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Musings on the hobbits in "Lord of the Rings"


I was thinking of writing a short essay on Lord of the Rings -- the book. Not sure, but probably. I'll mention now though that comparing the book with the film, one notes how much more democratic Jackson is compared to Tolkien. Jackson's impetus with the hobbits is to make each one of them leaders in the sense that with their decisions, abide the fate of the world... so leaders in the most flattering and worthy sense. Frodo decides to set off alone into Gondor, and the future King -- Aragorn -- has to react to this decision, and decides in fact to change course, which is what happens in the film. So all good both ways there: Frodo sheds himself the impetus of the great council of Elrond, which willed they go as much as possible as a team. But in the film it is Merry and Pippen who are responsible for destroying Saruman, they sway the ent-leader to his decision to participate and fight, when he had at first decided to play it the Tom Bombadil way and let the whole rancid world go discombobulate -- go fuck -- itself, whereas in the book this is a decision the ent-leader comes to only on his own. Merry and Pippen do nothing in their stay with him other than see things they can brag about when they return home... about how close they were to central events, which is a kind of closet narcissism. They also grow a couple of inches, literally, which encourages a kind of grandiose narcissism. It's the "parents" that do the meaningful stuff.

Now of course it is one of these two hobbits who distinctively distracts the Nazgul commander, by stabbing him with his magical sword, and so he can be dispatched by the warrior "who is not a man" but who is temporarily stunned and on her ass. But could you imagine how the reading experience of the book would have been different if somehow one of the hobbits -- being good at riddles -- had divined that the secret lady warrior joining the Rohirim into Gondor -- which he only seems to know about -- might be the "no man" perhaps fated to defeat the Nazgul lord, and arranged to keep close to her through the battle to perhaps serve as a sort of an innocuous but essential assistant to her delivering the fateful blow? He's small, nimble and easy to overlook, and, more essentially, one of the very few soldiers with the kind of magic sword that can do any kind of damage at all to the Nazguls (the book makes this explicit: without the magic sword, no painful piercing of Nazgul tendons, no meaningful distraction, no dispatch of the Nazgul king, and more assuredly, one very much squashed princess on the battlefield).

You can count up the number of times where Merry and Pippen do surprisingly essential things in the battlefield (for example, do you know that the epic fight with the tremendous cave troll in the film is absent in the book because of one of them stabbing it in the foot just as he was making his entrance?). But without the canniness Jackson gives them, in the books they seem only those who do surprisingly well for child-sized hobbits (meaning: any Gondor knight would have been better for the Fellowship, overall; and the Elvish lord that is considered... infinitely superior.)

Strangely, this doesn't seem as true with Jackson's film version of The Hobbit. In the film, he does credit Bilbo with the canny decision to distract the trolls, which in the book is all Gandalf's doing... Bilbo is passive. But elsewhere in the book Tolkien seems to give him much more credit. The defeat of the spiders is all Bilbo's doing: basically imagine the whole contribution of the elves in the movie and attribute it to Biblo solo and you're part ways close to assessing his actions properly... but not quite at all fully there! for Bilbo lures, bates, and even seemingly triangulates the spiders to their doom. And of course, unforgettably, Smaug's doom is all Bilbo's doing. In conversation with Smaug, Bilbo believes he sees something awry in the Smaug's sword-proof armor and he manipulates Smaug into exposing his full "magnificent" body, into posing, so Bilbo can be sure about what he saw. The fact of this flaw eventually gets transmitted to Bard so he can direct his aim... so he can do something actually meaningful, other than posture heroically before being fried to a crisp. 

Bilbo didn't install the flaw in Smaug's otherwise perfect construction, but he is all Rogue One in that he is the one who finds out about it and gets the message on its way to "princess Leia" Bard. In the movie, of course, Bard spots the weak spot on his own, and without any cunning involved. Bilbo, on the other hand, had to endure Smaug accurately undressing Bilbo's every motive... even his being in the possession of a magic ring.

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