Explorations: my author blog

True to Tolkien?

As usual, crossposted from my livejournal/Dreamwidth account. I’m still catching up, and happy to be back here! I wrote this before The Rings of Power aired, and will shortly be writing a more comprehensive review.

t's been fascinating and disheartening to observe all the noise about the upcoming Rings of Power from Amazon. Honestly, it's a lesson in social media and how toxic it can be. There really does seem to be something horribly toxic about social media these days. People seek reactions, and outrageousness and cruelty get reactions. This happens on all sides of every argument, as far as I can see. It's something I think we all have to work to avoid. But here's what I wanted to say:

It seems to me, when adapting a work of art, there is surface fidelity and deep fidelity. Deep fidelity matters more. To give one example, some fans are outraged by sword-wielding youg Galadriel, but I am really looking forward to seeing her journey. Hers, as much as Frodo's, is a story of redemption and sacrifice. We see her redeemed, a mature and wise woman renouncing power, in LOTR. In The Rings Of Power,  she is still young (for an elf) and just at the start of what will be a great character arc. And I think that character arc is there, in Tolkien's words!

Some fans who are slamming the upcomingshow are Tolkien purists. Fans like these, who love the books, would naturally object to any interpretation that wasn't by the letter. I can absolutely understand that point of view.

Bit some of the angriest fans seem to be fans of Jackson's movies. They are claiming Jackson was true to Tolkien and didn't inject politics into the movies. Is this true?

Don't get me wrong--I love the films and think they are a great achievement. But they are not always deeply faithful to Tolkien's books and sometimes they flat-out contradict them.
I've already blogged about this, several years ago when the movies came out. I pointed out that Jackson, for all his virtues as a filmmaker, was blind to the virtue of courtesy. That'st true, but there's more. Here are some very significant alterations:
1. The character assassination of Denethor, who, in the book, was corrupted by pride and despair, but nevertheless loved both his sons and took steps to defend his city.
2. The character assassination of Faramir.
3. The minimizing of Sam's role as ringbearer. In fact, the minimizing of his role altogether.
4. Aragorn's beheading of the Mouth of Sauron.
5. Gandalf's use of violence against Denethor.

Reviews: Somewhat belated thoughts on Megan Whalen Turner’s Return of the Thief and on Avatar: the Last Airbender

t's here! It's here! I read it! And it's every bit as good as I hoped and expected it to be.

"It", of course, is Megan Whalen Turner's series finale, Return of the Thief. Click on the book cover for a link to my Goodreads review!


Just a couple of things to add that I forgot to include in that review:
1. Megan's self-insert! At least, I'm pretty sure she gave herself a walk-on. Those who've read the book, what do you think?
2. Ohmygosh, that direct quotation from Henry V! Very appropriate, and very, very clever.

As I said on Goodreads, I could envision a reader starting with this final book and liking it a lot, but you'd gain so much if you read the previous books first. In fact, I think I'm going to reread them all in order before tackling Return of the Thief a second time. And all of Megan Whalen Turner's books need to be read twice, at least.

Part Two: Avatar: the Last Airbender

The short version here is: R.J., you were right. This is a terrific show.
The slightly longer one is: Prince Zuko, you have given me a logline for querying my book. Here it is: Prince Zuko meets Katniss Everdeen when 16-year-old Kiril risks family, life, and honor to save his little half-brother from slavery.

The characters differ in some fundamental ways, obviously, and so do their stories. But the similarities are actually startling to me. Here we go:

Fantastic Natural History, Part 2: Botanical Edition

As usual, crossposted from my livejournal! I’ve been away from this site for a long time because I lost Sandvox—the app I use to develop it—after getting a new computer. Also, life just got in the way. Anyway, here goes!

Or there maybe ‘tis cloudless night/and swaying beeches bear/the Elven-stars as jewels bright/amid their branching hair” (Sam’’s song, from The Return of the King, page 194 Hardcover Folio edition)

  • A   What sort of trees are Mallorns?

It was my sister who spotted this, while we were on a hike. We were going through a stand of beech trees, and, in our neck of the woods, anyway, these trees hang onto their leaves throughout the winter, until the new growth comes in the spring. The old leaves are yellow—almost gold—and the bark is smooth and grey—almost silver.

IMG 2274

(here's a picture of a beech tree with new leaves that I took on another hike later in the spring. )

Here, Tolkien describes a mallorn tree. It has a grey trunk and yellow leaves. “The branches of the mallorn tree grew nearly straight out from the trunk, and then swept upward;…” (page 389, The Fellowship of the Ring, hardcover Folio edition.) Mallorn trees retain their golden leaves even in the winter—it is late January or early February when the company arrives at Lothlorien. (They leave Rivendell on December 25th.)