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LOTR and pacing problems

Regarding this useful article on the dos and don'ts of novel endings, something they could have said, expanding on "light the fuse and run," is "get it done and then get out." That is, don't let the post-climax material run too long. Even some otherwise great novels make that mistake.

I know this will alienate me forever from die-hard Tolkien fans, but I felt The Lord of the Rings (the novel, that is) went on too long after the Ring's destruction. Specifically, the scouring of the Shire didn't work for me. I see how it's important to show that the war extended even to the gentle faraway Shire, but our good professor basically already showed that with what happened to the four hobbits (actually five; Bilbo too). In terms of pacing, it felt like a big stumble or hiccup. We were winding down and watching what happened to each hero as he or she went home, then boom, we're back into battle scenes? Didn't like it. As far as I'm concerned, it's okay if Saruman does meet his doom back on his ruined tower, from a tidy arrow fired by Legolas.

For that matter, I also felt the Tom Bombadil sequence was a big hiccup or stumble on the path of getting the action started. Therefore I totally understand why Peter Jackson didn't put either of them in the film. And I utterly forgive it. Though I know my elf- and dwarf- and hobbit-costumed friends will raise an outcry at my saying so.

(Admit it, you miss the days when 90% of my LJ posts were about LOTR. It's kind of nostalgic, my posting this, isn't it?)

Comments

( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
mollyringle
Mar. 28th, 2012 06:07 pm (UTC)
Tom and Goldberry do make an interesting side story in terms of the overall mythology of Middle-earth. It could be fun to see that interlude as a short film or something. And at least the hobbits rightfully do pick up many of their swords/knives that way (rather than having Aragorn chuck them casually over later on, as in the film, if I remember right).

Glad you agree on the scouring, though. It isn't pleasant or charismatic, which is partly why I don't like it, but it also just doesn't feel like it fits.
celtic4
Mar. 28th, 2012 05:52 pm (UTC)
But the ending also goes to show that "the road goes ever on." The Ring was destroyed, sure. But life goes on, and even though the story of the Ring was concluded, there's still an even greater story, that of Middle-Earth, that was filled with great events before the Ring (the Silmarillion) and after it (the epilogue and part of the appendices).

I think Tolkien was less concerned with writing the perfect novel and more concerned with getting the story out there. :)
mollyringle
Mar. 28th, 2012 06:09 pm (UTC)
Heh, I think you're exactly right: Tolkien didn't care that much about the ideal pacing of a novel; he was way more into jotting down every corner and tangent of his mythology, no matter how odd the timing might seem. And I do indeed bow down to the extent and detail of the world he created!
teenybuffalo
Mar. 28th, 2012 09:02 pm (UTC)
Tom Bombadil as a concept has ended fannish friendships. Every time I go to a con, no kidding, I see yet another argument break out along the lines of "Tom Bombadil is stupid/for kids/should never have been!" "How dare you say that about my favorite character ever, your disapproval has made Tom Bombadil NOT EXIST ANYMORE and how dare you?!"

I am very fond of Tom Bombadil, but FWIW I am definitely a fan of Peter Jackson's films leaving him and the Shire sequence right out, or only referring to the ruin of the Shire as a potential future in Galadriel's mirror. There are only so many things you can include and not have ninety-five hours of movie.

Yeah, I'm a little nostalgic about LOTR and your fannishness, and mine, too, for that matter. Funny to think how long it had been when I got out FOTR and watched it, then started rereading the book the other day. Neither the book nor the movie had aged a day, as far as vivid freshness and sensawunda were concerned.
mollyringle
Mar. 29th, 2012 12:18 am (UTC)
Hah, I totally have seen what you mean about the Bombadil deal-breaker issue. I kind of subscribe to the "he's a loopy nutcase" side of the debate, but I don't dare bring it up much. There was a guy in my hometown who legally changed his name to Tom Bombadil. So. Yes, it can get that serious.

The great thing about the books and the films too, in any case, is that they do weather well. Supreme craftsmanship went into both, and it will show for a good long time. I'm soon going to re-read The Hobbit to get refreshed for the film, and am looking forward to it. Plus it's fun to know I can set my children on this fandom path within a few years and will almost certainly succeed in getting them hooked.
teenybuffalo
Mar. 30th, 2012 06:45 pm (UTC)
I keep forgetting that The Hobbit is coming out soon, and there'll be a batch of fans (a gale of fans? A flurry of fans? An argument of fans?) coming from movie-verse to try out the book. All the better.

