A Postscript on the Nine Walkers
-- J. W. Braun
In February of 2001, as TORN's first special guest writer, I speculated on how the Nine Walkers would be received by popular culture [See "The Future of the Nine Walkers"]. That was three films, two girlfriends, and one house ago. I'm proud to say I was right in every regard.
Okay, I wasn't.
And that's good, because it will make this article more fun. For today I am going to look back at my predictions, point out when I was in the ballpark, and own up to my mistakes. My original comments will appear in italics.
Gandalf will deliver and not disappoint. At least he will by the end of the third film. In the first one he'll seem to get into the bad habit of falling out of the story. In fact, in The Fellowship of the Ring he sets up some exposition and later has a quick cameo appearance with the Nine Walkers
and that's about it. Eventually Gandalf should be more than a household name.
I was certainly wrong about Gandalf's role in The Fellowship of the Ring. What a wonderful decision by the writers to thread a Gandalf/Saruman storyline throughout the first movie. It gives the first film an onscreen villain and nicely sets up The Two Towers. Still, I stand by my Gandalf prognostication. Too bad McKellen narrowly missed out on the Oscar.
What will the mainstream audience think of Frodo? I think he'll be loved by just about everyone. His "cerebral, nonviolent, reluctant hero" bit will go over well in a day when audiences have grown weary of the glorification of both violence and selfish thrill seeking prima donnas. And the girls should think he's cute.
Bingo! (Hey, isn't Bingo a relative of Frodo's?) And I think that does it for my predictions. Thank you for
er ah, what? There's more? Oh dear, I better get my mouth ready for my foot.
Unfortunately, the movies aren't likely to increase Sam's fame to much of a higher level. It is likely most movie viewers will simply remember Sam through Frodo- as "his servant." Sort of like one of those cute animal friends that hang around with a Disney character.
Turgon sent me the following question: "How do you like your crow, baked or pan-fried?"
I blew it. I was wrong. Very wrong. I apologize for comparing Samwise to Scuttle. Part of the credit has to go to the writers, of course. Peter, Fran, and Philippa always looked out for Samwise, never letting the character get lost in the shuffle. Hollywood would never have been so kind. But I really can't praise Sean Astin enough. Astin does the acting equivalent of Rudy taking the handoff and running 90 yards for the touchdown. He even showed me, a person who has read the books far too many times the last twenty years, a new way of looking at Sam.
Pippin is going to be hated by a small minority. Let's just be happy that Elrond sent Pippin with the Fellowship rather than John Wayne nonetheless. And the kids will love him.
How can you hate a guy with a Scottish accent? I don't think it's possible. But the writers were also clever in finding Pippin a niche: comic relief. It's especially important in the first film when he's continually screwing up. Turn his mistakes into laughter, add a Scottish accent and viola! You've got a loveable character.
It's most likely that Merry will be remembered as baggage everyone wants to leave behind. Frodo wants to leave him behind in Buckland. Elrond doesn't want him to join the Fellowship. Aragorn's plan for the breaking of the Fellowship is for Merry to part ways with the good Ranger and Frodo. Gandalf rides away with Pippin to Minas Tirith leaving Mr. Brandybuck behind with Aragorn. Aragorn, heading for the Paths of the Dead, promptly leaves the hobbit behind with Theoden. Theoden's plans for the ride to Minas Tirith exclude the small warrior as well. When Merry finally reaches the stone city by the sheer power of his own will, he must stay behind as all his friends ride off to the Gates of Mordor.
And in the films, even Treebeard and Pippin tell him he should go home! I do have to say that Monaghan did the most with the least and was able to bring Merry out more than another actor would have. Dom didn't have as much dialogue as the other leads, but he made up for it with his acting when he didn't have lines.
Gimli and Legolas have their time in the sun early- in Moria and Lothlorien respectively. After that they more or less become the Supremes to Aragorn's Diana Ross (but with more dance steps). Still, some fans will "dig" Legolas because he is an elf.
Okay, everyone who thought the skinny elf would become the it-boy, raise your hand.
Oh, hush. You did not. Before the films were released, some of us tried to launch the official Orlando Bloom Fan Club, and despite TORN's help we couldn't get enough signatures! ("Orlando who?") But what is Legolas famous for besides looking pretty? Well he speaks in abstract poetry and senses danger all the time. Gimli, meanwhile, takes over the comic relief niche after Pippin leaves the Fellowship. But by film two
Legolas and Gimli are more or less Aragorn's backup men. Albeit very funny backup men.
[Boromir] is just tough and stubborn, and gets the job done- and he'll be loved. A lot of women will think he's a hunk as well- especially the ones that like the flawed "bad boy."
Okay, this is a tricky one, because they really changed Boromir's character. Tolkien's Boromir is basically a stubborn, stuck-up jock; always impatient, and always favoring the physical solution. Bean plays Boromir as less of a physical character and more of a cerebral one. He's a nice man with good intentions who is deeply troubled. And that's great for the film. But my original description doesn't really apply now.
Bilbo, Gandalf, and Frodo get all the fame in pop culture at present: and meanwhile Aragorn has remained relatively anonymous. The films will change this in a hurry. Aragorn will be the most loved character in the trilogy. The women will swoon over this guy. The men will love his toughness and sword fighting. The kids will get into how trustworthy and how gentle he is. By 2003 everyone will be discussing Aragorn around the water cooler at the office, guys will be dressing as the Ranger for sci fi and fantasy
conventions, girls will have Aragorn posters in their bedrooms, and President Bush will be proclaiming an "Aragorn Day" as a national holiday.
President Bush has yet to come through. (I see that his approval ratings are at an all time low. Coincidence? I think not.) One of the easiest ways to gauge the importance of something in popular culture is to search for it at google. The more results, the greater the importance. When I did my original article I did just such; and I discovered that Aragorn had about the same fame online as Ioreth of Gondor. (This has changed.)
Now all these characters are more than household names. And just as I'm proud of Elijah, Orlando, Viggo etc, I'm also happy for Frodo, Legolas, Aragorn et al. I've considered these characters friends for many years, and to have the whole world talking about them is pretty special.
-- J. W. Braun [Website]