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Monday, April 18, 2005

Frodo, Ged and Hazel: Movies & Gender

This is the second installment of a series on three works of fantastic literature. The first is here.

I was going to say something like "The fact that all three of these stories were made into movies proves their greatness," but, on reflection, it doesn't. Some pretty dumb stuff gets made into movies, and, unfortunately, some pretty good stuff gets made into dumb movies.

I don't think I have anything intelligent to add to all that has been said about the Lord of the Rings movies, directed by Peter Jackson.

The Earthsea trilogy was made into a miniseries for the SciFi TV Channel, which aired a few months ago. Ursula K. Le Guin, the author, complained about the treatment of race in this production, and about the production in general. I posted some gripes myself, after watching the series.

There have been cartoon treatments of of Watership Down. One was a movie feature. There was also a TV series. I saw the feature. It was about as well made as you would expect a cartoon about lots of rabbits would have been made. Not great, but OK. A web site, here, is supposed to have information on the movie, but there is something wrong with the URL currently. Since the page is dated April 18th, 2005, I'm guessing it will be repaired shortly.

I haven't read The Seven Basic Plots, by Christopher Booker, but a review explicitly puts The Lord of the Rings and Watership Down into one of the seven plots, namely The Quest.

All three of these characters are male. Hazel, at least, was almost required to be male, as Adams is attempting to portray animal behavior realistically (aside from the intelligence, and ability to communicate). In many species of mammals, females generally remain with the parental territory, but males emigrate. The same is not true of Frodo and Ged. With Tolkien, no doubt he was following most medieval literature--the heroes were male, and Tolkien was an expert in medieval literature, and, in a sense, was trying to create his own. Le Guin's choice of a gender for wizards, including Ged, was not so constrained, as she was writing fantasy not about animals with known behavior patterns, or in a genre already in existence, unless fantasy about other worlds is such. Le Guin certainly was no stranger to exploring gender. Perhaps her most influential work, besides the Earthsea books, is the Left Hand of Darkness. In that book, the humanoids on Gethen can take on either sex, more or less at random, each reproductive cycle, which, of course, has profound consequences, and makes for some interesting sentences, such as "The King was pregnant." In writings set in Earthsea, written after the trilogy, she does introduce a female wizard.

There are strong female characters in all three stories, especially Arha/Tenar in the second Earthsea book, where she is the main character, with Ged secondary to her.

The third installment in this series is here, and the final one is here.

Thanks for reading.

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