I was looking back through my LiveJournal and found this piece from 2004 Jun 30. For some reason it struck me, so first I’m going to repost the content here, then I’ll add my additional thoughts after.
Put on the extended version of Fellowship of the Ring tonight to help grease my mental wheels while catching up on the badly neglected Exchange Cookbook recipes I owe my co-workers. Noticed something this time and was finally able to put it into words.
The cave troll scene in Moria always makes me feel sad. He always strikes me as a picked-on, abused victim who finally finds someone he can thump on. Kinda like he’s the really big, but really slow, older brother of one of the cool orcs. Cool Orc doesn’t want brother to tag along, but some time ago, Momma Orc put her foot down, so Cool Orc and the gang are stuck with having to let him tag along. Over the years, they’ve gotten accustomed to the benefits of this arrangement: he’s big and, with the proper teasing, quite scary. He’s a great prop for terrorizing dwarves and holding up other gangs of orcs for their milk money.
Then Cool Orc and his gang — and poor cave troll — run into the Fellowship. Cool Orc and his cronies realize that they’re in over their head — hell, maybe Cool Orc is the one who takes Legolas’s first arrow in the throat. So the rest of the the gang is pissed about that, but also has lost all control over the cave troll, who sees Cool Orc gurgling in a pool of his own blood with a nice feather throat piercing compliments of the prettiest boy-elf this side of Valinor, and yeah — he’s pissed. Conflicted, but still, this is family, and you don’t let tragically hip elves in facepowder and down-to-his-ass hair kill family.
So of course he goes nuts, and yeah he tries to skewer Frodo. But still, he’s not on top of it all, and the orcs have left him to his fate pretty quickly, and it’s sad.
That’s all I’m saying. Maybe I should go to bed now.
For the most part, this is still an accurate description of my feelings when watching this scene. It occurs to me to wonder why, in a world that is clearly designed with Good and Evil — and in which orcs and and trolls are clearly Evil — I still identify with one of the bad guys, at least in this way. It’s easy to understand with Gollum/Smeagol — during the narrative, we clearly see the duality within him, presenting as it does a mirror for the struggle going on within Frodo — because he’s meant to generate at least some sense of compassion.
So am I projecting, here, when I watch this scene and see the cave troll, or am I seeing hints that Jackson & company put in? The animators and special-effects crew clearly put a lot of time in to creating the cave troll model; for them, he’s not just a clear-cut case of evil foil, an obstacle to be vanquished. They put hours and hours of sweat and tears into him, even as they knew that his fate was to die on-screen.
How often do we see cave trolls in our own life? Like that asshole in the BMW on I-405 today who came across three lanes of traffic to zip into my lane just in front of me when there really wasn’t enough space, when he had 15 carlengths behind me — clearly, he is Evil. Needs an axe to the head. But when I get frustrated in traffic, see an opening and go for it, I’m the noble hero of the piece, only taking that which is my due.
Maybe not. Maybe it’s just my turn to be the asshole.