Chapter III: A Giant Problem

You know, I may be a bit harsh against Skyrim. It’s not like they have nothing that I find fascinating or impressive. The music is great. The scenery is spectacular. But the thing that will never cease to amaze me is their ability to never miss an opportunity, to miss an opportunity.

Case of point: The Giants.

The Giants, to me, are pretty much unique in this game.

Let’s say you’re walking through the wilderness of Skyrim, or across the great plains.

Suddenly, you see a pack of wolves. The wolves see you.

Question: What happens?

Answer: The wolves attack.

Let’s say a bear sees you. What happens?

Answer: the bear attacks.

A Skeever? It attacks. A troll? It attacks. A dragon? It attacks. Atronachs, Vampires, Bandits, Forsworn, Hagravens, Spriggans, Altmer soldiers, mages of any kind? They all attack. Some may insult you first, but they all attack. All of them with little to no provocation.

Then you see a Giant, herding a pack of mammoths. The Giant sees you. Does he attack?

No.

He looks at you, and goes on his merry way.

There are only three instances when a Giant will attack you.

1) Attack him.

2) Attack one of his mammoths.

3) Trespass on his territory.

And even then, if you do go into their territory, does the Giant attack?

No, he warns you!

He waves with his club, stamps his feet and gives every single possible indication to “STAY THE FUCK AWAY!

If you comply, he goes back to doing what he was doing.

And this is ONLY at their camps. They don’t warn you when you approach their mammoths. Not when you approach them. But when you go into their camps, they warn you to stay away. If you then refuse to listen, THEN they will attack.

Now, with that in mind, let’s say you walk into an inn, looking for work. The bartender tells you that the Jarls men stopped by with a bounty letter.

The letter states that the Giant at Steamcrag Camp has been killing people, and that the Jarl is paying for the Giants death. (And yes, it is only ever bounties on Giants who live in camps, areas that are officially sanctioned as their territories)

With the information the game has supplied, what does that letter say to you?

Because to me, it says someone saw a 3.5 m tall, blue-grey man, carrying what’s essentially a tree trunk with a rock tied to it….

AND THEY DECIDED THIS WAS SOMEONE THEY WANTED TO ANNOY.

Maybe they decided to try their hands on mammoth tipping, maybe they wanted to take some potshots at the giant, or perhaps they were part of one of the many factions that decide that this land belongs to them by right, and that they walk where they please and hey, the giant is probably bluffing anyway.

Whatever the reason, I’m not going to blame the Giant.

But the thing that drives me insane about the Giants is that, beyond bounty notes, they have no purpose in the game! They are completely wasted! They’re treated as bothersome pests. NOBODY shows the slightest interest in them!

Here’s an idea. How about establishing some contact with them?

Dave: Why would you want to do that?

Oh, I don’t know… how about the MASSIVE, FLYING MONSTERS OF FROST-AND/OR-FLAMESPEWING DEATH AND DESTRUCTION?!

Like I said in the previous chapter, a single Giant, with nothing but a loincloth and a stick, can beat a dragon in a one-on-one fight.

Two of them can beat a frost dragon. And none of them wears anything more than animal skin for protection!

Imagine, for a moment, what a Giant in plate mail, wielding a sword might do.

Imagine, if you will, that every city in Skyrim had five or six armoured Giants each.

Suddenly, those dragons don’t seem like much of a problem, do they?

Dave: Maybe, but how would you do that? The Giants are idiots! It’s not like they understand trading, ownership or even language.

The Giants understand status. We know this, since they collect trophies, in the form of animal skulls.

They have a system of ownership. We know this, because they mark their mammoths, by engraving their tusks. They will also mark their cows by painting them.

They may well have a religion, since they’re covered in scars in the form of symbols.

Either that, or it’s another sign of status.

(You know what might be a good way to find out for sure? ESTABLISHING A CONNECTION TO THEM AND LEARNING SOMETHING ABOUT THEIR CULTURE!)

And they understand trading. I know this, because during a quest, I SOLD A GOAT TO A GIANT!

And I did it while drunk. Not only drunk, but blackout-and-propose-to-a-hagraven-drunk.

