Warning: I know I will shock or, at least, disappoint any Tolkien fan who may  stumble  onto this post. They are kindly advised not to read!

I've been striving on my personal quest in search for a spark between Tolkien's world  and me in the last two years.   It's been a long,  troubled journey, a real fight against my complete ignorance and  a rather visceral dislike. You know, Tolkien's work is not my cup of tea at all. I've tried to approach it anyway, overcoming my prejudices and preconceptions. This is just an account of my latest attempt and of some prior events. 

I started watching The Lord of the Rings movies with my son, who is fond of them, before the Hobbit trilogy came out, but it was rather frustrating because, as much as I wanted to like those films, I simply couldn't or, better,  I could but only mildly.

I read The Hobbit in search for Thorin (here, here, here and here) and wrote a series of posts waiting for Peter Jackson's new trilogy to come out.  Did I like reading it? Pass. Next question, please.

On due time, I went to the cinema to see the first Hobbit movie, An Unexpected Journey,  when it came out and it was exciting, especially for Thorin-related reasons (see my post) But it is one of those movies  I saw once and then ... forgot. That means, I was not magically turned into a fan. and, after months from the release of movie two, The Desolation of Smaug, I still hadn't seen it till a few days ago.

What don't I like in Tolkien's fantasy world? It's honestly the same element I dislike in other writers - whose greatness I can recognize and appreciate nothwithstanding - like Hemingway or Conrad: the total absence of great female characters.

Theirs are male-oriented worlds,  where women have no relevant role or none at all. When you find  female characters in their works, they are usually meant to be there in order to exalt the hero and his heroic qualities.

Second reason for my long neglecting these books or movies is the constant presence of fights, battles, wars, challenges, combats. A world always at war were very little else happens. A male world, in fact, focusing on one of boys' favourite games: war.

You are free to disagree, but do not tell me there are a lot of wonderful female characters to relate to or that there is not a prevailing presence of quests and of fighting in those books. You are free to like them, of course,  while I ...  As you would have guessed at this point, I just stumbled on Tolkien's work following my favourite actor's career. I did my best to like it but this is what I got.

Now, I want to point out just the most relevant  - or the most irrelevant? - facts of my watching The Desolation of Smaug: 

1.  I saw  it on DVD
2.  It was visually spectacular
3.  Bit boring,  but less than I expected
4.  I liked Thorin, Bilbo and  Bard the most
5.  I kept on wondering what all the fuss on Mr-half-the-world's-love-him Cumberbatch was about. Yes, I          know,  Smaug's voice , but ...  ok,   much ado about nothing.
6.   I stopped the DVD and checked how much there was still left to see a few times.

Additional note 1: While watching I thought: "Look MG! It seems PJ read your mind! He decided to create a heroine (Tauriel) and added her to Tolkien's  all-male population (especially in The Hobbit). Thanks for this gift, Mr J." But what's her reason to be? I really can't explain her presence in the adventures of this second instalment.

Additional note 2: I couldn't avoid paying much more attention when Thorin was on screen.

Additional note 3: I was very simpathetic with Richard Armitage during the scene of the barrels in the river (see his  phobia of water)

Additional note 4:  Lee Pace and Orlando Bloom are not bad at all with long blond elfish hair, but I prefer them dark haired.

Additional note 5: once it was over, I thanked God we only have one more to go and asked for the strength to  see the last one too. It will be the toughest, I know. Then, I thought, let's see. What do we have next in our  "RA well-wisher schedule"? OMG! A disaster movie? Tornadoes?

While writing the final part of my post,  my TV set in on and, by chance,  they are broadcasting a series of interviews with the Peter Jackson and the cast of The Desolation of Smaug on Sky TV. Right now! The movie is on their schedule, next week  ... Oh! Look! Here's Richard... I beg your pardon, I'll have to stop. I'm really busy now.  


Vesper said...

I love the book LOTR, The Hobbit is like Harry Potter a children's book but is still an enjoyable read for that. I have never cared that there are no strong female characters in the books, there doesn't have to be for me to enjoy a book or a film.
But I did find the Hobbit films boring, they really don't bear much relation to the book.

