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.

6. And, most egregious of all, this scene:


In the film, Gandalf is helpless before the Witch-King of Angmar when that black rider enters the city. Not so in the book. Gandalf stands his ground, and then Rohan comes. To Tolkien, as a practising Catholic, love was stronger than hate and hope stronger than despair. The Witch-King's power is despair, but both Gandalf and the horns of the Rohirrim symbolize hope. It isn't blind hope; it doesn't deny the cruelty or the power of evil. But the hope is there, and it is victorious.

To change this is a fundamental misreading of Tolkien, IMHO. For all that Jackson got right, he got Tolkien's theology very wrong in this scene--and also in his slightling of Sam, and in the ridiculous mess he made of the stairs of Cirith Ungol. In other words, though I love the movies, I love the books a lot more.

And it is just possible the new series may be truer to Tolkien's essentials than the movies were, even if the TV show differs more in minor, surface details.

Besides, why shouldn't there be elves and dwarves of color in Midde-Earth?