This is fantastic advice! Read J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Silmarillion’, LotR, BEFORE the new series, read it WITHOUT their images in your head

This is fantastic advice!

 

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Comments

  1. Pingback: This is fantastic advice! Read J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Silmarillion’ BEFORE the new series, read it WITHOUT their images in your head – Via Nova Media

  2. Aman4allseasons says:

    I always suggest that Catholics with an interest in music read the Ainulindale, the creation myth of Middle-Earth. Especially with a eye open for the very Catholic understanding of God’s plan and His permissive will, which allows evil to works at times.

    You will never doubt that the whole story is thoroughly Catholic after that. And many moments of providence become apparent in the stories.

  3. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    It is! Whether once more, or for the first time, or out loud together (with children of a suitable age, etc.) – and/or maybe listen to a classic audiobook (Rob Inglis is good for the Hobbit and LotR – I’ve only sampled Martin Shaw’s Silmarillion and Andy Serkis’s Hobbit and LotR, so far… and there are others, though some are cinematically influenced as to voice-acting and theme music, and maybe lots I have not yet encountered).

  4. WVC says:

    Better idea – don’t watch the new series.

    There are some books I refuse to watch any onscreen adaptions of because I love the books so much I do not want some director or actor to force their interpretation into my head. “Pride and Prejudice” is one of them. “David Copperfield” is another. “Don Quixote” would be one, too.

    You could put the “Lord of the Rings” movies in there, too, although that’s more because I have a problem with Peter Jackson’s corrupt vision of the Good Guys and his over glamorization of the Bad Guys.

    Just because someone makes a movie or show of something that does not mean one has to consume it. We should get away from the false notion that portraying something on a screen is the ultimate end of all art. Take back your own imagination and give it a decent work out.

    N.B. – I concede that, on rare occasions, a screen adaptation matches or exceeds the book (like “the Maltese Falcon” and “the Thin Man” and even the BBC mini-series of “Brideshead Revisited.”) But these are few and far between and almost non-existent in today’s depraved and Woke entertainment industry.

  5. I can assure Dr Habsburg that I can manage to avoid ‘seeing’ this particular (or any other) online programming etc but re-reading the Silmarillion (after thirty years!) is a good and welcome suggestion.

  6. Vir Qui Timet Dominum says:

    I love the Lay of Beren and Lúthien!

    I won’t have to worry about the Amazon images. I refuse to watch their Game of Thrones ripoff. Anyone who wants to make Tolkien’s work sexual and provocative has completely missed the genius of Tolkien.

  7. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Highly HIGHLY recommended is the audio book of the Silmarillion narrated by Martin Shaw. I’ve listened to it perhaps 10 times in the last 5 years. It’s worth buying to listen to his narration of the Ainulindalë alone.

    I believe the whole unabridged audio book may be available on the tube if one were to search for it.

  8. TonyO says:

    Excellent point about reading the book before letting producers’ and directors’ images skew your “vision” of Tolkien’s work. I made my kids read TLOR before they saw the movies, and never regretted that. While I might wish that I could keep the movie images away completely, their saturation in the world made it certain that at least some images would get through no matter what.

    Peter Jackson did enough damage to LOTR’s elements that I absolutely refused to help bolster his income by paying money to see his version of The Hobbit. Even by paying money indirectly through Amazon or Netflix. He ought to be put in prison: it’s one thing to make tiny changes to a book to adapt it to the movie setting. But what Jackson did to Faramir, (just to pick one egregious example) had no justification other than his own o’erweening pride. And what he did to The Hobbit is nothing short of defamation and pollution.

    I thought about maybe watching the Amazon show…but then I reflected on the fact that nothing Amazon produces is worthwhile. It’s own original content is horrifying and disgusting. So, there is little reason to think they might produce something worthwhile from Tolkien’s work. More likely, they will pick up where Jackson left off and then do even worse. That’s my guess.

