I'm on campus today for a graduate students association meeting that's in an hour and a half. So rather than spend that time doing anything useful, I'm doing a blog post.
More specifically, I'm doing a blog post that continues a discussion my roommate and i had over the weekend. He was watching the extended edition of The Two Towers, the second Lord of the Rings movie. And I was watching it as well, since doing so beat getting angrier at the DS game 999 for my inability to find an ending wherein I am not hacked to death by a teenager. (And believe me, you don't know angry until you've yelled "Goddammit, we talked through your homicidal tendencies at Door 6!" at a fictional videogame character.) We discussed various elements of the narrative, including the plausibility of shield surfing and Sam's general surly attitude, but it was the character of Haldir that really proved to be the dividing ground. Haldir, for the Tolkien afficiandoes in the audience, is the elf who guides the Fellowship to Lorien. (It's technically Lórien, but I'll be mentioning it a few times, and the inclusion of accents in Bloggger is kind of iffy, so...) in book 1. In the movies, his role is expanded, as he also appears in the second film to lead a battalion of elves to their deaths at the battle of Helm's Deep. (Yes, spoiler, but it's been 9 years; I hardly think I'm to blame if you haven't seen it by this point.)
Our argument centered around the elf's characterization: my roommate claims he is a badass, whereas I argue that he is, by and large, merely an asshole. (Yes, it's a heavily ass-oriented argument. The house is nothing but mid-twenties males, and our rhetoric reflects that demographic base.) He points to Haldir's heroic death, his daring in battle, his casual racism towards Gimli.
My evidence: His casual racism towards Gimli: "The Dwarf breathes so loud we could have shot him in the dark."
His ability to state the obvious: "(to Frodo) You bring great evil with you."
And, most of all, the way the other elves treat him. To whit:
By the time he appears at Helm's Deep, we've already seen that the rest of the Elves are packing up shop. Whether the Fellowship ultimately succeeds or not, they are not sticking around. Whether it's a World of Man or all-Sauron, all the time, they know they don't want to be a part of their trainwreck. So they're packing up their civilization, they're busting out their favorite traveling lanterns...
...and they're getting the hell out of Dodge.
Now, imagine you're gearing your entire civilization up for an extended ocean voyage. I'd imagine you'd have to be pretty careful about the travel arrangements. Sure, you want to be well-stocked with everything you need to restart society, and you want enough food to get you from point A to point B, but you'd also be careful about exactly who is going with you on your boat. You want to be mindful of people's personalities, about who is best suited to accompany whom, and who can't be seated with Aunt Margaret because of that thing she said three centuries ago about Our Sally dating a hobbit. And don't think that the Elves are above this sort of petty bickering; if Haldir's previous comments are any indication, immortality just means you have that much more time to really nurse those grudges. And at the same time, while you're thinking about who you don't want to sit next to, you also want to consider the ultimate party line-up. You want to get a place with your society's best story tellers, the greatest conversationalists, the funnest drinking buddies. It's all about priorities, really.
And where does Haldir rate on this complex social ranking? While everyone else is getting ready to move and picking ship buddies, he's sent with a small squadron of other undesirables to honor a hundred year old treaty with a group of people the Elves will never be associating with again by participating in a suicide mission.
I imagine the decision to send Haldir was the Elfish equivalent of picking sides for a baseball team. Once you've cycled through the good players, the argument focuses on who gets the weird kid.
"All right, fine, I'll take the guy with halitosis, but then you've got to get the elf with that bad gas."
"All right. Maybe we can balance him out with an oat diet. So who's left... uh..."
"Well, there's... Haldir."
"Oh, well, you... you can have Haldir. That's... that's my gift. To you."
"Yeah, thanks. How... generous. But I couldn't... couldn't possibly deprive you. Of his company. Which would be a deprivation."
"Oh, but I insist. And... um... I'll--I'll also throw in this dwarf mail. And a bit of hobbit pipe weed."
"Dude, there is not enough hobbit pipe weed in all of Middle Earth to make me let that guy's ass on my ship." (Elves too have an anal fixation. Little known fact.)
"Honestly, if he's there, is really even a Second Eden at all?"
"Ugh. I know. He does that... thing, when he talks. Smacks his lips. It's like a fish is trying to bob for apples, or some damn thing. Tell you what--why don't we send him on the... "special mission"?"
"Yes... the 'special mission.' And if he comes back..."
"If he comes back, fish-lips can swim his way west."
Haldir: a guy that's such a big asshole that his own people would rather send him on a suicide mission than be alone with him on a boat.