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.
October 19th, 2015
Episode 293 of 352 episodes
Audio Episode Introduction/Review Reaction to other Ainulindalë media: they aren’t particularly helpful becausethey don’t “visually narrate” – there is a difference between creating a visual depiction as described in the book as opposed to creating a narrative adaptation for a tv show. When adapting a book to screen, it’s difficult to get *ALL* of the book into it. Depiction of Ainur as ribbons of light – cool idea, other cool ideas in the video, but unsure how it would influence our approach. Question: handling the passage of time. Season 1 qill cover 1000’s of years, so how do we depict this time? Framestory of Elrond teaching Estel stuff helps deal with this. (Flashback to Arathorn’s death and meeting Bilbo and the Dwarves can happen) Episode 3 or 4 may be a good time for Estel to ask “So how long had they been living in Almaren before Melkor came?” and Elrond can teach about how time wasn’t measured the same way prior to the Awakening of the Children of Iluvatar, and can allude passing of eons. Season 1 will be more frameheavy b/c of this. The story will be developing, but won’t be happening in real human time scale, so we can say these things happened before time was tracked. Character drama with the Valar will be slow to start, but the framestory will have more personal stakes. Estel, Gilraen and Elrond can bring in a level of emotional investment into the story. Valar won’t even have human forms for a while, but we want the viewers to become attached to them, but it won’t happen right away. Cast Mandos as someone incredibly attractive so that the audience wants him to say and do more, but never does. A child asking questions can be part of the story (and help the audience understand what’s going on with the Valar) Gilraen channeling Andreth is good, as Andreth’s story wouldn’t translate well for an episode. The tension between Elves and Men should be depicted, and would be more interesting to see the tension in a relationship that isn’t prejudiced from the onset (as we usually see) but tension between people who’ve now co-existed/co-habited for a period of time and likely have developed friendship/kinship/fellowship Looking Back to Last Session One primary overarching question: What’s the story here? What’s going to happen in Episode 2? We have the Valar in Arda, establishing Almaren. The Big Arc: Melkor and the rest of the Valar trusting him (mistakenly) and ultimately the war. Goal of episode 2 is to get us to the point of being able to tell that story. Mythgard Announcements Midmoot next weekend: Mythgard Midatlantic Speculative Fiction Symposium – a 1-day conference of short topics. Papers will be presented on various topics in fantasy and science fiction Tolkien's first work of prose will be published in the spring; the editor will talk about editing it (The Story of Kullervo). Regional event at University of Maryland Saturday October 3. Wednesday was the secondsession of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell–next Wednesday is the next session. Mythgard and Signum University fundraising campaign kicks off on Hobbit Day (Sept. 22) and continues through Halloween (Oct. 31) Began on Tuesday…What we do at Mythgard and Signum: 1) build a program to study fantasy and science fictions and pursue Masters’ degrees/become published scholars Harry Potter for Nerds book: 60% of the content is by Mythgard students 2) bring free programs…we have to charge tuition for our courses, but we want to be able to engage everyone who wants to talk about fantasy and science fiction LOTRO Twitch/Kinship, SilmFilm Hobbit Day through Halloween Pledge drives, other events highlighting different aspects of what Mythgard/Signum does Jim Butcher (author of the Dresden Files) interview. Talking about his books, as well as the Peter Jackson adaptations and the SilmFilm project. October 13 8pm ET During the same period as the campaign, Mythgard is hosting the Almost an Inkling Writing Contest Book Context of this Season Ainulindalë, Vala Quenta Today’s topic Figuring out the content of the framestory and the Silm story for episode 2 and how to tie it all together. (No title was suggested, but as the theme seems to be “From Chaos to Harmony,” that could be a working title) Discussion As far as actual events happening, we have the Valar forming the shape of the world. Not exceptionally helpful for action on TV. The vision they saw at the end of the music was a foreshowing, but they realize at the end of the vision that they need to actually create the world now, as Arda was without form. It’s hard enough to show mountains taking shape, but who does what? What were Irmo, Oromë, and Nienna doing? Aulë and Yavanna are easier to visualize. Much of what the Valar were doing are not going to be visually depictable, and may be better handled in the frame: Elrond teaching Estel: how each one has invested their spirit/ideas into the Music how it relates to the creation of the