Tag Archives: Saruman

One More Point in Saving Mr. Banks

You may or may not have seen a post I did a little while ago about the film Saving Mr. Banks, readers. In it, I spoke about a line Walt Disney uttered in the film: “See, that’s what we storytellers do. We bring order to the world. We give people hope, over and over again.”

I wrote then about the way this statement affected me personally. (Among other things, it made me cry quite a bit.) Thinking more about this scene, and the movie in general, another line in the film struck me.

Throughout the movie, which shows Walt Disney doing his utmost to convince Mrs. Travers to allow him to make a film out of her Mary Poppins book, Disney again and again says that he wants to “make something beautiful” out of her story.   And he does not just want her permission to do this. He wants her help to do it.

How many of us use the word “beautiful” in conjunction with a film? Really, how many of us do that? I know I do not use the word “beautiful” to describe a movie. In fact, listening to Disney say it, I was inclined to squirm a little. How can a movie be “beautiful”?

I guess the better question is, “How could it not be beautiful?”

We do not use “beautiful” very much these days, readers, with regard to stories. Whether they are in print, song, or on film, “beautiful” is an adjective rarely attached to a story. Or, if it is applied, it can sometimes be applied to a film for the wrong reason.

A viewer might say that he thinks films such as Pacific Rim, Star Trek (the latest reboot), or Noah are beautiful. By this he could mean that he believes the CGI effects are beautiful. I will not disagree that CGI effects are impressive. I like Avatar simply for the CGI effects, and I would indeed call them “beautiful.”

I cannot say that about the story in Avatar, which is simply cowboys and Indians on another world. And the Indians win. I believe that I have watched Avatar a total of two or three times since a friend sat me down to see it first.

In contrast, I have watched Mary Poppins too many times to count since I was introduced to it as a child. Of late I have not watched it as much, but compared to Avatar, I would say that the story of Mary Poppins is a “beautiful” story. The story in Avatar I would call, politely, “mediocre” – at best.

So why would Disney call a prospective Mary Poppins film “something beautiful”? He would say that because a good story, just like a good photograph, painting, or song, is an expression of beauty. Beauty lifts us up. It reminds us of what is good, true, and permanent. That there is more to life than what we see, and that we rarely experience the “permanence” we can often feel but are rarely allowed to see with our eyes.

Parents often complain – laughingly – that their children almost endlessly watch a particular movie or movies over and over again, until they (the parents) are well and truly fed up with it. Why do children do this? Why do they watch the same film(s) time after time, when they know every line by heart?

I would guess it is probably because children have a sense that attracts them to beauty, which is crushed – or tamed – out of them as they grow up. I remember watching lots of films several times in the same week as a child. I never got tired of them. I enjoyed new stories, but the older stories were my close friends, and I did not want to leave them out of my fun.

Today, however, many storytellers – whether they work in the medium of print or film – are running away from beauty. There are others who embrace it, such as those at Disney, if only because it is their bread and butter. Others continually try to tear it down and destroy it.

Do you want proof of this? Check out the films that have come out recently. Along with the latest Marvel films, Disney’s Maleficent, Cinderella, and Frozen, we have such movies as The Purge, The Purge 2, The Hive, Gallows, and other trash. Yes, I called those films trash, and I will do so again. They are garbage, the vile refuse of small minds that take pleasure in “tearing the old world down,” to quote Alexander Pierce of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

These “storytellers” are not telling stories. They are not making films. They are propagating nihilism. They are worshipping destruction, death, and horror. And they have the temerity, the unmitigated gall, to call it “art.” “Art doesn’t have to mean anything except to its maker,” they howl hoarsely. “We’re giving people what they want. We’re giving them reality!”

Pardon me a moment, readers, but this is nonsense. No, actually, it is worse than nonsense. It is lies.

Art is not a collection of carpet fluff glued together to resemble a poodle. Art is not a bed covered in empty vodka bottles or a canvas someone spilled thirty cans of paint onto, and art is NOT anything like The Purge or The Hive.

