Here at TheOneRing.net, we thought we would open the New Year with some words of hope, inspiration, and wisdom from the Professor himself.

What follows is a little survey of TORn staffers, and some denizens from the Barliman’s chatroom, to find out which Tolkien quotes were favorites. At the end of the article, you will be asked to submit your own favorite words of Tolkien.

J.R.R. Tolkien Quotes – The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and more.

Tolkien Quotes on Curiosity

A still from Peter Jackson's first Hobbit movie, showing Martin Freeman as Bilbo, running from the Shire to join the dwarves on an adventure.
Bilbo is going on an Adventure

So much of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is spent walking, riding ponies, in a boat or raft, or on a barrel; so there is a healthy number of quotes regarding travel, but these next two are more than that. They signal curiosity, wanderlust, optimism, and a sense of adventure – something Hobbits are not supposed to be interested in, but aren’t we all glad that a few of them are?

Tookish says he finds a perhaps not obvious optimism – one that faces adversity and the unknown with a steady resolve – here in Bilbo’s Walking Song:

“The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.”

This writer is a Travel Advisor, and these two quotes have always epitomized what I best love about travel: the wonder of experiencing the unknown. This is exemplified in Frodo’s version of the same walking song, but heard at the end of the tale when the hobbits accompany Bilbo to the Grey Havens:

“Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate
And though I oft have passed them by
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon and East of the Sun.”

Tolkien Quotes on Whimsy 

A still from Ralph Bakshi's animated Lord of the Rings film, showing Bilbo giving his birthday speech.
Bilbo’s Birthday speech from Ralph Bakshi

Tolkien throws in a lot of whimsy in The Hobbit, and even in The Lord of the Rings, especially in the earlier parts of the story – almost as if he were trying to balance out some of the much more serious drama later in the book. 

Asa Swain has always liked this little quote about Gandalf, even though it is not very profound – no matter how true the sentiment is: 

“Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Kristin Thompson, our resident Tolkien Scholar, likes the ever-popular ending to Bilbo Baggins’ birthday speech: 

“I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”

Tolkien Quotes on Wisdom

Alan Lee's painting of Gandalf and Pippin, when they meet Denethor in the throne room of Minas Tirith.
Gandalf and Pippin meet Denethor by Alan Lee

Dwyna says that she realizes that this isn’t a commonly referenced quote, but it speaks to her of how a person can become a hero by playing even a small part in a much larger story. What is started by one person isn’t always ended by the same … we are connected in a bigger tale.

Said by Gandalf during the Council of Elrond:

“But you know well enough now that starting is too great a claim for any, and that only a small part is played in great deeds by any hero.”

And Kristin gives us another great Gandalf quote from later in the story; one that exemplifies not just wisdom, but a sense of responsibility:

“Unless the king should come again?” said Gandalf. “Well, my lord Steward, it is your task to keep some kingdom still against that event, which few now look to see. In that task you shall have all the aid that you are pleased to ask for. But I will say this: the rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know?”

Still from Peter Jackson's The Two Towers, when Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas encounter Eomer and the Riders from Rohan.
Eomer in discussion with Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas

Mary Wessel Walker (Ent_Maiden from Barliman’s) suggested this discussion between Eomer and Aragorn, which she loves because it’s ‘words to live by’ that can be a helpful reminder in day-to-day life. She also says this was a very enjoyable passage in the book, because this is their first meeting and they get so deep so fast.

“Eomer said, ‘How is a man to judge what to do in such times?’

As he has ever judged,’ said Aragorn. ‘Good and evil have not changed since yesteryear, nor are they one thing among Elves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.”

Rob Welch gives us a real gem from Faramir, in discussion with Sam and Frodo once they reach the Ranger stronghold. Here is what Rob has to say: “It is from The Two Towers, Book 4, Chapter 5 ‘The Window on the West’, spoken by Faramir. I love the line because … as a former police officer, and one who would serve again if I had to, I like the distinction Faramir draws between the necessity of the sword, and the love of it. I can use weapons, but I don’t love them … they are a tool to protect those I care about … whether those are personal, the people I was once sworn to serve, or just my fellow human beings and God’s children that might need me. It may be not a concept that is universally accepted, but I firmly believe that, just as Faramir noted in the passage, there are those who would devour in the world, and we need strong men and women who stand against that … and do for the right love.”

“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the Men of Numenor; and I would have her loved for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom”

Ted Nasmith's painting of Sam and Frodo with Faramir, at the Window on the West.
Window on the West with Faramir, Frodo and Sam; by Ted Nasmith

TORn staffer Elessar has this quote in his email signature:

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

Tolkien Quotes on Inspiration

Aaron LaSalle draws this quote directly from Tolkien’s letters:

“No half-heartedness and no worldly fear must turn us aside from following the light unflinchingly.”

Calisuri really likes Thorin’s quote at the end of The Hobbit, when he finally understands the value of a quiet life:

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

Caitlin O’Riordan says this Haldir quote has kept her going this year:

“The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”

Tolkien Quotes on Resolve

There seems to be a deeper theme to some of Tolkien’s words; not just hope or inspiration, but also a resolve to keep going, to stay committed to the mission and to each other.

