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Still surprised to be here (part 1, Tolkien's LOTR)
And with "here" I mean on Live Journal! Even a few months ago I would never have dreamed that I would spend time on the Internet or that I would take an LJ account. In this (and the following) post I want to record how it happened. Because I feel a bit like a hobbit:

"they liked to have books filled with things they already know, set out fair and square with no contradictions".

The words "things they already know" are so true for this post. It's impossible to write anything new about Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, the book, the films, Frodo and his actor. So this is just my own, personal story.

 photo TolkienampFrodoampElijahRR_zpsd26c4b3f.jpg

The first step on my journey was set years ago, when I first read J.R.R. Tolkien's "In de Ban van de Ring" (in Dutch). I got the book from my buddies at work. It was a hard-cover, cloth-bound edition with attached bookmarker (very convenient as it was 1445 pages long) and it had this dust cover.

Cover of "In de Ban van de Ring" by J.R.R. Tolkien
translated by Max Schuchart (Uitgevery Het Spectrum, 1968)

Once I had read the book, I tried to figure out what these drawings could possibly mean. At the top I could see Frodo being carried off by the orcs, with Sam, brandishing Sting, in pursuit. I did not yet pick up the "great Elf-warrior" reference (which is what the artist must have intended for the shadowy figure looming above Sam). The scene at the bottom was clearly from the Prancing Pony, with Strider in the background and Frodo caught in his disappearing act. But the hobbits and the men of Bree were drawn as if this was a book for children but I already knew that it was nothing of the kind.

During the months that followed, I became completely absorbed by the world of Middle Earth. Once I had finished the book, I started right at the beginning again. I just could not let it go. Later on, when my English improved, I switched to the English version and then I discovered that the Dutch translator (although doing a great job) had made one serious mistake. During the Battle on the Pelennor Fields, when the lord of the Nazgûl threatens Eowyn he says:

"Come not between the Nazgûl and his prey! Or he will NOT slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shriveled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye".

The Dutch translator left out the word "NOT" in the second sentence. He evidently could not imagine the fate wose than death with which Eowyn is threatened here.

Eowyn threatened by the Lord of the Nazgûl  (Illustration by Alan Lee; from his website)

I still read the English edition of LOTR frequently. Sometimes I have "read it to death" but, when I have changed as a person, I find I can read it again. I have also collected and read most of Tolkien's other books and I have quite a collection of Tolkieniana but I keep coming back to LOTR.

The next step on my journey was rather a negative one. I refused to watch Peter Jackson's films. I thought that watching the films would spoil my Middle Earth. Occasionally, I caught a snippet on tv. The first time that happened I saw the four hobbits arrive at the gate of Bree right after they had escaped from the Black Riders on the Bucklebury Ferry.

Scenes from Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring (2001). Top: Flight from the Black Riders on the Bucklebury Ferry. Bottom: At the Gate of Bree.

So, where was Tom Bombadil? For years, we had a small sailing boat with the name Tom Bombadil because "bright blue his jacket is" (the blue canvas boat cover) "and his boots are yellow" (the yellowish-brown wooden hull of the boat). The source of another cherished quote was also missing: "fog on the Barrow Downs" (we used to recite that in a deep voice every time it was foggy). All this was unforgivable!

From: “De Avonturen van Tom Bombadil” by J.R.R. Tolkien, translated by Max Schuchart with illustrations by Pauline Baynes (Uitgeverij Bert Bakker, 1975).
Left: Back cover. Right: Tom with Goldberry

The next time I caught a glimpse on tv made it even worse. When reading the book chapters about Lothlorien you can feel the healing powers of the land and the Lady Galadriel. Tolkien's illustration "The Forest of Lothlorien in Spring" was stuck on my wall for a long time. It is just so beautiful.

Drawing “The Forest of Lothlorien in Spring” (from: J.R.R. Tolkien, Artist and Illustrator
by Wayne G. Hammond and Cristina Scull, Harper Collins Publishers 1995)

When I saw the arrival of the Fellowship in Lorien on tv, I was reminded of Pauline Baynes' small drawing of Cerin Amroth (with Caras Galadhon in the background) that appears on her map of Middle Earth. So here the filmmakers seemed to have got it right! But the following scenes were all dark and ominous and I turned away in disgust.

Scenes from Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring (2001). Top left: First view on Caras Galadhon. Top right: Illustration by Pauline Baynes. Bottom left: Caras Galadhon by night. Bottom right: Galadriel confronts the Ringbearer. (NOTE: I must have seen a glimpse of the extended version because the first scene does not occur in the theatrical version. Or my memory is playing tricks on me.)

