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NESP Reviews


National Geographic: Beyond the Movie

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring


Review by Alfta Óðinnsen

        This DVD is well put together but as far as DVD's go there was no extra content other than some advertisements for other National Geographic DVD's. Although I would have loved to have seen more than the hour long documentary devoted to this subject, it still is a DVD worth getting. The documentary is peppered throughout with scenes from Peter Jackson's wonderful screen adaptation of the Lord of the Rings.
You'll find a lot about Tolkien and the things in his early experiences that influenced his writing. Tolkien was a professor of Medieval studies and therefore had a great command of Old English, Old Norse and other Germanic languages. He grew up in a small rural community of Sarehole and it was the simple country folk of this community that he based the hobbits on. They were a people who lived off the earth and enjoyed a good joke, a good story, good food and good drink. You can see a lot of that in his descriptions of the hobbits and the Shire.
When he was growing up the first encroachments of the industrial age were beginning to occur and the land of his beloved town began to be in danger of the ravages of the factories. Children were enslaved in these factories and the land was raped for greed. This is one thing I thought Peter Jackson portrayed brilliantly in the movie when Saruman began to destroy the land. It was very reminiscent of the destruction that Tolkien would have seen near his home when growing up.
Tolkien ideals of war were shaped when he was an officer in the trenches of World War I. It was there he would see the real brutality and horror of war and lose one of his best friends. It was in the trenches that he first began to take down notes for what was to become Middle Earth, the setting for Lord of the Rings. When he returned from the war he began to work on the Lord of the Rings. Some have postulated that the evil represented by Sauron and his forces was based in Hitler but this is something that Tolkien flatly denies, even though he did indeed detest Hitler.
Tolkien was obsessed with any Anglo-Saxon literature he could find and especially Beowulf from which he would draw much inspiration. He taught himself Finnish just so he could read the Kalevala in its original language. And of course he read the Norse sagas and Eddas. However he was always more interested in literature of Anglo-Saxon origin the most and his work on Beowulf is still considered one of the best scholarly works, if not the best, dealing with Beowulf. One thing that Tolkien lamented greatly was the great loss of Anglo-Saxon literature that was destroyed and had been taken away from England. This destruction, he felt took away England's mythology. He decided that he would give England back her mythology by creating a new one and it was with this in mind that he began the manuscript for the Lord of the Rings. Tolkien said he didn't event Middle Earth, he just re-discovered it.
Tolkien, as has been noted was a philologist and used this talent to actually create languages for Lord of the Rings. These were actual created languages. Scholars believe that one dialect of Elvish that he created, one that was called “The Elvish Latin” was based on the Finnish language, the language of a group of people Tolkien had a great respect for. The main character of the Finnish national epic, Kalevala, is a hero, Wainamoinen (very Othinn like in manner) who works tirelessly through his wit and skill in magic for the good of his people.
        One thing I really enjoyed about this DVD especially was the chance to see and hear one of the last Rune-Singers of the Kalevala, Jussi Houvinen. I had heard of these Rune singers before but this was the first time I actually had the chance to hear one perform.
        For a DVD, the content was very short. If you are used to DVD's with an hour or two of extra programming you'll be disappointed here but that should not discourage you from getting this DVD. If you are even remotely interested in Northern Tradition and/or Tolkien's Lord of the Rings then this is a must buy.
You can find out more information about this DVD, as well as how to purchase it at:

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