WHEN: February 15, 2014, 9:37 am. (Week 7, Feb 9-15.)
WHERE: In the living room of my apartment in Portland, ME.
FORMAT: Blu-ray on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV, English subtitles on.
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Eating chips. Hmm, that’s all I wrote down. Feeling… chips?
Longtime readers of our site know that the viewing where you turn on the subtitles is a fairly special occasion. In our first year, I switched on the Top Gun subs to see if my recall of the dialogue was accurate, and in the second, I wanted to see if I’d been misquoting my beloved Back to the Future my entire life. When it comes to The Fellowship of the Ring, however, I mostly just want to know how you spell all this goofy shit.
So, here’s a list of made-up words I jotted down as I watched Fellowship, along with what I believe they’re describing. No, this isn’t an article so much as a reference guide that I can use when I need a refresher on how to spell something from the mishmash of baby talk and Swedish metal band names that is Tolkienspeak.
BILL’S MIDDLE-EARTH DICTIONARY OF DESPAIR:
Isildur – This is the guy that cuts off Sauron’s fingers.
Fatty Bolger – Some unimportant Hobbit, probably.
Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took – The long-ass way to say “Merry and Pippin.”
Barad-dûr – I missed exactly what this is, but I think it’s the location of the big eye.
Bree – Some village.
Samwise Gamgee – The medium-ass way to say “the one that isn’t Frodo, Merry, or Pippin.”
Isengard – Where Christopher Lee lives.
palantír – What, you can’t just say “crystal ball”?
Oh, what, am I banned from D&D now?
Minas Morgul - Ugh, something to do with “the Nine”? Which is the Nazgul? Which, by the way…
Nazgûl – Oh, good, I need to remember an accent mark every goddamn time.
Amun Sûl – The watchtower where Frodo gets stabbed.
Morgul blade – Oh, huh, I thought he was saying “mortal blade.” I dunno, it made sense in my head. Anyway, it’s the knife that makes Frodo sick.
Athelas – A plant that makes Frodo less sick.
Númenor? The blood of Númenor? – I missed it. Some shit Elrond was talking about.
Narsil – The broken sword bits that were once used to cut off Sauron’s fingers.
Balin – Gimli’s cousin.
Crebain from Dunland??? – Nope. Fuck you. Fuck all of this. Do you know what this is? These are the fucking crows that swarm around the Fellowship. But Legolas doesn’t say, “Shit, you guys, crows!” He says, “Crebain from Dunland,” because it’s probably in the goddamned book and that’s what they’re called and hooray for the nerds. But to me, the movie viewer sitting down to view a movie, Legolas shouts some fucking nonsense and then gets out of the way of a bunch of fucking crows, and I will never ever refer to them as anything other than “a bunch of fucking crows.”
Way to call a rabbit a “smeerp,” Tolkien.
Caradhras – I don’t care.
Quenya – Some language Saruman chants in.
Khazad-dûm – The place with the bridge that the Balrog falls off of. I have previously spelled it “Kaza Doom” and prefer that to bringing up the custom characters menu every time.
Dwarrowdelf – Something Tolkien once farted that sounded like a good name for a dwarf city.
The flame of Anor and the flame of Udûn – Good and bad types of fire? Gandalf shouts about these things to the Balrog. He’s got one kind and the Balrog has the other kind. I think it’s similar to the light and dark sides of the Force. (That’s from Star Wars. It’s like a watchable version of The Lord of the Rings.)
The White Tower of Ecthelion – Some landmark Boromir mentions from his hometown.
Uruk-hai – This doesn’t have any accent marks?! The most metal term on the whole list has zero umlauts?
Argonath – The big statue that the Fellowship rows past. It’s of two guys, so I don’t know if one of them is named Argonath or if they belong to a group called the Argonath or if Aragorn just decided right then and there to make up a word. Seriously, he just looks up and says, “The Argonath.” Thanks, dude. Don’t you find it such a nuisance when exposition actually explains things?
Emyn Muil – A rock labyrinth that makes Gimli throw a bitch fit.
Elessar – “JUST SOME RANDOM WORD. WHAT THE FUCK? I HAVE NO CONTEXT FOR THIS. HOW CAN I CARE ABOUT THIS?” Sorry for the all caps, folks, but those are the exact notes I wrote, and they perfectly capture my final “fuck it all” moment of frustration. This word is magically whispered by absolutely no one as Aragorn looks at the ring. What does it mean? Who said it? Why is it important enough to caption? Maybe you know, but I don’t, and if it’s some big mystery to be solved, I’ve failed to notice it six times with the subtitles off. So, what the hell, I’m gonna guess it’s his childhood sled.
OTHER FELLOWSHIP SUBTITLE REVELATIONS:
Unlike Lab Rat James, I get more pissed when the subtitles are on. Why? Because I’m a stickler for formatting and consistency, and today’s viewing taught me a terrible truth: every Fucking Word in the Movie is Capitalized to give it a False Sense of Gravitas.
If it’s important enough for caps, it’s THE Master Ring.
Seriously, everything in this movie is a proper noun. Master Ring, One Ring, Great Rings, Dwarf-lords, the Free People of the Free Lands… and yes, oh, good God, how I hate this so much… Men.
“Whoa, slow down there, Elf Hitler.”
Every instance of the word “Men” is capitalized. When somebody points out a male human, they say there’s a Man over there. All this upper-case bravado makes it sound like these guys killed Bambi’s mom, not like they’re just… dudes. Of course, the real reason this infuriates me so is because of two distinct personality traits of mine: I am obsessed with factual accuracy and consistent formatting in my writing, and I hate The Lord of the Rings. So every time I type the word “men” this year, there will wage an inner war between proper research methods and making fun of Rings dorks. Actually, that probably describes the content of all my articles this year.
Hey, here’s a thing I discovered via subtitles! Bilbo is not describing the time trolls almost squashed him into chili. He’s describing the time trolls almost squashed him into jelly.
Ugh, that sounds far less appetizing than Hobbit chili.
I also learned why this scene always felt so racist.
Not cool, movie.
Interestingly, as with most closed captioning, some of the dialogue is skipped over due to screen space, and it’s usually when Bilbo is saying the names of various stupid made-up Hobbit things, which I imagine is a conscious choice on the part of the person that had to type all this shit out. Also, no fucks are given for fake languages, which I sincerely hope is ruffling the feathers of hearing-impaired nerds everywhere.
“My precious context!” – What some kid is furiously signing right now.
Lastly, having the subtitles on forced me to pay attention to the dialogue, which is really goddamn hard by the seventeenth hour of this thing. Remember when I had no idea that we were supposed to like Boromir? Yeah, that’s because I’d be asleep every time he said the things that were supposed to make us like him. And now I know… they’re mostly a lot of bullshitty vague words about redemption and restoring his people’s something or other. I can understand now why he’s a slightly more complex character than I previously thought, but since his arc is still fairly rushed, the fact remains: I weep not for Boromir.
Aww, that sucks, man. I mean, that sucks, Man.
ONE THING THAT WOULD HAVE IMPROVED THE MOVIE:
A version that you can read.
Wait, I take that back!