But that was not the end of the story. In the summer of 2010, curiosity finally got the better of me and, on impulse, I bought the DVDs. I loved the films and have now seen them many times. I even got over the absence of Tom. Here are some of my thoughts on the films.

Where the films failed
Not for me! But that's probably because I know the book so well. But, judging from all the comments I've read, it has been impossible to make the full impact of the corrupting power of the One Ring felt by "film-only" viewers. This is not surprising because it is much easier to describe that sort of thing than to show it. The screenwriters did try, for instance by changing Faramir's response to the Ring and by making Frodo a weaker character, an addict, who "offers" the Ring to the Nazgûl Lord and sends Sam away just because of Gollum's machinations. Not only did they alienate long-term LOTR-book fans with these changes, they also failed to convince many "film-only" viewers. Perhaps they should have chosen an alternative solution and just described the corrupting power of the Ring more fully and more often. I realize this is against the film dogma of "show, don't tell" but I can't help feeling it would have been a better solution.

Where the films succeeded
Here I'll just quote from Tom Shippey's book "The Road to Middle Earth: How J.R.R. Tolkien created a new mythology" (revised edition 2005; Harper Collins). He says it so well.

"Jackson may not have been able to cope with all the ramifications of Tolkien on Providence, but then few if any readers do. It is very difficult to say whether some parts of Tolkien's intention gets through to careless or less-comprehending readers: he would have hoped so, but there is no guarantee that he is correct. And meanwhile Jackson has certainly succeeded in conveying much of the more obvious parts of Tolkien's narrative core, many of them strikingly different to Hollywood normality - the difference between Prime and Subsidiary Action, the differing styles of heroism, the need for pity as well as courage, the vulnerability of the good, the true cost of evil. It was brave of him to stay with the sad, muted ending of the original, with all that it leaves unsaid."

My main hero in Tolkien's tale has always been Frodo. For me, he represents the ultimate of self-sacrifice, suffering and heroism. (One of the best essays on the nature of Frodo's heroism I've ever read is here http://www.frodolivesin.us/archives/id21.htm ).
But my admiration for book-Frodo had always been rather abstract. I admired the idea, the concept. Only after seeing the films did Frodo really become alive for me. He became a hobbit of flesh and blood and his sufferings became tangible. I think this was mainly due to Elijah Wood's performance.

Scenes from Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King (2003). Quotes from the book that come to mind: Top images: "I'll crawl Sam, he gasped". Bottom images: "...and there he lay like a dead thing".

My empathy with film-Frodo was there right from the beginning, from the first time I saw the films. But I understood only gradually how important Elijah's performance was for the way I felt. I'll save the tale of how that happened for the next post. But that's how I eventually landed here on Live Journal.

(to be continued)

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Thank you for sharing this with us. I started reading LOTR in college (the late 1970s), and have read the whole trilogy again every few years since then. I didn't read the The Hobbit and The Silmarillion until many years later.

I appreciate the films for many reasons (despite the canon deviations), not the least of which was the inspiration to seek out and then write fanfiction, meet so many good friends, and being able to see the Shire at last before my eyes, in all its simple loveliness.

I went to see FOTR in the theater 11 weekends in a row, mostly to marvel, over and over, at Elijah Wood's Frodo.

Edited at 2012-02-26 03:13 pm (UTC)

"The Shire" -> "This Exit"
And then one becomes "Shirebound". I love that image!

Seeing the Shire in the films, especially in the Extended Edition was wonderful. And I'm still marvelling about Elijah Wood's Frodo (and still trying to figure out what he did to make it so special and how he did it).

One of the reasons I joined LJ was to be able to share my enthousiasms with others. Thank you so much for your comments on my posts. I enjoy reading fanfiction but I doubt I'll ever be able to write it. We'll see.

what a great post (and thanks for all the wonderful pics....your LJ skills are certainly improving apace!)

I first read LOTR in 1968. My English teacher dropped TTT on my desk with the words "I think you might like this".....

LIKE???? L I K E ????? !!!!! After I finished TTT, ROTK was out and I read that. FOTR was last of all. I remember being, up until that time, a voracious reader but always feeling somehow empty. Something was lacking, something I couldn't name, something there was no name for. No more. The sheer lyricism of this amazing world, the finely drawn characters.....they had my heart. I read the books again and again up until I started having children (79) at which point life became simply too hectic.

