The series opens with the forging of the Ring. My initial premise is going to be that the Ring and its sub Rings represent the socialized means of production. A Brit's view of state communism if you will. "For within these rings was bound the strength and will to govern each race." What does this mean really? Governance isn't just about a strong person being extremely willful, it's about materially providing for the governed. We can look at the modern liberal line about Maduro or even Sanders for analogues: if they end poverty, it's a means of buying off, or tricking the poor - the ham-fisted solution of a thug. So the Rings of Power are probably about nation building. They are powerful enough to interest the heads of beard NATO to gather for sacred ring-acquiring ceremonies. These ceremonies must have involved a lot of diplomacy and effort. We are about to see the Ring betray some douchebag to his pathetic doom because he made the amateur military mistake of stringing his column far too thinly in a bit of woods. That's how dangerous traveling is, and we have nineteen world leaders gathered at up to 3 neutral locations to get these rings.
We might charitably argue that the Rings are weapons and within the logic of medieval dwarf society, sometimes politics comes down to casting Level 5 Wolfshit and usurping the dwarf chamber of commerce. But if this is true, the practical effect goes unmentioned - it doesn't seem to cause a ripple in Elf society that three of its best Elfs are now in thrall to the Dark Lord Stalin. Going forward I will be using Sauron and Stalin interchangeably. "But they were all of them deceived. For another ring was made..." Here follows a brief spectacular hate session of Stalin which zooms in on his mask with flames, holding up a crooked hand with the Master Ring to Control All Others... And into this Ring he poured his cruelty, his malice, and his will to dominate all life. And while the narrator talks about the nations of the free world falling one by one to the power of the Ring, with generic videos of villages burning (I'll be the first to say it, these could very well be crisis actors) the "last alliance of elves and men" meets Stalin's armies at Dagorlad, all the way down on the doorstep of Mordor. In the movie this is moved to the actual foot of Mount Doom!! What stolen territory did Stalin hold at this point, really? The likely pretext for this preventative invasion would have been Mordor seizing Núrn, the only agricultural land Mordor has available to sustain itself, especially if Gondor is enforcing a grain embargo.
So whether these rings are social grenades meant to infect powerful nobles with Obeying Stalin Disorder, or whether they are themselves weapons that the ringed Lords use on political dissidents and slaves all day, their practical effect is not much known. If all they do is turn dudes into Nazguls after five hundred years, this is a pretty serious amount of setup for something that isn't really spelled out in the actual film, and again I have to be honest that I would decline to wear a ring that turned me into a dumb ass Nazgul after five hundred years if there was no other benefit to me.
Further inconsistencies in the presentation of the battle scene are revealing. Tolkein's writing claimed there were men and dwarves on the side of Mordor and that all living things participated in the battle at Dagorlad. This would be more in keeping with the general mythology that Bilbo reproduces in his account of Frodo's journey. For Bilbo, the War of the Last Alliance is probably a historical shibboleth for anti communism. It was a war with premises that describe a humiliating defeat of communism unequaled in Kissinger's wet dreams. Sauron's country is totally fenced by mountains like a big petri dish. The only place he can get food is Núrn, but if he gets food from Núrn by any means, including swaying them to open trade via mysterious ring, he's a thief who deserves death. Once this happens, all of the people who believe in the established order of the world empire form one army, and all the people who believe in collective ownership of the land and mutual international aid form another army, and we'll put both armies somewhere empty like western Russia, and just let them duke it the fuck out until the commies are clearly vanquished. When Sauron comes out himself, (and is getting an unfair k:d by hacking), we kickban Sauron, the spell he cast over the Chinese and the Africans and Latinos and all those other people is lifted, or they die. Then we take this last insignifcant scrap of Communism, really, its just a USB stick with 700 epubs of kristeva and marcruse on it, and we stick it in the mricrowave... Isildur just hit popcorn... Hit popcorn Isildur, it says it right there on the... the microwave... Isildur what are you doing... Isildur noo... Anyway, the movie gets this wrong and only puts orcs on the evil side. The orcs are ugly, the elfs are hot. The orcs have bad teeth and the elfs presumably have lovely teeth. The orc armor is all weird and sucks, the elfs have sick mass produced armor. The orcs fight with farm implements and big ol sticks. They charge like a big pot of chili splashed across the hood of a car. The elfs stand like riot cops and blast the chili like a huge rotating car wash brush. The elfs have the orcs subjugated in two seconds of confusing stabs. This is sort of race reductionism meant to avoid conveying the internationalist spirit of the Mordor forces against the existing medieval order.
Out comes Sauron and again, he cheats, getting critical headshots against multiple targets per each attack. Of course when Aryan monarch Thor does it, liberal applause. We are left wondering at Sauron's excellent mace swinging the same way the Nazis were left wondering at their inability to crush the Soviet industrial machine in the 1940s. Even if Sauron came to Mordor as some kind of supernatural entity, we know that some miracle of industrial production has occurred in Mordor during his time in office. Let's humor the idea that the One Ring could be forged and Sauron's soul bound to it as a one-off. Even if no research and experimentation is needed for the smelting and smithing, design and programming of this Ring, an object that is supremely indestructible, yet carries enough potential energy to manage a rudimentary AI and a direct telepathic link to Sauron for over 3000 years and make its wearer invisible with a really shitty kind of invisibility - even if Sauron came to Mordor with the hyper-complex magic molds for the Ring in his frock pocket - at least we require an industrial base to build the furnaces, bellows, tools, and to dig up and purify the exotic elements in the Ring material, or at least an industrial base to build up a small army to raid the coffers of a neighboring kingdom for these materials. Nothing significant is as easy as snapping your fingers, even for a demigod like Stalin. The existence of the Ring, and its power to morph Sauron into Oldboy, point to an advancement in Mordor productive capacity that they are not supposed to have, as lesser people. I don't believe it is possible for this productive capacity to spring from a society based on sheer domination if there is no new territory being seized as fuel. If the only new territory of a supposedly fascist Mordor was the agricultural lands of Núrn, that still points to some incredible efficiency of internal organization. It means that the productive capacity of Mordor proper was freed up for just an instant from the constant struggle to exchange industrial materials for agricultural product imported at a great distance over land, and in just that instant, it developed a defense industry more advanced than that of multiple, millenia-old white societies based on military hierarchy. And the benefit to Sauron is - control? That is never exercised? Sauron seems to be risking everything on this ring, binding his soul to it and giving up immortality. And I will just say one more thing, you might try to argue that all my sound arguments, beautiful turns of phrase and mellifluous word choice does not excuse what Sauron did to Núrn, which we haven't even agreed was an invasion yet, but anyway, the movie doesn't even mention Núrn! Glosses right over Núrn! I'm clearly the only one of us who gives a shit about Núrn because I'm the only one talking about it! So shut the fuck up!
