©2003 A.D. Sullivan
|Princess in Ice|
|A great crusade|
|A small objection|
|Sam Gamgee's Dream: Part Two|
Princess in Ice
(from "The Trouble with Dragons" by Al Sullivan)
Long after Ala-Loth's name was known
And civil deeds writ in stone
There fell to him a most dreadful bane
Which set into him an endless pain
His gaze from his poor queen fell
To a common wench from a local dell
Who took the curse from goddess Thula's hand
And died while bearing his child grand
A beauty queen like the highlands had
Whose pearly gaze drove men mad
The enchanter seeing the child he'd wrought
Swore to keep her from being sought
By the thousand princes who ruled the world
And thousands spears against him hurled
For many would seek to dethrone him
Through the promise of his daughter's sin
So to the tower of Aio-Dain
He retreated with his new-born dame
And kept her there till her hair grew long
And her beauty grew in a thousand songs
But even then, the princes came
Giving voice to her splendor name
"la Lamith -- la Lamith, give us your hand,
Come away with us to our own land."
But neither bribes nor curses budged the knights
But they and spells gave only brief respite
For as soon as one prince on his way went
Another arrived with his mind same bent
A greater spell needed to be found
To keep at bay these lusting hounds
And best upon the sacred scripts
The enchanter weaved from his finger tips
Words of spells risen from dust
That would seal her from princes' lusts
A block of ice around her formed
As clear and bright as a new morn
Where in her beauty was beheld
By princes whose hearts had swelled
Then hid away in a deep dark cave
Where none may see her beauty save
The father, enchanter, man of spells
Whose heart was like the other he felled
A block of ice that would never melt
Or break upon the vice of other spells
But time and battles upon him wore
And came a year when he came no more
And the cave in which this beauty held
Into the sweet of forgetting fell
Wars of Enchantment would not be denied
Enchanters and princes, crumbled and died
Towers felt flames, kingdoms felt ruin
Crawled into the cave a knight with great wound
From haze of hurt he saw this queen
Mumbling of ghosts and visions seen
"This cannot be real, the pain fools my eyes,"
but there she stood, a beauty in ice
They say love struck his heart at last
Though he'd resisted such in the past
He left with vows to return someday
And free the queen of her peril of hate
They say this was part of the curse
Goddess Thula issued of her purse
All who saw this queen in ice
Fall into folly, fortune and vice
But few could recollect this knight
Or the virtues sending him back to fight
Love brought him back to that cave
To drink on the queen with his gaze
He came as king of all north lands
Earned with sword and kindness of hand
He brought back wizards of other such kind
But none could undo that foulest of crimes
He sent them away to do it himself
Leaving kingdom and riches for others to sell
"No kingdom is ripe without her as my bride,"
Many fair knight heard their king cry
And went riches to rags as he stayed and stared
As kingdoms around him fought for his wares
A hermit, a slave, a victim of love
Yet nothing to free her was ever enough
Then cursing the ice he cast a sharp stone
Which bounced from the wall to mar the ice throne
A cry of relief escaped his hurt soul
As he grabbed up his knife and chiseled a hole
Many years passed or so the old songs say
The old king labored to chisel away
Time was nothing for a man so possessed
Inch by inch fell that long ice dress
Till a woman of flesh he warmly embraced
She smiled at last free from disgrace
But Thula was wicked in her hatred of men
Back snapped the ice encompassing them
And through it is forgotten and lost once more
It is said they still stand in a love that endures.
A Great Crusade
by Al Sullivan
You can't argue with the popularity of the latest Lord of the Rings movie: The Two Towers.
While stripped of the majority of the book's multi-cultural layering, the film manages to capture the power and violence of the books in ways few previous efforts managed.
The Two Towers is the second in a series of three films that attempts the monumental task of translating the most popular fantasy in history to the screen. While film-maker Peter Jackson is hardly as scrupulous in converting the novel to film as many critics claim, his presentation goes a long way to presenting an extremely complex fantasy world to the general public.
