Now it’s Personal: Moral Relativism and The Harfoots

28 Oct

I tried to be objective last week, so here’s pure opinion.

I stand by that ROP could have completely omitted the Harfoot story. When I read Game of Thrones in Uni, I actually read all of Dany’s chapters and then I went back and read the rest of the story the way it was intended. I realized her story wasn’t affected the main story; and I’m not the only one because it was resubmitted as a novella and won some awards.

I’m also not going to be grumpy and say that there can be no creative adaptation ever. Sometimes I don’t like the direction or the decisions but see why they did it – there was a disclaimer at the beginning of The Bible TV series, I’m paraphrasing but it essentially said in the opening, “We had to make some choices but believe we stayed true to the spirit of the work”. In this, I agree – old stories tended not to be very character-driven, so sometimes you can make some very different choices and there are times the audience won’t like the direction you take them. That being said, I think it’s very possible to take liberties so long as you get the spirit of the story right.

That being said, there’s a reason that Heroic Fantasy emerged from the Sword and Sorcery tradition. Sword and Sorcery tended to be grittier and more grim; there had to be a more hopeful counterpart. Other people were inspired by Tolkien and wrote their own stories, because there were things they disagreed with or, they had questions. But they weren’t writing in Middle Earth, they created their own stories and games.

The idea that ‘how far you can touch evil’ or these other ideas of moral relativism doesn’t work in Middle Earth. If you want to make something along the lines of Game of Thrones there’s plenty of authors and materials that are like it. Joe Ambercrombie’s The Heroes, or perhaps The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Neither are exactly the same, but the former was inspired by ASoIaF. Going after Wheel of Time or other stories and wanting to remake them in the same vein as Game of Thrones isn’t true to the narrative and, I think ultimately because you’re being far too allegorical your work becomes dated.  I can watch the Peter Jackson trilogy every year and it feels timeless, whereas if in a few years I rewatch Rings of Power I’m going to have the same ‘Member Berries like when I rewatched Snakes on a Plane a few months ago. Shoot, I like the song, “I see Fire” by Ed Sheeran, but if I’m watching the Hobbit movies, I’m going to be comparing it to the end of Mulan where, I guess they didn’t know how to end it so it peaced out to a boy band. Rather inconsistent and, my nieces love the movie but it always throws me how random that ending is.

Concerning Harfoots

When we first meet the Harfoots, they’re a proto-hobbit who excel at hiding and while some people know they exist, they’re like elusive gnomes who you really don’t want them around, because they’ll steal from you. At first they come across as slightly grubby but charming, but it doesn’t take long for the depiction to turn south.

We’re introduced to the main character, Elinor Brandyfoot (Norri) with her friend Poppy and they’ve taken several young harfoots to go steal from a nearby farm. They’re taking berries and other nice food, and you’re sort of sympathetic because at this point, they’re eating live snails.

The hobbits migrate and go from place to place, and when he’s helping the others Elinor’s father sprains his ankle and his entire young family is concerned because they need him to pull their caravan to keep up. The harfoots even have a strange ritual before they start to migrate where they parade around chanting, “Nobody goes off trail – and nobody walks alone.” Then proceeding to read a book concerning everyone who’s died they left behind chanting, “We wait for you”. They’re portrayed as have a very stringent set of rules, but they do take people’s wheels and leave them behind. And not just the offenders – the entire family. (Why the offender just doesn’t tag along and abandon their cart is beyond me, but let’s not talk sense).

Norri befriends the stranger who crash lands in Middle Earth, and I’ll stand by my complaint that the Fallen Angel imagery is intentional, and I’m not impressed considering what Gandalf is. The harfoots are wary, but they tolerate him and get in the way of him learning magic, and every time they’re afraid of him they interfere or do something stupid.

The harfoots aren’t portrayed as a species that does terrible things for justifiable reasons, they seem to do things for the sake of the audience and moving their story line along with little care. I just finished  An Ember in the Ashes by Tabaa Sahir, it shows the grim reality of being part of a culture that is nasty and cruel. There’s no reason for any of what happens in the Harfoot story line, other than to move the story along in the direction the writers want and, it seems lazy and inconsistent.

The problem with the harfoots ultimately is that the director emphasized the ‘burglar’ aspect of Bilbo, when the reality is that the majority of hobbits are rather fond of doing the opposite of an adventure. RoP chose to emphasize how dirty and gross they were as opposed to what Tolkien depicted.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

Hobbits like good food and good cheer, and while most of the world goes on without really acknowledging they exist, because they’re not great scholars or heroes or do much of anything that anyone would deem important. They invented golf by accident. The creative direction RoP took them was to make them decidedly thieves who eat snails while they’re still raw and wriggling and abandon entire families when one of their own becomes injured, which only happened because he was helping the others. There are cultures who are like this in real life – but one of the earliest precursors of civilization is how people help their sick and injured. And for a people who have hearts bigger than their feet – why they think they have big feet is a mystery; to them that’s normal – so far the only thing I know about harfoots is I wouldn’t want them migrating near my town.

I could go on but I’ll talk about my grumblings in another post.

If you’ve read this far I’ll say writing-wise I haven’t gotten my edits back from last month, but the novel’s a borderline beast (the longest my publisher wants, but I will write longer). I wish Puppet Masters was done, but it’s coming along. It will need some revision. NaNoWriMo is probably not going to be a thing this year – my goal is to rewrite a project and send it in to Champagne by end of January. It’s possible because it’s mostly done but I need to shorten it.

I have more to get done in the meantime – I found some more anthologies with topics I’d like to submit to, so that’ll be more than enough in the meantime. Rogue Healer 4 will be started sometime in the spring, and I’ll have to pick a project to self-publish. At the risk of reneging next year, I think it’ll be Derelict Knights but, no promises at this point.


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