So now Isildur dies, getting owned by arrows when the Ring floats off his finger. There follows a bit of narrative about the Ring's hijinks that also presents an inconsistency to resolve. The Ring betrays Isildur, and then when Smeagol floats by, the Ring compels him to grope the right dirt to scoop it up. But the narrator, Bilbo (who wisely hired Galadriel for the audiobook), claims that the Ring does not plan to get stolen by Bilbo. I suppose the logic is that Sauron has Gollum microchipped and a SWAT team ready to extract the Ring at some opportune time. Considering that Frodo eventually ferries the Ring direct to its foundry and has to get his fingies bit off to be convinced to drop it, while a Ring-powered Gollum could probably squeeze into some remote crevice that would turn fetching the Ring into an absurd geo-engineering project deep in enemy territory, I wonder who this lie serves. It's like a political cartoon by a senile Brexiteer in its denial that Hobbits can be subject to world-historical material forces or in service of any particular agenda. A Hobbit, the most "unlikely creature imaginable," coming across a bit of treasure, hearing the distressed cries of its rightful owner - "it's lost, my precious!" - and scurries away with it - how unlikely! In a minute we'll see that Hobbits are well acquainted with stolen treasure, although they seldom do the mercenary work of acquiring it for themselves.
With the premise of the film in place we are given a map of the geopolitical situation. The Shire is situated in a valley region, protected from coastal storms by the Blue Mountains and extreme interior weather by the Misty Mountains. It's between two major rivers, the Lune and the Brandywine, and is the only major agricultural producer so conveniently situated. Its neighbor, Bree and the surrounding areas, also access the Brandywine, but from further upstream, and their other connection to the coast is the Hoarwell which winds through a much longer river system and much more foreign territory. With Minhiriäth deforested and desertified, The Shire is likely the main agricultural supplier for Eriador, and probably commands a high price for its goods. This map that serves as the establishing shot for the next half hour of the film is a testament to the power the Shire wields in the local international scene. It is intensely elaborate, likely requiring many drafts and preparatory sketches and a great deal of research, likely including inter-library cooperation. All of this activity demands a large productive base in a feudal economy likely meant to depict an atavist anarcho-capitalism. One wonders how a key agricultural region at a locus of feasible trade routes might have stayed under the control of some drunk little peacenik fuckheads who shit their sheets when an unexpectedly large firework goes off. With Bilbo as narrator, it's likely we are never given the real reason for Rangers like Aragorn to be wandering around the countryside with swords and arrows. Hobbits have achieved a kind of purist form of mercenary colonialism, where little Hobbit attorneys get little Hobbit judges to assign huge ex-Marines with swords to collect on that shipment of potatoes, and it just fuckin, works.
As we zoom out further, we see that the Shire is indeed related to Gondor and Mordor almost the same way Britain is to Germany and Poland. Tolkien has said that his book is not an anti communist parable and that Sauron is not Stalin, but this is the movies, and besides, Tolkien, you can't be relied on to tell the truth about any of that. What comes through in this map and with this backstory is an idea that a world war was fought, mostly between Gondor and territories east of Gondor, and some decisions were made about the fate of the communist international, based on the outcome of that war - so now, why does Communism once again bother to threaten Gondor? Interpretations of LOTR as an anti-communist parable fail if they don't establish that in the eyes of the British Shire, the Germans are the heroes. They might be poorly managed and fighting a losing war under their goofy little fuhrer Denethor II and his personality cult, but in terms of the nobility of their blood, the Germans do deserve a bit of lebensraum every now and again, and again. And now the mysterious Eastern Block has cut Germany clean in half behind an iron curtain in the form of a perfectly rectangular mountain range? This flies in the face of the world order and can best be resolved by undermining the Russians, by sending spies to destroy their infrastructure from the inside. I didn't watch Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy enough times to figure out what was happening in that movie, but I did watch it enough times to learn that the British were definitely doing some spy shit back in the day! I mean, damn!
As we pull back from the map, we first see the immaculate parquet floors of the Baggins mansion. Wildly expensive wood paneling, built to a custom curvature, lines a hallway littered with professionally bound books alongside rolled and unrolled parchment. The juxtaposition is important as either the bound books represent a great undertaking for a skilled academic to reproduce, or they are mass manufactured and the expense is in the preservation of ancient parchment, which Bilbo takes little care to do. Fresh flowers adorn a forgotten corner next to a box of treasure left ajar. As we round the corner and pass the title card, we see Baggins completing a page. A bit of amateurish bookbinding equipment, incapable of producing the volumes he therefore must have purchased, sits on the floor behind him. In the fireplace, midday in the summer, a bright fire rises up from three fresh logs, and Bilbo is putting his moniker to a fresh pack of lies. I pick up the movie here, on my next post. This thread is a place for me and you to spend more than an hour at a time writing, while bored and functionless in isolation. I admit that a lot of stuff I wrote here probably does not make sense. Have a great day
Edited by swampman ()
Yesterday I questioned how the hobbits obtained their seat of power and I should consider a little more before I turn the movie back on. After all, the narrator takes time to set up the world-historical situation and some major characters, but only backgrounds the enemies - Sauron and the Ring, dead old genetically predisposed to addiction Isildur, and Gollum. And then it launches in to "who are the hobbits?" entirely in the present tense. Bilbo describes an interstitial period of 2500 years as a time when everyone forgot about the Ring, then sums up 500 years of Gollum maxing in his bed playing Animal Crossing as an "unnatural long life" with the Ring "poisoning his mind" the entire time.
What actually happened? According to Hobbit myth, Hobbits originate in some obscure place on the other side of the Misty Mountains, but gradually migrated west to occupy "abandoned" parts of the world. In reality, in the real Middle Earth where we actually are right now, the place they originate from is not obscure, but sat comfortably at the seat of the east gate of Moria, in Gladden Fields itself. Right where Isildur ate shit! The myth is that primitive Dunlanders - who are described, in the supplementary pamphlets to LOTR, as wielding Flintstone-style clubs and having dirty faces - sold out Isildur, who was quite coincidentally, the king of Arnor which included Dunland and points west!
It's easy to allege a conspiracy undertaken after the "War of the Last Alliance"(which we now know to have been a direct, pre-emptive military siege on a nation entirely reliant on agricultural imports) concluded. The Hobbits, a race of dwarf/human miscegenents, control the one river route from all of Greenwood and the Misty Mountains, south to Rohan, Gondor, Mordor, and the Bay of Belfalas. The alternative trade route is to go overland through Arnor, which was likely a dangerous route as Isildur had been "pacifying" the area for the previous century but was distracted with personally subjugating Mordor. (Gondor and Arnor, we should remember, are two "separate" kingdoms founded by the same father-and-son crew of Numenorean colonists, who dominate almost all access to the sea). In the aftermath of Sauron's smoky demise, Isildur has decided to wield the power of the Ring, which immediately grants him unnatural power to govern fairly and in the interest of the people of Arnor. This ends the guerrilla struggle of Eriador natives, making the Great East Road and the sea route from Rivendell along the Loudwater real threats to the Hobbits' bottom line. They petition Isildur: We're merchants, we have an established trading relationship with the elfs and dwarfs and we know how to squeeze them; it's part of my culture to eat 12 meals a day and I can't afford that if dwarf technology is shipping out of elf ports; the people who currently live in Dunland have actually, like, dirty faces, that's how little they deserve Dunland, which you might not know is a holy site, for Hobbits; and anyway Moria has been full of black guys for 1500 years now and we definitely don't want THOSE people controlling trade to the west. So what do you say about giving us Dunland? and Isildur, who is actually in tune with the needs of the masses thanks to the Ring, brushes off their petty ambitions. Well fuck you then says the Hobbits, and they hire some black guys from Moria to set up an ambush on Isildur and his boys, the Ring is lost and the kingdom of Arnor actually collapses. And we say the Dunlanders did it because of their ancient hatred for Numenoreans as though Dunlanders are incapable of comprehending the geopolitical situation and acting appropriately. As though Dunlanders would be so easily led into the service of Hobbit colonialism!
