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 1-02: Narrative Overview

September 2nd, 2015

Episode 290 of 366 episodes

Introduction/Review Excited to finish the overview of Season One and incorporate some of the things mentioned on the discussion board. (And Dave is back!) Today’s episode is about the narrative frame story. Postponing the Casting discussion – wise decision Chronology – there’s the book of lost tales chronology, and the Silmarillion chronology: which happens first? The reason this matters is for the question of the origin of orcs…Melkor cannot be chained up prior to the Elves’ awakening. Final scene: Awakening of the Elves (but what does that look like? Bubbles in sand?) Even the Valar don’t see the Elves awaken, they happen upon them, so the camera can do the same thing. Formation of the Orcs – never fully solved, so open to not giving an answer and having orcs appear (there are problems with kidnapping and turning them into orcs) Do we really want an “Elf torture montage?” We should depict the chaining of Melkor before the finding of Elves to make it neater for the seasons, and Episode 2 Season 2 would be Orome finding the Elves. (Still open to change) Dave was in agreement with pretty much everything discussed last week (“no major objections or complaints.”) Episode 1 of the series: business as usual for Valar…not immediately overt that Melkor is the enemy. An uninformed observer might get a hint at the very end of the first episode, and then receive the explanation in the next episode. Showing the way that people go bad is b/c their nature/impulses which are initially good. It’s more tragic to watch that fall. Lucifer’s story parallels. When we look at each villain (Sauron, Feanor, etc.) we want to have a sense of tragedy…we want to feel the fall, and see how great the character could have become if they went “on the light path” and contrast it with how it turned out taking the “dark path.” Emphasis on Melkor being a miser (of light and goodness). A lesson for Estel: Sometimes you have to do bad things b/c someone else is doing worse things, and they need to be stopped. Getting to the point of going to war – should be a horrific idea (The War that Began All Wars). Warrior culture: should be viewed as a decline from where we began. One can still be heroic, and it’s not necessarily evil, but looking at where we began, it is the result of a fall. The Valar are not preserved from Melkor’s corruption. The Valar make mistakes and Tolkien is explicit about that, but we don’t want to depict them as wholly compromised. Especially of Manwe and Varda, who are still spoken of in holy/consecrated terms Aule’s mistake with the Dwarves was an actual moral failing. It was more than a moral judgment, but rather a sin – he violated the will of Illuvatar – for which he was forgiven. The Valar’s most frequent mistake is judgment errors, as opposed to flat-out bad things. Valar: ‘If we go to war, we will break Arda. This strife will be at the heart of things.” Mandos: “It already is.” Rebellion of Noldor, after having the Rebellion of Melkor? Emotional impact will be different. Sense of depth: in dealing with the events of the Ainulindale, things that happened prior to Arda would be brought forth in flashback or in dialogue Most of Season one will take place in Almaren and Valinor, a rich history and backstory even before Arda. Looking Back to Last Episode LOTR is a sort of framestory as well – When the LOTR characters are looking back at the Old Stories, such as Aragorn singing of Beren and Luthien (possibly keeping the Black Riders at bay b/c of it) Mythgard Announcements: We are at the end of our first week of Fall courses, and they have been awesome, but there is still time to join! 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 (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. Pictures of a young Tolkien in high school dressed as Hermes for a theatre production. His productive years were far earlier than his “60-something pipe-smoking” public appearance years. He was a really dynamic character…the reason why he got onto the rugby team was not skill, but that he was the most ferocious player Mythgard Midatlantic Speculative Fiction Symposium: A1-day Conference of short topics at the University of Maryland College Park on Oct. 3, 2015 The Lays of Beleriand class is ending and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is beginning on Sept. 16 (schedule available soon) Mythgard and Signum University fundraising campaign kicks off on Hobbit Day (Sept. 22) through Halloween “Coolness is imminent” in September and October. Create an inventory of everything Tolkien has written to influence character/costume design. IT IS NOT TRUE THAT THIS CLASS HAS BEEN ENDORSED BY C. TOLKIEN. Book Context of this Episode The Tale of Years (Appendix B) Today’s topic Establishing the framestory with Aragorn. We want the story told within the frame that interacts