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There and Back Again: One Year of Tolkien Book/Film Discussion

SilkRoad

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Nice points. I agree with much that was said. And I also think many of the changes that were made for the films were for the better (as much as I liked the books). :)

One thing I will say, I think the smartest thing the filmmakers did was hiring Alan Lee and John Howe as concept designers for the creatures and structures etc. It meant that the integrity and spirit of the book was honoured, which kept the fans happy and prevented any of that ridiculous Hollywood predilection for nonsensical and idiotic changes from seeping in.

Being a New Zealander, I'm curious about what you thought of the film's depiction of the landscapes. Were they what you imagined or not? If not, were the changes for the good or the better (I know some purists hated Pelennor Fields in the films, for example, but we're not up to that bit yet anyway ;) ) ? And what did you think of the use of landscape in the films: the atmosphere they created; the prevalence of it in the storytelling? Also did you find it unusual or unexpected approach to the use of them? The reason I mention this, is that LOTR is such a NZ-esque approach to landscape: making it like a living breathing creature; like a character in the story. I sometimes wonder how much people register this. They certainly do unconsciously anyway because tourism practically doubled here after FOTR came out :D And I genuinely wonder whether the landscape element is what sold the films to people: it elevated the story and made it believable, tangible - a lack of which, one could argue, was the downfall of other films, such as the recent Star Wars trilogy.

I just wanted to say that I completely agree with your points about Alan Lee and John Howe - I was so excited when they were hired, as they are the finest Tolkien illustrators around. I thought the Shire was very John Howe, but the films overall were more Alan Lee. I did find all the elvish stuff a little too spooky and didn't like Lothlorien very much at all - I didn't feel it was much at all like the books and the Lothlorien sequence is one of my favourites in the books, so I was a little annoyed by it being so creepy and spacey. It was supposed to be green and gold and otherworldly but comforting - not bleached out, eerie and terrifying!

The LOTR films were one of the biggest reasons I decided to visit NZ as well (in 2004) when I went to Australia. I saw a lot of locations around Queenstown and Arrowtown, and had a wonderful time. I saw a bunch of places which basically looked just as they did in the films, because they hadn't been CGI-tinkered with much. I 100% agree that the landscapes and lands became like an essential "character" in the films. That's exactly how I thought of it, and it's a big reason why the films were so much more enthralling than the new Star Wars films, for instance, which were CGI to the max. Frequently, scenes and places looked just as I'd pictured them in the books, or if not, I also found the interpretations extremely valid. And the "realness" of the landscapes and scenes throughout the films made the whole thing feel more like history than fantasy, which is just what Tolkien was going for.
 

RaptorWizard

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Hey fellas what type do you think the legendary wizard Gandalf is? I vote INTP.
 

MacGuffin

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Nice points. I agree with much that was said. And I also think many of the changes that were made for the films were for the better (as much as I liked the books). :)

One thing I will say, I think the smartest thing the filmmakers did was hiring Alan Lee and John Howe as concept designers for the creatures and structures etc. It meant that the integrity and spirit of the book was honoured, which kept the fans happy and prevented any of that ridiculous Hollywood predilection for nonsensical and idiotic changes from seeping in.

Being a New Zealander, I'm curious about what you thought of the film's depiction of the landscapes. Were they what you imagined or not? If not, were the changes for the good or the better (I know some purists hated Pelennor Fields in the films, for example, but we're not up to that bit yet anyway ;) ) ? And what did you think of the use of landscape in the films: the atmosphere they created; the prevalence of it in the storytelling? Also did you find it unusual or unexpected approach to the use of them? The reason I mention this, is that LOTR is such a NZ-esque approach to landscape: making it like a living breathing creature; like a character in the story. I sometimes wonder how much people register this. They certainly do unconsciously anyway because tourism practically doubled here after FOTR came out :D And I genuinely wonder whether the landscape element is what sold the films to people: it elevated the story and made it believable, tangible - a lack of which, one could argue, was the downfall of other films, such as the recent Star Wars trilogy.

I was surprised I still enjoyed the movie as much as I did, we'll see if that holds up for the next two.

