Media previews

For discussion of Amazon's new television show "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power"
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Eldy
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Re: Media previews

Post by Eldy »

ETA: Quoting so it's not stuck on the bottom of the last page:
Eldy wrote: Mon Jun 06, 2022 7:12 pmEncouraging to hear they have the whole series planned out from the beginning. Not doing that is a weakness in a lot of TV shows.

Empire also shared two new images from this issue on Twitter, and mentioned that the name of Sir Lenny Henry's character is "Sadoc Burrows."

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There are also some comments about Harfoots from Lenny Henry in this additional post:
So when showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay first set out to tell a story in the Hobbit-free Second Age of Middle-earth for Prime Video’s streaming series The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power (Peter Jackson’s films and the original novels are set thousands of years later in the Third Age), they were faced with a conundrum: how do you conjure that world without featuring its most notable inhabitants?

The answer was the Harfoots – beings who feature in the original Tolkien lore as the Hobbits’ predecessors. These lot have those famous furry feet and short stature, but they haven’t settled in the Shire yet. Oh, and one of them – by the name of Sadoc Burrows – is played by none other than Lenny Henry. “We’re a nomadic tribe, moving with the weather and the fertility of the crops. We have big caravans on wooden wheels and we’re very good at hiding things, because humans are much bigger than us and bring trouble,” Henry tells Empire of the Harfoot way of life. And while they’re not exactly Hobbits, they’ll still be playing a Hobbit-like role in the wider tale. “We’re the traditional Tolkien little guy,” explains Henry. “Traditionally, the little people in this world provide comedy but also get to be incredibly brave. You’re going to see us run the full gamut of emotions and actions in this adventure.”
More at the link, including Henry's thoughts on representation of characters of color, which I'm sure a lot of people on Twitter and Reddit will get in their feelings about.
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Re: Media previews

Post by Anduril »

Why wasn't he cast as a Blue Wizard?
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We all know Harfoots are just hobbits, and that most of the Middle-earth material doesn't have hobbits. Official puff pieces can't be honest, can they.
Last edited by Anduril on Tue Jun 07, 2022 6:16 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Media previews

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Anduril wrote: Tue Jun 07, 2022 5:46 amWe all know Harfoots are just hobbits, and that most of the Middle-earth material doesn't have hobbits. Official puff pieces can't be honest, can they.
Yeah, it's a little strange how the official line is simultaneously "you need Hobbits in a Middle-earth story" and "but they're not really Hobbits." A preemptive defense against accusations of infidelity? An ineffective one, if so, since as you note the idea that Harfoots aren't Hobbits is itself a change from the books.
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Re: Media previews

Post by Anduril »

From the other article:
If the individual plot threads are new, the outline is straight from the source. “It was like Tolkien put some stars in the sky and let us make out the constellations,” Payne explains. “In his letters [particularly in one to his publisher], Tolkien talked about wanting to leave behind a mythology that ‘left scope for other minds and hands, wielding the tools of paint, music and drama.’ We’re doing what Tolkien wanted. As long as we felt like every invention of ours was true to his essence, we knew we were on the right track.
Letter 292 (December 12 1966):
Dear Miss Hill,

I send you the enclosed impertinent contribution to my troubles. I do not know what the legal position is, I suppose that since one cannot claim property in inventing proper names, that there is no legal obstacle to this young ass publishing his sequel, if he could find any publisher, either respectable or disreputable, who would accept such tripe.

I have merely informed him that I have forwarded his letter and samples to you. I think that a suitable letter from Allen & Unwin might be more effective than one from me. I once had a similar proposal, couched in the most obsequious terms, from a young woman, and when I replied in the negative, I received a most vituperative letter.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,
J.R.R. Tolkien.
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Also, five seasons or 50 hours just to broadly/tangentially/etc. cover "the forging of the rings, to the rise of Sauron". Rise? Surely they also mean to include the part where he gets his finger cut off?

Heck, maybe I'd have devoted just one season to the Rings and Númenor and the Last Alliance, then one to The Hobbit, then the last three to LOTR.
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Re: Media previews

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They've been pretty clear from the outset that they are proto-hobbits, the nomadic ancestors of "modern" hobbits before they settled in the Shire. I think you guys are being a little pedantic. The showrunners have been very up front and clear about what the Harfoots represent.

