Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year's Eve!

My apologies for the unimaginative title; I couldn't think of a better one.  Anyway...
As I'm sure you all know, tomorrow will be a new year: 2014.  The holiday season has really whirled past this year, so I'm taking this time just to look back at 2013 and see what's happened.  Here are three of the highlights.

  • Starting a blog
This one's pretty obvious. ;P  But seriously, it's been an amazing journey, and I'm looking forward to continuing it in 2014!
  • Falling in love with two new musicals
Les Misérables and Wicked.  In that order.  Les Mis through Barricade Boys Week and Wicked by seeing it live.  Les Mis really has changed me and how I look at the world (however cliched that may sound) and Wicked is just delightful, anytime, anywhere.

  • Discovering Jane Austen, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and classic books in general
One of the best things that ever happened to me. ;P  Without Jane Austen, I wouldn't be half the writer or reader I am today.  And TSP...well, TSP is...melodramatic but highly amusing and very touching. ;)

This year has been very eventful for me.  It's just flown by, but I've grown closer to God and made new discoveries, and overall I'm feeling very thankful at the end of it--and looking forward to the new year with some trepidation but more excitement.

And now I'll stop all the sap and sentimentality and just wish everyone a very happy New Year!

-Miss Jane Bennet

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Jane Austen Challenge II

I'm back!  Did you miss me? ;P  Apparently, I can't stick to any resolution of not blogging, because here I am already.
I'm announcing the Jane Austen Challenge II!  No, it's not going to be exactly the same as last one, don't worry.

I received Emma, Northanger Abbey, The Watsons, Sanditon and Lady Susan for Christmas, thereby completing my JA collection.  In celebration, I'm doing a read-through of her six major novels, starting with Sense and Sensibility, going to Mansfield Park, and then Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion, in that order.  (They're sorted according to size.)
Anyway.  After I finish each book, I'm going to do a review (or a "thoughts on re-reading" post) of it.  At the end, I'll put all the reviews in a post and on the sidebar so people can get to them easily.
However, there will probably be quite a space in between reviews, so this will hopefully not be the only thing posted about in the coming weeks!  I saw The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug yesterday, so a review of that should be out soon-ish.  I've also been reading quite a variety of books lately, most of which need to be reviewed. ;)
Back to the JA Challenge (which will hereby be called the Jane Austen Review Challenge, so as not to be confused with the previous one).  If you would like to participate at all, just do a review of any JA-themed thing, whether it's a movie, book or something else entirely and leave a comment with a link on any JA Review post.  Your link will be included in the list I'll post at the end.  This is completely informal and optional; no pressure!  It starts on January 1st.
And that's pretty much it!  I made a blog button for the Review Challenge, which you may take if you wish.
Classic Ramblings
Now I'm off to get a head-start on S&S...

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas, Christmas, Time Is Near...

Yups.  Christmas Eve is TOMORROW, guys.  It seems like only yesterday that it was Thanksgiving...or Halloween!  And yet, Halloween was months ago.  Time flies...
But anyways.  My creative juices have been running a bit dry lately (I do wish that I was able to write some more, but I think finishing up my story will have to wait till after New Year's).  I have a couple of posts in my Drafts folder (including the Phantom review), but they refuse to cooperate with me.  So this is basically just a little note letting you know that there may not be very many posts till January or so.
To end this post, here's a picture of Emma in the snow, because Jane Austen applies to everything. ;)

Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year, everyone!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Wicked: A Lateified Review