But this conspiracy theory deflates a little when we also consider that the Hobbits didn't gain from Isildur's death. They don't colonize Dunland for another thousand years, not until black people start showing up in Dol Guldur. The breakup of Arnor was likely an unintended consequence of Isildur's betrayal which points to it being a vigilante action, that we would expect from staunch anarcho-capitalists. The myth about Dunlanders and Orcs is likely a revisionist fiction - a racist canard meant to disguise the Hobbit settlement of Dunland as proper and just. Further settlement westward, across the Brandywine and into the Shire, occurs 600 years later. Supposedly with the permission of the reigning king of the briefly reunited Arnor, this happened immediately before a plague ravaged the world for two centuries. Hobbit historians maintain that the Shire was depopulated, a "hunting preserve" before the Plague, but we can't be sure now. All we know is that Hobbits are somehow the one of the last groups standing after three millenia of collapsing civilization throughout Eriador.
A paranoid person, trapped in their home during a pandemic with a bunch of weed and mushrooms, fifty gigabytes of pirated LotR cinema, and The One Wiki to Rule Them All, might suspect that the Hobbits have been engaged in a long term campaign of using economic levers to manipulate and sabotage other nationalities to maintain their class comforts as the world's resources dwindle, and that these Hobbits see socialized production as the key threat to their subsistence as gatekeepers on the flows of global wealth. And that settling territory at trade route bottlenecks over the course of centuries is their primary strategy. So when gandalfs inquire why the Witch-King of Angmar didn't trash the Shire like he did every other bit of land surrounding, it probably has to do with - who was supplying the Witch-King's armies and financed his war machine? Who allowed plagues to linger for two centuries - can we guess it was Hobbit investors rallying behind treatments and ignoring cures? Or do we agree with Bilbo that the Shire is built on two thousand years of white Rasta vibes? I don't. When Galadriel narrates that "hobbits will shape the fortunes of all" it is a cover for what Hobbits have been doing for quite some time, but now must do in the open - commit a staggering crime against Mordor, extinguish left movements throughout Middle Earth and restore the white nobility to power.
Equally preposterous, do we agree that the Ring fled Gollum under its own power but did not expect to be found by Bilbo? It plops down the rock at the exact moment Bilbo is passing by, right? What does it mean for Bilbo to wield something that gives him the strength and will to govern effectively, that is, as the elected chairperson of a central committee that represents the diverse interests of the people's soviets in directing the focus and distribution of national production? For a libertarian that's like being told to take out the garbage before they can have a popsicle. Perhaps Bilbo played some kind of role in developing a hobbit NHS off the superprofits from their agricultural monopoly and trade dominance, but if he did, he isn't proud of it. When Bilbo's Kissinger / Cheney / Mephistopheles, Gandalf, gets back to town, he's going to see that Bilbo is weak to the allure of giving up brute exploitation - which would not only fail to restore the white nobility to the seat of global power, but would render them irrelevant - and act accordingly.
Let's get to that. We were left watching Bilbo start his book from the title page. He's writing directly in a blank book, for fuck's sake. What follows is a montage of Hobbits looking as innocuous as all hell. We don't see extravagance, but there is nothing that looks like poverty. What it brings to mind is a bohemian club, whose members can live in an inefficient and unproductive manner, undergirded by the superprofits of the national occupations of rent-seeking and price-gouging. They are content to "ignore and be ignored by the world of the Big Folk" and yet Hobbit society has easy access to iron tools and timber; plus a major international political power broker, Gandalf, seems to know everyone in town, down to the comic relief. An example Hobbit is shown sleeping in a pig sty and another digging a booger out of his ear, which meshes well with what we know about British people (they're disgusting).
They're like a race of Moondogs, constantly fucked up drunk or high as shit, life a series of elaborate parties, when the rest of Middle Earth is like an energy sword deathmatch in Blood Gulch. When Bilbo says that "our hearts truly lie in peace and quiet and good tilled earth, for all Hobbits share a love of things that grow" (over Samwise eye-fucking a datura!) it might as well be the conclusion to a Bayer-Monsanto ad. "No doubt to others, our ways seem.. quaint" smirks Bilbo, as Hobbits dispel the myth of increased productivity in the labor aristocracy by mangling a tent, by having four Hobbits stand around watching one Hobbit hammer a peg into the ground. These are the summer scenes in rural Long Island, in East Egg, while elsewhere the poor are squeezed for their lunch money by legions of petty cops. Or perhaps Oregon, land of the "sundown town" where black people weren't invited to reside. Surrounded on all sides by dirty men, by elfs in Lindon and Rivendell, by dwarfs in the mountains, Hobbits have formed a Hapsburg-like sphere of incest in the service of Hobbit nationalism. It's from within this ball that Frodo emerges, like a big puppy-eyed sperm, to be caught up in Gandalf's ejaculate, and set to catalyze an egg of counterrevolution in the far East... when we return
Edited by swampman ()
Edit 2: Not to jump the gun but in this scenario, it seems Frodo was sort of analogous to British intelligence (always whining about the "burden" he carries) and Sam was like the OSS/CIA (can do, up and at em, pragmatic, self reliant) and the Shire metaphor for Anglo-Amerikkkan world domination. Maybe the fellowship is a metaphor for the Nazi ratlines which bring them all together?
Edited by wasted ()
Smeagol, bearing the ring, becomes the ultimate shut-in, possibly a metaphor for me personally. Coming from the bottom of bourgeois society, Smeagol's mind is fractured by the revelations that come with bearing the Ring. His immediate rage at the pure corruption of the Hobbits and the impossibility of instilling them with a spirit of internationalism leads him to kill his rowboat buddy. But his contempt for the parasitic social role of hobbits is frustrated by political irrelevance. Wanted for murder, he flees to a black area and quietly feasts on its people like a nobler John McAfee. Over the centuries, the navel gazing molds Gollum into the worst kind of academic Marxist Tolkien could feature.
When Bilbo holds the Ring, he becomes something of a Noam Chomsky of the Hobbits. He is hip to the intransigent criminality of Hobbit nationalism but not ultimately dissatisfied with its outcomes. His writing is interesting but abandons any hope of changing the world. However, in a time of great political upheaval, there is always a risk that a competent Chomsky will let themself be over-guided by honest materialist analysis, and speak at odds with the status quo. This and Bilbo's advanced age are the prime reasons the imperialist movement discards him for Frodo to head the color revolution called "the Fellowship of the Ring." Here is Frodo now, reading poems on a heath like a bloodless baby Thoreau.
Frodo's leitmotif, causing him to spring practically into existence and life, is Gandalf humming an old wizard tune. He begins to salivate like a dog and dashes up the hill to his master. Frodo's absolute subservience to Gandalf speaks of a careful grooming campaign, likely initiated as soon as Gandalf realized Bilbo had the political understanding granted by the One Ring, and early in Frodo's life when he was most receptive to imperialist propaganda. The childlike love Frodo shines on Gandalf has no curiosity for Gandalf's greater purpose. The only subject that exists for them to discuss is Frodo's other master.
