The Amazon production of its Middle-Earth stories has been ongoing, but now we are in a time when the arrival of information from them concerning this production is accelerating.
The One Ring staff has been fans of J.R.R. Tolkien for quite some time, and it has always seen its core mission to be defined by its tagline: “By and For the Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien.” This site tries to do many things in support of this mission: support and celebrate fandom and fan activities – from costuming, to open invite events, to the line parties during the films, to group re-reads of Tolkien’s works, to so much more. However, this site has been humbly privileged to not only be supported by fans of Tolkien, but to be given access to many people involved in the production of adaptations of Tolkien’s work. The One Ring takes this gift of access seriously, and wants to do what’s best by the fans to make the most of this access, and to represent the best interests of the fans to these productions, so that the best possible adaptations of Tolkien’s work are made.
A few things have become clear to the staff of The One Ring (TORn) over the twenty years of its existence – time spent discussing and dissecting 6 major films, a handful of stage productions, multiple audio recordings, collectible figurines, and so much more. TORn has learned that what matters most is this:
“The more an adaptation sticks to the spirit and the motivation behind Tolkien’s work, the more successful it becomes, in both the short and long term, in both critical reception, and financial return.”
Over the years, TORn has learned an important lesson: if we, as fans, wish to have any influence over adaptations, we need to follow two important rules: first, we try to avoid quibbling over tiny details, and second, we gladly support the assignment of production staff, both in front of and behind the camera.
So, in terms of offering any constructive critique (pro or con), The One Ring will focus on trying to influence the productions to stay fidelitous to Tolkien’s spirit. For example, those who adapt Tolkien’s work would do well to read his letter #246 in “The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien” to understand some of Tolkien’s subtle thoughts concerning the concept of ‘both intent and actions have consequences.’
As it concerns details of scripting and plot, TORn recognizes that adaptations will need to modify the story in various ways. While everyone will have their opinions on each and every detail, TORn realizes that changes need to be made, and the director and production company need to have freedom in telling the story. Without some degree of freedom, the best people will simply be uninterested in adapting a work. Therefore, while TORn will report on non-spoiling plot details that it becomes aware of, TORn commentary will be focused on, as stated above, encouraging production companies to stay true to the core spirit of Tolkien’s work. This is why, a few months ago, TORn pushed hard against even the possibility of gratuitous sexuality in adaptations.
As it concerns casting and the assignment of production staff, what TORn has seen, time and again, is that there is incredible initial fan reaction for or against newly named cast members, but that all the support or angst over an acting choice disappears once the adaptation is released. To quote a far better author than I, all of that angst is ‘sound and fury, signifying nothing.’ Therefore, at this point, TORn almost universally celebrates the announcement of new cast and production staff, and wants to use whatever influence it has with them to encourage them to create performances that are fidelitous to the spirit of Tolkien’s work.
For some examples of this ‘unfounded sound and fury’ go back twenty years and consider how people were asking “Who is Ian McKellen? Can he play a convincing Gandalf?” “Who is Viggo Mortensen?” Can he carry 3 films as the action hero lead?” “Why is Elijah Wood – and isn’t he too young to play Frodo?” “Do we really want Rudy as Samwise Gamgee?” “Who is Miranda Otto? Can she play a convincing Eowyn?” My goodness; what time has taught us!
Again, one point is crucial so it bears repeating: TORn celebrates – universally – when staff is added to a production – both cast and crew. TORn does this because it has found that celebrating and supporting them encourages them in ways large and small to put in their best work – and to take more seriously comments TORn may make on choices that impact the core spirit of Tolkien’s work (as the staff of TORn best understands it.) TORn does this because it wants the best possible adaptations of Tolkien’s work to be released, so it focuses on what is most important.
Again, TORn has found that almost every debate about cast choice dies down once an adaptation is released, and then, it’s all about the strength of the performance of that cast, as individuals and as an ensemble. This is not just seen in casting of Tolkien-based productions, as shown in the examples above, but in every production, everywhere. For example, there was quite a bit of debate concerning the diversity of the original cast of ‘Hamilton’ – until it was released to pretty much universal acclaim.
Why does TORn focus on fidelity to the spirit of Tolkien? Why does it work to not get sidelined by other issues? To paraphrase a line from the Jackson adaptation of The Lord of the Rings…
“There was some good in the spirit of J.R.R. Tolkien that motivated him to create his imaginary world in just the way he did. And it’s worth fighting for.”
Editor Note: Join TheOneRing.net as we focus on the recent cast member announcements for Amazon TV’s The Lord of the Rings inspired TV series. Throughout the month, and as part of our Tolkien Advent Calendar celebration, we will posting articles and cast profiles, as well as some other fun, all relating that to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien.
As we told you a while back the folks at Diamond Select Toys are making action figures from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. We’ve previously shared details and images of the figures Legolas and Gimli. Now we get to share with you Frodo and the Ringwraith. Just like the previous releases, these two figures each come in their own box with a piece of Sauron himself. That’s right! If you had forgotten you get to build Sauron with each release. These figures come in at 7 inches tall for figures like the Ringwraith and 4 inches tall for figures like Frodo all of them with 16 points of articulation. Fans can get their order in now for $59.98 with these awesome figures shipping in the spring of 2021.
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!
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.
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.
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Our friends over at Asmus Toys have been celebrating Hobbit Day for the last week with an awesome giveaway. All you have to is go to the Asmus Toys Facebook Page and follow the directions. Five lucky fans will be given the chance to win one of their very cool Frodo slim figures. The contest ends this Monday, September 30th, so make sure you get your entries in now!
This superb looking piece made its debut at Comic-Con 2018. It also comes from one of my favorite sub lines: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Statue Line. This dynamic horse and rider piece, showing Arwen as she rescues Frodo after his encounter with the Witch-king, is super well-done. Jane Wenley, who’s work we’ve now seen in several Middle-earth pieces, is the sculptor and once again she’s done a fantastic job on this statue. This piece comes in with an edition size of 750 pieces and a price tag of $699. While you can, you are still able to order this but I wouldn’t wait around long. These horse and rider pieces tend to go for a good sum on the secondary market.
As we mentioned a while back, we have a new player in the Middle-earth Collectibles game. Iron Studios is going to be producing collectibles based on the best trilogy of all-time: “The Lord of the Rings,” of course! These pieces will be produced in 1:10 scale, which is smaller than other collectibles based on the trilogy. Despite being smaller from what we can see in the production photos the to be very well made. I have had the chance to see their Marvel pieces up close, so I have very high hopes we’re in for a real treat! All four pieces Gandalf the Grey, Frodo Baggins, standing Ringwraith, and attacking Ringwraith can be pre-ordered right now. They range from $95 for Frodo to $115 for Gandalf the Grey. Collectors can expect all of these figures to start landing during quarter four of 2019.