As I may or may not have mentioned before (I can't remember), I had the great privilege of getting to see Wicked live with my aunt a bit ago.  Every since then, I've been planning to review it, but now I'm finally getting around to it.
First of all, I'm going to assume that everyone knows the story; if you don't, here's the Wikipedia synopsis.
Now, on to the review.  I shall try to do it in an orderly fashion, but I'm going to be recording my own experience as well, so it may end up being very ramble-y and not orderly at all.  Hopefully it will make sense anyway. :P
When we sat down in our seats (which were good!), I was almost shaking with excitement and suspense, because this was my first time seeing a musical live.  I mean, obviously I'd seen little kid plays and all, but this was the first time I'd ever seen something this...big.
And it was big.  When the music started, I was blown away by the size of it; the costumes, the theatre itself, the singing, the acting...everything.  But I quickly got used to it. ;)
Anyways...back to the actual review.  Let me say before I get too into it that I'd listened to pretty much all the first act, but none of the second act, and that I didn't know much about the plot.  So these were pretty much my first impressions.
"No One Mourns the Wicked" was amazing. (I'm going to try to avoid reusing adjectives, but it may
be impossible.  You know how it is. ;P)  At first, I was a little startled by it, because it was loud and big and I was used to CD tracks and all, but I got used to it (and grew to love it by the end), and all the rest of it was perfect.  I loved the dancing, and the mother of Elphaba in this one was really good, adding her own personal touches in, what, ten seconds of "stage time".  Glinda's bubble and dress to match were beautiful (most of her costumes were), and the floating, although it was obvious that it wasn't "real", was still pretty breathtaking.
About G(a)linda (Jenn Gambatese).  Her voice was something else.  I can't really describe it.  It was almost drawly, if you know what I mean, without being twangy or nasally, while still sounding really strong and yet superficial occasionally...yeah.  
Then came "Dear Old Shiz".  Having only listened to the a small part of the soundtrack beforehand, I wasn't really expecting anything from DOS and wasn't sure what would happen once the students stopped singing about "Shizzzzzzz".  The plot was quickly cleared up for me.  Which brings me to Elphaba herself...
"My" Elphaba, Alison Luff, was great!  Her voice was really strong.  She was more of an angry Elphaba than some, but she never went overboard and I thought that her portrayal suited her well.
"The Wizard and I"...Alison Luff did a great job.  It was the first time I'd heard the song, so I can't really compare it to anything else, but she didn't miss a note and she had all the right expressions, so I'm happy.
"Something Bad" was...um...boring.  Yes, I know that it's an important plot point, but I usually skip it when I'm listening to the soundtrack.  However, the actors did a good job, and Doctor Dillamond was kind of funny, so I was satisfied.
"Dancing Through Life" was one of those blew-me-away songs.  All I knew about it was that Aaron Tveit did a great job singing it (and wore red!), but...yeah.  Anyways.  The little dancing scene with Galinda and Elphaba was so sweet, and Nessa and Boq together just made my heart ache, 'cause I knew how that turned out. *sniffle*  The Fiyero (Curt Hansen) was good, though I've never really liked his part in DTL.
And now we get to "Popular"!  This is probably the song I've heard the most of; I first heard it at Of Trims and Frills and Furbelows and fell in love with it, and listened to different bootlegs, &c.  So I was really eager to hear Jenn Gambatese sing it, and she didn't disappoint.  She was HILARIOUS and my aunt and I now have an ongoing "toss-toss" competition. :D
"I'm Not That Girl" was absolutely beautiful.  I hadn't heard this song before, either, and it just...it almost made me cry.  Alison Luff did a lovely job.
"One Short Day" was pretty cool.  This is the one Glinda dress I don't really like, but the rest of it was amazing, especially the other costumes.  All the bright, whirling colors and dancing made it a really fun song.

"A Sentimental Man"...well, it's pretty short, but Elphaba did a great job with her transition from Wizard-adorer to Wizard-abhorrer. :P  Oh, and the guy who played the Wizard was John Davidson!  I don't know how many people will recognize the name, but my aunt and mom were both huge fans of his when younger, and the day after I saw Wicked, I got to see Davidson in The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band, which was pretty thrilling.
Annnnnd then came "Defying Gravity".  Everyone did a great job, but seriously, it BLEW ME AWAY.  Wicked is a very good show all by itself, but I think that song is what differentiates it from anything else and allowed it to break a bunch of box office records (it's alliteration!) and leap in popularity to surpass Phantom in the space of ten years.  It's just...an amazing song.  I knew she rose up on her broom and all, but seeing it live was so cool.  I really can't describe it.
Oh, and here's a video of "my" cast singing "Defying Gravity".