Art is a manifestation of beauty. Everyone can see and recognize beauty, and they can either love it or hate it. Everyone who loves beauty is gifted with expressing it in some way, from a waitress smiling at a customer to a director doing his utmost to turn a great book into a remarkable film.

And everyone who hates beauty will try to destroy it. They will try to destroy those who use their talents to express beauty. One of the first targets, therefore, will be the painters, songwriters, storytellers, and others who make beauty visible for all to see.

These haters of beauty try first to shout and beat these great artists into submission. Finding that shouting does not work on all, they instead whisper and sneer, making themselves look reasonable and more real than the beauty these artists portray.

Everyone says they can make art. And someone who makes a good movie, writes a good book or a song, or paints a beautiful picture, has proved their worth. But those who paint death, horror, destruction, and malfeasance of every kind yet call it “art” are liars, cads. They are the Wormtongues of our age, the useful puppets of the Sarumans that feed them the falsehoods and monstrosities they then display for all to see.

No longer is a storyteller believed to bring order to a chaotic, brutal world and give people a taste of what true reality looks like. No longer is a storyteller expected to bring hope to the people again and again, to give them characters that will live forever, safely cherished in the viewers/readers hearts.

No. Instead, the Sarumans say storytellers are supposed to revel in the transient. They are expected to give form to passing feelings, fleeting fads, and to lift up the slime at the bottom of the gutter and proclaim it art. This is now the anticipated path of an artist.

G. K. Chesterton said on his deathbed that there was only the light and the dark, and every man had to choose which he would serve, for which he would live and die.

What do these sides, the light and the dark, look like? Look to your heart, readers. Who rides there? Captain America? Aragorn? Luke Skywalker? They are the emblems of the light, the ideals of those who choose goodness, right, and truth. They are what these people truly strive to be. All who live according to the light, who love the day and the stars at night, they fight for the light. They are the true Avengers, the real Fellowship of the Ring, and the living Jedi Knights. To believe in beauty, to fight to keep it present in the world – that, readers, is choosing and fighting for the light.

What do those who serve the darkness look like? Whom do they carry in their hearts? Loki, Saruman, Hannibal Lecter, Thanos – these are examples of the outriders of evil. It is these who are carried in the hearts of those who serve the darkness. They, like these characters, have rejected the light. For them it is better to rule in the dark than to serve in the light. Non serviam, they say. Those who are minions of evil resemble these wicked characters in some manner.

It may not be an obvious resemblance, of course. Does not Crossbones wear a mask? Do not Saruman and Thanos hide behind useful puppets like Gríma Wormtongue, Loki, and Nebula? Does not Hannibal Lecter do his work where none can see and stop him? And was it not Loki who was told by Coulson, “You’re going to lose.”

“Am I?”

“It’s in your nature.”

“Your heroes are scattered,” Loki answered, “Your floating fortress falls from the sky… Where is my disadvantage?”

“You lack conviction,” was Coulson’s prompt, true answer.

Why would evil wear a mask if it were so utterly convinced that it had nothing to fear? Evil wears a mask because it does have something to fear, something far greater than itself. The Light is what it fears, and for that reason true storytellers serve the Light.

This is why I blog about stories which I know are beautiful. This is why I blog about characters and songs I know to be beautiful. This is why I write. There is no other reason for this blog. If there ever was another reason, it has long since passed away. Writing about beauty is one way of making beauty visible to the world again and again. Of bringing order, if only for a few paragraphs, to a chaotic society. Of giving hope, however small, where it is needed most.

Excelsior, readers!

The Mithril Guardian

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Gandalf and Galadriel

Galadriel and Gandalf

Hi, DiNozzo!

Well, with Torture DiNozzo Week over, we can move on to different topics.  Don’t worry about Star Trek Into Darkness, Tony.  I have not forgotten it.  Today I just felt like going back to The Hobbit.