As Gandalf's cart fumbles through pastures, Bilbo's narration veers into open nationalism: "There has always been a Baggins living here, at Bag-end.." and with the slightest tremor of hostile dementia, "and there always will be." There are certainly a cloud of Baggins ready to fulfill this prophecy if Frodo horribly dies. The family trees of the Shire might be offered by Tolkien to further betray the class character of Hobbit society. For sixteen hundred years, approximately four families have dominated Shire politics and social life. Bilbo's claim that Gandalf selected him "at random" as a burglar for Thorin is, most charitably, like George W Bush saying he randomly met Dick Cheney while his dad was president. And more realistically, Gandalf selected the first co-production of the Baggins and Took lines to get tied up in his scheme to raid the Lonely Mountain. Frodo is an even safer choice in terms of pacifying a Hobbit gentry, as he is descended from Baggins and Took stock, but also - Brandybuck. Given their centrality to international trade at the close of the Third Age, the chief Hobbit families wield extraordinary political influence, and individual Hobbits - in ways that Bilbo elides and omits - have a supernatural ability to fuck things up for other people wherever they go. Content with stagnant national production and subsistence at the expense of under-developed territories, the Hobbit families must be purchased to support the restoration of the white nobility, and the price is paid in the careers and fortunes of the clans' favored sons.
"Bilbo's been a bit odd lately. I mean, more than usual. He's taken to locking himself in his study. He spends hours and hours poring over old maps when he thinks I'm not looking." Let's leave aside any inquiry into what Frodo is pretending to be occupied with for hours upon hours, while Bilbo spends those hours furtively examining maps in great detail while he thinks Frodo couldn't be looking. And hope that the dialogue improves. Frodo knows that Gandalf will act on this information. Bilbo is behaving like someone who is seriously... writing a book. O the tales he could tell! Perhaps as a common burglar Bilbo could be trusted to tidy up the narrative of what REALLY happened at Lake-Town. But with the Ring pressing him to consider all history as the history of class struggle, he could accidentally undo centuries of Numenorean propaganda with several thousand strokes of his calligraphy brush. To illustrate Bilbo's new addiction to materialist understanding we are treated to a familiar scene. Bilbo, casting a few last furtive glances at a map, realizes he can't find the Ring. He goes old-guy berserk (a very mild form of berserk, no more harmless than a moth) and pathetically rummages through his various coats before realizing it was in his vest pocket the whole time. Again this is evidence that Bilbo is addicted to the Ring, although he is doing an abbreviated and blasphemy-free pantomime of what I go through once a month when I think I've locked myself out of my apartment, climb up the fire escape to see if I left the window unlocked (I never have), and contemplate ripping my apartment door off its hinges before I realize I had the keys all along. Let's see, you discover you can wield the One Ring and suddenly understand political economy, your own cultural background, you've become the Politics Guy, for better or worse, among the bros you smoke weed and play xbox with. You can see what is happening with capitalist enclosure and you're planning to write a whole book about it when the object that allows you to perceive this goes missing. Besides that... its a priceless golden ring. And Bilbo isn't allowed to hunt his house for it without being called a maniac. Anyway, Frodo, safely habitrailed away from any glimmer of thought beyond the divine right of kings and dads, and the importance of wizards, can't comprehend why the old fucked up burglar and party animal Bilbo is turning a weary back to the Bacchanalian spectacle of his own life. "He's up to something," says Frodo, and catches Gandalf's eye. To me this is a betrayal of Bilbo. Frodo invites Gandalf to get involved in Bilbo's private affairs. Frodo is surely aware that Bilbo's senescence will open up the job as the Hobbit liaison with Gandalf and is trying to hasten the result - and his gambit is effective. The naked calculation in this act suggests that such consanguineal backstabbing is a common feature of Hobbit politics.
Fig. 12.4 - My favorite LotR Meme Images Conveys the
Empathy for Bilbos Situation that Frodo Cannot Actually Feel
With Bilbo's retirement from political life decided, the highly charged banter turns to Gandalf's involvement in Shire politics. For millenia, Hobbits had been content to live simply off usury, rent seeking and graft. Now Gandalf presses the hale socialite Bilbo into direct involvement in a treasure-raiding campaign into distant human territory? Frodo warns Gandalf that the familial reputation of the Baggins is damaged by Bilbo's open involvement in pillaging. That is, their reputation as criminals is becoming well-known among potential victims. He further warns that Gandalf is now "officially labeled a Disturber of the Peace." Frodo delivers this comment with a smile and Gandalf mugs playfully, but the seriousness of the Brandybuck estate applying this label to someone cannot be overstated. It has been alleged! in this very thread! that the Brandybucks fucking funded the Witch King of fucking Angmar and used his plagues to clear the Shire natives for Hobbit settlements. Frodo is already stepping into his shoes as the new face of the Shire toward agents of the white nobility. He is showing Gandalf the Shire's fangs and saying, "we are not to be manipulated," and this is backed up by furious glare of a nearby pig-man with his useless garden tool. Gandalf, nevertheless, will indeed manufacture Hobbit involvement in the "political crisis" in Mordor, and can successfully do so via seeds of control he had Bilbo plant in Frodo and his league of anti-communist youth long ago. The narrative subconsciously punctuates Gandalf's mastery in the exchange when he dazzles the children of the Hobbits with fireworks. Although the old Shire order may prefer quiet backroom butchery, the young Tooks, Brandybucks, and Bagginses hunger for fire and blood.
I should probably investigate who is Gandalf and what has he been up to? What interest does he represent? Supposedly, Gandalf is a kind of angel who was sent to Middle Earth with four other goons, specifically to fight Sauron, agent of the Devil. We know that they are dispersed evenly about the continent, with Saruman in the southwest, Gandalf in the northwest, Radagast in the north, and two blue wizards out in Eastern nations who Bilbo doesn't know about. In popular mythology, only Gandalf was successful at stopping Sauron and the rest of the wizards were useless. But if we see the task of the wizards as fucking around and creating instability to prevent the establishment of a Communist international that demands racial egalitarianism, they were all right on track. Radagast proceeds on the biological warfare front (allowing Greenwood to decay into Mirkwood when black people take up residence, then blaming the decline on them because they are supposedly an unclean people and servants of the Devil). Gandalf unites the white supremacists. Saruman encourages a hyper-militarized environment via that good old strategy of tension we all know so well. And what we have heard is that the blue wizards are leading massive religious cults in their own spheres of influence. With a mission statement as profoundly fucked as "defeating the Devil" running in his head for two thousand years are we now going to pretend Gandalf is visiting the Shire because their weed is the dankest? Going forward I'll test my belief that his actions are Very carefully managed and scripted, to control Frodo and his team of white nationalists. And also my belief that Bilbo the narrator grants Gandalf some fantastical magic powers (possibly to excuse the shit he gets away with) that he simply doesn't have. Because not only do the stories about them not make logical sense, they don't even make sense from a physics perspective. At times, this picture of supernatural heroism may be directly at odds with actual events, and it will be up to me, to peel back the layers of the upcoming cinematic action, and reveal the string of racist murders that Elessar's sycophants would have us forget....
Edited by swampman ()
Edit 2: Not to jump the gun but in this scenario, it seems Frodo was sort of analogous to British intelligence (always whining about the "burden" he carries) and Sam was like the OSS/CIA (can do, up and at em, pragmatic, self reliant) and the Shire metaphor for Anglo-Amerikkkan world domination. Maybe the fellowship is a metaphor for the Nazi ratlines which bring them all together?
I agree with this and it's probably related that the "Fellowship" getting broken up at the end of act 1 is such a triviality
im p stoked about this essay esp since we're still only ten minutes into the first movie
sadly this is nowhere near as dense as a true "shot for shot" analysis would actually be. i will try to slow it down.