Nothing is ever like I imagine it, but the landscape of NZ was very well-suited for filming this story. Love to come visit sometime.

The elf's name was Glorfindel, and he is rumored to be the same Glorfindel that died killing a balrog at the fall of Goldolin in the prior age.

(what can I say? i'm a tolkien geek. Sigh.)




I'm not sure hobbits used horses, typically, did they? So they could only get them from men?



I disliked the movie balrog, I felt like it was overproduced and I was watching a video game. One thing I had loved about Tolkien was the spiritual symbolism inherent in the books; unlike Lewis, however, who incorporated his faith directly and rather clumsily into his writing (well, blatantly), Tolkien simply was informed by his. So his Istari were rather like angels cloaked in flesh, with inherent power in their BEING... same thing with the Balrogs which were essentially dark angels. Although Tolkien muddies the notion a bit by having special words of power that can be used (like the spell of closing Gandalf casts on the door), essentially their magic was not AD&D magic where wizards cast spells they learn; like the elves, it is magic inherent in their very being. The battle of Gandalf and Durin's Bane is almost like a primal battle between the core nature of two beings, like throwing fire at water and seeing what comes out the victor. Olorin (AKA gandalf), by his wording, forbids the balrog to pass; it's less like a spell from Gandalf and more like telling the balrog it is bound there by its past and its nature and also by Gandalf's nature itself -- and it cannot actually leave or make its way past.

Anyway, the whole Moria sequence, from the lurker in the lake onward to them fleeing into daylight at the far end, is my favorite sequence in the entire trilogy, except for maybe Shelob's Lair. It has wonderful pacing, an ominous build, gollum following them at a distance, and the chamber of mazarbul is inspired, with the horror of the whole butchered diary they find -- the middle earth version of the "discovered tape footage" so popular in today's cinema. "Drums. Drums in the deep. They are coming. We cannot get away. They are coming." I mean, just creepy as hell.



Your description is accurate, and despite it being a major change in a character, I actually felt like this one was appropriate. In the book, aragorn was more part of a plot device -- this faceless character with no real life but just to become the future king and reinstallation of the lineage of old men of legend. The movie gave Aragorn a face and heart and an actual plot of his own to invest in. he was far more sympathetic, and didn't really have his character tarnished.



I agree with your thoughts here; it was another change I found welcome. Tolkien had some wonderful dramatic sections in his writing (like moria) but other places really dropped the ball.. and killing off Boromir at the beginning of the Two Towers really was a dramatic waste. I think this was a great move on Jackson's part as well.


The first movie is easily my favorite of the three, and the only one I can watch nowadays.



I don't really think that. Like I said, I can't even watch movies 2 & 3. So the ring only gets as far as the falls of Rauros for me, in the movies. :alttongue:

I think that much of the Two Towers book sucks, though, in terms of the ALG trio half (lots of boring boring dead space... and oh yes, "we're running, we're running this way now, yes, this way, we're running, running, running... and running some more, oh keep running). However, the passage of the ring south toward Mordor is fine. But we'll save that for the TT discussion.

I don't remember how the landscape looked in movies 2 & 3. But for the first movie, I was very impressed... I think it was all quite perfect and fit with my imagination for the story, with all that terrain that was covered -- Hobbiton, Bree, Weathertop, whatever bits of Rivendell was real, and the rivers and forests at movie's end. NZ seemed to be a perfect choice.

I agree with a lot of that except you'd think a Ranger could rustle up some horses. Poor Bill only got a mention in the movie as well. Until that line I barely noticed they had him!

P.S. I read the name of the elf at the beginning and now I can only remember it started with a "G". Still forgettable!

"innocent lost" is an important theme -- Frodo I know was probably the "pure one" in terms of his motivations, but the journey changes him irrevocably, and after a few years of some really bad moments after he gets home, he can't deal with it anymore and needs to move on and leaves to travel over the sea with the other ringbearers. It changes you. he suffered in order to protect his friends/home and give them the ability to enjoy their lives, but he paid a price to do that. Same thing with hobbiton, where the hobbits were more careful and untouched by the outer world, but Saruman/Sharkey devastates their homeland. Tolkien was experiencing this due to the industrialization of his beloved countrysides/homeland.

