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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Smaug and Me

Years ago, my dad told me that an old question on personality tests was, "Do you like Alice in Wonderland?" Pop worked for Loewi & Co., a small Milwaukee-based stock brokerage, and he told me that Loewi required psychological screening for every potential broker. 

The idea behind the question was this: those who liked "Alice" like fantasy. Those who didn't like "Alice" didn't like fantasy. I have no idea what one's fantasy preferences might mean to a potential employer.

But Pop's little tidbit helped me put one of those little dividers in my mind: "The world is made up of those who ---- and those who ----." In this case, the dividing line was fantasy. And I was definitely on the don't like side.

I read The Hobbit and I liked it, although I wasn't interested in reading any more of the adventures. But Mike, my husband, read both The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. My mother also devoured the books, including one Mike didn't read, The Silmarillion.

Mum was funny. As she read the books, which are long quests on foot, she'd say, "Oh, my feet are so tired."

Mike and I had seen all the Peter Jackson movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien's books, and now there is a new one: "The Desolation of Smaug." I didn't want to go, but I didn't know exactly why.

Mike wanted to go, so we went. The dragon was cool. But now I know the real reason these movies are not my favorites...and it's not just that I don't prefer fantasy. It also has nothing to do with the fact that director Peter Jackson tampered with the plot of the original book. 

My aversion is simple: the movie is too physically dark. It's the same reason I dislike the Batman movies. Darkness depresses me...especially in the middle of January!

So although I went to the movie for Mike and for my mother, who art in heaven, I don't think I'll be going to the other films in the series. Besides darkness, Smaug made it clear that a gigantic war is on the way. Darkness + images of war = a movie I don't want to watch. Futility, all futility.

Maybe that theme of war's futility was why Tolkien's books were so big in the 1970s when I went to Marquette University. We were embroiled in the horrible Vietnam war and also the war at home created by the Southeast Asian conflict. Marquette is home to Tolkien archives and original manuscripts, and I do believe the author has become a classic.

Just not for me.

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