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Tolkien - overrated?

Discussion in 'Booktalk' started by joacqin, Jul 6, 2011.

  1. joacqin

    joacqin Confused Jerk Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Snook, do not bother. The films were much better than the books believe it or not. Might be controversial to say so but Tolkien is dull. I liked him when I was 12 and had little to compare with because you get the sense of wonder of all things new but that was wonder at the genre of fantasy at exploring a brand new world. Other authors actually insert an interesting story in their wondrous worlds. Unless you got plenty of time to spare or feel that Tolkien is required reading (which I might agree that it is) there are vastly superiour fantasy stories out there.

    I am not seeking to start a Tolkien debate here (well maybe a little) but I just think he is vastly overrated as a story teller. He built an amazing world and imo that is what people love and that is what Tolkien himself loved. World building, the story was just an afterthought something he threw together just so he could use the world he had spent years creating. Now you might think that I dislike his work, I don't. I could even say that I love it but I still think it is overrated and an insult to the entire genre that one man gets to represent all of it and people curious about fantasy pick up LotR hoping to experience adventure and wonder but instead being bored out of their minds with the incredibly dull and irrelevent first few hundred pages.

    Now if people inexperienced with fantasy and reading in general show interest point them to something like Eddings (very infantile but easy to read and stuff going on all the time) and then let them go at it at their own pace. Maybe pick up Tolkien when they are more experienced readers and capable of giving Tolkien a chance. Then they can decide for themselves if he is the best fantasy ever written. Telling "newbies" to read Tolkien from the get go isn't fair to them or to Tolkien.
     
  2. Rawgrim Gems: 21/31
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    I have to agree with Joacqin on this. Tolkien allways struck me as a great world-builder (possibly the best), but not a great story-teller. I had alot more fun watching the movies, than I had reading the books.
     
  3. Blades of Vanatar

    Blades of Vanatar Vanatar will rise again Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    I will have to disagree with all of you on Tolkien's Lotr, books vs. movies. His books are eye-openers for kids/young teens just getting into fantasy. They are an easy read and tell an excellent tale. I would even consider them "An Introductory to Fantasy". Considering how things were in the literary field when looking at fantasy at the time he wrote them, I suspect his target audience was younger minds. I beleive he hit the mark.

    The movies were decent for what they were. But missed on most angles as they stressed different scenes as the most impactful compared to the books. I feel all of the Rohirrim scenes were sub-par, especially Helm's Deep. Only the Ride of the Rohirrim into the flank of the Armies of Mordor at Gondor was done well. Plus, no Glorfindel? Really? He was the one character I couldn't wait to see in the movies. Super-powerful Elven Lord of old and they left him out. Very disappointing. I truly was looking for the scene near the Bruinen where Glorfindel reveals his true Elven Glory vs. the Ringwraiths to give Frodo some time to escape.

    I also think he did a fantasic job on the Silmarillion. Anyone fan who hasn't read it, it is a must. Definitely makes you look at the charaters of the story in a different light.
     
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  4. joacqin

    joacqin Confused Jerk Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    People trying Tolkien as their first fantasy run a high risk of never going past the first 200 pages. It is horrible as a primer. What they did in the movies that was great was that the cut out all the stuff interesting for the world but irrelevant for the story. That and Silmarillion are great reads for scholars of *Middle-Earth* but does not add all that much to the story about Frodo and the Ring. Thats the case though? The main character for Tolkien and for the people who love his work is Middle-Earth, it is all about the world and universe.
     
  5. Blades of Vanatar

    Blades of Vanatar Vanatar will rise again Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    That is wrong. He didn't just take things out, he changed parts the story, he being Jackson fo course. Just take the Fellowship for example. They cut out Bombadil and Goldberry. Bombadil was an option for the Ring at the Council of Elrond. They cut out the Barrow-Downs which is where the Hobbits got their Blades. They cut Glorfindel out, who was considered an option to be part of the fellowship when discussed at the Council of Elrond, let alone part of the Flight to the Fords. And then added Arwen in his place? Crap! Jackson tore the movie apart for his liking. What he did was change the story, he did not just cut out the background stuff.
     
  6. Splunge

    Splunge Bhaal’s financial advisor Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    I tried reading that many years ago, but just couldn't get into it. I loved LotR, but Silmarillion - ugh. Dry dry dry. It was like reading the appendices to Song of Ice and Fire as a stand-alone novel.
     
  7. Darion

    Darion Resident Dissident Veteran BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

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    Well, calling him overrated is a bit much.

    I had the opportunity to read the the LotR way back in both German and English. And it was evidently that he had a great sense for words and writing.

    It's not as epic as, lets say, the Bible, but overrated is a bit much!
     
