Session 5-17: Season 5 Frame Story

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Session 5-17 will be held on Thursday, November 5th, at 10 PM EDT.

Session 5-17 will be focused on the Frame Story for Season 5. We have chosen the idea of "Incanus' mission in Harad" as the topic for the Frame, with Gandalf being our central character, but we do still need to figure out what the story is that we will be telling, and decide how that will map onto the Season 5 episodes/storylines. We know we want a 'minimalist' frame, where we focus on Gandalf's relationship with a very limited number of Haradrim characters.

Corey proposed two questions to guide our conversation in considering the Frame story:
Do we want to focus the “Gandalf in Harad” story on the people of Harad, or also involve Gondor in the storyline?​
How much of a tragedy do we want this story to be? What should be the end point of the tale of Gandalf’s involvement with the Haradrim?​

At this point, we are gathering suggestions - the more ideas, the better!
 
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Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
Well:

I have been the most vocal critic of the Gandalf in Harad storyline, mainly because of Harad already seems to be in Sauron's pocket by the time of The Hobbit given that the Haradrim attacked Gondor in relatively recent memory (2885 T.A., our Frame appears to be in 2951 T.A.).

Given this, Gandalf may be trying to delay the Haradrim or is working in Harandor, the disputed land between Gondor and Harad.

@Haakon and I briefly discussed the main antagonist of the Frame; the most likely candidate is the Mouth of Sauron, likely backed by one of the Nazgul, possibly the Witch-King.
 

Alcarlótë

Active Member
Well:

I have been the most vocal critic of the Gandalf in Harad storyline, mainly because of Harad already seems to be in Sauron's pocket by the time of The Hobbit given that the Haradrim attacked Gondor in relatively recent memory (2885 T.A., our Frame appears to be in 2951 T.A.).
Because of this, it is important to show that "Haradrim" is quite like saying "Africans" in real life - the word makes sense and describes a distinct group of Men, but that group is an extremely large collection of peoples, each with their own culture, history, political entities etc.

There's no King of Harad or political alignment of Harad - only kings in Harad and political alignments in Harad. Most of the realms there are so far away and isolated from Northern Middle-Earth that Tolkien never mentions and fans almost never imagine them. It's a giant continent we barely know anything about; Sauron might have 50 tribes with 80.000 people under his control or something, but even then there could be dozens of other tribal leaders or kings left that Gandalf could visit.
 
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Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
Because of this, it is important to show that "Haradrim" is quite like saying "Africans" in real life - the word makes sense and describes a distinct group of Men, but that group is an extremely large collection of peoples, each with their own culture, history, political entities etc.

There's no King of Harad or political alignment of Harad - only kings in Harad and political alignments in Harad. Most of the realms there are so far away and isolated from Northern Middle-Earth that Tolkien never mentions and fans almost never imagine them. It's a giant continent we barely know anything about; Sauron might have 50 tribes with 80.000 people under his control or something, but even then there could be dozens of other tribal leaders or kings left that Gandalf could visit.
Even so, Harad is under Sauron's thumb for much of the Third Age. They always bat for his team ten out of ten times.
 

Alcarlótë

Active Member
At least some of the many political entities that exist south of northwestern Middle-earth are under Sauron's thumb for much of the Third Age. We don't have any clue as to how far his influence reached because we don't know how many thousands or millions of people live in areas we only ever see on maps of Arda, with zero information about them. It is entirely possible for multiple realms to exist there that never were controlled by Sauron ever.

And even then, realms are never fully homogenous politically. There could be a settlement or a group of settlements that secretly don't want to be ruled by Sauron but are forced under his dominion by superiors literally anywhere in Harad at the time our frame takes place. I don't see any reason why 80+ percent of people living in this vast area have to be servants of Sauron based on the canonical information we have. It is extremely limited and incomplete.
 
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MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
A few thoughts:

