Cathecting to Oakenshield? or, a not-so-brief etiology of Thorinmania — ONE
[This got so long I divided it in half. Both are done. This part is prescheduled — I am running an errand that has an uncertain outcome — so it’s not being tweeted yet. Still haven’t learned how to schedule tweets. The second half will publish some time after I get back from the errand, because I need to reread it. I won’t be responding to comments till I publish the second half, but please don’t hesitate to leave them. They always cheer me up.]
I. The Ambivalence
You’ll have seen that the banner has changed. Here’s another cross-section of this:
Wanna play count the beard hairs? It looks like even Thorin Oakenshield does a tiny bit of beard trimming. Look at the margin of that mustache. I thought it was the beard, and what it enables Armitage to do, but that’s only a piece of it. Still hope to finish those posts.
I haven’t been wildly enthused about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, per se.
I think this has been no secret to people who follow this blog closely. It took fourteen months for The Hobbit to make it into the category cloud at right, which tracks the top forty blog subjects here, and “Thorin Oakenshield” is still several weeks or a month from managing that feat. As for Guy of Gisborne and Thorin coming into conflict and Thorin winning? I’d have to write about Thorin every day for the next two months at least and never mention Guy that whole time to make that happen. A doubtful outcome. Given what I think these figures mean to me metaphorically, that is admittedly a somewhat discouraging recognition.
I don’t despise the film. I’ll try to attend the premiere wherever I happen to be at the time, and/or travel to the nearest city to see it in 48 fps (which may be hard, due to limited release — I guess they’re not even sure the Wellington premiere will have it). I’m sure more excitement will develop on that level as the hype builds; I’m hardly immune to that, and it’s happened more than once that talking about something with all y’all has heightened the thrill — but my primary interest in it all long has been as a career strategy for Richard Armitage. I saw the LOTR films and enjoyed the first and third especially; I admire Peter Jackson’s vision and his skill as an interpreter, which made me able to reread the books with enjoyment, finally; but I’m not intensely involved with them or with J.R.R. Tolkien. Thus it was a matter of supreme indifference to me whether they made two or three movies, except as it impacted Armitage’s own desires to continue in that project or find new ones. I admit to idle contemplation of whether Black Sky is what Armitage got for agreeing to do a third Hobbit film, so that he knew about it despite his denial when asked his opinion in San Diego.
I’m just not counting the days in the blog margin.
I did feel guilty. I occasionally wondered whether this failure was yet another sign that I’m not a good enough fangirl. Or evidence that my interest in Armitage was waning.
But signs have appeared lately that all of the above may be changing. Is my Armitagemania entering a new phase? I noticed it around the time of ComicCon, to which I experienced a similar reaction to Jane’s. I’ve changed the banner because I saw signs the last three weeks that I am starting to cathect to Thorin, or at least, to one or two particular symbols of his.
I think it’s that I’ve in general figured out, during the many hours when I couldn’t write this summer, a rough trajectory of where my connection to Armitage’s roles fits in my own odyssey. In addition to what I say about Richard Armitage, I write mostly about four characters here: Mr. Thornton, Guy of Gisborne, Lucas North, and John Porter — who appeared in a magical trail for me during about the first five months of Armitagemania. Thornton was about work — I’ve started, and almost finished delineating that; Guy is about power and powerlessness — and I am starting to be able to deal with that in detail verbally now; although I’ve never written about it in much detail, Lucas was about processing trauma, which is why his eyes graced the header for so long; and Porter, whom I’d also like to write more about, was about the possibility of vindication vs destruction.
I don’t know if I’m going to be able to make this blog bear all the writing about all of that, or even if it’s necessary to do so. Or if I need to finish writing about Richard Armitage the person, now that I have an explanation for Armitagemania that makes sense to me, or whether I can let it go. I’ve said recently that I wonder what exactly this blog is doing for me.
[This is not fishing for positive strokes — don’t worry about me, and don’t feel you need to argue me into continuing, because it probably wouldn’t have any effect anyway — these are just questions I continue to ask myself.]
But it was pretty clear, at the very latest from the storms I experienced on Wednesday morning, that Thorin has joined ranks with the Big Four.
II. The Genealogy
I need to come clean about my childhood and young adulthood experiences with The Hobbit, or There and Back Again (1937), as I have been a little disingenuous till now. I wasn’t as in love with this book as a child as Richard Armitage seems to have been.
