Monday, December 30, 2002

I saw The Two Towers the other day, and it was every bit as magnificent as I had been led to expect.

I disagree, however, with one of the OxBloggers, who says that he doesn't want to see the film because "from where I'm standing, it's hard to produce more one-dimensional characters than Tolkien has."

Assuming that this description is accurate, so what? Must every film, or every piece of literature, have complex, well-developed characters? Isn't that a rather narrow and, well, one-dimensional view of what makes literature worthwhile?

Tolkien excelled at creating myth -- stories that thrill the heart. And in myths of the sort Tolkien wrote, it is actually better if the characters are rather simple and straightforward, and don't get in the way of the story. The whole point of it is to enjoy the story in and of itself, not to ponder the inner workings of the mind of Aragorn. One doesn't read Jack and the Beanstalk, for another example, in order to marvel at the character development undergone by little Jack.

To criticize Tolkien for having one-dimensional characters is like criticizing Jane Austen's books for lacking any sweeping battles, heroic rescues, or other militaristic adventures. In either case, the error is in mistaking one narrow genre of literature as the model for all genres.


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