Saystine’s favorite quote comes from Gimli, shortly before they depart from Rivendell. She has always liked it because she says, “Life is not always easy. There are struggles and hardships, but it takes commitment and faith that a better place lies beyond to get you through them all.”

“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.” 

Ashlee chose Sam’s speech in The Two Towers:

“Yes, that’s so,’ said Sam. `And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo; adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually – their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on – and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same – like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into? ‘
`I wonder,’ said Frodo. ‘But I don’t know. And that’s the way of a real tale. Take any one that you’re fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to.”

A still from Peter Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring, showing Gandalf and Frodo.
Gandalf and Frodo

Suzanne, Ashlee and Calisuri all mentioned this next quote; and it is probably something our readers have been anticipating:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” 

Tolkien Quotes on Hope

Both Anne and Earl chose an important scene from near the end of the story. Anne says it is her favorite and has sustained her throughout this difficult year. Earl acknowledges that this year has been so incredibly difficult for so many, and his choice had to be about ‘light and high beauty’:

“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.”

Earl then follows up this scene with a song from Sam in the Tower of Cirith Ungol:

“Though here at journey’s end I lie
in darkness buried deep,
beyond all towers strong and high,
beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun
and Stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
nor bid the Stars farewell.”

Greendragon gives us a short little quote that encapsulates the Hope that Tolkien infused his stories with:

‘… despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not.’

Thorongil asks “How does one choose from so many great quotes? Not an easy task, we all love so many.”

He goes on to say, “Like Elessar, my favorite quote is Aragorn’s poem, ‘All that is gold does not glitter…’ Another is a quote from Legolas (that is fairly relatable to how many of us feel now) when he is chasing the Uruk Hai with Aragorn and Gimli”:

” …do not cast all hope away. Tomorrow is unknown. Rede is often found at the rising of the sun.”

And here is a final challenge to our readers from Thorongil:

“I can’t find them now, but there are a few times in the book that the change in wind is mentioned, and hope is renewed in most cases. My memory is really fuzzy here so please help … I think Legolas says it, Gandalf perhaps in Minas Tirith, or at the Black Gates when Frodo is about to cast the One Ring into Mt Doom, Aragorn arriving at Minas Tirith with the help of the South wind … When things are going bad in my real life it seems they continue to get worse until I feel a change in luck. To myself I always say I look forward to the dawning of a new day and hoping “the wind has changed” in my favor. I took that from Tolkien.”

So, find this post on our Facebook Page and see if you can list the quotes about the Wind being associated with a change in luck or in mood; we may even take a few and add them to this post for future readers. Most of the quotes listed here come from The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit, but feel free to draw from other sources, including Tolkien’s Letters.

To the Professor

Feel free to join TORn staffers and readers at one of our two Zoom Tolkien Toasts later on today. See our Tolkien Birthday Toast post for zoom times and links.

May the Professor’s words be a light to you in dark places!

Today we are taking a look at an actor with a previous connection to The Lord of the Rings; Peter Tait is not only working on Amazon’s series, but can boast having a role in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy as well – AND a connection to Sir Peter through a short film.

Peter Tait cast in Amazon Prime's The Lord of the Rings TV Series
Peter Tait
Continue reading “Amazon Casting: Peter Tait”

We’ve been digging through the Green Book archives a bit to find relevant articles discussing the ‘purity’ of Tolkien and his works. We came across this classic from Green Book author, Anwyn, where she addresses the questions that came out of watching the 2003 MTV Movie Awards. If you aren’t familiar with it…read on!

The Hobbits Accept ‘Best Movie’ at the 2003 MTV Movie Awards

I admit it. I’m at a loss for a stunning literary topic, one that will provoke your emotions, stimulate your mind, and offer some insight into Tolkien’s life or works. I sat down this evening with my brain half fried, knowing that I had a deadline to meet, and started flipping channels. Lo and behold, what did I pass but the MTV Movie Awards, and hark, who should be sitting behind Kirsten Dunst but the intrepid trio of Sean Astin, Elijah Wood, and Billy Boyd? Moreover, what award should they be announcing at that very moment but the award for “Best Movie?” I stayed to watch, having not bothered the first time they ran it.

I admit it. My finger is not on the pulse, as they say, of the pop-culture acclaim the Lord of the Rings movie phenomenon has generated and continues to stoke. I have not followed marketing trends; I couldn’t tell my father what TTT had grossed at the box office when he asked. I know, in a general way, that these films are wildly popular beyond the book’s fan base, that the movies have started their own fire that, due to the modern climate, burns higher than the literary one created when Tolkien was still living. What I don’t know is whether or not that’s a good thing. 

The intro was cute. Keanu Reeves was charming. And the winner is … The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Elijah, Billy and Sean, looking MTV cool in untucked, unbuttoned shirts, bounded up on stage, where Sean apologized for Gollum’s previous tirade. “That dude is out of control!” 

I admit it. I didn’t watch TORn’s clip of Gollum’s “acceptance speech.” I read a transcript and was horrified enough that I had no desire to watch it. Why? you ask. It was funny! you say. Perhaps. But the issue, in my mind, was not whether or not it was funny, but the fact that Tolkien is barrel-rolling in his grave at having one of his characters co-opted into speaking such filth. Puritan, you remark. Perhaps. “Purist” would be closer to the mark, I think. The hallmark of Tolkien’s work is the very purity of his language, and to find the most vile of modern insults coming out of the mouth of a digitally created Gollum disgusted me and, I think, would have appalled and disgusted Tolkien. 

The boyishly handsome trio accepted the award on behalf of the production and left the stage. I came to my computer wondering. This new popularity: good or bad? 

There is no need to speculate about what Tolkien himself would have thought. Though the popularity of his books, in his day, was smaller in scope and lesser in frantic, frenzied intensity than that we are observing now in response to the movies, he still had to fend off a wave of targeted questioning and obsession with minutiae, causing him to make remarks about his “deplorable cultus” and the dangers of becoming involved in the stories “in a way I’m not.” That tendency is more alive and well than ever today, thanks partly to the very wonderful establishment with which I am connected and others like it on the internet. “Fan fiction,” which I assume to have existed before the web but which certainly has suffered an unbelievable popularity explosion since, with access to an immediate and free forum, proves this in and of itself, as do the myriad questions we get at Green Books every day. 

My colleague Quickbeam and many others have come down to the baseline opinion that if it encourages people to read Tolkien, then the indignities that come with the Hollywood marketing machine are well endured. But arepeople reading Tolkien as a result of all this hype? The evidence that I see is mixed. 

Viggo reads ‘The Return of the King’

We get many letters at GB that include notes like “I am now reading the books to my [sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, grandchildren], and they LOVE them. They would never have been interested in them before the movie.” That’s wonderful, and of course I couldn’t be anything but pleased. But we get a greater number of notes, questions for the Q&A, that clearly show that their authors have not read and have no desire to read—only to know more about the world that their current idols [insert Elijah, Orlando, Billy, Dominic, Sean, Sean, or Viggo here] inhabit in these films. “Who is Aragorn and where did he come from?” “Who are Legolas’s parents? Does he ever fall in love? Is it true that he dies in the third movie?” and my personal favorite, “Can you give me a complete history of Elrond? Who is he, where did he come from, who are his parents, what is his significance?” Don’t tell me that these folks have any intention of reading—this stuff could be readily found if they’d ever even cracked a book. 

So if people are not reading, what’s the fuss about? Special effects, swordplay, hot guys, and hot chicks, apparently. Again I hear that scraping, swishing sound … Tolkien is rolling

I am not intending any commentary here on Jackson’s films themselves. My opinions on that score are well documented elsewhere. My concern is with the ultramodern hype that has followed. 

I admit it. There’s not much reason to care whether or not the marketing machine runs at full efficiency and creates these millions of screaming Orli drones. After all, what does it hurt Tolkien’s books or my enjoyment of them? From one perspective, it doesn’t hurt one iota. From another perspective, it hurts to see characters that I regarded as the highest of the high, the pinnacle of heroic epic, degenerated into pop-culture icons. And it is not so with some of my other favorites. Anne of Green Gables, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood of Sense and Sensibility, and others have all been brought with sensitivity and grace to the big screen. And sensitivity and grace are not lacking in the majority of Jackson’s characterizations, either. So the difference must lie in the public reaction to them and to the supposedly clever accolades, like Gollum’s fling at the MTV awards, that follow. 

Forgive me, dear readers, if I am indulging in a ramble without a point. This musing is simply part of a bigger question—how healthy is all this fandom, anyway? “Frenzy and intensity,” I said above to describe the modern fanboy and fangirl machines, and it’s true. The nearness of people to one another through the media and internet allows them to mass-embrace one concept in a way they never could have done a century ago. Is this healthy for our individual and collective minds and spirits? The screaming, the shoving for a picture or an autograph … I digress. Those are issues connected with all popular Hollywooders, not with Lord of the Rings alone, of course. And I guess that’s the crux of the matter—something formerly so exalted in the realm of literature alone has been brought to a level equal to that of the Backstreet Boys or Britney Spears. I guess that’s where the real rub lies. Like the rub of a tweed jacket upon the inside of a coffin. Tolkien is rolling.

If you have a Tolkien/Middle-earth inspired poem you’d like to share, then send it to poetry@theonering.net. One poem per person may be submitted each month. Please make sure to proofread your work before sending it in. TheOneRing.net is not responsible for poems posting with spelling or grammatical errors.

Speaking of translating Tolkien’s world to TV and cinema, we dug into our archives to find a rather relevant masterpiece from Green Books staffer Ostadan – originally posted November 4th, 2004. Enjoy!

