Journey 265: Hobbit Day 2015

I discovered this awesome holiday last year, during my Year of Firsts. This day, September 22, is recognized as the birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, uncle and nephew Hobbits, from JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth sagas. Yesterday kicked off Tolkien Week, and there are all kinds of delightful celebrations taking place throughout the upcoming week. 

 

In honor of these two courageous Hobbits, I listened to the soundtracks of the three Hobbit movies as I ran errands today. The music of Howard Shore not only stirs my soul, it triggers my memory so that scenes from the films unfold in my mind as I listen. Such epic stories, brought to life by the brilliant Peter Jackson. My life has been enlarged because of the unusual partnership of Tolkien and Jackson. I am forever grateful.
 

Last year I concluded Hobbit Day with a Icing on the Cake flavored ice cream cone. I didn’t want the sugar today. My celebration took a wonderful turn when I came across a post on Middle Earth News. They shared the following quote, from chapter three of Fellowship of the Ring: 

“In the evening Frodo gave his farewell feast: it was quite small, just a dinner for himself and his four helpers. When they had sung many songs, and talked of many things they had done together, they toasted Bilbo’s birthday, and they drank his health and Frodo’s together according to Frodo’s custom. Then they went out for a sniff of air, and glimpse of the stars, and then they went to bed.” 

And there was my journey for the evening, right there. I didn’t have a feast or sing but I hummed along today with the music from the movies. I chose a non-alcoholic drink to toast Bilbo and Frodo, creating an unsweet iced tea with luscious fresh strawberries and blackberries added. 

 

I took my drink out into the backyard garden, in the dark, for a “sniff of air and a glimpse of the stars”. In the quiet, surrounded by warm air scented with herbs and flowers, seranaded by tree frogs,  I couldn’t imagine a more Hobbit  like space in which to offer a toast. Those earthy folk valued growing things and food and drink and simplicity. 
 

Looking up, my glimpse of the stars was limited, as clouds covered most of the sky. The moon, hazy in her nightclothes, was the only object I could see in the sky. Good enough! I took a sip of tea, and raised my glass in tribute. “Happy birthday Bilbo and Frodo.” I smiled in the darkness. My life has been so influenced by these two Hobbits, adventurers who discovered who they were and what they were capable of as they journeyed. Their courage and wisdom and the friendships that they formed have provided inspiration for my own journey. Yes, they are fictional characters. No matter. Some of my favorite people are not flesh and blood yet live boldly in my imagination nevertheless. Long may they dwell there and live on in future generations. 

  

Day 352.5 The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies movie

It is my pleasure to post a second time to my blog today, a first itself, so that I can do a full review of this amazing conclusion to the Hobbit Trilogy….and the Middle-Earth Saga. I watched the movie for the second time this evening, in the company of my daughter Elissa, grandson Dayan, sister Linda and my mom. We were a merry little troop that settled in to watch this epic film together. I handed out tissues before the previews rolled and the lights dimmed.

No spoilers in the review below.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (TBOTFA) has a huge cast which includes Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Hugo Weaving, Evangeline Lilly, Aidan Turner, Dean O’Gorman, Christopher Lee, Ryan Gage, Benedict Cumberbatch and a host of others. The fantasy adventure is directed by Peter Jackson. It is rated PG-13, for intense battle scenes, and has a run time of 2 hours and 24 minutes.

Beginning exactly where The Desolation of Smaug ends, The Battle of the Five Armies opens with the angry dragon, Smaug (voiced by Cumberbatch), closing in on Laketown, intent on bringing fire and death to the inhabitants there. As the townspeople flee, Smaug breathes out his wrath and flames, laying waste to the town. Bard the Bowman (Evans) has an opportunity to redeem his ancestor, who 60 years before loosened a scale on the thick-skinned dragon but failed to kill him. The survivors of Laketown, led by Bard, seek shelter in the ruined city of Dale, which lies before the gates of Erebor, where Thorin (Armitage) and Company have holed up.

Bard seeks a share of the gold horded within the dwarven fortress, as promised by Thorin Oakenshield, now King Under the Mountain. But dragon fever has taken Thorin and he refuses to honor his promises. King Thranduil (Pace), high elf of the Woodland Realm, also seeks to regain a portion of the treasure that he considers rightfully his. He is not as patient as Bard and he is quite willing to use force to take what is his.