One of the scenes I enjoy most in The Hobbit is the meeting of the White Council in Rivendell.  In the movie, the Council consists of Elrond, Saruman (blech), Gandalf, and that dazzling Elf woman, Galadriel.  Saruman, of course, spends his time trying to dissuade his peers from prying Smaug out of the Lonely Mountain.  He dismisses the Necromancer as a foolish human sorcerer and tries to stamp out the fear his ‘friends’ express at the sight of the Witchking of Angmar’s blade.

The one problem I have with the meeting as it is presented is the divide in the Council.  Galadriel and Gandalf both advocate taking Smaug down.  Saruman pooh-poohs their worries and Elrond follows his lead, minus the pooh-poohing.

I do not believe Elrond would have counseled against getting rid of Smaug.  While Saruman’s true colors are not known at the time of The Hobbit, I do not see Elrond blindly assenting to Saruman’s attempts to lay the matter aside.

That said, I do enjoy the back and forth between Galadriel and Gandalf.  It is especially funny when she realizes Thorin’s company is leaving and tells Gandalf, “You knew!”  The look Gandalf gives her is the look a boy gives his mother when his hand has been found in the cookie jar.

Ooops.  🙂

Did you notice that when Gandalf and Elrond go to meet Galadriel, both men make bows of respect to her?  Why do you think they do this, Tony?

Because she is a very beautiful Elf woman?  Well, duh.  There is that.  After her granddaughter, Arwen Evenstar, Galadriel is the most beautiful Elf-woman in Middle-earth.

Of course you didn’t know Galadriel was Arwen’s grandmother!  You would have to read the book to find that out, and you don’t read!  But since I have started, I will be gracious and fill you in.  Years before the events of The Hobbit and the War of the Ring, Elrond married Galadriel’s daughter, Celebrian.  They had three children: twins Elladan and Elrohir and Arwen Evenstar, or Arwen Undomiel in the Elven tongue.  We never see Celebrian in the movies or the books because she has left Middle-earth by the time of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Why?  Well, you see, Celebrian used to make regular visits to her mother’s home in Lothlorien.  Returning to Rivendell from one such stay, she and her escort were attacked by orcs in the Redhorn Pass of the Misty Mountains (where the Fellowship later got stuck and had to detour into Moria).  Her escort was killed and she was captured and taken into the orc tunnels.  There she was tortured by the orcs.

Was she killed?  No.  All I know for sure is that she was wounded with a poison dart.   But knowing orcs as we do, that may not have been her only injury.

Anyway, Celebrian was rescued.  Her dart wound, however, made her forsake Middle-earth for the Grey Havens a year later.  Elrond’s sons had a special hatred for orcs after this incident, so they often rode with the Rangers to take out goblin packs that hunted in the north.  This must be why they joined their father in hunting down and killing the orc pack which was chasing Thorin’s company.

DiNozzo!  There were three Elves in the hunting party who were not wearing helmets!  One was Elrond.  Two guesses as to who the other two were.

Elladan and Elrohir, yes.  Gee whiz, one would think you had no more skill with a search engine than you do riding horses!

Hey, hey, no head slapping!  I’ve got Gibbs on speed dial, remember?

Good.  Where was I going with this?  Oh, yes.  So Elrond respects Galadriel not only because she is beautiful but because she is his mother-in-law.  There is, however, slightly more to this as well.

Galadriel is one of the oldest Elves in Middle-earth.  She has been around since the First Age of the world.  And she was there when the Three Rings were forged and handed out to the wisest of the Elven-kind.  This is the other reason that Gandalf and Elrond show Galadriel such great respect.  She is the oldest and wisest Elf alive and has wielded one of the Three for most of her life.  Even for Elves, that is no small accomplishment.

Don’t you remember?  There were “Three rings for the Elven kings under the sky.”

Yes, Galadriel is a queen, but if Sauron is looking for men and not women he would not suspect where one of the Three has been all this time.  Nenya, the ring made of mithril, has been in Galadriel’s keeping since it was made.  The other two Elven rings, Vilya and Narya, have each changed hands since they were forged.

