(Digression: compare, if you will, the boastful grief of Y Gododdin with the steadfastness of The Battle of Maldon. Both sets of warriors are doomed and know it; both are courageous; but one exults recklessly, while the other stands grimly fast. And they echo down the centuries, these styles of defeat, issuing at last in the salty beer of a London Welshman on St David’s Day, or the bee-like hum of ‘Mustn’t grumbles’ from an English Post Office queue. I see all this clearly from my panopticon on Steepholm island, with my feet planted in the Severn, and dragons both white and red on my escutcheon.)
kalimac has my sympathy. But I do wonder. Sometimes associations colour a book for ever, and we’d have it no other way. The voice of a parent reading a story aloud, for example, becomes part of that story for us. When I first read The Mabinogion I did it with the sound of Fairport Live Convention in the background – an album I’d bought the same day - and the two are indissolubly linked, along with the room where I read it, and even the age I was at the time. 1977 was a very good year for books and music.
Now, maybe films are a bit different from that happenstantial kind of association – but are they totally different? Does it matter, for example, that I now tend to think of Mr Darcy as looking like Colin Firth? Is that a taint on Austen’s text? Not much of one, perhaps. On the other hand, I feel it would matter quite a lot if I secretly believed that Mr D really had gone for a dip in his carp pond before fetching up in front of young Elizabeth Bennett. But that’s so wrong that it’s easier to edit out, somehow. I suspect that the most stubborn and insidious variations on the original are those that are almost right, or that might actually be right, but that confine the possibilities of the text to a narrow range of meaning and make what had been a polysemous rainforest of potential an impoverished monoculture. (But, but – well, isn’t that kind of narrowing what all adaptations necessarily do, to an extent? Or even all productions of a play?)
As you'll have gathered, I'm in several minds about all this. Anyone out there willing to put me straight?