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SCORE: The Hobbit Trilogy


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Hello! 

Its me Jerry back with some reviews! Over the next week or so I will be posting my review for each one of the Hobbit trilogy scores. Feel free to share your thoughts and reactions, and let me know what you think as we go. Now, I have not seen the movies too often, so don't expect many references. This will be more of a score exploration individually rather than connecting it with the movie as I have done with my other reviews. I may also have some questions so it would be nice to have some replies. First few tracks of An Unexpected Journey are on their way!!!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well I'm not going to go track for track just yet, I would like to point out how after listening thoroughly to the first disc of An Unexpected Journey that the recurring theme, which I currently pen in my notebook as 'solemn trumpet' is absolutely awesome. I also really like when the Misty Mountains song is mixed with that and it's just great brass. A+ from Shore.

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50 minutes ago, The Illustrious Jerry said:

the recurring theme, which I currently pen in my notebook as 'solemn trumpet' is absolutely awesome.

 

I'll help you out: is it this theme or this one? The first is Erebor's. The second is Thorin's, but they're very closely related.

 

Both are great, anyway. There's a great sense of yearning to them, which is appropriate given the story.

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1 hour ago, mstrox said:

I like the name "solemn trumpet" for the theme - gives it a lot more flexibility in the score than a rigid label.

That name was simply given because I don't really know the movies or the musical attributions very well. Star Wars is easy for me, but The Hobbit, as I said earlier on the first post of this thread:

 

Now, I have not seen the movies too often, so don't expect many references. This will be more of a score exploration individually rather than connecting it with the movie as I have done with my other reviews. 

 

So my notes mostly contain home made titles for the reccurences I hear. I could distinctly tell Radagast's part though 😛!

2 hours ago, Chen G. said:

I'll help you out: is it this theme or this one? The first is Erebor's. The second is Thorin's, but they're very closely related.

Both are great, anyway. There's a great sense of yearning to them, which is appropriate given the story.

The first one came across to me as the solemn trumpet one, and the latter always just tied in so well. I thought they were all together but as you say they are different but closely related.

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14 minutes ago, The Illustrious Jerry said:

That name was simply given because I don't really know the movies or the musical attributions very well. Star Wars is easy for me, but The Hobbit, as I said earlier on the first post of this thread,  I have not seen the movies too often.

 

Which is what I'm here for!:D

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1 hour ago, The Illustrious Jerry said:

The first one came across to me as the solemn trumpet one, and the latter always just tied in so well. I thought they were all together but as you say they are different but closely related.

 

They often are paired together. While each of Shore's leimotifs have independent associations, there's a tendency with the online community to get overly attached to those associations. Aside from big-picture/obvious misplacement issues (aka Nazgul Thorin theme), many of these motifs are paired together in musical groupings or families, and can stand in for each other as supportive material, depending on the musical context (ex. there might be about 10 Shire leitmotifs that are often interchanged with each other to reference the Shire in general).

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13 hours ago, KK said:

 

They often are paired together. While each of Shore's leimotifs have independent associations, there's a tendency with the online community to get overly attached to those associations. Aside from big-picture/obvious misplacement issues (aka Nazgul Thorin theme), many of these motifs are paired together in musical groupings or families, and can stand in for each other as supportive material, depending on the musical context (ex. there might be about 10 Shire leitmotifs that are often interchanged with each other to reference the Shire in general).

This thematic family thinking is perhaps the most Wagnerian aspect of the Middle-earth scores, which I find quite brilliant and organic, not to mention narratively effective in implying direct and indirect relationships between different story elements.

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Yeah, the achievement here isn't necessarily in the sheer number of leitmotives (which is staggering) but in that they are all divided into sets and subsets and sub-subsets of related themes. Certain sets of themes are contrasted against others (Mordor/Shire; Fellowship/Isengard) while others complement each other, but all are nonetheless connected.

 

The dramatic effect is that Shore can introduce a new theme such as The White Rider and the Fellowship or The House of Durin late in the game, but it still feels like we did hear it before because we heard some of its building blocks in previous themes.

