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 1-5: He Who Shall Not Be Named Morgoth

October 19th, 2015

Episode 294 of 366 episodes

Audio Episode Introduction/Review There’s opportunity for creativity, visuals, etc. as we don’t have much character arc in the book, so we have the chance to do something different here. Tolkien gives us glimpses but there’s nothing specific Seeking the Flame Imperishable (FI), but no narrative of what he was like before his fall, but more about what his fall consisted of. We see his desire for light and the FI, which are good things. How did everything go so wrong? TwoQuestions: 1) What’s going to be our central focus? Central themes? If there’s a single recurrent theme, it would be estel (not the guy, but the concept of Hope) Theme of Season 1 is the Fall from the Golden Age (as well as the fall of Melkor) We end Season 1 with “The War To Begin All Wars”…The Valar don’t WANT to go to war, and they don’t want to concede the idea that Arda has been marred that much…conceding this is itself a fall/defeat One of the things the Valar might be talking about is “Why isn’t Iluvatar intervening to save Arda?” Iluvatar’s intervention is awakening the Elves. Season 2 is the Valar’s screw-up (bringing the Elves to Valinor) Estel’s reveal to the audience (as Aragorn) may be at the end of Episode 1, but the final episode of Season 1 may reveal (to the audience) the true meaning of the name Estel…Gilraen and Elrond could be watching Estel and Bilbo interacting, and while watching, discuss amongst themselves and the meaning of the name is revealed. 2) Melkor’s name Vala Quenta: “Of the Enemies” – he has forfeited the name Melkor (He who Arises in Might), and the Noldor do not utter that name; they have renamed him Morgoth (the enemy of the people) Will he be a “he who must not be named” thing? That may be giving Melkor too much respect (too much reverence) “He whom we do not name” (Voldemort in HP: creates an air of mystery and fear, so HP and Dumbledore defy him by using his name) Gondor: more an attitude of disdain “we don’t respect you enough to name you” Elrond: would be more open, especially in a pedagogical environment. He would call him Melkor at the beginning, to set up how he becomes Morgoth The music is a spoiler for all of history – we already know Melkor is discordant…so would his fall be a surprise? We know he’s the bad guy…so let’s see what happened. He doesn’t become Morgoth until Fëanor names him, so it makes sense to wait to use that name till it actually happens. We maybe want to be able to “root for” the bad guy, even though we know he’s destined to fall. We can watch him fall, and fall again, and fall again, and how he eventually becomes a completely different identity Burning of his hand by the Silmarils would be the changing moment when he becomes a tyrant. Utumno should be paradisiacal…more of a retreat We can take Tolkien’s lead with regard to name usage. Elrond can caution Estel about casually using Melkor’s name Looking Back to Last Session Episode 2 of season 1: thinking about how to depict the Valar, marriages, Maiar (Ungoliant) This is the first of 4 episodes where Melkor and the Valar interact in Almaren Next episode is when he meets the other Valar, the following episode is The Creation Of The Lamps, and the one after is The Destruction Of Lamps) The next half of the season is more “episodic” – self-contained stories in each episode, so it would be good to keep the cast small right now (for these 4 episodes), and save the introductions of the additional characters and side stories for the second half of the season. Mythgard Announcements Mythgard and Signum University fundraising campaign runs through the month of October Jim Butcher (author of the The Dresden Files) interview. Talking about his books, as well as the Peter Jackson adaptations and the SilmFilm project. October 13 8pm ET OurMatt Gutting has been retelling the entire Hobbit story in Haiku form on Twitter Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind is being made into a video game, movie and TV series…this is a good thing to look at in terms of adapting The Silmarillion. Book Context of this Season Ainulindalë/Vala Quenta/Ch. 1-2 Quenta Silmarillion Today’s Topic How much of Melkor in Arda are we fixing to do in this episode? His arrival in Arda and establishment in Utumno should be it for this episode, focusing on his time in the Void Ways he interacts with the other Valar would happen in this episode. “There’s should be only so much scaffolding on screen” (The Valar are creating Arda, no need for too many on-screen construction projects at the same time) Discussion This is the only time to show what Melkor was up to…rejection by Varda and search for FI are the seeds for his fall Creates visual challenge (how do we depict the Void?) 60/40 (Trish) 90/10 (Corey)% would be pre-Music…his attraction to Varda is another expression for his search for the FI (and how would we depict the FI, and how does one convey that desire?) They can dialogue about the FI, his words in the conversation