Yeah, that's something that doesn't come up much in TFOTR, but will start to play a bigger role in the next two volumes.

I just wanted to say that I completely agree with your points about Alan Lee and John Howe - I was so excited when they were hired, as they are the finest Tolkien illustrators around. I thought the Shire was very John Howe, but the films overall were more Alan Lee. I did find all the elvish stuff a little too spooky and didn't like Lothlorien very much at all - I didn't feel it was much at all like the books and the Lothlorien sequence is one of my favourites in the books, so I was a little annoyed by it being so creepy and spacey. It was supposed to be green and gold and otherworldly but comforting - not bleached out, eerie and terrifying!
The elves are a bit spooky in the novels, esp. early on with all the blindfolds and such. Lothlorien didn't seem to last very long in the movie compared to the book, and as such they didn't show it to be much of a safe haven for the fellowship.
 

Totenkindly

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Hey fellas what type do you think the legendary wizard Gandalf is? I vote INTP.

I would say that Gandalf is an INTx, he has elements of both types in him.

However, I don't really want to make this into a typing thread -- we have other threads that have already been done for typing LotR characters, and that is not the purpose of this thread nor this subforum.
 

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The thread discussion inspired me to watch parts of Fellowship last night again... although I can't find Disc 2 of my expanded edition, arggg! But I did scatter-watch things up to Rivendell.

I think Jackson's direction can sometimes lose nuance, things get a little too heavy-handed... like Ian Holme's rendition of Bilbo, which is a little too schlocky in sports despite not being bad overall. I find that I bring things from the book into the movie, such as the realization that Bilbo is the only bearer of the Ring that ever gave it up willingly (not even Frodo can say that, although he lost control at the very Cracks of Doom). Which says a lot for the little light-hearted guy. So watching that scene where he drops the ring (and it falls heavily to the ground) and walks away is powerful. Even better is the scene right after, with Gandalf lost in thought before the fire, in the forefront of the camera, and Frodo comes in, and Gandalf doesn't notice him for a bit until suddenly he "comes back" and shifts his eyes to the right without turning his head. Just a well-directed/acted frame.

I really like Arwen racing with Frodo toward Rivendell ahead of the riders -- I get kind of teary from the moment Aragorn says he's going to take him, she says she can do it and is the faster, and he's scared for her, yet lets her go because he knows she is right. And she knows it's dangerous too, but just does it, running her horse as fast as he'll go, and the RWs are all hot on her heels... she just seems so vulnerable and beautiful and resilient and determined in that moment. There were changes to the movie version that I felt really didn't impact the tone/nature of the book much; since Arwen wasn't really fleshed out, this makes her a more interesting/fleshed out character. (Yet, as you'll see in later discussion, I was very upset over changes to characters like Faramir because I felt like the changes ran against the established character.)

Getting back to Jackson's schlock -- sometimes the drama works (including his slowmo camera panning / intense music), and other times it doesn't (such as with Galadriel's "oh I'm all bright and sparkly with laryngitis" moment, which ruins the scene rather than allowing the scene to speak for itself). Subtlety might have really helped the drama within some scenes, but he's not really that kind of director.
 

SilkRoad

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Getting back to Jackson's schlock -- sometimes the drama works (including his slowmo camera panning / intense music), and other times it doesn't (such as with Galadriel's "oh I'm all bright and sparkly with laryngitis" moment, which ruins the scene rather than allowing the scene to speak for itself). Subtlety might have really helped the drama within some scenes, but he's not really that kind of director.

Do you mean the bit with the Mirror of Galadriel, where she...freaks out, turns into a film negative and has a bizarre boomy voice?

I still can't get over how dumb that was. And don't get me wrong, I adore these films, and especially the first, and though I can find things to be critical about, I think all three are fantastic achievements in so many ways. But that bit was just so stupid and cheesy. I remember having a total WTF moment when I first saw it. :laugh:

The Arwen race to the ford with Frodo bit is just fabulously powerful. So beautifully filmed and just brings her out as a character. It was one bit I felt I "should" have disapproved of, being a bit of a purist, but I loved it.
 