It is very clear that the Hosts are enthusiastically excited about the idea of doing a "Gandalf in Harad" frame story. Both Trish and Dave had a lot to say during the session where that was decided, and made it clear that they like the idea and are on board with it. So, we are doing it. Sometimes, the Executive Producers get these ideas and you just have to figure out how to make them work.​
How successful Gandalf might be is exactly one of the questions we are meant to discuss here!​
One possibility is that all of the efforts Gandalf has been putting into this one group of Haradrim go down in flames at the end of the season - that those Haradrim who had seemed willing to ally with Gandalf and reject Sauron are all killed in a civil war, or that they wind up rejecting Gandalf's council and joining Sauron's forces anyway after some pressure is brought to bear. In other words, just because Gandalf is going there doesn't mean he has to succeed, and sometimes you try anyway, even with hefty odds stacked against you. Sometimes, you fail.​
The other possibility that Corey suggested last night was that Gandalf is successful, to an extent - if not for his efforts, Sauron would be able to claim much more of Harad and raise even larger armies of Haradrim than he does in LotR. He's not able to win over 'the Haradrim', but perhaps Sauron doesn't claim them *all*. There is no need for this to be Gandalf's first visit to the region, either. He could have made many such trips over the past hundreds of years.​
Alcarlótë's point about nuance and perspective is a good thing to keep in mind. We know very little about Harad! Sure, what we do know suggests that Sauron raises armies there and they have an ongoing antagonistic relationship with Gondor. But it is also true that Gandalf gained the name Incanus in the south. So...he did canonically go there. What did he do? That's the story we are telling. Introducing nuance so that not all Haradrim are 'the enemy' is likely a story worth telling.​
I am not asking you to like an idea that you dislike. You may dislike it as intensely as you like! I do think it is important to acknowledge that we are going to do it, though, and at this point, the conversation is about how to do it, not whether or not to do it.
 

Alcarlótë

Active Member
I'm not sure about the precise connections between the frame and our main stories yet, but intuitively I'm most interested in showing a particular community that Gandalf has visited before and a conflict between the older leadership generation (knows and trusts Gandalf, isn't hostile towards Gondor) and the younger one gearing up to replace it (more open for change and big dreams of political unification and opportunities under Sauron).

But regardless of what we show, we have to keep in mind that none of the adults we show in the frame will actually take part in the battles that we see during LotR, as they'll either be dead or very old. But there certainly could be earlier attacks on Gondor's southern border as well as conflicts with neighboring Haradrim realms.
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
The frame has had me concerned for a while now. It is a completely new environment with characters that are largely original to our story. A lot of the cultural background will have to be manufactured wholecloth as well.

I also agree with those above who have suggested that Harad is a region rather than a singular political unit.

One major problem that could face this season's frame is a lack of focus (the main story has a similar issue but there isn't much we can do about that now).

I've alluded to a solution to this problem a few times prior, but wanted to wait until the hosts were getting ready to discuss the frame again to roll it out.

Rather than focus on a village or a group of "resistance" activists amongst a city, I suggest a return to the season one format, limiting most of our frame cast to only a handful of main characters. This will allow us to generate more personal stories and relationships within the frame, despite only having a few scenes in which to do so.

When Gandalf arrives in this settlement in Harad, he finds that the cult of Sauron, whether covertly or overtly, wields a lot of control over city/ state politics. He also learns that the local warlord is seeking a tutor for his son. This is an up and coming state, and he wants his son to be respected by the other realms in Harad.

Gandalf, trading on the Haradrim's cultural memory of Incanus as a wise old man, obtains the position and begins to tell the son some of the stories we are seeing.

We soon discover that the Mouth of Sauron (MoS) is also present, though his focus is on the warlord himself. Gandalf is doing his best to both avoid an actual confrontation, and to turn his young pupil away from the corrupting influence from the north.

I thought long and hard about Dave’s Task Force X idea, and how to incorporate it. I don’t know if there is time to include additional actiony stuff, but if so… What if Gondor (ruled at this time by Denethor’s father, I believe) has sent a team to eliminate the ruler of this realm, in hopes of destabilizing the region and making it more difficult for Sauron to control it.

Gandalf gets wind of the plot beforehand and attempts to stop it without endangering the lives of the assassins. He fails to do this, while they succeed in their mission.

Gandalf’s protege realizes that Gandalf was aware of the plot, but did not warn him. Feeling betrayed, he orders Gandalf arrested and swears fealty to Sauron through (by proxy of the MoS). Gandalf escapes, of course, probably using the same trick whereby he escapes the goblins in The Hobbit.

As Gandalf is making his way out of the city, his escape is aided by the prince’s servant/valet/batman, who has been present for every lesson. He’s picked up the messages with which Gandalf has been trying to reach the prince. The very last scene of the frame is this young man furtively telling a group of children the story of the duel of Fingolfin and Morgoth.

Even now, in the tail end of the third age, Fingolfin’s duel is still telling the Free Peoples that the Dark Lord is not unassailable. He can be withstood. This also gives credence to Sam’s musings about the dead Haradrim soldier he encounters.
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
The main reason I am suggesting a more limited cast of characters for this frame is that it will give us a chance to really strengthen the relationships involved. If Gandalf has a strong personal tie to someone who winds up rejecting his wisdom, we will have a much stronger story to tell than if he's just interacting with different people every week, or even cycling through characters every three-four weeks.