Golden copy of the “Universal Gateway”, Chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra kept in Taiwan National Palace Museum. One of the many excellent works of Kumarajiva

“Translation is like chewing food that is to be fed to others who are unable to chew themselves. As a result, the masticated food is bound to be poorer in taste and flavor than the original.” [attributed to Kumarajiva, translator of Buddhist texts into Chinese. Translated.]

In the article Glossopoeia for Fun and Profit, we saw the Esperanto translation of the Ring inscription:

Unu Ringo ilin regas, Unu ilin prenas,
Unu Ringo en mallumon ilin gvidas kaj katenas.

Let us look at this translation more carefully. If we were to take each word and translate it to English directly, it would read,

One Ring them rules, One them takes,
One Ring into darkness them guides and chains.

The Ring Verse

Esperanto’s word order is more liberal than English, especially in verse; a more grammatically correct English translation would be “One Ring rules them, One takes them, One Ring guides them into darkness and chains them.” Those familiar with the English text will see many evident differences — the use of present tense; the reduction of “them all” to simply “them”; the change of “find” to “take”, and so on. Why should this be so? The main reason is that Bertil Wennergren, who translated the verse, was attempting to retain not only the sense of the text, but the rhyme scheme and general meter of the original. Esperanto, which uses suffixes as markers for such things as tense and part of speech, has few single-syllable words. In contrast, there is only one word of more than one syllable, “darkness”, in the entire English version of the Ring couplet (and few, indeed, in the entire Ring-verse). If any semblence of the poetry of the original is to be retained, then the meaning of the text must be altered somewhat to fit the restrictions imposed by the verse form and the language of translation.

Of course, within the story, the famous couplet is itself only a translation, with a slight change in meter, of the Black Speech found on the Ring:

Ash nazg durbatulūk, ash nazg gimbatul,
Ash nazg thrakatulūk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.

Gandalf says that his rendering in the Common Speech is “close enough” to what is said on the Ring. So the question arises: is the Esperanto translation similarly “close enough”? A “purist” might say, no: there are too many details lost or even changed by this translation, and Tolkien’s linguistic work has been undermined; someone reading the Esperanto text would come to very different conclusions about the vocabulary and grammar of Black Speech from those reached by English-speaking readers. But someone of a more “revisionist” bent sould say that the Esperanto Ring-inscription tells, probably as well as possible given the constraints of a verse translation in Esperanto, the same story as the original English. After all, it is certainly plausible that Celebrimbor, hearing these words spoken from afar as Sauron first took up the One Ring, would indeed know just how he had been betrayed and what Sauron’s true purpose behind the Rings of Power was.

J.R.R. Tolkien

In a real sense, any translated work is a collaborative effort between the original author and the translator, much as a symphonic performance is a collaboration between the composer and the conductor. In a work as complex as The Lord of the Rings, the translator must be aware of the stylistic and linguistic techniques that Tolkien is using, and create them anew in the language of translation. For the result to have any artistry at all, the translator has to be as creative and capable in the language of translation as Tolkien was in his own. The result will not be pure Tolkien; it will be Tolkien as interpreted and re-told by the translator. Arden Smith’s irregular column in the journal Vinyar Tengwar, entitled “Transitions in Translations”, has documented a wide range of successful and unsuccessful translations. In some, little care is taken in style or nomenclature — one might be reminded of the infamous Japanese subtitles for the Fellowship of the Ring movie. In others, the translator may go as far as inventing Tengwar and Cirth modes for the language of translation and will re-draw the title page inscription in translation, as well as re-lettering the translation of the West-gate of Moria in the illustration. But in all cases, the result is not, and cannot be, identical to the experience of reading the original English text.

A “purist” might therefore conclude that because a translation necessarily loses some of the nuances and richness of the original, nobody should read Tolkien’s work in translation, and that the translators themselves are wasting their time in a futile exercise at best, or a fraudulent representation of their own works as being J.R.R. Tolkien’s at worst. To the purist, Tolkien’s original work is the only “true” account of events in a world that seems nearly as real as the ancient history of our own world, and deviation from that account seems to be somehow a distortion of a primary truth. But most people would agree that, given a certain minimum quality of translation, the defects inherent in reading a work in translation are outweighed by the availability of the book to people who cannot read it in English and would not be able to experience Middle-earth in any form without the translation, like the unfortunate soul in the quotation from Kumarajiva, who requires someone else to chew their food if they are to avoid starvation. Some of these people may even be motivated by a good translation to search out an English edition and laboriously work through it.

By now, the reader has probably anticipated the author’s conclusion from these musings about translation: the art of the filmmaker has much in common with the art of the translator. The requirements of film — or at least an artistically and commercially successful one — dictate particular rhythms and modes of expression in the storytelling that the original author contemplated no more than Tolkien considered how the Ring-verse would fit the rhythms of Esperanto or other languages. Even more than a translator, the filmmaker is a collaborator with the author, reinventing and recreating the author’s work so that it can be expressed as artistically as possible in the “language of film”. The result will not be purely Tolkien’s work, and will inevitably lose much of the delicious “flavor” of the original. It may even have serious defects in several particulars; but the real question is whether, like the Ring-verse translation, it tells the same essential story, “close enough”. If it does, then it does what any good translation does: it brings a great work to people who otherwise would not read it on their own.

