Dismantling the purist – introduction

So, I thought it would be a good idea to clear a few things up, before I actually start this series, since I do not want people to get the wrong idea.
‘Dismantling the Purist’ is a series, where I take an actual, real-life comment written by a Tolkien purist, and break it down to see why that comment and the things said in it are… not amongst the very wise.

For that, I would like to explain what the world “purist” means in my vocabulary, since I do not want anyone to think, that I’m generally talking about people, who simply happen to like Tolkien’s books. Especially not, since by that definition, I would be a purist myself. No, in my definition, purists are the ones, who have a blind, fanatical but also rather superficial love for the thing they adore, and in a case of an adaptation, automatically hate pretty much every single change done to it. All that without actually judging objectively, whether or not that change is good or bad.

AAs someone, who firmly believes, that the art itself always comes first, and the artist only second, I do believe, that not only is the purist way of thinking illogical and flawed by design, but it’s also disrespectful to the very thing those people claim to adore. Because once you actually commit to the purist line of thought, you pretty much stop appreciating the art itself, since you’re no longer thinking about what actually makes it great. After all, to honestly appreciate a work of art, you have to put it under the microscope, which means analyzing it, thinking it through, seeing both the good and the bad, thinking about whether or not it could be improved in any way.

If you accept the original to be perfect by default, merely on the basis of it being the original, then you ignore all that. You just rob the story of any chance of improvement and stop it dead in it’s tracks. In doing so, you betray the art you claim to love, and what’s worse, you betray the art form itself. As I take the craft of storytelling extremely seriously, to me, that’s just inexcusable behavior.


Let me be blunt; I don’t care who writes a story. I care about how well that story holds up. If a writer, any writer, came up with a version of “The Hobbit”, that I would consider to be better than both Tolkien’s and PJ’s version, I would have no problem admitting it as my favorite. As I said before, art first, artist second.

When I judge a story, I don’t base my opinion on who wrote it, or on the circumstances in which I first read it. I judge the story, and the story only. Purists by nature can’t seem to be able to do that. The moment it’s an adaptation, they just hate on it. Often even on things that were actually written by Prof. Tolkien himself. It’s just mind boggling to me, how one can perceive things that way.

Yet, I see it all too often. People, who just lash out at the movies, filled with so much hatred and rage, blinded by a false sense of superiority to such a degree, that they don’t even feel the need to even explain why they hate the changes so much, since to them, being different from the book is reason enough to hate and spout declarations.

Ever notice that? They simply state things such as:

This was a terrible movie!” “Tauriel is the Jar Jar of the films!” “They ruined the books!

That’s it. No reasons, no explanations, no examples, no logic. Just declarations. Sorry, but that just… doesn’t work. Stating something as a universally accepted fact, doesn’t make it true. I can’t even believe, that this is something that even happens on such a regular basis.

Usually, when you make an argument, first you propose an idea. Then, you explain your reasons for thinking the way you do. Ideally you also give a few examples to back up your claims, and finally, you draw a conclusion.

At least that’s how it is generally done, when you actually want to contribute something meaningful to the conversation at hand or if you simply want people to understand your point. After all, what you think is only half as interesting as the reasoning behind it.

Not to mention, the whole point to even have a conversation – any conversation – to begin with is to see how other people think, as well as to show others how you think. If you reduce that to mere declarations, you won’t get any of that, you’ll just end up with meaningless banter, that serves nobody. The only statement that kind of “conversation” makes about you is that you’re blinded by your own smugness, nothing more.

What’s worse, it’s often their own comment, that betrays the fact, that they don’t actually know that much about the object of their obsession. Or to be more precise, a lack of understanding of what they claim to love. A couple examples of this are statements such as “The Dwarves going to Rivendell wasn’t even in the book!”, or “Sauron wasn’t in the book!”, so it’s “added trash”, even though that “trash” was originally written by the author they claim to love oh so dearly.

Of course, there are also the more subtle purists. You know, the ones who always lead with the line “You know, I’m not a purist, and I don’t mind changes, but… [insert lengthy comment about how I do mind changes]”. Then again, the word “but” usually invalidates everything that came before it, and these conversations are no different in the long-term.

So to be clear:
– Liking the books does not make you a purist.
– Disagreeing with a change done in the movies does not make you a purist, if you can make an actual, solid argument as to why you feel that way.
– Even not liking the movies at all does not make you a purist, if you have solid, logical reasons for it.

However, if you hate the movies merely based on the fact, that in many ways, they are different from the books, if you spread hate without even feeling the need to reasonably explain why, well, that’s a whole different ball game.

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