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11/28/2003 Archived Entry: "Why that missing thing in "Return of the King" is so important"

THE OTHER DAY, BLOGGING ABOUT THE KEY ELEMENT BEING LEFT OUT OF "THE RETURN OF THE KING," I hadn't yet articulated, even to myself, why that missing thing mattered so much ... why there would always be a terrible hole in the story, a sense of incompleteness, because Jackson never filmed those scenes.

Minutes after I posted, Ian Rowan (the Frog Farmer) sent a short commentary he wrote months ago after learning about the missing piece. He nailed the sorrowful problem exactly.

To avoid tossing another spoiler in the face of readers who may not want to know, I put Ian's comments behind the "more" link.

On the Claire Files message boards, Loxosceles_Reclusa has started a thread by making an observation very similar to Ian's.


|From my favorite movie news site, Dark Horizons (www.darkhorizons.com), regarding news on the Lord of the Rings films:

"The Scouring IS NOT HAPPENING. There's been a bit of back and forth on this on the web, but PJ says it just didn't work for the film version. The scene in Galadriel's mirror in Fellowship is an homage to the Scouring, and that's all there'll be."

While I made the decision some time ago to avoid the film version solely because I don't want my own mental pictures Changed, I admit that I was tempted when my wife and friends (most of whom have read the books) said I might consider it worth my time and money. But the above has clinched it for me: The Scouring of the Shire is essential to the entire creation, because even as a young child with barely formed philosophical (or even political) opinions, I could sense that it was a tiny reflection of the larger whole; and as an anarchocapitalistic adult it is ever so much more crystalline clear. The seeming tiny evils in the Shire reflected the greater evils in the world around it, and while Sauron may have been a Hitleresque figure (to use a Godwinesque metaphor), the mean looks; the closed doors; the petty tyrants and thugs among the previously innocent hobbits once they learned of the tantalizing Greyface Government, all add up to an unmistakable picture, that anyone who has ever had a run-in with an authoritarian thug at any level will recognize:

"You're arrested for Gate-Breaking, and Tearing up of Rules, and Assaulting Gate-Keepers, and Trespassing, and Sleeping in Shire-Buildings without Leave, and Bribing Guards with Food."

"And what else?" said Frodo.

"That'll do to go on with," said the Shiriff-leader.

"I can add some more, if you'd like it," said Sam. "Calling your Chief Names, Wishing to punch his Pimply Face, and Thinking you Shirriffs look a lot of Tom-Fools."

The ruffians are driven out after a proper application of the citizen militia, and Samwise returns to his wife and daughter. And we heave a sigh of contentment with him, but it isn't altogether satisfied; we've seen the face of the enemy, and he is us, the "whores in a democracy" (which P.J. O'Rourke spoke of so eloquently in what I consider his magnum opus, and what should be given to all new immigrants for their civics textbook). The evil is vanquished, but only for now; and having seen how evil can spring from the smallest beginnings, we are left humbled and afraid.

It is a valuable lesson and a profoundly antistatist one; the literary equivalent of coming so close to a hot stove that one is left physically unharmed but emotionally shaken. The vivid portrayals of thuggery at a most human level 'ring' true with anyone who has ever had the misfortune to be the recipient of a thug claiming Official Sanction. Removing it from the movie is unconscionable, especially considering the lengths to which its creators appear to have gone to do a credible adaptation.

Without the keystone of a human-scale lesson we can all relate to, all the adventures, swords and sorcery amount to nothing more than sound and fury; an army of special effects and dazzling cinematic visions, desperately in search of a greater meaning.

Posted by Claire @ 10:12 AM CST

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