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7 minutes ago, Chen G. said:

Shore can introduce [...] The House of Durin late in the game, 

 

You mean Durin's Folk? That's literally the first thing we ever hear in the Hobbit trilogy.

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Its not The House of Durin per se, its a theme in and of its own, that marries The House of Durin and The History of the One Ring. It occurs again near the end of the score, and I think it also occurs in the Battle of the Five Armies.

 

The House of Durin proper plays in "The White Council" in a sort of embryonic form when Elrond and Gandalf discuss dragon sickness within earshot of Thorin, but the definitive form only appears in The Desolation of Smaug. On the soundtrack or the theatrical cut - in Laketown; in the extended edition - in the prologue.

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  • 1 month later...

Wow. I have finished all of them!

I prefer them in this order (my favourites):

1. Battle of the Five Armies

Close 2. An Unexpected Journey

3. The Desolation of Smaug

 

What do ya think, @Chen G.?

 

Track for track thoughts by Jerry on the way.

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About what? The films? the soundtracks?

 

Anyhow, since when am I the resident Hobbit expert? I've probably spoken about Braveheart or The Avengers twice as often. Not that I'm complaining.

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In terms of soundtracks, I think I agree.

 

The Battle of the Five Armies is the conclusion of the story, and the music benefits greatly from that. The leitmotivic density and the variety of color is absolutely staggering: There are some sixty leitmotives running through the score; and everything but the kitchen sink in terms of instrumentation: I always like to think that James Sizemore went to the Wellington Gamelan Orchestra and relayed to Howard Shore what instruments they had at their disposal, and Shore wrote back: "give me EVERYTHING."

 

The Desolation of Smaug is a very interesting score, but its not as readily accessible as the other two, due to the absense of the company's themes and the lack of a memorable theme until the introduction of Laketown. I love how dark the music is, though: it really complements the film; and in a way, the lack of a strong melodic center in the first half of the score complements the company's state as they wander through the Wilderland - itself the strongest aspect of this film.

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I'm think more along something the average filmgoer might come out of the theater humming. The Woodland Realm material is absolutely gorgeous, but its not nearly as hummable as the Laketown theme. Especially for people who aren't going to stick around for "Beyond the Forest."

 

Also, it take a while for the Woodland Realm material to come to the front of the stage, as well: We only meet Legolas at the forty minute mark; or some 25 minutes on the album.

 

One of the great things about the extended edition is that it includes a straight-forward statement of The House of Durin, but its not enough to make it as accesible as the other two albums.

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I like the Dwarf themes (Thorin and Erebor) and their use in AUJ.

I like Smaug's, Laketown's, and the Woodland Realm themes and their use in TDOS.

I like the Ironfoot and assorted Elvish themes and their use in BOTFA.

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  • 1 month later...

Well, I don't think I can really take on going track for track. It's going to take too long. I have listened to all the scores thrice, and I must say that DOS disc 2 is such a wonderful journey. I love listening to it the most as of late. It tells a story and it flows well. 

 

I have also been digging deeper by watching behind the scenes extras on both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Symphony special. They both feature interesting notes on the score, with the composer and conductor, as well as sound editors, musicians, and Peter Jackson. I noticed how when recording the conductor had a monitor in front of him. He was watching the movie while conducting the orchestra through the scene. I think that's quite an interesting advancement.

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3 minutes ago, The Illustrious Jerry said:

I noticed how when recording the conductor had a monitor in front of him. He was watching the movie while conducting the orchestra through the scene. I think that's quite an interesting advancement.

 

Isn't that the norm? Usually it's a huge projected screen on the back wall, but the little monitor's the standard for LTP events, for example, it even gives instructions to the conductor there. And in some rooms, like the NZ hall where they recorded Moria, DoS and BotFA (?) in, that's not too easy to manage, the little monitor's better.

