Friday, January 10, 2014

Tolkien, in his own words (and the words of some toffs) - video

Below is a Tolkien documentary from 1968 (via Dangerous Minds). The DM blog concentrated on how wonderful it is that it features the man himself, but what I find fascinating is the pure, full-on 1968 BBC experience. Radiophonic workshop noises, check. Money to pay for a lingering shot from a helicopter, check. (Is that a disestablishing shot?) Focus on pretty proto-hippy girl wittering, a la One-plus_One's Eve Democracy, check.

And of course, the toffs. The whole thing is focused on toffs, from the toff Merton College/Hogwarts Housemaster, to the unbelievably privileged Oxford boys, to Tolkien himself. One of the toff boys actually calls the Hobbits "boojwah" (bourgeois) as if the boy was reciting dialogue from some English don novel of the time. Apparently one of the giveaway traits of the bourgeois is...enjoying food.

Anyone who has difficulty understanding the importance of class in England could stand to watch this piece. However, they would first need to know how to distinguish the accents used in the documentary.

Here's a handy primer - if class accents are read from top to bottom, with the Queen at the top. 95% of accents are not found in the programme.

Incredibly, in the second part at 1:06 in, an early incarnation of Dave Spart comes on to tell us why believing in Hobbiton is a distraction from the class struggle. "Dave Spart" is the name Private Eye gives to its parodies of communist agitators. It's funny to see one captured in the wild like this.

If you're not familiar with British accents, have a listen to Dave Spart and see where you think he is on the chart.

Answer: Dave Spart is also in the top strata with the Oxford boys. Luckily, the BBC has changed a lot since this doc. Nowadays you can't switch it on without hearing a regional or original working class accent. But back then, hoo boy. (As they don't say in England.)

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