with the larger story. We need to save Aragorn’s time, as we have 20 years of episodes…so we would start with a young Aragorn, prior to meeting Arwen perhaps. Discussion Years of Note: 2890 Bilbo born 2907 Gilraen born 2931 Aragorn born. Taken to Rivendell when he is 2 years old. Will have no memory of life outside of Rivendell. (Gilraen is 24) 2941 The Hobbit takes place when Aragorn is 10-11 years old. Aragorn may have seen them. 2951 Meeting with Arwen – he is 20, he is told his true name in history, goes out into the wild. 2953 Last meeting of the White Council, Gandalf begins to work independently (or against) Saruman 2956 5 years of travel before Aragorn meets Gandalf. Gandalf needed an ally 23-year period of travel, meets Arwen in Lorien Aragorn and Arwen meeting should happen in context with the Beren and Luthien story (Season 4 or 5) so “not in any hurry to get Aragorn through puberty.” Bilbo and the Dwarves should overlap a little. Meeting and conversation between 11 year old Aragorn and Bilbo returning from his quest to Erebor could be the end of Season 1. It would be neat to have their relationship start back then. Why does Bilbo talk to Aragorn so casually? B/c he knew Aragorn as a kid. Bilbo is returning home – he’s had a traumatic experience, and is he able to “go back home again” after having witnessed war? Though he’s much older than Aragorn, he is still ignorant of the world of the Elves, and in a sense. Juxtapose his horrific experience to young Aragorn, who hasn’t experienced the horror but knows the stories? Beginning: Young Estel looking at a mural and Elrond deciding to begin his education End: Bilbo looking at the same mural, and young Estel finds him there and starts telling him the story about it. Re: Legolas – Orlando Bloom should walk in and say “This kid is 11. I’ll come back in a while.” Cameo of Dwarves, not as main characters in the frame. Stick with Estel, Elrond, and Gilraen, with Bilbo at the end. We don’t want the framestory to get too complicated Elrond would likely tell the Valar stories Andreth’s story (Morgoth’s Ring) is more of a platonic dialogue (so it wouldn’t translate well to TV), but would like to give some of Andreth’s characterization to Gilraen. Andreth is the only human to get into the face of an Elf and say “You have no idea what it is to be human,” mortality, etc. (And the reverse happens to her as well, and she learns that she doesn’t know what it’s like to be an Elf) Gilraen being in Rivendell is a bit of a sacrifice on her part, as she doesn’t quite fit in. There could be tension between Elrond and Gilraen in regard to Estel’s education, so Gilraen may narrate some of the Feanor material in her desire to give Estel the human side of the story…a sort of balancing force. “Do not raise my son as an Elf – he is a Man.” Gilraen could tell the Beren and Luthien story and be like “trust me, this never works out…” when he begins coming of age and starts noticing Elf ladies. “The consequences of raising Aragorn too much like an Elf is that you’ve lost your daughter to him.” We should have a list of moments that we want to see in the framestory, as they will only be a few minutes per episode. Estel could represent the audience, and could ask the questions that we would be asking. (And what are those questions?) Maybe a non-Elrond Elf like Glorfindel or Lindir. Aragorn would likely go out with different Elves for short journeys as an adolescent. When he goes out into the wild, that’s when he becomes the Chieftan of the Rangers. Many of the settings for this first season will involve Elrond talking to Estel, and Gilraen likely in the room. Cameo with Thorin and Dwarves might be earlier in the season. Lots of potential for Aragorn, and lots of time to show different things. Elrond views Aragorn as a foster son…but maybe he looks at him as his nephew (he is a descendent of his brother Elros). Hard to believe that there is no affection between them and it’s never addressed. (Juxtapose against Beren/Thingol?) We might see how Elrond feels about Elros’ choice: Gilraen – “Your brother chose mortality, you can’t make my son into what you wish your brother had become.” Summary and Decisions Start with a wide shot of Rivendell, and zoom in to a young mother and young boy, perhaps she may be disciplining him and calling him Estel, and only when Gilraen and Elrond talk do we learn his real name. Casting: Gilraen would look younger as a Dunedain, so a 20-something woman would do well…imagine a young woman being feisty and standing up to Elrond. When Elrond sees Aragorn looking at the mural and asking questions, he decides it’s time to start telling the stories. The tension between Gilraen and Elrond could run parallel to Mandos’ bit about how strife is already in the land. Death of Arathorn and flight to Rivendell (originally suggested as an opening for the first episode…But we would need to...

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