Maria Grazia said...

You know, Vesper, it's not easy to explain, but there are books my brain likes and I usually read them to my students, and books my heart loves and keeps on treasuring, which rarely use in my teaching. Among books my brain likes, most were written by men (Brave New World, Heart of Darkness, 1984, Farhenheit 451,Passage to India, Farewell to Arms, Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde, etc.) and they didn't involve no great heroine. The books I love reading and re-reading were written by women and they feature great female characters. I'm thinking of novels by Austen, Gaskell, The Brontes, George Eliot and many others. I couldn't add Tolkien to either of my special categories, unfortunately. The films were boring? Don't tell my son! Neither to the hundreds of thousands of fans they have all around the world ;-) Thanks for stopping by and contributing your comment. MG

Fanny/iz4blue said...

I take offense to comparing Harry Potter with the hobbit :) I watched one LoTR movies mainly for Sean Bean as Boromir since he died I haven't seen the other movies, in other words I wasn't drawn in. The book was the first English read handed to me, I never finished it, too many chacacters to keep track of. I probably would never have seen the movies if it wasn't for Mr. A. I felt the first quarter of the movie was covering ground that already had been told. I wanted Peter to sell me on the hobbit but for me he has failed. I blame his editing skills. I find moments too drawn out & some scenes repetitive. As for Benedict's casting I guess you haven't been Sherlocked?

Maria Grazia said...

Hello Fanny! Glad to be in good company :-) I haven't been Cumberbatched! I mean, I love Sherlock, since it is an excellent series, but I just can't find Mr Cumberbatch that attractive. He is a brilliant Sherlock, as much as Martin Freeman is an incredible Watson. Only I'd never go to London to see either of them on stage, IYKWIM ;-)Thanks for your visit and your comment! MG

Traxy said...

When the first LotR film came out, I saw it with my mum at the cinema. It really wasn't her cup of tea, but I enjoyed it - but I do like the fantasy genre. The LotR BOOKS, on the other hand, I find tedious.

I don't mind that there are "lots of names" in the books because I didn't have a problem keeping up reading Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series, for instance. It's just that in LotR, there was just no urgency, and there were pages and pages of poems instead. With urgency, I mean things like Gandalf going "huh" at the ring and then disappearing for ABOUT FIFTY YEARS before he comes back and does anything about it. And when they're chased by the Ringwraiths ... they stop and have food and drinks for A COUPLE OF WEEKS before moving on. It's like "being in a hurry - you're doing it wrong", if you know what I mean? That's why I liked the films, because they cut those bits out so it made more sense, and there was a sense of urgency instead of "let's have a leisurely stroll in the general direction of Mordor". To be honest, I still haven't got around to reading the third book in that trilogy ...

The Hobbit is a much lighter read, and loads shorter which is a bonus, but I couldn't help but feel that the only reason there were so many dwarves was because they have funny names and they're funny when you say them aloud. Personality-wise it's like there's Thorin, a bunch of people with very similar-sounding names, and the fat one. Snore.

Adding Tauriel to this trilogy ... I can see why it was done (diluting the sausage fest), and that's fair enough. The problem is that she was instantly reduced to a love interest. Yes, she's a brave fighter, but primarily, her function is to be the love interest to Hot Young Dwarf, copying the interracial relationship between Arwen and Aragorn in LotR (hubby's sure a bunch of their lines have been copy-pasted). Tauriel being in the story felt incredibly artificial, and instead of being an integral part of the plot, she was just Token Female.

Then there's the bit where the second film feels like the road you have to travel get from point A to point B instead of being a journey in itself. :/

Basically, I'm in agreement with you, MG! You're definitely not alone! :) Rant over.

Maria Grazia said...

Welcome aboard, then, Traxy! Thanks for not making me feel alone and for your interesting contribution to the discussion. At least, you tried to read the Trilogy, though you stopped. I never started it. I often try to read pages and discuss Tolkien with my students in the 3rd year (Medieval literature) and the result is they are really interested and THEY teach ME things, not viceversa. They know so much about that world and those characters! :-)