Evening Standard Online
April 4, 2000
It Could Become a Nasty Hobbit
One of J.R.R. Tolkien's sons married a Canadian. When this
young woman's parents met the great author, they confided: "Somehow, we couldn't get
along with The Lord of the Rings -- we couldn't identify with any of the characters."
Since most of the characters are hobbits, dwarfs, wizards and
elves, it was perhaps not surprising. Clearly, that is what is expected of literature
nowadays. Those of us who can't identify with Odysseus or Achilles will not bother our
heads over Homer.
The screen version of Lord of the Rings, which one can tell
in advance will be excruciatingly bad, is trying to increase the female interest of the
tale. Cate Blanchett is playing the Elven queen Galadriel, and Liv Tyler the beautiful
Arwen -- both pretty minor roles in Tolkien's epic, but evidently the film's director and
distributors believe the public won't be interested in the story Tolkien actually wrote.
Perhaps these things don't matter, but those of us who admire
Tolkien will feel rather sad. If I were a multi-millionaire, I'd commission a film of
Tolkien's The Silmarillion, which is largely about disembodied angels and which contains
some of his best work.
The Lord of the Rings is one of the greatest pieces of
narrative ever conceived by a human imagination. Are we really so limited in our
sympathies that we don't want the film version of Lord of the Rings to reflect its great
original and would rather have some stupid Yankee version?
If this is our attitude, why not inject some gay interest
into the story, lest it make the homosexual community feel excluded?