Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade or so, you’re familiar with the Lord of the Rings movies. You might even be familiar with all the books that Tolkien has written on the history of Middle Earth. You might even be one of those hardcore fans who spent money to learn Elvish or Sindarin. Whichever you are, I’m sure you appreciate just how rich and alive the world of Middle Earth is, which is one of the main reasons why it has left such an indelible mark on the psyches of its fans in this world.
Also, you can’t deny how epic the movies were and the kind of impact that the characters left behind. You will forever see Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins, that whiny hobbit with hairy feet. For me, for example, Viggo Mortensen will always be the ranger Aragorn, which is why I couldn’t fully grasp his role as an ex-mobster in A History of Violence. These characters made my childhood awesome, and I still watch the movies even now.
If I ask you how many movies make up the Tolkien Cinematic Universe, most of you are going to answer three–the three Lord of the Rings movies, plus the upcoming three more that will tell the tale of There and Back Again or The Hobbit. And you’ll be correct.
However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any other movies out there that tried to expand on the Tolkien Cinematic Universe. I’m talking about all the die hard fans who wanted to see the rest of Tolkien’s writings come alive on the big screen. To date, there have been two successful fan films that managed to attract the attention of the Tolkien family and Peter Jackson, who directed the LoTR film series. These fan films are Born of Hope and The Hunt for Gollum.
When I say fan film, I don’t mean kids with bedsheet capes running around with sticks and a shaky camera. I mean films made by people who were willing to spend their life savings to create a faithful representation of Tolkien’s works in a way that wouldn’t veer too far from the way Peter Jackson brought the Lord of the Rings to life.
Born of Hope
In order to explain this movie, I’d have to give you some sort of a background on Middle Earth mythology. You see, back in the early days of Middle Earth, the land was populated by ordinary men who led ordinary lives. Then came the Dunedains, led by Elendil and his sons, Isildur and Anarion. They came from Numenor, an island kingdom that sank beneath the sea. The Dunedains who escaped landed on Middle Earth and settled in Arnor and Gondor, enriching the lands and leading the peoples of Middle Earth.
If you remember the scene, Elendil was the dude who tried to go one on one with Sauron but failed and got his sword shattered. His son, Isildur, used the broken sword to cut off Sauron’s fingers and take the Ring. Isildur died soon after that.
After the fall of Sauron, the Dunedains prospered, but not for long. Sauron soon started regaining his strength and, through the Witch-King of Angmar, destroyed most of Arnor and drove the Dunedains of the North into the forests. They eventually became the Rangers of the North. You’ll remember that at the start of Fellowship of the Ring, it was revealed that Aragorn is a ranger, commonly called Strider.
Born of Hope is about the Rangers of the North. The entire story is based on a few paragraphs in one of the appendices written by Tolkien for The Lord of the Rings. It tells of a hidden village deep in the forests of the North where descendants of the Dunedains go to to escape the onslaught of the orcs who have orders from Sauron to snuff out the bloodline of Elendil. This village is led by Arador and his son Arathorn, descendants of Elendil and heirs to Isildur’s throne.
This movie is basically a love story with some epic fight scenes woven in between. Arathorn meets Gilraen, a lady who’s running away from her village which was destroyed by orcs. They marry, and they have a kid that they name Aragorn, which means ‘kingly valor’ in Sindarin. Aragorn will grow up to become Strider and, eventually, King of Gondor.
What I loved about the movie was that it had the exact same feel as Peter Jackson’s big-budget films. Take note, this movie only spent around 25,000 British pounds, or about USD40,000. I don’t know about you, but that’s spare change compared to the millions that Hollywood people spend on an average movie. The film took about a year to shoot, with a total runtime of a little over an hour. It was awesome.
Best part: When Arathorn–son of Arador, heir to Isildur’s throne, mighty warrior, and Captain of the Rangers of the North–was so afraid of Gilraen’s dad that he waited months just to gather the courage he needed to ask for her hand in marriage. It was hilarious.
The Hunt for Gollum
This short film takes place right around the very start of Fellowship of the Ring. It wasn’t shown in the Peter Jackson adaptation, but in the books, Frodo didn’t leave immediately after Bilbo’s birthday party and subsequent search for adventure. Gandalf found the Ring and asked Bilbo to leave it behind for Frodo, because Gandalf knew exactly what it was and feared that Bilbo might get hurt if he took it with him. Gandalf left the Ring with Frodo and searched for answers for several years.
The film starts when Gandalf realizes that Gollum, the creature from whom Bilbo stole the Ring in The Hobbit, knows who Bilbo is and can lead the forces of Sauron to the Shire if he got captured. Armed with this knowledge, he asks Aragorn to use his considerable tracking skills to find the creature and bring it to a safe place. Like Born of Hope, the film manages to intersperse epic fight scenes and humor into the story without veering too far away from the main plot.
The people who made this film had an even smaller budget than those who made Born of Hope, with only three thousand pounds or around USD4,800. The film’s total runtime is around 40 minutes.
A lot of characters we know and love from the Peter Jackson adaptations make an appearance in this film. This, in my opinion, becomes one of the film’s weaknesses. Sure, the dude who plays Aragorn here resembles Viggo Mortensen a bit. However, the people who played Gandalf and Arwen were way off the mark. This is the problem with using characters that have already been portrayed on screen.
For my favorite scene, I’m torn between the light banter between Aragorn and Gollum while the latter was in a sack tied to Aragorn’s back, and the epic fight scene between Aragorn and a whole squad of orcs. It really is a great movie, so you might want to give it a whirl.
NOTE: Both movies are available on YouTube. Since they are fan films and are not affiliated with Tolkien or the people who own the movie rights to Tolkien’s works, you won’t find the movies on DVD or on any other media that would have to be paid for. There are a lot of streaming sites where you can watch the movie, however. For more information, you can visit the websites for Born of Hope and The Hunt for Gollum.