Spiders, Dragons, and Hobbits, Oh My!

Yep. This is going to rock. And Cumberbatch has an absolutely perfect dragon voice. Thank you, Peter Jackson and crew. Thank you.

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The Hobbit: Get Ready for Smaug to Desolate

The trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is finally here. Only question is, Why do we have to wait another six months? I can’t get to the theater fast enough for this.

Radagast returns. Smaug is terrifying. Giant spiders and Beorn are finally on our doorstep. Even Legolas is back, and seemingly has a huge role to play (which is awesome!). The cast and crew are bringing a bigger, more epic story than the original book ever could. And even as a Tolkien devotee, I have to admit, I am absolutely delighted with that decision. Everything about this is shaping up into something incredible, and I couldn’t be happier.

The Small Things

I learned today that March 20th will be the 85th birthday of Fred Rogers. As I have said already, he is one of my inspirations and role models. No matter how dark things can become, no matter how strong evil seems to be, Rogers helped remind us all that there’s no reason to give up or give in. He showed us what “the faith of a child” looked like, and reflected the patience and goodwill of the God he served. If I can one day become half as genuine and kindhearted as he was, I’ll count myself blessed.

To make the coming week even sweeter, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be out on DVD the day before. I love just about everything about that film, including its sweeping scope and exciting battles and marvelous creatures…but the quieter, more poignant moments (like the one below) brought tears to my eyes. And they still do, no matter how many times I watch them.

It shouldn’t matter that it’s not in the book. That scene feels very much like something Tolkien would write, doesn’t it?

Today I finally realized another reason this scene might hit so close to home for me: Gandalf seems to echo not only Tolkien, but Rogers as well. It shows the best of Rogers’s faith and philosophy, the kindness and empathy that I give up on all too easily.

The greatest heroes among men are not necessarily those who command massive armies or wield the loudest voices. Often they are the people who excel at the small things, the “simple acts of kindness and love” that every person can mirror and pay forward.

Happy early birthday, Fred. Thank you for reminding me and millions of others and showing us what unconditional love looks like. Thank you for being a leader in quiet humility. Thank you for being exactly who you seemed to be.

Was J.R.R. Tolkien A Racist?

…Or “The Coincidental Christmas.” Coincidental, since I was working on another blog post, detailing the races of my own fantasy world, when this little chestnut slithered back into the light: “Was J.R.R. Tolkien a racist?”

Um…no. No, he decidedly was not. In fact, he wrote an eloquent letter to the Nazi party calling the race doctrine “pernicious and unscientific.”

He certainly had races which thought themselves above the others, like Elves and the men of Numenor. Problem is, as soon as they started forcing themselves on the other races, calamitous consequences were not far behind. This little nuance is often lost on those who consider Tolkien a bigot.

Some will never give up on tarnishing one of the 20th century’s greatest storytellers with racist accusations. Today, on this blessed and sacred holiday, I tripped across one rather shrill blogger, who has decided ahead of time that Tolkien’s racism can be recognized by any rational human being, and that the writer’s defenders are immature, angry little white supremacists. Normally for the sake of objectivity and letting the reader reach their own conclusion, I link to pieces I disagree with. In this case, I will neither do this nor mention him by name. This man is getting no more views or attention on my account.

But I’d like to offer my refutation to his all-too-common accusation in the form of someone else’s words. They put it better than I ever could, and you’ll find the whole excellent piece by Michael Martinez here. This paragraph was especially neat:

“Unfortunately, though many people rise quickly to defend J.R.R. Tolkien against the absurd arguments that his critics raise against him, they fall quickly into the trap of replying to silly provocations — a trap that is designed only to control the conversation. Trust me, I have walked that treadmill more than I want to recall. You cannot win an argument with someone who declares blindly that J.R.R. Tolkien was a racist. At best you can write your own thoughtful explanation of what Tolkien was doing and not respond directly to these sensationalists. That is, after all, what they crave: a passionate response from you and as many other people as they can provoke.”

The accusation will always be around, no matter how ridiculous it is. Never quite goes away. Maybe I’m dropping right into the aforementioned trap by replying at all. But since the accusation is finding more ears in the wake of the Hobbit movie, I thought someone’s insights might be offered against it.

Thanks for your time. And Merry Christmas!

First Scene from “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

I know I have talked quite a bit about the new Hobbit movie in recent weeks, but this is one bit of news I just couldn’t neglect to mention. After the premiere in Wellington last night, the first short clip has emerged. It’s the moment when Gandalf, Bilbo, and the Dwarves have found a weapons cache and the old wizard decides to give Bilbo a very valuable gift.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

“The Hobbit” – Second Trailer

My day has gotten off to a tremendous start, thanks in part to this astounding new trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I am sitting here, grinning ear-to-ear.

Even if I was worried about Jackson expanding his two movies into three (which I’m not), those worries would be completely dead by now. I am thrilled at the promise and quality on display here. See you at the midnight showing!