Then came the intermission, blah, blah, blah, and then the second act.  I didn't know anything about the second act at all, so George was curious as to What Would Happen.
"Thank Goodness" happened.  I love Glinda's Thank Goodness costume, by the way, and this song makes me feel so sorry for her.  She really doesn't know what to do, or what to think, so she kind of "defaults" to her normal routine: being popular.  That's my theory, anyway...she just seems so lost in this scene.
Anyways.  Jenn Gambatese, as usual, did a great job.  So did everyone else.  The end.
"The Wicked Witch of the East" was so sad. I pretty much guessed what would happen, but still...poor Nessa.  And poor Elphie.  I do wish they'd included this song on the soundtrack, though.
"Wonderful" was...wonderful. :P  John Davidson did an AMAZING (and hilarious) job as the Wizard, and Alison Luff had me at the edge of my seat all through this song.
"I'm Not That Girl (reprise)" was heartbreaking.  Again, I had the sense that Glinda just didn't know what to do, and was sincerely regretting her choices, but wasn't sure how to make things better.
"As Long As You're Mine".  Well, Elphie and Fiyero were adorable together, but the song itself is kinda suggestive and icky, so...not much to say here.

"No Good Deed" was so powerful.  This was quite possibly Alison Luff's best song.  Poor Elphaba...she's been through so much and she's finally found love, and now it and her sister have been ripped away from her through her best friend.    Again, this was the first time I heard it, but I "got" it, and it, as usual, completely wowed me.
"March of the Witch-Hunters" was good, and scary, and Boq (Jesse JP Johnson) did a great job with this song.
"For Good".  *tears*  This song...THIS SONG.  I was crying almost hysterically by the end of it, but I love it so much.  It so perfectly expresses everything about friendship, and Alison Luff and Jenn Gambatese were so good in their parts as they finally realize just how much their friendship means to them.

Then came the "Finale", which did nothing to abate my tears.  Glinda was the one I really felt for.  Don't get me wrong; I love Elphie and I admire her, and I think she was incredibly brave and deserves the happy ending of sorts she got, but I pitied Glinda.  She's just danced through life, and now, when she finally really cares about something, it's taken from her--and it's through her own choices, because she was young and spoiled.  Her best friend was just killed--or so Glinda thinks--by the people she allied with and helped.  The man she loves threatened her life so that he could save Elphaba, and then was taken away and tortured and--so Glinda thinks--killed.  And it's partly because of her.  Plus, she can't even grieve--she has to take care of Oz and present a happy front.  I can't imagine the pain she'd have to endure--but she does, and she leads Oz well, and she isn't bitter, but recognizes the good Elphie's done her.  Which is pretty amazing.

The show ended, and I was still crying (the little hug Elphie and Glinda had before bowing didn't help either), but then the lights went on and people started to leave, and I controlled myself. :P
But it wasn't over yet...we went around and waited by the stage door.  We had to wait at least half an hour in the cold, but I got the signatures of Fiyero, Elphie and Boq, and got a picture with the latter two.  Yessssss! ;)
Overall...this is an amazing show.  It has an "Oz" feel about it, and the music is reminiscent of the original, but it still has a flavor all its own.  I was a bit worried about how they'd portray Elphaba, because too often it's simply a blurring of the lines between good and evil, but they clearly showed what was right and what was wrong and I really appreciated that.  There was very little content, no swearing, meaningful songs, lovely costumes...I really can't think of anything I'd want to change besides "As Long As You're Mine".

In the end, what I said to my aunt as we were walking back to our car sums it up best:
"I think I love this show."

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Hippo Birdie Two Ewe...or Something Like That

Today, I wish to talk about a particular person, who has a birthday this month and totally deserves a huge celebration.

