Archive for February 8th, 2012

A Writer Reviews: Lord of the Rings (pt3)

The Return of the Sanguine

For those who missed the first two parts (part 1, part 2) I have divided the 10 main characters in the Lord of the Rings into the four temperaments, shown how characters who share a supposed temperament may share almost nothing else in terms of what actually makes them a character, and now I’m going to look at just the three Sanguine characters, and the differences in their character arcs through the movies.  Today it’s Gollum, Gimli, and Pippin.

The Sanguine, to recap, is the hot-blooded character, a character of passions and desires, and who let these control his or her personality.  When I broke down the Scooby gang back in part 1, the Sanguines were Shaggy and Scooby.  The Sanguine character will frequently, but not always, be the comic relief within a story.  Certainly one of the Sanguine characters in Lord of the Rings, Gollum, is anything but a comic relief character, serving instead as the primary antagonist to Frodo’s quest to throw the Ring into Mount Doom.  The Sanguine can be an effective opposing force for the story, especially if his or her blindered devotion is working directly against the hero of the tale.  Many comic super villains end up firmly in the Sanguine category.  Joker, I’m looking at you.  In the end it depends on the depths a character is willing to plumb to win his or her desire.

In terms of straight comic relief let us, with some regret, turn to Gimli.  I suppose it’s easy to make the dwarf the butt of jokes, I just hope there’s less of a dwarf-tossing running gag in the Hobbit films, especially given just how many dwarves there will be.  Most of the dissatisfaction I, and others, had with the movies revolved around Gimli turning into a series of running gags.  Dwarf tossing, corpse counting, throwing out complaints about whatever situations they were in.  Then he just fades away at the end of the movie, no mention of his fate, he’s the only character who is really left open-ended by the whole thing.  Which is a shame.  It’s an easy trap to fall into with the Sanguine, however, it’s one of the easier characters to play just for their archetype, then when no longer needed, to be discard.  The Sanguine is occasionally the character killed off to prove that Shit Just Got Real.  Or allowed to fade away when it’s time for the grownups to take charge.  The Sanguine comic relief will never solve a problem, except by accident.  It’s really a shame this is who Gimli was turned into.

On the flip side we’ve got the Sanguine’s ability to evolve, which can turn them into a very powerful character within a narrative.  And here is where we get to Peregrin Took.  Who doesn’t love the line “fool of a Took”?  It’s fun to say, and it’s fantastic when delivered with the gravitas of Sir Ian McKellen.  He can be counted on to be the classic Sanguine through the first movie, wanting to stop to eat, delighted that beer comes in pints in Bree, not thinking and giving Frodo’s identity away, knocking the skeleton into the well in Moria to alert the Fellowship’s presence to the orcs in Moria.  The first moment that we see something more from Pippin is when he asks Treebeard to take them to the west of Fangorn Forest, forcing the Ents into war against Isengard, but we still see his impetuous nature when he goes diving for the palantir, ultimately looks into it, and finally drafts himself into service in Gondor.  It’s this series of three events, coupled with being pulled away from Merry, that forces Pippin’s evolution as a character and pushes him away from the Sanguine.

What he becomes is hard to say.  There are elements of both the Melancholy and Choleric to the new Pippin.  In the end we don’t get to see enough of Pippin within the movies.  Within the books, he unquestionably becomes the Choleric, taking his place as the Thain of the Shire.  It makes his evolution a much stronger statement, as he needed to do some growing up to assume his ancestral title.  In the movies, it still makes him easily my favorite character.  The more I watch the movies, the more I see that the trip into Mordor is Sam’s story, not Frodo’s, and the rest of the Fellowship is Pippin’s story, not Aragorn’s.  They are the interesting characters for how changed Pippin is when he comes home, and how unchanged Sam is.  In fact, Sam is a study in how a character not changing can still be very satisfying, but I’ve really talked about these movies for long enough already.

So let’s sum up, and let’s do so quicker than the movies themselves.  The four temperaments can be a great way of approaching your characters and making sure they have unique roles within a group dynamic.  Characters of the same temperament do not have to respond to situations in the same way.  The Sanguine can be an extremely versatile character, but has pitfalls when used solely as comic relief.  With that, I can now put these movies on a boat sailing away with the elves, and look forward to looking back with The Hobbit later this year.

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