In which I justify my fangirl nonsense with Elizabethan verse.

I kind of love the Hobbit movies. They’re not perfect, and they’re not the book, but I’ve really enjoyed them on their own terms. That even goes for their completely revisionist, frankly nutty portrayal of an elf/dwarf romance between Tauriel and Kili.  I rolled my eyes and sighed, and then found myself on that ‘ship faster than you can say, “She walks in starlight.”  Nope, it doesn’t make sense, and Tolkien would probably hate it, but darn, they are adorable.

This semester, I’ve been taking a class on Spenser, and we’ve read a good deal of his chivalric romance, the Faerie Queene.  It’s been fun to read, and I can even see its influence on other authors, including Tolkien. (For instance, Spenser loooves alliteration.  And he is incapable of mentioning dungeons without making them “dungeons deep.”)  In Book Three of the poem, Arthur’s squire Timias encounters the beautiful huntress Belphoebe, with whom he falls in love.  When they meet, Timias has just vanquished three vile foresters, taking a mortal arrow wound to the leg in the process, and Belphoebe finds him unconscious in a mire of his own blood.  (There is a lot of gore in Spenser.)  Moved to pity, she gathers healing herbs from the forest and uses them to purify his wound.  “Elvish medicine!”  I thought when I read that. “And apparently tobacco is the Spenserian version of Athelas…”  And then, because I am a dork, I identified all the parallels between this scene and Tauriel’s healing of Kili in The Desolation of Smaug.  Furthermore, because I am a dork with access to internet screencap databases and plenty of excuses for doing this instead of real work, I put together a Hobbit/Faerie Queene illustrated crossover, if you will.  Lord only knows what Tolkien would think.  After all, C.S. Lewis once described him as someone who “can’t read Spenser because of the forms [and] thinks all literature is for the amusement of men between thirty and forty.”  Sorry, Professor T., but literature is also pretty amusing for fangirls between twenty and thirty.


Faerie Medicine

With Apologies to Tolkien and Spenser (Or Perhaps Not)

(From Bk. 3, Canto V of The Faerie Queene)

Shortly she came, whereas that woefull Squire
With bloud deformed, lay in deadly swownd:
In whose faire eyes, like lamps of quenched fire,
The Christall humour stood congealed rownd;
His locks, like faded leaues fallen to grownd,
Knotted with bloud, in bounches rudely ran,
And his sweete lips, on which before that stownd
The bud of youth to blossome faire began,
Spoild of their rosie red, were woxen pale and wan.

Deadly Swownd

Saw neuer liuing eye more heauy sight,
That could haue made a rocke of stone to rew,
Or riue in twaine: which when that Lady bright
Besides all hope with melting eyes did vew,
All suddeinly abasht she chaunged hew,
And with sterne horrour backward gan to start:
But when she better him beheld, she grew
Full of soft passion and vnwonted smart:
The point of pitty perced through her tender hart.

The point of pity perced through her tender heart...

Into the woods thenceforth in hast she went,
To seeke for hearbes, that mote him remedy;
For she of hearbes had great intendiment,
Taught of the Nymphe, which from her infancy
Her nourced had in trew Nobility:
There, whether it diuine Tobacco were,
Or Panachæa, or Polygony,
She found, and brought it to her patient deare
Who al this while lay bleeding out his hart-bloud neare.

Divine tobacco?

The soueraigne weede betwixt two marbles plaine
She pownded small, and did in peeces bruze,
And then atweene her lilly handes twaine,
Into his wound the iuyce thereof did scruze,

Scruze

And round about, as she could well it vze,
The flesh therewith she suppled and did steepe,
T’abate all spasme, and soke the swelling bruze,

Steeped

And after hauing searcht the intuse deepe,
She with her scarfe did bind the wound frõ cold to keepe.

Bandaging

By this he had sweete life recur’d againe,
And groning inly deepe, at last his eyes,
His watry eyes, drizling like deawy raine,
He vp gan lift toward the azure skies,
From whence descend all hopelesse remedies:

Watry eyes, drizling like deawy rain...