I would be a fool not to expect and excuse extreme stage management in the course of an epic adventure film with a hundred million dollar budget (in 2001 dollars, so something like eight trillion dollars today) and a theoretically limited run time in which to do some epically segregated world-building. That said, if I were on the film crew attempting to create such a one-dimensional, sanitized vision of Shire society, I would turn up to work with an automatic shotgun, two hundred 000 shells, four Glock 19s and five hundred 147 grain, nine millimeter wide bullets, which I discovered while researching this sentence are sometimes referred to as "felon repellent." As I am an avowed pacifist, these would be offered to bribe the director to set up for some tawdry footage of baser Shire vistas. For example, the visible township is dotted with healthy livestock, grazing on the dense grass that grows from every surface. Where are the stables? How are the piles of ungulate shit handled? Or the Hobbit shit for that matter? Where are the latrines? Should I be glad that nobody seems to be swimming, boating or fishing in the lake? I get that the local ethos is that in the Shire, things are made to endure through the ages, but how does that value hold up when we're talking about septic tanks?
I want us to first of all, agree that Bilbo is 111 years old and at this age, shitting occupies a great deal of your waking time and energy, compared to anything we understand from each of our 20-40 piddling years of scraping for crumbs, flitting easily from flushable toilet to camp latrine to unlucky bus backseat, through the death spasms of the strip mall kingdom. Bilbo simply does not have the quad, calf, and anal sphincter endurance to hike out of the Hobbit hole and up or down one of these dew-slicked grass fjords every time Ilúvatar grants him a boon, or to reliably reach the altar in time to receive it. The establishing shot that pans right to show Gandalf riding up to Bilbo's gate does not give us much insight. I can think of a couple of ways that Bilbo's waste might be managed, but these are based on some thoughts as to what could the obscured back side of Bilbo's hill conceal, that range from wild guesses to pure fuckin fancy.
I want to bring up the size of the Shire, at this point, because it will be relevant in a moment. I went to the store and got napkins so I could make an estimate on one of them. My belief was that the Shire would have to be at most twenty thousand hobbits. And then I googled "shire hobbit population" and found that the general consensus is ten to fifteen thousand, which means I am becoming a weapon, finely tuned to hunt my natural enemy, the LotR fandom. If you don't believe me, come by my apartment sometime and I will show you that I have a napkin with the number 20,000 written on it.
You see - we can't possibly be asked to believe that the Shire has any plumbing whatsoever, or if it did, the processes and locales of Shire-wide septic treatment and disposal are definitely omitted from the propaganda we're being fed. So - if hobbits do manage their waste at all - Bilbo is going to be relieving himself in one of the two basic kinds of privy: pit or vault. As I see it, a pit privy would only be possible as a permanent extension of Bag-End, since ad hoc pit excavation would be an ecological catastrophe in the hill country of the Shire. The pit itself would be a catchment and composting tool; in human society, dried peat moss is frequently used as a filler for these kinds of "off grid" human waste composting as it suppresses the smell. Given that Shire home construction seems to be handled by a very small group of architects, is probably a very rigid and deeply defined process based on centuries of experimentation, we might assume that the compost pit privies of the Shire handle the output of at least 10,000 adult Hobbits, who might weigh 50lbs on average. And their legendarily aggressive gut microbes could conceivably produce a pound of poop per six pounds of hobbit bodyweight per day. Let's assume, due to their multigenerational homes, and their ceaseless fucking, that there are ten(!) hobbits per privy-equipped hobbit-hole, on average(!). This is ninety tons of Hobbit waste per year, per privy. Let's benevolently assume that the diabolic and possibly radioactive conditions in the hobbit digestive system still produce a well-metabolized stool, that turns to a versatile and loamy compost weighing 1500 pounds per cubic yard, at a miraculous 1:1 mixture with grass clippings. To be emptied triannually, the privy would need a capacity of at least 80 cubic yards, but for extreme cases - a very large family sequestered over a long winter - it's possible a 200 cubic yard capacity would be required. That might be a twenty by ten foot hole, twenty-seven feet deep! My point is that dealing with an average of fifty tons of compost per day across the Shire is not a trivial matter, especially for people under four feet tall, and whether the processing of so much compost is costly or profitable to Hobbits, there has to be a system to handle it.
In-home pit privies represent a system on the fantastically expensive end of hobbit waste solutions. The pits must be designed and maintained as a catchment that filters runoff, that guides the drainage of urine, and withstands the corrosive and hot conditions of constant fermentation. Emptying the pit would not be optional - even delaying its emptying a few weeks would lead to nightmare conditions for a toilet-premised suburban Hobbit landscaping - so the manual scavengers would either be on a hefty retainer, or slaves / untouchables. Maybe there is a supermax prison in Bree that cares for it all. Now we are starting to understand the true scale of the obfuscation involved here!
The alternative style of vault privies - fully above-ground outhouses - seems impossible considering they are not visible anywhere in these vistas of resplendent sloth. It's a pity, because if there was any evidence of a widespread system of mobile shitboxes, I'd be ready to explore the thought that hobbit feces has fully terraformed the once flat plain of the Shire. How else to explain such extreme, erosion-resistant hill formations when there is no history of widespread glaciation in Eriador? Unfortunately, the 73,000 cubic yards a year of hobbit compost expected from a Shire of 15,000 hobbits would only produce about .02 cubic miles of material over the entire 1600 years of Shire history up to the narrative present - before it has even settled. Even if effluent hill raising was limited to an area of five square miles of the most coveted hobbit real estate, the average depth of deposited material would be only four feet. It is therefore unlikely - and I have long argued this, even though I am dismissed as a crank for doing so - that hobbit shit doubles as construction material for the majority of hobbits.
Another possibility is that Hobbits simply squat where the squatting is good, and I presume crab-walk back and forth over a clump of soft grass to clean up - which does add a new level of terrible toil to the journey across the gravelly plains of Mordor. There is something attractive in this theory because the natural consequence of the poop anywhere style is a life crowded with hookworms. This would explain Hobbit energy levels, their wan coloring and stunted growth, their huge appetites, and so forth. But where are the casually laid coils in these verdant panoramas of the Hobbit routine? A last option is that they wear diapers. Diapers may explain a great deal of missing pieces of Hobbit social life, and they certainly mesh with the Hobbit work ethic, but they still raise the same issues of distribution and disposal we have already discussed. And we still have not returned to the livestock shit, itself, which must be plentiful given the centrality of cheese, milk and mammal meat to the Hobbit diet. Further, the diapers would add mightily to the laundry pile, which we can pile on to the laundry list of class comforts afforded to Hobbits onscreen but strictly handled off of it. Stone bridges, fences, retaining walls and foundations, must have been quarried, ferried, and assembled by artisans who plan, as Bilbo suggests, for centuries of wear and tear. And it all seems to come and go from nowhere...
In short, we have to be very careful, when digesting this narrative, to remember that there are large sectors of social reproduction that are being deliberately obscured. As I have pointed out a few times now, the Shire clearly does have an industrial base, and is probably dependent on a servant class, but this is carefully segregated away from the lush valleys of the Hobbit nobility.