  8. Taluntain

    Taluntain Resident Alpha and Omega Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

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    I think it's more a case of Tolkien's writing style not appealing to the modern youth at large which absolutely demands instant gratification. Impulse control was a societal norm at the time when Tolkien wrote LotR (nearly 60 years ago, mind), but it has all but vanished from the popular culture of today. Basically, anything which takes overly long to produce a feeling of gratification, i.e. return on the invested time and effort, has little to no chance of success today. We're being bombarded with the idea of instant fame/success/wealth/dieting etc. by the media from every possible angle, so it's very hard for the susceptible youth not to internalize the notion, especially if they don't have a counterweight in sensible parents to explain the difference between the media vs. harsh reality.

    Everything today is conforming to the norm of instant gratification - from youth literature to movies, TV series... and computer and board games as well. Why do you think the whole dumbing down trend in games has started, for instance? Along with this sort of entertainment becoming mainstream, it needs must have adapted to the lowest common denominator. Of course, if you can put snobbery aside, simplifying doesn't necessarily have to spell out "degrading". There's always a happy medium that most of us can live with.

    Personally I don't think that Tolkien is the beginning and the end when it comes to fantasy... far from it. But he's quite firmly fixed in the "glorious beginning" spot, no matter what comes afterwards. His writings today are several generations away from us though and they weren't considered easy reading then, let alone now. It's up to every individual today whether he or she considers the time invested in reading any of Tolkien's works as entertaining enough to be done simply for the fun of it, or more for the bragging rights and out of curiosity. For me, it's a combination of all three.
     
  9. LKD Gems: 31/31
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    Right off the bat, I'm going to say that it took me a few tries to get past the first 200 pages of LOTR. No lie, compared to others, the guy was and is a little dry.

    That said, I'm going to use the same argument I used when some guy took a run at Gygax, criticizing his construction of the D&D idea. Here goes:

    Gygax was breaking new ground -- wargaming had been around for years, but he took it and made some pretty stunning additions and alterations. His ruleset was clumsy and somewhat problematic, but what of it? nobody gets things perfect when breaking new ground!

    The same thing goes for Tolkien. He was doing something innovative -- taking old material and ideas, to be sure, but doing it in a way far, far different than anyone had done before. Are there flaws? You betcha! I still haven't managed to bulldoze through The Silmarillion. But to get too critical of him is akin to some douche with a pentium criticizing Pythagorus for not coming up with differential calculus. To criticize the trailblazers in a field using current standards is unfair in the extreme.

    I still believe that without Tolkien, we would have a very different literary landscape today. I would hazard:

    No Brooks, Goodkind, LeGuin, Jordan, Martin, Weis / Hickman, Pratchett, de Camp, Williams . . . .

    at least, not as we know them.

    To reiterate, though, joacqin has a huge point -- from a modern perspective, Tolkien can be a bit of a slog.
     
  10. Chandos the Red

    Chandos the Red This Wheel's on Fire

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    No.

    And I agree with Blades and Tal. :)

    I first learned of Tolkien through the song "Ramble On" by Led Zep. A fellow band mate mentioned to me that the song was about some set of books, based on a magical ring, which he had never read. Since I really liked the song, I went out and bought the first book in LotR and was hooked from the moment I started reading the Fellowship.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2011
  11. Harbourboy

    Harbourboy Take thy form from off my door! Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    The Lord of the Rings is a masterpiece. Miles better than anything that Terry Brooks has done, in my opinion.
     
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  12. Marceror

    Marceror Chaos Shall Be Sown In Their Footsteps Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

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    Technically it wasn't Jackson who changed the story. It was Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens, the writers. Jackson just nodded and went with it.

    I love the movies. I love the books. They are both different in certain respects. Perhaps shieldboarding Legolas was a bit over the top, but overall some change was to be expected, and I didn't have an issue with it.

    I think Tolkien is to be highly rated for his creation and the impact it's had on the world. Of course once anything becomes overly saturated into popular culture it loses its novelty, but that's not Tolkien's fault. It was cooler to love Tolkien before the movies, but Tolkien isn't any less of a creative force because the movies made his work so obscenely popular.
     
  13. nior Gems: 24/31
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    I personally have not read that many fantasy books and that is putting aside Hans Christian Anderson's you know what. On top of my mind, I can only think of 2 trilogies (LotR and Dragonlance) and another (whose title I can't remember) by one of those famous fantasy artist. I personally don't find LotR that difficult to read but I don't find it particularly superlative either. I mean, Middle Earth, the characters and everything in it were great but the storytelling per se is just decent. I personally am never a fan of Bombadil and was actually glad he wasn't in the movie. Glorfindel, I honest don't remember him. Another thing I loved about the movie was that the event took up only a few months (from Frodo getting the ring up to when the ring was destroyed). The book kept me in an unnecessarily long journey. To be honest, I really felt reading the Bombadil section was a waste of time. Sorry to those who loved him. It bugged me to no end knowing that Gandalf realizes the urgency of the situation and there we have Frodo and the 3 hobbits wasting time with Bombadil.

