Flipping Through Fapa

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[page 31] <NO MONROE IN LOTHLORIEN!> By Arthur R. Weir. Some books evoke pictures as we read them. How many of us, I wonder, have seen - clear before our mind's eye - the grim-faced ostrich-plumed triple ring of warriors as the Kukuana regiment of the Greys lined up for their last fight in " King Solomon's Mines", or Edward Malone dropping his useless shotgun and using all his Rugby International's speed of foot for a desperate half-mile down the moonlit avenue, with the great carnivorous dinosaur of "The Lost World", thundering behind him. But of all books it is the collections of myths, legends, and fairy tales that are, in the most literal sense, picturesque; they draw their scenes, clear in detail and vivid in colour and movement, before us as we read; and, as we re-read them for the tenth or twentieth time, our familiarity with the text leaves us able to follow the print with but a small corner of our minds, freeing all the rest of our mentality to decorate and clarify the well-loved scene to something more real than any of the dull realities of every day. One of the greatest of all those wonder-provokers and image- painters among modern books is J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" Trilogy, and I think that most of us, in reading it, have found ourselves building in our imagination such a marvellous pageant of colour, movement, action, and suspense as we had never hitherto dreamed might be evoked from us. <Writing in the left Margin> Given unlimited money and all the world's talent to command, how, then, would _we_ set about turning it into tho shadow reality of the silvor-screen of the cinema? This, surely, should be a labour of love for many minds to work upon, each contributing its best. First, where and how are we to picture the fertile well-farmed kindly country of Hobbiton-in-the-shire? The Yorkshire dales? The Cheshire levels, with their high ash hedges and black-and-white cagework farmhouses? The mile wide fields of wheat or of gorgeous flowers of East Anglia and the Fen country? [page 32] Or shall we follow Kipling's direction to " Lancaster County behind Philadelphia - a county of bursting fat fields, bursting fat barns and bursting fat country girls - like what you might think Heaven would be like if they farmed there"? Or, the snug, steep-sided valleys, hanging beechwoods and orchard-bounded fields of the Cotswolds? Then, at the other end of the scenic scale what is to portray the grim evil of the Vale of Morgul with the wraith-haunted castle of Ninas Morgul frowning at its end ? The pitiless rocky desert of the Pass of Gorgoroth ? The flaming ash-clad cliffs of Orodruin, the " Mount Doom" of the story's climax? Here, again, our choice is wide:- the cliff-girt valley of grey rock and black rock with no single trace of growing green thing that was the scene of the famous Massacre of Glencoe; the endless miles of knife-edged lava clinker bristling with poison-thorned cactus of the Sonora desert of Arizona; the ironclad cliffs of the Sinai Desert springing vertically out of the desert sand, writhing and twisting and dancing in the heat-haze, that suddenly forms great sparkling lakes at their foot that equally suddenly shrivel and vanish; or, if we want something on the really grand scale shall we go to where the Urubamba Valley runs north-west- wards from Lake Titicaca past the hidden Inca city of Macchu Pichu - a narrow valley with sheer rock walls more than three-quarters of a mile high, of such terrifying appearance that even Pizarro's lion- hearted, iron-fisted soldiers crossed themselves uneasily when they first saw it, muttering one to another that this surely was the gate to Hell itself! The castle of Minas Morgul has its own quite definite image in my mind - that of Schloss Thaurandt on the Moselle between Trier and Bonn, which was built in the middle of the Fourteenth century by a genuine robber-baron of most evil repute, and which retains to this day the marked impression of a construction built with no concession to any human requirement other than sheer defensive strength. Indeed, so well was this condition fulfilled that a force that outnumbered its defenders by fifty to one besieged it for over two years - and failed to take it! Minas Tirith, the fortified city, with its seven great towers, sets another problom. Carcasonne is, of course, the ideal medieval city-fortress, but is so generally well-known to tourists that many in an average audience would immediately recognise it, spoiling the illusion. Another magnificently picturesque fortified city is Jeysalmir in India, but thnt is sut in bleak sandy desert, not the fertile fields of Tolkien's royal city. The difficulties of finding suitable locations, however, are almost nothing compared with the difficulty of casting Tolkien's characters. With my own rather limited knowledge of film-stars I can only think of two possibles: Alec Guiness as Gandalf, and Charles Laughton as Theoden, the @ageing@ King of the Rohirrim. But who can we find to portray the combination of immense physical strength and fitness, many years of hardship and disapointment and yet essential underlying youth that is the long-awaited Prince, Aragorn ? [page 33] Even more difficult, how are we to portray Legolas the Elf, the deadly archer, the light-footed runner, who looks liko a merry boy with a jest or song always on his lips, until a chance reference shows that he has, with his own eyes, witnessed events that took place some centuries before. Most difficult of all, what are we to do about the Elf-Queen, Galadriel ? The very idea of any super-mammary American or hipwaggling Italian film star in this part must fill the loyal Tolkien follower with sick horror! But the requirements are stringent - very considerable good looks, great natural dignity, the widest range of voice at all times under perfect control, the most graceful carriage and - on the top of all this - the perfect naturalness that led to Sam Gamgee's artless tribute " And, with it all, she's as merry as any country lass a-dancing with flowers in her @hair!".@ It would have been an ideal part for Sybil Thorndike at her best; of all living film (or stage) actresses the only one I can think of who could - if she only _would_ - take the part is Greta Garbo. This may, pehaps, raise the eyebrows of some, but not, I think, of those who remember her, as I do, in one of her last films, in which she played the part of a Soviet emissary to a western country, fanatically Communist, touchy, humourless and suspicious. Towards the end of the story an unexpected turn of events suddenly brings home to her the completely incongruous; wildly funny, side of her own solemn pretensions and gives the picture of her I still love to remember - Greta Garbo, lying back in her chair, laughing with all the artless happiness of a school girl - rocking, gasping, finally weeping with helpless laughter - and all the audience at the film joining in from sheer delight! Or would we need a ballerina to cope with the grace and dignity of motion that the part requires? Margot Fonteyn with a fair makeup? Not Alicia @Narkova@ - neither her "refeened" best-behavior, accent or her kindly unashamed London speech when at ease would fit such a part. And, of course, Tin Pan Alley _would_ try to introduce the latest hit tunes in the Halls of Elrond at Imladris! Luckily we have at hand one _genuine_ piece of elf-music in the shape of the strange haunting tune that appears in Kennedy-Frazer's "Songs of the Hebrides" under the name of "A Fairy Plaint" (music from inside a Fairy Hill) . This is supposed to have been heard by a Benbecula crofter, who, going home oen night, found one of the fairy hills open, with lights inside and a crowd of elven folk singing, harp-playing, and dancing. Scared nearly out of his wits he hid behind a hillock and heard an elf harpist sing this song, which stayed in his mind - as well it might. And now, with no financial considerations to worry about and all the world to choose from, who has some more good ideas for filming "The Lord of the Rings"? Let's hear them! ......Doc Weir _To which I add my invitation - for letter-comment or article. EB._

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