My wife and I watched The Fellowship of the Ring last night, for the first time since we bought the DVD. I realized some things I hadn’t before.
Much is made of how Sting glows when orcs are near. But when they’re at Balin’s tomb and the attackers are approaching, Gandalf draws Glamdring with a flourish, and it doesn’t glow at all. That would’ve been such a simple detail to get right.
The only thing in the movie that I think is dead wrong is the portrayal of Galadriel. Perhaps the gift-giving scene (restored in the special extended edition) will serve to soften her somewhat … but I still don’t see the point in making her seem so menacing. In the books, the characters’ fear of her came from a realization of her power, combined with the almost irresistible allure of her beauty, kindness, and hospitality. They feared that their judgment was being clouded.
The one place in the book where she does (perhaps) take on a distinctly menacing tone is when Frodo offers her the ring. That was overdone in the film, but at least there it’s just a matter of degree. She does, for whatever reason, deliberately try to give Frodo (and the reader) a glimpse of what the ring would do in her hands, and what she would do as its bearer.
Thinking about that scene, I realized something about its significance. Tolkien made if very clear that he hated allegory, but that’s not to say he disliked books with moral or spiritual lessons; he merely felt that explicit allegory left the readers feeling that they’d been preached to. Tolkien’s Christian values do show through in The Lord of the Rings, and Galadriel’s temptation is a good example. It doesn’t work as allegory … Galadriel doesn’t have enough in common with Jesus to see an allegory of his temptation there. But the episode is one of a series in which we see powerful people undone – or in fear of their undoing – by the ring. Isildur. Gandalf. Boromir. Aragorn.
The point, I think, is that Frodo is suited to the task before him precisely because he is weak. He neither seeks power nor does he have power that the ring would seek to exploit. Middle Earth’s best hope lies in entrusting the ring to someone who is morally strong, but physically nearly powerless.