    On a side note, I've wonder what if Gandalf just took Frodo and rode on Gwahir and then drop the ring into Mordon. :grin:
     
  14. hannibal555 Gems: 9/31
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    It wouldn't do Tolkien justice by listing the Silmarillion as a measurement how enjoyable his books are.
    It was never meant to be released (at least not in this state as we know it).
    Actually his son released it as a compilation of some of his unpublished writings and background notes after his death, if I'm not mistaken.

    To add my own view on Tolkien's books:
    The Hobbit is a book which has almost no boring parts in it and I enjoy reading it from first to last page.
    LotR has some parts where I am tempted to fly over a lot of words because some of the landscape descriptions are too wordy in my opinion.
    Despite this flaw I prefer it too most modern fantasy novels. They just won't do it for me.
    Actually, I prefer novels like Watership down when it comes to fantasy literatur after the time of Tolkien.

    Concerning the movies, they are excellent, in my opinion.
    But the books are way better, you have a deeper story and more freedom for interpretation using your imagination.
    As a result I almost every time prefer a novel over a movie based upon it.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2011
  15. Paracelsi

    Paracelsi Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Tolkien is a bit overrated but it's not his fault. Lots of "Tolkien fans" can't even quote a single line from the book that isn't in the movie, or contribute anything worthwhile in critical discussion about his writing style. LotR is also not supposed to be a storytelling exercise with a riveting plot, as the work is steeped with symbolism and things to ponder on (like why the men of Rohan can detect a lie due to the fact that none of them are liars - to this day I believe this was Tolkien's oblique way of saying that the men of Rohan are competent and proud to a fault). This type of reading can get dull quickly for many people.

    @nior
    Destroying the ring is not so simple as flying a hobbit to Mordor and having him drop it there. Remember the scene from the beginning of the movie? A whole army of elves/men along with at least two very powerful leaders (Elrond is the one shown in movie) were able to defeat Sauron, but failed to destroy the ring. You think Elrond would not have snatched the ring from Isildur and flung it into the chasm if he could? Even he failed to resist the ring's power. This also reveals just how epic the Fellowship's journey was - ultimately they were split up, and just as well. Imagine Legolas killing the rest of the Fellowship - his closest friends - at the foot of Mt. Doom after finally succumbing to the powers of the one ring. Gwahir doesn't even know Frodo, he'll likely just drop the hobbit a thousand feet halfway through the journey, before taking the ring.
     
  16. Kieran Gems: 2/31
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    OK Huge Spoiler warning:

    Things I like about LotR:
    The world building: No doubt about it, no other fantasy world is as believeable or rich as Middle Earth
    The humour: It's sparse, but it's actually pretty good. See Frodo's fear of the mushroom farmer, or Gimli and Legolas' contest. Pity there wasn't more of it.
    Frodo: Actually a very well-realised and compelling character.
    Some solid set-pieces: the barrow wights, Shelob, Flight to the Ford, Cirith Ungol and Helm's Deep (which bored the life out of me in the PJ films) were all great - more of that would have made the book.
    The palantirs: A great concept. In trying to spy on Sauron, Denethor and Saruman were merely corrupted by him.

    Things I dislike:
    No sense of urgency:There's 17 years between Frodo getting the ring and Gandalf showing up again to tell him to take it to Rivendell. And even then he says for Frodo not to worry about setting off til his birthday. They then spend ages dawdling with elves, Tom Bombadil etc.
    Inconsistent writing: The Fellowship of the Ring is written like The Hobbit only a bit more mature: cosy and conversational if pretty tediously long-winded. By the time we get to Return of the King it reads like the King James Bible with "and lo!" every other sentence.
    Poor characters: with the exceptions of Frodo, Pippin, Boromir and Merry the characters aren't that great. The Aragorn of Fellowship seems to be a completely different guy to the bland perfect king of the final book. Gandalf alternates between all-knowing and naive. Sam is beyond stupid ("For the last time Sam! Stop making fires when we're in Mordor!"). Legolas is fun at first, but his arrogance disappears later on. And Gimli's just there as the token dwarf. Gollum is potentially interesting but he disappears for too long before coming back at the denoument. Eomer, Faramir, Beregond etc are just stock "noble" characters. Eowyn is the only female of note and the only thing notable about her is how much like a man she is.
    Snail-like pace: I remember first time reading Book IV turning to the map every so often and thinking in dismay "How are they only there?! They've been walking for ages!"
    The elves: Everyone loves the elves, but god they're miserable buggers. They spend most of the books moaning about how they love and hate the sea and singing depressing songs. What happened to the "merry fair folk" of The Hobbit?
    Awful ending: After no real confrontation with Sauron (which I suppose is fair enough in context) we're treating to an awful anticlimax where Saruman is now a gangster calling himself Sharkey and has taken over the Shire with the help of Lotho Sackville-Baggins and some half-orcs. Luckily he's easily dispatched by the hobbits chanting "Fear! Fire! Foes! Awake!" over and over. And this is the same Saruman who was hoping to become the ruler of Middle Earth a few month back?
    The Paths of the Dead: There's a build up for an entire chapter about the dangers of Aragorn entering the Paths of the Dead. Then the next chapter begins with something along the lines of "After leaving the Paths of the Dead" What the heck?
    Rosie Cotton: Never mentioned at all by anyone and then suddenly in Book V Sam can't shut up about her.