“I cannot read the black and white letters,” he said in a quavering voice.

“No,” said Jackson, “but I can. The letters are English, of a narrative mode, but the language is that of the Epic Romance, which I will not utter here. But this in the Cinematic Tongue is what is said, close enough…”

(Fade to black. Music up.)

– Ostadan

If you have a Tolkien/Middle-earth inspired poem you’d like to share, then send it to poetry@theonering.net. One poem per person may be submitted each month. Please make sure to proofread your work before sending it in. TheOneRing.net is not responsible for poems posting with spelling or grammatical errors.

It has long been rumored…and now we can finally confirm! For the first time, Warner Bros. will be releasing ‘The Hobbit’ Trilogy and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ Trilogy on 4K UHD on December 1st, 2020. To celebrate, we have a special TheOneRing.net exclusive message to fans from Samwise Gamgee himself, Sean Astin:

But wait…There is more! Directly from our friends at Warner Bros.:

Warner Bros. is also announcing that in the summer of 2021 it will be releasing a 4K ULTIMATE COLLECTORS’ EDITION with theatrical and extended versions of ALL SIX of the remastered films and new bonus content.  Additionally, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first The Lord of the Rings film, a newly remastered Blu-ray trilogy of The Lord of the Rings films will be available in the Fall of 2021, also including the theatrical and extended versions.  

If you are like me, and you may not fully grasp the significance of this news – don’t worry, hopefully I can shed some light on the topic. Bottom line – Peter Jackson and the team remastered the entirety of both trilogies (and extended editions), including the special effects, to make these masterpieces of cinema look as amazing and breathtaking on your modern devices as the day we saw them in the theater. And most likely a lot better!.

In the coming days we’ll sort through all the various options and places to purchase these editions and provide you with a one stop guide. In the meantime, know that 2020 will be ending on a positive note as we get to enjoy our favorite films all over again!

Here’s a high res preview of the box art!

Amazon Studios’ LOTR Series Heads Into Uncharted Carnal Waters with Casting Call for Nudity and an “Intimacy Coordinator”

This might be a singularly surprising or even upsetting concept to present to Tolkien fans. If I were to address this reality to Star Wars, or Harry Potter, or even Miyazaki fandom it could raise eyebrows or outright alarm. But gather ’round the campfire and hear my tremulous words:

“Prepare for a newly-sexualized version of your favorite fantasy world.”

It’s the equivalent of saying: “Get ready to watch Anakin and Padme do something onscreen that will forever alter the way you see Star Wars. Sorry about the sand. It gets everywhere.”

Is this a real lightning rod issue? Depends on your temperament. I have to be really careful about presumed gatekeeping (which is not my intention) or any semblance of that; I just want this discussion WAY out in the open. Let’s get to the heart of this, because it is a thing now.

We must clearly ask ourselves what we want and don’t want from a billion-dollar Tolkien TV adaptation, because the tracks are laid and that train is headed straight for us, via your streaming device and paid subscription.

It is needful to discuss and understand those qualities of Tolkien’s work that are most important to us. Fair to say we have a worldwide multigenerational scholarly and fan community that share some great common denominators of what “fidelity” means in an adaptation of Tolkien. Thankfully we have shared voices; and if we shout from the rooftops collectively Amazon Studios might, perchance, just listen.

Let’s tell them what we expect. We are the audience they need to win over, after all.

T/W: By necessity, our topics today include sex organs, bodily functions, sexual abuse and rape in other fantasy TV shows, and coordinating intimacy—so here’s the trigger warning ahead of time. New territory for TheOneRing.net, BUT HEY IT’S 2020! Bear with me. We may find an egalitarian way forward in this conversation.

Amazon’s Approach: Will There Be Sex On Screen?

Fact check: We can confirm Amazon Studios has hired Jennifer Ward-Lealand, a well-known New Zealand Intimacy Coordinator, for the Lord of the Rings production.

The only Amazon show in NZ is Lord of the Rings, a production so overwhelmingly large that Auckland film unions report that over 80% of all local production crew are working on it, leaving no crew for other TV shows. It should be known that instead of clearly stating to be on LOTR, Ms. Ward-Lealand’s official site declares the acronym for “Untitled Amazon Project” / UAP is listed on her upcoming projects, first reported on Knight Edge Media and other sites. We know for sure Amazon’s UAP is the catch-all working title for LOTR. Remember how “Jamboree” and “Little Rivers” were the working titles for Peter Jackson’s LOTR and Hobbit Trilogies, respectively. But how much nudity is Amazon considering?

Source: BGT Background Casting, Oct 2020

Will There Be Group Nudity?

