Sauron

After my recent reread of the Lord of the Rings, I also decided to watch Peter Jackson’s movies again. I didn’t get very far (yet), but I did get through the opening scene in the first movie. And that made me think of Sauron, and how he is portrayed in the movies and the books.

Surely, we see a brilliant villain in the character of Sauron. He is malevolent and devious, stopping at nothing but complete conquest. And yet, he is not entirely bad. He was once good and fell into the darkness as everyone else — no one is entirely evil in that world, or rather, no one began as evil.

The story and look into his history we get in the Silmarillion is really worth it, and I think that knowing that allows me to think a bit more critically of how Peter Jackson made him look in the movies, and I do not entirely agree with that way. The Sauron present in Lord of the Rings is only a part of the entire character, and I am not certain he is the better part (better as in more interesting).

Of Peter Jackson’s Sauron: I’ll start by pointing out that nowhere can we actually read that Sauron’s was as tall as they made him be. Indeed, there’s plenty to allow us to think that his human form looked as any man or elf would (at least in the earlier part of the Second Age before the Fall of Númenor). There is no reason to believe that his later malevolent form was any taller than that, and it seems to be just an easy way that Mr Jackson has followed : oh, he is the villain, let’s give him black armour and make him twice as tall as anyone else.

The black armour itself I do not object to: it is hardly likely that Gorthaur the Cruel would have worn anything else. The mace? Maybe. I am slightly uncertain about the weapon, although Melkor used a mace and it is not unlikely to have his apprentice follow in the very same footsteps.

Of Sauron himself, I quite enjoy him as a character. As I mentioned before, he appears now and then in Silmarillion and he is more instrumental there. He is also present in the Akallabêth, and we can see the more deceptive manipulative self of his in that record of the Second Age. I find that the Sauron we are confronted with in the Third Age, though being his own master, is the least interesting of these. This last one is solely bent on strength and power, and has seemingly lost the plotting side.

The Sauron of the First Age (that I would define and separate from the others by calling him Gorthaur) was an interesting creature. I like him best, and that solely comes from his encounter with Finrod Felagund where they fight each other. Indeed, the deceptiveness of this character makes him quite fun to read about. This same deceptiveness also works for him in the court of the kings of Númenor making that era quite interesting. It is somewhat of a loss that we lack that interesting side in the Third Age.

As a short aside, I quite like imagining what the force of Ar-Pharazôn the Golden must have looked like for Sauron to submit without trying to resist. That host must have been without equal at that time (or Sauron must have been so clever to know that submission would give him greater power — which is also very possible).

However, Sauron the Great is also of some interest in his multiple roles as the Necromancer and the Eye. The manipulations that he plays upon Saruman and others are no smaller than the ones in previous eras although we learn of these through other characters.

So, when we look at Sauron in his evil black armour and twice the length of man, let’s remember that he used to be graceful and elegant, and that his cruelty was of a different kind in a bygone era. And, yet, even he was not entirely evil for in the beginning it would have been difficult to distinguish what later became Sauron from what later became Gandalf.

‘Lord of the Rings’, J.R.R. Tolkien

‘And it is not our part here to take thought only for a season, or for a few lives of Men, or for a passing age of the world. We should seek a final end of this menace, even if we do not hope to make one.’
— Tolkien, J. R. R. (2009-04-20). The Lord of the Rings (Kindle Locations 6247-6249). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

As I generally quite enjoy reading some works again and again, I do embark on some journeys far more than a few times. ‘Lord of the Rings’ is one such book (and I’ll get down to defining it as a book again in a moment), and I have never regretted taking it up once more. There’s so much of a story in here that something new opens in my eyes whenever I take another look. I’ll hopefully be able to pinpoint some of this here and now, but I am also certain that if I were to read it again immediately I would notice something that I missed this time round. I think that is how it is meant to be for me.

What were the main parts that took me in this time round?

I’ve always been a fan of the journeying chapters, first in the Shire and then through the wilderness and the Realm of Gondor. This time round I think I allowed myself a bit more time to take the scenery in — with Mr Tolkien’s words, I never really have the problem of imagining certain scenes, and the descriptions we are given of mountain ranges and forests and rivers enliven my mind with the wondrous possibilities of other worlds.

The characters themselves have grown on me more than before. I know that I took a look at Boromir the last time I delved into the movies and the books, and I would say that a lot of his character was still very much with me this time round. His brother, Faramir, is another person who really has a very compelling story. I have always enjoyed Gandalf as a character, but if I were to name a few more names that were notable this time round, I would rather go with Imrahil and Theoden.

There is such a strong aura that comes with Theoden King — all of the symbolism of standing up for his own fate in the very end; and that of there still being a glimpse of light and hope even if the sky is dark is a most befitting way to bring about a change in the man. And there is such a change: I am very deeply moved every time Theoden states again that he is better healed than anyone can guess, and that he will rather do whatever he can against the Shadow than hide in the mountains. It feels like a change for the better, and I can imagine the King being happy in his end.

Prince Imrahil is a very different character. He came to my mind during this read first when he brought his men and horses into Minas Tirith — the credit that the people of the city award him speaks volumes of what type of a man we are dealing with. And then the sally out of the city! The cry from the walls, “Amroth for Gondor!”, I can imagine that cry from the soldiers on the walls, and I can also imagine the depth of feeling that these men must feel for this great Lord who rides in the lead of his men to save their beloved Captain. Imrahil, as he is for me, is the embodiment of all this depth of emotion, and that gives him a presence that very few can match.

