Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Les Misérables

I'd like to start by saying that this post has nothing to do with the Les Misérables film that is coming out in December. I've never even seen the musical Les Misérables. But, where there is smoke there is fire...

Volumes 1&2
So, I undertook to read the original unabridged version in French. Wow, books these days are so different from back then. If someone went on for pages and pages about social darkness and then went back to the story, and then did it again....well, the book probably wouldn't get published without major amputations. But that was then, and this is now. So, the story that was adapted into one of the most popular musical dramas made it to press. Look to the past, learn for the future.

Anyhow, the thing that struck me most about the book is the fact that the title is very fitting. I wish I had kept a tally of how many times the word "misérable" was used.

Basically there are three types of miserable people in this book:

The miserably poor
The emotionally wretched
The wretchedly both

The French word "misérable" is full of meanings. First of all, it is a noun and an adjective like the English word "miserable." One would think it means "miserable" straight-up and simple. But, it actually translates better as "wretched" (adj) or "wretch" (n).  It can also mean "slummy" and "poverty stricken." The French word "misérable" translates to "miserable" when one is talking of a miserable place or situation but not a miserable person.


Friday, November 23, 2012

The Hobbit

Who's excited for the film The Hobbit? I am, for sure, and I know many others are! Ever since he directed The Lord of the Rings, fans have been hoping that Peter Jackson would undertake The Hobbit.

Not only is Peter Jackson one of the directors, but Sir Ian McKellen, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, Ian Holm (as an older Bilbo), Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom, and Christopher Lee all playing the same roles as they did in The Lord of the Rings. Wonderful news!

Bilbo, from The Hobbit
However, from the production videos and trailers I've seen, the film seems to diverge quite a bit from the book. Galadriel does not even appear in The Hobbit. All the wizard action (Involving Radagast the Brown and Saruman the White) happens simultaneously as the action of the story, but is off-set so to speak: Tolkien never takes us there. We don't see the defeat of the Necromancer, we just hear about it. 

Secondly, I never would have pictured the village of Dale as an Italian/southern France village. It's cute though.

Thirdly, they added to the dwarves' characters. Ok, fine. Sounds entertaining. 

Fourthly, they got the beards wrong for the most part. In the film some of them don't really have beards, they have glorified mustaches. However, they are dwarves, therefore they ought to have full beards. Thorin Oakenshield from the book would be ashamed to go about with as little a beard as they gave him in the movie.

Fili and Kili, being younger, can certainly have smaller beards (in my opinion), but I think they should be longer and fuller than men generally wear theirs. Kili and Thorin in the movie look rather like Rangers or Men of Gondor.  In this photo, Kili looks like he could be a brother to Aragorn.
Here are pictures for comparison's sake.

Full, long beards are part of what make dwarves, dwarves (see The Blog That Time Forgot if you don't believe me). In the book, The Hobbit, Dwalin at least was able to tuck his beard in his belt: "It was a dwarf with a blue beard tucked into a golden belt" (page 7). Once, when Thorin was very angry, he said to Gandalf, "May your beard wither." Thorin was furious, showing that this is one of the worst things he could possibly wish upon another. The state of one's beard was a matter of pride. To loose one's beard would be like losing one's "man-card,"  or in this case, one's "dwarf-card."

The Blog that Time Forgot 
This blog goes into a detailed textual analysis of the dwarves' beards in the book. You can skip down to the section about beards. Basically his argument agrees with my observations from the book: dwarves should have beards and that beards are a source of pride.

In a production (behind-the-scenes) video one of the people on set suggests that maybe Fili and Kili can't grow beards yet. The above blog mentions this, and in addition to that blogger's analysis, I'd like to point out that Fili and Kili, most certainly did have beards in the book, "It was two dwarves, both with blue hoods, silver belts, and yellow beards" (page 8).

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Ballantine Books, published 1965.
The Hobbit (Official Site)
The Lord of the Rings (Official Site)
All photos come from the downloads sections.