    Things I'm not sure about:
    The Ring itself: I mean what would it actually do for Sauron? Or say Boromir if he had stolen it? Or Galadriel? Maybe in a way the mystery is good though.
    The eagles: They do seem a bit of a deus ex machina but I suppose there's reasons why they couldn't have just given Frodo a lift earlier (desire for the ring, making the approach too obvious)
    Tom Bombadil: His inclusion is pretty bizarre, but I found the chapters with him kinda cute.
     
  17. Blackthorne TA

    Blackthorne TA Master in his Own Mind Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    What the Ring would do for Sauron is allow him to control the leaders of Men, Elves and Dwarves he gave the other rings to; you know the famous rhyme incribed on the Ring in Black Speech:

    What it would do to others is corrupt them as it did Gollum, Bilbo and Frodo.
     
  18. Aldeth the Foppish Idiot

    Aldeth the Foppish Idiot Armed with My Mallet O' Thinking Veteran

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    Completely agree - I could never slog through the thing.

    Complete agree - he basically created the genre (not that he invented the concept of dwarves or elves, but that he created a fantasy world). It's not unlike how some people love Elvis, because he was the first to do rock and roll.
     
  19. Blades of Vanatar

    Blades of Vanatar Vanatar will rise again Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    And if they were powerful enough, it would setup a new Darklord, one that could over throw Sauron. Hence Sauron's need for the ring. Gollum and Frodo didn't have the power to control it. Galadriel, Elrond, Gandalf and Saruman could of accomplished the overthrow in the mind of Sauron. Possible a few more as well. Probably any of the Istari and any other powerful Elven Lord. Cirdan, Celeborn, Glorfindel and any elf that still resided in Middle Earth that at one time made the inital journey to Aman before the overthrow of Morgoth. Maybe even Aragorn as he comes from the blood of Men, Elves and the Valar.
     
  20. nior Gems: 24/31
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    @Paracelsi,
    I know he wouldn't. He's an elf, he is too proud to do that. He'd rather go on forever ranting about how weak the humans are than save Middle Earth and be branded a ring snatcher. And if there is somebody who's gonna be blamed for the breaking or weakening the alliance between elves and men, it's gonna be Isildur, not him. He'd choose his pride over Middle Earth. And he did it again when he emptied Rivendell and sent the elves sailing back to Valinor (or whatever that place in the West was) instead of helping men. Again, I wouldn't think Elrond with his pointed ears would snatch and destroy the ring if he can.

    You lost me here but I'm guessing you were contemplating having the 9 companions actually making their way into Mordor intact. And then suddenly, they starts to kill each other to gain control of the ring. If that is so, wouldn't you agree that Gandalf would simply just fry them all with a fireball and get the ring for himself? Besides, if Gandalf just took Frodo and Gwahir at the start, they won't need the Companions at all... heck, not even Sam.

    For all I care, Gwahir still doesn't know Frodo when they rescued the 2 hobbits after the ring was destroyed. You could have consider that Gandalf is riding Gwahir while Frodo tags along, right? I mean, that is clearly what I stated. And if they did it right from the very start when Frodo got the ring, it would be easy for Frodo to drop the ring into the chasm because...

    1. the ring have yet to overcome him,
    2. the 9 Nazguls are scattered in Middle Earth looking for ring,
    3. no witch king, no flying hideous long neck monsters to go against the eagles, besides Gwahir and friends owns them.

    And oh, what's wrong if Gwahir drops Frodo and the ring into the fiery chasm? Wouldn't that be the ultimate sacrifice of the hobbits?

    Yes it is. It's just doesn't make a good or interesting fantasy story.

    You do understand that the epic-ness of LotR was because of so much delay and dilly-dallying of the hobbits... and Gandalf? Don't you ever wonder why it came to the point where Frodo wanted the ring for himself? The answer was simply because he held on to it for about 2 or 3 freaking decades!

    Finally, you do know that the Gwahir flying Frodo to Mount Doom was a joke... right?
     
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