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Lord of the Rings

* understand the term genre and the conventions of different genres and sub-genres and narratives.

novel/film - fantasy - adventure - the quest narrative

* understand the term intertextuality and the ways all stories are in some way dependent on other stories; they use similar characters and plotlines (narratives) and/or make specific references to other texts (myths, famous stories). Sometimes this is used to echo ideas from other stories, at other times it is unintentional and simply reveal the way we often live out set narratives that have been a part of our culture - it is a way of seeing ourselves and our relationship to the outside (and inner) world.

* be able to identify central themes and ideas in the text and the values they endorse and criticise.

* understand that texts are constructs and representations and are shaped by the various literary, filmic techniques and selection of detail. Be able to identify key filmic techniques such as camera angles, colour, symbolism, music.

* Pinpoint features of characterisation and setting.

Features of the narrative:

The Quest

The Hero

Innocent, naive, pure hero & brave, courageous hero

Love story as sub-plot

Motif of transformation

Good and evil; darkness and light - forces of dark do not die, always present waiting for time

The Ring; Humans easily corrupted by power

Allegory and fantasy; adventure

Setting in unidentified past in fantasy world where magic and sorcery exist; constant struggle between good and evil; a rural world (pre-Industrial Revolution) that is threatened by forces that wish to denude the Earth of its natural setting. Though there are no machines or technology involved ( this is left to science fiction and its similar theme of ruining the Earth) it is a critique of Industrialisation and the loss of the simple rural life.

Good and Evil - throughout history many have constructed the notion that the world is torn between these outside forces as if there is something inherent in the universe that is in battle. This is not necessarily true but a construct, a view of the world that has gained currency over time.

The American mythologist Joseph Campbell added that humans respond instinctively to an archetypal storyline, which he called The Hero's Journey.

An individual is called on a quest, meets a mentor and various allies on the road, fights enemies before confronting the ultimate evil, goes through a symbolic death and resurrection, and eventually brings back the 'elixir' to save the tribe. (George Lucas consciously adopted Campbell's outline for Star Wars)

The psychologist, Carl Jung, raised the notion that certain images may be wired into the human brain, causing us to respond favourably whenever we encounter them. His theory of archetypes, says that characters such as the earth mother, the foxy trickster, the dark menace and the heroic warrior, w hich all appear in myth and literature are embedded in 'racial unconscious' shared by all humans.

Science Fiction Unit

Novel study - Oral

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Novels by Terry Pratchett

Novels by Ursula Le Guin - The Dispossessed

Poems 'The Horses' by Edwin Muir

Science Fiction Film

- Blade Runner

- AI

- Minority Report

- Vanilla Sky

Non Fiction

Documentary

Why have stories? Beginnings and functions

First stories of 'once upon a time' involved a tale strung together of bits and pieces of experience, linking past happenings with present ones and casting both into a dream of possibilities.

Stories seemed to make sense of time, of history, of their lives.

Magical power of narratives - shaman or sages told stories which provided symbolic solutions to contradictions that couldn't be explained or proved.

Stories address psychic as well as physical suffering. The pain of loss and confusion, of loved ones passing away, called out for stories.

They have been an escape - mainly from death. Stories invented to fill the gaping hole within us, to assuage our fear and dread, to try and give us answers to the unanswerable questions of existence: Who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going?

Lord of the Rings

Intertexts

Aragorn like King Arthur and Moses has his royal birth hidden. The story of his broken sword is like the great hero, Sigurd, of northern Europe.

Fordo becomes great - Ugly Duckling motif. Goes on quest and discovers bravery, strength, determination and patience. Sam, Pippin and Merry all change. Transformation.

Go into underground - Orpheus must face three-headed dog, Cerberus, to rescue his lover, Eurydice; also Odysseus, Aeneid, and even Jesus is shut in a cave behind great rock. Also Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter descends into cave to meet Voldemort.

The mythologist, Joseph Campbell states that underground journeys are the trademark of heroes. To step into a cave is to dare to look at the dark parts of one's mind and soul. The darkness hides what is unknown - not only within the cave, but within one's self. It is not just the terror of monsters but the fight against your own fears and doubts. (Even Aragorn and Gandalf)

The story's most important intertext is Beowulf. Famous poem written in Old English during the eighth century. Set in Scandinavia and in an age of war between the Danes, Swedes and a tribe called the Geats (southern Sweden). Most of poem centres on the fights between Beowulf and three creatures.