Her name is Eowyn. (Well, of course that's not her real name, but I don't think she wants her real name broadcast to the world, so...)  She blogs over at Inklings Press, and she's a simply wonderful girl.
Eowyn and I "met" in early September when she emailed me about a fanfiction I'd offered on my blog.  It took awhile to get the fanfic sent in a format that she could read it in, so we got to know each other a little better while doing that.  We started to talk about writing, and I told her I'd read The Box (which, by the way, is amazing; if you haven't read it, you should), and she asked if I would like to read the first five chapters of her novel, and we went from there.

It's been so amazing, getting to know her over the past few months.  There's quite an age difference between us, but somehow, it doesn't seem to matter when we're emailing or talking.  She was there for me during NaNo with snippets from her own novel and quotes from Newsies when I had 7k words to make up.  Every email from her is full of fun, encouragement and fangirling.  We have nicknames and inside jokes and shared fandoms and our emails have this weird habit of getting longer and longer. ;)
She's taught me a lot about friendship.  I thought that to be best friends with someone, you had to be the same age, be of the same opinion about anything and everything, talk to each other every five minutes.  I learned that that is certainly not true.  We have differences of opinion and we don't live anywhere near each other (SADNESS), and yet, she's one of the closest friends I've ever had.  Our debates are full of hilarity.
She's amazingly enthusiastic about her fandoms, and her fangirling puts mine to shame.  She knows quite a bit about her fanships as well--FARAMIR, Les Mis, Phantom, Wicked...if she loves it, she does research, and the breadth of the knowledge she has of some of those things amazes me.

She knows a LOT about this guy, let me tell you. ;)

 I don't know how we manage it, but the huge projects we plan always come together with both of us working on them.  Like this party.  And this piece.  And we have two or three other projects in the early planning stages...
She's always cheerful, and she has a vast array of quotes that she uses in any and all situations (and makes me squeal with delight).  I love talking with her in any way, shape or form.
Also, she's just a lovely Christian girl.  We can talk about marriage, beauty, God, &c. and that's been really helpful for me sometimes.  I love to discuss things like Les Mis or Lord of the Rings from a Christian viewpoint.

Her writing is simply breathtaking; the snippets and chapters I've read from her books only make me more eager to read the rest.  Her characters just pop out at me and become real, and the descriptions can make me feel like I'm in the room, cheering the main character on. 

And now, I suppose there's only one thing left to say, which is HAPPY (late) BIRTHDAY, EOWYN, AND THANK YOU FOR BEING MY LOVELY, WONDERFUL FRIEND!!!
Funny Birthday Ecard: I'd sing you 'Happy Birthday' if I didn't sing as well as Russell Crowe does.
This isn't quite true...but it was too good to pass up. ;)

Friday, December 13, 2013

It's Over Now, the Music of the Night!

"A Short-Cut To Mushrooms" is nearly over. *sniffle*  We've had such a great time planning this and making our plans a reality, and we hope that you've enjoyed it as much as we have.  It's been a marvelous experience for both of us (although we do have a list as long as the road to Mordor of things to do "after NaNo, after the blog party" :P).
But wait!  It's not quiiiiiite over yet.  It's now time to unveil the "special surprise" we've been telling you about!  You see, we discovered that we have the same music book: a book of violin pieces from the LotR movies, with piano accompaniments (we both play violin, and Eowyn plays piano as well).  So we got this crazy idea of putting one of the pieces together, and, somehow, we managed to work it out.  Eowyn recorded the piano and sent it to Jane, who recorded the violin and sent it back.  Then Eowyn made a video to match it.
So without further ado, may we present "In Dreams" by Miss Jane Bennet and Eowyn!

