YouTuber Just Some Guy continued to eviscerate Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power explaining that removing “the Englishness or really the whiteness from Tolkien’s stories is to undermine the very purpose of his works.”
Just Some Guy’s latest comments came in a recent video upload to his channel titled The Rings of Power: The Desperation is Real.
The YouTuber began his video stating, “I think it’s fair at this point, Amazon underestimated how much Tolkien fans would dislike their changes to his work. I suspect they thought some fans wouldn’t like it, but I doubt they thought it’d go over so badly that they’d have to unlist videos due to downvoting and negative comments.”
“Most of the backlash comes from fans stating that the changes aren’t true to Tolkien’s work. J.R.R. Tolkien said numerous times that the world of Middle-earth was based on English, Norse, and Celtic folklore. It would stand to reason that the people who inhabit Middle-earth wouldn’t just share the cultural traits but also racial appearances of those inspirations,” he stated.
In a letter to L.M. Cutts Tolkien explained the inspiration for The Lord of the Rings, “I did no study or research from my tale. It is an ‘invention’ from beginning to end…If it is ‘English’ — (not British, please) — that is because I am English… no one of us can really invent or ‘create’ in a void, we can only reconstruct and perhaps impress a personal pattern on ‘ancestral’ material.”
He continued, “The origin of the names and fragments of languages in the books could, of course, be discovered by anyone of similar linguistic experience as my own; but that would not reveal much. I invented the word hobbit, and can say no more about it than it seemed to me to fit the creatures that I had already in mind.”
“Elves is an English word, but the nature and history of the peoples so-called in my books has little or nothing to do with the European traditions about Elves or Fairies. Ent is also an ancient English word (for a giant); but the Ents of my world are I suppose an entirely original ‘creatures’ — so far as that can be said of any human work,” he elaborated.
He concluded, “If you like, they are a ‘mythological’ form taken by my lifelong love of trees, with perhaps some remote influence from George MacDonald’s Phantastes (a work I do not actually much like), and certainly a strong [twist?] given by my deep disappointment with Shakespeare’s Macbeth…”
In another letter to the editor of the Observer, Tolkien stated, “My tale is not consciously based on any other book — save one, and that is unpublished: the ‘Silmarillion’, a history of the Elves, to which frequent allusion is made. I had not thought of the future researchers; and as there is only one manuscript there seems at the moment small chance of this reference proving useful.”
He continued, “But these questions are mere preliminaries. Now that I have been made to see Mr. Baggins’s adventures as the subject of future enquiry I realise that a lot of work will be needed. There is the question of nomenclature. The dwarf-names, and the wizard’s, are from the Elder Edda.”
“The hobbitnames from Obvious Sources proper to their kind. The full list of their wealthier families is: Baggins, Boffin, Bolger, Bracegirdle, Brandybuck, Burrowes, Chubb, Grubb, Hornblower,
Proudfoot, Sackville, and Took. The dragon bears as name – a pseudonym – the past tense of the primitive Germanic verb Smugan, to squeeze through a hole: a low philological jest. The rest of the names are of the Ancient and Elvish World, and have not been modernised,” Tolkien explained.
After explaining why he decided to change dwarfs to dwarves he wrote, “These dwarves are not quite the dwarfs of better known lore. They have been given Scandinavian names, it is true; but that is an editorial concession. Too many names in the tongues proper to the period might have been alarming. Dwarvish was both complicated and cacophonous. Even early elvish philologists avoided it, and the dwarves were obliged to use other languages, except for entirely private conversations.”
“The language of hobbits was remarkably like English, as one would expect: they only lived on the borders of The Wild, and were mostly unaware of it. Their family names remain for the most part as well known and justly respected in this island as they were in Hobbiton and Bywater,” he stated.
He then concluded, “There is the matter of the Runes. Those used by Thorin and Co., for special purposes, were comprised in an alphabet of thirty-two letters (full list on application), similar to, but not identical, with the runes of Anglo-Saxon inscriptions. There is doubtless an historical connection between the two. The Feanorian alphabet, generally used at that time, was of Elvish origin. It appears in the curse inscribed on the pot of gold in the picture of Smaug’s lair, but had otherwise been transcribed (a facsimile of the original letter left on the mantelpiece can be supplied).”