Therewith he sigh’d, and turning him aside,
The goodly Mayd full of diuinities,
And gifts of heauenly grace he by him spide,
Her bow and gilden quiuer lying him beside.

Angell

Mercy deare Lord (said he) what grace is this,
That thou hast shewed to me sinfull wight,
To send thine Angell from her bowre of blis,
To comfort me in my distressed plight?
Angell, or Goddesse do I call thee right?
What seruice may I do vnto thee meete,
That hast from darkenesse me returnd to light,
And with thy heauenly salues and med’cines sweete,
Hast drest my sinfull wounds? I kisse thy blessed feete.

She Walks in Starlight

Thereat she blushing said, Ah gentle Squire,
Nor Goddesse I, nor Angell, but the Mayd,
And daughter of a woody Nymphe, desire
No seruice, but thy safety and ayd;
Which if thou gaine, I shalbe well apayd.
We mortall wights, whose liues and fortunes bee
To commun accidents still open layd,
Are bound with commun bond of frailtee,
To succour wretched wights, whom we captiued see.

Gentle Squire

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12 thoughts on “In which I justify my fangirl nonsense with Elizabethan verse.

  1. I can’t say I sympathize, but I do understand. 😉 My opinion of the Hobbit movies isn’t very high, but I like them enough to be glad that other people like them more.

    I’ve been wanting to read the Faerie Queene for a while now. My brother read it a while back and his comments intrigued me.

    • The Faerie Queene is a strange, beautiful poem. Parts are very lovely and others are quite odd and confusing. But definitely worth a go. I just finished writing my term paper for that class, and, not surprisingly, wrote about Belphoebe and Timias and their strange little “romance” or whatever it is. Belphoebe represents virginal chastity, so it’s kind of tough figuring out exactly what’s going on between them.

      So, what’s your main objection to Kili/Tauriel? Is it on the level of character development and narrative? I’ll certainly grant you that, like a lot of aspects of the films, their relationship got rushed. They just tried to put in too many side plots and things in the films, rather than sticking to the main ones that they should have. Or do you object that an elf/dwarf romance just wouldn’t be plausible? Based on what you’ve said in your Khazad blog series, I’m going to guess you wouldn’t make such a categorical objection.

      • Oh heavens, the sub-plots! I don’t even think I could count them all.

        While I find the idea of a Dwarf-Elf romance unlikely, you are right in that I don’t consider it impossible. In fact, I think it could be done beautifully. My objections are, as you guess, more along the lines of bad-writing.

        I wasn’t impressed with most of the dialog in the films to begin with. I felt that, for the most part, the writing was clunky, anvilicious (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Anvilicious), and overly self-referential. The dialog between Kili, Tauriel, and Legolas was painful to me. I felt that the whole althelas thing was nonsensical, and one of the many forced-references to the LotR films. As that’s probably the pivotal point in their relationship, that didn’t help matters.

        I think the whole sub-plot would have been far better served if the writers had tried to build a friendship between the two, and then let the romantic elements show through clearly at the tragic end. As it stands, it just seems like two characters are inexplicably attracted to one another in a forced romeo-Juliette style tragedy. And R&J has never been one of my favorite plays, for some of the same reasons. The “wait, why are these two people willing to die over each other again? Oh, right, because they are teenagers swept up in emotional turmoil” only Tauriel and Kili don’t have that excuse.

        That, and poor Evangeline Lily specifically asked, when she was cast, that her character not be involved in a love triangle. 😛

      • The part of me that has sober, rational judgment about narrative and storytelling technique is able to agree with nearly everything you’ve said in complaint here. I was not really happy that they took what could have been a really cool female character and just shoved her into a contrived–not just romance–but love triangle. Seriously. What a waste of an otherwise really cool girl wood elf. (I have had a huge fangirl crush on Tauriel ever since I saw about 2 seconds of her in the trailer.) And I agree, it’s too bad that they didn’t keep their word to Lilly.

