And Rohan Will Answer

Saturday, October 1, AD 2011


Something for the weekend.  The lighting of the beacons sequence from the The Return of the King.  This sequence sets up my favorite scene in the entire trilogy.  Aragorn sees the lighted beacon fire and runs to Theoden, King of Rohan, and asks for aid for Gondor.  There is a long pause before Theoden can bring himself to commit his people to another desperate war, but when he makes his decision he does so decisively.  Go here to view the scene.

Aragorn:   The Beacons of Minas Tirith! The Beacons are lit! Gondor calls for aid!
Theoden:   And Rohan will answer. Muster the Rohirrim.

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14 Responses to And Rohan Will Answer

  • I love the long pause before he answers. And the fanfare when Aragorn runs up the stairs is fantastic.

  • Theoden is my favorite character too! I always thought he had a lot of presence for such little scene time or dialogue. His death scene is really moving.

  • ” … Turn elsewhither. But I fear your voice has lost its charm.”
    Civility. Oh, for a Theoden on the 2012 trail. Lighting beacons music theme and all.

    Missing the loftiness I remember from senior yr. hs study hall with two friends when we passed notes with comments on the story as we read, written in the alphabet (?name) with Shakespeare’s book covering our work. I ‘d vote for an Aragorn, too. Back then, he was an ideal as a husband for which to hope.

  • Peter Jackson did Theoden the favor of at least getting the essence of his character right. He did well with Eomer and Eowyn, as well. Jackson seems to have had a good grasp of understanding the Rohirrim. The Dunedain did not fare so well under his hand, though.

    Faramir (the one in the books, not the bastardized, conflicted version in need of “character development” that we see in the films) has always been my favorite character. The whole point of Faramir was to be a contrast to Boromir, but Jackson blew it. The only reason Faramir let Frodo and the Ring go in the movie was because he came under attack. Well, gee, that’s basically the same reason Boromir came to his senses. So, in Peter Jackson’s telling, Faramir is little better than Boromir, only with the advantage of having lived to redeem himself further.

    Of course, Jackson did the same “character development” bastardization thing to Aragorn – with all the self-doubt crap. Don’t get me wrong: there’s plenty of room for character development and growth for both Faramir and Aragorn, but not by changing the very essence of their characters.

  • Good points about Faramir, Jay, and it’s not the only time he did that in the movie. He did the same thing with the Ents and their decision to help Merry and Pip. Yes, we all know there wasn’t enough dramatic tension as it was, so he decided to turn everyone into a bunch of Mitt Romneys. (Sorry)

    The lighting of the beacons scene has always confounded my wife and I. So, were people stationed on top of these mountains at all times? That’s a lot of manpower dedicated to something that hadn’t been employed in multiple centuries.

  • “So, were people stationed on top of these mountains at all times?”

    As a matter of realism it could never have happened. Only a very wealthy and organized state could afford such a system beyond temporary emergency arrangements. In Europe semaphore telegraphs were not developed until the late Eighteenth Century in France. I guess it could be argued that the mountain stations were garrisoned when Mordor moved on Gondor, but considering the distance involved from Minas Tirith to Edoras, 270 miles, it would have made more sense to simply have relays of horse riders taking any messages. Pony Express riders could cover about 75 miles a day with relay horses stationed at every 10 miles. Three or four days to send complete messages would seem a better deal than a network that could send only one message: Gondor to Rohan: Help!!!!

  • Everything you ever wanted to know about the beacon fires of Gondor.

  • The one thing regarding Faramir where I think Jackson excelled was in showing the relationship and interaction between the two brothers, Faramir and Boromir. I loved that … seeing the brotherly love and good-natured rivalry between the two, and Boromir’s protectiveness of Faramir, despite (or, probably, because of) the favoritism showed Boromir by Denethor, gave me chills.

    That ALMOST makes up for Jackson’s near-slanderous portrayal of Faramir.

  • Geeks . . . oh wait I am one too!

  • See “Ancient Greek Communication Methods”: by Michael Lahanas.

    It appears ancient Greeks communicated over long distances with fire and smoke beacons. Greek fiction speaks of such capabilities which would show some relation to real-life possibilities.

    See Book 18 Iliad and Aeschylus “Agamemnon” which states the news of the victory at Troy reached Argos by beacons. That would be 600 klicks in a matter of hours.

    Herodotus Book 7 describes a beacon warning sent from Skiathos to Artemesium in 480 Before Christ.

    But, Tolkein’s 270 miles of beacons on such high and inhospitable mountain tops . . . not really possible. Oh, wait, walking, talking trees . . .