And now, we really are saying good-bye, so we'll close this with one of the most gorgeous quotes in the entire trilogy.
“And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Personal message from Jane to Eowyn:
First of all, thank you soooooooo much for doing this with me; your enthusiastic emails and brilliant ideas made many gloomy days brighter, and I've just had an amazing time.  I really, really appreciate the opportunity of holding a blog party with you, as well as just trading emails, calls, snippets, and random fun moments.  Your capital-letter fangirling has made my day many times, and I've learned a lot from you as well.
This has been a wonderful journey for me, and I hope and pray that it won't end for many years yet.  I really have been changed--for the better--and I am so thankful for your friendship.

-Miss Jane Bennet

At Long Last...

Well. Today is the 13th of December, the day which LotR fans, Hobbit geeks, Tolkiendils, and fantasy lovers have been waiting for since...since birth. (Sorry! ;)) Actually, since December 14th, 2012, when The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey came out.
Yes, today is the day on which The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug is coming out, and we are both tremendously excited. As in, TREMENDOUSLY EXCITED!!!
This is what we're doing right now.  For a different reason, of course. ;)

Neither of us are getting to see it right away (Eowyn has to wait until later today, and Miss Jane has to wait a WEEK ;P), but we're still celebrating today because that's when it's coming out and available to watch. We'll both be keeping out an eager eye for reviews.
We're enthusiastic about Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug in particular, and about seeing (hearing?) him and Martin Freeman interact, because we've been watching some of Sherlock recently. And if he demands silence in any way, shape or form, we're going to be thrilled to tears.
Martin Freeman we KNOW will be good, so we certainly don't need to worry about him, but we're super excited (we need a thesaurus ;)) about him as well.

Eowyn loved and was enraptured by the first Hobbit movie; Miss Jane took some persuading, seeing as she wasn't too interested in LotR (Note from Jane: Don't kill me!  Please! ;P) when Journey came out. But now, we're both practically hyperventilating over the awesomeness of it all; this has fulfilled 364 days of waiting, and we're hoping that it will live up to our expectations (it WILL. It's just not possible for this movie to not be good.), and we're already looking forward to the third movie next year...
So happy Hobbit-release day!! :)

Who's going to see the premiere? What are your thoughts on it?

Giveaway Results

We had seven entries in the giveaway this week, and we have results and a winner!  The scores are as follows:
Serena: 17
Carissa Horton: 22
AnElvenPrincess: 22
Kiri Liz: 23
Bea: 16
Frankie: 16
Arwen: 15
And our winner is Kiri Liz!  Congratulations, Kiri!  Email us at miss.anne.elliot27 [at] gmail [dot] com within the next week to receive your prize!
Thank you to everyone who participated!

Musical Review - The Lord of the Rings: The Musical

“There's a road calling you to stray.” - 'The Road Goes On,' The Lord of the Rings: The Musical
When I tell my friends that there's a LotR musical, nine times out of ten, they say, “Wait, WHAT?! How can you even have a LotR musical?! It's impossible!”
Actually, no, it's quite possible. It's been done. And it's amazing.
(Note: I've only listened to the soundtrack, which is the foundation of this review.)




The Story

Act I

The half-Elven maiden Arwen sings the prologue, urging those to whom she sings to trust their instincts ("Prologue" ('Lasto i lamath')). In the region of Middle-earth known as the Shire, Bilbo Baggins, an eccentric and wealthy Hobbit, celebrates his one hundred eleventh birthday by vanishing from his birthday party, leaving his greatest treasure, a mysterious magic Ring, to his young relative Frodo Baggins ("Springle Ring") . The Ring is greatly desired by the Dark Lord Sauron, who could use it to conquer the world, and must be destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom in Sauron's country of Mordor. Frodo and his friends Samwise Gamgee, Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took set out along the road that leads out of the Shire ("The Road Goes On"). Meanwhile, the corrupt wizard Saruman also desires the Ring ("Saruman").
At the Inn of the Prancing Pony in the village of Bree, Frodo and his friends sing and dance for their fellow guests ("The Cat and the Moon"). With the assistance of the Ranger Strider, the four Hobbits escape pursuit by the Black Riders, servants of Sauron, and safely reach the Ford of Bruinen ("Flight to the Ford"). Awaiting them at the Elven settlement of Rivendell is Arwen, the beloved of Strider, whose true name is Aragorn, heir to the kingship of the Lands of Men ("The Song of Hope"). Arwen's father, Lord Elrond, calls a Council of Elves, Men and Dwarves at which it is decided that Frodo will carry the Ring to Mordor. The Fellowship of the Ring sets out from Rivendell: Frodo and his three fellow Hobbits, Aragorn, the human warrior Boromir, the Elf Legolas, the Dwarf Gimli, and the great wizard Gandalf the Grey. Arwen and the people of Rivendell invoke the holy power of the star Eärendil to protect and guide the Fellowship on its journey ("Star of Eärendil"). In the ancient, ruined Dwarf-mines of Moria, Gandalf confronts a Balrog, a monstrous creature of evil, and falls into the darkness.

