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 1-01: Plot Overview

August 26th, 2015

Episode 289 of 366 episodes

Audio Episode Introduction/Review Dave is in Australia at a conference, so he will not be joining us. Corey has online notes in the webinar window. Excited to dig in to Season One. Today’s episode is an overview to begin planning out the 13 episodes of Season One. We will look at how we want to shape the story. Next episode is casting. Episode 3 of the project will be the day we discuss the Ainulindale for Episode 1 of the series (script discussions) Concept art and music happening for episodes will be discussed in a special “Craft” episode. Looking Back to Last Episode In Season 0, we decided that the frame narrative would have an active (as opposed to passive) story…in some way the Silmarillion story is relevant to the active frame narrative. Young Aragorn in Rivendell would be the dominant frame for Season One. Mythgard Announcements Fall courses are about to begin! http://mythgard.org/academics/fall-2015-courses/ Amy Sturgis: A look at the cultural phenomenon, as well as an in-depth look at the films, of Star Wars Anglo-Saxon:Taught by Mike Drout and Nelson Goering ("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 Mythgard Midatlantic Speculative Fiction Symposium:A one-day conference of short topics at the University of Maryland College Park http://mythgard.org/events/mythgard-midatlantic-speculative-fiction-symposium/ Joel Shepherd (PvMP Andang on LOTRO/YouTube, Players Network Alliance) has created a Middle-earth Lore series (dealing with places rather than people) – the history of the Shire, races of Hobbits, up through the Fourth Age. Will also cover some Silmarillion material. Book Context of this Episode Ainulindalë through the awakening of the elves. No scenes involving elves except for a glimpse of them on the shores. Valar only. Today’s Topic Season One –Actual events that we want to cover: Music of the Ainur (3 themes, rebellion of Melkor). The Vision Melkor in the Void Manwe, Ulmo forming their alliance Varda and Melkor (and her rejection of Melkor…Melkor was attracted to the “Light of Illuvatar” in her face, but she sees his motivations and doesn’t trust him) Creation of Arda: Ea! Valar bound to Arda Shaping of Arda Springtime of Arda: Almaren (home of the Valar) Making of the Two Lamps: Illuin and Ormal (Melkor may be involved in the creation of the Lamps…he’s coming to take his rightful place) Tulkas’s Arrival (prior to or at the same time as Melkor), marriage to Nessa Melkor sneaks in, secretly establishes Utumno in the North. Only after his arrival does the spirit of corruption begin to permeate Discovery of the infection of Melkor in the world Overthrow of the Lamps (Lost Tales version is comical…there’s probably a good reason why Tolkien changed that) We may want to consider that the Valar isn’t sure Melkor is an enemy. Melkor comes among the Valar Rebellion of Osse against Ulmo (great conflict in the sea), Uinen saves the day (an opportunity to show that repentance is possible and showcase the power of the Maiar) Maiar including Saruman, Gandalf and Radagast Gandalf/Olorin inspired visions unseen Tom Bombadil could be in his house. (Could be associated with Yavanna; we should show the first raindrop and the first acorn) Goldberry would “happen” after Men were awakened Osse should have 2 followers wearing blue(!!!) Valinor Aule and the dwarves Yavanna and the Ents and Eagles Varda and the Constellations War with Melkor, Chaining. Characterizations for Manwe/Orome/Mandos? Episode Outline: Music (Melkor’s initial rebellion), Vision Arrival in Arda, establishment of Almaren (introduction of characters) Tulkas’s arrival Melkor: Seeking the Flame Imperishable, Varda rejection, secret coming to Arda, establishment of Utumno Melkor comes among the Valar: Manwe, Varda Building of the Lamps – Leadership tension (Sauron) Destruction of Lamps Establishment and fortification Valinor Development of Valinor, intro rest of Valar, some Maiar Rebellion of Osse, repentance Aule and the Dwarves Yavanna and the Ents, Eagles: Yavanna and Orome in Middle-earth Varda and the Constellations: Anticipation of Firstborn (Mandos) War, Chaining of Melkor (Middle-earth will now be a place of strife) “The War to Begin All Wars.” Discussion: What is Melkor’s domain: Fire? He is associated with Balrogs. Had he been in a peaceful relationship with the Valar, he would be in the domain of fire. Medieval cosmology: concentric spheres. Sphere of fire is nearest to the heavens and farthest from Earth. Earth-Water-Air-Fire reflects the pecking order (Melkor was the most powerful and highest on the hierarchy) Melkor’s miserly evil: Instead of “hating” light but he becomes more spiteful about sharing it b/c he thinks everyone else is unworthy of it. You can’t tell the difference between an extreme miser and a pauper…the miser hates spending money so much that they look poor. Temperatures are a fire thing, and therefore ice is a fire thing. Trish suggests a 2-hour first episode. Character development/Manwe’s commitment to mercy. For Melkor, pride (“I know how to do it better, I should be in charge”) becoming an evil thing, as opposed to a 2-dimensional bad guy from the beginning. At what point is “the point of no return?” Sauron had a partial (but genuine) redemption after the First Age. Critique against Tolkien is that his world is simple black and white as far as good and evil. Tolkien recognized this weakness with regard to orcs, but this is not the case with other characters, and we should consider this when portraying Melkor. Precursor stories: Melkor and Varda for Melian and Thingol, ____ for Beren and Luthien Turning point of Season One = Destruction of Lamps b/c that’s the first conflict between Melkor and Valar (he is no longer pretending to be a friend. He has now decided he wants to conquer them). He will likely blame Varda for poisoning the other Valar against him and building his antipathy for Manwe. He loves Light, so he destroys it spitefully. He overthrows the Lamps because Light is His. He hoards the Silmarils for the same reason – he is a miser. Go back to the void and Melkor seeking the Flame Imperishable. A “What if” of Melkor hadn’t fallen (and Varda)? Elements of a love triangle, but the real challenge is looking at cosmic and moral implications. (We don’t need this to be emotional/cheesy) (In regard to lighting these episodes, The Sun and the Moon are not going to rise until Season 3, so we will use starlight predominantly, until the Lamps, or the Trees in Season 2). Joy of slaying/being in battle is a corruption of a positive trait (Tulkas is a positive embodiment) Summary and Decisions made: Next episode will be more plot overview (instead of casting). Casting will be handled episode by episode, as it helps to design the characters first. Closing Questions for Season 1, Episode 2: Next class:Friday, August 28, 10am - 12pm ET Cast of Characters for Frame Story (Young Aragorn in Rivendell) – there will be more narrative frame in the first episode more than in any other episode. Recommended Reading: Appendix A and Appendix B

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