And I still managed to sell a goat to a Giant. I was never informed what I sold it FOR, which meant I had to steal it back. And it’s only because of a glitch that I managed to do so without killing the Giant.

But the point is, they either understand gesticulating or language, so much so that a drunk could make themselves understood, and sell them something.

Dave: Ok, but what else do they have to offer? What if we don’t want superstrong soldiers?

Well, first of all, you’re an idiot if you don’t want them as soldiers. But let’s look at the other things they have to offer, shall we?

They herd mammoths. Mammoth ivory is valued by jewellers all over the empire. They also make mammoth cheese, one bowl of which is about as nourishing as a cooked beef, horse haunch or a mammoth steak. And unlike all of those, the cheese doesn’t need to be prepared in any way. And they make that in vats of about 30 litres at a time.

Oh, and they also have mammoth meat and hides.

Let’s go a step further. Imagine that, instead of herding, they could do farming? Imagine the size of a field, ploughed by a mammoth? Or the amount of supplies a mammoth could carry? Mammoth-powered machinery? I’m sure you can think of more uses for big, strong elephants.

Then there’s basic man power. Giants building houses, working mines, cutting trees, clearing roads?

Teach them trades. Imagine a Giant working as a mason, or a blacksmith?

How many expeditions into Dwemer ruins have been halted because of tunnels collapsing? Oh, if only they had some very strong people with them who could help clear away the rubble and protect them against things like… oh, I don’t know, THE DWARVEN CENTURIONS!?

This isn’t hard!

They have scholars going through ruins of the Dwemer, a race that pretty much combines Steampunk with Josef Mengele. A race that captured, tortured and genetically altered the Falmer (Snow elves) into hideous, insane, blind monsters and they’ve been dead for hundreds of years.

There are scholars who are studying the language of the aforementioned Falmer, a race who’s only goal is to destroy all life above ground!

And yet nobody has ever thought of trying to learn the Giants language, a people who are

A) still around and B) Not out to destroy humanity?!

They’re spending years, if not decades, trying to chronicle civilizations long dead, completely ignoring the civilizations RIGHT OUTSIDE THEIR FUCKING FRONT DOOR!

Imagine that as a quest! Establishing a contact with the Giants! I can paint the scenario right now! Once the civil war is over (and don’t worry, I’ll get to that) you’re charged by the High King to make peace with the Giants.

You’re told to bring a chest of materials to Whiterun, and ask Eorlund Gray-Mane to make a big, heavily decorated battle axe from the materials. You then bring the axe to the Giant Chieftain as a peace offering.

If this were me, and this game was worth a crap as an RPG, this is where a high intelligence-score would come in handy. You’d have to communicate without being able to speak the same language. Maybe you could go the “gesture and body language” route, or you could try and learn the language then and there?

That done, the chieftain will allow academics to visit and learn the language.

This pretty much writes itself!

But no, we can’t have that. We need to make room for really important things. We have to make sure the graphics are good! We need to make sure the world looks pretty.

The Giants aren’t important. There’s nothing useful or interesting we could do with them. They’re only useful after they’re dead, because we can take their toes and make potions out of them. I mean, if they did anything else with them, it’d mean putting some effort into the writing, And we can’t have that in an RPG, can we? Just shut up and look at the shiny, jingling keys- uh, I mean the pretty scenery.

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The Hobbit

Take a seat, kids, and Uncle Travis will tell you a story.

Once upon a time in a faraway land, there was a young lad named Travis. Now, Travis was a very nice boy, but he was very easily bored.

One day, Travis was more bored than usual, so he looked all over the house for something to do, for it was 2001 and youtube hadn’t been invented yet to provide the good people of the town with easy access to videos of cats and eccentric swedes playing horror games and screaming at barrels. (To surprising critical acclaim)

Finally, he decided to play a videogame, but his mother said “No, your brain will turn to porridge and your eyes will turn square” and gave him a book to read instead.

The book was “The Hobbit” by J.R.R Tolkien.

Travis read it, he liked it, and all was well.

Many years later, an award winning director named Peter Jackson finally released his long awaited adaptation of The Hobbit, and Travis decided to go watch it.