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Oh I forgot to mention something about the actual writing style that began to bother me: characters constantly staring in amazement or wonder at another character, usually when Aragorn reveals his kingly lineage. I could handle it a couple of times, but it began to occur so frequently I began to roll my eyes each time. Trying to impart a sense of awe to the reader is a difficult task, esp. for an imaginary world. Aragorn's destiny is a big deal for those in that imaginary world, but I think Tolkien overused this trope way too often. A small annoyance in the grand scheme of things.
 

MacGuffin

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Do you mean the bit with the Mirror of Galadriel, where she...freaks out, turns into a film negative and has a bizarre boomy voice?

I still can't get over how dumb that was. And don't get me wrong, I adore these films, and especially the first, and though I can find things to be critical about, I think all three are fantastic achievements in so many ways. But that bit was just so stupid and cheesy. I remember having a total WTF moment when I first saw it. :laugh:

I liked it, super-creepy and dark.
 

SilkRoad

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I liked it, super-creepy and dark.

Definitely super-creepy, but I just thought it was way too much! I thought they could have just had eerie music and maybe some VERY subtle effect. It just makes me giggle and not in a good way. I do love Cate Blanchett though.
 

21%

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Definitely super-creepy, but I just thought it was way too much! I thought they could have just had eerie music and maybe some VERY subtle effect. It just makes me giggle and not in a good way. I do love Cate Blanchett though.
Ya, that scene in the book was awesome -- she's supposed to become "terrible and beautiful", like all mighty scary and worshipable. The movie version is just kinda... cheap >_<
 

Totenkindly

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Do you mean the bit with the Mirror of Galadriel, where she...freaks out, turns into a film negative and has a bizarre boomy voice?

yes. THAT part. :rolleyes:

I still can't get over how dumb that was. And don't get me wrong, I adore these films, and especially the first, and though I can find things to be critical about, I think all three are fantastic achievements in so many ways. But that bit was just so stupid and cheesy. I remember having a total WTF moment when I first saw it. :laugh:

I know, I feel like Jackson has to somehow make everything overt and concrete; he really didn't know how to work with suggestion and insinuation very well in some parts of the picture. (You'll hear me bitch about this in some other parts of the film where I just felt like powerful scenes from the book were ruined... such as the Balrog, which like I stated the other day looked like a video game boss rather than some larger-than-life demonic spirit.)

That scene is very powerful, especially for Galadriel's character, and he just clubbed it to death like it was a baby seal and he an Urukhai. There are other ways of being dramatic without slapping electric bolts and voice reverb on someone... especially an elegant elf queen who has been around since the First Age. Jeeez.

The Arwen race to the ford with Frodo bit is just fabulously powerful. So beautifully filmed and just brings her out as a character. It was one bit I felt I "should" have disapproved of, being a bit of a purist, but I loved it.

:)

Definitely super-creepy, but I just thought it was way too much! I thought they could have just had eerie music and maybe some VERY subtle effect. It just makes me giggle and not in a good way. I do love Cate Blanchett though.

Ya, that scene in the book was awesome -- she's supposed to become "terrible and beautiful", like all mighty scary and worshipable. The movie version is just kinda... cheap >_<

Yeah, like Silk says, this kind of scene is handled in SO many other movies with some grace, it's not difficult to suggest things that are creepy without bludgeoning them. Camera angle, music, lighting, delivery, pacing, etc.

She didn't look "terrible and beautiful," she just looked .... crackly and freaky-weird.

(I wonder how Jadis will be handled in The Magician's Nephew, now that I'm thinking about it. She's kind of the epitome of who Galadriel was tempted to become.)

I think this is also getting back to my complaint about "magic of being" versus "magic of doing." A lot of the characters in LotR are powerful because of who they are, not necessarily what they do -- it's power rooted in their nature and being. Galadriel can speak and command (although she lets Celeborn rule) because of who she is, not because she had to cast some spell per se that would come with a bunch of prerequisite lighting effects, etc.
 