Fact check: Rumor! An open casting call for background extras “comfortable with nudity” appeared. Just how many naked extras do you need for a classy, romantic love-making scene?

Caleb Williams dug deep while reflecting on some of our earlier reporting on TheOneRing.net of new casting announcements by BGT Casting; stating ‘must be comfortable with nudity’ for upcoming roles in LOTR. Put two and two together: there’s an Intimacy Coordinator who serves an important role to ensure the well-being of actors during sex scenes (or with nudity) and then we learn nudity in certain roles is openly asked for.

Will Characters Be ‘Sexified’ That Weren’t In Tolkien’s Books?

Fact Check: Unknown! The precise story they’re telling is unknown, as is the time within the 2nd Age wherein it’s all set. Don’t know what’s in the scripts, their content, nor what proper characters are associated with already-established cast members. We do know who plays a handful of the leads (Galadriel, Elrond) with best guesswork. We follow these actors on Instagram but we don’t know exactly who this ‘Tyra’ characters is because Tolkien never named one.

We surely don’t know who’s involved in scenes of nudity/sexuality. Debate is now open on where that would be necessary in a grand story of Númenor or the Elven-smiths of Eregion, or the welcoming halls of Khazad-dûm in its pre-Balrog glory.

We do know they are using water tanks. A stunt performer was injured filming scenes underwater (and she has thankfully recovered). Possible connection to Númenor being flooded and ruined in a specific catastrophe? Yes, quite possible. Underwater scenes depicting naked people swimming? We just don’t know.

How Tolkien Presented Sexualized Content

He simply didn’t. Tolkien was super-duper Catholic. In his own words to his publisher he expressed the desire for his overall Legendarium to be presented as “‘high’, purged of the gross.” That’s from his famous Letter 131. I’ll get back to it in a bit. He did not write stories in the manner of George R.R. Martin, although the inverse is often true. The word ‘rape’ does not appear in The Hobbit, and only once in LOTR: The Return of the King (even then not referencing a person but a geographical place, Gondor: as in ‘sack’ or ‘pillage’).

There are a few notable instances of non-sexual nudity mentioned in The Lord of the Rings itself: (a) the hobbits’ bath in Crickhollow, (b) the running naked through the grass to clear their hearts and minds after imprisonment by the Barrow Wights, (c) Frodo’s rescue by Sam at the Tower of Cirith Ungol. Perhaps there’s one I missed.

A few stories from The Silmarillion include incredibly dark things like incest; as with Túrin and Niënor. But that wasn’t their fault (poor things) and Amazon Studios does not have the licensing for those particular stories.

That’s not what they’re currently producing.

Tolkien vs. Other Popular Fantasy

I’m more keen to look at Tolkien’s works the way the Professor himself looked at them. He was spiritually and mentally deliberate in everything he did. With his “Sub-Creation” Tolkien meant to celebrate God’s main Creation with such language and artistry as he possessed. This Secondary World of Arda was a vessel of joy and a profound expression of faith. If anyone had a “purity” litmus test for this kind of fantasy it was John Ronald himself, as seen in a nearly 10,000-word letter to his publisher Milton Waldman, from late 1951:

Do not laugh! But once upon a time (my crest has long since fallen) I had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend, ranging from the large and cosmogonic, to the level of romantic fairy-story, the larger founded on the lesser in contact with the earth, the lesser drawing splendour from the vast backcloths – which I could dedicate simply to: to England; to my country. It should possess the tone and quality that I desired, somewhat cool and clear, be redolent of our ‘air’ (the clime and soil of the North West, meaning Britain and the hither parts of Europe: not Italy or the Aegean, still less the East), and, while possessing (if I could achieve it) the fair elusive beauty that some call Celtic (though it is rarely found in genuine ancient Celtic things), it should be ‘high’, purged of the gross, and fit for the more adult mind of a land long now steeped in poetry. I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama. Absurd.

Excerpt from Letter 131, “The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien” (1981), p. 143

Here he admits his original ambitions may have been overreaching. Generations later we find they were not; as many other minds, artists, and hands have since played within Arda. Amazon Studios is playing in that sandbox right now, as I write this. Broadly speaking, Tolkien’s popularity helped launch an entire strata of “High Romantic Fantasy” that changed publishing forever. Previous adaptations of his books to films, plays, games, comics and audio have, by and large, held true to this aesthetic.

Notice how he describes his connected Legendarium with words like “large and cosmogonic,” “splendour,” “elusive beauty,” “majestic,” “steeped in poetry,” and the most revealing of all: “‘high,’ purged of the gross.”

He never uses words like “scatological,” “salacious,” “sexually charged,” “tumescent,” “steeped in carnality,” or “debauched.” If you are even slightly attuned to Tolkien’s stories you know the tone he set. You know the point I’m driving at. I don’t even feel like being subtle anymore.