The films: I started seeing trailers for FOTR, notably the scene in Moria between Gandalf and Frodo. I did not know who this hobbit might be. He was certainly (in age) wrong for the Frodo I knew. It never even struck me as a possibility that I would see this film.

I was there opening day. When they showed Hobbiton for the first time, I started to cry and never stopped. I was finally seeing with my eyes what my heart had been sure of all along.

Unlike you, I have problems with the films. I wish I didn't, but there it is. I don't watch TTT any longer to spare having to take additional blood pressure meds. (yes, really). But I am ecstatic that the movies were made and I imagine that Peter was the only man for the job. Elijah as Frodo? I could not, at the time, imagine him thus. Now I wonder who they would have chosen if not him. I might argue with what was done with the arc of the character but I could never argue with the bravery and beauty of the performance. (Not just from Elijah, of course....how diminished his work might have been with different actors supporting him...but luckily we will never have to know, as each of these people were jewels....)

I don't watch the films much anymore.....nor have i read the book (except excerpts at Reading Day)in years. This used to bother me, until I realized that one of the lessons of the book is that everything changes, even those things we love most (especially those!) and that we wish to be unchanged. To cling to the past, hoping to revisit it with our emotional responses intact, is to deny the power of the present and the promise of the future. Reading LOTR invited me into a larger world. Seeing the world of ME on film somehow gave me a voice that I'd never had before, one that feels true, one that I am ever so grateful to have.

(I don't know why i want to add this next comment. I just do. A couple of years ago, I had a chance to see "The Illusionist" with Phillip Glass, who composed the score, in attendance. Among many other fascinating subjects was the matter of "voice", which is important for an artist to find. But is the work of the artist finished when they find that unique 'voice'? According to Glass, one should be more frightened upon the finding than one was upon the searching for. The artist must not be content to have found his/her voice, but seek, ever, to change it. Otherwise, while we are sitting, complacent, and working in our safe and known manner, the world, both exterior and interior, will have changed around us, but our 'voice' will keep 'singing' in its same key. This was as exciting to me as reading LOTR for the first time, this admonition that this Quest doesn't end, mustn't end, that the only truth of voice lies in the changing of it)

sorry to ramble on!

looking forward to your secondary post!

Thank you for these comments jan_u_wine. They really resonated with me. I am still amazed that this book has been so important to me and that the films had such an emotional impact. But I'm glad it happened.

You wrote: "Seeing the world of ME on film somehow gave me a voice that I'd never had before, one that feels true, one that I am ever so grateful to have."

Be sure that others are also very grateful that you found that voice.

"the only truth of voice lies in the changing of it"

I have felt that in your poems.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. I hadn't read the books until I'd seen the first film and there were things omitted in the films, but I can enjoy both. I thought Frodo was wonderful although he seemed to be made weaker than in the books and more reliant on Sam...

Anyway, I am so grateful to Peter Jackson and all the team for making the films and opening the world of Tolkien's Middle-earth to me. Without them I may never have read the books and discovered their magic and I probably would never have met so many LJ friends or visited New Zealand! :-)

Thanks for your comments jane. You visited New Zealand because of the films? How interesting. We are thinking of going to New Zealand next year. One of the reasons is that I fell in love with the landscapes in the LOTR films. :)

Thanks for sharing this. Looking forward to the second part :-)

Hi Patrick, Next post will be Elijah-centered but I'm still thinking about it. ;)

Thank you for sharing your personal journey with us. Frodo has been my favorite character since I first read LotR, over 40 years ago, and Elijah brought him to beautiful life.

And thanks for the link to essay, I enjoyed it very much.

"Frodo has been my favorite character since I first read LotR, over 40 years ago, and Elijah brought him to beautiful life."

My feelings, exactly!

Ah, I can't wait for your next post! It's so interesting to me to hear about how you came to love LotR and Elijah. It always makes me feel rather absurdly proud, somehow, when I learn that someone who loves the movies the way I do was a fan of the books first, and has been able to get past the differences to the story and characters that the change in artistic medium led to.

I myself tried to read the books several times in high school, because my dad was a huge fan and kept pressing me to read them. But I could only get through the first book; I always foundered on the shoals of the Frodo-less first half of TTT. Frodo was always the character that I cared most about, but even so, Book!Frodo never quite became a real person in my mind. That's why I love the movies so much -- from his first instant onscreen, Elijah's Frodo is as real as it's possible for a fictional character to be. After I saw the first film, I read the whole of LotR in about a week, and I couldn't believe I hadn't been captivated by it from the first read.

Can't wait to read part 2!

Hi Robin, Good to see that you have emerged from the diss- crunch.