can reflect his desire Aule – “my desire to make things is just me expressing myself…how you (Eru) made me…” Melkor to Varda: “Don’t you want to create things?” Melkor is a loner even on Arda, so some time should spent with him apart from the Valar. He is “tinkering” with the edges of creation He discovers his degree of power (and adds to his opinion of himself) though Corey feels he already knows his power Unfallen Balrogs…they lose their wings when they fall into evil, may look like traditional depictions of archangels…gorgeous, but they’re spirits of flame (which explains why Melkor would want to draw them to him) they keep the SHADOW of their wings HW project for those who know Tolkien’s languages: Gothmog will not work as a name for the unfallen captain of the Balrogs. His name can change too (we need another name) Bright, shining, radiant angelic figure Consider Sauron’s name change as well – he has several names (Thu in the Legendarium, Annatar, Mairon) Melkor isn’t necessarily about gaining followers, but there are lesser spirits that follow the Valar which are similar to them Huge risk - that Melkor may come across as the “typical” jilted lover turning to evil…being thwarted in his desire for light and power (and his reaction) that leads him down the path to evil We can avoid the typical Hollywood “reductive” romance if we take that attraction as a metaphor for his desire for light. Don’t leave it as just a “boy-girl love story” but look at how his desire for light is going too far Have a Thingol-Melian (Beren-Luthien) moment with Varda in the Void as a parallel. A progression of a sort…Varda says no, Melian says yes, but remains who she is, and then Luthien says yes and changes who she is Varda is able to see that Melkor has a possessive love/desire, though Melkor thinks his desire is selfless Fire and light could work together, but light ends up with air, and they supplement each other. Fire and light are more sibling-ish Melkor’s fire consumes and casts shadows (and can be blinding), whereas Varda’s light illuminates (and reflects) Fire needs air, too (Melkor/Manwe) – we should get a view of what could have been…how things should have been Extremes of heat and cold that Melkor brings about can bring Manwë and Ulmo (with the different forms of precipitation) closer together Visual cues covered by color tropes. (Varda’s light being more silvery white, Melkor’s fire being more orange-red) How do we get to the Void visually? Do we have Estel and Elrond starting in the Rivendell frame (he can be confused about the Music thing – he can ask questions like “if Melkor was evil, why did Iluvatar create him?” Elrond: “Nothing is evil in the beginning”) No “Princess Bride” type interruptions, but the Estel frame would be convenient. Very little time spent in Rivendell this episode…the episode could start with Estel’s question, and we don’t necessarily need to come back to the frame at the end of the episode Or Do we have the story of Melkor and Varda told from Varda’s point of view (perhaps a conversation between Manwe and Varda) Wouldn’t it be better to show Melkor doing something, as opposed to having other characters talk about what he’s doing? Internal frame problem: what “excuse” would we have to have this conversation? (“Did you want to hear about my ex?” or “There’s this other guy who’s into me that’s trouble…”) The Valar get that Melkor is trouble, but they don’t know to what extent. They’re going to know that it’s the same guy from the “discordant music” but they don’t understand the extent of his selfishness/desire. We have Elrond’s lessons and Estel’s questions and this can help us get into the story. Parallels would be nice, but may be too distracting (and may end up being reductive) Melkor (or anyone) wouldn't have a corporeal body in the Void. Viewing from Melkor’s eyes? Gets rid of Melkor’s corporeal body, but doesn’t eliminate Varda’s Viewers enjoy chemistry between actors and the way they deliver lines. It would be harder to depict this without actors on screen. Scenes of 2 different shades of light would be too abstract/boring. They still need to look like people Aule should look like a Dwarf…their image is derived by his (inaccurate) idea of the Children of Iluvatar) We would need Valar that can be depicted by actors with makeup…so maybe they wouldn’t have to look so different in the Void. Maybe the actors could be translucent/ghostly so the actor could be identified but we get the idea that they’re more “spirit” and less “body” Why would being banished to the Void be a torture for Melkor in the future? – maybe b/c nothing is tangible There is a dwelling of Iluvatar (a place) and Melkor goes out to the Void Varda and Melkor might be in the dwelling of Iluvatar when she rejects him Maybe the Void isn’t black…maybe it’s more misty and grey and foggy We don’t want a cheesy Mt. Olympus Wouldn’t the Void be a place of curiosity? “Don’t you want to know what’s out there?” Melkor and Varda’s several conversations would begin congenial, and...

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