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Tolkein never knew how to end a story...

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Tony Exhibit A: The Hobbit - the natural dramatic ending, the cinematic denoument, is the slaying of the dragon. So, instead, the silly old sausage delivers a further 3rd of a book about arguing dwarves.

Exhibit B: Lord of the Rings - hey! The ring is destroyed, Sauron is destoryed ! Huzzah! Now, for another 100 pages of pointless Shire-scouring and beating up on Saruman.

...and I felt this way LONG before the movies came out and shuffled things around a bit...

...and I managed to avoid mentioning the fiasco that is Tom Bombadil!

Damnit!


message 2: by Heidi (last edited Jul 26, 2008 08:33AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Heidi But see, that is why Middle Earth is compelling: because it is so much like Earth-earth...things in this world don't end when the dragon is slain, and there are mysteries in our world that no one even knows about, much less can explain. What is the purpose of Tom Bombadil? He exists to tell part of our story: there are people and things that are there just for their purpose.

In Tom's case, it was to rescue the hobbits from Old Man Willow, and to enchant Tolkien's readers with the idea of a magical being who lives with his wife (a demi-goddess of the river) in a little cottage deep in an enchanted forest. There need be no other reason for the old fellow. He exists as he is, because he is.

There are "Tom Bombadil's" in this world, and I've met them. Friends for a day, perhaps. Maybe just a listening ear and a jolly smile to brighten my heart some, and never see them again. If there are such people in Earth-earth, why not in Middle Earth? Everything does not need to be neatly tied up and bundled. There are things that cannot be explained. I find that charming here, and doubly so in Tolkien's amazing world. :)


message 3: by Jacqueline (new)

Jacqueline George Thank you, H, for your defence. I am standing beside you.

The arbiters of reading fashion insist the 'natural' beginning of every book is a high action hook with a corpse by the end of page one (in special cases, it is permissible to substitute a violent rape). And the 'natural' ending of The Hobbit would be the death of the dragon. That is certainly the way Hollywood or Walt Disney would have done it.

Tolkien did not end the story like that, because the story had not ended. It continued, and continues around us still. I positively enjoyed the gentle post-coitial ending.

And Tom Bombadil is still out there. He actually appears living illegally in the North Australian bush in a novel I am working on, and hope to release in the first half of next year.






message 4: by chris (last edited Jul 27, 2008 12:20AM) (new)

chris not all books are made to be movies. you cant justify a book by the movie...


Heidi cool Jacqueline. I think every story should have a touch of Tom Bombadil! Why not? I love a house with nooks and crannies that are pointless except to enjoy the space...and I love a story with characters who appear briefly and go their merry way as if they aren't really part of the story at all. And the Australian bush seems a suitable place for Tom Bombadil to appear!

blessings, Heidi


Matt "Exhibit A: The Hobbit - the natural dramatic ending, the cinematic denoument, is the slaying of the dragon."

Tolkien has no real interest in the 'natural dramatic cinematic' moment in the story as we would normally define it. In fact, I think that they bore him somewhat, and if he had to or thought he could - he'd do away with them. When he wrote a screenplay of Lord of the Rings, he cut all the fight scenes out.

That's why none of his imitators have ever really been able to imitate him. They generally don't understand him.

For Tolkien, the most dramatic moment in the story, the real climax as it were, is when Bilbo and Thorin make peace with each other. That's the really important thing that happens.

Far more important than the slaying of the dragon to Tolkien is the scene where Bilbo tries to broker a peace deal using his entire share of the treasure. He trades all his profit on the affair in an attempt to make peace between two people - the Elf King and Thorin - who have not treated him particularly well. End the story at the slaying of the dragon, and all the really important events get left out!

Tolkien always wants us to examine our inclination to imagine that the important event is killing something or that the important virtue is martial prowess. It's not that he thinks killing the dragon is a bad or ignoble thing, far from it, but he is so unconcerned with the killing of the dragon that he does it in flash back and has a minor character do the deed. He does this with almost all his fight scenes.

For example, in the LotR if completely forgoes a huge heroic confrontation between Gandalf and the Witch King of Angmar - surely the biggest possible fight in the story - and instead gives the climatic combat of the story to a young girl and a pint sized manling. And he spends like 5 chapters building up to the battle, and then covers the whole battle in about as many pages.


