July 9, 2001

Essay Response to Casting Debate
The RingGirl

(Read at your own risk!)

We all have a wonderful privilege within this site to express our praises, concerns, and comments concerning this extraordinary work and it's ambitious production. We can certainly feel free to agree or object to other readers' submissions. I would like to add that I have enough respect for readers' opinions, though they may differ from mine, that I will make an attempt not to condemn any points made. I think the arguments are valid, and what makes this such a good site is that the floor is always open. Hopefully we can read and respond to one another in a spirit that does not take undue advantage of it.

First and foremost, to those that may remember the debate that my post generated a few weeks ago, I can offer a few points. In regards to my alleged condemnation of the entire casting of Peter Jackson's film, perhaps I was unclear on this issue, as I touched only on the casting of certain characters: Frodo, Arwen, Aragorn, Eowyn, and the hobbits in the general sense. I don't recall that I condemned any other casting decision, though this was the implication in many of the responses to my comment. I want to clarify that I think much of the casting is outstanding; I am sort of at a loss to understand how I was reputed to have condemned its entirety, though that may be my oversight. But nevertheless, Elijah Wood, as I mentioned, will probably do as well a job as any actor could. I think he is a very gifted actor, capable of portraying the depth of Frodo's character as well, and more than likely, better than most actors of his age group (perhaps beyond it as well). My concern was only that--any one may dis

But enough there; I want to clarify my points concerning hobbits, as it seems when I submitted my reply to the forum, a considerable portion of it was cut off, the reasons being unknown to me, and it remains, as it has been posted, incomplete.

It should be pointed out, before any more is said, that in figure drawing, human height has a proportion of about 6 or 7 heads, (more for heroic proportions) if I recall my illustration days correctly. The computer-shrunken hobbits retain this head-to-body ratio, though they are cut down to half human height. The problem with this is that, theoretically, they lose matter not only in height, but in girth--if one adheres to simple geometry--and logically, in overall force and strength as well. Reading J. B. S. Haldane's classic essay "On Being the Right Height," conveys a sense of how retaining proportion while shrinking or growing, while the atmospheric and gravitational conditions remain the same, would have considerable repercussions for the individuals in question. In other words, a man whose height is doubled (x 2) increases mass in one dimension, which means that his width must also double, enlarging his mass in two dimensions (x 4), and in turn, his volume (and weight) would also enlarge, increasing

The Brothers Hildebrandt, immensely popular for their artistic presentations of Tolkien's world, treat the hobbits in this manner. Their proportions are very close to those of children (Greg Hildebrandt's son Gregory actually served as a model for the hobbits!) with large heads, and the added element of larger, adult-like hands and feet, conveying sturdiness and strength, as well as somewhat mature facial features, less like those of a child. This is much in keeping with Beregond's statement that Pippin looked "almost" like a child, and Bergil's understandable mistake in assuming Pippin was no more than a boy close to his age, until he gets a better, closer, look at his face. Hildebrandt art has been incredibly successful over the last twenty-five or so years, and Tolkien art almost can't be discussed without references to it. I feel the reason for this is that many people subconsciously perceive that this art has somehow faithfully recreated Tolkien's world, at least in great part. Even if one doesn't ca

I was challenged in one reader's response, perhaps one of the most vehement, as to whether I had even read Tolkien's work or seen any of Tolkien's drawings. I must say that yes, I have read Tolkien's works--I teach his literature in fact--and have studied his art as well. The one piece that readily comes to mind is The Hall at Bag-End, which is one of the few Tolkien artworks that shows hobbits, men, dwarves, elves--anything other than landscape and abstract design. In The Hall at Bag-End, Bilbo is shown smoking his pipe near his front door. His proportions are much like those the Hildebrandts employ. Bilbo has a large head, broader girth, short legs, and if it weren't for his adult facial features, much like those of a forty or so-year-old (hobbit-years being less taxing than man-years), his form might be mistaken for that of a child's. I will assume Tolkien portrayed his hobbit as he intended for him to be envisioned, as is evidenced by Priscilla's support of Bakshi's hobbits (they greatly resemble th