Gandalf (McKellen), last seen hanging from a cage in Dol Guldur, is near death. He hears in his mind, “You are not alone.” The White Council…Elrond (Weaving), Saruman (Lee) and the Lady Galadriel (Blanchett)…arrives to drive back the darkness and free Gandalf. He appears in Dale to warn all that there is an evil and ferocious army of orcs on the march, intent on destroying men, elves and dwarves. Bilbo (Freeman) makes a desperate attempt to stave off war over the treasure of Erebor, but Thorin is not in a cooperative mood. Deep in gold lust, he would rather have war, than peace. Just as it appears that the elves and men will battle the dwarves, including Thorin’s kin from the Iron Mountains, the dark army, led by the pale orc, Azog, launches its attack.

The titular battle unfolds. The woodland elves, Legolas (Bloom) and Tauriel (Lilly) are present as well, performing courageous and spectacular feats of battle as they defend their allies. Thorin’s company of dwarves remains walled in their fortress, in spite of protests by his kin and followers. Thorin’s nephews, Kili (Turner) and Fili (O’Gorman) long to join the raging war outside their halls, feeling dishonorable in allowing others to fight their battles. All rests on the new king, whose greatest battle is within himself.

Tonight’s viewing was my second in four days. First viewings for me are about getting an overview of the movie. Sequential viewings allow me to see the details and note the things I missed the first time around. This is a BIG movie, with a great deal of action and several storylines that converge before the great walls of Erebor. And there were quite a few details that I missed! I find that each time I watch a movie, no matter how many times I’ve seen it before, I learned something new or see something I missed before.

Peter Jackson concluded his long and wonderful journey through Middle-Earth with a film that delivers powerful scenes and an emotional punch. I sat with a full audience tonight. As a group, we laughed….and we cried. The teary eyes started even earlier for me this time around, if that was possible. There is something very vulnerable and noble about Bard the Bowman. I love the way he is a quiet protector, of his children, and of his neighbors. Bard’s determined stance against the dragon , atop the highest tower in Laketown, brings redemption for him and cleanses away the blot against his family. Alfrid (Gage), the sniveling sidekick of the dishonest Master of the Town, provides sharp contrast to Bard, while also providing most the film’s comedic moments.

There is just so much to love about TBOTFA. The brief, but extremely powerful scene involving the freeing of Gandalf by the White Council is cheer worthy. I loved seeing the strength these keepers of the peace have when it comes to defending the light against the darkness. Thranduil also reveals more of his strength in this movie. We finally get a glimpse into his heart, and who he really is. I liked him so much better in this final film. Tauriel proves herself and caused the tears to flow as she goes to the defense of the dwarf that she loves. One of the most memorable lines in the movie is between her and Thranduil when she asks why love hurts so much, and he replies, with deep sadness and understanding….”because it’s real”.

Martin Freeman is brilliant as the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins. He has transformed during the three movies until by the final scenes, he is truly courageous. His friendship with Thorin is critical to all that unfolds. The mannerisms and signature sniffle that Freeman incorporated into the character have made Bilbo the lovable Hobbit that he is. I was very moved by a scene in which he shows Thorin an acorn that he picked up in Beorn’s garden. Bilbo intends to plant it when he gets home, so that every time he sees the tree, he will remember all that happened on his journey…the good and the bad.

This film’s major story centers around Thorin, son of Thrain, King Under the Mountain, and his descent into madness….and ascent again into who he truly is. Richard Armitage does a magnificent job of portraying the mercurial Thorin. I can feel his performance in my chest, it so impacts me. Gandalf admonishes Thorin by telling him he is not making a very good showing at being king. And he’s right! His kinsman, Dwalin, with tears in his eyes, tells Thorin “You sit here with a crown on your head and you are less than you have ever been.” When Thorin rages, “I AM YOUR KING” Dwalin tells him quietly, “You have always been my king. You used to know that.” What a contrast to the man who, a short time later, leads the charge against the enemy, free from his madness and his heavy crown. His kinsfolk cry out, “To the King. To the King.” And he is, finally, king, perhaps for the first time fully embracing all that he is, and his men rally to him.

I also loved the references to the Lord of the Rings that are contained in this film. There is much foreshadowing about what is to come, and in a sense, the story comes full circle, this final movie ending precisely where the Fellowship of the Ring begins. It is so fitting. Fitting too is the final song, The Last Goodbye, sung by Billy Boyd, Pippen from LOTR. The credits are worth sitting through, as the song plays, for there are beautifully done drawings of the characters and locations to appreciate. Tonight, even the song brought a fresh round of tears.