Chris Thank God that there are others who have a glimmer of understand of Tolkien's genius. The Scouring of the Shire IS the climax of the story, for that is why we go on quests, to come home and apply what we have learned in our own familiar surroundings. As Gandalf tells the four hobbits when they part company at Bree, he won't always be around to rescue them.

As for Bombadil, may he live forever, oblivious to what goes on in the wide world, whether in the forest with his bride, or in the bush of Austrailia!!


message 8: by Scott (last edited Oct 06, 2012 09:36AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Scott Holmes Perhaps my biggest disappointment with the movie is how the demise of Sauroman is handled. I would have enjoyed seeing his ghostly form gazing off into the west and dissipating in the breeze. I missed the scouring of the Shire.


Chris Scott wrote: "Perhaps my biggest disappointment with the movie is how the demise of Sauroman is handled. I would have enjoyed seeing his ghostly form gazing off into the west and dissipating in the breeze. I m..."

If you watch the Extended Edition DVD, you will see what happens to Saruman at the beginning of 'The Return of the King'. It's essentially Tolkien's version, just not in the same place.


Samuel S.B. Personally, I believe that the movies were wonderful but left out a lot of detail. They went as far as changing a few facts in the books and in all honesty it was rather disturbing but something I managed to pull through.

I just have to say that I would have loved to see a little more into the realm of Gondor and Arnor after Aragorn became king. I also wished to see what Samwise wrote in the book.

All in all, it is a fair assessment of JRRT and his endings. They leave you wanting a lot more than what you went for which is a good thing in its own way


message 11: by Gerd (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gerd My, my - here we see what is wrong with readers (and some authors) today. You can't take cinematic rules and use them on books – well, you can, obviously, but don’t expect it to work all that well - they use a completely different visual language for their storytelling and have therefore differing needs. More over, books have the upper hand because their audience tends to have an attention span that outlast the three MTV minutes by far, no need for big explosions, dramatic exits or constant cliffhangering… :)


Scott Holmes Chris wrote: "Scott wrote: "Perhaps my biggest disappointment with the movie is how the demise of Sauroman is handled. I would have enjoyed seeing his ghostly form gazing off into the west and dissipating in th..."

I do own the extended versions of all three films. What is lacking, whether Sauroman falls from his tower or not, is his final sense of utter failure. He is not to be allowed into the west. He merely dissipates into the wind. This is not present in the film.


Chris Gerd wrote: "My, my - here we see what is wrong with readers (and some authors) today. You can't take cinematic rules and use them on books – well, you can, obviously, but don’t expect it to work all that well ..."

I found the conclusions in The Lord of the Rings The Films the Books the Radio Series by Jim Smith and J. Clive Matthews pretty much echoed my feelings about how the films, while staying true to the spirit of the books, tampered with characters, timescales and events.


message 14: by Kion (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kion Ahadi Exit Darkness, Enter Light


I have just read the Hobbit in time for the movie so it is fresh in my memory. Overall it is excellent although not as epic or deep as Lord of the Rings, but it was aimed at a younger audience. I think the slaying of the Dragon was a bit of an anti-climax - but it was a fitting end to something so powerful and destructive. The Dragon had grown lazy and old, which allowed Bilbo to discover its weakness - its demise at the hands of Bard a great archer was as plausible as possible, bar perhaps Gandalf doing something to get rid of it. It was also important for Tolkien to tie up the story of the dwarves; the squabbling over the treasure with the elves and men was realistic. Although I do agree with you about Tom – I love Lord of the rings don’t get me wrong – but Tom was a puerile inclusion. It is very difficult to write a long book and not include some waffle! I try to avoid fluff and keep my stories and characters moving at a frantic pace, but some people prefer things slower and appreciate the detail. You have to write what you feel is natural to you and then pray people enjoy it! Tolkien was a professor and perfectionist so his endings mimicked his nature – he liked to come full circle.

We need to be fair to Tolkien - it is very hard to end a book. I found it hard ending my first book - it is part of a trilogy so two more to go. I am well into the second one, but I have already changed my mind 100s of times about how it will all finish in the third and final instalment.