Vilya, the mightiest of the Elven Three, first belonged to the Elven king Gil-galad.  He died with Isuldur’s father Elendil when Sauron was first defeated.  Before he died, though, he gave Vilya to his standard bearer.  That ‘young’ Elf was Elrond.

Narya, the ring with a fiery red stone, was given to Círdan, the Elven shipwright of the Grey Havens.  He is the only Elf I know of to have a beard and appear old.  He is also one of the few Elves who does not make it into the films.  And if he does, then he is not named in The Return of the King.

Círdan did not keep Narya.  He met a better guardian for that ring: Gandalf.  He gave Narya to Gandalf because he felt that Gandalf would need it to “light a fire in the hearts” of the people who would battle Sauron.  Knowing Gandalf as we do, the third Elven ring was probably better fitted for his fiery temper than for the (apparently) milder mannered Círdan.  It helps that the word Narya means ‘fire.’

If you watch the end of The Return of the King carefully, you will see Gandalf wearing a ring with a red stone on one of his hands.  You have to look fast, Tony!  The film does not allow a long, hard study of Gandalf the White before he sails from Middle-earth forever.

Where was I?  Right, that’s it!  This is the difference between Gandalf and Galadriel’s power but also what makes them such a team.  Galadriel’s power, combined with Nenya (which means ‘water’), appears to be the means she uses to preserve Lothlorien.  What I mean by that is, in the books, Lothlorien seems to have an aura which makes it impervious to the tides of time.  Gandalf describes Galadriel’s forest kingdom as a “land of ageless time,” and Samwise mentions after leaving Lorien that while they were there time just seemed to stop.

This makes me think that Galadriel’s power lets her preserve what was, so much so that time hardly seems to pass under the mallorn trees in Lorien.  Her power is not necessarily proactive, though she can wield it as a weapon, but is useful as a way of seeing what is best for the future through knowledge of the past.

Gandalf’s power is different.  Every time we see our favorite wizard, he is out doing something or pushing for something to be done.  Gandalf is not the type to sit around twiddling his thumbs or crying over spilled milk.  He has to be active.  This is why he is always exhorting important people – whether it is Aragorn, Frodo, Bilbo, or anyone else you can think of – to stand up to evil, a.k.a. Sauron.  He has to be active against Sauron for all his time on Middle-earth.

This is why Galadriel wanted Gandalf to be the head of the White Council.  As we see in The Hobbit, when Gandalf thinks something has to be done to keep Middle-earth safe he will up and do it, to heck with what anyone else thinks.  If he had been worried about Saruman’s opinion of Thorin’s company, he would have asked the head of his order for permission to let the company form in the first place.  He did not do that because: a) the mission required some amount of secrecy; b) it would take too much time to go through ‘proper channels,’ and c) he might be told “No.”

These were things that could not be allowed to happen.  So, in typical Gandalf fashion, he went ahead and did what needed doing without asking if it was okay.  After all, sometimes it really IS better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

Yes, Tony, I did just say that.  And it has no relation whatsoever to Torture DiNozzo Week.

Back to The Hobbit.  Because they agree on so much, Galadriel and Gandalf are usually in accord over a course of action.  This is one of the reasons that Galadriel tells Gandalf to call on her if he needs her help in a later scene from The Hobbit.  She has been on Middle-earth much longer than any of the Istari (wizards).  So she has a whole lot of knowledge and power behind her, and she promises to use it to aid Gandalf if and when he needs it.

In this way, she is like a mother figure for Gandalf.  Remember I said he gave her a ‘little boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar’ look?  Who would not give their mom that look?  And Galadriel probably made one heck of a mom, not to mention a grandmother, during her time in Middle-earth.

Anyway, that is one of the scenes I really liked from An Unexpected Journey.  I hope there are more in the coming films.  The next two Christmases at the theater are going to be fun!!

Later,

  Mithril