Our latest Library feature is a question piece that’s been rolling around my head for the last couple of months. As anyone who knows me well, I’m an extremely curious little cat and enjoy hearing other peoples opinions on a topic, both for and against, so with that in mind:
Book Characters versus Movie Characters
Have your perceptions of characters changed after seeing them on the big screen?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, ever since I interviewed Peckish Owl and she replied to my question about her favourite characters in LOTR/The Hobbit with;
“Here’s a dark little secret – I absolutely loathed Thorin Oakenshield from the book. Same goes for Boromir.
Why? Firstly, because I hate conceitedness. Respect for one’s authority should stem from one’s actions and J. R. R. Tolkien failed in convincing me that these two very proud characters had more than their royal lineage to admire. Secondly, the original “Hobbit” story is told from Bilbo Baggins’ point of view. He’s the character we’re supposed to relate to and befriend. Quoting my favourite YouTuber, Jeremy Jahns, “as much as I would love to say that I would probably be a wizard in “The Lord of the Rings” or a bad-ass warrior, I’d probably be a hobbit”. It’s the same with me – I sympathized with Bilbo very deeply and for me Thorin’s leadership skills in the book were an utter disaster. Some years of teamwork, especially when you’re forced to make life-changing decisions, have taught me that a good leader doesn’t have to be very amiable but – unlike Thorin from the book – he brings out the best in other people. That’s the leader I’d be willing to follow! And Bilbo Baggins from the original “Hobbit” becomes a courageous hero on his own, without any help of either Thorin or his Company, shaped by the events he has to face. Considering someone to be nothing more than a burden proves your opinion is narrow, subjective and biased – and these are the biggest sins a person who people are supposed to trust may commit. Thirdly, Thorin’s quest was all about the gold. And – I bet you know that yourself, without me telling you – nobody likes a person who just wants his money back!
She went on to say:
“And the funny thing is that these two characters – Thorin and Boromir – became my number one heroes in PJ’s movies. This only proves how PJ’s interpretation of Middle-Earth differs from the book – or at least from my vision of what the book was trying to portray. His Thorin remains equally proud but this time his purposes seem far more acceptable – he wishes to reclaim his kingdom (though it does look he cares more about this concept than his actual, exiled people) and its wealth is just a perk (though an important one, that’s true). All of the dramatic events in his life, especially the noble deeds he performed for his kin, are underlined with heavy exclamation marks, mostly for cinematic reasons I guess, but the message they’re trying to pass on has convinced me far more than the subtle suggestions of their existence from the book. Same goes for Boromir – I’m not ashamed to say that each time I watch the extended “The Two Towers” I shout along with the soldiers as he makes his inspiring speech in Osgiliath. For Gondor! In the books, Thorin’s and Boromir’s backgrounds are very limited and are supposed to be their assets. In the movies, their backgrounds are a heavy burden, making them damaged rather than privileged characters. When you see them struggle, when you see them fall! you can’t help but offer them your sympathetic hand of redemption.”
It led to a discussion on our Message boards between myself and Malickfan about peoples views on the characters in the book against their views of the same characters in the films. Malickfan prefers their book versions.
“Thorin and Boromir’s history and character was all there is the books, just not pushed to the forefront. I sometimes think people just empathised with them more in the films because such things were pushed to the forefront drastically altering the importance and role of them in the films in contrast to the books, and of course, it is easier to empathise with a face than a bunch of hidden sub-text. The films are really The Hobbit and Thorin trilogy – we know what Thorin must be feeling in the book when reading it, but we never see it, unlike in the film, when his internal emotions are on full display.”
I was personally quite intrigued by two such different opinions on both Thorin and Boromir. I have to admit I found both characters rather unpleasant in the books and I also wasn’t all that fond of Aragorn’s over-weening nobility. (For the record, I don’t really like the “I’m unworthy, reluctant king” angst in the films either. But aside from that, I felt Viggo Mortensens portrayal of Aragorn was brilliant.)
My own opinion of these two characters (Boromir and Thorin) has changed since seeing them portrayed on film. I’m not sure if it is purely due to the actors abilities in bringing these characters to life or, because of raising three autistic children, I’m much more accustomed to dealing with visual over written impressions. It’s probably a combination of both of these.
I also raised the possibility of it being due to the way men and women perceive things and people, as both Peckish Owl and I are female and have very similar views of the two characters, also several of my female friends share these views. This is also due to Malickfans description of why he likes Thorin better in the book, which is pretty much why we disliked him.
Malickfan replied: “It’s probably just me and crazy opinions as usual, yes Thorin is an arrogant bad tempered (for the most part) old sod (though his status as a dwarven pensioner is open to debate) in the book-but that is precisely why I liked him! I liked that he did and thought whatever he wanted, bending to no-one else and showing his authority as much as he could, for me personally I found a greater empathy with him that the flawless Aragorn or Faramir – Thorin was a heavily flawed individual and the opposite of many of Tolkien’s heroic archetypes yes, but to my mind was a much more imposing royal and forceful character, I also liked that he was a man of advanced years with the air of a politician and wounded lion, not a warrior in the prime of his years.”
So I’m genuinely very curious, what are your views on these characters (and others) from the books? Do they differ to how you think of them as they are portrayed in the films? Have your opinions changed in any way since seeing them brought to life on the big screen? Which do you personally prefer?
You can share your more in-depth opinions with us all on the Message boards here.