As in the first film in the series, Fellowship of the Ring, Jackson continued to introduce the public to unfamiliar fantasy characters such as hobbits, ents, orcs and wargs as if everyday people and introduce variations on classic fairy tale characters such as elves, dwarves and trolls. This film, too, managed to pick up where the first film left off without needing to explain to the audience – except through a series of film clips. The audience gets dumped into the middle of an action sequence that hardly slackens until the end of the film. Because this is the middle film in the series, which will conclude with Return of the King due for release in December, Jackson manages to satisfy audience expectations for a resolution without taking away from the anticipation of what the final film will bring. Three films encompass a tale of good vs. evil in which forces for good have stumbled into possession of evil's most powerful weapon: the ring of power. The three volumes depict the efforts of the good forces to destroy the ring and avoid the temptation of using it as a weapon for the own side.
Jackson's dedication to the original books, however, is grossly over-rated. As in plays written by Shakespeare, interpretations of the books' author J.R.R. Tolkien provides a relatively easy road map for translation to film – provided you stick to his scripting. The first two Jackson films largely succeed where they follow the original tale and fail where they do not – with one important exception.
In shifting some of the structure of the films that shifts focus between two sets of heroes, Jackson's films maintains tension as well as clarity of time the original books lacked. The film flashes back and forth between two vital conflicts that of the film's principle warrior Aragorn (played by Viggo Mortensen) in his effort to rescue two hobbits kidnapped at the end of the previous film. This inevitably leads to a massive battle of armies as evil forces lay siege to a fortress defended for forces for good. Jackson's film frequently flashes back to the second important thread begun at the end of the first film in which the hobbits, Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) struggle to find a path to the volcano into which they must throw the ring.
Jackson, however, took other liberties with the original tale that worked less well or not at all – simplifying sections so as not to confuse readers in some cases, while in other cases he even added scenes not in the original tale.
One necessary change in these films was in the places where each began and ended. Because Tolkien's books often left much unresolved as a matter of hooking readers into continuing onto the next book, Jackson was forced to alter the films in order to provide the films -- being released a year apart -- with some resolution, while still maintaining the tension for the next film.
While this is likely the best version of the Tolkien's books we'll ever see on film, the films are extremely flawed in the fact that they emphasis Jackson views, not Tolkien's.
The small changes include some of the events at Helms deep, where you might be surprised at the arrival of elf warriors that did not show up in the book. The fact is in the book Aragorn's tribe from the north had come to give him aid. This added complexity might have confused movie viewers so Jackson altered them.
Jackson may have also felt a bit of guilt over stripping the Hobbits of key decision-making moments in the first movie so as to alter the plot of the second movie to give them more significance. In the book the ents did not need the hobbits to convince them to go to war, the ents talked themselves into it.
The Aragorn love scene with the elf queen was never in the actual texts of the three books, but in the appendix of the third book. This gives it a legitimacy other changes lack, such as the movie's dramatic moment when Aragorn falls off a cliff -- a scene that did not occur in the original test, and for the most part wasted valuable time that could have been dedicated to other, better uses.
By installing the extraneous misguided kidnapping of Frodo by another of the film's heroes, Jackson managed to gut one of the most meaningful and moving scenes in the books. This amounted to a significant change of emphasis. The most radical change involved Faramir, who directed that Frodo and Sam be sent back to his father with the ring in the movie, but in the book trusted them and sent them on their way.
Faramir -- a kind of Robin Hood character -- represents a particular kind of enlightened hero in Tolkien's work. His character, educated in the art of war as well as culture, was supposed to compare favorably against the brutality and force of his brother, who sought to take the ring from Frodo by force. Jackson saw no distinction between the two characters and opted for a cheap plot device instead, having Faramir act exactly like his brother.
Jackson also stripped the film of all but a passing reference to music or poetry, huge elements used in the books to define various cultures. This is the most significant loss. While Jackson boasts of maintaining the culture of the books, he retained only the use of various languages. But each character could have been talking gibberish for all it added to the viewer's understanding of the deep tradition each species possessed. Where was the elevated singing of the Elves in Rivendell or Lorien? The mine-digging songs in Moria? The riding songs across the Mark? Even the drinking songs of the Shire? Even an overlay of such during transition scenes would have helped. Jackson also left out the echo of historic events these songs added to the plot of the main story. We get no music, no art no history in any of the films. For these aspects, avid fans will have to seek out the books.
