Lifestyle | 17 March 2016The Fighting Styles of Middle Earth Share article facebook twitter google pinterest It can be incredibly difficult to bring a novel to life in a way that does the original material justice. See how filmmakers brought J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic battles to life in Middle-Earth Envisioned. As epic fantasies, Tolkien’s works are filled with suitably epic battles, especially in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and so it’s hardly surprising that screen adaptations of these works sometimes focus on these cinematic battles and fight scenes. As with any film, it’s up to the stunt coordinators and swordmaster— in the Jackson films’ case, the late, great Bob Anderson—to decide upon a fighting style for the characters and races, based on what the writer has created originally. Tolkien was not a fencer or student of historical martial arts, so he doesn’t actually describe much of the characters’ fighting styles in his writing, which meant that the creators of the movies had to provide their own interpretation for the actors and stuntmen. Nevertheless, there are some clues in the original texts that could be built upon, and that show through in the screen versions. Legolas, for example, in the books, has his bow and “a long white knife at his side,” which would be appropriate for an archer in medieval times. In Jackson’s movies, this knife is transformed into two white-handled blades, which Legolas dual-wields in a suitably graceful style. Having expanded upon Legolas’s white knife, in Jackson’s films the other Elves use variations and larger versions of the type of weapon and style used for Legolas, which is a logical development. There’s surprisingly little description of actual fighting in Tolkien’s books. For example, think of the lengthy fight involving Boromir at the end of Jackson’s The Fellowship of The Ring; it’s created entirely by Bob Anderson and the stunt team. In the book, Boromir simply runs off at the end of Fellowship, and is found dying at the beginning of The Two Towers. Where Tolkien’s talent at battle scenes lay was in his descriptions of the preparations and aftermaths. Tolkien had experience of large-scale battles in World War I, in which he had been involved at the battle of Thiepval Ridge, in the autumn of 1916, and the taking of the Germans’ Schwaben Redoubt. This battle had been fought in heavy rain, and mud, and so the battle of Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers is a battle fought in rain and mud, with the fire from Orthanc taking the place of artillery. In the book, this is one of the most believable and gripping sections, taken from Tolkien’s own experience, and the Jackson movie nails it perfectly, putting the audience in the battle, and, on a subconscious level, with Tolkien on the Western Front. When we read about the bodies littering the area around Gondor, or see them in the movies, we’re seeing something of what Tolkien saw at Thiepval Ridge. Likewise, the wounding of Frodo at Weathertop, and his delirium on the flight from there to Rivendell, is so compelling and dizzying both in prose and film because it’s based on personal experiences. In the film, Jackson captures what Tolkien tells us about how it feels to be hurt in combat and lose blood. In the case of the Dwarves, and especially Gimli, axes are the order of the day. In Tolkien’s text, Gimli and his kind simply use axes to cut or hit, with no mention of any special techniques for doing so, as Tolkien seems to have been unaware that an axe meant for combat needs to be kept moving all the time, in big circles, to keep up a useful momentum. In the screen adaptations, Dwarves still use them for single hits, like a hammer or hatchet, even though the styles are developed by people who do know better. In this way, they give us a vision of how Tolkien saw the Dwarves fighting. Of course this style also reflects melee combat in the trenches, using tools, and this is something else Tolkien would have been familiar with from Thiepval Ridge. Tolkien’s Orcs are described in the books—particularly in the chase through Moria—as being very fast, and this is actually envisioned most effectively in Ralph Bakshi’s animated film version, in which the Orcs are always running, and suddenly appearing in front of our heroes. This movie also has thecharacters bearing arms and armor of much simpler, Saxonstyle design, befitting the era of the original sagas and legends, which Tolkien had studied and based his worldbuilding upon. It’s interesting that The Lord of the Rings puts the sympathetic and viewpoint characters in the defense of their fortifications—essentially in the position of the Germans at the Schwaben Redoubt. The defensive trebuchets seen in Jackson’s trilogy are a far dafter idea than artillery at the German fortress. For the human characters, screen versions have given Aragorn, Boromir, and the others, the type of fighting style that best suits film, to use the screen effectively, and look good. This does tend to mean that moves from different martial arts are brought in, which a medieval or earlier warrior wouldn’t have known, and even moves from sports that simply look good in visual terms. Ironically, the one character in Jackson’s films who actually fights most correctly in terms of how a medieval type warrior would have fought, without doing screen-friendly but suicidal moves such as random spins, is Sean Bean as Boromir, whose reward for being the one correct fighter is to be the one of the Fellowship who gets killed! Sometimes it feels as if there’s no justice! Buy from an Online Retailer US: UK: The painstakingly crafted world that J.R.R. Tolkien created for The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion is so vivid that it’s easy to briefly imagine Middle-earth as a real place—even Tolkien himself had said it existed somewhere on Earth. From the languages spoken and the creatures that peopled it to the wars and cosmology, the richly imagined Middle-earth has left many artists and fans worldwide imagining what it would look and feel like to inhabit such a wildly inspired world. Tolkien left out no details in his picture so it is no surprise that Middle-earth has inspired such inventiveness in turn. Middle-earth Envisioned is the first book to explore the artistic legacy left by Tolkien’s world. Paintings, drawings, theatrical performances, radio serials, and films inspired by The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are all discussed in a manner that further illuminates the brilliance of Tolkien’s creation. Readers will discover details surrounding an attempted Beatles live-action version (with Paul McCartney as Frodo Baggins), a nearly four-hour Canadian musical, the West End stage production of Lord of the Rings, and of course, the Peter Jackson films—including the Hobbit trilogy—and much more. In this beautifully illustrated gift book, discover the richness of Middle-earth anew, through the works of the artists inspired by it. From NYT bestselling author Brian J. Robb and Paul Simpson, TV guide writer/reporter and the former editor of the Star Trek magazine. 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