I have been rather cranky about The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Even though it’s not out here yet. (Will be soon though – this week!)
You see, the existence of Tauriel began to annoy me on many levels, starting from the first full trailer where she was spouting things like “This IS our fight” and I thought: Oh no, she’s going to be the preachy “wise” sort that thinks the Elves should help the Dwarves. After seeing more pictures of Tauriel – they have chosen to feature her (and Legolas) really really heavily in the promotions for the movie – I then found that her red hair disturbed me too. Elves don’t have red hair! But I looked it up and found that I was wrong. Elves can have red hair – but it seemed largely limited to the family of Nerdanel, wife of Feanor. And they are Noldorin Elves, whereas the Elves of Mirkwood are mostly Nandor or Avari (I can never remember which) or Sindarin. I could have borne it all to an extent, accepting the red hair colour as an artistic choice on the production team’s part…
But then Joyce said that it looked like Tauriel was going to be a love interest for Legolas as well. I had been assiduously avoiding the second trailer as I’d had a feeling it would just tick me off. I couldn’t avoid it after what Joyce told me, and to my dismay, she was right. I haaaate that. It’s so… Expected? They just had to add a beautiful female character to the story. Of course she’s an Elf, not a Human (are normal women too boring?). Of course she’s feisty and a great fighter, and of course she’s also red-haired – so she’ll stand out more (Natasha Romanov, anyone? Or Merida?). Of course she has a tragic backstory which makes her “wiser” and choose to support the Dwarves. Aaaand of course, Legolas is going to fall for her. I simply can’t stand the whole combination. Someone wrote that she seems like a Mary Sue character out of fan fiction and that is the most accurate description of her and the most accurate explanation for why so many people – like myself – have such strongly negative reactions to her. I like Legolas, but I would gladly give up his presence in The Hobbit trilogy completely if it meant I could be rid of Tauriel too.
And so, as if to console myself, I have been listening to podcasts by the Tolkien Professor. They are the most intellectual yet not pretentious discussions of LOTR that I’ve heard. (… Not that I’ve had many intellectual discussions of LOTR.) I assume this is because it’s a discussion amongst fans – fans who are not all academicians. A discussion between people with PhDs in Tolkien literature would drive me nuts because I wouldn’t understand even half of what was said. (Despite an MSc, I am pretty sure that my mind was not made for that level of thinking. Too straightforward for all that, and it bores me once it goes past my threshold.) It’s been a joy to listen to the podcasts, especially the series on The Silmarillion. So many interesting ideas people put forth!
I even managed to join in one of the Tolkien Professor’s informal classes on The Return of the King. Saw a tweet that the class would start at 10-ish in the morning on Friday (10pm EST Thursday), but I had a class of my own at that time. However, my students ended all their presentations in about an hour and I was lucky that ROTK #7 was still in session when I got back to my office. Got the Webinar thingy running and joined the class! The uni has a good enough Internet connection that I didn’t have any problems streaming the video feed. 8Db
I’d missed most of the first part – the discussion on the Scouring of the Shire – but caught the entirety of the second part, where the Tolkien Prof was talking about Aragorn and Arwen’s story, and the two types of hope described in Tolkien’s LOTR works, amdir and estel, and how these two are described in the context of the narrative surrounding Aragorn and Arwen.
The concepts of amdir and estel were interesting. I can’t recall having heard of amdir. I haven’t read enough of Tolkien’s works to know… I’d need to get my hands on the other volumes of The Book of Lost Tales and so on to really keep up with some of these people. haha
(Basic difference: Amdir is more like the usual perception of “hope”, i.e. “optimism.” Estel is a deeper, more complex sort of “hope.” I’d need to listen to the whole discussion again to remember details. I suppose it’ll be uploaded eventually…)
After the class, I had a feeling of having reached new heights of geekiness. Then it also struck me that I learn best when I’m not feeling pressured to learn. When I have to worry about getting a good grade or just passing a subject, a certain amount of interest dies and is replaced by fretting. No wonder I end up wanting to avoid the topics of my dissertations for a looong time after I’m done with them. I like Tim Burton’s animated movies, but by the time I was done with my thesis and FYP in MMU, I kind of stayed away from them for a while. I like Yasmin Ahmad’s film work, but after finishing my Master’s thesis… I think my fondness for them has decreased somewhat (and, perhaps a bit distressingly, has not returned to the same levels even 3 years later). And many things that I learnt in school/uni that were exam- or project-based just flew out of my head the minute I was done with them. But stuff I learned from watching National Geographic and Discovery Channel documentaries? And stuff I learned from reading encyclopedias for my own enjoyment? They stick.
Only trouble is, most of those things I learn from documentaries and encyclopedias and all… aren’t things that are useful to me in any pragmatic, academic sense. There’s no real need for me to know about dolphin behaviour or the story of Hatshepsut or the names of Valar. hahahaha