The Tolkien Professor

Corey Olsen

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The Tolkien Professor podcast is a series of lectures, discussions, and seminars on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien by Corey Olsen, Assistant Professor of English at Washington College in Maryland. Find me on Facebook at "The Tolkien Professor," on Twitter at @tolkienprof, or at my website at www.tolkienprofessor.com. I have also begun a grand new venture: the Mythgard Institute, offering courses on Tolkien studies for credit at the MA level, or just for fun! Join us at www.mythgard.org.


SilmFilm Episode 0-04: Plot Mapping

July 24th, 2015

Episode 287 of 366 episodes

Episode 0-4 Audio Introduction/Review Today, we are dividing up the Silmarillion storyline into actual seasons for the show. (And it’s also Season Finale for Season Zero) and summarizing what has been covered. Frame stories for narratives provided by characters we’re familiar with (a few characters from the Thirdand FourthAges) Narrators will have their own stories and character development, so the stories will have different relevances to various parts of narrators’ lives. Leading candidates: Sam, Aragorn, Celeborn in Rivendell, possibly Legolas and Gimli Aragorn as narrator opens up “cameos” by Gilraen, Arwen, etc. Sam’s kids may be fighting, so he says, “Let me tell you about the Silmarils…” Celeborn can bring in Galadriel Illuvatar has very few appearances outside "The Ainulindalë" (and little need to bring him in visually/aurally) Valar: 2 different forms (pre- and post- awakening of the Elves): Elemental forms prior to meeting Elves (e.g., Ulmo is “oceany,” Manwe is “sky-y”, Yavanna taking on different animal forms) Valar will be cast as actors when meeting the Elves, tho the actors will do the voices prior to their Elvish forms. Depiction of action of magic: minimize visual effects, but something is needed. We will need poetry/verse beyond Tolkien’s own poetry (homework for poets!) Need to follow Tolkien’s verse structure (Tolkien Poetry course pack is a “must take” when it is released in the fall) Looking Back to Last Episode The Silmarillion (book) is an overview from the Elves’ point of view, so when characters depict the stories, the dialogue will reflect how the different peoples of Middle-earth speak. Dialectical differences/accents for geographical/racial groups Quenya/Sindarin divide – have not yet solved how to differentiate (tabled) Higher rhetorical register for Valar (more archaic) Elves less so, but more than Men, etc. Chronology: One unified chronological story vs. jumping around. Not doing the “4 minutes per story for 7 stories” format Having narrators pushes for unified stories Mythgard Announcements: Fall courses are set and ready for registration. Amy H. Sturgis: A look at the cultural phenomenon, as well as an in-depth look at the films of Star Wars Michael Drout: Anglo-Saxon taught – zero to Beowulf in one semester John Garth: Tolkien’s early life and the relationship to his work (early life before oxford and WWI) and how his mythology grew out of this time period Book Context of this Episode: All of it, but we’re looking at the first 4 seasons. We are deciding on division points for those. Currently, we’re looking at the Noldor in Beleriand as Season 4, so up through that. Today’s topic: Reminder about style and approach: it is important to think about “Epitome” is Christopher Tolkien’s word for the Silmarillion text. (Overview/Summary) The story isn’t close to the action. There will need to be more material added: character development, backstory. When thinking of the plot, the book cannot be simply divided into sections. Beginning: time of the Valar and creating Arda, initial conflicts with Melkor. (Setting up Valinor Chaining of Melkor and Awakening of the Elves Invitation of the Elves back to Valinor Travel of Elves across Middle-earth, Thingol meeting Melian (and being frozen for centuries!) Unrest of the Noldor So, today we want to plan the first 4 seasons. Discussion Where does this end? What’s the final story/episode? (War of Wrath? Why not tell the story of Numenor?) Sam Gamgee getting on the boat or Celeborn doing an epilogue, or the death of Arwen and Aragorn, and maybe go beyond them. (Contemporaneous end of the narrators’ stories)15-20 years of stories! Where do we end Season 1? Do we start with the Ainulindale? How do we depict Music of the Ainur? Three possibilities for ending: Beginning to the awakening of the elves (13 episodes) (Valar-only Season 1)…(seems to be the preferred option) The focus of this is the “Coming of the Children” Action packed finale with Melkor vs. Manwe and Overthrow of Utumno? Orome finding the Elves begins Season 2. He’ll be the first Valar to assume a non-elemental form Doesn’t necessarily need to be “classic cliffhangers” but a “hook” Teaser for the next season at the end of the current season This will compel us to develop the characters of the Valar. Seems like the perfect way to bring in the Valaquenta Up to the unchaining of Melkor, but the Unrest of the Noldor could be season 2 Flight of the Noldor/Burning of the ships (if not for season 1, this scene should end some season) Does Season 1 sound like one narrator? All agree “Yes” though we need to choose who as narrator would be relevant. Glorfindel telling a young Estel telling the story of the Fall of Gondolin would be an exception. Gandalf telling a story would be “good fan service.” "The Ainulindalë" doesn’t need an eyewitness as narrator. (But Bombadil as a narrator would have to be entirely written in poetry!) What are our narrators' stories? Aragorn: overarching life story (Hero’s journey) Adolescent Aragorn in Rivendell, with Gilraen, instruction from Elrond, gaining wisdom. Discovering his heritage, being engaged to Arwen Becoming king Final scene would be deathbed with Arwen. Life in Gondor when he’s older and instructing his son – the story of Lord of the Rings. Merry and Pippin (as elders) could participate in the framestory. Rise and Fall of Numenor – Aragorn would be a good candidate for this story. We can also see how Aragorn becomes the man we see in LOTR. Rangers sitting around a campfire, Aragorn telling cautionary tales to his men Aragorn/Celeborn/Samwise as dominant framestories. Aragorn is the culmination of the stories of Valar, Elves and Men, and will be likely the longest narrator…the stories are very relevant to him. Spinoff: “The Adventures of Young Aragorn” Sam –Smaller story arc: Young Sam hearing stories from Mr. Bilbo, sowing the seeds of Sam’s love for all things Elvish. Sam’s time in the shire as Mayor – talk about the Shire in the 4th age (begin at Frodo’s leaving for the Greyhavens and end when he gets on his own boat) Living at home with Frodo for a few years, forestry work, his wedding…(could be covered at the end with elderly Sam telling his children of the Scouring of the Shire/Battle of Bywater. What’s Sam’s first story going to be? He might represent the “establishment of the new order” – Bilbo has made adventures fashionable again…connections to the outside world and its impact on the culture of the Shire. (Goes from a pleasant cultural isolation/”backwater” to being in contact/familiar with the outside world) Celeborn in Rivendell after Elrond leaves. (Galadriel never shows up.) The fading of the Elves should be his main theme. We can show Celeborn resisting the fading. He may be the spokesperson of the Elves who don’t want to go, trying to retain the past. (Both good and bad) Eventually he decides to leave, and when he does, He and Sam could sail off together (with Legolas and Gimli) Comic Moment: Spinoff sitcom of the 4 them (the ship gets off course! Like Gilligan’s Island) Aragorn and the hobbits may stop by to see Celeborn while traveling. Celeborn always being in the same setting, while Aragorn and Sam are traveling about and doing different things, can reflect the longevity of the Elves. Given this, Season 1 goes to Aragorn(?) Working title for the season: “The Shaping of Arda” A separate narrator for "The Ainulindalë" might work, as that’s such a different story from the rest. That inconsistency might be okay. Intertwine the 3 narrators? Place and time subtitles to help with chronology Or different elves could be telling a young Estel parts of the Ainulindale, and Estel could learn something from that story. Noldor arriving in Beleriand might be a good point to bring in Celeborn (after kinslaying) Sam’s first story: could start with the Bliss of Valinor and the Awakening of the Elves (journey to valinor) Season 2: Begins with Oromë finding the Elves and inviting them to Valinor. The Bliss, and then the Unchaining of Melkor, and how he started the poisoning of the Elves or the forging of the Silmarils. Or the death of Finwë (darkening of Valinor). Arc: Bliss of Valinor, rise of dissention, and the Darkening (Melkor taking the Silmarils) Working title for the season: “The Noontide of Valinor” Season 3 Opens with Oath of Fëanor (his death as the opening of Season 4) and the Unrest, the Kinslaying, Doom of Mandos the Burning of the Ships, the setting up of kingdoms, Crossing of Helcaraxë (and end with Rising of the Moon) Galadriel may make an appearance here Working title for the season: “The Unrest of the Noldor” Season 4: Beleriand Stuff Fëanor’s death will cause the stories of peoples to diverge. Healing of the breach) Sons of Fëanor need more fleshing out Will need an asynchronous Season 0 Episode to discuss later seasons “Season 1” section of the forum is open, be thinking about Casting (for two episodes down the line). First Age 12-season arc between the beginning to the War of Wrath!!!! Second age How many seasons do we spend in Númenor? Rise of the Dwarves, Death of Celebrimbor, forging of the Rings About 20 years of work before we get to the Hobbit! (“New hobbit adaptation in 2035!!”) Summary and Decisions made Frame stories: Aragorn, Celeborn andSamwise aredominant Season 1: Valar only, “The Shaping of Arda” Season 2: Beginning of the Elves, “The Noontide of Valinor” Season 3: “The Unrest of the Noldor” Season 4: Beleriand Closing Questions for Season 1, Episode 1 Next class: August 14 Prepare outline for the 13 episodes of Season 1 and consider Valar casting. Recommended Reading “Season 1 source material” Audience Question Q: Can I ask a quick question: How long did we plan to make each episode? A: Normally an hour with occasional two-hour specials

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