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A random Tolkien-related thought, inspired by The Hobbit. Are Men really destined to dominate in the Fourth Age?

I mean, obviously, Elves are taking themselves out of the running, and while it’s possible the trauma of Sharkey’s rule might lead the Hobbits to embrace a revanchist ideology, with the Shire’s leaders agitating for an invasion of Bree and revenge against all Big Folk… well, it’s not that likely.

But the Dwarves seem to be doing alright for themselves. Thorin reclaims the Lonely Mountain, and within a few years, Dwarves would be confident enough to try and take back Moria too. It seems fairly likely they’d make another attempt after the War of the Ring, and without the Balrog, their chances seem pretty good. We know from the appendices that Gimli would go on to establish a new Dwarven kingdom in the Glittering Caves – the Dwarves are not only not giving way to the kingdoms of Men, but reclaiming all their old kingdoms and then expanding further, claiming territories within human lands!

Certainly, Aragorn may provide some brief return to glory for Gondor and its allies – but he cannot stop the slow fading of the blood of Numenor, only slow it for a little while. The Dwarves are patient; they waited centuries for the return of their homelands. They can wait a little longer for the brief renaissance of the power of Men to flicker and die…
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An odd thought: I was still in my mid-teens when I saw Fellowship. I’ll be thirty when the last Hobbit film comes out…

Anyway, I liked the film. Compared to Lord of the Rings, it seemed a little more… light-hearted isn’t exactly the right word, but certainly a fair bit less serious or weighty – which fits the difference between the books. I thought the film handled the difference in tone quite nicely by framing it as Bilbo’s account of his adventure, and much of the early scenes is word-for-word from the book. I do hope the rest of the trilogy keeps up that mood, and the attempt to expand the story into a trilogy doesn’t result in attempts to make it too serious or ‘epic’. I liked the cameos from Galadriel and Saruman, but I wouldn’t want the movers and shakers of Middle-Earth to overshadow Thorin and company…

Regarding Thorin and the dwarves – I found it interesting that the film seemed to take Tolkien’s comment that his dwarves are vaguely analogous to Jews and ran with it – some of Thorin’s company seemed to have a very eastern/central European look to them, there were a lot of references to Dwarves as a people in exile, victims of an involuntary diaspora, outsiders wherever they go. Of course, there’s problematic attitudes in associating dwarves with Jews – but, on the other hand, it’s pretty much impossible to adapt Tolkien’s works without carrying over some problematic content, and a fantasy film with Eastern-European Jewish analogues as the heroes makes for a nice change from the usual Anglo/Nordic cultures. And the Hobbit ends with everyone consumed with greed for Smaug’s hoard, not just the Dwarves…

There’s also a nice sense that Thorin’s band are fairly ordinary people – not as unaccustomed to adventure as Bilbo, of course, but hardly on the level of Aragorn or Legolas. A few orcs on wargs is treated as a serious threat, and they avoid combat whenever possible. I liked that – Smaug should be an utterly terrifying threat once we get to see him in full, a year or two down the line.

Things I disliked – Radagast was a bit too goofy for my tastes, and seemed rather supurflous. Everything he said was repeated by Gandalf a few scenes later anyway, his appearance seemed more to make up for him being cut from Fellowship, less a useful addition in its own right. The escape from the stone giants dragged a little too – then again, they’re slightly out of place even in the novel, never being so much as referenced again anywhere else…

An odd realisation – outside of the brief glimpse of Dale-town at the beginning, I don’t think there was a single human onscreen in the entire film. Certainly none with lines…

Anyway, bring on the Desolation of Smaug! Next year in Erebor!
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Decided to give Lord of the Rings Online’s Monster Play a go, created an orc character and set to work clearing the Ettenmoors of nasty, filthy hobbitses and elves.

I must admit, I was really impressed with how well my fellow players all managed to role-play being one of Tolkien’s orcs – crude, insulting, inarticulate, spoiling for a fight yet abandoning their comrades the moment the battle turned against them, and constantly squabbling over the spoils of war. I really felt like I was fighting alongside the degenerate hordes of Mordor!
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- It takes a fair amount of skill to eat bacon.

- You cannot carry mail if you’re on horseback.

- Giant toads and slugs infest the Shire.

- ‘Squishy goo’ is surprisingly valuable.

- Broken swords are often worth more than intact ones.

- Historians know how to forge weapons.

- Killing wolves teaches you how to throw pebbles.

- Pies cure diseases.

- Jewel crafters are all good cooks.

- Nosy hobbits are the bane of civil society.

- Aragorn is a surprisingly trusting fellow.
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Doing a unit on Fantasy narratives this semester – which, so far, consists mainly of sitting around Tuesday mornings discussing Lord of the Rings. It’s hard work, but someone’s got to do it!

Haven't actually re-read Tolkien for many years, so it was fun to revisit it. Thoughts, in no particular order:

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David Newgreen

August 2017

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