Act II

Displaying inside-lord-of-rings_t614.jpg
The Fellowship takes refuge in Lothlórien, the mystical realm of Galadriel, an Elven lady of great power and wisdom ("The Golden Wood", "Lothlórien"). As their journey south continues, Boromir attempts to take the Ring from Frodo; Frodo and Sam flee from the rest of the Fellowship, and Boromir falls in battle. Gandalf returns in time to intervene at the Siege of the City of Kings, where the Lands of Men are under attack by the forces of Saruman and the Orcs of Mordor ("The Siege of the City of Kings"). Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam are joined on their journey by Gollum, a twisted creature who long possessed the Ring and desires to have it for his own again. As they approach Mordor, Frodo and Sam sing to each other about the power of stories ("Now and for Always"). Gollum is moved by their song, but the evil side of his personality asserts itself and he plans to betray the Hobbits ("Gollum/Sméagol").

Displaying elves.jpg Act III

If Aragorn can defeat the forces of evil and reclaim the kingship of Men, he will receive Arwen's hand in marriage ("The Song of Hope" (Duet)). Galadriel casts spells to protect the forces of good in the final battle ("Wonder", "The Final Battle"). Frodo, Sam and Gollum reach Mount Doom, where the Ring is destroyed when Gollum takes it from Frodo and falls into the fire with it. Aragorn becomes King and marries Arwen ("City of Kings"), but Frodo, wearied by his quest, and the great Elves must leave Middle-earth forever and sail to the lands of the West ("Epilogue (Farewells)"). Bidding farewell to their friend, Sam, Merry and Pippin resume their lives in the Shire ("Finale").  (from Wikipedia)
As you can see, LotRM follows the book and, in some cases, is more true to it than the movie trilogy. In some ways, however, it's a little different. For instance, there is no Eowyn character (or Faramir – and all the Faramir Fans say, “Nooooooo!”), and the roles of Theoden and Denathor have been combined. (I know, right?) However, other than that, the story is the same. It's really amazing how they pulled it off on stage, in front of a live audience, for 492 performances.Unfortunately, the musical tanked due to money and budgeting issues and a few minor accidents on set. As one reviewer put it, “Stripping away the beautiful sets, lavish staging, seventeen lifts and three revolves, LotRM was at its base level a confused, plodding, dull selection of scenes from the books – with the occasional moment of brilliance, just as a reminder of how good the show could have been. The challenge of adapting all three books (over nine hours worth of film) into one three hour long stage show (incorporating songs and circus style staging) was simply too great – and the result was plain for all to see.” It was a huge job to undertake, and I think everyone involved should be commended for their efforts.

The Music

I discovered LotRM in early 2008, bought the soundtrack soon afterward, and have been hooked on it ever since. The tunes get stuck in my head – which is delightful – and I've been trying to master the many fiddle solos in 'The Cat and the Moon' ever since. My sister and I bought several highlights from the album, which I will review below. If you only have a short amount of time to “try out” this musical, I'd recommend these songs.
'The Road Goes On' is one of the first songs in the musical. It starts out with Frodo and Sam, then Merry and Pippin join in, then the Elves and Rangers join in, and it just gets bigger and bigger.

