Kinds of Poetry – Tolkien vs. Jackson

Jackson apparently thinks the characters Tolkien gives us are too simply good to be fully believable to modern audiences, and so he feels obligated to “complicate” them, to give them internal conflicts other than the ones they actually have, in the hopes that we will better be able to relate to them.

I’m quoting from this article in the Nov/Dec 2013 Touchstone Magazine, in which Donald T. Williams explains how literature, while delighting us with its art, is more powerful than history or philosophy to nurture our moral vision, or to corrupt us with false images.

With the help of quotes from Sir Philip Sidney, who wrote Apology for Poetry in the sixteenth century, he shows how “Tolkien was very consciously and deliberately following the literary tradition that flows down to us from Sidney through Dr. Johnson and C. S. Lewis.”

Peter Jackson the filmmaker seems to be flowing in a different stream. But he is an artist, and of course will impart his own soul to his work. I wouldn’t expect him to give us The Rings, because that has already been done, and he is not J.R.R. Tolkien. But it is unfortunate that he has changed things to the degree and in the directions he has. Williams points out specific ways in which the characters who inspired us in the books disappoint us in the movies, and makes these general remarks:

By this process of negative moral transformation, in other words, we reach the place where beloved characters are unrecognizable to Tolkien’s fans, and those fans feel betrayed. And they are right to feel so, though mostly they do not understand why. It is because the difference between the books and the movies is not just one of necessary adaptation to a different medium. It is that the author consciously followed the Sidneyan tradition while the adaptor is either ignorant of it or doesn’t understand it or has rejected it.

Read the whole article here.

4 thoughts on “Kinds of Poetry – Tolkien vs. Jackson

  1. Thanks for sharing this. While I have enjoyed some aspects of the movies, I have always been so disappointed in Jackson's Aragorn and even more in his take on Faramir. I even avoid the movies more often than not because I can't stand to see them behaving in ways that are not true to the “real” characters.

    Reading the follow quote makes so much sense:

    For one of the things that the poet can potentially do better than nature is to embody truth more faithfully in ways that are more than just intellectual.

    Jackson can't see past the mind to the realm of the heart. It may be that he can't conceive of people behaving in a virtuous way in the face of opposing reason because he has never seen an embodied example.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My daughter and husband are bigger fans than me, though I admit my husband said I had to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy before we could get married. 🙂
    We have had the same talks around the dinner table.
    I think the mess Jackson has made with the Hobbit breaks my heart.
    I do love the stories much better just for the lovely story that it tells in its own quiet way.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember reading that excellent article — the author is a lit. professor at my daughter's college, which was pleasing to me, considering the interesting work he put into the background of his ideas. I agree with him. Jackson is all about making a movie, but he is really rather clueless about the massive undercurrent of traditions that Tolkien and his fellow professors swam in daily and thoroughly integrated into their work.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We watched part one of the hobbit and we now call that movie Not The Hobbit.

    Touchstone puts out very good articles… I will have to read this one…

    I am more than overjoyed that my Mr. Husband loves Tolkien's works and NOT Peter Jackson's!!

    I am so glad you wrote on this and that in so many things we are seeing them the same way.

    blessings to you my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

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