Totenkindly

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Oh I forgot to mention something about the actual writing style that began to bother me: characters constantly staring in amazement or wonder at another character, usually when Aragorn reveals his kingly lineage. I could handle it a couple of times, but it began to occur so frequently I began to roll my eyes each time. Trying to impart a sense of awe to the reader is a difficult task, esp. for an imaginary world. Aragorn's destiny is a big deal for those in that imaginary world, but I think Tolkien overused this trope way too often. A small annoyance in the grand scheme of things.

ROFL.

I noticed that in the movie a bit at the COuncil of Elrond, too...
"Who's THAT guy? What a schlunk."
"Oh, he's the heir of Elendil."
"The heir of elendil??"
"yes, the heir of Elendil!"
"OMG, he's the heir of Elendil!!! Thank god you are here, heir of Elendil! [blah]"

I guess we don't really comprehed how big the "men of old" were in myth and legend, it would be like meeting King Arthur or George Washington or Jesus, or John Lennon. ;) But only bigger!

Still, I think Americans (and maybe some other modern generations) are pretty jaded. We just don't really have reverence anymore for particular lineages. It's more like, "yeah, so he's the heir of Elendil, what has he done for US lately??"
 

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I guess we don't really comprehed how big the "men of old" were in myth and legend, it would be like meeting King Arthur or George Washington or Jesus, or John Lennon. ;) But only bigger!

Still, I think Americans (and maybe some other modern generations) are pretty jaded. We just don't really have reverence anymore for particular lineages. It's more like, "yeah, so he's the heir of Elendil, what has he done for US lately??"

That's something I'll probably talk about more in the last volume. Americans in particular don't have aristocracy, it runs counter to the "everyman" democracy tradition.
 

Totenkindly

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Hmmm. Maybe if Aragorn had been a rock star, a sports hero, or a tech guru, he would have gotten more acclaim from us.
 

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Getting back to Jackson's schlock -- sometimes the drama works (including his slowmo camera panning / intense music), and other times it doesn't (such as with Galadriel's "oh I'm all bright and sparkly with laryngitis" moment, which ruins the scene rather than allowing the scene to speak for itself). Subtlety might have really helped the drama within some scenes, but he's not really that kind of director.
Ugh, his overuse of slow-mo is ridiculous; although it's far worse in King Kong. :rolleyes: I thought the attack in Moria where Frodo is speared by the troll goes too far. Yes we need to care if he lives or dies but there are only so many 'almost deaths' one story can hold; emphasising every one like it's really the end (with slow-mo and everything), can get tiring. He can be quite heavy handed in general too (the Galadriel scene being a perfect example of where he goes way OTT) but as you mentioned he makes some really lovely quiet simple moments that convey so much. He's very good at communicating the weight of emotion and creating an atmosphere of feeling. Frodo's uneasiness with Boromir, his increasing isolation from the fellowship and the immense psychic burden of the ring, for example, are dealt with so well.
 

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Did anyone notice that there are over *25* minutes of credits at the end of the extended edition, first movie? The movie ends at 1:35 on disk 2 and the credits do not stop until 2:02 or so. Wow.

[MENTION=5871]Southern Kross[/MENTION]: the slowmo in the troll attack didn't bother me as much, but mostly because it was early on. Jackson just drags that slowmo thing out for all three pictures; by the end, it just becomes tedious. What is funny is that I forgave him for much in King Kong because he really was just making his own movie (although the slowmos when the crew discovered they were going to Skull Island, etc., were so overwrought). But like you say, he's interesting in that sometimes he totally blows it with heavy-handed drama, and other times he pulls off something quite lovely. In LotR, he tends to do best with the hobbits (which he had a passion for anyway)... and in King Kong, there are scenes like the winter park in NYC with just Kong and Annie that are lovely, or the sunset with both of them just sitting together and watching. (There's the slowmo I recall too when Annie walks toward Kong on the NYC street after he had looked frantically for her, and she's like an angel... the slowmo there was so perfect, because the word was in a sense 'slowing down' for Kong and he was forgetting to breathe.) Jackson's kind of hit or miss, it seems.
 

