The Desolation of Smaug was truly overwhelming.
The best line was Gandalf’s, describing Beorn the skin changer; dangerous when bear, kind when human: ” He is under no enchantment but his own.”
Reminded me about a few human beings I know of.
Enchantment of absolute power:
It is not just Sauron or Voldemort or dictators from Banana republics or the horrendous characters in literary fiction that comes under this particular spell.(Rafael Trujillo in Llosa’s Feast of the Goat for example- symbolising real/literary effects) It weaves its spell around the likes of Tarun Tejpal too, with devastating effect. It often infests the seats of patriarchy. They feed on the innocents then, beheading anything or anyone that questions the system.
Enchantment of absolute beauty:
In a perceptive article on the Nepali Devi, when a young girl gets coronated as Kumari Devi, I read about the aftermath of the worship. The child, now replaced by someone younger, spent her full day staring into a mirror, decorating and redecorating herself. The adulation had died down, and she was history even at the age of eleven.
I thought about Jospeh Mankiewicz’s ” All about Eve,” the masterful film starring Bette Davis as the aging starlet Margo Channing and Anne Baxter as the manipulative usurper of the throne. The frustration and deep fear inside the talented Channing as Baxter worms her way into everything she values.
Ah, stories of aging models, stars, pop stars, footballers, sports stars- all point to the terrible aftermath of being enchanted by this spell. If there is no reality checking in between, if there is no acceptance that youth, talent and beauty can very easily get outdated, the insecurities can throw many into the dusty whirlwinds of stress and failure. Even Galadriel aged, for God’s sake.
Enchantment of absolute invincibility:
Legolas got a bleeding nose in this one. A particularly obnoxious Orc did that to him. Nah, it did not kill him, but elves die too.Sometimes. The prayers of vernacular caution, ” Even if you attain Indra’s throne, act neutral and recite Narayana.”
Whenever the Ring’s effect was seen throughout the Tolkein trilogy, and in this movie, in the noxious effect of Smaug’s lair, the mortal man(dwarf/elf/orc/hobbit/wizard) and his immortal thirst for invincibility tantalises the imagination. In a particular moment in the trilogy, when Galadriel casts an illusion of what would happen if she were to get the Ring of Power, the evil in her otherwise enchantingly wise face was the absolute turn-off against this dreadful temptation.
I have encountered a few of such heroes in Hemingway’s works. And when Blanche Du Bois gets destroyed by Stanley Kowalski,in Tennesse Williams’ A Street Car Named Desire, one can almost smell the feral energy of the perperator. Whenever the Gods got that heady feeling up in their divine heads, somewhere a thunder clap of desolation began.
One can write on the enchantment of absolute health, wealth, prosperity, popularity, sophistication..and weave reams of narratives around it.
But suffice it to say, amidst all that marauded gold, the sickness of power, hoarding, selfishness, greed and superiority lies a tale so universal in appeal, so simple in understanding, so necessary for our times.
More power to Peter Jackson.
As for Tolkien, he is one author whose autograph I will seek, as soon as I cross that final frontier.
I will toast him a drink in Gandalf’s name, for making moments of my mortal life so enchanted.
2 Minute Noodles
Marie Antoinette Eats Potatoes
Compere: So madam, having successfully run the health programme, what do you have to tell the audience about the problem of obesity?
Madame X: ( Flips her immaculate hairdo with a beautiful shake of her head) You know, research studies have shown that obesity is a giant killer. There is a section of society which ( Takes a sip of water) is not actually aware of what they are eating. They should watch what they eat. That is the illiterate and less educated society, which I mean.
Compere: Madam, great observation. Ah, a hand is raised in the audience..yes sir?
The hand’s owner: Madam, you mean the less educated society eats too much?
Compere: Wonderful and pertinent observation..Madam, any response?
Madame X: Yes, see obesity is a silent killer. If these people eat without actually , ugh, looking at what they eat, they will end up obese and suffer huge mortality.
The hand’s owner ( emerging from the shadows): But madam, they do not have enough to eat.
Compere: What a paradigm shift this has thrown us into..Madam, what would you like to comment on that?
Madame X: It is not a question of “what” they eat, my good sir. It is ” how ” they eat it. Like potatoes, for example. How can someone eat potatoes for breakfast/lunch/brunch/dinner? The calories! Oh Lord, the calories! ( Waves hand frantically for more water.)
Compere: I truly believe that is a beautiful answer. Yes, sir (slightly annoyed at the persistent hand)
The hand: Madam, I have a clarification.
Madame X: Sorry, I have to discuss the venalities of over eating and hardly have time for more potatoes
The audience titters. The compere giggles. The hand is lowered.
Madame X: So, unless we make the less educated aware of the venalities of over eating…
Compere interrupts : Madame, I need to make an announcement. Ladies and gentlemen, the discussion on Vincent Van Gogh’s Potato Eaters : the versimilitudes of the Irish Potato Famine will shortly begin after this in this hall. The learned members of the panel have just arrived at the auditorium. That is all.
Madame X: So the scourge of overeating by lesser members of society..
A lonely hand waves desperately for attention .
Darkness all around.
Background score: We will start the fire.