Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

Curses and Blessings

I've been reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion off and on over the past month. At first, as I noted in a previous entry, I found it hard to sustain my interest. The doings of gods and demi-gods only excite me insofar as they pertain to less powerful beings. And the prose, more "antiqued" than the sort found in The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings annoyed me. Indeed, I was close to putting the book down, despite my vow to complete the text, after setting it aside repeatedly as a teenager.

But then my perspective began to change. As the fate of the Noldor, undone by their own pride, began to play out, I found myself drawn in. Curses appeal to me. Or maybe it's just that, in feeling cursed myself since coming to the desert, I can identify with their plight. Even though it's still very hard to keep track of all the names and places -- I have spent hours studying the map that comes with the book and still struggle at times to remember the location of different leaders of the elves -- I now am eager to do the work necessary to sort things out.

Of course, as a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings, which I'm reading out loud to my daughter, I am particularly enthralled by passages that relate to the events in the trilogy. Among other things, I've come to realize, sheepishly, that most of the complaints I had about the Peter Jackson films were the product of my own myopia. The tale of Aragorn and Arwen, interpolated into the main narrative instead of being consigned to an appendix, resonates far more powerfully when perceived as an echo of the tale of Beren and Lúthien in The Silmarillion. The scene in the long version of The Fellowship of the Ring, in which Strider, who has yet to cloak himself in the nobility of Aragorn's lineage, sings a song by the campfire about their tragic love now strikes me as a moment of genius, which should never have been cut from the original theatrical version.

Still, although the Peter Jackson films manage to conjure key themes from The Silmarillion while staying true to the story arc of The Lord of the Rings, I would love to see someone devote the same seriousness to the trilogy's epic backstory that he and his collaborators applied to their three films. Perhaps, with the recent publication of The Children of Húrin, there is some hope of this pre-quel being made. It would be a very dark project, certainly. And one that would also require more than one film, I suspect. But it would also be one peculiarly suited to reflection on the mess of the present conjuncture. I just wonder if the film industry will survive in a form capable of realizing such a sweeping vision.
Tags: autobiography, everyday, literature, sci-fi + fantasy

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