Tags: lord of the rings

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Appreciating the battles in The Lord of the Rings on a new level

I stumbled upon a blog by a military historian who analyzes pop culture, and his series on the Battle of Helm's Deep and the Siege of Gondor are fascinating. He analyzes both the book and movie versions of the battles (which have some crucial differences). And is fair enough to note that while the movie versions usually make far less sense and have everyone being worse at their jobs, there were often (not always) practical reasons for doing it that way.

The analyses of Saruman's leadership is especially interesting, because he makes some major mistakes in both the books and movies--in exactly the ways you would expect him to, given his character and lack of military command experience. For example, it makes sense for Saruman to see his Uruk-hai as basically fighting machines and plug them into his plan accordingly, without accounting for things like, "Do they have the training to react effectively when something doesn't go according to plan, or when a bunch of guys with spears charge at them on big scary horses?" and "Do they have any reason whatsoever not to break and run when that happens?" Seeing exactly how flawed Saruman's plan and execution were and comparing it to the Witch King's much better performance in the next book makes it clear just how arrogant it was for Saruman to think he could challenge Team Sauron as an equal.

Anyway, these are very long reads, but worth the time!
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Gimli Was A Girl

Because I feel like dangling fic bait today.

Tolkien reports that female dwarves look and sound very much like the males to other species, both even having similar beards. Dwarves are also known to keep their true names secret from outsiders.

Well. I don't know about you, but given that setup, I doubt that the names of the dwarves we've met are the only things being kept secret. How many of them were women all along, keeping their pronouns private among Men and Hobbits who might not respect a Dwarf woman as much as they would a Dwarf man? If they had known that Gimli's true name was Chaya, who knows whether they would have let her join the Fellowship - and then where would Middle Earth be?

This clears up that pesky all-male cast issue from The Hobbit, as well. Gloin is, of course, Gimli's mother. Dwalin? Woman. Balin? Old woman. Thorin (true name: Atarah)? Also a woman, on a quest to reclaim the throne of her mother and grandmother! (Dwarves have a gender-neutral title for their monarchs, but they figure translating it as "king" gets the concept across best to outsiders.)

Some might argue that this cannot be so, because dwarven women, being relatively scarce, would not be allowed to go traipsing about having adventures instead of reproducing. This is obviously a poor objection for several reasons. First, Tolkien reports that not all dwarven women marry, indicating that they have a measure of independence and choice as to how to spend their lives. Second, there would be no such problem with post-menopausal dwarf women leaving for adventures, and the majority of the dwarves we see are, if not old, at least not especially young. And third and most obvious, Tolkien is reporting second- and third-hand information, and if other species have difficulty telling dwarf men from dwarf women, it seems unlikely that their impression that there are fewer dwarf women is accurate. Dwarves themselves would encourage this misapprehension, it being very convenient for them. I think we can safely assume that dwarf women actually do constitute half the population, and that their population problem is not as real as rumor would have it. The Hobbits managed to dwindle just fine without a shortage of women, after all, and dwarves live inside mountains. Their population might not have dwindled at all, might even have grown since that Age - how would we ever know? Are all those carved-out hills in Cappadocia uninhabited, or inhabited only by local Men? What about the Alps? Are you sure?

Hey, you open that door, you have to expect us to at least poke our heads in.
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Things that make you go WHAT

Teen Barista sues Starbucks over boss's demands for sex Starbucks says she and the guy concealed the "relationship," so it's totally not their fault. Apparently even McDonald's handles this sort of thing better (not that that's saying much, mind... "But everyone knows he's a pervert, so don't be upset if he gropes you!" is not a good start).

Why you can't get Tobias Buckell's books on Amazon anymore Because Amazon is acting like it's still the only ebook vendor in town and can force publishing companies (in this case, Macmillan) to accept any pricing scheme Amazon wants. I think Macmillan's right about variable pricing being a better model... and if Apple, Sony, and Barnes & Noble cut into the Kindle market enough, Amazon won't have quite as much weight to throw around, which will be interesting.

