Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Anglo-Saxon is not a three-word language

Many apologies for not posting for a little while. It's been what uni students call "that end of semester", with assignments due and all.

As there's been no cricket of late (did someone mention Champion's League? no, surely not, because THAT IS JUST NOT CRICKET) I went and re-read the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. Not having yet had my fill of Middle-Earth, I re-watched the Peter Jackson trilogy - Extended Edition, of course. Then the commentaries of the Extended Editions.

Wanting even more of Frodo & Company, I decided to dig up the old BBC Radio dramatisation, which I'm not sure I enjoyed as much as I did the first time round (but it's still really good, so listen if you haven't) although Bill Nighy was an amazing Sam.

By now, LoTR had become a bit of a drug, so off I went to re-watch the Ralph Bakshi animated version from 1978 - and laughed. I'd forgotten how dreadful some bits were. The butterfly-lion Balrog with the fluffy bedroom slippers, for example. Or Samwise the Stupid and Incredibly Ugly. Not to mention Legolas the boy/girl/rabbit - I can't see any fangrrl crushes happening there. However, 10 points to Bakshi for the Nazgul, they were some of the creepiest things I've seen in an animated film. Even if the Flight to the Ford did play out as a trippy lightshow.

However, I then made the grave mistake of digging further (please excuse the appalling pun). I watched the Rankin/Bass version of The Return of the King. Now, I enjoyed their Hobbit. However, crappy songs and script plus a freaky-looking Pippin was just too much. My inner-orc felt violated.

Not, however, as violated when it read the screenplay outline for John Boorman's version. All I can say is thank Eru he didn't have the money to produce it. Galadriel seducing Frodo? Gandalf orchestrating a violent rebirth for Gimli outside the Gates of Moria? Aragorn 'healing' Eowyn by having sex with her on the battlefield? Mystic teen Arwen operating on Frodo with a hot knife to get the Morgul blade's shard out? These are the worst points, but there are more. Oh yes, precioussss, there are more. Forget rolling in his grave, Tolkien would have become a wight, left his barrow and pursued Boorman to the end of the earth. The dead followed, indeed!

So, after getting extensive counselling to recover from this unpleasant discovery, I decided I needed a new hobby (as if I don't have enough) to keep my mind off the visuals Boorman had conjured in my brain. To keep in the spirit of things, I thought it might be a good idea to teach myself Anglo-Saxon. So far, it's going pretty well - I'm re-reading the bilingual edition of Seamus Heaney's rendition of Beowulf, but this time not allowing myself to check the Modern English version until I get really stuck (ie. every fifth line). It's surprising how different the translation is from the original, however. Much as I like Heaney's version, the alliteration and use of synonyms by the original poet is mindblowing.

People (my mum, for example) get this impression that Anglo-Saxon is a simple language made up of a few single-syllable words (or grunts) and not really good at expressing anything complex. This is ridiculously untrue. Through use of an admittedly limited selection of root words and a range of prefixes and suffixes, composite words are created that can pretty much convey anything. Anyway, as you can see, I'm thoroughly enjoying myself and neglecting my blog.

Next post should be all about why so-called Tolkien purists are actually completely missing the point. That is, unless the cricket has revived by then. W├Žs hal!

No comments: