I finally sat down and watched the Extended Edition of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (AUJ). I love these movies. Seeing Middle-earth come to life has been a treat for me. Yes, there are a lot of extra things in these new movies that aren’t in the original novel, but as I understand it, most of it comes from other sources that Tolkien wrote. I haven’t read all his works, so I can’t vouch for all of it, and I know that there is at least one total fabrication in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (TDOS), that of the character Tauriel.
I’m sure there are purists out there who are champing at the bit about this kind of thing, but I’m not. Why? Because we all have our individual interpretations of Tolkien’s works. What I see in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings will be different than what the person next to me sees. These movies are simply Peter Jackson’s interpretation of the canon. And who’s to say that the Professor himself wouldn’t approve of what Jackson has done? None of us can know.
If you’ve followed this blog at all, you know The Hobbit is near and dear to me. I credit hearing that story as the genesis of me wanting to be a writer. And with the publication of Spree, I’ve fulfilled a dream and a promise. The dream, of course, is to be a published author (and the logical extension of that, a full-time author). The promise? To dedicated my first published book to Robert Croddy, the teacher who read The Hobbit to his 6th grade science class every year. That act woke something in me, a desire to travel to all kinds of places through the pages of books.
One of my favorite scenes in AUJ is the one when they’re still in Bag-End and the dwarves start singing “Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold” (at least I’m assuming that’s the song’s title). Hearing that song come alive is a treat to me. But the book does it one better, and I’ll tell you why.
Right at the end of that song—which Tolkien transcribes much more of than we see in the movie—there’s a paragraph that sums up my love of books and how they can transport us. It’s the paragraph I think of any time I think of this ability books have, and it goes like this:
As they sang the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and jealous love, the desire of the hearts of dwarves. Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick. He looked out of the window. The stars were out in a dark sky above the trees. He thought of the jewels of the dwarves shining in the dark caverns. Suddenly in the wood beyond The Water a flame leapt up—probably somebody lighting a wood-fire—and he thought of plundering dragons settling on his quiet Hill and kindling it all to flames. He shuddered; and very quickly he was plain Mr. Baggins of Bag-End, Under-Hill, again.
Now, for the most part, I’m not a fan of poems, but that passage is pure poetry to me. The images it evokes when I read it go far beyond what words are there. The jewels of the dwarves, the stars shining in a dark sky…and that fire springing up in the wood beyond The Water. There’s something about that image in particular the spurs me, sparks my imagination (no pun intended).
Who is it? Why was the fire lit? What’s out there?
We never find out. All we know is what Tolkien tells us: “probably somebody lighting a wood-fire.” It’s such a simple thing and yet…it’s so grand to me. It embodies all the wonder I’ve spent years chasing in various books, sometimes finding it, more often not. Sometimes I don’t realize I’ve found it till after I finish the books. Sometimes it takes some time to realize I’ve found it in a new form, such as when Robert Crais begins exploring the true meaning of friendship in books like L.A. Requiem and Suspect.
But always, always, it comes back to that mysterious somebody lighting a fire out beyond The Water.
As rich and glorious as the Peter Jackson movies are, that single paragraph is far better to me, and I’m not sure why he didn’t include that image in the movie. I’m sure there’s some other passage that means as much to him that was included—we’re running into that personal interpretation thing again. A part of the spirit is there in the way he filmed the dwarves singing the song, and the actors do a splendid job of conveying the longing for home the dwarves feel, the need to go back and reclaim Ereborn.
I have achieved part of my dream: to be a published writer. I will continue to work on fulfilling the rest of the dream of being a full-time writer.
And I hope that someday, in some way, I can write a passage the sparks the fire of creativity the way Tolkien’s simple image of a fire springing to life in the darkness sparked mine. It’s a grand dream, I know, but without such dreams, I don’t think I would have become a writer in the first place.