More disturbing was the more subtle shift in philosophy, giving The Two Towers a pro-war philosophy when Tolkien emphasized a more spiritual one.
Jackson is much more pro-war than Tolkien, and uses the films as propaganda. Tolkien always said fighting was futile and that the real war would be won by Frodo's sacrifice. But after Sept. 11., 2001, it was inevitable that the films would take on the pro-war fervor. Jackson comes from a very macho culture, and that is reflected in the films. Throughout The Two Towers, Jackson expounds on the need for heroes to fight against evil, when Tolkien – shocked by the horrors of World War I in which he fought – emphasized the need for self-sacrifice.
Jackson's greatest success in The Two Towers, however, was in his ability to bring to the screen one of literature's greatest characters, and thus producing what will likely become an Oscar-winning performance.
Gollum (sometimes called Sméagol) is a hobbit-like creature perverted to evil by long-possession of the evil ring. The book and film use this character to show how fair treatment and faith can restore even the vilest of creatures while mistrust can drive such a character into doing foul deeds.
Gollum (played by actor Andy Serkis and altered by animation) steals the show and viewers' hearts in a way few roles since "Trainman." This twisted character evokes disgust as well as sympathy, and Serkis' performance is so moving that you can feel his pain and experience his madness, as two sides of his character struggle with the choice between doing good or falling back into evil ways.
For this performance alone, The Two Towers should be seen. Despite the film's deviations from the original story, The Two Towers, with its hours of battle scenes, is among the best action flicks of the season, and perhaps one of the most visually compelling.
An objection to SPR's review of the first film
I wish to complement you on your review of the lord of the rings. How ever I have found a number of your conclusions to be short sighted and in my humble opinion wrong. The Hobbits still have to make important decisions Frodo did not ask permission of Strider to leave and Strider did not give permission he simply reinforced a decision that Frodo had already made. Pippin and Mary decided to lead the orcs away from Frodo this was a heroic decision as they thought they were alone and more than likely going to die. The decisions that the Hobbits make through out the film are important and heroic even at the council and Rivendell Frodo made the decision to go, Sam made the decision to go, Pipin and Mary also made the decision to go. They knew what they were doing and the danger they were going into that it wasn't going to be just a walk in the park.
Your summation on the culture that Peter Jackson comes from is something that only someone who has never heard of New Zealand could say, we are (Yes I come from New Zealand) a multi cultural society, the native people in New Zealand are called Maori we live together in harmony, although I will admit there are a few problems that we are trying to sort through but I believe that of any country in the world NZ is one of the best if not the best when it comes to racial relations with an indigenous people. Because of our place in the pacific region we have multi pacific peoples living in NZ as well as a very strong Asian community through out NZ. The face paint that you mention as coming from Australia and NZ is so wrong that I laughed at your ignorance in this matter. The Maori of NZ did not paint their faces, the warriors of their people were tattooed with full face tattoos and the woman had what is called a 'moko' a tattoo under the lips to the chin.
You seem to be implying that any coloured people are treated as inferior and the white races are masters I personally find this degrading to all NZers. There is a culture in the USA that sees everything as a black or white issue very often, in general because of our country and our society that we have this is not true of us. I will be the first to admit that there are exceptions to this rule as with most types of rules.
Middle Earth is meant to be a myth of English history and as such I think that you are trying to place your own mores and culture on a English tale.
From the comments that you made I don't know if we even saw the same movie. Where I saw strength you saw weakness, where I saw a beautiful people you saw a white master race, where I saw a movie that kept remarkably close to the book in an exciting way you saw wasted time and yet with your next breath you condemn Peter Jackson for being to war like and not having enough poetry when today's culture supposedly doesn't have enough intelligence or patience to listen to it. It also seems to me that Peter tried to include the poetry and songs and culture of all the peoples in the visuals of there building and cities after all it is a movies something that we look at with our eyes.
These are just a few thoughts that I had while reading your review and since I am sure that you will be writing another one I hope that you can take some of the things that I have said even if you disagree.
-- Michael Housiaux
Sam Gamgee's Dream (Part Two): The long and winding road
by Sam Gamgee
click here for Part One
It wasa fine night, despite the cool, and the sky would be a fair black with plenty of stars. I sniffed the air and shivered, and lost some of the pain Rosey had left with me.
