October 1, 2001
We Are All Hobbits Now
Hollywood, as we have heard, has been frantically airbrushing images of the World Trade Center out of its movie trailers and hastily reviewing all scripts. Bombs have to go, and airplane adventures, and anything mocking. Even a romantic comedy set in New York, Serendipity, directed by Peter Chelsom, has had its release postponed. The phrase "bad timing" is doubtless ricocheting through the canyons of Southern California.
Yet there is one film, set for release in December, that has such good timing it will almost certainly break box-office records. That would be The Fellowship of the Ring, the first film in director Peter Jackson's much-anticipated Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The mythic landscape of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy epic, where a coalition of hobbits, men, dwarves and elves battle the strengthening evil of Sauron in the land of Mordor, has amazing resonance in the aftermath of Sept. 11.
Indeed, when the towers fell in Manhattan, I immediately envisioned myself as a plump, pie-loving hobbit in the sunlit shire around Hobbiton, roused to unwelcome adventure by the spectres of darkness, who had finally crossed the bridge over the sparkling river Brandywine.
Canadians are very much like hobbits, I think, with our peaceable, good-hearted, sedentary lifestyles, our green fields and warm homes, our aversion to the distant drumbeats of war. We aren't supposed to smoke pipes, as hobbits do, and we don't have furred feet. But otherwise, the image is fitting, as is the sudden appearance of what Tolkien calls the "Black Riders," faceless wraiths who ride into the shire, their evil magnified by its totally unexpected presence in such a serene environment.
Men of homicidal intent inquiring politely after farmers' crop-dusters? What better mythic embodiment of such a sinister phenomenon than the Black Riders gliding through the shire?