Tag Archives: The Hobbit

How the Sochi Olympics Illustrate the Value of Books

The big news when this set of Olympics started in Sochi was how much the whole thing cost – fifty billion dollars! – and cue predictions of how these fancy Olympics venues would all fall apart in a decade or so from lack of use. Okay, okay, I can definitely get in line with the thought that, however good for the ‘human spirit’ athletic competitions are, Olympics costs are ballooning to an unreasonable amount. I mean, couldn’t humanity find something better to do with fifty billions dollars than build some amazing venues that might be only fully used for a month?

But… humanity spends an insane amount of money on a lot of ‘useless’ things. The Olympics, at its heart, is entertainment for the masses. And don’t other forms of entertainment – movies, music, video games – need a gigantic amount of time and money to make too?

Watch a couple of those YouTube videos on the making of The Hobbit movie… there’s practically a city’s worth of people, making practically a city’s worth of sets and costumes, to create a world that doesn’t actually exist and doesn’t benefit anyone except those who got a few hours of entertainment out of it. I can think back to the days of old Hollywood, when they built an actual Roman racetrack for Ben Hur, and put an actual chariot race in it to film. And then I compare it to today, where they don’t need to actually build every little thing they film. The special effects far surpass what was possible in Ben Hur, but everything else about movies have ballooned as well – actors’ salaries, production budget, number of people involved…

On one hand, previous generations of humanity would probably look at us like we were touched in the head to spend such enormous amounts of time and money on such fleeting experiences. Fifty billion to host the Olympic Games. Six hundred million to make The Hobbit. We can pour time and money and immense amounts of effort into fleeting experiences. Have you ever thought about how much actually went into your two hours of enjoyment in the theatre? How many thousands of people were involved in getting the product to you?

I’m not going to start ranting about how we should stop this and start using all these billions of dollars, and billions of hours of manpower, to go out and solve world poverty or something. Of course it’s more complicated than that. Of course all this money and effort drives the economy. Maybe it’s just our modern world is more complicated, and more interconnected, and everything we do tends to be on a massive and complicated scale (think the Internet… or the cellphone network… or global corporations…)

I’m just going to say – all of this makes me appreciate the simplicity of a novel all the more. At its heart, a novel is just one writer with a vision he scribbles on paper. Once the printing press was invented, and books were able to be mass-produced, the writer’s message could reach more people. But there’s something to be said for one person’s ability to create a whole new world inside the pages of a book, without hiring an orchestra to play the soundtrack, and without actually constructing something pretty to look at in the background of the action scenes.

Someone will come at me next and protest there’s editors, and copyeditors, and cover designers, and marketers, and distributors involved in book-making too. And there is, of course. But you can cut back the book industry to a writer, and maybe a printing press. The simplest form of a movie is still far more complicated.

Or think about it this way. If our modern world disappeared tomorrow, would you rather have a book with you, or a copy of your favourite DVD?

And the nice thing about our modern world still existing is that we DO have choice… we do have the amazing ability to entertain ourselves with expensive-to-make movies, or expensive-to-host Olympic Games. But I’d like to call for a moment to appreciate the simpler things in life – and appreciate them for being simple.

Simplicity is something our world lacks. It’s something overlooked and taken for granted. But it will never lose its value.

And, therefore, neither will the writers among us, who create these magical things known as ‘books.’

Leave a comment

Filed under Bookish Thoughts, Randoms & My Life

My Favourite Lord of the Rings Quote

Continuing on my Lord of the Rings theme (or, to be honest, just barely remembering to post today), I have decided to share one of my favourite quotes from The Fellowship of the Ring:

“For I am Saruman the Wise, Saruman Ring-maker, Saruman of Many Colours!”

I I looked then and saw that his robes, which had seemed white, were not so, but were woven of all colours, and if he moved they shimmered and changed hue so that the eyes was bewildered.

“I liked white better,” I said.

I love how this shows Gandalf’s sense of humour! Lord of the Rings is not all dry, high-minded rambling. (Another example from The Hobbit: “I am Gandalf, and Gandalf means me!”) It also illustrates nicely Tolkien’s theme of the contrast between the Wise, and the wisdom of the humbler folk who sometimes turn out to be wiser than powerful people like Saruman.

Leave a comment

Filed under Lord of the Rings, Quotables

Why The Hobbit Shouldn’t Work as a Children’s Book (But Does)

Hobbit Hole, by Jeff Hitchcock. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Generic

Hobbit Hole, by Jeff Hitchcock. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Generic

Something must be wrong with my brain this holidays. I didn’t realize it was Friday till Friday was over, so… this will be a Saturday post instead.