I'd like to plug Buckell here while I'm at it. Aztecs and Caribbeans fight alien overlords and zombies IN SPAAAACE! With colonialism, religion, economic divides, bulimia, musings on violence, and cyborg identity issues. Crystal Rain (book 1) is good, but I liked Ragamuffin (the Caribbean cyborg woman one) and Sly Mongoose (floating city of economically depressed Aztecs who rely on teen labor) even better. You can read them as fun space opera if you want, or go deeper.

Project 880 So... James Cameron had a version of Avatar that had fewer cliches and explained certain aspects of the plot better, but he made Ferngully instead? Why? (Note: I haven't seen it yet, but "Jake is the awesomest Chosen One Na'vi warrior EVAR and the only one who can ride the pterodactyl dragon!" vs. "Josh is pretty darn good, but not the only one who can ride the thing"? Obvious choice is obvious.)

The Texas Textbook Conspiracy I wish I were kidding. They're proud to admit it. ACTUAL QUOTE FROM A GUY ON THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION: "Instead of the American way they want multiculturalism. [Because it's not like American had multiple cultures interacting and influencing the direction of, oh, everything from the beginning...] We plan to fight back—and, when it comes to textbooks, we have the power to do it. Sometimes it boggles my mind the kind of power we have." Also, "I don’t care what the educational political lobby and their allies on the left say [...] Evolution is hooey [...] The way I evaluate history textbooks is first I see how they cover Christianity and Israel. Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan—he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes." And I will cite this paragraph because it's just so... well:

Barton and Peter Marshall initially tried to purge the standards of key figures of the civil rights era, such as César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall, though they were forced to back down amid a deafening public uproar. They have since resorted to a more subtle tack; while they concede that people like Martin Luther King Jr. deserve a place in history, they argue that they shouldn’t be given credit for advancing the rights of minorities. As Barton put it, “Only majorities can expand political rights in America’s constitutional society.” Ergo, any rights people of color have were handed to them by whites—in his view, mostly white Republican men.

Note: this dude is supposed to evaulate history textbooks, yet "Barton’s only credential is a bachelor’s degree in religious education from Oral Roberts University." It would be funny if he didn't have so much power over textbook content.

In summary, it doesn't matter if you or your movement/law/whole freaking community of millions existed and caused a significant impact; what matters is whether the guys on the Board like what you did. Or even understand what you did before deciding you can't possibly have done it (either nothing happened or some white dude really did it) and cutting you out.

On a better note, Uhura > you is an awesome story about Captain John Christopher (that pilot they accidentally kidnapped from 1969) weirding out over Uhura being a senior officer. Also, gehayi's chromatic recasting of LotR (with genderswapped hobbits!) is beautiful. I love the original actors, but can we have this version too? I want to see the Morgan Freeman vs. Ron Glass wizards' battle! And Shemar Moore as Boromir, yes. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Gina Torres and... WANT.
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Beware Magic Rings

Both Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings feature magic rings which are snares and delusions, temptations which lead characters astray. Both seem to extend life, but in wrong way - the One Ring makes Bilbo feel stretched thin, like butter over too much bread, and the people Harry's ring bring back aren't really alive again but shadows. Both rings can drive a person crazy.

But these similarities mask deep differences which reflect the differences in how each series treats falsehood, corruption, and the temptation of power.Collapse )
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Transcript of Christmas conversation on those tra-la-la elves

I told my uncle about the future Hobbit movie, and we came around to the problem of The Hobbit's tra-la-la elves vs. LotR's noble, serious elves. Being in the middle of a party ourselves, the conversation went about like this:

UNCLE: Well... maybe they can write it off as the difference between the high elves and the silvan elves.
ME: Drunk silvan elves?
UNCLE: Yeah, drunk silvan elves.
ME: No wonder movie!Elrond is so grumpy. He's stuck in a house full of drunk silvan elves.
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"Saruman the Wise," Saruman drabble

LotR canon intimidates me with its hugeness, but there's nothing like practice to get more comfortable with it. I have tried to look up enough chronology and character backstory not to screw up too badly.