Samuel Medina Some really great points made here. If I might add a bit of my own take, I'd say that part of why the 'big' theatrical moment isn't the end is that the story isn't complete without the consequences of the Great Heroic Deeds being shown at least in part, or hinted at. In the case of a Great Quest that changes the course of history, how the quest changes the world is in some ways more important than the quest itself.


message 16: by Patrick (new)

Patrick I understand how someone could feel this way, but Tolkien was always interested in seeing what a great journey did to someone. In Lord of the Rings more so than The Hobbit, we see how this exhausting journey has changed characters like Frodo and Sam. It may not be as interesting as the journey itself, but it's just as thematically satisfying.


message 17: by Lora (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lora I have to agree with those whose arguments run counter to the main post- those 'extras' weren't just tacked on, they grew in natural and organic ways. They didn't abruptly stop at "...and they lived happily ever after..." or some such wrap-up. One of my favorite parts of LOTR is the return to the Shire. It doesn't wrap up the standard story line in recognized ways, and yet it wraps things up in emotional ways. And besides, while everyone was at Mount Doom, a certain evil wizard had moved on to spread his filth elsewhere. We HAD to go back to the Shire and discover him and his works in progress. He had to be stopped!
In the Hobbitt, the war at the end was a fantastic exploration of those happy endings. All did not go well when the dragon was slain and the riches came into mens' hands once again. Not only was there a war, it even took five armies.
Tolkien was a genius.
As for Bombadil, I'm still mulling that. It resonates with some experience in college I had- meeting the unexpected in the oddest ways and having to question many of my assumptions, that sort of thing. Still haven't figured it out, which I quite enjoy.


Samuel Medina I still want to BE Tom Bombadil ... but less silly. ;)


message 19: by Karla (last edited Oct 07, 2012 03:44PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Karla Goodhouse I greatly prefer an author who is a little long winded, but takes the time to give their story a good solid conclusion to an author who cuts it short, like John Steinbeck. I don't think any Steinbeck novel I've read had an actual conclusion. He just makes his point and stop writing. As a reader, that drives me nuts, because I want some sense of finality and closure to a story. I want to see how the characters have been altered by their journey. I'll take Tolkien over Steinbeck anyday, at least he knows how to actually write a conclusion, even if it is long.


message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

The story did not end on the last page of the hobbit. Part of the discussion of Frodo and Sam Gamgee on the slopes of Mount Doom goes along the lines of "well what do you know, we are in the same story as the ones we heard about in legends¨. The road goes ever on and on - it was a bit of a Tolkien motif. What was it that the Salieri character said in the play "Amadeus" - that Mozart didn't even know how to put a big bang at the end of his work so that the audience would know it was finished....? Tolkien didn't go in for big bangs, the book has stood the test of time, and obviously an awful lot of people like it as it is.


Matthew Ryan I always took note of the fact that LOTR ended several chapters after the climax, but never ruminated about it much. Still loved the story. I don't think the same would work in the movie. Too much stuff happened involving Saruman to fit into into a nice rounded ending for the movie. I wasn't big on Jackson's ending when I first saw it, but the more I think about it, the more I think it was the right way to go. I'm still looking forward to seeing The Hobbit, but am wary of 3 movies.


Davytron Tony wrote: "Exhibit A: The Hobbit - the natural dramatic ending, the cinematic denoument, is the slaying of the dragon. So, instead, the silly old sausage delivers a further 3rd of a book about arguing dwarves..."

HAHA I remember being super impatient for the end to come after the ring was destroyed but I actually liked what transpired in the shire afterward. The whole book was a bit meandering though so I wasn't particularly surprised when the end also took its sweet time to arrive.


Mecha Bri-Zilla Books and movies are different art forms. The LoTR movies are good, as movies. To try to make them exactly the same as the books would have been a mistake. That said, to judge a book the way you would a movie is equally silly. No two art forms are good at exactly the same things. That's why we don't just cultivate one form of art.