Look… this is Tolkien telling you why none of his characters masturbate or take a pee break behind the bushes. He’s telling you why his characters are never described in acts of copulation or defecation. Yes they certainly did copulate, but none of that needed to appear; violating his deliberate idiomatic approach that served his own noble purpose. Nobody ever said the word fart in Middle-earth, at least not through the voice of our omniscient narrator. Elsewhere he makes clear his reasoning: the heroic and sympathetic characters do not engage in acts causing revulsion. He leaves that to the Orcs, corrupted enemies, demonic monsters, and their poisoned physical environments; and it greatly heightens the sense of revulsion in the reader by such measured and careful use. Tolkien said that the Orcs’ language (part of their unique cultural brutalism) was far worse than he let on. SO NOTHING IS GRATUITOUS. Not one word is wasted in its application or import.

Professor Tolkien kept the toilets, orgasms, and such other bodily ephemera offstage the entire time. Invisible. Never even suggested. This is high fantasy, remember, and a special kind too. There’s one noticeable exception in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug where Peter Jackson showed Bilbo and the Dwarves climbing into Bard’s house through the secret entrance of, yes, the toilet. Thus the word ‘toilet’ entered Middle-earth dialogue for the first time (Tolkien would have disapproved linguistically at the very least because it’s so damn French); but to some fans this silly, throwaway gag was a red flag that P.J. had *perhaps* missed some of the marks in his adaptation of The Hobbit (amongst other reasons, looking at you Tauriel/Kili/Legolas triangle) compared to the monumental achievement of his previous Trilogy.

Case in point: even the provocative director of the X-rated film Fritz the Cat, Ralph Bakshi, managed to keep it in his pants. His ambitious yet incomplete 1978 animated Lord of the Rings stays in the right lane, true to its high fantasy trope, even though the film is wildly psychedelic in its visual flair. Such a great contrast to his other fantasies Wizards and Fire & Ice which was R-rated “Adult Swim”-fare arriving decades early! Instinctively and thoughtfully, Bakshi knew that Tolkien’s story didn’t need all the Tits & Ass that had previously made the animator the darling of 70’s arthouse cinema. He kept that out of Middle-earth, indulging it elsewhere more suitably for his other films.

I recall my Dad taking me to the movies see John Boorman’s Excalibur when I was just 12. He knew my brother and I were really big on this sword and sorcery thing. Our love of Tolkien was so strong Dad figured the King Arthur legend would be ideal for us but he didn’t comprehend what was behind the “R” rating. I remember so clearly the opening scenes of Uther Pendragon’s sexual assault against Arthur’s mother, arranged by Merlin to conceive the future King. Shocked, my Dad leaned over to check on me—uncertain what to do: “You okay son? This might be too much for you…” I waved him off, “Yeah, I’m fine,” while my retinas were seared permanently with the first sexual act I had ever witnessed in my life. It was inscrutable and jarring to a child. Confusing. Dad wasn’t prepared to discuss the birds and bees and their biological needs, not by a mile. It didn’t overly-phase me, as my young mind was too busy trying to memorize The Charm of Making.

But it would strike me as very odd (and unnecessary) that a future predicament similar to my Father’s might befall parents innocently watching “a Tolkien fantasy show.” Imagine if suddenly you have to press pause, take the smallest children out of the room, and… “have the talk.” Well, you get it.

That was assuredly the moment for me where Tolkien differentiated himself from other fantasy storytellers. Indeed, that distinction was drawn in sharpest relief. Perhaps we are lucky that Mr. Boorman never got to direct LOTR for United Artists (that almost happened for real, but he made Excalibur instead).

“Dawn of the Firstborn Elves” by Ted Nasmith

If you are unfamiliar or never read Tolkien and wanted to get into the fandom, would you want to start with the adaptation that stikes furthest away from Tolkien’s literary sensibilities? One which could be deemed too much for a child to watch?

Sure, there’s more than enough room for all the “adult content” of darkness and otherworldly terrors from Tolkien’s larger span of legends, there is DEFINITELY a place for that! I’m not arguing against any adaptation desirous of that. We can go as far away from the golden-hued fairy story of Bilbo’s journey that you want and go right to the 2nd Age of Sauron-inflicted deceits, treachery, and metaphysical corruption.

But why does it need to be prurient?

The horrors brought upon Númenor end up with Satanic style Morgoth-worship and ghoulish human sacrifices. Body horror? Beheadings? Ripping living hearts from a sacrificial victim? Maybe. But there are no brothels mentioned. No Littlefinger. No orgies.

The Hobbit and LOTR stand rather apart from the most insanely disturbing stuff within The Silmarillion (especially) and Unfinished Tales, so yes, it may yet be that someday we will have a separation of what Tolkien shows/movies you watch with your little ones… and those you just don’t. And now we realize the time may be upon us sooner than we think.

I’m just a guy who knows what he’s getting when he reads Tolkien. I know what I like: the languages, the world-building, the spirit of Arda. There’s a gazillion other styles and idioms of modern fantasy where you can get your fix of anything: be they puppets (The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance) or video games (hey there Witcher).