"Off again on the road and with elves,'' I said. "You know that's something I've wanted since -- well, since Mr. Frodo's went off on those ships. If only he were back and Mr. Gandalf with him. Then I'd call this a very fair night indeed.''
And then it came to me. I don't remember exactly if I remembered it from some old day with Mr. Bilbo or Frodo, or made it up on the spot like I did some silly troll songs in the Green Dragon Inn.
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began,
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet,
And whither then? I cannot say.
"I can't say as I like the sound of that, Mr. Sam,'' Sancho told me. "It sounds way too much like an adventure for my tastes.''
"It's only a song,'' I said, though knew it was more, it was something from that other time, as if I was walking back through the years, not just to the time when Mr. Bilbo had his party, but through all the ages before that, when Hobbits -- as Gandalf said -- came from the east to settle over the Brandywine, and before maybe there were hobbits at all, when mountains were young and Ents like Mr. Pippin's Tree Beard walked all over these woods and the old woods and the woods that no longer grew up north.
"We must go,'' the elf said.
"Yes,'' I said, and followed behind, going around the garden and down the sloping path. We jumped over a low place in the hedge at the bottom and took to the meadows, passing into the growing night like wraiths.
At the bottom of the hill on its western side, we came to the gate. It opened onto a narrow lane. Here, we stopped. The straps to my bag cut into my shoulder, reminding me all too painfully of those days in Ithian with Frodo -- and Stinker. A sudden pang struck me as I recalled the conies we'd eaten there in those gentle woods. With the sunlight gone now and the stars twinkling over head, it felt almost as if I could shut my eyes and go back to that time or any other time I chose.
For one painful moment, I wanted to see old Mr. Frodo's face again, stirring from sleep as I shook him, and see the grateful look in his eyes when I told him about the rabbit's.
"Hullo Sam!'' he said to me. "Not resting? Is anything wrong? What's the time?''
"About a couple hours after daybreak,'' I said, "and nigh on half-past eight by Shire clocks, maybe. But nothing's wrong. Though it ain't what I'd call right: no stock, no onions, no tatters. I've got a bit of a stew for you, and some broth, Mr. Frodo. Do you good. You'll have to sup it in your mug; or straight from the pan, when it's cooled a bit. I haven't brought no bowls, nor nothing proper.''
But the vision faded back into the darkness as the Elf coughed gently in the darkness and Sancho tugged at my sleeve.
"What ya standing there staring for, Mr. Sam?'' he asked.
I shook my head. "No reason, Sancho,'' I said. "Let's go while we still have a mind to.''
And then, something odd hit me, like a cold wind striking the back of my head. My next step wasn't just one down the lane, but through some kind of door in the darkness. I can't rightly explain it any better than that, and when I glanced over my shoulder, I saw a darkened Bag End and Bagshot Row that didn't entirely look right. I scratched my head trying to sort it out, but couldn't for the life of me spot where the last battle had been, that place along the lane where the Hobbits had met the ruffians and freed Hobbiton from Sharky's grasp. I couldn't see any of the new holes we'd dug in the south side of the hill after that battle. And what was even odder as the fact that I saw houses where there shouldn't have been houses, houses that had been knocked down by Sharky's ruffians and never replaced. And even more puzzling was the lane itself where an avenue of trees now stood, looking just like the ones I had seen there when I worked with my gaffer here, cut down since during that time we went away, and planted with trees not so nearly as good. And bless me if my sleepy eyes didn't catch sight of the Old Mill, that great red building that had stood here for generations before I'd been born and would have stood for generations long after if not for Sharky. I had to rub my eyes, by which time it was too dark to see anything but the bright starts coming out and the edge of the quarter moon on the horizon.
Sam Gamgee, you're dreaming again. Lucky for you the Old Gaffer didn't catch you at it, dreaming up things as they were, instead of as they are.
I turned and followed the elf who'd already started down the lane, and for a short way, we followed the lane westwards, two stumpy hobbits trying to keep pace with the long shanks of the limber elf.
"Slow down,'' I said. "We can't keep up with you. What's your name? Are you one of Legolas' people from the Mirkwood?''
