Would James Bond Have Destroyed The Ring?

It’s a fascinating question. Well maybe not. I suspect 007 would have been more interested in nibbling Tauriel’s ears and held coiffured competitions with Legalos, but it opens the door to examine the hero in epic fantasy.

The James Bond stereotype – macho, sexy, deadly, fearless – does exist in epic fantasy, but more often than not, plays a supporting role. Consider Aragorn to Frodo, for example. What fascinates me here is that Frodo and his Uncle Bilbo opened the door to the imperfect, oft vulnerable and fearful hero.

And we love them.

Now my mother had a huge crush on James Bond, from Sean Connery onwards, and my father would certainly never fault her good taste, but at some point a new type of hero emerged.
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Why?

The Wycaan Master, Seanchai, began his journey as a simple, frightened village elf, bewildered and lost as he was forced to flee his village. In truth, many other characters pour scorn on him for his ineptitude, indecision, and lack of machismo.

We bind ourselves to him because Seanchai, and Frodo, and Christopher Paolini’s Eragon, all share something in common with us. They are continually faced with adversary, pressure, and a need to confront their fears.

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Most of us dream of being a James Bond, oozing confidence, sexuality, and infallibility, but somehow it appears more unreachable than a fleeing elf, a scared hobbit, or a bewildered dragonrider.

I suppose we might question our grasp on reality when we figure we have more chance defeating the evil all-powerful Sauron or Emperor, than seducing the sexy sidekick, fellow spy, or riding a dragon. But it is not what they do, but how they deal with it. This is where we connect to them and therefore where we root for them.

As I write this blog post, my beloved Golden State Warriors have just done battle with Lebron James for the NBA title. Lebron is touted by many as the hero, despite his incredible lack of humility – we don’t need you to remind us you are the best player on the planet, Lebron. The Warriors, led by a rather humble Step Curry, won because they are a team in a team sport. Sure, Curry is the Most Valuable Player in the league, but he continually credits his teammates, his coach, and shows his love for his family. Curry is my Seanchai, not that I would cast Lebron necessarily as the evil Emperor … unless the Cavs would have won, of course.

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Would James Bond have put the One Ring on his finger and admired how well it complimented his fine, perfectly lithe fingers? Would he have removed it – he did have a thing for gadgets! How about Lebron James? We need heroes. We love our martinis shaken but not stirred, but we still appreciate a good pint of stout at the village tavern, surrounded by our friends. It is what keeps us honest and what keeps epic fantasy relevant.

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We all need a hero.

Finally, thank you to everyone who sent good wishes with the announcement of From Ashes They Rose. I am very excited and will share more details as I receive them. It still feels so special and I hope it always will. And yes, to the gentleman in Texas, you can begin with Sacrificial Flame, but…

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, The First Decree, Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3, and Sacrificial Flame, all released by Tourmaline Books. From Ashes They Rose will be released in September 2015. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection.

More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

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A Poem In Elvish – J.R.R. Tolkien

This is a rare gem. That an author could possibly make up an entire language is mind-blowing. Yet we often forget that beyond the dragons, swords, and quests, J.R.R. Tolkien created an entire language. As a professor of philology (ancient languages) at Oxford University, Tolkien was already immersed in the mechanics of how a language is put together. 

But the professor took it to another level when he actually made up a language. With the hype beginning to build for The Hobbit movie, this poem surfaced read by the master himself.

Enjoy!

My own elvish is somewhat rusty, so here is a translation of Namarie (Farewell) courtesy of Josh Jones, who goes into greater detail about the when and where.  

Ah! like gold fall the leaves in the wind, long years
numberless as the wings of trees! The long years
have passed like swift draughts of the sweet mead
in lofty halls beyond the West, beneath the blue
vaults of Varda wherein the stars tremble in the
song of her voice, holy and queenly.

Who now shall refill the cup for me?

For now the Kindler, Varda, the Queen of Stars,
from Mount Everwhite has uplifted her hands like
clouds, and all paths are drowned deep in shadow;
and out of a grey country darkness lies on the
foaming waves between us, and mist covers the
jewels of Calacirya for ever. Now lost, lost for
those from the East is Valimar!

Farewell! Maybe thou shalt find Valimar. Maybe
even thou shalt find it. Farewell!

And, in case you haven’t got enough, here is Tolkien again, reciting the Song of Durin (in English). 

Have a great weekend,

Elfwriter

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He has written three epic fantasy novels and the first, which reached the Quarter Finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012, is due out in January 2013 by Tourmaline Press. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

What Would Tolkien Say?

I wasn’t that surprised when I heard originally that The Hobbit would be expanded into more than one movie. Harry Potter 7 and Breaking Dawn have set the precedence. But I was stunned (pleasantly, I must admit) that somehow the thin, children’s book is going to take as much time as Lord of the Rings, volumes of which are well-known for many attributes, not least that of a competent doorstop.

Still, I thought, in Peter Jackson I trust. LOTR is an amazing movie trilogy, so why not have the hobbit and dwarves trudge through countless woods and mountain ranges. Offer a few character insights, and smoke a few more pipes around the fire. Works for me and I doubt a particular Oxford linguistics professor would have minded.

But, now I hear that Peter Jackson has actually invented some new characters and I must admit to feeling somewhat perturbed. Is J.R.R. Tolkien sitting in his celestial study puffing his pipe furiously? 

It had occurred to me that we are a bit short on the females in this book, less noticeable for a book, but an issue for the screen. This has obviously occurred to Mr. Jackson as well, as he introduces Tauriel, an elven warrior, who according to the info released is head of the elven guard. Lost star Evangeline Lilly plays this fearsome (and no doubt sexy warrior) and she is quoted as saying:

“She is a warrior. She’s actually the head of the Elven guard. She’s the big shot in the army. So she knows how to wield any weapon, but the primary weapons that she uses are a bow and arrow and two daggers. And she’s lethal and deadly.”

While I am the last to complain about introducing any elf, I feel uneasy. And it has nothing to do with her resembling a Mord Sith. I’m feeling rather traumatized, having (after watching Legend of the Seeker on TV) just listened to Wizard’s First Rule – Terry Goodkind – on audio alone in my car, which fleshes out (excuse the extremely accurate pun), the Mord Sith techniques. Let’s just say that if any woman in red leather comes within 50 feet, I’m running.

But the question is not what this humble elfwriter thinks, but what Tolkien would say. I have a number of books on the master, but never met him. However, I can’t help feeling he would not be amused. 

I can’t imagine someone taking my books and inserting new characters. It seems to be one step too far. What do you think? How loyal should Peter Jackson stay to the original work?

When does The Hobbit become The Hollybit?

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He has written three epic fantasy novels and the first reached the Quarter Finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award as of March 2012. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).