YouTuber Just Some Guy would then discuss the backlash to M. Night Shyamalan’s live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender noting that like Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power that film also made significant race changes to the characters and resulted in significant fan backlash for doing so.
Concluding the point and bringing it back to Tolkien, Just Some Guy stated, “People expect to see the world of Avatar presented as it was in the show. Meaning the actors should either be or be able to pass as Asian. The same holds true for Tolkien’s Middle-earth.”
“He based it on Northern European cultures, mostly English culture. And the casting should reflect this,” he added.
“Now, obviously adaptations will have to change some things about the work. Sometimes what works in the novel doesn’t work on film,” the YouTuber claims. “So a personality may be changed, an age may be changed, a location may be changed, time may be lengthened or compressed, but the core of the characters and the world is still expected to be present.”
He continued, “Peter Jackson changed a lot in his Middle-earth adaptations much to many fans and Christopher Tolkien’s, J.R.R. Tolkien’s son, disappointment. However, the core of Tolkien’s remained and the changes mostly worked and that’s because Peter Jackson was less interested in putting his politics and agenda into the film than he was in telling Tolkien’s story.”
He goes on to quote an interview Peter Jackson gave to GreenCine back in 2002 where he stated, “There are certainly themes Tolkien felt were important. We made a promise to ourselves at the beginning of the process that we weren’t going to put any of our own politics, our own messages or our own themes into these movies. What we were trying to do was to analyse what was important to Tolkien and to try to honour that. In a way, we were trying to make these films for him, not for ourselves.”
Commenting on this quote, Just Some Guy says, “That is the most important element to remember when adapting someone’s work. You want the fans and the creator to see this work brought to life in a way that feels satisfying if not correct to their vision.”
“That’s not always going to happen. It won’t always be possible, but it should be the goal. You should want the creator to recognize their own work. And you should respect them enough to assume that they knew what they were doing when they created that work. So, they don’t really need you to come in and fix it for them especially not at the thing you want to fix is the purpose of the story,” he said.
As the video continues, Just Some Guy points out The Rings of Power producer Lindsey Weber’s comments explaining why they race swapped multiple characters.
Weber told Vanity Fair, “It felt only natural to us that an adaptation of Tolkien’s work would reflect what the world actually looks like.”
She added, “Tolkien is for everyone. His stories are about his fictional races doing their best work when they leave the isolation of their own cultures and come together.”
Commenting on this, Just Some Guy stated, “The point of Tolkien’s stories is to be English in design and effect. And Middle-earth reflects that in its cultures, languages, and the appearance of its races. To change this, to remove the Englishness, or really the whiteness from Tolkien’s stories is to undermine the very purpose of his works.”
“It should be obvious that this will result in the backlash, but for some reason after watching fans reject every attempt at playing politics with major franchises like Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, and the MCU, Amazon decided to inject progressive politics into their show along with playing loose and fast with the lore. And we’re shocked when fans gave them the one finger salute.
“So began the apologia, first in interview from Amazon, then by media outlets, and now by people claiming to be super fans and Lord of the Rings experts,” he concluded.
Just Some Guy then specifically addresses an IGN reaction video to The Rings of Power trailer that features Cory Olsen, who runs the website Tolkien Professor and is the President of Signum University. The Signum University YouTube page appears to be Olsen discussing Tolkien and his works.
He breaks down a number of Olsen’s lauding of the trailer point by point before concluding that Olsen was bought off by Amazon saying, “How long is it since Amazon bought you? What was the promised price? When all the Tolkien scholars are dead, you will take your share of their credit?”
He then paraphrases Gandalf saying, “Be silent. Keep your forked tongue behind your teeth. We haven’t passed through moral majorities and wokeness to bandy crooked words with a witless worm.”
What do you make of Just Some Guy’s assertion about Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and his criticism of Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power?