  9. Vincent. says:

    I have always intended to read this. Perhaps I will now. Is there a particular edition anyone can recommend or are they all the same?

  10. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Vincent,

    A good question. I think Tolkien’s son, Christopher, who edited the Silmarillion and 12 more volumes of unpublished writings (The History of Middle-earth), kept making corrections to errors in later reprints of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and I see that the Silmarillion article at Tolkien Gateway (a site always worth a look) says there was a 2004 second edition of the 1996 illustrated Silmarillion “featuring corrections”. In some of the History of Middle-earth volumes Christopher makes corrections or tells about changes he later regretted making in getting the 1977 Silmarillion volume ready for publication – so, maybe they are different in 2004. But how much they would make a first reading different, I do not know. It is well worth reading at least the narrative and chronological parts of the Appendices to the Lord of the Rings for Tolkien’s own first published versions of some of the background history.

  11. Imrahil says:

    Dear WVC,

    better yet idea, if it’s a decent attempt at a work of art, watch it while not considering the screen-portrayal the ultimate end of all art. It can be done. I went out of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit without it spoiling my imagery of it in the least. My imagery of The Lord of the Rings has been shaped much more, I guess, by Jackson’s adaption; so, apparently, if a movie trilogy validly and beautifully attempts to tell the story in the spirit of the story, it does shape your imagination more than if it does not; a somewhat reassuring thought.

    All-in-all, that is to say. The attempt was not flawless; there are some mighty flaws even in The Lord of the Rings adaptation, chiefly the treatment of the most interesting character of the novel. I do not (brief surprise) mean Faramir but Denethor; the treatment of Faramir is then obviously a close second. (There are also some things that are not strictly speaking flaws, but understandable yet very sad cut-outs, like the perhaps most important chapter of the whole novel, the Scouring-of-the-Shire or, to a less extent, Tom Bombadil.) Yes, it does have these flaws and stuff, but it still is a great work of art even so.

    Still, I cannot see about what you specifically mean by I have a problem with Peter Jackson’s corrupt vision of the Good Guys and his over glamorization of the Bad Guys, especially the latter part. Where does he over-glamorize the Bad Guys? Also, where does he have an actually corrupt vision of the Good Guys (in my view Movie-Faramir doesn’t even make enough sense to be that)? – But he does make a good job of portraying good guys: the hobbits – even Frodo reacting to Gollum’s poisoning against Sam is, while of course not canon, I-am-sorry-to-say entirely plausible within canon. Gandalf. Aragorn – with his doubts concerning his Elven marriage and high calling, which are in themselves canonical, transferred to (that’s what that was) the time of action; there is a minor flaw in his utterly un-characteristic political phrase-mongering in the coronation scene, though. Legolas. Gimli (the much-criticized comic-relief function is all there in the book, actually). Theoden. Faramir is the exception, but Peter Jackson does have his good guys, and what is perhaps even more important, they differ from each other. – He also does an entirely convincing job of portraying Boromir, Galadriel (who, yes, has her, shall we say, difficult character-traits – and we do see that) and Saruman. (All the more’s the pity to think how much better he could have portrayed Denethor…)

  12. WVC says:

    @Imrahil

    Yes, he left out the Shire in the end, which is a critical component, and he did do some things well, but the changes he made are substantial when compared to Tolkien’s original vision.

    He turned the elves, full of joy and song, into imitation Vulcans, almost devoid of emotion. He turned the dwarves, like Gimli, from stalwart and clever if sometimes greedy fellows into messy, not-all-that-bright frat boys (c.f. the scene, perhaps in the extended edition, of the “drinking contest” between Gimli and Legolas, with Gimli burping and farting his way to a drunken stupor while Legolas encounters alcohol for the first time, because apparently Elves don’t drink wine). He turned the Ents from noble and cautious beings taking time to deliberate the right course of action and then committing to it, regardless of the cost, to self-centered and then vengeful beings who react rather than act when confronted with evil.