Bailey Reece Quite frankly, i was pissed off when the towmsmen slayed the dragon. Wasn't that thw whole point of the story and the ONLY line of suspense? That Bilbo would have to face the dragon??? Don't get me wrong, it was a good book, b ut i think the ending was a bit muddled...


message 25: by Chris (last edited Oct 19, 2012 06:37AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Chris Baileyrlee wrote: "Quite frankly, i was pissed off when the towmsmen slayed the dragon. Wasn't that thw whole point of the story and the ONLY line of suspense? That Bilbo would have to face the dragon??? ..."

I'm not sure that this was "the whole point of the story" as far as Tolkien was concerned, inasmuch as he had any "whole point" clear in his mind when he started. The culmination of the story as we have it now seems to be that Bilbo takes personal responsibility, not by killing the dragon (with whom he's just had a verbal joust with) but by showing the maturity to end conflict in the Battle of the Five Armies by using the Arkenstone in a bit of private diplomacy.

In LOTR Tolkien similarly doesn't have Frodo confront Sauron directly, instead it is his compassion for Gollum that allows Gollum to be the ultimate cause of Sauron's downfall when Frodo falls at the final hurdle.

In Beowulf, the hero does kill the dragon but dies in the attempt, leaving Wiglaf to rule in his stead. If you saw Bilbo as a Beowulf figure he would surely have to die. The other famous dragon-slayer of Northern saga, Sigurd (or Siegfried), has a rather different future, but is also rather a different character from Bilbo, who is portrayed as a reluctant hero rather than a warrior. It's much more in keeping with the nature of the old Northern sagas (Tolkien's models, of course) that it is Bard the Bowman who kills Smaug; after all he is the heir of the last king of Dale and therefore of noble blood, while Bilbo is only a kind of Everyman in Middle Earth. It mayn't sound very democratic for our 21st century, but JRRT wasn't concerned with that at all, just ordinary people's ability to effect change when it is needed.


message 26: by Kaeri (last edited Oct 19, 2012 06:45AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kaeri Chris wrote: "Thank God that there are others who have a glimmer of understand of Tolkien's genius. The Scouring of the Shire IS the climax of the story, for that is why we go on quests, to come home and apply ..."

I agree. I thought that Shire part at the end was necessary. In the beginning, Frodo and his friends were just humble hobbits who just went with the flow and were content with the easy life. I felt that the Scouring of the Shire was a pivotal moment for our little masters. That chapter showed the amalgamation of their journey, the strength of their characters, the fruits of all of their hardships throughout middle earth... how much they've grown as individuals who were now more than capable of standing up for themselves. It was a beautiful and justified ending.


Wendy H wrote: "What is the purpose of Tom Bombadil? He exists to tell part of our story: there are people and things that are there just for their purpose."

Yes, exactly. And he and Goldberry also served to point out that the fight against Sauron isn't everyone's fight. There are people who are unconcerned one way or another--the same as in the real world.

If things got out of hand and started to affect them, perhaps they would've taken up arms, or moved elsewhere, but in the meantime the most involved they care to get is offering the hobbits a place to stay for a while and some food and advice--no direct involvement. That's just like real life, where just because these two countries over here are fighting doesn't mean that country over there cares enough to get involved.


Ali He knew how to end it perfectly. I love J.R.R Tolkien.
It has a point. It's MIDDLE FREAKING EARTH! DUH! Besides, there had to be a closer and a way to set things right in the end.


Carina I always liked the ending of these books because they showed you what happens after. So many books finish at the end of the big battle and leave you wondering how the characters live and how their lives have changed. These books don't leave you in suspense - perhaps you prefer to make up your own ending (and sometimes I agree) but it is nice to see how the author thinks they all live.


Ali Yes.
I love him.


Trevor I see how someone could find the ending to taper off unnecessarily, but I think the reason why is simple. Tolkien didn't just write books; he created WORLDS. When you consider that he was just a reporter, documenting the events of middle-earth as he experienced them, the meandering endings truly gain a satisfaction of their own.


Ladysw (Sara) H wrote: "But see, that is why Middle Earth is compelling: because it is so much like Earth-earth...things in this world don't end when the dragon is slain, and there are mysteries in our world that no one e..."

Thank you for respecting Tom Bombadil! I liked your post :)


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