From Wikipedia (I know, I know, but it doesn't contradict any of what I remember from the prologue and other writings):
The Harfoots were by far the most numerous group of hobbits and were the first to enter the land of Eriador, which contains the Shire and Bree. They were the smallest in stature, "browner of skin" in complexion, and the most typical of the race as described in The Hobbit. They lived in holes, or smials, and had closer relations with Dwarves than other hobbits did. Harfoots tended to live in gentle rolling hill country, and were mostly agrarian. They were the first group to cross the Misty Mountains, settling in the lands around Bree starting in Third Age 1050 (about 2,000 years before the time of Bilbo and Frodo, and five and a half centuries before the founding of the Shire in Third Age 1601). Tolkien coined the term "Harfoot" as analogous to "hairfoot"
Is it really a stretch to say they existed in some form in the Second Age, which only ended 1000 years before their appearance in Bree?
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Re: Media previews

Post by Anduril »

It's not their existence that's the issue for me, it's their being included in the first place, in such prominent roles too apparently. The showrunners are like "is it really Middle-earth if it doesn't have hobbits?" :scratch:
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Re: Media previews

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Well that's not something we can decide till we see it. I know. Crazy talk. :)
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Re: Media previews

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I with you, Al (I know, more crazy talk!)
A great tree may outlive many a Man, and may remember the seed from which it came ere all the Men that now walk the earth were yet unborn, but the rind upon which you lay your hand, and the leaves which overshadow you, are not as that seed was, nor as the dry wood shall be that decays into the mould or passes in flame. And other trees there are that stand about each different in growth and in shape, according to the chances of their lives, though all be akin, offspring of one yet older tree and sprung therefore from a single seed of long ago.
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Re: Media previews

Post by Eldy »

Pedantic? Me? I've never been called that before in my life! :D
Alatar wrote: Tue Jun 07, 2022 12:16 pmWell that's not something we can decide till we see it. I know. Crazy talk. :)
I agree that early Hobbits would have existed in the Second (and even First) Age(s), but like Anduril, I wish they were not going to play a role in ROP. The Second Age is my favorite part of the legendarium, and I would much prefer the show embrace the things that make it a valuable component of the mythology in its own right, rather than not only doubling down on common elements with LOTR but adding new ones.

I can agree with you, Al, insofar as it's impossible to say whether the show will work on its own terms without seeing it, but I think the existence of "The Silmarillion" is pretty conclusive proof that it is, in fact, possible to tell a story that "feels like Middle-earth" without including Hobbits. :P
Anduril wrote: Tue Jun 07, 2022 6:17 amAlso, five seasons or 50 hours just to broadly/tangentially/etc. cover "the forging of the rings, to the rise of Sauron". Rise? Surely they also mean to include the part where he gets his finger cut off?
According to one of the more detailed pieces published by Vanity Fair a few months ago, they will include the Last Alliance. How effective this will be when it occurs less than a single Númenórean lifespan after the Forging of the Rings is one of the big outstanding questions of ROP. Though, for what it's worth, the prologue of Jackson's Fellowship implied something similar by (understandably!) omitting any mention of the War of the Elves and Sauron. People who had read the book presumably filled in the gaps themselves, but the simplification seems to have been effective enough for first-time audiences. I would rather ROP, with exponentially greater time to devote to the subject, had less compression, but whaddya gonna do.

(Seriously, though, they could've mushed together Aldarion and Erendis with the Forging of the Rings, had only one big timeskip to get to the only slightly compressed climax of the Second Age, and covered the whole arc of the Age in a manner much less disruptive to the "canon." Amazon chose not to do this, though I'm sure there will be no end of claims that they didn't actually have a choice.)
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Re: Media previews

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Could they have? I was under the impression that they don't have those rights.

I also agree with Al. We'll see.

Until the estate allows making Children of Túrin and the Lúthien saga, any new adaptation is going to be a glorified fanfiction. So I am not pressed about this one.

His philosophy was a mixture of three famous schools -- the Cynics, the Stoics and the Epicureans -- and summed up all three of them in his famous phrase, 'You can't trust any bugger further than you can throw him, and there's nothing you can do about it, so let's have a drink."

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Re: Media previews

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Eldy wrote: Tue Jun 07, 2022 3:56 pmI can agree with you, Al, insofar as it's impossible to say whether the show will work on its own terms without seeing it, but I think the existence of "The Silmarillion" is pretty conclusive proof that it is, in fact, possible to tell a story that "feels like Middle-earth" without including Hobbits. :P
Let's see what one commentator has to say about that:
J.R.R. Tolkien wrote:I am doubtful myself about the undertaking. Part of the attraction of The L.R. is, I think, due to the glimpses of a large history in the background : an attraction like that of viewing far off an unvisited island, or seeing the towers of a distant city gleaming in a sunlit mist. To go there is to destroy the magic, unless new unattainable vistas are again revealed. Also many of the older legends are purely 'mythological', and nearly all are grim and tragic: a long account of the disasters that destroyed the beauty of the Ancient World, from the darkening of Valinor to the Downfall of Númenor and the flight of Elendil. And there are no hobbits.
While we love The Silmarillion, there is no question that it is less beloved in the general public then LOTR or TH, and that the lack of hobbits is one (but by no means the only) reason. I've been on record as saying that I would have preferred that they not be included in the show, but I do understand why they are. It remains to be seen just how intrusive they will be onto the real story that should be told. Can I picture a way that it could be done effectively? Yes. Do I expect to be pleased with it? That remains to be seen, but probably not.
A great tree may outlive many a Man, and may remember the seed from which it came ere all the Men that now walk the earth were yet unborn, but the rind upon which you lay your hand, and the leaves which overshadow you, are not as that seed was, nor as the dry wood shall be that decays into the mould or passes in flame. And other trees there are that stand about each different in growth and in shape, according to the chances of their lives, though all be akin, offspring of one yet older tree and sprung therefore from a single seed of long ago.
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Re: Media previews