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Actually, the unique thing is when there's no movie running - either it's a "wild recording" where it's not intended for a specific scene, but for the director/editors to use wherever they please instead of having to track random pieces all over, or for album use, or just to warm up the orchestra - notable examples are "The Vision" from "Main Title and the Vision" on the LLL CE3K set and "Wild Shark Theme" from Intrada's Jaws - or it's a specific film cue that's too hard to record perfectly, and in very select cases the director allows a musically perfect wild recording he edits the movie around - the best known example is the 15-minute finale from E.T. In all other cases, the movie's running silent while recording, with little wipes or flashes onscreen indicating sync points to the conductor.

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  • 2 years later...
On 4/30/2018 at 8:51 PM, Chen G. said:

In terms of soundtracks, I think I agree.

 

The Battle of the Five Armies is the conclusion of the story, and the music benefits greatly from that. The leitmotivic density and the variety of color is absolutely staggering: There are some sixty leitmotives running through the score; and everything but the kitchen sink in terms of instrumentation: I always like to think that James Sizemore went to the Wellington Gamelan Orchestra and relayed to Howard Shore what instruments they had at their disposal, and Shore wrote back: "give me EVERYTHING."

 

The Desolation of Smaug is a very interesting score, but its not as readily accessible as the other two, due to the absense of the company's themes and the lack of a memorable theme until the introduction of Laketown. I love how dark the music is, though: it really complements the film; and in a way, the lack of a strong melodic center in the first half of the score complements the company's state as they wander through the Wilderland - itself the strongest aspect of this film.

 

Desolation of Smaug is probably my favorite because it's very similar to Two Towers, in that it doesn't have a beginning or end, but can therefore explore and indulge in unique settings and directions. Because it's free of the obligations to write a beginning or and end. 

 

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The Desolation of Smaug is without a doubt the best of these three scores, not that they all aren't quality work of the highest degree. I can think of an incredible number of moments off the top of my head that thrill:

 

The title card

The shrieking (I think it's a piccolo) over the shot of the spider first rolling up Bilbo and right after the butterflies which I would include as well

Tauriel's theme, every instance

The moment in the barrels cue when Legolas walks all over their heads

The (I think it's an oboe) solo when they finally get the door open and see the interior of Erebor again

The final choir that ends the movie perfectly and is the best lead-in to credits we have had since The Two Towers, which is my next favorite Middle-earth Shore score

 

When it comes to the songs that end these films, The Last Goodbye is the best since Gollum's Song. I'd rank them about equal. So Battle has that going for it.

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7 minutes ago, Chen G. said:

Yeah, that moment is wonderous.

 

I was very moved when I saw that moment for the first time. Balin's actor doesn't get enough credit in these films.

 

I think one of the reasons I prefer these Hobbit films overall is because the additions are occasionally ridiculous but they aren't subverting the entire point of the story like in LOTR, often. The way these movies managed to balance so many dwarf personalities, and make them distinct and likeable, is impressive in the extreme. Best massive cast blockbuster with tons of new character introductions until Guardians of the Galaxy. I would say The Fellowship of the Ring is the best film overall (you can't really beat that Moria sequence) but Desolation is a close second for me.

 

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42 minutes ago, blondheim said:

I was very moved when I saw that moment for the first time.

 

Being an Israeli, it reminds me of stories of Israeli troops having first reached the Western Wall.

 

Really, a lot of the Dwarves yearning for their homelands was reminiscent of that sort of thing to me. "Misty Mountains" has the quality of prayers evoking Jerusalem in the diaspora. The Dwarves beholding the mountain from afar earlier in this film is very moving, etcetra.

 

s25_05_201715_04_20-750x498.jpghobbit-smaug-movie-screencaps.com-14949.

 

Very moving.

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5 minutes ago, Chen G. said:

 

Being an Israeli, it reminds me of stories of Israeli troops having first reached the Western Wall.

 

s25_05_201715_04_20-750x498.jpghobbit-smaug-movie-screencaps.com-14949.

 

Very moving.

 

A great observation. Shore is Jewish so it is possible he had something like this in mind.

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The irony is that it was Tolkien who partially modelled the Dwarves after Jews, strictly in terms of being a diaspora and using their own language among themselves, alongside visual elements: some straightforward like the beards; some - a play on caricature, like the noses.

