My precious, my archives

About a half hour into The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), the great wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) needs some info about the ring, and he needs it fast. So next we see the Gondorian Archivist (Michael Elsworth) leading Gandalf down a winding staircase to the archives. The elderly archivist is clothed in dark robes and hat, with no glasses. He serves as an Information Provider, although he has no dialogue. He provides directions only. The archivist shows Gandalf the way with an open torch (flames near old papers? insert internal scream here!).

The archives themselves have no apparent organization; as you can see below, some papers and books are stacked vertically, while others are loose on shelves.

Gandalf feverishly paws through archives, spilling pipe smoke and ash everywhere. He bends old scrolls and parchment in his haste of reading, amidst dripping candle wax and drinking cups (seen below). And after several hours or days, Gandalf does find the info he needs concerning the ring, from an obviously rare scroll of parchment.

First off, I love love love LOTR — the books and the films. The trilogy is a fantastic cinematic achievement. It deserved all the Oscars it got, and even some it didn’t get (mental hugs to you, Ian McKellen).

BUT.

The librarian in me cannot help wondering how much quicker — if not cinematically dramatic, of course — the process would have been if:

(a) the archives had been in some kind of order, and

(b) the archivist was put to any use other than giving directions.

And, of course, I wanted to climb into the frame and clean up those archives. First step: no open flames or smoking! For me, “my precious” would describe not the ring but the priceless information contained in those archives.

And if you’re wondering, no, the librarian in me never has a day off. Once a librarian, always a librarian!

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5 comments on “My precious, my archives

  1. Stephen Brown says:

    I loved this review? Absolutely the wielding of the “torch of knowledge” scene could have been directed so much better. And, yes the information in the archives is always the most important even for we nonlibrarians.

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  3. Lydia says:

    I love the archive scene in LOTR, and even tried to emulate the dark, cluttered look in my own small library area in my office. I have some of my older, worn, hard-cover books stacked up in haphazard vertical rows around my bookshelves. It just gives me this feeling of mystical yet cozy atmosphere that I find delightful and conducive to getting really caught up in a good book. But I can see why this might be slightly frustrating for a librarian :).

    • I love your phrase “mystical yet cozy atmosphere” — whatever works for your personal space, I say go for it! But yes, as a librarian and thinking of public spaces and organization, this kind of disorder makes my eyes twitch. ;)

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