"from his first instant onscreen, Elijah's Frodo is as real as it's possible for a fictional character to be"
Couldn't have said it better myself!
And I share your "proud" feelings about our favorite actor.
Part 2 is still "under construction";-)

Thanks for sharing Frodo is my favorit too in the books and in the movie Elijah did a great Frodo!:))


Absolutely true. Elijah was wonderful as Frodo. Thanks for stopping by mumis. :)

(Deleted comment)
I'm glad you liked it. Talking about my favorite books, characters & actors is one of the main joys of being on LJ. So, thanks for your comments on my posts!

I really enjoyed this post, Ambree. I've often wondered how I'd have felt if I'd been familiar with the books before seeing the films. In fact, I had started reading FOTR a few weeks before seeing the film. I'd quite enjoyed the first few chapters but then started struggling with it a bit and put it aside 'for later'. Oddly enough, while reading those chapters I hadn't formed any picture of Frodo in my mind, or of any other characters really, which is unusual for me. Now, I'm really glad I hadn't read the books first so I had no problem, as others seem to, with the differences in Frodo's character. I have read the books several times since then and enjoyed them but PJ's Frodo will always be my Frodo.

Looking forward to Part 2!!

Glad you liked it. Book Frodo remained rather abstract for me too, even though I had read the book many times. So, I am very grateful to PJ and Elijah for creating a Frodo who is really alive. I'm still working on part 2, which is much more difficult to write than I had expected. Perhaps I want to say too much. :)

Thank you for sharing your jouney. Maybe we should all do posts like this, relive the memories.

In the meantime, in case there's a chance that you may be interested.. lol. .. How i came to LJ.. (with a little help from my friend Ladysnaps)

I can remember The Hobbit being part of the reading list while i was at school ( a long time ago..lol) but i never did get around to reading much more than 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit' That's all i can remember. I'm sorry to say it didn't interest me much. Nor did The Lord of the Rings books. I regret that now, but maybe the time wasn't right. ( i read them later, after seeing the films and loved them all the more for being able to put faces to the characters)

When the first film came out in 2001, it was always something i meant to see, but never got around to.. the same with TTT. In 2003 i regretted not having seen the first two films because thanks to tv adverts i was really intrigued to see ROTK, but how could i go see that without seeing the first two. So again, i did nothing. But it was always something that nagged at the back of my mind.

Finally, in 2005 i got the chance to see Fellowship on dvd.. and was immediately transported into a different world. One that i somehow knew instinctively would change my life. And it did. I fell in love completely and irrevocably with Tolkiens Middle Earth... then with Frodo, my hero .. and then, because of his riveting and spellbinding performance of that tortured character, with the only Frodo that could ever be.. Elijah Jordan Wood.

btw.. surprised or not, i'm glad you're here :)

Hi Belle, Nice to read how you came to love Middle Earth, Frodo and Elijah. My experiences are quite similar, except that I knew the book before seeing the films. And I still regret not seeing the films earlier and joining the fandom because it seems I have missed a lot of the fun!

I love your jouney it is nice that you are sharing this with us, my jouney also started with the Felowship, it was chosen for me by my school as my O.level English lit. exam, many years ago, I must admit when I heard an American was going to play Frodo I was not happy...but look how that turned out. now I can think of no other actor who could have done a better job !

When I first saw the films I had no idea that the actor playing Frodo was American. I was actually rather upset when I found out because I generally prefer the British over the Americans. But somehow, he helped me getting over that prejudice. I agree with you; no other actor could have done a better job.

Thank you so much for this post! I came through the films and it took some years actually to tear me away from Star Wars but have been a Frodoholic since summer 2004. I love to have found another one here. Elijah's performance was incredible. His eyes truly are windows to the soul at any moment. I assume you've read Connie Marie's essay on Frodo? That is one of the very best, if not the very best, I have read about what an inspiration he is to anyone struggling with heavy loads. A shame that Trudi Shaw's marvelous site is no longer updated.

Namarie, God bless, Antane :)

Hi antane,
How nice to meet another Frodoholic! Trudy Shaw's site is wonderful; I'm so glad it's still there, and a real pity that it's no longer updated. I first learned to appreciate Elijah's acting through reading her analyses. I wrote a bit about how that happened in the follow up entry to this post.
No, I have not read Bonnie Marie's essay on Frodo. Is it a book or a website? I would be glad to have the reference. :)

Loved reading this and seeing the Dutch. LOTR cover. Thanks for friending me back. looking forward to getting to know you.

"Looking forward to getting to know you"
So do I!

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