Where do I start….I understand when parts of a book cannot be put in the movie. I understand certain changes have to be made to go from novel to screenplay. What I DON’T understand is why they changed the story. I mean REALLY CHANGE the story.
I was hesitant when The Fellowship of The Ring came out. As a lifelong fan of Tolkien, I first read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings at 12 and have reread them dozens of times in my life. I knew what an enormous undertaking it would be to make these books into movies that would do them justice. I loved it. I loved the casting choices, the location chosen, the costumes and the special effects. I was a little disappointed at the exclusion of Tom Bombadil, as he is one of my favorite characters. I noticed the exclusion of the time the hobbits spent ‘asleep’ in the Barrow Downs but that chapter wasn’t the most exciting so I didn’t miss it but I understood the time and length issue and saw the logic in the choices as neither chapters were crucial to the story, except that excluding these chapters did ‘shorten’ how long it took the Hobbits to get to Bree and how long Sauraman had to build his armies, how long Sauron had to spread darkness over Middle Earth and how long Gandalf was held captive at Orthanc, how long Elrond had been waiting for Frodo and how long Strider had been searching for them, which was about a year or so. I was again disappointed at the exclusion of Sam’s first encounter with the elves which was before they even left the borders of Hobbiton. This first encounter is the motivation for Sam because he realized that whatever evil was lurking out there it was driving the Elves to leave Middle Earth and Sam wasn’t going to let that happen. Seeing the elves is what got Sam to go along on this ‘journey’. This first encounter changes Sam’s childlike awe to a child’s worst fear. This encounter changes Sam from childlike gardener to Frodo’s protector. This encounters change’s Sam childlike trust and sets the tone for his encounter with Elrond, Legolas and Galadriel. This encounter changes Sam.
I Didn’t understand why they decided to change from Glorfindal being the one to ride Frodo across the river not Arwen, why they had Arwen summon the ‘horses’ in the river that washed the Riders away when it was Gandalf. I don’t know why they left out that Galadriel gives the Hobbits Elvin cloaks that make them seem invisible. I felt they should have at least mentioned Gwaihir’s name when Gandalf told of his rescue from the top of Orthanc and I felt that the story of how Samwise came to have Bill was important as it was the first harsh reality check for Sam as to the cruelty of man which made Sam feel guilty for sending Bill back to Bree on his own. Which is what happened, Bill didn’t get killed by the Monster in the Lake in from of Moria. And the time spent in the Mines was not a couple of days but weeks, weeks of fighting, no food or water and lots of encounters with Orcs and Trolls. Nevertheless I still thoroughly enjoyed the first movie.
I waited for the next year for The Two Towers. Let’s not sweat the small stuff, there’s too much big stuff here. First, the explanation of how Gandalf reappears in The Two Towers is nothing short of lame. I think it matters because it gives to the wisdom, power and authority of the Wizard within all of Middle Earth. Without it he seemed less prominent. Next is how Gandalf came to have Shadowfax, who was actually King Théoden’s horse. Théoden being thankful to Gandalf for freeing him from Sauraman and instead of riding to the defense of Gondor he tells Gandalf he will help by giving him any horse in the stables to speed his journey. Gandalf knowing which horse was the Kings chose the magnificent steed because Théoden would not ride into battle to defend Gondor.
The importance of the Palintir being found by Merry was completely lost. Then there is Sauraman and Grima Wormtongue. Sauraman does not die in the second book. They wrote falling to his death and killing Grima, it never happened. Gandalf takes pity on his old master and Grima and decides to exile them in each other’s miserable company leaving them to wander Middle Earth as beggars. Now this is where I realized that the ending could not be the same.
I went ahead and went to The Return of the King after waiting another year.
Aragorn decides to fulfill his destiny after Elrond presents him with the re-forged sword of Isuldur and takes The Path of the Dead on the eve of battle. This was completely understated. Aragorn went alone and was gone for a long time. Then when Ewoyn kills the Witch King she is severely injured. Aragorn, being the one true King was the only one who possesses the skill to heal her wounds. He spends days by her side sending lots of people to collect all the Kings Foil for miles and miles. Along with Eowyn was Merry laying injured besides her also needing Aragorn’s healing as his injury was also from the Witch King.
And now for the worst offense yet, the ending. The main ‘point’, ‘moral’, ‘theme’, whatever you want to call it, Frodo’s only motivation for his even leaving the Shire was very simple. He didn’t care about the rest of the World. He only cared about saving the Shire. The movie has a happy ending with all four hobbits returning home to the Shire and pretty much resuming their lives as though nothing happened, until of course Bilbo and Frodo do of the Nine Fingers, a name given him after Gollum bites of the ring finger, set sail across the seas with the Elves. That’s Hollywood’s ending.
Here’s Tolkien’s ending.
After Aragorn is crowned King of Gondor, Frodo and Sam begin their journey home. Pippin is now a Rider of Rohan under King Eomer and Merry is a soldier of Gondor and they are granted leave to protect the Ring Bearer on his journey home but are expected to return to duty right afterwards. On their journey Frodo and Sam hear rumors of an old man and a wretched companion wandering the lands begging. On the journey home they have a brief encounter with the raggedy old man of rumor, with Sauraman. Underestimating the hatred of the once powerful Wizard causes the two Hobbits to take pity on him and leave him to his punishment of beggary. The Hobbits finally reach the Shire. Or what was the Shire. All the Hobbits have been enslaved or slaughtered. Sam’s Old Gaffer has been chained and whipped, Rosie has become Sauraman’s slave, the hillsides and greenery have been burned away and Bag End is occupied by Grima Wormtongue. Two whole chapters it takes for the four companions to free the Hobbit slaves, and to do battle the angry Wizard. Frodo himself slays Sauraman. However the Shire isn’t the same and this is the reason Frodo and Bilbo decide to sail away with the Elves, they lost the heart for their home.
Frodo it turns out had saved the world but lost the Shire. The very heart of the story.