'The Cat and the Moon' is the song that Frodo and the other hobbits sing at The Prancing Pony, and it's one of the most toe-tapping songs I've ever heard. My siblings and I have done many a jig to this song, and my brother and I have even played it and danced around a fire once. It's that kind of song.

'Lothlorien' is another favorite. Legolas starts it, then he is joined by the other elves. Galadriel (wonderfully played by Laura Michelle Kelly, of Mary Poppins: The Musical fame) comes in for a solo in the beginning of the second verse. (The first day I was able to hit all of her high notes, I nearly jumped for joy!)

'Now and For Always' is arguably my favorite song in the entire soundtrack. It depicts the friendship between Frodo and Sam to perfection.

'Star of Earendil' is one of my new favorites. It wasn't among the “highlights” that my sister and I bought, but it definitely should have been. It's Arwen's solo and quite beautiful.

'Wonder' is the last of my favorites. It's one of Galadriel's solos and such a pretty song. (It's one of my go-to songs when I feel like I need to sing something big and powerful.) 'Shine forever, beacon of light! Blaze in the air, vanquishing night!'

In Conclusion

Displaying LordOfTheRingsMusi_1774259c.jpgAlthough the musical didn't do very well, I commend everyone's efforts. Ever since I first heard about the musical, I've wanted to see it. When it officially closed in 2008, I was heartbroken. However, now that it's being revived for a world tour, I'm looking forward to seeing it! (WOOT!!)
This musical is highly, highly recommended and I think every true Tolkiendil should see it – or, at the very least, listen to the music.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Isildur's Heir, Strider, Elessar, the Dúnedan...

Who is Aragorn?  Aragorn is a slightly awesome (well, okay, completely awesome) character.  He also goes by the name of Strider and happens to be the true king of all Middle-Earth. 
This by itself is pretty exciting and if that was all there was to Aragorn, I would probably still like him.  But there’s so much more to his character.

For one thing, he’s wise and powerful.  He has an amazing elfin sword, he knows the Elven tongue and he has a very large amount of knowledge at his command.  Plus, he knows the ways of battle and he’s a good strategist.

For another, he has a sense of humor.  Who can deny that with this quote?
Gimli: It's true you don't see many dwarf women. And in fact, they are so alike in voice and appearance, that they are often mistaken for dwarf men.
Aragorn: [whispering] It's the beards.

-The Two Towers (2002)

I knowww...Aragorn can smile?! ;P
One of the most admirable aspects of his character, in my opinion anyway, is the way he treats Eowyn.  He’s not oblivious to her love (like Marius), nor does he prattle on about his love in her presence (again, like Marius).  Instead, he delicately lets her know that his heart is engaged elsewhere.  Also, he feels for her, as he says himself:
Few other griefs amid the ill chances of this world have more bitterness and shame for a man's heart than to behold the love of a lady so fair and brave that cannot be returned.”
-Aragorn, The Return of the King

But he’s not completely faraway from all things material- he loves Arwen with all his heart.  He tries to urge her not to give up her immortality for him, but when she does it anyway, I know that he’ll do his best to protect and provide for her as long as they both live.
He's extremely brave, even in the face of death or disgrace. When his little armies are faced by the huge forces of Sauron, he goes forward anyway, after doing his best to make sure the women and children of Gondor are protected. He's willing to sacrifice anything for the safety and peace of Middle-Earth.

However, he’s not exactly perfect either. He makes mistakes and can be reckless and foolhardy.  He doesn’t always make the best choices and he’s slow to trust. He can be proud and disdainful of help.

My friends. You bow to no one.”
-The Return of the King (2003)
Aragorn can also be humble, and he always respects true worth. For example, when he is crowned King of Middle-Earth, he could have easily forgotten the Fellowship of the Ring. Instead, he honors and praises them, and he actually kneels down before Frodo and Sam because of what they've done.