  • ‘The Return of the King’, its title stretched to Bibically symbolic, and T. Shaw, your reference to ancient Greek communications brought to mind the parable of lighted lamps. Due to the recent (for my dim lamp) information about JRR Tolkein’s Catholic influence, I looked up Jesus’ parable.

    It is in Matthew’s Gospel, Ch. 25:1-13. Gondor with beacons is answered by Rohan’s king, Theoden, speaking of peace. The five of ten in the parable who had their lamps ready were able to go to the feast of the Bridegroom. The five who weren’t prepared arrived after the doors were locked, and were told they weren’t known. Last verse 13 cautions us to Stay Awake because we don’t know when we will need to have our beacons ready. Theoden responded to Gondor’s trouble after he saw their beacons. And what he did for them!

    Thank you, Mr. Don McClarey for the posts- helps keeping the lamp lit. Also, the music here would be good accompaniment to the run in the parable. (If I knew how to use the HTML things, I’d have italicized Theo.)

  • considering the distance involved from Minas Tirith to Edoras, 270 miles, it would have made more sense to simply have relays of horse riders taking any messages

    I haven’t had a chance to go back and look at all the references, but if I remember correctly, this is precisely what the system was: it was a system of horse relays where the major stations also had beacons to warn the next station to prepare to relay a message of crucial importance. And it makes sense to that extent: in a warning system of genuine last resort, you don’t trust to one and only one form of communication.

    Likewise, I doubt all such beacons would have been manned throughout all the centuries, at least qua beacons, but surely once it became clear Sauron had returned it would be rather foolish not to get the emergency line to the major ally ready again, even if at great expense? Denethor was many things, but he doesn’t strike me as the kind to cheap out on national security.

  • Part of the issue here is with Jackson’s art directing choices.

    Somehow the cities in Jackson’s middle earth are all in the middle of howling wilderness. The only time you see pastures or planted fields is in the Shire. Other than that, people apparently get their food by airlift. So, for example, in the book it talks about the farmers coming in from the fields of the Peleanor and Sauron’s army burning homesteads as they approach. In the movie, Minas Tirith is surrounded by brown, barren plains. Same with Edoras.

    Along with this general starkening of all the landscapes, you get a mountain range that looks to rival the Misty Mountains in between Gondor and Rohan, such that you’ve got guys out on these mountains with beacons looking like they could only have got their with helecopters or mountain climbing equipment. I didn’t get the impression in the book that the beacons were spread out across anything like such forbidding territory.

  • BTW, on the soundtrack question, I was listening to the extended edition the other day on grooveshark – it has the full “lighting the beacons” section.

Hard Boiled Hobbit

Monday, November 16, AD 2009

This video re-awakened one of my alternate history fantasies:  Tolkien publishes the Lord of the Rings in the Thirties to immediate acclaim.  The film rights are bought by Hollywood with the condition that Tolkien has script approval.  Tolkien relunctantly travels to Hollywood during the filming where an epic, and comedic, struggle ensues as Middle Earth and the Golden Age of Hollywood come into mortal combat. 

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9 Responses to Hard Boiled Hobbit

  • Mickey Rooney as the Hobbit.

  • Inspired Joe. Where Rooney goes Judy Garland would probably follow. I think she would have made an intriguing Eowyn.

  • Errol Flynn as Aragorn. Clark Gable as Boromir. Ronald Reagan as Faramir. Jimmy Stewart as Theoden. Gary Cooper as Gandalf.

  • Lionel Barrymore also would’ve made a good Gandalf.

  • Lavish Cinemascope musical with stereophonic sound (and freely ignoring studio contracts):
    Fred Astaire as Frodo
    Vera-Ellen as Galadriel
    Basil Rathbone as Saruman
    Michael Rennie as Aragorn
    Cyd Charisse as Arwen
    Yul Brynner as Elrond
    Peter Lorre still Sméagol/Gollum (who else?)
    Oscar Levant as Samwise
    Bing Crosby as Gandalf
    I’ll stop now.

  • Suz, Basil Rathbone is just who I was thinking about as Saruman! Peter Lorre as Smeagol/Gollum is a role he was born for, but alas too soon! Jay, Lionel Barrymore, with his unforgettable voice, would have been an astounding Gandalf. Clark Gable as Boromir is brilliant! He usually sided with the angels in his films, but he also projected an image that said that he would be at home with the other team also.

  • Bogey as Frodo – what a stretch 😆

  • Any of those people who have traded their last ounce of dignity to appear on one of the dysfunctional has-been celebrity reality shows would make for an effective casting of Gollum.

    Imagine the Duke as Frodo. Even with the script the same it would be like a whole other story.

  • Rick that would be saved for the sequel directed by John Ford. In the far reaches of Rohan, Wayne and his intrepid frontier Riders battle the Mescalero Orcs!