        However, the part of me that is a hopeless, hopeless sucker for romance and adorable couples just melted all over Sober Literary Critic and drowned her. I feel this may be a minor character flaw on my part, but oh well. Besides, I can’t change the writing, so I might as well enjoy it if I can, right? Plus, far be it from me to blame any girl for falling for (even a foreshortened) Aidan Turner. (I *did* watch three seasons of Being Human because of him. Actually, the show was pretty good.)

        But really, in all sober truth, I do quite like the conversation that Tauriel and Kili have in the Elvenking’s dungeons. I think that scene is both well-acted and written. I like how Tauriel makes a sort of awkward overture at talking to Kili, this dwarf she doesn’t expect to find sympathetic or interesting, and he almost blows her off with a quip that she’ll be cursed by the runes on his stone. She turns away with a kind of hurt “I get it; you resent me and I’m leaving now” look on her face, when Kili also seems to repent of his teasing and stops her by taking back the joke. Her line, “No; it is memory!” in response to his remark about stars being cold and distant is probably my favorite of all her lines. She seems both surprised and emphatic in her correction of Kili, as if she can’t believe someone could fail to see the world as she does. I think it’s a really sweet moment that illustrates the difference between these two people from such different races and cultures.

        And I’m not sure their attraction is *totally* inexplicable. Nobody needs an excuse to fall for a pretty elf girl, I maintain. But she seems to be drawn to his honesty and innocence in a world that has forced people like her into more hardened, warrior’s roles. Yeah, of course their story, to be believable, deserves more development. But I think there are glimpses there that show what could be compelling about it.

      • I don’t think that’s a character flaw. To not go gooey over things, sometimes, would make one a cold logician. I’ve been there, and it doesn’t make for good story-telling, or much story-appreciation. I’m still a bit skewed towards the critical side (obviously), but I am easing up as I get older.

        If you didn’t see the problems at all, I might be a bit concerned, but if, seeing them, you decide to enjoy the romance anyway, then go for it. In this case, there’s nothing fundamentally problematic, nothing abusive or unbelievable. Just poor writing and too-little development.

        There were some good elements in the prison scene, themes I wish they had picked up on later, too, but I had a hard time getting over the idiotic “I could have anything down my trousers” line. I think I may have face-palmed in the theater when that one came along, and I couldn’t understand why Tauriel would bother to say anything to him after that. I still can’t. Though I guess it’s a tribute to her tolerance and curiosity that she did.

      • Yeah, it was a definite facepalm moment.

        My theory is that Tauriel found his terrible line kind of endearing, in a hopeless sort of way. Plus, elvish maidens probably get tired of the kind of elaborate compliments I would imagine their suitors compose, following rules as complex as those for renaissance lyric poetry. And Tauriel doesn’t seem the kind of girl who’d have patience for sonnets.

        And as for why he’d say that? Well, haven’t you ever been around someone you find really attractive, and the minute you to go say something, your brain falls out? And you’re left thinking, “What did I just say? I sounded so stupid!”

        Yes, I’ve spent far too much time considering this.

      • Lol! Ok, fair enough. My bias towards seeing the writing as bad makes me less likely to look for in-character-in-world explanations. If I don’t trust that the writers really thought it through, I don’t tend to give them the benefit of a doubt. But your explanation covers the facts.

      • Oh yeah, and embarrassing confession, but I nearly broke down in the theater when Kili died and Tauriel says, “If this is love, I do not want it. Take it from me.” I was recovering from a recent bad breakup, and that just hit me where it still hurt. So there I was, sitting in the theater, already feeling like a moron for crying over what I knew was a silly underdeveloped sideplot romance, and then trying not to start bawling audibly and make things even worse. Don’t worry, I can laugh about myself now. 😀

      • Well, for all my eye-rolling, I physically flinched at each dwarven death, even the second time around. Alas, for the line of Durin!

      • Also, I totally agree that they created a potentially awesome she-elf, and then largely wasted her. It’s almost enough to make me cry. She could have been the Eowyn of the Hobbit! Alas.

      • Oh yeah, and I was going to add the CS Lewis really liked the Faerie Queene. You can read his critical assessment of it in his scholarly book The Allegory of Love. Which has inexplicably also been out of print for decades. I had to spend a comparatively large sum just for an ancient paperback.

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