Because of the matters discussed above, I expressed concern over the figures in the second trailor. The proportions seemed wrong to me, and the hobbits did not look right. I don't make the assumption that this was the case for all who saw the trailor. That is the beauty of this site: we can freely comment on our views and hopefully not be crucified for doing so. Perhaps my comments seemed unsupported and incomplete, as someone charged, because my full response was cut from the final posting, ending oddly, in one paragraph, on the word "makes," which was not how I submitted it. The point I was going to make was that the enormous efforts being made with the movie, shrinking the hobbits and all, "makes. . ." me wonder why they did not use "little people" for the roles of the hobbits. Certainly no one has to agree with my view, but I think the use of actual "little folk" would have been easier, less expensive, and resulted in a more convincing outcome, closer to Tolkien's vision. Judging by the responses

And then there is consistency. Even if I am wrong in my view that hobbits are not scaled-down humans, and that might certainly be the case, the technology employed in Peter Jackson's production is such that it is inconsistent. In one scene (the second trailor), the hobbits are scaled-down humans with small heads, hands, and feet; in another, they become child-like, with broader girths, large heads, hands and feet. In many of the scenes where the hobbits are shown from behind, they take on something like child-like proportions (their heads are large--in proportion with full-sized characters' heads), and I will assume, perhaps presumptuously, that they are being played by children, midgets, or bless me! the actual actors on their knees. The scene in which Arwen rescues Frodo from the Ford has her clutching a dummy, with Frodo's features, and a head sized in proportion to hers, which would discount the scaled-down human theory. These inconsistencies may be unnoticeable to some, and that is well by all mea

While I have great respect for the effort that is being made to produce a movie that will recreate, as well as it can, Tolkien's impossibly detailed world, I still have to question why the difficult path--and the one with more inconsistencies in the final result--is being taken. I must conclude that it is because it is believed Elijah Wood has more popular appeal than a four-foot tall nobody, and perhaps this is true. But then when Tolkien set out to create a world in which a four-foot person, a "little folk" was the hero, he met with some criticism from publishers and perhaps reviewers as well. Most people are doubtful of things that are not tried and true. A production of The Lord of the Rings that went full out with that daring, original spirit of Tolkien would be a wonder to see. But as is the case, people with such outlandish ideas are generally scoffed at; that is the nature of humanity. Still, my utmost admiration and respect to the one who may someday try! These are only my opinions and observati

At last, my comments on Viggo Mortensen were in regards to his appearance only; he may certainly be an outstanding actor, but as I stated, his looks are too typically smooth for my view of Aragorn.  I agree that Aragorn, being of a race of kings, should have nobility of feature, but Mortensen has a more overt, flashy attractiveness--not that I say he is classically handsome by any means--than the grim nobility I envision in Aragorn. Someone commented that Mortensen looked grungy enough; I might agree to that. I can almost see him in a grunge band (he was married to punk band singer Exene Cervenka, in fact!), but he does not seem to fit the Aragorn described by Tolkien. Another reader mentioned Daniel Day Lewis would have made a satisfactory Aragorn; I tend to agree whole-heartedly, and I'm dismayed if he indeed turned down the role! Daniel Day Lewis seems to possess the same solemn, grim nobility--with a certain subtly--that Mortensen, with his more obvious, high, "leading man" cheekbones, chiseled jaw, a

Perhaps the most important point I would like to make is that if any one of us has a concern or objection to Peter Jackson's production, it does not necessarily mean we are condemning the entire presentation. Debates are not always so black and white, and I am sure that the current production will yield some amazing results. Perhaps that is one reasons why I feel some of the concerns I do about inconsistencies in casting or special effects: the movie does promise to present a world full of wonder and amazement such as has never been seen. I see it much like asking for a long sought-after gift, perhaps a new car as a birthday-present, and actually receiving it, but then finding a few scratches in the paint; it's maybe just a bit deflating. Many people will likely never see or notice the scratches, but when they catch the light just right every once in a while, a few of us may confront them all too fully. Still, if I have not been clear enough, I will restate that I don't condemn the movie or casting as a

And on a final note, using the words of my reproachers, if my critical view on the inconsistencies of hobbit stature in Peter Jackson's film has somehow earned me the title of "criminally insane," then "criminally insane" I must be. And if the voicing of opinions that may differ from others has earned the label of "stupidity," then "stupidity" it must be. And if my audacity to express concern over a work that Tolkien himself might have expressed, and indeed whose posterity certainly has expressed--in some degree of wisdom and respect for their progenitor--if such audacity I bear should indeed make one want to "vomit," then sadly, one must "vomit." It is my hope that I might look for the better, and that I might read and respect the intelligence and difference of opinion readily available from the many unique views on this site.