grimdark (he wouldn't spare Bill the Pony if he was), but there is a pessimism in his work that I think is generally more pronounced than the optimism. Fallen world and all that.

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4 minutes ago, Ser Drewy said:

I'm also not talking specifically about LOTR, but his stories as a whole; Rings is more hopeful than the First or Second Ages, though I wouldn't call its ending happy - bittersweet, victory tinged with great loss)

Well, the quotes you provided were specifically referring to LOTR, and frankly are very innocuous observations you really have to stretch to complain about.  For me, LOTR - like a whole bunch of great literature - is indeed about enduring hope.

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New video on Numenor.

You can see the money Bezos spent on the thing. It certainly looks huge, the sets impressive and the costuming detailed. 

Something I'm curious about: will Eru Illuvatar be mentioned in this show? I mean the story of Akallabeth is basically God and Satan vying for the hearts of men. They've also got Elendil talking about abandoning the old ways. So I guess he'll be convinced to return to the Faithful in the show. Which is... hmm. 

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3 minutes ago, Ser Drewy said:

New video on Numenor.

You can see the money Bezos spent on the thing. It certainly looks huge, the sets impressive and the costuming detailed. 

Something I'm curious about: will Eru Illuvatar be mentioned in this show? I mean the story of Akallabeth is basically God and Satan vying for the hearts of men. They've also got Elendil talking about abandoning the old ways. So I guess he'll be convinced to return to the Faithful in the show. Which is... hmm. 

He says "The past is dead. We either move forward or we die with it." Which could mean different things. It could mean Elendil seeing the writing on the wall in terms of where Numenorean society was headed and preparing to secede. 

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3 hours ago, Ser Drewy said:

New video on Numenor.

You can see the money Bezos spent on the thing. It certainly looks huge, the sets impressive and the costuming detailed. 

Something I'm curious about: will Eru Illuvatar be mentioned in this show? I mean the story of Akallabeth is basically God and Satan vying for the hearts of men. They've also got Elendil talking about abandoning the old ways. So I guess he'll be convinced to return to the Faithful in the show. Which is... hmm. 

It's not really God and Satan, is it.  It's Satan and the realm of men. God is not fighting anyone or acting on anyone.  Eru gave men death as a gift. Sauron wants men to defy Eru (reject his gift, to go and demand immortality. Eru doesn't do anything to men until they follow Sauron's suggestion. 

To answer your question, how can this argument be portrayed on screen without mentioning Eru? 

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5 hours ago, The Bard of Banefort said:

All of the negativity and bad press around this show has really sapped any excitement I had for it. I imagine I’m not the only one who feels this way.

:lol:

It's always a risk with any new show, definitely.

It's an interesting experience. I was initially quite excited about a show that would adapt the Second Age of The Lord of the Rings. And I couldn't have cared less about House of the Dragon.

But as more information was released about Rings of Power, it has assumed the image of a highly cynical, profiteering venture whose development was beholden to Amazon's algorithm, with such notions as fidelity to Tolkien's work very far behind on the list of priorities.

As more information was released about House of the Dragon, it seems like there is a legitimate desire to produce a work that is faithful to Martin's world, and there is some degree of courage in what the show is attempting. It also helps that I read Fire and Blood, and the story Hot D is adapting is really quite excellent.

Now I couldn't care less about RoP and I'm extremely excited about Hot D. (Unless against all expectations it turns out that RoP is reported to be good.)

A tale of two approaches. It will be fun to see how the shows are received, respectively.

Edited by IFR
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5 hours ago, IFR said:

:lol:

It's always a risk with any new show, definitely.

It's an interesting experience. I was initially quite excited about a show that would adapt the Second Age of The Lord of the Rings. And I couldn't have cared less about House of the Dragon.

But as more information was released about Rings of Power, it has assumed the image of a highly cynical, profiteering venture whose development was beholden to Amazon's algorithm, with such notions as fidelity to Tolkien's work very far behind on the list of priorities.

As more information was released about House of the Dragon, it seems like there is a legitimate desire to produce a work that is faithful to Martin's world, and there is some degree of courage in what the show is attempting. It also helps that I read Fire and Blood, and the story Hot D is adapting is really quite excellent.

Now I couldn't care less about RoP and I'm extremely excited about Hot D. (Unless against all expectations it turns out that RoP is reported to be good.)

A tale of two approaches. It will be fun to see how the shows are received, respectively.

I feel exactly the opposite. 

All the Galbrand/Celeborn saying "Where is Halbrand, for I much desire to speak to him" memes are cracking me up. This is what is best about the internet. People are losing their minds and rage-quitting a show they haven't even seen yet based on a one second clip from a promo trailer. Twenty years ago the whole "XENArwen/Elves at Helm's Deep/ Tolkien is spinning in his grave" stuff used to really annoy me and I spent a lot of time arguing with people. This time round I just find it hilarious. I guess that older me has learned some things about arguing on the internet in those 20 years. :)

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