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Tom Bombadil

Every so often I read from LOTR fans that they wish the character of Tom Bombadil had made an appearance in the film trilogy. His character is one of the most mysterious in Middle Earth. Several theories have been floated regarding his nature. Is he a god? THE God? He seems very powerful, rescuing Frodo and the other Hobbits from the Old Forest as well as the wights on the barrow. He is seemingly unaffected by the One Ring, even trying it on at one point, but he is unconcerned by it. He is an ancient being, one with great power.

The exact nature of Tom is never completely revealed by Tolkien. My own interpretation is similar to another theory: that he is a kind of living embodiment of Middle Earth. He is both his own being as well as tied to the actual world. He lives in the physical world, but is far removed from the concerns of the beings that live in it. He wields great power, seemingly because he is unconcerned by it. As Tolkien says:

"I might put it this way. The story is cast in terms of a good side, and a bad side, beauty against ruthless ugliness, tyranny against kingship, moderated freedom with consent against compulsion that has long lost any object save mere power, and so on; but both sides in some degree, conservative or destructive, want a measure of control. But if you have, as it were, taken 'a vow of poverty', renounced control, and take your delight in things for themselves without reference to yourself, watching, observing, and to some extent knowing, then the questions of the rights and wrongs of power and control might become utterly meaningless to you, and the means of power quite valueless..."

In the end, I believe it was a good decision to leave him out of the film trilogy. The films are already very long, and adding Tom does not move the story forward in any appreciable way. Tom's mannerisms - hopping and bopping around while singing rhyming songs would look ridiculous. Precisely what a big budget fantasy film needs to avoid.

Tom Bombadil was a fun character to visit in the novels. Leave him there.
 

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I don't think TB would have contributed much to the story and, as you suggest, it would have also been a big departure in tone.

In all honesty, I feel like TB was something he dumped in just because the guy had personal meaning to Tolkien -- kind of like a "literary cameo."

From wikipedia:
Tolkien invented Tom Bombadil in memory of his children's Dutch doll, and wrote light-hearted children's poems about him, imagining him as a nature-spirit evocative of the English countryside, which in Tolkien's time had begun to disappear.

Tolkien's 1934 poem "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" depicts Bombadil as a "merry fellow" living in a dingle close to the Withywindle river, where he wanders and explores nature at his leisure. Several of the dingle's mysterious residents, including the River-spirit Goldberry (also known as the "River-woman's daughter"), the malevolent tree-spirit Old Man Willow, the Badger-folk and a Barrow-wight all attempt to capture Bombadil for their own ends, but quail at the power of Tom's voice, which defeats their enchantments and commands them to return to their natural existence. At the end of the poem, Bombadil captures and marries Goldberry. Throughout the poem, Bombadil is unconcerned by the attempts to capture him and brushes them off with an inherent power in his words...

See? He wrote a poem about Tom in 1934, a few years after he finished his first draft of The Hobbit but before starting LotR. FotR was not published until 1954, twenty years later. I think he would have been writing the segment with Tom probably in the 1939-1942 range while WWII was raging and years after Tom creation. At the time, Tolkien was ALSO wandering in the plot; he had many MANY false starts for LoTR and wasn't even sure of what tone he wanted or where things should go, if you study the bio's and the nine volumes of notes published by his son Christopher in the 80's/90's. This is why the story took him 12 years to write.

I would guess he introduced Tom as a homage to his kids, and because he personally liked Tom himself, and because his lightheartedness at that time in history was very important since the story and the world was very dark, and because he was also trying to keep the story moving and didn't quite know what he wanted to do with it yet. And, at some point, once something gets embedded in the foundation of a story, it's very very hard to pull it out. They needed to escape from the riders by cutting through the Old Forest, and then they needed to pick up the Westernesse blades from the wight in the other bookend scene (and be saved by someone), and it would have been difficult to write Tom out later in the process... and we all know how bad Tolkien was at editing things out of his work, if you look at the Two Towers...

Just my thoughts, based on my knowledge of Tolkien and my own experience writing long texts....
 

MacGuffin

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Yeah, the advice given to writers when they edit their own stories is to "kill your darlings".

He certainly couldn't kill this one, probably for sentimental reasons as you said.

Then again, think what Stephen King would've done. Oh wait! We don't have to imagine, we have the Dark Tower series.
 
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