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Empire apparently has an image of the critical character Celebrimbor. Some of not expressed delight, but I am actually quite impressed. With one caveat.

Meet The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power’s Pivotal Elf Celebrimbor – Exclusive Image

My caveat is that while I kind of like his look, he looks much older than both Elrond and Galadriel. That just highlights how wrong those characters looks are. (To me, of course.)
A great tree may outlive many a Man, and may remember the seed from which it came ere all the Men that now walk the earth were yet unborn, but the rind upon which you lay your hand, and the leaves which overshadow you, are not as that seed was, nor as the dry wood shall be that decays into the mould or passes in flame. And other trees there are that stand about each different in growth and in shape, according to the chances of their lives, though all be akin, offspring of one yet older tree and sprung therefore from a single seed of long ago.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Dangweth Pengolod

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Re: Media previews

Post by Eldy »

It's not just you; this is a bizarre decision to me. Celebrimbor is on a younger level of the House of Finwë's family tree than Galadriel. Even accounting for the fact that Fëanor was the eldest, and his grandson might plausibly be comparable in age to the youngest child of his youngest sibling, it's bizarre for Celebrimbor to look so much older than Galadriel. Especially when his character is so tied up in living in the shadow of greater—and older—craftsmen of the First Age, from his grandfather to Enerdhil, making him the oldest-looking Elf we've seen so far makes no sense to me. Obviously, Amazon does not have the rights to Enerdhil, but surely what we learn of Celebrimbor's history in Unfinished Tales can still indirectly inform his characterization in the show.
Frelga wrote: Tue Jun 07, 2022 4:40 pmCould they have? I was under the impression that they don't have those rights.

I also agree with Al. We'll see.

Until the estate allows making Children of Túrin and the Lúthien saga, any new adaptation is going to be a glorified fanfiction. So I am not pressed about this one.
You are almost certainly correct about Aldarion and Erendis being off limits. We don't know precisely what, or how much, non-LOTR material the Estate will let Amazon include, but I'd be surprised if they give up the main characters of a major narrative in an informal arrangement. Thanks for pointing this out; I really shouldn't post on forums before eating breakfast. :whistle: That said, I do maintain that Amazon could have focused on just one or two eras of the Second Age and come up with something that lets them stick closer to the text without sacrificing artistic merit. But I also think that unfaithfulness does not preclude an adaptation being good on its own merits, so we will indeed see. :)
Voronwë the Faithful wrote: Tue Jun 07, 2022 5:17 pmLet's see what one commentator has to say about that:
J.R.R. Tolkien wrote:I am doubtful myself about the undertaking. Part of the attraction of The L.R. is, I think, due to the glimpses of a large history in the background : an attraction like that of viewing far off an unvisited island, or seeing the towers of a distant city gleaming in a sunlit mist. To go there is to destroy the magic, unless new unattainable vistas are again revealed. Also many of the older legends are purely 'mythological', and nearly all are grim and tragic: a long account of the disasters that destroyed the beauty of the Ancient World, from the darkening of Valinor to the Downfall of Númenor and the flight of Elendil. And there are no hobbits.
While we love The Silmarillion, there is no question that it is less beloved in the general public then LOTR or TH, and that the lack of hobbits is one (but by no means the only) reason. I've been on record as saying that I would have preferred that they not be included in the show, but I do understand why they are. It remains to be seen just how intrusive they will be onto the real story that should be told. Can I picture a way that it could be done effectively? Yes. Do I expect to be pleased with it? That remains to be seen, but probably not.
I agree there are many reasons The Silmarillion failed to find as large an audience as TH and LOTR, and I think the some of the most important ones are that it's not a novel, we get precious little insight into any of the characters as people, and most of the character-centric narratives don't begin until the second half of the book, following the Dagor Bragollach. I would rank the absence of Hobbits relatively low on the list. The evolution and—though I admit this is a questionable word choice—maturation of the high fantasy genre since Tolkien wrote that letter in 1963 demonstrates, in my view, that there is a considerable audience for "grim and tragic" stories. And while the trope of the naïve rube protagonist has proved enduring (from Bilbo to Sam to Luke Skywalker to Belgarion to Rand al'Thor and beyond; Frodo himself doesn't fit the trope neatly since he's worldly by Hobbit standards from the get-go), I think A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones (among other examples) proved you can create accessible protagonists, considered relatable by mass audiences, while bucking the Hobbit model. For that matter, Peter Jackson helped demonstrate this by making Aragorn the co-protagonist of the movie trilogy.

