Thoughts on Elrond

by Petunia & Rogorn

Recently I find myself reflecting on the movie trilogy. Normally I am philosophical about the differences between books and movies based on books. I love Tolkien’s written word and I love Peter Jackson’s movies based on these words. I have lurked about the Middle Earth Board since late 2001, only rarely contributing, especially when I was least likely to be heard…

As I have read the board, nearly daily, I have come to be interested in what changes from the novels have provoked the most ulcers. To me the one thing I lament more than anything is the single-minded grimness, sadness, and determination of the elves. Elrond in many ways is such a potentially melancholy character. For all intents and purposes he is orphaned at a young age as his parents become bound up in the fate of one of the Silmarils, his brother chooses mortality, he loses his king during the Second Age, he gains and loses his wife in the Third age, and has to leave his sons and daughter in Middle Earth at the beginning of the Fourth Age. He helped raise, foster, and protect Isildur’s heirs (at least from time to time)…no doubt coming to care and love them, only to have them die in such a short time. Of all the elves of the Third Age, he does not cut himself off from mortals. He welcomes Hobbits, dwarves, and men into his home.

I liked Hugo Weaving’s performance as Elrond, but his Elrond is grim, unrelentingly sad, and disdainful about mankind…he almost at times strikes me as hopeless. The Elrond I grew up with has a significant human lineage and he is described as strong as a warrior but kind as summer. I picture him as wise but not grim, and clear sighted about the joys and sorrows of Middle Earth without becoming melancholy.

Tolkien’s elves are often described as merry, playful, and dreamy. I miss these qualities in PJ’s elves, while loving PJ & company’s vision of their beauty both in person and surrounding (especially the Grey Havens!!).

Response by Rogorn:

I think that the whole trilogy went through a process of Hollywood standardisation in its script, and one of the aspects is everybody's approach to the Ring problem. Philippa Boyens has explained how they wanted to heighten the sense of danger the Ring gives out, so accordingly the elves, representing the ultimate wisdom of Middle-Earth, can't be seen joking too much about it - the comic relief is displaced almost entirely towards the small people: Gimli and the hobbits, while the tall people are all grim and intense about it. Also, the drinking hobbits are displaced from Bree to the pre-party era and Faramir's whole plot changes, and even Lorien is presented as a place where you can be physically safe, but where conflict will come to you internally.
And then, Hollywood scripts love conflicts and more conflicts, and that's why all the characters seem on edge, arguing with each other more often than in the book.
About Elrond, he has to retain the gravitas more than anyone else, being the most learned character, but he does lighten up when the hobbits shout their way into the Fellowship. But then, what more understandable conflict for him than the typical arguments about daughters and their dodgy boyfriends? He can't look happy about that, especially if a defeat in war would claim Arwen with it. Also, the films go at a quicker pace, it's never denied that the Fellowship spent a long time in Rivendell and in Lorien, but it's not suggested either, so a character won't change its moods so quickly.

And finally we must remember that in LOTR we see only one year (sometimes less) in the lives of its characters, and that year is a really stressful one, with their lives at stake, so that can't represent their whole personalities.