 

I don't think that aspect of the thing (the reclamation of their homeland) was intentional on anyone's part - Tolkien, Shore or Jackson - and its not like I'm treating it as an allegory for that. I'm saying, it reminded me of that sort of stuff.

 

I'm not too much of sucker for that sort of patriotic thing, though. The powerful aspect of the Dwarves' yearning for their homeland comes from somewhere else for me.

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Just now, Chen G. said:

The irony is that it was Tolkien who partially modelled the Dwarves after Jews.

 

I don't think that aspect of the thing was intentional on anyone's part - Tolkien, Shore or Jackson - and its not like I'm treating it as an allegory for that. I'm saying, it reminded me of that sort of stuff.

 

Wagner did much the same with the Nibelungs of Der Ring, which has a heavy influence over this trilogy. It is an unfortunately common problem.

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I don't think its a problem with Tolkien, or these movies.

 

He only modelled his Dwarves after Jews in the sense that they live as a diaspora among other people, and using their own language in among themselves while doing so. The visual elements of the noses seem more like a play on caricature than an endorsment of it.

 

I've yet to meet an Israeli that was offended by that, or even noticed it for that matter. I suppose it has to do with the fact that films (wisely) lean heavily into Scottish and Viking shorthand for the Dwarves, which makes the Jewish aspect more subdued. These films were/are plenty popular here.

 

Wagner is a different thing here alltogether.

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1 minute ago, Chen G. said:

I don't think its a problem with Tolkien.

 

He only modelled his Dwarves after Jews in the sense that they live as a diaspora among other people, and using their own language in among themselves while doing so. The visual elements of the noses seem more like a play on caricature than an endorsment of it. I've yet to meet an Israeli that was offended by that.

 

Wagner is a different thing here alltogether.

 

They are still a money-obsessed stereotype regardless of intention and not given the same love and attention as elves in the text or the film. The Silmarillion makes it pretty clear that the Elves are practically half-angels and the dwarves, well, aren't. To quote Tolkien:

 

"They are a tough, thrawn race for the most part, secretive, laborious, retentive of the memory of injuries (and of benefits), lovers of stone, of gems, of things that take shape under the hands of the craftsmen rather than things that live by their own life."

 

Consider the argument of nature over industry running through the books, with the word thrawn meaning stubborn, and you have a pretty common caricature. I do think he gives the Dwarves respect but let's call it what it is. One of their Sindarin names translate to 'Stunted People'. I support Tolkien and don't believe he did a lot of this maliciously, but the time in which he lived had a lot of these common prejudices, and there is no doubt they slipped in. There is some eugenics influence as well, which hasn't been imitated as lovingly by other writers over the years. Its legacy isn't stainless.

 

That said, I think that maybe they should be read by every living being.

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I like that Tolkien doesn't give us a terribly flattering portrait of Dwarvish culture, and that the films follow through with much of that. In these films, Thorin and Company are consistently depicted as

 

20 minutes ago, blondheim said:

secretive, laborious, retentive of the memory of injuries

 

Also, this very evocative passage from "The Quest of Erebor":

 

Quote

This Dwarvish conceit that no one can have or make anything 'of value' save themselves, and that all fine things in other hands must have been got, if not stolen, from the Dwarves at some time, was more than I could stand at that moment. '

 

Is likewise perfectly in line with the Dwarves in these films.

 

To be completely fair, some of this does remind me of some devout Jews I've spoken to. There's certainly a sense of superiority engrained into Jewish religion, since its the religion of a people as opposed to a proselytizing one like Christianity. I wouldn't begrudge Tolkien had he drawn the haughtiness of the Dwarves from that aspect of Judaism.

 

But, at the same time, the Dwarves are also indeed "brave, and kind; and loyal to a fault."

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5 minutes ago, Chen G. said:

Some of this does remind me of some devout Jews I've spoken to.

 

Some stereotypes are based in truth but I don't believe this is necessarily one of them, and has done much damage over the years. I am not Jewish but I have Jewish family who could probably explain it better than me. However, I do agree with the consistency of his planning and execution. I don't think it was malicious, but since they aren't on the same level as the Men or Elves, I feel supported in my theory of it being subconscious.

 

The man was undoubtedly a genius. I just call 'em as I see 'em.

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7 minutes ago, blondheim said:

since they aren't on the same level as the Men or Elves, I feel supported in my theory of it being subconscious.

 

which is why I was so grateful to see The Hobbit turned into the Dwarf-centric story that Tolkien never gave us. We've seen a ton of Hobbits, Men and Elves in The Lord of the Rings trilogy (and we're going to see a hell of lot more of the latter in Amazon's show), but this trilogy was the Dwarves time to shine!

 

Same with the score: that Moria music in The Fellowship of the Ring was beyond awesome, and its great to hear Shore elaborate on this hitherto criminaly-underdeveloped aspect of his musical creation, rather than just do more Shire music; sorry, Bilbo.

 

The issue with why the Dwarves don't get as big a piece of the action as Men or Elves in Tolkien's overall writings has more to do with Dwarves being a later addition to his Legendarium.

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Just now, Chen G. said:

which is why I was so grateful to see The Hobbit turned into the Dwarf-centric story that Tolkien never gave us.

 

The issue with why the Dwarves don't get as big a piece of the action as Men or Elves has more to do with Dwarves being a later addition to his Legendarium.

 

I like the Hobbit trilogy for the exact same reason. They were very kind to them. Gloin was the only stock penny-pincher and he has a wonderfully redeeming moment when he sees the mountain and all frugality slips away.

 

The Dwarves weren't highest on the priority list in terms of world-building but Hobbit was written before Lord, he had plenty of time to remedy that fact, and may have eventually, but I think my point here still stands.

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1 hour ago, blondheim said:

Shore is Jewish so it is possible he had something like this in mind.

 

1 hour ago, Chen G. said:

I don't think that aspect of the thing (the reclamation of their homeland) was intentional on anyone's part - Tolkien, Shore or Jackson - and its not like I'm treating it as an allegory for that. I'm saying, it reminded me of that sort of stuff.

 

I did some more thinking on this point, and dug this up from an interview with Armitage:

 

Quote

it’s possible that they are like the Jewish people of Nazi Germany. I don’t think Tolkien intended that at all, but that’s how they feel. There’s a pride to them that’s like, “We will not be defeated. We will go back to our homeland and we will reclaim what was taken from us.”

 

Great actor.

 

Whether it was also on Shore's mind I dunno, but its worth pointing out that Shore scored this while working off of The Annotated Hobbit, so he would have had immediate access to a lot of the subtler aspects of the novel while working on it.

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9 minutes ago, Chen G. said:

I did some more thinking on this point, and dug this up from an interview with Armitage:

 

Whether it was on Shore's mind I dunno, but its worth pointing out that Shore scored this while working off of The Annotated Hobbit, so he would have had immediate access to a lot of the subtler aspects of the novel while working on it.

 

This is a great point. I agree: the resemblance is there, and it is most definitely intentional. To quote Tolkien again:

 

"I do think of the 'Dwarves' like Jews: at once native and alien in their habitations" (...) "Their words are Semitic, obviously, constructed to be Semitic"

 

I think he did alright by them in the end, and the problem can be almost entirely rectified with a characterful adaptation such as the three we got. Even the fact that they got three films was a huge step in the right direction.

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2 hours ago, blondheim said:

Consider the argument of nature over industry running through the books, with the word thrawn meaning stubborn, and you have a pretty common caricature. I do think he gives the Dwarves respect but let's call it what it is. One of their Sindarin names translate to 'Stunted People'. I support Tolkien and don't believe he did a lot of this maliciously, but the time in which he lived had a lot of these common prejudices, and there is no doubt they slipped in. There is some eugenics influence as well, which hasn't been imitated as lovingly by other writers over the years. Its legacy isn't stainless.

 

Yeah, I'm not buying this. It seems obvious to me that the word "stunted" refers, at least primarily, to the stature of the dwarves and not to their character. Even if it did refer to their character, that would only suggest that the elves were prejudiced against the dwarves, not the author himself. As for eugenics, I'm curious as to what influence you think it had on Tolkien's writings. I've never heard anyone claim there was such a connection before.

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I am referring to the concept that is common to fantasy of different species being inherently evil. Narnia is a way worse culprit of this. Like I said before, I believe Lord to be a likely subconscious product of its time and not generally malicious. The fact remains however, that dividing fantasy characters along species lines became even more popular than it already was after stories like this one. Especially this one, was my lament here. Since I think this idea has gone way further with other writers.

 

Dealing with only the orcs for a momentary example: while still not given a single redeeming characteristic, their story is deepened and meaningfully when you find out that a) they were 'twisted' and deformed to the point where they were a race themselves, a distorted race of people certainly born with genetic trauma, and also b) the Eye of Sauron commands them. This doesn't change the fact that Tolkien never actualized redeeming them in the writing we have but he was still writing and I like to believe that those point to that being his aim. Maybe someone would know more about this. I have never read Christopher Tolkien's Histories.

 

I hope that explains my point there. Eugenics influencing fantasy is pretty undeniable, and a thing you can easily find to read about online as well if you are curious. By eugenics here I mean not only the practice of controlled breeding but also the influence and theory derived from it. It doesn't mean the thing is worthless, but as I stated, I call 'em like I see 'em.

 

(I tried to give an example where he used controlled breeding on the other side of the tracks to show you a good example of how he does it, but in a generally sympathetic way. Other writers haven't. That was really my only point.)

 

4 minutes ago, blondheim said:

 

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Orcs are the certainly the main point on people's itinerary when they accuse Tolkien of racism, due to a comment of his that they are akin to "the least-lovely Mongol-types."

 

I think that pseudo-intellectual Lindsay Ellis made a point out of this, completely disregarding that Tolkien was a medievalist, and would have been referring to the murderous hordes of Genghis Khan from the 12th Century. One could hardly be called a racist for that.

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Yeah, I reached for the orcs as an example for that reason, hoping to show my point that: He is guilty of doing it, but in a more human way than other writers of the period, and of course after.

 

Tolkien is an incredible writer. I personally don't think the films can hold a candle to what he accomplished. It unfortunately became more and more Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings as time went on. With the Hobbit that was a good thing, oddly enough, but not so in Rings. When Frodo wrestles Gollum off the edge of Mount Doom instead so they can have a Titanic moment, I am not kidding when I say I stood up in the theatre and yelled. An entire trilogy ruined in a moment.

 

It scares me to think of how many people had to be involved with and okay that change.

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18 hours ago, blondheim said:

I am referring to the concept that is common to fantasy of different species being inherently evil. Narnia is a way worse culprit of this. Like I said before, I believe Lord to be a likely subconscious product of its time and not generally malicious. The fact remains however, that dividing fantasy characters along species lines became even more popular than it already was after stories like this one. Especially this one, was my lament here. Since I think this idea has gone way further with other writers.

 

Dealing with only the orcs for a momentary example: while still not given a single redeeming characteristic, their story is deepened and meaningfully when you find out that a) they were 'twisted' and deformed to the point where they were a race themselves, a distorted race of people certainly born with genetic trauma, and also b) the Eye of Sauron commands them. This doesn't change the fact that Tolkien never actualized redeeming them in the writing we have but he was still writing and I like to believe that those point to that being his aim. Maybe someone would know more about this. I have never read Christopher Tolkien's Histories.

 

I hope that explains my point there. Eugenics influencing fantasy is pretty undeniable, and a thing you can easily find to read about online as well if you are curious. By eugenics here I mean not only the practice of controlled breeding but also the influence and theory derived from it. It doesn't mean the thing is worthless, but as I stated, I call 'em like I see 'em.

 

(I tried to give an example where he used controlled breeding on the other side of the tracks to show you a good example of how he does it, but in a generally sympathetic way. Other writers haven't. That was really my only point.)

 

Thanks, this clarifies your position for me nicely.

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