"My name is Ferigen,'' the elf said softly. "My line is related to those of the great northern woods, though my people have long passed out of that land. We lived in the north for a time, just this side of the Misty Mountains. But that time has passed. Things fade around us now that the rings have passed from this world.''
"But won't you sail from the havens?'' I asked.
The elf turned, his elongated face and features taking on as sad expression as I ever saw on an elf. "My people do not sail,'' he said. "We are of the line that will fade away.''
"I'm sorry,'' I said and was, again feeling the pang I felt many times since we'd come from Mordor, once just after seeing Treebeard at the Orthanic when Strider and his queen left us, again when me, Mr. Frodo, Gandalf, Pippin and Merry left Rivendell -- knowing I wasn't likely to see any of those fair people again.
Then, somewhat down the path, I paused at a break in the shrubbery.
"This way,'' I said.
"But that's not the road to Woodhall,'' Sancho complained, glancing at the dark land beyond the shrub. It wasn't likely he'd ever walked in a meadow without a firm path beneath his hairy feet.
"We're not taking the road,'' I said. "At least not one that you'd take normally. This is the way we went that first time and I've sort of got a hankering to take it again.''
The elf said nothing and followed as I climbed the bank and into the fields. We went in single-file along the hedgerows and the boarders of coppices, and the night fell heavily around us. In our dark cloaks we all looked invisible, as if each of us had a magic ring like Bilbo's and Frodo's and the dark lord who fell when it fell in Mordor, and in the darkness we traveled silently so that few living creatures took note of us as we passed.
After some timewe crossed the Water, west of Hobbiton, by a narrow plank bridge that echoed under mine and Sancho's footsteps, but didn't even whisper under Ferigen's. He might have been the wind blowing across it for all the sound he made, and he reminded me more and more of Legalas, and of the time Legalas walked over the top of snow when we got stuck up near Red Horn Gate.
"Let ploughman plough," he told us when we huddled against the snow and cold, with even old Gandalf at a loss for how to rescue us. If Boromir hadn't thought to bring wood, we might have froze to death long before that. "But choose an otter for swimming, and for running light over grass and leaf, or over snow -- an elf."
Sancho paused half way across the bridge and stuck his pug nose over the side, sniffing at the moving water which was to us nothing more than a black ribbon, bordered with leaning alder trees. Poor Sancho didn't like leaving his familiar haunts any more than old Fredigar did when Frodo made to go away, sniffing at the water and air as if he wasn't ever going to smell either of them again.
"Come on," I told him and pulled him along by the arm, sensing the elf's impatience as he waited for us at the edge of the bridge, him leading us now though I had selected the path, as if the elf could read the track of Bilbo when he left this way after the Great Birthday party, or Frodo with me and Pippin before we found out about the Black Riders. The air stirred in the same way as both those nights and now I wasn't so sure Rosey wasn't right, and wanted to turn right back and go home, close and lock the door, and forget everything about Gildor and Ferigen and their summons from the woods.
What do they need me for anyway, I wondered? Didn't me and Frodo do everything that they needed to be done? Unless they got some new rings in their pockets, or had us throw away the wrong one. But then, if that was the case, Old Gandalf wouldn't have taken off the way he did, bless the tip of his white beard. How I miss them all, but not enough to get myself mixed up in more wizardly affairs. I'm not as smart as Frodo or wise as Bilbo. Sam Gamgee, just what are you sticking your foot into this time?
But I kept walking, picking up my pace when Ferigen started off again, urging Sancho on, though the poor hobbit's legs weren't used to this the way mine were, nor was he used to wandering out beyond his own den at night. A mile or two further south, we crossed the Great Road that ran here from the Brandywine Bridge. We now walked in Took land, and I wondered if we'd run into Pippin anywhere along the way, though talk has it he has his eye on young Diamond of Long Cleeve, and spends as much time up in those parts as he does in his own part of the shire. Who can blame him? If Rosey lived on the moon, I'd go there to see her. As much as I loved old Mr. Frodo, and older Mr. Bilbo before him, Rosey's won my heart. She's got magic in her heart that the fair lady from Lothlorian never dreamed of, and I could no more leave Rosey's side than stinker could have given up that ring, falling with it to his doom.
