July 28, 2008

More Gratuitous Tolkien Geekery Posting

In response to my post t'other day about the character voices I use in reading The Fellowship of the Ring to the eldest Llama-ette, our pal Zendo Deb left this comment:

I hope that you sing the songs. Though I don't think you get many songs until after Moria.

I think you will have a harder time with dwarfish than with Gandalf. One of the things I didn't like about the movies, was the Scottish accent that Gimli was given. Probably easy to do, but not really in keeping with the books.

Well Deb, I have to confess that not only do I not sing the songs, I don't even bother to read them most of the time. (Indeed, the Llama-ette and I generally chant "blah, blah, blah" in unison when we come to them.) For some reason, the Elvish poetry of Middle Earth - although very important to Tolkien himself - has never really interested me. And as for the other characters, I've always thought Sam Gamgee's crooning of "West of the sun, East of the moon" in the tower at Cirith Ungol to be the one genuine moment of hideously laugh-out-loud ridiculousness in the whole trilogy. But it brings up an interesting question: what would the musick of Middle Earth sound like? My first impulse would be to go with something of a Renaissance flavor, at least among the High Elves and the Numenoreans. But you never know with 20th Century English writers, many of whom seem to have a penchant for something closer to Ralph Vaughan Williams or William Walton. What say you, Gary?

As for the dwarves' voices, you're right, it is a challenge. And one with which I'm still struggling. When the gel and I read the Chronicles of Narnia together, I got into the habit (out of pure whimsy) of basing my dwarf voice on that of Arthur Hunnicutt's Bull Harris from El Dorado. The idea stuck, and furthermore it translated over when we read The Hobbit together (at least for Thorin's companions - Thorin himself got a voice of somewhat more gravity and authority). Of course I know that C.S. Lewis's dwarfs and Tolkien's Dwarves are two very different creatures. I'm also aware of that passage in The Two Towers where Gamling hears "the great voice" of Gimli above the din of battle warning that the orcs were coming into Helm's Deep via the culvert under the wall. So far I've only had to do Gloin, and I can at least pass off his cackling as being due to his advanced age. But with Gimli's imminent appearance (we start on "The Ring Goes South" tonight), I'm going to have to make some changes. I don't think a Scots accent is the way to go, but the solution has not yet presented itself.

Posted by Robert at July 28, 2008 08:34 AM | TrackBack

Speaking with authority as a father of a 15 year old son, the orcs' style has to be screamo.

Posted by: jeff at July 28, 2008 09:58 AM

Here's how the riders of Rohan sound when they sing: http://muzetunes.com/playback.asx?c=qQOtQPMlqJ2wSjlSssvA7WNQBptYnFrkhFOuyRxte7w=&f=B

Don't try that at home. But it's less difficult than you might imagine to make up tunes on the fly while you read.

Posted by: Bill Befort at July 28, 2008 01:15 PM

what would the musick of Middle Earth sound like?

My guesses:

Elvish music sounds like opera.

Hobbit music sounds like bluegrass or folk singers.

The music of Rohan is probably like traditional Irish music: laments sung in Gaelic, and dancing music that comes right out of "Riverdance."

Gondor music probably sounds like Scots Gaelic. Or maybe it's like those monks' chants that were popular a few years ago.

Orcs just have to sing rap. If you can call it "singing."

Posted by: wolfwalker at July 28, 2008 05:30 PM

Connery voice: "That'sh forty two, Mashter Elf. The lasht one had an ahrn collar, and I've put a notch in my axe."

Posted by: The Abbot at July 28, 2008 07:11 PM