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Farewell, Sir Terry, 66 years is too short

Terry Pratchett Books

It's strange how some things hit you. I've known that we will lose Sir Terry Pratchett prematurely since 2007, but wasn't expecting to hear the announcement today when I was driving home.

His books have always been a staple of my life since I started secondary school in 1983, when The Colour of Magic was first published. I can remember reading the adventures of Rincewind the Wizard with glee, and eagerly devouring the next book when it came out. A family tradition was born; every Christmas, my mother and father would always buy me the paperback of the latest Terry Pratchett, along with the annual Tolkien Calendar and probably a Satsuma and a Terry's Chocolate Orange.

At University, his books were my escape from examinations, and I tended to rip through the whole series (back when it was considerably shorter in the early nineties) as light relief and a touch of procrastination. His humour slowly shifted and became more subtle rather than slapstick, but I still found my sides splitting with laughter at unexpected moments.

Now I've children, my rate of reading has massively slowed, and I'm overdue a complete re-read of his books by several years. But the Christmas tradition continued, with a new book each year. Except now he's gone, and a little bit of my childhood with him.

Farewell, Sir Terry. You'll always be remembered through your books and the joy they have brought. But tonight, I will feel sad and raise a drink to you, as you pass into memory with a tall darkly hooded figure with a scythe, a horse, a strange twinkle of starlight in his eye sockets, and A LIKING FOR CAPITAL LETTERS.

Happy New Year

Just a quick post to wish you all a happy, prosperous and healthy New Year from the Mooney household, now we’re calming down from a complicated Christmas and New Year Period.

(You may still see a few posts appear in 2014, as I recover material from the archive that I never actually posted!).

Tolkien Cinematic Universe

Today I saw the final part of Peter Jackson's adaptation of JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit, a story that I love and have cherished since I was a child. All in all, I found it a satisfactory conclusion.

Yes, the battle sequences were long and drawn out - in many ways mirroring the approach in The Lord of the Rings’ third part, but they were offset by the moments of humanity in the film with the fall and redemption of Thorin Oakenshield from the dragon-sickness for gold and the conversations involving Bilbo Baggins.

The visuals seemed to be channeling Warhammer, especially with some of the creatures used for steeds and the looks of Dain Ironfoot. Looking at the references in Foster's Complete Guide to Middle Earth, and searching on "Dain”in The Hobbit and Unfinished Tales gives no really hint of Dain's character beyond the fact that he was a doughty and determined warrior who finally fell at the Battle of Dale during the War of the Ring next to his compatriot King Brand1. I guess that this means that this interpretation is as good as any, and in some ways, having Billy Connolly playing him as a Scottish Dwarven Hard-man was an act of inspired genius.

I started to watching the first part, An Unexpected Journey again tonight, and it showed much more of a consistency of characterisation than I recalled, especially around Thorin, the dragon-sickness, honour and bravery. I may revisit these notes after I have re-watched the whole sequence.

Fundamentally, film is a different medium to a book, and what makes a good book doesn't necessarily make a good film. Slavish adaptations often fail. At times, Peter Jackson does push it too far for my liking - the Goblin Town sequence in the first film, the barrel ride sequence in the second, Legolas the Super-Hero, but I suspect that these were aimed at a younger audience than me. They certainly delivered thrills and a counterpoint to the darker parts of the film. However, overall I loved the visuals and the exploration of a tale that I and my eldest love dearly.

I entitled this post Tolkien Cinematic Universe for a reason; the recent Marvel films are referred to as the Marvel Cinematic Universe as they have not followed the existing canon slavishly but have still had a recognisable validity and similarity to the original published works. I think that Jackson's films hit exactly the same spot; lovingly created, but only related to the original.

27 December 2014
1. I’m not ruling out further descriptions of Dain Ironfoot in the ephemera of Tolkien that followed Unfinished Tales from the Book of Lost Tales onwards, but in honesty I gave up on delving deeper into the Tolkien canon at that point. The depths nearly always end up with bad things happening, like Balrogs or Dragons.