It is only natural for Bilbo, being a member of the oppressor class, and writing without the One Ring to goad him into revealing the true material basis of the Hobbit lifestyle, that he should simply forget about the supply chain that feeds his supposedly self-sufficient anarchist vale of ecstasy with cattle, paper, textiles and advanced metalwork. What is unnatural, and I would argue fraudulent, is the showroom quality of his hobbit hole and surrounding neighborhood. Owners of modern underground homes, guided in construction by the latest in materials science, still encounter frustrations that appear foreign to Bilbo. For a hundred and fifty years, the root system of the tree directly above Bag End must have waged war on its ceilings. The basic problem of humidity that plagues all underground construction is apparently handled so well that Bilbo can leave books and parchments strewn about on the floor, that the elaborate wood paneling never swells or splits. You see, with the temperature of the surrounding earth at least twenty degrees below a comfortable room temperature (and Bilbo keeps multiple hearths ablaze through the summer), condensation constantly builds on any underground wall without heavy insulation. Even if he avoids outright flooding of those beautiful inlaid cherry floors, Bilbo must constantly be fighting a war against black mold and all kinds of invasive pests.
The rationale for leaving these issues clean out of the narrative is simple: Bag End is for sale. In Tolkien's original version of the story, Frodo sells Bag End and moves to the relative slum of Crickhollow while supplying for his journey to Rivendell and the commencement of the Fellowship. The myth says that Lotho Sackville-Baggins buys Bag End and uses it as a command center for his power grab over the Shire, and sets up heavy industry that poisons a good deal of the land. Incredibly, and providing amazing insight into Saruman's aesthetic, this is apparently all funded by Lotho being Isengard's top weed dealer. The Hobbits of the Fellowship return to the Shire and have to kill Lotho in the Battle of Bywater, which has a convenient side effect of returning Bag End to Frodo's asset portfolio for free. In the much more official, and obviously canon Peter Jackson directed film, however, Bag End does not seem to be sold by the time Frodo must leave, although desperate homebuyers clearly know to swirl about it. I am disappointed, but not surprised, to arrive at a belief that a good part of this movie exists as a real estate advert for a massively depreciated piece of wet cave sitting above an anoxic, poop-clogged lagoon.
It is unlikely that Gandalf has any knowledge or concern for the crude financial scheming of hobbits. The arrival of his old co-conspirator, implying a new chance at serious plunder, hauls Bilbo out of his anti-social funk. Bilbo is not yet aware that he became irrelevant to the flows of the wealth of Middle Earth only moments ago. When we return to the movie, Gandalf will begin stripping Bilbo and his home like an ear of corn for any last scraps of useful information, before tossing the cob carelessly to the midden heap of the Third Age.
Edited by swampman ()
As a preface to this sub-chapter I want to re-affirm a non-controversial opinion, for the sake of textual unity, and for legibility to newcomers to the Lord of the Rings franchise of adventure stories. We operate from the widely accepted premise that the Peter Jackson directed series of films is the "authoritative" version of what is said to have happened in Middle Earth during the confusion of the Third Age. That is, even though they are full of omissions and lies, and are as much commentaries on their authors as they are on actual events, they are much closer to visions that Tolkien, his character Bilbo Baggins, and Bilbo's handlers and partisan informants had for the finished product of their work of propaganda. This has to be stated clearly because the history of the Elessar / Frodo adventure narrative resulted in numerous early drafts - most notable among them a series of novellas written at least in part (no ghostwriters are credited) by Tolkien himself in the mid-50s. These drafts sometimes contain conflicting or useless information that was carefully culled from the finished version of the films - specifically the extended editions released as a box set in 2011 - we are all familiar with.
We have to give full credit to Peter Jackson and his financiers at New Line Cinema for achieving a perfected re-telling of the Hobbit mythology. Indeed, we might refer to Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Barrie M. Osborne, and Howard Shore as the original "Fellowship of the Ring." Even though what they produced is something akin to Mussolini's lost diary translated into a modern language - we would still be able to make use of such a corrupted tool to learn about Italian history. Useful as it was, Tolkien gathered his vast gift of source material with zero critical engagement. Jackson's team of screenwriters inherited thousands upon thousands of fascinating pages of irrelevancies to abbreviate, contradictions to resolve, and bullshit to omit in order to achieve an authoritative version of the colonialist mythology of the Shire.
When there's a contradiction between versions, then, we are obviously going to defer to the Jackson edition (as I did previously when I mentioned Lotho Baggins). At best, an incorrect line in the Tolkien supplementary work might be seen as an illustration to the truth in the movie, providing a chance to stop and wonder, "what if it were this way instead?" When we want to look into some random bit of backstory that the movies leave undefined, however, that's when we can peruse other sources as our best option.
The first among these are three movies that Peter Jackson and his troupe went on to make a decade after his primary LotR text. These movies tell the story of how Bilbo first met Gandalf and looted a foreign treasury together. They are Bilbo's memoirs, which we saw him starting to write several minutes into The Fellowship of the Ring. And likely because he is the prosopopoeia of Sloth in the mortal realm, he titled them The Hobbit.
I don't want to pretend to be holding this fact in suspense: these movies fuckin' suck. I mean that they suck compared to the LotR trilogy, as well as movies generally. They're uninspired and ugly, packed with broad characters putting the hard sell on lame gags and clunky jokes. When intended seriously, the dialogue is hard to listen to, and every action scene is dragged out for as long as some VFX contractors were able to pad the job. No huge surprise though, as the films were released without Osborne included in production and well after New Line Cinema was merged with Warner Bros. and became Peter Jackson's sworn enemy. One might say that by this point, the Fellowship had long been broken. Jackson had to fumble through and create the best dogshit he could get away with on his shoestring budget of $745 million. That's only three times what he had available for his first trilogy!
But, since these movies are the best version we have available of Bilbo's defense of his actions, we have to take them seriously. And my audit of the historical accuracy of the Lord of the Rings mythology has reached a critical point - Bilbo and Gandalf reuniting to decide the future of the One Ring. My first thought was to ask, and try to answer, what are Bilbo and Gandalf each hoping to gain from this encounter? What background do they share? What do they each know about the other and what secrets do they keep? I realized that to do this I would need to familiarize myself with the Hobbit films and perform at least a half-hearted autopsy on them here. Fantasy buffs will already understand that leaving them out of the discourse would be like discussing Despicable Me without Minions or Minions: the Rise of Gru... Casino without Taxi Driver... Howl's Moving Castle without Ginsberg's Howl... Or if you're not into films or elfs - it would be akin to the nanny taking the kid out to the chauffeur and forgetting to check if the WSJ has arrived, and once Limbaugh wraps up and the swordfish florentine is too cool, I have to make her go all the way back out there to check for it, and while I sit bored with my screwdriver (she's SO old!) I'm liable to eg. blast a Descendents album through the entire house, which wakes up Her and there is a fight. And if we try to skip the Hobbit movies now, inevitably I'll be sucked in to covering them in even more depressing detail, tacked on as an afterthought, following the wild popularity of this series of articles. No. I choose to avoid the trap that Tolkien chewed his own leg off to escape. That Jackson basically died in...
The Hobbit films will also give us time to familiarize ourselves with Bilbo's style of propaganda. Bilbo wrote his memoirs during a period of serious mental decline. He takes no care to humanize his political enemies. His extemporaneously concocted scenes of action unfold like Rube Goldberg machines. He cynically recycles popular elements from his more serious work. Some try to claim that the Hobbit is a children's story and that certain liberties can be taken when our main goal is to entertain kids. But the first scene in An Unexpected Journey, which it is long past time to start in on, is the near-dead Bilbo (Hugh Bonneville) stating that the book is for Frodo, who was between 30 and 50 years old while the book was written.