And would you believe it, he really liked it. He watched the sequel one year later, and liked that as well. Both of them had accomplished the rare feat of being so good, he was able to watch them over and over again, something other movies, such as The Lion King and The Usual Suspects, while both being his favourite movies of all time, had never been able to achieve.

But some people didn’t like the movies. They started complaining that the movies were bad, that they were different from the book, the characters were stupid and that Peter Jackson was a crappy director.

This made Travis very annoyed, since as I’ve told you, he very much liked the movies.

He thought about it for a bit, and finally decided to use his nitpicking and obsessive attention to pointless details to defend the movies. And about here, he decided to stop writing in the third person, since the joke stopped being funny about three paragraphs ago.

Anyway. I would like to make it clear that, despite the story I’ve just told, I’ve got nothing against anyone who doesn’t like The Hobbit. All I would like to do is offer a different perspective on the movies. And really, I just want to address two complaints I’ve heard about them.

If you still dislike The Hobbit, you’re of course free to do so. I can’t force an opinion onto you. If I could, I would make sure Skyrim was universally hated with an intensity and infamy beyond even that of the E.T video game to the Atari. but I digress.

So, here are the two complaints that I’ve heard, that I do not agree with.

The first one is the complaints people have with the additions and changes they made to the story. How the story is longer, the characters are different and there’s a bunch of sub-plots that aren’t important.

When I heard about this complaint, I just ignored it, since I read the book as a kid, and I liked the additions they made in the movies. It was just a difference in opinion, and I didn’t think too much about it.

Then a while back, as I was watching the first movie for the eleventy-first time, I had an epiphany that changed the way I saw the films. You see, The Hobbit has the perfect defence for making changes. The more you think about it, the more sense it makes. Here it is.

Ok, so this entire story is told from Bilbos perspective, right? He is writing the story down for Frodo. It’s the day of his birthday, and we know from The Fellowship of The Ring that he is planning to leave The Shire and move to Rivendell. He’s not expecting to see Frodo again, he knows he’s getting old, so he’s writing down the story he has (according to the narration of the first movie) told Frodo already. Most likely he has told it several times, since we see him tell it to some children at the birthday party as well.

He is writing the story down, so that Frodo can enjoy it after he’s gone.

Now, in the story-within-a-story, Gandalf tries to convince Bilbo to join the dwarves on their quest by telling him the story of Bandobras “Bullroarer” Took, who during the battle of Greenfields knocked the goblin kings head off, sending it flying a hundred yards and landing in a rabbit hole, winning the battle and inventing golf.

Bilbo’s response is that Gandalf made that story up.

And what does Gandalf, in the story told by Bilbo, answer to this accusation?

Well, all good stories deserve embellishment…

Boom! There it is! The perfect defence for any change they made in the movie compared to the book:

Bilbo is exaggerating! Frodo has already heard the original story time and time again, so when Bilbo is writing it down, he’s changing the story to make it more interesting. He’s had 60 years to work on this story, adding details and characters! How else do you explain the scenes in the movies where Bilbo isn’t there? He is making it up!

Now, I admit, this is just a theory, but I’d say it fits pretty well.

As for the second complaint I’ve heard, you don’t have to sit down and think for a long time to explain it. You just have to pay attention to the movie.

The complaint is about Radagast the Brown.

People complain that he’s silly, undignified, stupid and just comic relief. They say that Peter Jackson has ruined the character. Someone even compared him to Jar-Jar Binks from the Star Wars prequels.

(I doubt that this “someone” is reading this, but in case you are, you’re an idiot! You know who you are!)

Let’s take a look at Radagast, shall we?
Yes, he has birdcrap in his hair. Yes, he has tattered clothing. He eats mushrooms and has yellow teeth.

But here’s my question: What the fuck does it matter what he looks like?! Why should he care? Who does he have to impress? Saruman?! Fuck that guy!

Radagast was sent to guard the woods and protect animals! He lives alone in a small shack in the middle of the Greenwood.
He doesn’t travel the world like Gandalf and he doesn’t sit all day in a black tower being an elitist, condescending prick and traitor-to-be! He’s surrounded by animals! Animals don’t care what you look like!