If by my life or death I can protect you, I will. ”
-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
He's loyal; he'd give up his life for any member of the fellowship. He'd prevent evil from befalling anyone in Middle-Earth if he could, which brings me to another aspect of his character: he's self-sacrificing. He would-- and does-- try to protect any random stranger he happened to meet if they were in danger (assuming, of course, that they aren't a minion of Sauron), and he'd be prepared to lay down his life for them. Although he's reserved, he can also be warm and friendly, and easily wins people's hearts (including mine, obviously).

Aragorn is one of my favorite characters in LotR. He's a very worthy king and man, with a good heart and a keen mind. He always tries to protect the people he loves and destroy evil. He's tactful and chivalrous as well as merciful.
And that's Aragorn.

The Quirky Friendship of Merry and Pippin

Merry and Pippin have one of my favorite friendships ever. They're an amazing team and provide a lot of humor and good plain hobbit-sense. How? Well, I'm going to do as Eowyn did in her earlier post and take a look at them both individually and together.

Merry is cool-headed, experienced, rather wise, and not afraid to speak his mind if it needs to be said. He can be somewhat cold and cautious on occasion, but more often than not he turns out to be right.
He's loyal, brave, responsible and has a lot of character and willpower, as well as being very sensible. (His real name also happens to be Meriadoc, which I find rather fun.)

Pippin is pretty much the opposite of Merry. He's naïve (well, not always), somewhat reckless, gives into temptation easily, and tries to stay on everyone's good side. However, he definitely isn't all bad, or even part bad! He's smart, quick-thinking, humorous, and always optimistic. For example, his “group” is facing the entire army of Sauron, and this is what he says:
We’ve got the White Wizard – that’s got to count for something!”

And of course, he's right- he's never unreasonably cheerful, and he can recognize the gravity of a situation most of the time.

Now, how do they do both together? Extremely well, providing a mixture of comic relief and impressive bravery. They're very different; Merry plans ahead and Pippin takes things as they come, Merry doesn't like to take chances but Pippin doesn't think about odds, &c.&c. But this difference makes them a very good team. Merry keeps Pippin from rash schemes and scolds him when he does something that could endanger them (like the Palantir incident), and Pippin lightens up Merry and gets them out of several tricky situations.

They also care about each other deeply, like brothers. When Merry is badly injured while helping Eowyn fight the Witch King, Pippin finds him on the battlefield and, deeply concerned, immediately takes him to the Houses of Healing with no thought for his own danger.

However, it isn't all great acts of heroism and moral lessons. They can be hilarious too- their way of
pointing out the obvious, easy solution to a problem and their different views on the same subject always makes me laugh, as well as their ability to sit down and joke (and smoke a pipe) in the midst of danger and distress.

One of the things that illustrates their friendship extremely well in in The Return of the King. Merry has sworn himself to the King of Rohan (Theoden), and Pippin has promised loyalty to the Steward of Gondor (Denethor). The two leaders are somewhat on opposite sides, but Merry and Pippin, while still remaining loyal to their respective masters, remain friends. They tease each other about protecting their lords from the other hobbit, but inside, they know that they'll always be friends, no matter what happens.

Which leads to an interesting question (and off on a tangent...sorry!): if Merry and Pippin were in opposing armies, what would they do? Would they avoid fighting each other and just attack the rest of the army? Would they quit? Would they do something amazingly heroic and manage to stop the whole war (my personal opinion, hehe...)? I'm not really sure what they'd do, exactly, but I do know that they would never battle each other like that, because relationships matter a lot to them.

So that's why I like and admire Merry and Pippin and their friendship. They're willing to make huge sacrifices for each other and the other people they care about. They are a wonderful team, restraining and yet encouraging each other, but they're also brave and valiant when by themselves. I find this especially admirable, that although they want to get back to their hobbit-holes and tobacco, they're both willing to go through hardships and suffering for the cause of a friend.