I watched The Hobbit last night, and decided Peter Jackson has my permission to split The Hobbit into five hundred movies if he wants to, and I won’t let the words ‘cash grab’ ever cross my lips. Because it was so much better than I ever thought it would be, and I’d expected it to be good. But watching it got me thinking about The Hobbit in a way I hadn’t before. And I realized it’s really a very weird sort of children’s book. It really shouldn’t work as a children’s book at all, much less be known as ‘great literature.’ Why, do you ask? Well, consider:

1.) The main character is a middle-aged man – er, hobbit

Would you pitch a novel to a publisher featuring a man who suffers a mid-life crisis and ditches his comfortable life for a madcap adventure, as a book for children? Honestly, which of the books on the shelf of the children’s section feature adults much at all, much less as the main character? Accepted wisdom is that books for children should star children. Children shouldn’t be able to relate to the tribulations of a character their parents’ age. And making him a hobbit doesn’t help too much – you have to go into the whole business of explaining what a hobbit is first.

Or maybe it does help. There’s a reason “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit…” is such a famous line, after all…

2.) The other main characters are thirteen dwarves with very few distinguishing features or character development.

I read a review for the movie version of The Hobbit the other day, complaining that none of the characters of the dwarves are developed much at all. Then I went to see the movie myself, and I was amazed at how well they managed to differentiate a good handful of the dwarves. Because in the book, there’s hardly any way to keep them apart at all. It’s not recommended to have a billion protagonists in a novel, and this really is one reason why. Thorin Oakenshield gets the most development, and thus the most of my memory’s section on “dwarves in The Hobbit” is devoted to him. Then there’s Bombur, who I mostly remember at the fat one. And Fili and Kili, because they’re the youngest and are brothers. And Dori, Nori and Ori because they come in three for some reason. But characterization-wise? The dwarves from Snow White went through more character development than them.

It should be a death-knell for any book to feature thirteen characters that don’t develop much over the course of the story. Somehow, with The Hobbit, this doesn’t matter.

3.) There are no female characters.

None. No females at all in the book, and one shoe-horned into the movie so far (Galadriel). I presume there are female townspeople in Dale, and female hobbits in the Shire, and female dwarves and elves somewhere in the world of The Hobbit, but none of them are really mentioned. Yet I, as a female, love it. Why is this? Shouldn’t I decry it as a fusty bastion of sexism as the modern young female I am? I have absolutely no urge to, and if the movie had made one of the dwarves a female or something I would’ve been quite mad.

4.) The plot is – somewhat wandering.

I forgot how much time the characters spend in Beorn’s house, without much happening. And how much time they sit outside the door into the Mountain before they figure out how to open it. And how often Bilbo tiptoes down into Smaug’s lair before anything major plot-wise happens. Several of the series of adventures lead nicely into each other (clearly indicated by the chapter title, “Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire” – literal fire, in that case), but some bits lag upon re-reading. And the ending comes out of left field. After a whole book about defeating the dragon, the dragon is defeated and the gold it leaves behind sets into motion an epic battle involving almost all the groups in Middle Earth. It was like Tolkien was revving up for Lord of the Rings a little early, and had to remember he was just writing a children’s adventure story. So he conks Bilbo on the head and has him conveniently wake up when the eagles rescue everyone – a bit of a downer for all readers eager for Tolkien to describe another one of his epic battles. But maybe a little more suitable for the childish and tender ears which presumably this tale was written for? I don’t know, I just know the ending didn’t ruin the book for me. Tolkien never was one for making sure everything ended neatly and happily. The Hobbit has less hints of sadness than Lord of the Rings, but it certainly makes the point that just because you defeated a dragon, doesn’t mean you life is roses from then on. And that’s why it’s a great book.

Yes, it’s a great book. Despite all its flaws – no, forget about the flaws, it does more than rise about them. It breezes past its own flaws without even the acknowledgement that they are there, and before you know it you are swept right along with the characters into a world almost as real as the one you live in. I seriously think Tolkien has spoiled me for any other fantasy, because I can never take any of the world in books I’ve read after as seriously as I can take his. So yes, I felt the least I could do was devote one blog post to The Hobbit.

What do you think of The Hobbit? And have you seen the movie yet?

