Hobbit, Book Two, and Harp

I found out last week that it’s really hard to do multiple blog posts in a week, especially if that week is one of the few leading up to Christmas.

I owe you a review of The Hobbit movie. Perhaps later? Or maybe I will just say this: the things in this movie that were good were really good. In several ways it exceeded my expectations. The things that were not good about this movie, though, were really not good, and for me these things rendered the movie less than a success overall. If you were not bothered by the things that bothered me or were able to set them aside more readily, I am happy for you, and since I’d really hate to ruin the experience for someone else I’m not going to get into any specifics here.

I’ve been stressed out about getting everything ready for the holidays and saving up for my first student loan payment (due three days after Christmas). It’s getting in the way of the writing; I haven’t moved forward on Wanderlust in a number of days. I did write 700 words of the first chapter of Wanderlust Book Two last night, though, so I’ve been thinking about the characters. I haven’t told anyone about that Book Two opening scene yet. I’m worried it’s too dark, but I’ve been playing with it for months and it feels really true to the characters and true to the tone I’m trying to set for a second book. Not that I’m even working on Book Two yet—just letting it bump around in my subconscience and dashing down ideas as they come. Eventually we’ll see how it all plays out.

Harp lessons are still going really well; I’ve had three now. I’m working on a lot of stuff and getting better every day. I’ve even played at a few open mics, which was fun and nerve-wracking. How do all these guys with guitars regularly play stuff and sing at the same time? Oh, I bet they’ve been playing their instrument for more than a month. That must have something to do with it. I’m impatient to learn more things and get my own harp and play better and faster, but at the same time I love every minute of playing exercises and chords and even just holding the thing as I tune it (and it’s even holding a tune better than it did when I first got it). About a week ago practicing the harp did begin to feel like work, because I was frustrated on a couple of my pieces and also my hand hurt from doing something else and I was worried that harping would make it worse. This thing, where little things get in the way and make it hard to keep going, is something I recognize from every other instrument I’ve ever tried to play. And yes, I didn’t practice for two days in a row this weekend. But then I did practice and I worked through it and I still love the harp and the sound of it and everything about it. I really think I’ve finally found my instrument, and that I won’t be putting it aside anytime soon.

Hopefully I’ll update again before the 25th, but in case I don’t, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and I hope you and your family have a delightful holiday season.

-Grace

Tolkien Week Post 3: Unsung Illustrators

TolkienWeek

Sorry for the delay, folks. We’ll get back to Animated Tolkien tomorrow (there are still the virtues of the Bakshi LOTR to extoll, after all) but tonight will be a short post. To those of you on your way out to see The Hobbit midnight premiere, I wish you luck and godspeed. Also, don’t discuss any of the details with it within my hearing, if you can help it. I’m going to see it by the end of the weekend, but it’s a busy weekend in the Makley household and we’re still figuring out our plans.

If you want to participate in Tolkien Week (it’s on through Sunday, as far as I’m concerned) here’s how: 1.) Take the Tolkien Week banner and place it at the beginning of a blog post. 2.) Link to gracemakley.com (because I made the banner and that’s good manners). 3.) Write a post about anything related to Tolkien (how did you first discover the books? What is your favorite movie interpretation? Any scenes or lines from the book that you find especially meaningful? Do you have a rad Tolkien collection you’d like to show off? Who’s your favorite Tolkien illustrator?). 4.) Let me know about your post by commenting here, and I will happily link to you as part of the Tolkien Week festivities.

Unsung Illustrators

We all know about Alan Lee and John Howe. We’ve seen their artwork on the DVD cases and in the movies themselves. We’ve bought the LOTR sketchbook, and the How to Paint Like John Howe book (not its real title). We’ve watched all the DVD extended features, and we’re intimately familiar with Alan Lee’s crooked teeth and John Howe’s magnificent beard. We’ve watched them sketching in Hobbiton, seen John Howe trying on armor, sighed over their artwork, and wondered what it takes to bring that amount of vision and artistry to life. We love them to pieces. But they aren’t the only ones.

Jenny Dolfen

YOU CAN FOLLOW HER ON WORDPRESS!! http://goldseven.wordpress.com/

Love, love, love her elves and all her work from the Silmarillion. You can find a lot of it by clicking on the Tolkien button under galleries. My favorite doesn’t seem to be there, I found it at The Tolkien Gateway and am posting it below (source: http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/File:Jenny_Dolfen_-_Nirnaeth_Arnoediad_-_Unnumbered_Tears.jpg)

Jenny_Dolfen_-_Nirnaeth_Arnoediad_-_Unnumbered_Tears

Jenny Dolfen

Nirnaeth Arnoediad – Unnumbered Tears

I love sad and beautiful things, and she handles watercolors so well.

