Pointy Eared Humans

‘The Rings of Power’ Amazon’s Lord of the Rings prequel, Love letter to Tolkien’s mythology, or poorly written Sauron, Galadriel romance fan fiction? Brought to you, as it was, by more money than sense, it has it’s detractors. I have to admit I have a certain ambivalence towards it, I enjoyed the first series, and enjoyed playing ‘spot the dark lord’, but some of the flaws, of which there were many, were jarring.

The ropy CGI of the opening scene of Galadriel on the ice-wall was as convincing as some Doctor Who special effects form the late 70’s. While the ‘epic’ battle of the south-lands looked like a minor squabble between a couple of villages. For all the money thrown at the series at points it looks like it was filmed for spare change and a couple of bits of string. It reminded me at times of the mid-90’s New Zealand fantasy TV series with slightly better sets and a budget that stretched to decent make-up.

Also its reputed budget could have put a sizeable dent in child poverty, world hunger or any other good cause that springs to mind, rather than average at best eye candy for a few hours… I struggle with this as a concept.

So, as I say, ambivalent. All that said however what it did do well was the elves and the sense of otherness about them. Which brings me to The Witcher, or more specifically The Witcher prequel currently on netflic’s Blood Origin’s… Which doesn’t.

Now before this becomes a rant, which it will in a paragraph or two, I want to be clear that I love the original series, which is one of the best written fantasy series I’ve ever watched. The first season is particularly masterful in the way it was written out of sequence to better tell the story. The second season suffers slightly from the success of the first as it can not pull of the same trick, but is still good solid fantasy, made for a fraction of ‘The Rings of Powers’ budget, but is far more polished. The world is well imagined, and carefully true to the source material of the books (which I read afterwards) and the games which I have never really played.

In those two original series, the elves are pitched carefully to have parallels to medieval European Jewish society, and the treatment of the Jews which, well, the holocaust was hardly a unique event in the history of the European Jewish peoples. They were the others within society, despised, hated and blamed for all the ills of society by a cynical ruling class that will always use the other as scapegoats. (these days its immigrants that fill the role of ‘the other’ but there is nothing new under the sun). If your people are starving, blame the ‘others’. If there are no jobs blame ‘the others’ etc… The elves of ‘The Witcher’ are in essence an oppressed race in a society dominated by humans. They are also a race that has been subsumed by humanity as a servile class. However as they live within a human dominated world and have for thousands of years it makes sense that they have adopted many human traits. Ten thousand years of oppression, and being forced to ‘fit in’ with the human overlords will do that to you.

But still they hanker back to the golden age before humans arrived. When the world was an elvish world.

In short, these humanised elves felt right in the original series. They were still ‘other’ and pitched as such but how they acted made sense. Also towards the end of the second season the elves became far more ‘elvish’, rebelling against the oppression of thousands of years.This again made sense and was part of the wonderful writing I have come to expect from the series.

That writing was why I had high hopes for The Witcher: Blood Origins. On the face of it those high standards slipped a little. But it was still a good fantasy romp all the same. A bit two dimensional, with two dimensional characters and it suffered from been based on deep back story, in many ways it had similar issues to the writing on ‘The Rings of Power’ yet it drew on thinner less defined ground to start with. It also had a fraction of the main series budget,which showed at times. None of this was a problem however. It was watchable fun… Except…The elves…

Blood Origins is set in a world before the coming of humanity. This is an entirely elvish world… Yet the elves here are basically nothing more than humans with pointy ears. The society is in effect entirely human and if you remove the pointy ears from all the actors you don’t need to change anything else for this to be a world mirroring medieval Europe…

Only in this version of medieval Fantasy land Europe its the dwarves who are the Jews, oppressed by elves (presumably this is because the writers felt someone has to be the Jews…) The dwarves it seems were there before the elves , and we discover they are the ones who actually built the mysterious monoliths… I suspect this is a Russian doll of a plot point and one day we will discover the dwarfs oppressed a race of squid people who actually built them.

But back to elves…

Now I am not saying all elves need to be Tolkineque. The elves in the Dragonage games are a great example of a different kind of elves… But what they do need to be is something other than just ‘humans with pointy ears’. They actually need to be ‘other’, different, strange… This entire series hangs off one mage who does everything because he is insecure about his origins, his social class, and desperate for power because of it. All very human. Every in the make of society is the same too. Noble houses ruling, merchant class been merchanty. Lower class being trodden on.

Nothing about these elves is anything other than human, except the ears… The golden age of elves was a short lived oppressive empire after a thousand years of war between kingdoms left the continent stricken with famine… This is not a glorious elven past, its a mirror of the political and social reality of The Witcher present, but everyone has pointy ears…

It’s watchable, there are some nice touches. Lenny Henry (who is also in the rings of power) makes for a great villain as Balor. There are nice little bits at the end, hints to the main series with a ancient elf mage realising he can use the monoliths to travel in time. The commander of the elf army picking up a bone helmet after he is vanished to another plain of existence by Balor. A helmet worn by the leader of the wide hunt…. There are other little ominous things as well. There is in fact much well crafted here…

There is much good about the series, much it adds to The Witcher universe….

It’s just all let down by the lazy ‘humans with pointy ears’ thing…

This entry was posted in indie, opinion, pointless things of wonderfulness, rant, reads, sci-fi and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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