Thorin’s words to Bilbo, during a very touching scene, are tucked away in my heart. He says, “If more of us valued home above gold, it would be a merrier world.” Home is where we create it. We are sheltered, nurtured, loved, and cared for there. We are in an environment that allows us to learn and grow. The love of gold can separate us from each other, and from the truest part of ourselves. Home, and hospitality such as Bilbo offers to the dwarves as he departs, invites and refreshes, comforts and restores. No matter where that home is. For me, I’d love my home to be in Middle-Earth. Or perhaps, a very Middle-Earth type setting that I create.

I am very grateful for the cast and crew, writers and producers, and most of all, for Peter Jackson for this amazing journey these past 13 years. I am changed because of these stories. I have grown as surely as the characters did. Thank you, PJ, for inviting me to journey with you.

Peter Jackson

Day 349: The Hobbit Movie Marathon

Hobbit Marathon

All year, I’ve been anticipating the release of the final movie in the Hobbit Trilogy, and the conclusion of the Middle-Earth Saga that began more than 13 years ago. The release date is Wednesday, December 17. I had plans to attend! A month or so ago, I started seeing teasers for a Hobbit Movie Marathon, playing in selected theaters. The first two Hobbit movies would be presented back to back and lead to a sneak peek of the final movie, two days ahead of the release date.

I thought it would be so cool to spend a day at the movie theater….one of my favorite places to hang out for a few hours. I didn’t expect that my Joplin theater, Regal, would be one of the selected venues for the marathon…so I hadn’t really checked on it. Last Thursday, while with my granddaughter at one of her favorite places, Chick Fil A, I was casually browsing the Regal Theater’s upcoming releases. I looked at Wednesday and smiled over the many scheduled showings of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (henceforth in this blog post TBOTFA). I backed up a day, and there were Tuesday evening showings. Wow, I thought, I might go a day early. I mistakenly thought the marathon was scheduled for Tuesday and since I didn’t see it listed that day, I didn’t think Joplin was hosting the event. Something made me back up one more day….and there it was, the Hobbit Movie Marathon. I bought my ticket an hour later.

Today, for my first, I attended the marathon, a nine hour event starting at 1:00. I was there by noon, and picked out a great seat. Knowing I’d be sitting for a long time today, I got a seat on the back wall where there is more leg room. My one concern today was that my legs would get restless. Sitting where I did, I could stretch my legs out without bumping the seat in front of me.

This was a very special time for me. No other series of movies has impacted me as much as the Middle-Earth stories have. Many life lessons appeared for me from Lord of the Rings and then the Hobbit, which I expected less from, taught me more. JRR Tolkien was an amazing story teller. And Peter Jackson so brilliantly adapted these rich stories into unforgettable films. I was thrilled to be sharing space today with 40-50 other fans who take the movies as seriously as I do. My cousin’s son, Harry, and his friend drove to Joplin to attend as well and sat next to me.

As many times as I’ve seen the first two Hobbit films, I still enjoyed seeing them both again on the big screen. The first movie is so light-hearted. I had the opportunity to fall in love with the characters when An Unexpected Journey released, and figure out which dwarf was which. Desolation of Smaug is much darker, and the characters flesh out and deepen. Thorin’s fanatical side begins to appear, and Bilbo finds the One Ring….and his courage….in this film.

I have looked forward to and dreaded the third film. I have read The Hobbit book several times, so I am very familiar with the story and how it ends. That ending created my sense of dread. A part of me didn’t want to see this story play out, and I didn’t want to see the saga come to an end. Peter Jackson has already said there can be no other Tolkien films. The family owns the rights to Tolkien’s other works and they aren’t willing at this time to release them.

I will do a full review of TBOTFA later this week, as a bonus blog post. It deserves a full posting. The movie was beautifully done, full of action right from the opening scene, and full of angst. This is Thorin’s story, really, more than Bilbo’s. I watched all of the characters complete their journeys. It was Thorin Oakenshield whose journey was the most difficult as it was primarily an inward one. Just when it appears that this new king under the mountain is destined to share the same fate as his grandfather, he reaches deep within to find his true heart. I love stories about transformation and overcoming, and this last Hobbit movie is a powerful portrayal of lives that are changed.

I watched the conclusion, being unable to stop it! As much as I would have liked a different ending to the story, Peter Jackson was faithful to Tolkien’s depiction and it was very well done. Yes….I cried. I actually teared up early in the film, several times, and felt that didn’t bode well for how I would handle the ending. But, tears are cleansing and as Gandalf himself says, in LOTR: ROTK “I will not say, do not weep, for not all tears are an evil.” In this case, they were honoring as well. One of the characters, weeping, asks King Thranduil, “If this is love, why does it hurt so much?”. “Because it was real,” he answers, from a place within his heart that has known loss. And I know…these characters aren’t real. But the emotions, the joy and the sorrow, are.

