Friday, August 10, 2012

If Mormons Made Lord of the Rings

What if some Mormons got together and decided to make a reinterpretation of the Lord of the Rings films?

Life as a Mormon gives one a very unique perspective on things, and seeing that perspective translated into the arts can often be...interesting.  In thinking about some LDS films (such as The Testaments, Joseph Smith:  Prophet of the Restoration and How Rare a Possession), I began to wonder how an LDS filmmaker with an LDS perspective (and perhaps an LDS agenda) might reinterpret some modern cinematic material.  
So here's the premise I set for myself:  A Mormon studio decides to remake The Lord of the Rings.  Both intentionally and unintentionally, Mormon cultures, themes and quirks work their way into the film.  How would this affect the storyline?  How would a  heavy dose of Latter-Day Saint mutate a familiar saga?  Here's what I came up with:

The Hobbits Would be a Metaphor for Mormons
Mormons pat each other on the back for being "a peculiar people"--that is to say that the world views them as weird or even weak, but members of the church realize that, through their obedience to the gospel, they have a higher morality and greater self-discipline.  In The Lord of the Rings, one of the central themes is that unlikely people can be capable of great things.  Tolkien uses the diminutive physical stature of his hobbits to make this point.  In an LDS Lord of the Rings, the Hobbits would be the only group to have a full understanding of the power of the Ring.  (You know, some races may have some of the truth, but only Hobbits possess all of the truth.)  

Frodo Would Be The Only One Who Could Read the Ring
Of course, the Hobbits wouldn't have all of this knowledge of the Ring firsthand--the writing on the Ring is in a different language ("Reformed Orkish").  Frodo, however, is the only Hobbit who can decipher this writing.  He uses it to teach his people about its power...for good. No Hobbits have seen the Ring, other than Bilbo, who discovered it accidentally.  But both Bilbo and Gandalf swear by its existence, so none of the Hobbits seem bothered by Frodo's reluctance to produce the Ring for public inspection.

The Ring Should Not Be Destroyed
Cast it into the fires of Mount Doom?  Don't be silly.  Then how would Frodo be able to lead his people?  Instead, he'll keep the Ring and use it to establish a series of Hobbit-esque attempts at utopia.  Each time the Orcs come and kick the Hobbits out, they'd move to another location and start over.  Eventually, though, it occurs to the society that they may have to go much, much further away to escape persecution.  For example...Into the West.

Sauron Would be Rich and Prideful
Mormon audiences respond well to ridiculously, unbelievably arrogant antagonists (Think Kohor from The Testaments).  Instead of being a formless, hidden evil, Sauron would be some rich guy that owns a huge chunk of land in southeastern Middle-Earth.  His goal is to acquire the Ring.  The Ring is supposed to be a powerful artifact, and he feels threatened by it.  So Sauron will attempt to find the Hobbits, exterminate them, and destroy the Ring himself.  Then he will have no threat to oppose his planned accumulation of more wealth and more land--he has a guy named Wormtongue trying to convince the King of Rohan to sell his Kingdom, and he's looking to buy out Gondor next.  Sauron also dresses very well, which is how you can tell he's prideful.

More Martyrs!
Somewhere along the line, Frodo will be killed by the Uruk-Hai.  While sleeping.  And unarmed.  It will be very tragic.  Gandalf, after fighting the Balrog, will not reappear as an amped-up version of his former self.  Boromir might actually die twice simply to up the martyr count.

A Crisis of Succession
After Frodo's death, the Hobbit society would be divided on who his successor should be.  Samwise Gamgee, of course, would be the popular choice.  Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took would also be in the running.  Miraculously, however, Merry would manage to collect a massive following, and take the majority of the Hobbits off to a distant destination.  Sam would gather his few followers to him and attempt to live quietly in the same area.  Pippin would just wander off and spend the remainder of his days living in Minas Tirith, separating himself from his past and from Hobbit society.

Gimli Would Be Black
Mormonism has a bit of a thing about trying to prove that it isn't racist.  To dispel any incorrect assumptions people may have made because of the long-standing (although eventually lifted) ban on black men holding the priesthood, many LDS advertising campaigns feature blacks (and other ethnic groups less common in Mormondom).  A Mormon writer or director might feel compelled, consciously or subconsciously, to include a virtuous black character in his work.  Gimli fits the bill here, because he's not exactly central to the plot, but he's a good guy, he's a badass, and he's useful as the butt of a few jokes when the script is in dire need of some comic relief.

Galadriel's Role Would Diminish
The problem with Galadriel is not that she's powerful--it's that she's incredibly powerful and a woman.  This cannot be.  Women can't hold the priesthood, and the Elves' superhuman abilities are perhaps the closest Tolkienesque parallel to the priesthood.  Her husband Celeborn would instead be depicted as the sole ruler of Lothlorien, with Galadriel as his loyal companion.  His wisdom and power would be astronomical in comparison to hers, but he would of course claim to value her input and respect her role as a mother.

Aragorn Would Have Died Bravely
Aragorn is not a Hobbit.  Therefore, he does not have the full truth about the Ring of Power.  However, to demonstrate that there do exist some good non-Mormon people in the world, Aragorn will become a valiant, virtuous, well-intentioned non-believer.  He will claim his title as heir of Gondor and fight against Sauron's army simply because he believes that Sauron is unjust in his attacks on the Hobbit society.  To seal his fate as the ultimate non-Mormon ally, he will fall in battle and sacrifice his life for the furthering of the Hobbits' Ring-Cult.  After his death, he will become much like C. S. Lewis, and LDS viewers will claim that Aragorn doubtlessly accepted the truth and was baptized in the post-mortal Spirit World.  

Gollum Would Be A Polygamist
In Tolkien's books, Gollum represented what Frodo could have become if he'd been corrupted by the power of the Ring.  In keeping with the Ring's metaphorical status as the word of God or the truthfulness of the gospel, Gollum would need to become the embodiment of someone corrupted by the gospel.  He'd need to be someone who had the truth, took some things a bit too far, and twisted and abused the gospel of Christ.  So he'd wind up being a middle-aged hobbit with a creepy beard who lives in his cave with his fourteen wives ranging in ages from eleven to twenty-four.  (Take that in human years or in hobbit years, it doesn't really matter.)

Tom Bombadil would Still Be Absent
Tom Bombadil was a character present in Tolkien's original work, but he was removed from Peter Jackson's trilogy.  I thought that his part of the book was kind of weird, somewhat trippy, and a little unnecessary.  It threw off the pacing a lot, too.  In the Mormon version of the films, Tom Bombadil would still be absent, probably for those reasons.  However, in interviews, the director of these films will be seen claiming that Tom Bombadil was never a character in any novel or film, and that the Lord of the Rings storyline is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

I think I'd like to see these movies made.  I bet they'd fare better than the Book of Mormon movie did.

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