The Geat warrior, Beowulf, offers to fight the monster, Grendel, and mortally wounds him. The next day while all are celebrating the monster's mother comes for revenge. Beowulf fights her, pursues her to the bottom of a foul pond and kills her.

Many years later when Beowulf is king a fire-breathing dragon threatens his realm. The dragon wants revenge as someone has stolen a golden cup from his treasure. Beowulf kills dragon but dies from wound her receives.

Assignment Lord of the Rings

Students are to present a display file that explores the following aspects of the film:

- main themes

- intertextuality; research on influences and the types of narratives that inform Lord of the Rings

- fantasy as a genre: discuss the features of Lord of the Rings that make it a fantasy

- characters

Date Due: 14 March

Essay (in class)

Lord of the Rings is not just a adventure story but is concerned with many important issues that are relevant in today's world.

The Lord of the Rings is a story about power, temptation, sacrifice, betrayal, love, redemption and heroism. It shows the human desire to find union and communion with the world around us and to be willing to fight against the powers that threaten freedom and the sanctity of life. It can be seen as a nostalgic yearning for a more simple rural past, a time beofere the Industrial Revolution when people live in harmong with Nature. The very forces of evil represent in many ways the forces of industrialisation with its echoes of satanic mills, slave labour and poor conditions and most importantly the loss of the ordinary person's connection with the natural rhythms of the Earth ( read about Industrial Revolution and the poetry of William Blake, in contrast to pastoral lyrics of earlier poets and Wordsworth).

Intertextuality

Intertextuality refers to the way our reading of other texts inform our reading of one specific text. Sometimes intertexts are made explicit through references and allusions, at other times it is the actual genre or well known narratives that set up our expectations.

Intertextuality is the concept that all texts (literature, film, advertisements, etc) are not the works of individuals or genius but are derived from all those narratives (stories) that have existed in cultures over thousands of years. They are stories that are 'out there' that get told in different ways when writers create narratives. Many of these are unconscious borrowings - think of all those stories that have the same story line as fairytales. 'The Ugly Duckling' is the story of an ordinary character who transforms into a beauty or 'Cinderella' whose beauty is at last recognised, 'Pygmalion' who has the potential for great beauty but needs a 'make-over' for this this to be realised. All are narratives of transformation or metamorphosis, where a character changes into something different to what they were before.

Critics argue over how many narratives there are, but it come down to quite a small number with endless slight deviations. See later for some of the types of narratives.

Intertextuality is also related to how we 'read' texts in the light of other texts we know. This gets a bit tricky as different people will have different reading and viewing experiences as well as bringing something personal to each text. We have certain expectations when we read a text of a particular genre and usually get the desired ending though sometimes texts do subvert conventions by having different endings. In a love story we expect the boy and girl to get together and be happy, maybe for ever, and there is also marriage. In older stories most love stories ended with a marriage. In a fantasy story we expect magical things to happen, characters to have supernatural powers and accept these though we may not believe in them.

Intertextuality also relates to texts that make specific references or allusions to other texts. These allusions are used to create echoes of other stories, usually ones with similar ideas to form a subtext, informing the text with the stories that have gone before. They often reinforce the themes and issues.

In the Lord of the Rings:

- all the guys go on a quest to save the world

- there is a love interest between the beautiful girl (Arwen) and the handsome hero (Aragorn).

- the heroic group must face terrible obstacles; monsters, enemies, fears

- must travel beneath the earth and face fears and live dangers

- one or more are tempted by the dark powers (temptation)

- one or more tempted by great power (greed)

- a close ally betrays his friend and put all into danger (betrayal)

- there is a clear division between good and evil

- must leave their home and venture to unknown lands in order to save 'home'

- a 'recognition' scene where one who has gone in disguise is revealed to be a saviour or king

- a magical ring

- a magical mirror

- one who has fallen redeems himself (redemption)

- wise leader who has died returns in spirit to help guide

- hero must separate from friends to achieve the quest on his own

- women look beautiful and do not go on the quest

- forces of good are associated with light, beauty and natural surroundings while the evil are dark, ugly and inhabit the infernal regions

- all characters are transformed by their experiences

* Quest narrative: - hero sets out on a quest to find him(her?)self, 'meaning to life', truth. Many stories are quests to find something of great importance. Sometimes it is an object; a treasure or place, but most entail finding something about the character that will make them a better person. A spiritual quest, a quest to find who we really are, in most cases a narrative of self-discovery. Think of all those teen films that are about a character coming to know themselves, others and the world in new way.

The American mythologist Joseph Campbell added that humans respond instinctively to an archetypal storyline, which he called The Hero's Journey.

An individual is called on a quest, meets a mentor and various allies on the road, fights enemies before confronting the ultimate evil, goes through a symbolic death and resurrection, and eventually brings back the 'elixir' to save the tribe. (George Lucas consciously adopted Campbell's outline for Star Wars)

* Self discovery narrative

- character confronts a series of obstacles; outward conflict with others or inner conflict and discovery a new dimension to self

There are thousands of love stories

* Romance narrative

- love will conquer all

- boy and girl fall in love; must face obstacles to be together

- love at first sight - love triangle

The following narrative might just be another form of the quest narrative:

* Triumphalist narrative

- brave guy triumphing over misfortune by sheer force and will

- individual conquering Nature or malevolent forces

- human spirit triumphs over adversity

* Redemption narrative

- individual sets out to rid themselves of their past and find peace and forgiveness for their previous deeds

Year 9 English Research

Find out about the following famous archetypal stories

Ulysses Orpheus Adam & Eve

Cinderella/Pygmalion, Beauty & the Beast, The Ugly Duckling

1001 Arabian Nights - Scheherazade

Arthurian Legend - Lancelot, Parsifal (The Holy Grail), Sir Gawain & the Green Knight

Narcissus

Ovid's stories of Metamorphosis

Tristan & Isolde

Faust

Dante Alighieri - The Divine Comedy (Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradise)

Beowulf

Themes

The main themes in The Lord of the Rings are concerned with unbridled power. It shows that power corrupts and that very few people can be given great power without misusing it and becoming tyrants and monsters. The film starts at a point where the power of the ring has already caused great suffering: Middle Earth is on the brink of war and many have been killed already as the dark forces attempt to gain control of the ring. Unlimited power is shown to make monsters out of individuals as they continually seek to gain further power and need to dominate others, making all subservient to their wishes. This is the danger of power as most cannot curb their greed if they have absolute power.

In many ways this represents nations that hav e had absolute rulers throughout history, but also is evidenced on a smaller scale where any power tend to make people tyrannical, arrogant and unwilling to tolerate others. This is also related to political corruption where the will of the people is subverted and politicians work for their own vested interests.

In The Lord of the Rings the most humble, naive and innocent character, Frodo, is given the task to take the ring to Mt Doom to destroy it as he is less susceptible to fall under its power. Even Gandalf, a just and noble wizard, knows that the power of the ring would corrupt him and insists that Frodo be the ring bearer. Aragorn is the only one who seems to be able to resist the power and from the beginning he has been constructed as a man who has shunned status, prestige and power as he knows that his ancestors were unable to resist the power and had been responsible for not destroying the ring. He is aware of the weakness that might be within him and has the willpower to remain anonymous, a mere ranger when he is heir to the throne of Gondor and possessing great physical powers. Boromir on the otherhand cannot resist and attempts to steal the ring though he is essentially a good man. He does repent and dies in defence of Frodo having redeemed himself in the end.

The film is also concerned with Nature, constructing it as a place of beauty and harmony. Those who live in harmony with Nature such as the Elves are seen as enlightened creatures who are gentle and good, and use Nature to help them live. In contrast the dark powers destroy Nature, using the inventions and tools of mankind to subdue it and create in its place a wasteland. On the orders of Sauron, Saruman has the ancient forest destroyed so that mines could be created and armies formed. The original book was seen as an early pro-environmental statement while Tolkien no doubt looks back nostagically on the simple rural life of the English countryside before the Industrial revolution and the development of huge impersonal cities. The Shire is his ideal: an idyllic setting for ordinary good people to live untainted lives, while the forces of Sauron represents those forces, like those of Industrial Revolution, that destroyed this way of life.

The film does explore the theme of good and evil, but it never examines its complex nature, but presents it in the sterotypical opposition of one force being totally good and representing higher ideals while the other represents all that destroys human life and dignity. One side is demonic with powers of sorcery that are used to corrupt and destroy; they are dark figures and ugly, and inhabit night landscapes and hidden places beneath the earth. The good forces are in light of day, inhabit natural settings and are generally, white Anglo-Saxons. The only women are beautiful, possessing some power but also willing to be caring and giving. The dark powers seem to procreate through unnatural means.

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