Monday, April 29, 2013

The Last Homely House

The Movie: The dwarves follow the pathway until the rocks clear away to give them a beautiful view of an elven outpost. Gandalf introduces the dwarves to the "Valley of Imladris," which Bilbo recognizes by its common name: Rivendell. He is awestruck by its beauty. Thorin is angry that they have been taken to "their enemy," and argues that the elves will try to stop them. Gandalf does not disagree, so recommends that he do the talking. The Company makes its way to the entrance of Rivendell, where they are greeted by the elf Lindir. Gandalf asks for Elrond, but Elrond isn't there. When he asks where he is, a familiar warhorn in the distance answers him. The armored warriors from the previous scene ride up, and encircle the dwarves. Thorin commands everybody to close ranks, Bofur tosses Bilbo in the center, and they all ready their weapons until Elrond dismounts and speaks with Gandalf. He complains, in Elvish, of the presence of orcs at their borders. Elrond politely speaks with Thorin, who is curt and rude in response. Elrond says something in Elvish that the dwarves take offense to, until Gandalf translates: it was no insult, but an invitation to break bread.

"What kind of steak you think they'll be serving?" "Depends. What kind of animal just up and dies when you surrender at it?" 

The Book: Bilbo sees a mountain in the distance, and when he's told it's the beginning of the Misty Mountains, and not Erebor, he starts to think of home. Gandalf is leading the way to Rivendell, where Thorin's Company is expected. Thorin raises no complaints. They walk for a full day, until its dark. Bilbo was falling asleep in the saddle when he suddenly caught the smell of elves, who burst out in song from the trees:

O! What are you doing,
And where are you going?
Your ponies need shoeing!
The river is flowing!
O! tra-la-la-lally
here down in the valley!

O! Where are you going
With beards all a-wagging?
No knowing, no knowing
What brings Mister Baggins
And Balin and Dwalin
down in the valley
in June
ha! ha!

O! Will you be staying,
Or will you be flying? 
Your ponies are straying!
The daylight is dying!
To fly would be folly,
To stay would be jolly
And listen and hark
Till the end of the dark
to our tune
ha! ha!

Tra-la-la-lally! Here down in the valley!

Bilbo is excited, and a little scared. The dwarves, however, were annoyed: sometimes elves tease dwarves, especially about their beards. An elf makes fun of Bilbo for being on a pony ("Isn't it delicious!" he says), and they sing another song that isn't transcribed. A young tall elf comes out from the trees, welcomes Thorin and Gandalf to the valley, and invites Thorin's Company in to supper.

What difference does it make? This is, obviously, an enormous change. Thorin's racism isn't an attribute of the character in the book. In fact, the only dislike the dwarves have towards elves is a bit of annoyance since they don't like having their beards made fun of. This is very different from the deep-rooted hatred evinced in the movie. Thorin holds no grudge, and doesn't have to be coerced into traveling to Rivendell. The scene itself is significantly less tense as a result: no insulting tone from Thorin, no raised weapons. Instead, we get song. The elves of the movie are significantly different in tone and demeanor than the book. They're still tall, graceful, and wise, but significantly more somber as well. Tolkein's elves are jolly and goofy, while Peter Jackson's are somber and serious. 

My Opinion: This is the kind of change that Peter Jackson shouldn't be making - it's one that he doesn't necessarily have to make, and seems to be just trying to make an "improvement" over the source material - but I quite honestly love these changes. Elrond is one of my favorite characters, and I really wouldn't enjoy seeing him prance around and singing a silly song. He was spared the Radagast treatment, and for that I'm thankful. I've also talked about my appreciation for Thorin's racism - I think it fits the overall plotlines of the Lord of the Rings universe, and just makes for a deeper, more interesting character. The two elements added together made the scene more dramatic and interesting. It's another example of The Hobbit changing from a light-hearted children's novel to a more serious adult film, but that's not a bad thing. Not everything has to be a ridiculously comical attempt to - 

Oh. Right.

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