Leave a comment

Filed under Randoms & My Life, The Hobbit

Top Couples in Fiction, Breaking the Rules of Novel-Writing, Killing Off the Printed Book – All Discussed Here at Stories and Stuff in 2012!

Goodbye 2012! (English New Year, by Amgalanbaatar, licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0))

Goodbye 2012! (English New Year, by Amgalanbaatar, licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0))

It’s not quite the new year yet, but let’s get this up before all of the Christmas business  take over:

Top 5 Literary Couples

Here’s a secret – any time you put ‘top five’ or ‘top ten’ in your title you increase the likelihood that people will find and read it. I don’t use this trick often, but maybe I should. All the same, I think a list of the top literary couples in fiction does deserve to be highly rated, so I’m glad this post is at the top. And no, this list does not include Romeo and Juliet, or Edward and Bella from Twilight – debate at your leisure whether I made a mistake in leaving them out.

Breaking the 10 Simple Rules for Writing a Novel

Everyone wants to know the secret for writing the novel everyone will read. Is it actually a matter of following all the rules perfectly and coming up with a bestseller, or is there something more mysterious to the writing process?

Will E-books Kill the Printed Book?

Big news this year – ebook sales are going up! And up and up and up. The internet loved to debate endlessly whether this meant the end of the traditional book publishing industry, and here I joined in on the action.

Those Pesky Phoenicians! – A Thought From Herodotus

Why is this in the Top 10? Herodotus is cool and all, but I’d argue The Iliad beats him out in the list of ancient works of literature. But my obsession over The Iliad did not make the Top 10 posts of this year, while good old Herodotus did. Glad to know the venerable old historian is still respected.

Let’s Just Blame the Plot on Someone’s Sex Drive

Putting ‘sex’ in the title is another way to make your page views go up, as I discovered with this post. When readers discovered I was merely ranting about how mediocre authors use random attraction between characters as a motivation for the whole plot of a novel, without any further development of the characters or their motivations, I’m not sure how many of them stuck around. All the same, this is an annoying issue with romance novels that should be resolved!

Why Some Girls Like Mr. Darcy

Just talk about Mr. Darcy when talking about romance novels, and most readers will have an opinion. But let’s not talk about whether he’s good-looking, or rich, because that’s been gone over SO MANY times before. And critics love to sneer at Jane Austen fans and claim they’re all delusional gold-diggers. No, let’s look at the complexity of the character Jane Austen created (see character depth, in contrast to the lack of character development described in the post above this one), and see why this is a good reason for fans to enjoy reading about him.

Writing Characters of Different Ethnicities

I admitted a struggle I had with my writing, and the post made it into the Top 10.

Real-life Romance: A Monk and a Nun Get Married

A monk and a nun get married – it does sound a bit surprising, doesn’t it. And ‘real-life’ romance? Who on earth could this monk and nun actually be?

Glad to see this post in the Top 10, as a history lover, and a lover of sweet stories of real-life romance.

Talking Down to Readers

J.R.R. Tolkien has been accused of talking down to his readers. Is this true? With the release of The Hobbit movie, this post is just as timely as ever – if anything, The Hobbit talks down to its readers far more than Lord of the Rings!

AND… The Top Viewed Fiction Post of 2012:

Last year I separated this list into non-fiction and fiction posts. Since I didn’t want to make a list completely composed of chapters from Why Polly? I decided to just mention the top fiction post of my blog last on this list. And surprise, surprise, it is not actually a chapter from Why Polly?Not Emma, A Missing Chapter from Jane Austen’s Emma actually beats it out! Shows that the classic established authors win every time. 🙂

Have a Merry Christmas and a fantastic New Year! Thanks for reading!

Leave a comment

Filed under Randoms & My Life

Concerning Hobbits

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

The Hobbit

 That has to be the most famous line ever scrawled on the back of a student’s exam paper. It’s such a good example of an intriguing opening line for a novel – I remember wondering just what a hobbit was, and why it lived in a hole in the ground (I was really young when I read it, but I hope I’d still be excited by it). The next line answers part of my unspoken question beautifully: “Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

 I am currently re-reading The Hobbit because I happened to catch of glimpse of the trailer for the new Hobbit movie. I’m thinking the movie could be really good, or ruin everything (‘cuz I don’t really remember Legolas or Galadriel in the that particular book, so I hope they have something useful to do in it). All the same, the trailer really excited me, so I had to go back and read the book over again!

Leave a comment

Filed under Quotables