As the third movie ended and the credits rolled, Billy Boyd who played Pippen in LOTR, sings a moving song called appropriately “The Last Goodbye”. The audience, who after nine hours together felt like my friends and family, sat silently together, joined by our shared experience. There were soft sighs and a few sniffles and a reluctance to break the bond. At last we slowly stood and quietly left the theater.

I am so glad I got to see these three movies presented as the single story that they are. Before the third movie started, there was a short clip from Peter Jackson. He acknowledged that some of his greatest fans were present for this event, willingly devoting nine hours out of their day to see this marathon. Then he suggested putting all six Middle-Earth movies together for a mega marathon at selected theaters. “That’s for another day,” he promised. I hope that becomes a reality. If so, I’m there!

Hobbit Marathon TBOTFA

Day 245: The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest

hobbit fan fellowship contest e

I am a fan of the works of JRR Tolkien. It had been years since I had read the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit, when Peter Jackson brought the stories to life on the big screen. I fell in love again with Middle Earth as I watched the first movie in the Lord of the Rings series. I read the books again, all of Tolkien’s books on Middle Earth. I watched each movie over and over as I waited, patiently, for the next installment to arrive in the theater. I found huge pieces of myself, my identity, within those films and books. I grew, with the characters, as they journeyed and I journeyed as well.

When I heard rumors that The Hobbit was being considered for a trilogy of films, I didn’t think Peter Jackson could do it again. I was not as big a fan of The Hobbit, since some of my favorite characters didn’t appear in this book and presumably wouldn’t in the film, but I welcomed a chance to return to Middle Earth. I was wrong about Peter Jackson. He so beautifully captured the story. The special effects were stunning. I fell in love with the warrior race of dwarves, which until The Hobbit movie, had been my least favorite characters in the LOTR films.

This December, the final movie in The Hobbit trilogy will be released. A part of me can’t wait. However, being familiar with the book, another part of me has been very content with the year long wait to the finale. I know it will be a deeply moving, gripping film. I will be the viewer in the back of the theater, sitting stoically by myself, watching the inevitable unfold on the large screen.

Peter Jackson is brilliant. He is gifted. He has created excitement for the upcoming release and found a way to give back at the same time. He has launched The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest, which I entered for my first. This isn’t just a share or like a page and get your name entered for a chance to win contest. This is done Middle Earth style, where characters and entrants discover who they are and what they are made of as they journey. This contest offers a challenge, four of them, actually, with one given out each week. Each part of the challenge must be met, for a chance to win. And the prize? It is very worthy of the challenges. The winner gets the opportunity to journey to New Zealand, the cinematic Middle Earth, to experience the epic conclusion to The Hobbit trilogy in the first official screening of the movie with director, Peter Jackson.

Yes, I am a fan. Ask anyone who knows me moderately well. But a year ago, before this amazing year of firsts, I never would have entered such a contest. I would have convinced myself that I had no chance. I would have balked at the challenges, which push me out of my comfort zone. Challenge One was easy enough: write a virtual postcard and send it to Peter Jackson, sharing what I would do on my prize winning trip to Middle Earth. Challenge Two, which I completed tonight, was to take a quiz about the locations used in New Zealand for the filming of The Hobbit movies. This one would normally give me pause. I am very familiar with the scenes in the movie, yet not so familiar with New Zealand. I don’t like to take a quiz if I know I am going to fail. I am grateful for Google and the opportunity to learn, via computer, about the breathtaking landscapes in that gorgeous country. I answered 9 out of 10 questions correctly.

Challenge Three scares me. I must create a two minute video to send to the judges, sharing my musings and recollections of my experiences of The Hobbit movies. Reading that would have caused me to pass on this contest, before this year. I am very self conscious in front of a camera, especially when it is video taping. I am learning to move beyond that, this year. I love that this challenge is a true challenge for me, pushing me. I will share from my heart and not over think this part of the contest. Challenge Four involves sharing exclusive art, mine or someone else’s, it doesn’t specify. I perhaps should be wondering more about this one!

I am grateful for the opportunity to enter this contest, and show my deep appreciation and love for these life shifting stories and films. And I am grateful for the challenges that move me beyond my comfort zone and further along in my journey. As Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit hero of these films, says later to Frodo, “It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Perhaps, on a powerful journey, with no promise of safety, but the guarantee of adventure and growth and the discovery of who I am created to be.

the hobbit the battle of five armies poster e

http://www.thehobbitfancontest.com/