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McKellen: No Source of Morality in Hobbiton?

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Anybody catch Ian McKellen's spin on Middle Earth morality?:

"Although it's about good and evil, the concentration is all on good people," McKellen said. "We never see the villain. Sauron is just an eye; he's a notion; he's a threat, a force . . . .

"I think people respond to that. I think they like perhaps the idea of a fellowship of good people. Not being told by any church leaders what's right or wrong. There's no church in Hobbiton, no source of morality. It's all within yourself and the people you associate with. So maybe that's the appeal. But who can say? Maybe people just like looking at wonderful pictures."

From the Sunday Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/art...leisurearts-hed

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"the concentration is all on good people...We never see the villain. Sauron is just an eye; he's a notion; he's a threat, a force..."

Tolkien spoilers

The element of truth here is that Tolkien doesn't develop the one most entirely evil figure, Sauron, into a character. But it's ridiculous to look at Saruman, Wormtongue, and Gollum, and say "the concentration is all on good people." Saruman and Wormtongue are just plain evil, and Gollum is mostly evil, and finally succumbs entirely to evil. Even with Frodo, as with Boromir, when finally put to the ultimate test they ultimately succumb to evil, though both are spared the consequences of their failure and allowed to redeem themselves.

"Not being told by any church leaders what's right or wrong. There's no church in Hobbiton, no source of morality. It's all within yourself and the people you associate with. So maybe that's the appeal."

Yes, he spouted this same line at the junket. It's quite true that Tolkien deliberately avoided any hint of institutional religion in Middle-earth, in order to avoid colliding with the actual economy of salvation. But morality in Middle-earth isn't "within yourself." As Silmarillion readers know, it comes from Eru, the One, also known as Illuvatar, All-Father, who created the world. Sauron, the Evil One, is the disciple of Melkor, first of Eru's creatures to rebel. Evil in Middle-earth, and Sauron's evil in particular, is thus inextricably linked to rebellion against Eru.


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Yes, he spouted this same line at the junket.

But that's not surprising, it seems to me. Did anyone from the movie give any sense during the junket that they understood the religious underpinnings of the trilogy? If so, I'd be surprised. I don't know that any of the stars of the movie are Christians, or would be expected to understand the stories on anything more than a surface level.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Christian wrote:

Did
anyone
from the movie give any sense during the junket that they understood the religious underpinnings of the trilogy? If so, I'd be surprised. I don't know that any of the stars of the movie are Christians, or would be expected to understand the stories on anything more than a surface level.

The screenwriters were all aware of the faith issue, and there were a few perceptive comments. Here's an excerpt from my coverage of the junket; the full piece will be up Friday (I can't put it up before then as part of my deal with the Register).


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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I'm not surprised either. In fact, this comment of MacKellan's dovetails nicely with Davies comments quoted in another thread that show Davies to view the trilogy as an extended analysis of WWI and the need to stand against the threats to one's national and cultural values. I'm not sure that this is so off the mark. 1) Silmarillion was at least published long after the trilogy, and 2) folks not sharing Tolkein's values can hardly be expected in this day and age to trumpet those spiritual values or strain to notice them.


"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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