Saturday, January 26, 2013


Anna made a comment in class on Tuesday during the freewrites that I thought was really insightful.  She sort of questioned whether Farmer Giles was an unexpected unexpected hero.  Do we ever expect an expected hero in Tolkien's work?  I think Tolkien includes unexpected elements in all of his works - I'm always surprised by something so I'm not saying he's entirely predictable.  For example, in Farmer Giles, I was surprised by the ending of the story when Giles makes himself the king and "befriends" the dragon. However, I'm not really surprised by Tolkien's unexpected heroes anymore.  It seems to be his trademark.  Even characters that at first glance seem that they should be the hero of the story, Tolkien exposes and reveals their faults and insecurities and ends up casting them as the unexpected hero, the underdog (I'm thinking Aragorn here).  Obviously, Tolkien is very successful in using this recurring theme, and I think it makes his works extremely powerful.

Sometimes I think Tolkien even subverts this theme by revealing the corruption of characters we might expect to be heroes like Saruman or Denethor.  Who are some of Tolkien's successful expected heroes, though?  I've thought of maybe Elrond, but I'm not sure he classifies as a "hero" (in The Lord of the Rings at least - maybe in The Silmarillion but I haven't read far enough to find out yet).  Thoughts?


Megan said...

Ohhh I like this! And I completely agree! Think about how Tolkien characterizes Aragorn vs. Boromir: Boromir, kind of weirdly, gets a big long introductory description and he's super-heroic seeming with his fine clothes, beefy shoulders and heirloom horn, whereas when we meet Aragorn he's just creepy stalker-guy in the corner. And yet, as much as I love Boromir, who's the real hero, right?

I can't wait til we get to Feanor. He's one of these initially Obviously Heroic characters who by the end is basically a villain (I love him, too, all right? See! Tolkien is just really good at this ambiguity thing!). It's really interesting!

Lorin said...

I really like this, too - I totally see this theme happening over and over again in Tolkien's works! I know this is probably an obvious example, but I overwhelmingly think of Sam when it comes to unexpected heroes. He's just this sort of bumbling, silly hobbit who dreams about Elves, but when it comes down to it, he really steps it up.

I think this also heavily ties into the things-aren't-what-they-seem-or-what-they-look-like thing. Like Megan said above, Boromir has all the appearance of a hero, but it's the creeper-y looking Aragorn who really turns out to be the hero.

I'm not sure about *successful* expected heroes, though. Gil-galad, maybe? I think it's cool that Tolkien totally went against the more traditional way of depicting a hero - i.e., as strong, good looking, totally "good," and sort of Arthurian knight-like.