Now The Witcher comes to mind as a counterpoint to Game of Thrones in terms of sexual portrayals. GoT portrayed so much of its sex negatively, tied to assault and dehumanizing acts (yeah, yeah there’s a wee bit of “romance” in the tub Jaime/Brienne) while in contrast The Witcher is extremely playful and wink-wink (hey, there’s a magic spell for your erectile dysfunction, how cute), and the orgy scene shows a woman completely in charge of its illusory energy. Not a victim at all compared to so many other depictions of female characters in fantasy. Yes, there’s room for all that sexy “insert tab A into slot B” in modern fantasy, as we have seen, but the end results can be widely divergent.

Y’all ready for this? As I said in the Star Wars example at the top of this piece, Amazon’s series might be an adaptation that forever alters how we see Arda.

What Exactly Do We Want From Amazon’s 2nd Age Series?

That’s the big kahuna. The ever-burning question. Observe what’s happening over there in Amazonland/Auckland. They hired a ton of very talented people but let’s focus on a couple of things:

  • Esteemed Tolkien scholar and author Tom Shippey was only brought on board to help with the Map of Middle-earth that launched their Twitter feed a year ago. There has not been any marketing effort since then and he is confirmed to be no longer on the project. It seemed to be only lip-service to the fans, which does NOT work. That kind of subterfuge will NOT work, Amazon. We don’t know why his name still appears on the Cast and Crew Listing over on IMDb.
  • John Howe is not currently in New Zealand and does not appear to be working on the production, certainly not in the fullness of his engagement as he was with Alan Lee back in the time of the New Line LOTR Trilogy. He may have provided some work for Amazon’s show but he’s seemingly not now.
  • Then there’s that one dude that has caused a wee bit of nerves. Bryan Cogman is onboard as a Consulting Producer, after his commanding story work for Benioff and Weiss on HBO’s Game of Thrones. Quite capable and mega-geek-centric, Mr. Cogman however was a focal point of some controversy on that production. Ringers have been quite vocal that the kind of “rapey” Sansa Stark storylines (attributed to Mr. Cogman) would NEVER be the kind of thing they’d want to see in Middle-earth, no matter how gritty you want to get.
Never forget that THRONES is the mandate

Grit and realism have their place. Darkness and light are explored in their extremes. No one is shying away from the more “adult” things Tolkien had in his stories or saying they don’t exist. The real question is to what extent are they going to “sexify” this show for the sake of getting their next Game of Thrones mega-hit? Just look at this from Variety where Jeff Bezos has mandated a programming shift to get what he wants: another GoT.

AMAZON: So you’re okay with accidental incest, human sacrifice, dismemberment, and sins against Eru?

RINGER FANS: Yes! That’s what Tolkien wrote!

AMAZON: But… you’re not okay with depicting sexualized characters having intercourse?

RINGER FANS: Exactly! That’s what Tolkien wrote!

AMAZON: ……

A predictable future tweet

My personal take: What fans want most from any Tolkien adaptation is verisimilitude. Something that carries the true spirit of Tolkien and has integrity in realizing it. Amazon’s showrunners can keep that integrity by staying true to the themes and characters and intent of the author. It is not impossible to guess Tolkien’s intentions when they are so plainly available to us, even though he is gone. #FidelitytoTolkien is a hashtag we have endeavored to use. Not perfect, but it’s a decent axiom to bear in mind.

Seeing anything remotely sexified between Galadriel and Annatar (oooh, a hot young shirtless Sauron in his seduction mode) or anything else like that is going to turn off fans so fast it will cause seismic waves through a very vocal fandom.

There won’t be any coming back from that. 1000’s of fans have replied and quote-tweeted this news with a variety of opinions for and against:

Does the Tolkien Estate Have “Veto Power” Over the Scripts?

Fact check: Unconfirmed! Well, we have been reporting that they do but it is unclear to what extent that power really exists. It is troubling. The Estate’s authority over the show’s content might not be sacrosanct; indeed it may be limited to keeping the structural frame of the narrative within the existing timelines we know are book-canon. They most likely don’t have final script approval (maybe there’s an infinitesimal chance they do); but it’s more like a general oversight to prevent fundamental alteration to the histories. We have a funny feeling that the two-episode combined pilot they are finishing up will be presented for the Estate’s approval. Time will tell.

But in my mind we’re better off tackling this as a fandom right now, and tell them what we want and don’t want from this Tolkien adaptation. They must listen.

Ringers—I ask you all: Do you want this LOTR to be just a Witcher meets Riverdale series with the branding of Middle-earth slapped on it? Why do I even say that? Because I’m afraid that’s what’s happening. Respected Tolkien twitter scholar The_Tolkienist shared an epic 30-tweet thread on the matter (with plenty of wink wink sarcasm).

Leave your comments on our message boards and social platforms: Twitter, FB, Instagram, knowing that Amazon Studios are definitely listening… and collecting data (!)… and calibrating their next efforts.

Much too hasty,
Clifford “Quickbeam” Broadway

Twitter: Quickbeam2000
Instagram: Quickbeam2000

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