Posted in Movie, Music, Prose

I Am Going On An Adaptation Adventure

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I have been comparing and contrasting the book and movies of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit a lot lately. I have watched the movies before I read the novel, believing that reading the book first would ruin the movies for me. And boy, I was right. Don’t get me wrong, the movies were really entertaining and I really enjoyed them. However, the mood of the movies is really different than the book. I believe that one song from “An Unexpected Journey” sums up the whole adaptation process of the book.

When I mentioned a song from the first movie, probably “The Misty Mountains Cold” came to your mind. It was pretty iconic as it is the main theme of the first film, having appeared in the trailer. In the books, it is one of the various songs dwarves sing-however it is the crown jewel. In the book, the song is 10 stanzas long and written in iambic tetrameter. So we can say that it is very conventional, both content and form-wise. This song invokes an image of the Misty Mountains; it describes the lives of dwarves back in the day and the general topography of the forest area. Although it is not that old, as in the last line of the last stanza goes “to win our harps and gold from him.” This him here is clearly Smaug. And for those who know nothing about what had taken place, like Bilbo himself, it is a very nice way to tell the reader. As up until that point in the novel, they have been really odd and secretive (arriving one by one, unannounced) and Bilbo feels confused and irritated. [Well to be fair, dwarves had eaten everything he has and has not offered, I’d be pretty furious too.]But when they start singing, “something Tookish woke up inside him” and that’s how Bilbo decides to join their journey. Normally hobbits are not very adventurous rather creatures of routine, but they invoke an image of the mountains in Bilbo and move his kind little heart, he cannot resist. The thing here is that the song is accompanied by instruments the dwarves carry: Fili and Kili on fiddles; Dori, Nori and Ori on flutes; Bombur on drum; Bifur and Bofur on clarinets; Dwalin and Balin on viols, and finally Thorin with his golden harp. So this creates a “sweet” sound, according to Bilbo at least. What I imagined here was a very uplifting, upbeat, heroic song. Just like how it is in “The Company Theme.” That adds to the hope and confidence the dwarves feel and foreshadows their heroism along the way and in the Battle of Five Armies.

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Look at these bad boys. It is from my copy, illustrated by Jemima Catlin.

The first movie is all about establishing the importance of the Misty Mountains and how dwarves were displaced. The main focus is obviously on the gold-dwarves are all about the money. So rather than showing how greedy the dwarves really are, the movies dramatise their past. Whereas in the book, they get to trust and like Bilbo throughout the journey, but still they are whiny, greedy and generally ill-mannered. So this shift from their greed to their suffering shows itself in the lyrics of the song. The song is two stanzas long, and apart from a small change is taken directly from the book, but given the title “Misty Mountains,” which the book version lacked.

Far over the Misty Mountains cold

To dungeons deep and caverns old

We must away ere break of day

To find our long forgotten gold

 

The pines were roaring on the hight

The winds were moaning in the night

There the fire was red it flaming spread

The trees like torches blazed with light

The only different thing here is “to find our long forgotten gold.” In the book, that first stanza is repeated with a variation in the last line. The two variations are: “to seek the pale enchanted gold” and “to claim our long forgotten gold.” Enchanted and claim are keys words here. They point to the fascination of dwarves with gold and their greediness. The real reason behind why Thorin Oakenshield wants his home back is not because he is homesick, but because of all the gold on which Smaug sleeps. Also pale and enchanted remind me of the Arkenstone.

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The Arkenstone from the movie. 

“Claim”ing also refer to his greed as well; just before the Battle of Five Armies, Bard and Co try to negotiate with Thorin, claiming a part of the treasure for themselves. Yet again Thorin rejects, and rather than sharing it he’d remain stuck in the mountain. But in the movie version the verb find lightens this. Finding implies a search, yes, but it also means that they don’t know where it is or that they are not truly after it. The song is not accompanied by instruments, Richard Armitage sings it solo. The scene is pretty dark, the dark has fallen and they all sit around the fireplace. With a elegy like tone and baritone of Armitage added to the cozy darkness, the song metamorphoses into a song of longing and suffering.

 

Whilst the book has a lighter tone in general and things happen rapidly one after the other, I felt more peaceful reading it. Narrator’s language is witty and funny, and although it is action pack we don’t get to see the gruesome parts. So I’d say it can pass as a children’s book. However, the movies have more fighting and action scenes, additional characters and events. It was more of a trendy Avengers-esque movie. I think I will speak for all of us who I say that introducing a love between a dwarf and an elf was such a cheesy, Hollywood-like move. They didn’t have to have three movies for god’s sake. When I first read The Hobbit  I was surprised at the flow of events, very rapid with no unnecessary characters. Yes the movies were darker and turned the tone a tad more serious. They were nice to watch at the movie theatre with 3D, but if you haven’t read the book be sure to do so. It is much more enjoyable than the money grubbing, dwarfish excuse of a prequel. If you’d ask me, I would have to say that the movie adaptation is an unsuccessful one. I would like to quote Linda Hutcheon on this:

Perhaps one way to think about unsuccessful adaptations is not in terms of infidelity to a prior text, but in terms of a lack of the creativity and skill to make the text one’s own and thus autonomous.

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Posted in Music

Arnold Long Ago Heard It On the English Channel

For the past few years, I have been almost obsessed with Tom Odell. He is a brilliant artist and if you have not listened to any of his songs, you should go check some of them out (I force my friends to listen to him, who says I can’t do the same to you too?). Lately, I have been constantly listening to “Constellations” and for some reason I got this feeling that the lyrics were quite familiar. Turns out they are not, but a few weeks ago I had to write a response paper on Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” and then it dawned on me. The feeling the song has, is kinda similar to Arnold’s. Their approach to love is hopeful and that is something which is hard to find nowadays in our contemporary music industry or in poetry in Victorian era (or in general really. Such powerful poems or songs often tend to be more pessimistic.)

There was this stanza in “Dover Beach” that made me associate it with Odell’s song.

Sophocles long ago

Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought

Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow

Of human misery; we

Find also in the sound a thought,

Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

In the poem, the persona stands by the window looking over the sea (and giving us way too many sea imagery-even when you look at the poem, the form looks like the tides: ebbing and flowing) talks to his lover, who very conveniently silent throughout the poem as if she was a mere object in the room. In the lines above, the persona compares himself, his standing, to that of Sophocles. The sea is the same sea (though they are not looking at the exact same sea) it stays constant but only time and conditions have changed. Arnold has a more pessimistic tone here though, he believes the world to be full of misery and there can be no absolute trust and happiness. This is likened to the sea, these comings and goings of feelings, but the sea is constant (literally and allegorically). Even in Sophocles’ time this sea of misery was there and it will be so in the future (and let’s face it, after almost 150 years, the misery is still present if not entirely turned into an ocean). But in the end, the persona holds on to the love he shares with his lover (I am guessing the persona is meant to be Arnold and the lover his wife as they honeymooned there) in this world of appearances: “a land of dreams, So various, so beautiful, so new, Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain” and sees love as some higher power that could save him.

Similarly, Odell talks about “the same old constellations” that would “look different” because he is with his lover. The atmosphere is similar to the poem’s; here the candle as the light source “lying low” whereas the starts are the only light sources coming through the windows in Arnold’s poem. This lover is kinda alone (“There’s people all around us but they’re leaving you alone”) and nostalgic (“You’re telling me a story, some lover that you had”) and just like Arnold’s is silent in the song-though she has a name here which is an improvement. Odell also places importance upon love which is so strong a concept that can change how the individual views the world.

I do not have much to say really. These are all minor similarities and they both give me the same vibe, although I am still hoping that maybe, just maybe, Tom Odell read “Dover Beach” because how can he not, and thought: “You know what? These stars can be used in a better way in another context.” Although the personas of the poem and song are in completely different situations, looking at different things in very different eras in time; they have this same trust in love to act as some kind of a shield (so yeah like a patronus) against the world that they are facing. Arnold thought of Sophocles when looking at the sea (although he is supposedly talking to his lover), maybe Odell was thinking of Arnold whilst he was writing this who knows? This can be me reading too much into this, but at least you get to listen to an awesome song and read an awesome poem!