world. How do we make it look? Looking at the end of the Ainulindalë, it talks about how the symmetry of the world has now been wrecked/tumultuous due to Melkor’s marring. Do we depict Arda unmarred? Do we even know what it looks like? (more conceptual than descriptive) We may not ever come up with something attractive/beautiful enough. The mountains we see now are the “post Melkor” mountains. Mountains might be perfectly conical. Trees might be perfectly straight. The things that make mountains craggy and interesting are absent, so it may not even be attractive (and it would like Melkor rescued us) Is it better to depict an abstract Arda unmarred in a “mythic” way, like they take it on belief and this concept is very old? “UnmArda” may not have “existed” and may be more aspirational rather than historical Our tastes are defined by the world we live in, so we are bound to fail in conveying this visually. It needs to be depicted in the harmony of the characters Can be depicted in the frame…Gilraen can express some “Andreth-style” skepticism: “How do you know this? Why is this ‘perfect world’ important when we live in this awful one?” Elrond: “We have evil and suffering, but it wasn’t always this way. The greatest evil began as benign as a young Estel.” Role call: Each Valar introduced as their elemental versions and how they played their part in the creation of the world. Story arc for Episode 2 Moving from chaos to harmony. When the Valar arrive in Arda, they don’t know each other. They don’t know how to work together, or understand each other, they only understand the part of Eru’s mind from whence they came. They don’t get Melkor, they’re different from him, but they’re different from each other. But they learn to harmonize. Ulmo and Manwë were able to make rain and snowflakes thanks to the extremes in temperature from the discord of Melkor Marriages – those who are in sympathy with each other and how they fit together/amplify each other (Manwë and Varda, Aulë and Yavanna) Pieces of Eru’s mind can work independently and together Valar are not infallible…some foreshadowing of personality traits that lead to future issues Ossë (violence of the coasts) and Uinen Mandos: walking around pronouncing doom while Tulkas is laughing all the time Aulë and Yavanna can have a lot of relationship drama with the creation of Dwarves Ulmo the rebel (he could look like the baddie for the first 1/3 of season 1) Nienna is about compassion and wisdom (following Mandos around and making the judged feel better). She shouldn’t be in group scenes. She consoles 1-on-1. “She doesn’t attend parties.” She argues for Melkor’s release (She shows compassion for Melkor as well) Valar don’t know what the Children look like, so the Valar should look alien to us. Establishment of Almaren will be the conclusion of Episode 2. Physical fights between Valar and their domains as they learn to establish peace and work together. In the “maybe not this episode” category: Sauron cameo: establish relationship between Aulë and Sauron Ungoliant cameo in – Elemental Season 1 Valar/Maia female form…she is the Maia (we might make her a Vala, as she’s still an Ainu) of darkness Remember that Melkor’s thing is fire/light/heat and uses darkness b/c he’s denying others light. Q&A with Estel: “What’s the difference between Valar and Maiar?” Elrond: “Not much. They are all Ainur.” (But for us, the Valar are main characters and the Maiar are supporting characters) End of Season 2 (The Darkening): Melkor remembers Ungoliant and seeks her out to form the alliance and speaks to her (in her female form) and then morphs into the spider when they begin to take action. Ungoliant is never mainstream. She is on her own while the other Valar are forming their alliances. She keeps to herself. Wait till Episode 4-5? Orome could return from riding and be wondering what’s up with the “creepy darkness lady?” (played by Angelica Houston as Morticia Addams) Nienna and Ulmo are also “loners” as well We can present enough personality/drama/tension to make the audience wonder which one will go bad, out of maybe 5 of the Valar? In the Silmarillion, we are looking “up” at the Valar b/c we are reading about them from the position of the Elves. Book of Lost Tales OTOH are looking at the Valar from the “Valar-level,” and they can look “goofy” and dysfunctional Summary and Decisions Not really a decision, but something that happened in this discussion is that Gilraen and Elrond’s tension runs parallel with the Valar’s tensions (and we had aspired to have either parallel storylines between frame and main stories) Closing Questions for Season 1, Session 5: 10/9: Clarify ideas for future episodes vs. what should be in Episode 2. We can continue introducing new Maiar Episode 3: Bringing in Melkor to Almaren. (Flashbacks to the void…Melkor trying to form an alliance with Varda) How do we show what happens in pre-Arda (Flashbacks from the Void…frame within a frame???) What does the Void look like – how do we distinguish what happens in the Void vs. Arda....