Some critics give Peter Jackson a bad rap for his trans-cinematic films of J. R. R. Tolkien’s classic novels, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but his intense focus on the relationship between paternity and power in the Hobbit films constitutes a unique focus that lends itself to a fascinating reality of origination that is in dire need of a revival in American culture.
What is this need? What is the reality of origination? What is the fascinating relationship between paternity and power? These are some questions that I shall attempt to answer here, if but briefly.
Generally in our current American culture, there is a great confusion over the role of maternity and paternity in general human flourishing. Some people report that general human flourishing comes at the expense of being maternal or paternal. For example, some businesspersons are in the business of choosing business over the family life. Some businesses flourish at the expense of devotion to the family life. Some people report that general human flourishing comes at the expense of a combination of maternity and paternity. For example, they will say that family life is most apt when it consists of a lack of a father, or a lack of a mother, or a duo of fathers, or a duo of mothers, or some other alternative to this natural combination of mother and father. Whatever the case, there is a great confusion over if there is a most suitable combination of paternity and maternity in order to bring about the greatest human flourishing.
Amidst these confusing times, director Jackson writes a varied version of the fantastical works of professor Tolkien that has an intense focus on the nature of a part of this confusion, paternity. He turns The Hobbit into a cinematic trilogy that follows a number of bloodlines in tension with one another. One of the bloodlines is the Woodland Elves. Their king, Thranduil, keeps to himself his kingdom’s power, encasing his realm in a state of irresponsibility. Indeed, when the time arrives that Thranduil must ward off the enemy, he commands his people to do so only from his own land. The king does not care that the warding will force the enemies into others’ lands. Each to his own land, as it were, and there resides in the Elvish kingdom a distance between one another. The same distance between King Thranduil and his neighbors resides between himself and his son, Legolas.
King Thranduil’s attitude towards his neighbors sets up for a tension between himself and his son when the girl that Legolas is fond of challenges the king’s irresponsible command. The she-elf has the care of neighbor in mind. Now, her character is also made-up from the books. But, her character serves an interesting purpose in that her challenge to the king forces Legolas’ hand to challenge the little intimacy that he has with his father. If he chooses the girl, he potentially loses his father’s respect. If not, then he loses the respect of the girl and her higher calling to a greater responsibility.
Ultimately, Legolas chooses the higher calling, to which afterwards his father opens himself up to reveal something that he has repressed from his son: their mother’s loving character. A closer intimacy is drawn between the two. Legolas finally has the closeness with his father that he has been searching for.
This paternal-son relationship may be contrasted to two others: Bard the Dragon Slayer and his son, and Azog the Defiler and his son.
Bard the Dragon Slayer is not so-titled “the Dragon Slayer” by his effort alone. The combination of he and his son make it possible in the film. As Smaug, the last mighty dragon of Middle Earth, charges forth towards the unstable bell tower upon which lie Bard with a broken bow and the last arrow that is able to pierce the side of the beast, the son acts as the stand that upon his shoulder Bard places the arrow to be shot. The two are like a slingshot that no part of which cannot function properly without the other, the rubber string and the the Y-shaped frame. The son fears for his imminent death, and the father calls to him to be courageous against the Goliath-dragon. The father steadies his son so that the arrow may be aimed perfectly. And the father relies on the son, who in turn trusts the father that all will turn out well. The intimacy is so bare-bone that it cannot be wholly found in the relationship between the Elvish king and his kin. Yet, the power of this intimate relationship lends itself to the destruction of tyrannical figures. If the son did not trust the command of the father (and, instead, gave in to despair), then the tyranny of Smaug would have been victorious!
There is something mysterious about a trusting father-son relationship that can enact great changes and amplify the power of something, for better or for worse. The claim is not so much that this same result could not be brought from any other kind of relationship, but none so natural lies in any other besides the relation between a father and his son. When it is absent, an analogous relationship must be manifested from somewhere else for a flourishing to occur, but it will not be as potentially beneficial as this kind of paternal relationship. Jackson manifests this point in the final paternal relationship that I should like to analyze now: the paternity between the evil Azog and his son, Bolg.
This relationship is probably the most fascinating to me because it shows how evil is amplified tenfold with the a father and a son at its helm. Azog the Defiler leads legions of the antagonistic enemies in the film. His son leads by his side. The two manifest one of the most dominating forces in cinematic literature. One cannot help but admire the ugliness of a strong antagonist that rivals the evilness of, let’s say, a Darth Vader or a Joker. But this enemy is a dual leadership of father and son who have a common goal and a common head – the evil One, Sauron the Great, and his intention to gain power. Sauron uses the strong bond between a father and a son to manifest his intention to be the most powerful being in the world. Again, there is something about a strong bond between males and their originating males (fathers) that lends itself to a great power to change and to protect the conditions of change. For example, when Sauron summons Azog to another task other than his personal death wish of the King Under the Mountain, Azog entrusts his personal hatred of dwarfs to his son, Bolg, in order to finish what he had started. Azog thereby protects his task from failure while taking on another responsibility of the evil One. As the bond between father and son is strong on the light side, so it is true that such a bond can strengthen the purposes of the dark side. The benefits reaped of the relationship become naturally potent.
Considering that the power of paternity can have a great role in the outcomes of great strives for good and evil, the casting away of such a focus occurring when one proposes an alternative to natural origination and development can ultimately lead to a road of unreality. With a confusion of both roles of paternity and maternity together, they become confusing in their own rights. Hence, the need to show the courage and power of both. Peter Jackson primarily handles the paternal side of things! And he does so marvelously with a take on both good and bad and the power that paternity can contribute to each. His movies, although vastly different from the books, are still wonderful in their own rights as cinematic works of art that are relevant to the modern American landscape of our culture today.