Donato

I only discovered this artist the other day because another artist I follow on Facebook posted this link to a really cool and detailed portrait he did of Tolkien, the man himself:  http://www.donatoart.com/gallery/jrrtolkien.html

Here’s the link to his full Tolkien gallery: http://www.donatoart.com/middleearth.html

His hobbits don’t quite look like hobbits to me, but he’s got some really cool interpretations of key scenes, and I like his portraits of the human characters. I especially love the colors, composition, and staging of “Eowyn and the Lord of the Nazgul”

39″ x 34″ oil on panel
© 2010 Donato Giancola
collection of Greg Obaugh

eowynandnazgulb

Source: http://www.donatoart.com/middleearth/eowynandnazgul.html

 

And that’s all I’ve got tonight—time to finish this margarita and go to bed. Who’s your favorite Tolkien illustrator? And do you have any elaborate plans for seeing The Hobbit this weekend?

-Grace out

Tolkien Week Day 1: The Hobbit (1977)

TolkienWeek

I tried to do a single post on the merits of animated Tolkien films, but it got away from me. Instead, to celebrate the release of the first new Hobbit movie on Friday, we are going to do a whole week of Tolkien posts. Participation is encouraged! If you feel inspired to do a Tolkien post this week, let me know and I will link to it here. You may also use my Tolkien Week banner, if you’d like. If you do, just be sure to link back here. And if Tolkien isn’t your thing, never fear—regular blog posts will resume next week.

The Hobbit (1977)

The_Hobbit

Does anyone remember this film? It’s by Rankin and Bass, who are also responsible for The Last Unicorn and the animated version of The Return of the King (which we’ll get to in a day or two.)

I find this film entirely charming. Go into it with the proper expectations (it is an ANIMATED CHILDREN’S MOVIE) and you will find a beautiful little film that hits at the heart of The Hobbit story. I confess I haven’t actually seen it for a number of years, but one of its most valuable and enchanting elements is the music, performed by folk singer Glenn Yarbrough. I found a youtube playlist of the entire soundtrack, which has only ever been released on LP. Go check it out!

(It should be noted that this playlist goes directly into songs from The Last Unicorn and The Return of the King.)

Almost all of these songs feature Tolkien’s actual lyrics from the books. My father read The Hobbit out loud to my brother and me when I was very, very young—and when he read the book, he sang the songs to the tunes from this movie. For me, the songs on this playlist ARE the songs from the book. This version of Over The Misty Mountains Cold, especially, encapsulates much of the utter magic that the works of Tolkien seemed to me during my childhood. Here’s the track (the Misty Mountains song is preceded by the song the dwarves sing to tease Bilbo as they clean up after their meal): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4TysZL6YiA&list=PLC00BB6EBF33B103C&index=7

Listen to this track all the way through, and you will also encounter John Huston’s voice as Gandalf, reciting directly from the book the story of Smaug and the Lonely Mountain. I have no complaints about Ian McKellan’s Gandalf whatsoever, but the timbre of John Huston’s voice is so rich here, and so transporting.

(As an addendum, I have some reservations about the upcoming Hobbit movie, but the performance of Misty Mountains from the first trailer is one of the things that gives me hope.)

There is also a song on this sountrack that never made it to the movie: Old Fat Spider. It’s a pretty loose adaptation of the song from the books that Bilbo sings at the spiders in Mirkwood, but I find it rather delightful. Something about the pacing;  it feels like Yarbrough might be slightly out of breath and running away from spiders as he sings. There is also something very satisfying about the sung lyrics, “Attercop! Oh Attercop!” I always figured the Attercop insult was a bit of nonsense, but trust Tolkien to do better than that: it’s actually from an Old English word for spider, and it still survives in the Yorkshire dialect today: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-att1.htm

All in all, I think this old movie is an excellent adaptation of The Hobbit, and it shouldn’t be completely discounted just because there’s a shiny new film on the loose. Even the song lyrics that don’t come from the book at all, like those of The Greatest Adventure (Track 1), seem to capture the heart of the story; of what it is to be a small person who suddenly discovers he is capable of great things after all.

The greatest adventure is what lies ahead,
Today and tomorrow are yet to be said.
The chances, the changes, are all yours to make.
The mold of your life is in your hands to break.