Two Middle Earths.
I realised this past weekend, as I was writing an email response to a friend of mine in which we were discussing Middle Earth, that there are now two versions of Middle Earth.
Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth and JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Similarly, there are now two versions of the Lord of the Rings tale. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
This observation rather stunned me. In fact, I’ve been a bit depressed about it. Two Middle Earths? Two Lord of the Rings?
But, you know, there’s no way around it, there ARE two. In Jackson’s, we have Arwen rescuing Frodo in Fellowship, an Elrond who appears to dislike Men in eneral, and an Aragorn who is a reluctant heir to Gondor. In The Two Towers, Jackson has reluctant Ents, an Elrond who manipulates Arwen and Aragorn into abandoning their “dream” of being together, a Faramir that is nothing like Tolkien’s….and some pretty major story changes. Most notably, Frodo and Sam go to Osgiliath as prisoners of Faramir, the Entmoot and its results, and Aragorn being launched into a river, courtesy of a bear-like warg, and thought to be dead.
Undoubtedly, there are now two Lord of the Rings tales. I now have to, on frequent occasion, clarify my statements, written or spoken, clarifying WHICH Lord of the Rings that I am discussing.
“But Aragorn doesn’t really want to be King.”
“Right, that’s in Jackson’s tale, but in Tolkien’s tale, he is eager and
ready to claim his throne so that he can wed Arwen.”
“But he tells Arwen that it’s over, it was just a dream.”
“Right, but that’s in Jackson’s tale, in Tolkien’s tale that never
“The Elves aren’t really giving up; they renewed their Alliance at Helm’s
“Well…..right, in Jackson’s Middle Earth, but in Tolkien’s, that never
“The Balrog DOES have wings! How could you not see them!?”
“Right, well…that was in the film, in the books it’s not so clear….”
You get the picture, I am sure. Yet, for some, this is not an issue, problem, or anything to get depressed about. It’s simply the process of bringing book to film. Necessary changes. Get over it.
The problem is….some of us, thusly labeled “Purists”, (and this term has indeed become almost a derogatory term in Tolkien discussions), aren’t able to simply “get over it”. I never wanted TWO Lord of the Rings tales. I didn’t want the changes made to be so drastic that I now have to think in those terms. There are TWO Faramirs now. A very noble, insightful Faramir; and a very selfish and, it seems, powermongering, Faramir.
That’s just not right! It shouldn’t be so! Is anyone listening?
Oh yes, I hear the “get over it” coming across the waves….is that ALL there is to say at this point? Is that it? Just simply, “get over it”?
Well, then I wish to argue the change to Faramir. Jackson and Walsh have both said that it just didn’t make sense to have everyone so tempted by this One Ring and then have a single character suddenly be able to deny any desire that he might have for it. Okay, WHY NOT? This is the CORE of Faramir’s character. Is no one, NO ONE, to be so noble in Jackson’s version? As a matter of fact, where ARE the noble characters in Jackson’s films? We keep hearing of “hope’, but is there really any to be found?
Okay, I’ll concede that Jackson’s Sam and Tolkien’s Sam seem to be one and the same. Thank Eru.
And there is one huge plot change that most certainly disrupts Tolkien’s own thinking: The biggest advantage that Sam and Frodo have is that Sauron does not think that the Free People would ever conceive of destroying the One Ring. In fact, Sauron, up until the moments before the One Ring is destroyed, is not sure where it is. Aragorn, in the book, shows himself to Sauron in the Palantir and thus challenges Sauron; this throws Sauron off balance…does Aragorn have the One Ring? Or, did they leave it with Galadriel in Lothlorien? Sauron counters that thought with three assaults upon Lothlorien, and for good measure, he attacks Mirkwood and Erebor. Sauron does not know where the One Ring is; so he is forced to act accordingly.
In Jackson’s tale, Sauron now knows precisely where it is and who has it. What is more, the stupid Hobbit keeps trying to give it away. Willingly. With open hand. To a Nazgul.
Frodo’s chances of getting into Mordor and making the journey to Mt. Doom, which were not too terribly good to begin with, have been significantly diminished.
Yes, this upsets me.
And now I have to contend with “Jackson’s Middle Earth” and “Tolkien’s Middle Earth”. I remember hesitating to enter the theater when Fellowship was released, just a momentary pause, wondering if this film would somehow taint my love and passion for Middle Earth…TOLKIEN’S Middle Earth. I know now from where that doubt stemmed.
My passion and love for Tolkien’s Middle Earth has been enhanced and strengthened. HE is the Master of Middle Earth, not Jackson.
I appreciate Jackson’s films, (thus far); they are indeed visual marvels. But, while I can read LOTR again and again, (and I do), and study the History series and find some new knowledge every time, I cannot watch Jackson’s films over and over. I have tried. They become very LONG after the first two viewings. When I watch the DVD, we skip scenes and just watch parts. We don’t do that with the books. The books we savor; the films we…..watch.
And that, my friends and fellow Tolkien fans, is the big difference between Purist and Revisionist. A Purist savors Tolkien and watches Jackson’s films; a Revisionist reads Tolkien and savors Jackson’s films. A Revisionist will even go so far as to say that Jackson’s interpretations are improvements; a Purist will go so far as to say that the films are sacrilege.
We must accept this. We must accept that there are now two versions of Lord of the Rings. Schism within Middle Earth. How horrid.