Next-generation fans, HURRAH! You're doing right by them kids of yours!
mollyringle
Mar. 30th, 2012 07:09 pm (UTC)
Heheh. In too many cases, it's "a wankery of fans."
mikailborg
Mar. 28th, 2012 10:42 pm (UTC)
As a kid, I always skipped over the Scouring after the original read. It seemed so anticlimactic, and a bit defeated in tone (even considering that the hobbits "won").

As an adult, sure I appreciate the point a little better; but when Jackson skipped the Scouring and Bombadil I didn't shed a tear. The movie isn't the book, and those parts just didn't fit in the movie. (Also, I'm fine-to-pleased with Arwen's expanded role in the films.)
mollyringle
Mar. 29th, 2012 12:20 am (UTC)
Yeah, the scouring just feels *depressing*. On top of a section that's already fairly depressing. Can do without it.

Good to see someone taking Arwen's part! I don't have much stake in the debate either way, except that I do feel a bit exasperated about Tolkien giving females so dang little to do. What was that all about?
gillianinoz
Mar. 29th, 2012 09:16 am (UTC)
The movie totally should have ended at Mina Tirith as well, on a high note.

Then the fans who had read the book could go on and on about all the stuff that happens next, and the fans of the movie could tell them to eff off, that Frodo and Sam lived happily ever after.

My only problem with losing Tom was that the hobbits got those cool barrow swords out of the little adventure in the book.

Best things in the movie compared to the book:

The time between Gandalf leaving and coming back was glossed over. It sure wasn't 17 freakin years!

No long long long songs and poems. (although the ad for The Hobbit has singing - and that looks cool)

mollyringle
Mar. 29th, 2012 10:50 pm (UTC)
I sort of like this idea of ending at Minas Tirith. Though I was very moved by the Grey Havens scene, I don't like that it has to happen. It's one of the things that perplexes non-book-readers too. I had people come up to me after they saw ROTK and say, "So, why does Frodo have to leave? I don't get it." (I usually answered, "To make me unhappy" or something, since I don't entirely get it either. Or, while I suppose I get it, I don't want to accept it.)

I also admit I skim the songs/poems, usually. But they're not bad, and I like that several people have recorded them in different tunes.
gillianinoz
Mar. 30th, 2012 09:24 am (UTC)
Wasn't Frodo's ending some kind of refernce to shellshock? What we would call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder now. I think I remember that Tolkien served in WW1 - and I guess after all Frodo went through he would have been shell shocked.

BUT - when I have written my LotR's stories I try to have him fight his way through the 'shellshock', with love and help from Sam and his friends of course. It always feels like he's giving in, committing suicide in the end - and I hate that.

Of course shellshock is like depression - and it can't always be defeated, and I suppose Tolkien saw that first hand, maybe even experienced it himself.

Still, in a grand fantasy story it feels like a poor ending for the hero.

mollyringle
Mar. 30th, 2012 05:29 pm (UTC)
I've heard the PTSD explanation as well, and it fits. Gives a certain unusual 20th-century-psychology twist to the otherwise rather medieval adventure. But that, and other factors, do lend such a deep sadness to LOTR throughout. And while I think that sadness is part of what makes the story so moving and memorable, I also feel like it could be dialed down a little to make it more bearable. Especially at the end.

I'm glad some of you have fixed it in fanfic! I considered trying it, but ultimately couldn't face the idea of stepping into that saddest of parts--even to make it better. So I just parodied the whole shootin' match instead, or something.
naill_renfro
Apr. 1st, 2012 04:34 am (UTC)
Frodo's more sacrifice than hero - the Shire is saved, but not for him. (Even though it was saved by him.) The Bagginses have two kinds of luck, and Bilbo got all the good kind.
mollyringle
Apr. 1st, 2012 04:31 pm (UTC)
The Bagginses have two kinds of luck, and Bilbo got all the good kind.
I like that. True and poetic. Also up soon (after I'm done with Hunger Games) is a re-read of The Hobbit. Yes, hopefully with parody in store for that too.
naill_renfro
Apr. 1st, 2012 04:31 am (UTC)
Well, I was tempted to post a long rant with all the reasons why I like Tom Bombadil and why the Scouring is, in some ways, the point of the entire story (evil is never defeated, "winning" the war is never as clear-cut as one might have hoped, the great stories never end, etc.)... but I'm fine with leaving Tom Bombadil out of the movie. A book is a book and a movie is a movie. Victor Hugo can afford to spend two full chapters, without a word of dialogue, describing a Paris that's much farther in his past than he is in ours, but there's no way you could get away with that sort of detour in a movie (although you can work it into the set design). And Peter Jackson says "there's nothing that says they *didn't* meeet Tom Bombadil between the Shire and Bree; the movie just doesn't show it."

