More Tolkien than Thou?


I just came across a wonderful piece in response to criticisms against The Hobbit, Peter Jackson’s cinematic interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved literary classic of the same name:

It is a bit unfair – and frankly rather illogical – to expect one artistic medium to be able to express itself in the way that another does. King David, after all, was a real person, who lived a long time ago, and his deeds are described in the Bible. That, in itself, is an interpretation of his life through the inspired Scriptures. Do we complain that Michelangelo or Bernini’s statues are unfair representations of David, because they do not actually move? Do we whine because paintings of David by artists like Castagno or Caravaggio do not speak?

You can read the rest here.

Many people criticize Peter Jackson for needlessly cutting up Tolkien’s masterpiece. There are times when I have made the same arguments. I first read The Hobbit when I was 7 or 8, and then The Lord of the Rings late middle school. Ever since then, I have had a sort of…love affair…with Middle-Earth. Tolkien’s work has had a very meaningful part in my life, and when I converted to Catholicism, a faith to which Tolkien was ardently devoted, it took on even more meaning for me.

I understand that some people might be upset. When I watched The Hobbit last Sunday with wonderful friend (movies are, after all, best enjoyed in the company of such people), I noticed that there were a few more departures from the book than I expected. I wished this or that could have been left in, etc. etc. But you know what? It was a darn good movie. Just as I understand why Jackson left out Tom Bombadil in the LOTR movies (in the cinematic medium, that part of the story would have felt long and disjointed; in the book it was excellent), I can see why Jackson made certain changes om this current film.

Do I agree with all of divergent points between the books and movies? No, of course not. These movies, however, are not mine. They were created by Peter Jackson, who has his own vision of Middle-Earth, which I am sure is very different from my own. I do think, however, that irregardless of differences from the text, they are very good indeed, and I will be seeing the next two on their own opening weekends. And you know what? I think Tolkien would agree with these sentiments. I also believe that these movies, along with the LOTR Trilogy, Narnia films, and Harry Potter series, serve as an excellent way to lead people back to the original texts, causing them to create their own visions of these worlds. That is certainly a good thing!

Now I just wish I could find my Hobbit costume…

Pax et bonum.

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