Now doesn't that give me a chill. As if I could ever forget that moment, him and Mr. Frodo dancing on the edge of that great fire, fighting for the ring -- Mr. Frodo invisible and all, and me, standing around like a lump, wondering what on earth I could do, and with that cavern filled all with red and heat, and I saw Stinker's long hands draw up towards his mouth, his white fangs gleaming as he snapped down. And I heard Mr. Frodo give a cry, and saw him pop out of nowhere, fallen on his knees, right at that chasm's edge, hand bleeding from his missing finger.
And Stinker, dancing like a mad thing, holding up that terrible ring-- Frodo's finger still thrust inside it, bleeding. And how that ring shone as if was made of fire and all.
"Precious, Precious, Precious," Stinker cried. "My Precious! O my Precious!"
And just like that fell over the edge into the fire, refusing even at the end to let that ring go, though he might have caught the ledge.
We bent southeastwards and made for Green Hill Country.
"When we gonna stop, Mr. Sam?" Sancho asked, hobbling now as if he'd gotten nail in his foot, halting, complaining, then hurrying to catch up. "When we gonna stop. I don't mean to complain or nothing, but my feet hurt. I've stood on them all day working the garden and all and I don't think I could walk a lot more tonight, if you get my meaning, Mr. Sam. I'd just as well stop at the Green Dragon, or the Dew Drop Inn, and lay down in some soft bed."
"We're not sleeping in an Inn tonight," I told him, and saw his face grow pale, painting partly by the quarter moon that had just risen in the east.
"You mean we're not going to stop at all? Just keep walking on and on until we get to Woodhall?"
"If we were elves we could," I said. "But I meant we'll likely sleep out under the stars tonight, and probably all the nights we're out here."
"Out in the open?" Sancho said, with such an expression of horror that his wide eyes reflected the moon as well. "You can't mean that, Mr. Sam, right out in the open, with no walls or cave? Out here, where anything and everything can get at us? Oh, my, oh, my, Old granddad Otto would have a thing or two to say about that, he would, and wouldn't like it one bit, thinking that we'd be taking off like that crazy Mr. Bilbo -- I don't mean no mind saying that, Mr. Sam, but that's how old Otto Proudfoot, my granddad would put it, saying that we shouldn't be out in the woods at night when there's food and drink at home for us."
"Well, old Otto's warm enough I'm sure and well fed enough," I said. "But we're sleeping under the stars tonight, no matter what he'd think about it."
Maybe I felt as bad about it as he did, the air suddenly growing chilly the way it did over that hole in Moria, when Mr. Pippin dropped the stone down into the well. As we climbed out of the valley, the air grew odder and I felt as if I was leaving something very important behind me. On the slope, we stopped and looked back and saw the lamps of Hobbiton far off twinkling in the gentle valley of the Water. Then at the urging of Ferigen, we hurried on, slipping into the folds of the darkened land. After a while, the lights vanished and so did the Bywater beside its grey pool, and when the last light of the last farm was far behind, peeping at us from among the trees, I turned around -- just the way Frodo had a long, long time ago -- and waved.
"I wonder if I'll ever look down into that valley again," I said.
"You will if I have anything to say about it," Sancho muttered. "I'm not going tramping off with no elves if I can help it, and neither will you. Mr. Bilbo's dead or crazy, and Mr. Frodo's gone, too, taking with them all this talk about dragons, rings and adventures, hopefully."
I nodded, dumbly, knowing they had taken away more than I could bare for them to take, and I wondered if I'd ever see either of them again, or see the white beard of old Gandalf, or hear the song of high elves.
"Not yet," a little voice in me said.
And then, I stared towards Bagshot Row and was again struck by how altered it looked, or how it didn't look different when it should have, as if I was staring at a Hobbiton that I'd known when I was but knee high to old gaffer, the curve of the young trees poking their noses over the hill, and then I saw it, outlined against the star-cluttered sky, there where the mallorn tree should have been, was a younger version of what people once called "the Party Tree," after Bilbo's great party. This time, I rubbed my eyes real hard, but the vision didn't go away, and I said to myself: "Something downright queer's going on around him, Sam Gamgee, and I've got a feeling you're going to find out more than you want."
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