On the bright side, I have the perfect icon for this drabble.

Title: Saruman the Wise
Fandom: Lord of the Rings (Disclaimer)
Categories: Gen, PG
Word Count: 100
Summary: Shortly after the White Council's banishment of the Necromancer, Saruman decides that he must handle matters his own way from now on.

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Galadriel drabble

Happy Friday the 13th, everyone! A propitious day for posting a drabble, surely ;-D

Yesterday's post was long, so today's will be extremely short to balance it.

Title: They Who Dwell
Fandom: Lord of the Rings (Disclaimer)
Categories: Gen, PG
Word Count: 100
Summary: She knows it's necessary, but Galadriel can't quite let go of Lothlórien. Inspired by Teasel's post on Lothlórien, Galadriel, power, and knowledge.

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Gandalf and book

Gandalf, Gollum, and Old Identities

Recently, one of my friends mentioned that while watching The Two Towers movie, she noticed that Gandalf and Gollum had similar lines in similar situations: Gandalf remembered that they once called him Gandalf the Grey, and Gollum remembered that Smeagol was once his name. I don't remember whether the wording was as close in the book as in the movie, but they are interestingly parallel situations, with both characters remembering a nearly-forgotten old name and identity. Gandalf, returned as a shiny white wizard with extra wisdom and other-wordliness, remembers his "grey" past as a more earthy wizard who shot off fireworks to amuse hobbits. Gollum, slowly transformed into a sneaky, murderous thing with lamplike eyes, remembers his past as a hobbit-like being in a comfy life of fishing and family. Both have gone from something relatively ordinary to something more extreme and extraordinary, both being almost unrecognizable as their old selves at first.

It isn't just them, either - when the Fellowship passes through the Argonath is when Aragorn first looks extremely kingly, almost unrecognizable as the Strider who was worn out from tramping through the wild and sleeping in ditches. Faithful servant Gríma becomes evil counselor Wormtongue and finally just "Worm." Elrond's father got elevated to a star. You can spend ages listing these characters. Kings of men to Ringwraiths. Maia to disembodied eye. The theme of a person transforming from an old, more everyday identity to something extraordinary (whether very good/wise/etc. or very evil/deformed/etc.) touches nearly all the characters in some way, even those who only have one name.

What really got me thinking about my friend's observation and this theme was Teasel's post about the struggle between the ordinary and the elevated in Tolkien. Some of the characters, like Aragorn and Sam, manage to reconcile their opposite sides: Aragorn is King Elessar and Strider, the hero and the guy who marries his sweetheart; Sam is the heroic companion to the Ringbearer and a gardener who carries a box of dirt to Mordor and back, the guy who longs for elves and the Shire and gets both in a way with the mallyrn tree and Elanor. Some - like Gollum and the Ents - don't manage it, to their disaster (whether quick like Gollum's end or slow and lingering like the Ents).

I'm still mulling over this theme of duality - there are so many ways to look at it! - so I'll just point you over to Teasel's post again so you can read more about Rosie and the Ents, because it's brilliant stuff.

When Curly and Curly Collide

I've been mulling over this entry (ETA: now flocked, darn) for a few days. I especially haven't been able to get these quotes out of my head:

The point here is that if there are differences between the characters--physical, mental, attitudinal, etc--the story possibilities have an inherent drama in them that similar characters just don't have. A scholar and a scholar together can geek out over their respective areas of research, but a scholar and a warrior has more built in conflict as the characters wrestle-out what is the right approach at any given time.


For relationships where the characters in canon fill more similar roles, well, the fanfic author has more work to do, if they are going to hook in readers who don't already see the relationship in the source. A dramatic hook has to be provided by the author, one that can open up the source and let the reader see the character conflict, watching the relationship build. Longer stories are usually more successful at this... because it takes time to build up the conflict and create risk in the reader's mind when canon gives nothing.

See, I understand the point, and I agree that differences between characters provide exciting contrast and a recipe for conflict. But I'm not sure I agree that characters with such differences have inherently more possibility for conflict than similar characters. Collapse )