“Dignity” may not be a virtue of his, but do you know what are some of his virtues? Devotion. Compassion. Self-sacrifice! He is utterly devoted to his mission, to the point where he allows animals to sleep in his clothes. He lets birds shape his hair into a nest! He’s taking care of an entire forest! He has more important things to worry about than some birdshit in his hair!

That’s just his appearance. Now let’s take a look at his actions.

The first time we see Radagast the Brown, what is he doing?

He is running through the forest, because something is seriously wrong with it. There are dead animals strewn around, and the forest itself is, as Bilbo puts it “Sick”.
He runs around, surveying the damage, until he finds Sebastian the Hedgehog writhing in agony.

Immediately, he rushes home to his shack (which has been built AROUND a tree rather than cutting one down, might I add.)

Then he tries to treat Sebastian. I counted one soup, two herbal mixtures, one medicine involving burning a plant and one tincture of unspecified composition.

That’s FIVE remedies. Radagast diagnosed the illness and used several different treatments and, using this process of elimination, he realizes it’s not a physical disease, but the result of witchcraft. That is not the actions of a stupid person. That’s the actions of someone who’s competent, compassionate and skilled in medicine and magic.

And you might say that sounds like a pretty medieval approach, to assume something is witchcraft because you don’t understand it. And I’d agree with you, if not for one thing.

He is absolutely correct.

After that, his shack is attacked by spiders the size of a dishwasher. He starts barring the doors and turns around just in time to see Sebastian die.

Does Radagast panic? Does he flee the shack to find help?

No! He decides to show these assholes that yes, he has tattered clothing and yes, he has birdcrap in his hair. But guess what!? He’s still a wizard of the Istari, a member of the Maiar and chosen by the GODESS OF ANIMALS HERSELF to go to Middle-earth and protect animals from harm, and he is NOT going to let some overgrown garden pests prevent him from fulfilling that mission!

He grabs the crystal from his staff, sits down with the dead hedgehog in his arms, all the mice and tiny animals hide in his robes…

AND HE BRINGS THE DEAD SEBASTIAN BACK TO LIFE!

The spiders run away, and Radagast wonders where they came from. When he finds out they come from Dol Guldur, does he go look for Gandalf to get help? No, he gets his rabbit sleigh and explores it, himself.

And while there, what does he do?

Oh, nothing much. He just defeats a nazgûl.

And not just any Nazgûl, by the way. He beats the fucking WITCHKING OF ANGMAR HIMSELF! He disarmed the general of the legions of Mordor! The king of Minas Morgul! Saurons Right-hand man! And he did it WITH A STICK!

It’s only when he sees the Necromancer that he decided to run like hell, and find help.
But not before taking the morgul blade.

When he does find Gandalf, he finds out that an Orc pack is hunting Gandalf and 14 people he doesn’t know, has never met and is unlikely to meet again. They have no ponies, and the orc pack is riding wargs.

Without a moments hesitation, or anyone even looking at him, he volunteers to draw them off.

Gandalf scoffs at the idea, saying that they’re riding “Gundabad wargs” and that they’ll outrun him.

Radagast counters with what may be one of the most surprisingly badass lines in cinematic history

THESE are Rhoscobel-Rabbits…. I’d like to see them try!

You say that Radagast is a laughable, undignified, stupid piece of comic relief. That he’s the middle earth equivalent of Jar-Jar Binks?

Radagast is one of the most underrated characters in “The Hobbit”.

Actually, scratch that! He’s one of the most surprisingly badass characters in the “Lord of the Rings” canon, period!

Now, in the second movie he doesn’t do much other than remind Gandalf that if Sauron has returned, the world is in big trouble, and taking a message to Lady Galadriel.

If he dies in the third movie (which would explain why he’s not in the Lord of the Rings movies and why Gandalf has his staff in the “The Fellowship of the Ring”, although I cannot stress how much I’m hoping I’m wrong) I hope he dies a hero’s death, in a blaze of glory that’d make Gandalfs fight against the Balrog look like a pair of fleas having a “light-your-fart” competition.