Now, I began with a small note on how I look at this book. That, however, is a difficult question for indeed I look at it as one book, as three books, and as six books. As the story is divided, I would probably prefer to comment on six books while reading one — the three don’t make as much sense to me.

To further the comment above, I would have to say that Book II could well be my favourite of the story. It has these descriptions of history and lands that can be easily construed as a hastily built world, but I rather tend to see the depth of history — the people who have lived and remembered the last six thousand years with all of the losses and victories that have come by in that time. And I also see that depth of history when our Fellowship passes by the lands of Eriador which used to be inhabited, and when they try to best Caradhras, or visit the Golden Forest of Laurelindorenan. There is an ample supply of detail and brilliance in Book II that is indeed rivalled later — but that rivalry is a mimicry of the beauty and purity that we first see here and that remains here.

This will for now suffice as my comment on this reading of ‘Lord of the Rings’. I’m sure that when I read it again, I’ll write something again. And I might not wait that long to say what I think of some of the characters.

“But I will say this: the rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come.”
— Tolkien, J. R. R. (2009-04-20). The Lord of the Rings (pp. 788-789). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

 

‘Arkenstone’, Summoning

Summoning is a band that I would generally put into a darker category, and yet I really like them. I think it is the depth of sound in their tracks which makes me so well disposed towards them. As a brief introduction it is worth noting that the vast majority of their titles concern themselves with the world Mr Tolkien built and created, and this has also spoken well in favour of the band.

One of the tracks I really enjoy by them is called ‘Arkenstone’. Now, there’s a story that comes with this track as there is a story with every item and phrase from Middle Earth. In this case, the Arkenstone is the Heart of the Mountain and the most guarded treasure that has been found under the Lonely Mountain. It is quite literally the embodiment of the Lonely Mountain as I see it — the Arkenstone represents the collective hopes and wishes of the Dwarves who live under the Mountain.

That is at least how I see the Arkenstone — what Thorin Oakenshield’s actions in ‘The Hobbit’ have made the stone be to me. I think it could be described as the sole reason for the Quest to take the treasure back from Smaug and that would probably not be entirely wrong. In fact, I think it might be a more honest measure of the Dwarves’ goals than much else of what was said or done — even if everything else failed, they would have succeeded had they only glimpsed the Arkenstone!

What Summoning has managed to accomplish for me in this song is to make this sense of depth of the Arkenstone a reality. I can imagine the beauty and splendor of the Heart of the Mountain when I listen to these sounds, and I can see light reflecting back from it in a thousand fragmented rays. If I closed my eyes, I could imagine my hand reaching out to the Arkenstone and grasping it — but it would be slightly out of reach. Just slightly out of reach, because unfortunately it is too brilliant for our mortal realm. It is too beautiful to exist in anything but our wishes.

And that is the reason why we have to have our imagination run free!

LOTRProject, E. Johansson

I found a very interesting site relating to a collection of information on J.R.R. Tolkien’s works. This site can be found here, and I would suggest anyone who takes a liking to the writer’s books to take a look over there.

To sum up a number of features on that site, there is a timeline that works alongside a map of the events starting with the beginning of the world and going as far into the Fourth Age as we can. We also have a genealogy of a number of the different races which is interesting to look at. Plus, there are humorous posts on the blog — an example of which you can see below. Can you guess what Gandalf’s Venn diagram looks like? =)

There is also a statistical analysis of the books of Mr Tolkien. This is interesting to me mainly for the creative ‘sentiment analysis’. I’ve heard of this technique before although I don’t think I’ve seen mention of it being applied to books in the past. Let’s just say that the next time I will read ‘The Hobbit’, I will try to look out to see in what light anything is portrayed.

There are a number of other interesting graphs that amused and surprised me, and there will hopefully be more things coming up in the future, so that I will certainly try to keep an eye on this site.

Click on this to be taken to the original location.
Boromir’s View of Middle-Earth: A Venn Diagram, by Emil Johansson

Boromir

I just had the wonderful opportunity of re-watching Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring’, and what it reminded me of most (or at least, what certain parts of it reminded me) was how Boromir has evolved in my mind from when I first saw the movie. Regrettably, the first time I read the first book was after I had seen the movie so opinion from that probably affected how I approached the character.

However, what is clear to me is that every time I see it again (or read that chapter again), is that Boromir’s death is brilliantly done — he was supposed to die there, and it was done in a way which made it memorable.

In those last moments, he adheres to his culture and its values, he keeps to the beliefs of his own House, and he displays the skill which made him into a great captain of men. All that despite the fact he must have known there was no escape for him.

That single-minded approach to his own death makes me like him more and more — I seem to be able to understand him better, for nothing he does is by that out of the ordinary.

That stance he assumes in the film when the hobbits are endangered and uruks gathering on their position… I can imagine a thousand men in the past having done the same to protect their friends/lords.

“The Way of the Samurai is found in death. When it comes to either/or, there is only the quick choice of death. It is not particularly difficult. Be determined and advance.”
— Yamamoto Tsunetomo

For some reason, I think that Yamamoto Tsunetomo would approve of our Boromir.