Honestly, I am concerned that the story I've suggested might be too ambitious and need to be pared down, but the Gandalf playing Dr. Cornelius/Merlin (ala Once and Future King) angle is one which gives us a much stronger structure.
 

Alcarlótë

Active Member
If I remember correctly, Dave's idea of a Gondorian task force was just a possible way to get important characters that the hosts wanted to bring in involved, right? I don't think he meant it to be a plot point that's important for its own sake. So either we have Thengel and Ecthelion sneaking around Harad or the idea doesn't deserve any extraordinary attention.
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
If I remember correctly, Dave's idea of a Gondorian task force was just a possible way to get important characters that the hosts wanted to bring in involved, right? I don't think he meant it to be a plot point that's important for its own sake. So either we have Thengel and Ecthelion sneaking around Harad or the idea doesn't deserve any extraordinary attention.
Is that really what he was going for? That seems... a huge unnecessary risk for them to take.
 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
Is that really what he was going for? That seems... a huge unnecessary risk for them to take.
Perhaps just one of them goes, say Thengel leads the team and Denethor waits at the border as a lifeline? Denethor can fight, but he prefers to observe things from a distance; is he perhaps a marksman?
 

Haakon

Administrator
Staff member
My five cents: we should minimise the frame, make it a one-on-one story with Gandalf and one Haradrim leader. They meet at a secret place and Gandalf tries to convince the leader to rally Haradrim against the tide of growing dark power.
 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
My five cents: we should minimise the frame, make it a one-on-one story with Gandalf and one Haradrim leader. They meet at a secret place and Gandalf tries to convince the leader to rally Haradrim against the tide of growing dark power.
Is there any need for an opposite number who is trying to get the Haradrim to support Sauron?
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
My five cents: we should minimise the frame, make it a one-on-one story with Gandalf and one Haradrim leader. They meet at a secret place and Gandalf tries to convince the leader to rally Haradrim against the tide of growing dark power.
I definitely agree on the minimization. At the same time, I feel like we have a responsibility to redeem the Haradrim in the public imagination. A close reading of the text shows us that they are not evil people. Their rather dehumanizing depiction in the films based on a surface interpretation of the books doesn't really tell that story. If our story only focuses on a single character meeting with Gandalf and those conversations fail (As they should. The leadership of the Haradrim people should be pro-Sauron by the end of this.), it doesn't give us much hope for the Haradrim as humans.
 

Haakon

Administrator
Staff member
I definitely agree on the minimization. At the same time, I feel like we have a responsibility to redeem the Haradrim in the public imagination. A close reading of the text shows us that they are not evil people. Their rather dehumanizing depiction in the films based on a surface interpretation of the books doesn't really tell that story. If our story only focuses on a single character meeting with Gandalf and those conversations fail (As they should. The leadership of the Haradrim people should be pro-Sauron by the end of this.), it doesn't give us much hope for the Haradrim as humans.
Valid points. I maintain my position though, extreme as it may be, as a point of argument, as something to aim for - but I’ll probably gladly accept a less extreme final decision.
 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
I definitely agree on the minimization. At the same time, I feel like we have a responsibility to redeem the Haradrim in the public imagination. A close reading of the text shows us that they are not evil people. Their rather dehumanizing depiction in the films based on a surface interpretation of the books doesn't really tell that story. If our story only focuses on a single character meeting with Gandalf and those conversations fail (As they should. The leadership of the Haradrim people should be pro-Sauron by the end of this.), it doesn't give us much hope for the Haradrim as humans.
On that, do we want to give some reasons why the Haradrim support Sauron? Because 10 out of 10 times they support Sauron whenever someone comes calling.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
You don't know that.

10 out of 10 times that the chroniclers in Gondor tell us about, armies coming out of Harad aggressively are pro-Sauron.

What we don't know about are...any time people (including whole communities, leaders, and tribes) refuse to answer Sauron's call. You cannot tell me that you know that doesn't happen, because...you do not know. The folk of Gondor would not know about this, and so cannot tell us about this. That does not mean that it doesn't happen, or that claiming it happens is counter-textual. It's not. The text allows this reading in the silent spaces that fill the land of Harad and its history.

Yes, we will want the 'recruiters' from Sauron - Nazgul, Mouth of Sauron, or whomever - to have arguments and pressure put upon any leaders within Harad to join them. But I do not think we should treat the people of Harad as monolithic, or all united under a single central leader. For one thing, one of our storylines this season is the uniting of the people of Hador, who are many independent tribes. Showing the Haradrim as similarly divided will dovetail nicely with the Council scenes.
 
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