Erebor took my breath away.
I was only 13 when I first read the book. Tolkien is very descriptive and we kind of mock him a bit for it now because descriptions are "boring". However, my very fertile 13 year old brain was able to see Erebor clearly, distinctly and magnificently in my mind's eye. And that is one reason that I am always loathe to see a book made into film in the fantasy genre. It is bound to be disappointing. And thus, was part of my reticence to see The Hobbit. The other part was that I knew the cartoon was not able to keep up with the plot of the book in its allotted time and I did not want the movie to be as disappointing as the cartoon. Hence the 3 part solution to the contracting time problem. Yea, Peter Jackson! But how would the settings look? I should have known from the Lord of the Rings treatment of Rivendell that there would be no issue with the dwarven kingdom. The dwarven kingdom was the first foreign land I'd been introduced to in the Hobbit. Yes, I know the Shire comes first. But the Shire isn't foreign.
The Shire is little different than the rolling English countryside; or the rolling farms of Leelanau County where my dad grew up. And as for the Hobbit homes.... ever been to Charlevoix? Hobbit homes are not that new to me. Subterranean dwellings as described by Tolkien? That was new. And that is what stuck with me. Dwarves are miners and architects unparalleled in the world of Middle Earth. Yes the Elvish buildings are etheric and mesmerizing, rising to the heavens in dizzying fashion. And no... when I was 13 there was nothing I knew in my world to compare. But when the dwarves talk about their home of Erebor with its foreign sounding name, its mazes of gems and gold and the statuary... Thorin's obsession had become my own. And since I had just learned how the middle of our Earth was made I was fascinated with the idea that these constructs could exist below the surface. I mean we all build above ground... that is our everyday life. I had wanted something foreign and I found it under the Lonely Mountain.
You see, I'd spent most of my Summers reading the encyclopedia... looking at the pictures and reading the attached article of the most colorful entries is more like it. The Summer I was 13 I had gotten to G. Just before picking up the Hobbit at the library I was immersed in the world of the true middle earth: gemstones, geography & geology. The World Book Encyclopedia we had at the time dazzled my eyes with sparkling pictures of cut and polished stones, raw stones and geodes. Geodes, small scale models similar to the earth itself. At least that is what I had figured out when I got to geology and saw how the earth is actually made. While we did cover this a bit in science class the Encyclopedia's information is more encompassing (pun intended). Geography came in the pages between the two. How mountains and rivers form was absolutely fascinating, as was learning how to decipher the topographical maps. It made all kinds of sense when I got to the geology parts with the bit about mantles and crusts, magma and vents, continental shelves and whatnot. My brain swirled with the vast amount of information I had input. And no one in my house wanted to talk about what interesting things I had learned.
Cue grampa. He came into town and took me to the library. I had a reading list for things we would be reading in high school and went through the list looking for something like the Martian Chronicles that I had read the Summer before. The Librarian recommended the Hobbit but warned Grampa that it might be too advanced since I was only just going into 8th grade. But I had all of that knowledge freshly embedded in my brain and once the rhythm of Tolkien's voice became familiar I was transported. I lingered over the descriptions of Erebor with all the geological visions from the encyclopedia right there.
These were not the Dwarves of a Disney world with their restrained personalities and banal aspirations. They did not live in messy but unfussy cottages as if they were on par with human men. These were dwarves of gritty determination, pride of craftsmanship and heritage, courageous in the face of difficulties and standing up to both beings and issues that were bigger than they were. These were dwarves whose home reflected every facet of their being: stalwart, strong with firm foundations and bold aesthetics. And they reflected their home. Erebor is not separate from the dwarven community nor from the individual dwarves. Erebor is Thorin. Thorin is Erebor. In my mind as I read the stories the dwarves seemed to be actually larger than life.
I was small of character and voice as a child. I hid my convictions and passions to avoid being subjected to the torment of those who were larger than my life in every sense of the word. Thorin would not bend to injustice nor would he react with thoughtless aggression. And he would not leave anyone behind. I would not say that I was ever in love with Thorin Oakenshield. But if anyone could or would ever at that time been my personal body guard I would have had it be him. Not only for the protection and for the honorary title of dwarf with the invitation to Erebor at my convenience but because he would have taught me to look into myself and see where my own weaknesses lie. Similar to the way we were taught introspection in Catholic school. But in the book Thorin seemed more compassionate and realistic about being self disciplined.
As the movie began with an overview of the kingdom below the Lonely Mountain, my awareness of the world I actually live in dissipated for a time. I would have liked the tour of Erebor to have been a tad slower and lingering.
And the rest of the movie went by too quickly for me. It was as nerve wracking as I remember the book. It seemed that the company did not rest after one catastrophe before being plunged into another. The spider's were downplayed. THANK GOD! I hated that part of the book. The trolls were a lot funnier than I remember... it was a bit like watching Monty Python. I was slightly confused by my reaction though. I remember the Eagle rescue absolutely taking my breath away. As I read that I could feel the cold night wind on my face and smell that oily down smell in my nose as Bilbo hunkered into the bird to keep his place. But I did not get the soaring majesty of that sensory experience in the film. The only thing besides Erebor to really make my breath hitch was...
|gratianads90.wordpress.com: borrowed the photo from here. |
I knew SOMEONE would have to have done a screen capture
of this scene. It was absolutely breath-taking after the chaos of
dwarves in a feeding frenzy.
Richard Armitage as Thorin standing at Bilbo's door. The man is gorgeous to be sure. But he also has a wildness to him that fits Thorin as well as that brooding dedication to self discipline and community building. Thorin is the embodiment of all that we would come to know of Klingon Honor later in Star Trek: the Next Generation. And I believe that on a personal level Richard Armitage is the embodiment of Thorin son of Thrane.
Reality had come crashing down around me with the arrival of the other dwarves. As poor Bilbo is trying to play host to a pack of rowdy eaters I kept expecting him to yell, "Mrs. Hudson! Mrsssss. Huuuudsooooooonnnnnnn!" for a little assist in the serving department. It was chaos and Martin Freeman as Watson was so fresh in my head from a marathon of Sherlock it could not be helped. But there then is Thorin to restore order. And restore order he did.
Until I wanted to punch him for yelling at Marty, calling Bilbo all sorts of names because he'd gotten separated and subjected to Gollum (and THANK GOD that wasn't in the movie) in the midst of their flight from the Goblin King. If he hadn't admitted to being so wrong.... well... you know.
And then I remembered what it was about Thorin that I admired so much. He has the same raging passion for justice, integrity, honor and reliability that I had as I child. And Thorin expects the same bitter disappointment I had always expected. I was so difficult to get along with because I expected so much from people and was always so disappointed. It was not hard to behave properly and I never understood why people failed to do so on so regular a basis. Thorin watched his grandfather be consumed by his own weakness as I was watching my own parents' slow descent into a coming madness. I needed Thorin to lead me. As one of the last of the dwarves of Erebor he became the older brother in the family. And with the title of Eldest Sibling there is so much responsibility, so much worry, so much work.... and vigilance. Who else was supposed to help me do my job?
Watching the Hobbit, remembering what it was like to read the book if not recall it exactly, was an emotional trip. I think that I will have to go and read it before we watch the second installment. And I will have to actively separate Richard Armitage from his character. He is so good at immersing himself in the role, I suspect that comes from being a Geeky researcher, and tapping into the parts of himself that so closely reflect the characters flaws and all. It is no wonder that he is so reticent in interviews. It must seem as though he already has given away too much of himself in the role.