I understand the line of thinking that having a "traditional Tolkien little guy" is necessary, but I'm unconvinced that ROP is taking this approach because it's necessary for this kind of story to find an audience, as opposed to wanting to keep things "on brand" and in line with prior installments in the franchise. As a Second Age fangirl, I dislike that approach, but on the other hand I can't blame people (not thinking of anyone in this thread) who primarily enjoy LOTR if they appreciate the show going in this direction.
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Re: Media previews

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

That's pretty much where I was at not long ago. I don't know if I have changed or not. At the moment the inclusion of the Hobbits isn't bothering me as much as other things (such as the dichotomy between the presentation of Elrond and Galadriel versus Celebrimbor), and the general compression of time and that will impact the presentation of the most important themes of the Second Age (which arguably is more about "death and deathlessness" than any other portion of the legendarium).
A great tree may outlive many a Man, and may remember the seed from which it came ere all the Men that now walk the earth were yet unborn, but the rind upon which you lay your hand, and the leaves which overshadow you, are not as that seed was, nor as the dry wood shall be that decays into the mould or passes in flame. And other trees there are that stand about each different in growth and in shape, according to the chances of their lives, though all be akin, offspring of one yet older tree and sprung therefore from a single seed of long ago.
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Re: Media previews

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That's a very valid point regarding the relative importance of different changes. My beating of the Hobbit hobbyhorse is as much about what I worry it indicates about the showrunners' general approach as it is the Hobbits themselves. But I hope I'm wrong!

Regarding time compression, I remembered after writing my most recent post about Galadriel's age on TORn that one of the Vanity Fair writers who had access to the showrunners gave this description of Galadriel back in February:
Morfydd Clark plays Galadriel in The Rings of Power in her youthful years, only a few centuries old in Middle-earth time (Addendum: but perhaps thousands of years old from her time in Valinor, the undying lands from which she originates.) This story finds her as the commander of the Northern Armies. Her mission is to eradicate any trace of the evil that cost so many lives, including that of her brother Finrod, during Morgoth's tyranny in the “first age.”
According to Tolkien's timeline, Galadriel spent nearly six centuries in Middle-earth during the First Age, which I think is already stretching the meaning of "a few." Amazon (presumably) doesn't have the rights to Tolkien's First Age timelines, but the main takeaway for me is that this description gives the impression of the story beginning very early in the Second Age. I can only hope that the VF writer misunderstood something he was told while interviewing the showrunners, because this is well beyond what I would have considered the most extreme plausible scenario for time compression.
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Re: Media previews

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As for Silmarillion being less popular, it's long, dense, and uneven. However, Tolkien's brand is pretty high overall, and a well-done series could bring new readers to the Silm. With the format of the streaming service series, time constraints are practically irrelevant, until the actors begin to get too old for the role.
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Re: Media previews

Post by Alatar »

Just a brief reminder that the only reason we have LotR as all is because the publishers were unwilling to follow up The Hobbit with a book that didn't contain Hobbits. ;)
And it is safe to say that to 99% of moviegoers*, Hobbits are the differentiating factor between Tolkien and other fantasy.

*63.2% of all statistics invented
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Re: Media previews

Post by Eldy »

And yet we only got the LOTR films was because New Line Cinema was willing to disregard the conventional wisdom about whether, and what kinds of, fantasy media could find mass success... 🤔
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Re: Media previews

Post by RoseMorninStar »

There's an old interview with Peter Jackson from 2012 (quoting him from 1998!) that could apply today. Why Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ succeeded as an adaptation.

I think 'adaptation' is an important word here, as it says in the article:
PJ: “You shouldn’t think of these movies as being ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is, and always will be … one of the greatest (stories) ever written. Any films will only ever be an interpretation of the book. In this case my interpretation.”

No matter how slavishly Jackson had followed the original text, it would have been impossible to perfectly translate all 1,000 pages of Tolkien’s masterpiece to the big screen in a way that satisfied everyone.
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Re: Media previews

Post by Alatar »

Or, based on the internet, anyone! :)
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