    The worst example would be comparing the scene of Aragon before the Gate of Mordor confronting the Mouth of Sauron. In the book, the Mouth of Sauron tries to break the morale of the heroes, but Aragon, with confidence and force of will, stands face to face with the Mouth of Sauron until the evil creature himself is frightened and turns to flee. Compare this with the scene Peter Jackson directed, and, after growing hysterical at the words of the Mouth of Sauron, Aragon sneaks up behind him and beheads him WHILE THE MOUTH OF SAURON was under a FLAG OF TRUCE. He then hysterically yells to his companions that he refuses to believe what was said about Frodo. And then everyone yells.

    The noblest hero of men sneak attacks an unarmed foe while under truce because he became emotionally unhinged at the bad news he was hearing. This is not a small thing.

    If one values Tolkien’s accurate vision of how a good man must comport himself in the face of grave evil, keeping his passions in check and being a man of his word, even to evil creatures, one cannot square that vision with Peter Jackson’s movies. Even the actor who played Samwise said in an interview that he had to fight Peter Jackson to get him to take Samwise as a serious character and not just some kind of comic relief.

    I don’t mean to pick on Jackson. It’s a problem most if not all modern filmmakers and story-tellers suffer from – they do not actually comprehend what is good or moral, but they have no problem showing evil in all its power, which, when put on the screen side by side makes good come off as rather weak compared to evil. (c.f. Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” for another example)

    My other gripe would be the overstylized and over-emphasized violence in the LotR movies. The Battle of Helms deep takes about 3 to 4 pages in the Two Towers. It’s something like 45 minutes to over an hour in the movie. But this is a problem that’s in almost all modern movies. If there’s not 20 minutes of extra and completely unnecessary action in an adventure movie now-a-days I don’t think they’ll fund it.

    And I could’ve gone my whole life not having to see wizards fight each other and having it look like two old bearded men doing a Cirque de Soleil routine. Or Gandalf hopping and bopping all over a Balrog on the side of a mountain. Somethings are definitely best left to mystery and the imagination.

  13. Imrahil says:

    Dear WVC,

    I quite agree as to the Mouth of Sauron, and I half included it as “one other of those flaws” because obviously I read about it before; but the simple thing about that rather obviously is that it just never made an impression on me for the simple reason that it’s not in the theatrical version and I’ve only ever seen the theatrical version of part III (or II).

    I disagree about the Battle of Helms Deep; well, yes, it is in the movie the Battle of “The Two Towers” and its role and length in the book is not even close. Yes. But that’s under the category “differences between book and movie”, not in the category “movie flaws”. (Yes, not even the Elvish archers are a flaw. The Elves did fight canonically in the War of the Ring; just at other places such as Mirkwood. Having them appear at Helms Deep is a legitimate representation of that for movie purposes, in my view.)

  14. Macarius says:

    I agree that it would be good to read the books before watching the films. I had been reading Tolkien for decades before LOTR movie came out and found that the movies had no impact on my own images formed from my reading.
    I especially recommend Tolkien’s “Unfinished Tales.” It contains many of the same stories as the Silmarillion but different versions, some expanded. Very engaging.
    I will watch the Amazon series for entertainment, but I don’t expect it to be the same as the book. I realize Peter Jackson changed quite a bit in the movies, but I think he kept the spirit of them pretty close to Tolkien, in my unhumble opinion.
    I have always watched the expanded version of LOTR and just recently viewed the theatrical version. I was shocked at how many important scenes were left out.

  15. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Macarius,

    Allow me heartily to second your recommendation of Tolkien’s “Unfinished Tales.” One wishes he had lved to finish these and rewrite more of the Silmarillion stories in such styles. For those who enjoy ‘A Description of the Island of Númenor’ in “Unfinished Tales”, it is worth noting that in the Nature of Middle-earth (2021) Carl Hostetter includes much enjoyable detail that was abridged from it by Christopher Tolkien.

  16. Pingback: FRIDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

Comments are closed.