In fifth grade, “Riddles in the Dark” (the chapter where Bilbo meets Gollum) was in the reading textbook. I remember thinking it tedious. (My favorite memory from fifth grade reading? The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I was still compulsively rereading Roots that year, had found a paperback copy at a rummage sale that cost a whole dollar, was systematically hiding it from my mother.) We also watched a film of The Hobbit in class that year, the 1977 animated version. Well before VHS, showing a film in class constituted a major effort for the teacher and an expense for the school. It was definitely clear to me at that point that it was considered a classic — and why. But according to the Iowa Test of Basic Skills or whatever, I was reading at a college level by fifth grade and the main thing I learned in reading class was how enervating it can be to read stuff other people think is important. You want someone to love something? Don’t assign it as homework.
In sixth grade, The Hobbit was my DEAR book. Remember DEAR / SSR, U.S. readers of a certain age? I always picked a book I wasn’t especially dying to get to the end of for DEAR, because it only lasted for thirty minutes once a week and as a child I hated to get entranced by a story and then interrupted, especially in school, where I didn’t like having my concentration jarred. I kept books I was really hooked on in my backpack, because I was reading them every spare second, and wanted them quick at hand wherever I was. In contrast, a DEAR book had to be always, reliably, in the same place — a role played for me by books that I didn’t care about much. And I already knew the story from the film, the previous year. As a DEAR book, The Hobbit lasted me most of sixth grade, although I still understood and knew that it was a classic.
I didn’t remember Thorin Oakenshield in specific at all.
The physicist gave me his copies of LOTR to read when I had flu once in grad school. I still knew they were classics. I didn’t finish them but somehow the books stayed with me after our breakup and got stored in the part of my library that wasn’t stolen while I was in Germany. I didn’t look at them again, but a student of mine invited me to go see the first LOTR film in 2001, when it premiered, as a consequence of which I finally finished reading the books during a truly memorable case of flu in January 2002. I attribute my return to the books not just to Peter Jackson’s vision, but also to having been trapped in bed.
When Armitage was cast as Thorin, I bought a paperback copy of the work. Which I reread quickly and then lost. Then I bought a copy of The Annotated Hobbit. Which I put into a box when I moved my books in June 2011 that doesn’t seem to have come with me here. Then I bought an e-copy while writing this post. Which I seem to have inadvertently deleted. And I didn’t think to bring my childhood copy here with me, either.
There’s a pattern there.
I admit that I found even writing this section sluggish work.
III. An Unexpected Journey — Getting Started
Hopefully this will wake you up!
The other week we were discussing whether we’d have noticed Armitage as Guy of Gisborne if he hadn’t been so beautiful. This isn’t really my question, because Guy wasn’t my first. He was my second, and though other factors were in play, I came to him specifically because of Richard Armitage. But even for people for whom Guy was the first, I have argued, the beauty vs talent question should be seen as a false dilemma. I can’t really apply this question to the Thorin data, either, because I wouldn’t have been looking at the output of the publicity machine for The Hobbit with anything like the awareness I am now had it not been for Armitage. (I suppose in that sense the The Hobbit publicity machine got something good from casting such a beautiful actor — people were definitely looking at him who might otherwise not have been interested, and that probably includes me.)
I have to concede that against my usual inclinations, initially my interest in Thorin was very heavily a look question for me, as tracing my growing interest in the role by paging through the blog reveals. I find this embarrassing, as I was initially extremely hostile to what I saw as a stupid debate over Armitage’s good looks as an obstacle to his performance, to the point of writing the only post I ever retracted. So yeah — I probably felt not only targeted — but culpable in that sense. Frustration even lent itself to persiflage a few weeks later. (That post, I think, is one of the funnier things I’ve written. I can still laugh while reading it even now, which doesn’t happen that often.) Yes: Armitage cantans — the voice got me above all else when I saw the trailer. But tracing back my posts on the topic, I found myself attracted first to the beard and hair, and then eventually found myself succumbing to dwarf desire.
That’s important. Thorin looks good. It’s not just the beard question, though I am partial, but also that burning energy in the eyes, and I’ve put that into the header because it does look good, but also to remind myself of something else. The eyes are going to be shorthand for another story — and the one that I want to remember throughout this year of transition. And yet it’s definitely not the whole story.
Is it ever the whole story? My head hurts.
I wouldn’t tell the story this way if it hadn’t been for exposure to Jung, but there it is. This is a synchronicity story.