Bilbo begins with a short history of Erebor, a Dwarf mining concern in a hollow mountain, and the stone maquiladora at its gate. Miners in thrall to dwarf king Thrór (Jeremy Clarkson) dig up the Arkenstone, a plot device that represents a phenomenal quantity of dead labor, as it's as useful as an electrostatic induction toy you or I might purchase from Hot Topic every couple of weeks. It is implied that the Arkenstone represents more than 50% of the value of all the treasure Thrór has collected.
We should also note here, since it's not explicitly mentioned in the film, that Thrór wears one of the seven Rings that was given to the dwarfs. According to Shire mythology, the effect of the Rings on the dwarf kings was to make them greedily accumulate stockpiles of gold - which guaranteed that a dragon would show up. Perhaps this simplistic fable is told to avoid inspiring young people to make a deeper connection, that the One Ring which is seen as a threat to the white nobility is related to the Ring that Thrór wears while making Erebor the world's strongest economy. It seems odd that the Ring only causes "a sickness of the mind" in Bilbo's account - why not say it causes the national coffers to overflow? To make the riches of Erebor seem more like a negative trait, Bilbo depicts Thrór doing an Alzheimer's shuffle through small hills of disorganized coin and various gilded items.
Since Bilbo was never at Erebor to study the Durin's Folk government, and neither was Gandalf, we can be assured that this account is the laziest brand of speculation. For example, maintaining a large gold reserve is not sickness but a sound monetary policy, especially for a city-state like Erebor that, like Mordor, cannot produce its own food. Visual arguments like haphazard, inventory-resistant heaps of random treasure are surely a complete fabrication, as treasury gold would have been poured into uniform pieces and stacked carefully, without restricting any form of idolatry a dwarf lord could conceivably practice. Architectural absurdities abound - see the monarchy striding down glass-smooth walkways over fatal drops with no safety equipment or barricading or even a handrail of any kind. The filmmakers took so little interest in portraying excavation techniques accurately, that they have dangling strings of several miners per rope picking away at a rock face, which would send rocks fifty or a hundred feet down from the upper dwarfs to strike the lower. And we are meant to think of the gold in the vaults as a huge quantity - but considering that the product of this one mine made Erebor wealthier in two centuries than any other nation had become in sixty, gold and gemstones would be massively devalued - of course a sufficient national reserve of bullion would be many times the volume wanted when gold was a rare commodity.
It is likely that Erebor, with a Ring-bearer as its chief administrator, was a Communist state bearing little resemblance to Bilbo's fairy tale. I don't presume to guess at who really orchestrated its downfall, but there are a broad selection of candidates - nations frustrated when they couldn't export gold to strengthen their currencies, investors who couldn't flee to gold when inflation struck, and the many opportunists like Bilbo and Gandalf who looked at Thrór the way the Sarközy looked at Gaddafi. The first two benefited tremendously when "the dragon Smaug" took this hoard completely off the international market and the latter made tremendous fortunes (while stamping out nascent Communist movements in the East).
A special challenge is now offered in Smaug, who we have to figure out how to accept or reject. On the one hand, dragons aren't real, but on the other hand, neither is any of this. I have tried to come up with some theories about what Smaug might be besides an actual dragon and I hope you will add your own theories in the replies.
- Smaug is a person or people, perhaps a small army, with "modern-era" weaponry. This may include an aircraft, probably a helicopter equipped with missiles. This plot element might have been included by Jackson to open up the potential for a crossover with another film franchise, for example G.I. Joe, Scooby-Doo, or Hard to Be a God. The people might use flamethrowers and actively pretend to be a dragon.
- Smaug was actually a bombing campaign, orchestrated by one of the above mentioned parties or a sick alliance of them all
- Smaug is simply a large iguana that everyone decided to fear. Unlikely.
- Smaug was the volcanic activity unleashed by deep mining activity. Along with fountains of lava and steam, and caverns collapsing as the ground beneath them becomes gooey, the mountain might have released large amounts of carbon monoxide or other gasses that caused hallucinations and brain damage. This would explain why Thráin II went off his nut eventually. I think this will deserve more consideration when we get around to the Balrog.
- Smaug did not actually exist but was invented by Bilbo, Gandalf, and Thorin II (Christopher Meloni) to explain widespread destruction in Dale and Erebor - possibly destruction that they themselves caused.
I will now float an idea of what might have happened and we can check to see if the films give us evidence for this. It is possible that Thorin took his family out of Erebor because the state communist project had reached a stage of abolishing nobility and aristocracy. Bilbo shows Thorin finding menial work as a blacksmith, suggesting that he never developed skill as a craftsman while posing next to his grandfather's throne, and says that he "never forgave, and he never forgot." This is the typical attitude of a gusano in exile. Smaug is possibly a dysphemism for the people of Erebor and Dale who have assumed full control of national production. Thorin's plan is therefore to return to Erebor, go Dresden on everyone, pin the crime on "a dragon", and install himself on the throne - or failing that, at least get his mitts on the Arkenstone.
Returning to the present from where Bilbo narrates, a little banter between Frodo (Evan Rachel Wood) and Bilbo confirms that the Sackville-Bagginses do want to murder Bilbo. We also get a taste of Bilbo's misogyny when he labels his unseen, impoverished relative a "dreadful woman." (Of course, not a woman who gets any dialogue in his memoirs - we are going to be hearing from upwards of two female characters before these three films conclude.) And finally, we get to the action when Bilbo blasts an enormous wreath of marijuana smoke into the sky, where it illustrates the title card. The clock turns back sixty years to reveal that young Bilbo (Topher Grace) was a fucking loser addict way back then, as well. When along comes Gandalf (Gérard Depardieu) with some fucking annoying wordplay that nobody enjoys, ready to beat Bilbo in to his similarly remorseless gang. When we return
Edited by swampman ()
The Hobbit now tries its hand as a contender for the worst heist movie of all time. We must suffer through six hours of obscurantist galimatias to reach a heist that has no real plan and is not necessarily about successfully stealing anything. This begins with the blandest meet-cute since Greg and Marcia Brady did their Flowers in the Attic routine. In two minutes of conversation that covers nothing of substance, Gandalf informs Bilbo that he is being recruited against his will into an undefined "adventure." It is clear from this conversation that Gandalf carefully chose Bilbo to accompany his team as their master burglar due to Bilbo's reputation earned in childhood, the particulars of which Bilbo is careful to omit. Gandalf leaves a mark on the door of Bag-End which means something like "thieves welcome", and later, as Bilbo is shown sitting down to a meal that he "cooked himself" (he returns the pan to the stovetop with the handle set over the open fire), dwarfs begin to pour in and help themselves to Bilbo's vast hoard of food. First Dwalin, then Balin; then Kili and Fili; then Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, Gloin, Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur; and finally Thorin. To state the obvious, this is clearly an attempt to cash in on the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but at least Disney had the sense to grant aptronyms to the swarm of miners.
The story of their introduction is a major clue into how Bilbo's mind works. It unintentionally contains a wealth of minor details, such as the implication that Bilbo is a doomsday-prepper based on the number of pantries in his cave fortress, or how about, if Bilbo doesn't see the mark that Gandalf left on his door, does that mean he hasn't been outside in however many days elapsed between Gandalf's first visit and the dwarf turnout? (Where has he been shitting during this interval?) But broadly, it is the first major characterization of figures who Bilbo clearly does not respect, outside of historical actors like Sauron and Isildur. Tolkien's first edition of The Hobbit was 310 pages, so he was not restricted in his ability to provide these dwarfs with backstories or personalities, which means that it was a conscious choice by Bilbo to provide only four of Thorin's twelve sub-dwarfs with either. Dwalin is the hardened man-at-arms, Balin the elder councilor, Kili is the dwarf who is imbued with conventionally-attractive-human features as a sort of "gun on the mantelpiece" for an inappropriate side-plot we'll deal with as it arises, and Bombur is played by Mike Myers, in a reprisal of his role as a gluttonous, evil Scot in Austin Powers 2, except in this film he has a tonsure. But even for the few dwarfs of consequence, the focus of their introduction, as con-men in on a heist, who will be due an equal share of the loot, is on how much inconvenience they cause for Bilbo. A competent storyteller would lay in expository dialogue and interactions that reveal character details, but in this 20-minute segment, Bilbo is too busy showing us that he gets taken advantage of due to his good manners as a host, and that he is reluctant to participate in looting foreign treasuries before he goes off and loots them. Bilbo finds it essential to remind us always that he is harried and disrespected while shouldering a disproportionate burden. It is a wonder he does not suffer crucifixion and arise from the dead by the end of this trilogy. As for the dwarfs, we're shown that they're gluttonous and unable to agree on an accent. Bilbo further dilutes their individuality by having them sing ironically in unison about destroying Bilbo's property. The unfortunate inclusion of this song, which could not have been invented extemporaneously or planned by the dwarfs in advance, must be an effort by either Bilbo or Tolkien to shoehorn their poetry into the narrative.
Although the first 45 minutes of the film is packed with self-serving irrelevancies that eventually give way to fish-out-of-water gags when Bilbo finally "capitulates" and joins the team of thieves, there is one plaintive line buried here that I cannot let stand. Bilbo is listing the damage the dwarfs have caused to Bag-End and remarks, "I'm not even going to tell you what they've done in the bathroom. They've all but destroyed the plumbing." Plumbing to where? We have already tried to figure out what could be done to satisfy a Shire Hobbit's septic needs. Are we now supposed to accept that Bag-End is connected to a municipal sewer system? When the plumber has to come around, what kind of tools does he wield? If Hobbits have exceptional huge diets, how are dwarfs able to out-match their poop loads? Are there toilets in Rivendell as well or do Elfs just go off the side? Although I was initially confused and disoriented by Bilbo's wild claim, I reminded myself that The Hobbit, created as a commercial followup to The Lord of the Rings, misses no opportunity to insert plot elements from the latter, and moreover, to remark on or update problematic elements from it. The first major action scene of the film, a flashback to Thorin's family's humiliation at the hands of orcs, pursues the same goal. In response to unanimous critical agreement that "orcs" are a stand-in for black people, the writers decided that a "pale orc" should be Thrór's killer (in honorable combat, mind you) and a runner-up revenge-target of Thorin II behind the dragon Smaug. This is like trying to make The Wire less racist by casting Michael Jackson as a glue-huffing t-shirt and backwards cap salesperson in the fourth season. When Thorin cuts off Azog's forearm, we immediately wonder if he was made white to avoid recalling the many black hands King Leopold II's capitalist legions severed in the "Congo Free State." Such odious tokenism might almost be forgivable if it were a one-time mistake, but we will be treated to an even more bizarre and inappropriate series of inclusivities when we reach the subplot featuring the dwarf Kili. Bringing this back to bear on the question of Bilbo's "plumbing", there are only two possibilities that I can see. One is that Jackson or Tolkien, chary of resolving a major plot contradiction (what happened to over 87 million tons of Hobbit poop?), threw in this line in a failed effort to pacify their dissatisfied readership. The other is that Bilbo adds this dialogue as part of his scheme to inflate the value of Bag-End. Perhaps the word "plumbing" describes a single length of pipe leading to the unhealthiest valley in Middle-Earth.
For if the plumbing in Bag-End's bathroom can be demolished by a dozen-odd dwarf shits, even hardened and compacted after days on the road, we should like to know a great deal more about this plumbing and the presence of indoor plumbing in Middle-Earth generally. Inclusion of lead pipes in the elaborately-constructed city-states, for example, would not only be justified by the general level of social and technological development - but widespread lead poisoning would give us a more coherent explanation than currently on offer for the actions of 60-70% of the characters we'll meet in the Jackson cinematic universe. Or imagine the phenomenal upkeep on a bespoke toilet system made of some fanciful material like birch-trunks hollowed and cured in tar. What clue is offered by the woe stamped on Bilbo's mug when he says the plumbing is "all but destroyed"? Can this possibly indicate a mere clog - or is a clog a serious adversary in an age before rubber plungers? Or, is some obscure wall of Bag-End now steeped in dwarf urine? Or is he constrained by decorum from saying outright that dwarfs cannot aim their feces to Hobbit standards? (How would this be possible given the unholy throwing prowess of most denizens of Middle-Earth?) This is what happens when writers try to dismiss major continuity problems with a zero-effort quip: ex nihilo, nihil fit.
Let us also take a moment to reflect on the Battle of Azanulbizar, at the west gate of Moria, depicted in an irritating slow-motion expository flashback. According to the dwarfs' account, Thrór lost the richest kingdom in Middle Earth because his own greed summoned a dragon. His first inclination was to lead his citizens to Moria, which other dwarfs had left vacant over a thousand years ago. Through the eras, many black people moved in and made the mountain their home. Thrór's subsequent attempt to "evict" these "squatters" is something beyond genocidal. There is no conceivable basis for Thrór to be considered the "landlord" of Moria, nor is there any kind of international legal framework that might unexpectedly grant any dwarf any right to settle there. I say "beyond" genocidal because the immediate, hard fighting by Thrór, his sons, and their military, against the community self-defense by the orc citizenry, results in a Pyrrhic victory that breaks even the blood-hungry dwarf assailants with grief. The heir-apparent Thrain is so overcome by the direct consequences of his criminality that he has a psychotic break and wanders off. This leaves Thorin to certify his royalty (at least in Balin's eyes) by leading a preposterous final charge of safely-retreated dwarfs to be killed anew and to kill in even greater numbers. We are never shown the grief of the orc families who lost every single parent, sibling, and child mobilized in the defense of their centuries-old home.
An Unexpected Journey, we should note, has a very low bar to meet in terms of moving the plot forward. The only object seems to be introducing a significant percentage of the major players, and telling us how good they are at murder. Our next exhibit, Gandalf's minion Radagast the Brown, is clearly terrible at murder, so he does not end up mattering much to the plot. Bilbo again slips up and reveals his agenda when he has Radagast, whose main narrative function is to notify Gandalf that Dol Guluth is now home to "the Necromancer," himself perform necromancy on a hedgehog. For his part, Gandalf pulls off a creative triple-homicide against three trolls who were minding their own business eating their natural diet of entire ponies. With these gruesome scenes behind me, it is time to turn off the film and watch I Heart Huckabees twice consecutively to cleanse my amygdala of nightmare goo. I hope you are all alive and well and reading this.
damn theres a lot of text itt can anyone confirm whether any of this is worth reading before i expend the energy?
rattling your eyeballs back n forth don't take that much energy. if you really trying to economize cut & paste it into a text to speech thing. they're good posts airedale