I would have loved to see the Scouring of the Shire filmed, but there I think the problem wasn't timing so much as time. To do it justice would have needed another hour, which would have meant a fourth movie. I think it would have worked cinematically, though, providing a second action climax instead of a series of non-action "I'll-miss-you-most-of-all-Scarecrow" setpieces.

I grumbled (a lot, and still do) about Jackson's various unnecessary departures from canon (Elves at Helm's Deep, OK; Frodo & Sam at Osgiliath, well, "by rights we shouldn't even be here!") But as I sat through RotK in the theater, I resolved I would walk out and demand my money back if the last words in the film weren't Sam saying "Well, I'm back." Luckily I was spared that awkwardness.
mollyringle
Apr. 1st, 2012 04:29 pm (UTC)
It's okay; I fully respect fans who are good at accepting the material as it's written and don't get all frustrated about things not being just a bit more cheerful in the end. (Which is my problem, clearly, though it seems to be a popular one.) Now that you propose it, I do sort of like the idea of ending the movie with a bang by hobbits defeating Saruman--then some nice quick departures--rather than the long-drawn-out Grey Havens sadness.

Oh, and much as I love Les Misérables, I'm not sure I can ever face the unabridged version again. I always end up skimming those Hugo Does History chapters. The characters, man!! It's about the characters!! Come to think of it, if I'm turning away from tragedy more and more lately, do I *ever* want to face Les Mis again? But I do want to re-read LOTR again someday, so we'll see if my views change when I do that.

Instead I have The Hunger Games lined up next, to see what that hype is all about, and, if at all possible, parody it.
naill_renfro
Apr. 1st, 2012 08:35 pm (UTC)
Mixed feelings about The Hunger Games. (The Running Man meets Lord of the Flies, after first having its sense of humor excised.)
mollyringle
Apr. 2nd, 2012 05:53 pm (UTC)
I'm only a few chapters in, and so far I'm impressed with her spare, effective world-building, as well as being able to garner huge sympathy for the characters. But mostly I'm thinking, "Jeez, this book is harsh!" Fun for the whole family...?
(Anonymous)
Apr. 3rd, 2012 07:41 pm (UTC)
Once it's been around for a while, English teachers will assign it: It's grim, humorless, and kids die. I have some quibbles with the world-building, though - there are some big holes in the economy and logistics of Panem. I won't expand on them until you've read the whole trilogy, though, because that would get all spoilery.

I don't dislike it - but it wasn't as much fun as, say, Scott Westerfield's Uglies trilogy (or trilgoy-plus-one).
naill_renfro
Apr. 4th, 2012 04:55 am (UTC)
That was me again, unlogged-in.
mollyringle
Apr. 4th, 2012 06:31 pm (UTC)
So I figured. :) So far I don't find it *totally* humorless--there's at least some amusing snark in a line here and there. But, right, "fun" isn't the word I'd use either. Impressively done and compelling thus far...but we'll see what I think by the end.

I'll add Uglies to my (bottomless) to-read list, as I've seen it favorably mentioned several times now.
gavinworld
Apr. 6th, 2012 09:43 pm (UTC)
1) Tolkien really could have used an editor.

2) Peter Jackson is a better filmmaker than Tolkien was a writer.

There, I said it, and I'd say again.
mollyringle
Apr. 7th, 2012 05:02 pm (UTC)
Heheh. Good, now the rabid fans will come after you instead of me.

I pretty much agree, though. That is, I prefer Jackson's sense of pacing to Tolkien's sprawling, encyclopedic disregard of pacing. Even though I enjoy perusing said encyclopedic novels.
naill_renfro
Apr. 14th, 2012 04:17 am (UTC)
Others abide our question. Tolkien is free. We ask and ask: He smiles and is still, out-topping knowledge.
pathvain_aelien
Apr. 7th, 2012 12:45 am (UTC)
I could definitely do without Tom Bombadil. I always skip that part now when I read Lord of the Rings.
mollyringle
Apr. 7th, 2012 05:03 pm (UTC)
I'll see what I think next time I re-read it, but he does strike me as almost as loony as Gollum, just in a benevolent way instead. :)
(Anonymous)
Sep. 30th, 2013 08:53 am (UTC)
Yes, it's a depressing matter, but that's exactly the whole point about the Scouring. LotR doesn't have a happy ending, because war itself doesn't have one: it affects everyone. The inclusion of this sequence, to me, was very refreshing in a way - because it stayed away from the normalized happy ending that just doesn't mention all the horrors away from the battlefield.
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )