Tolkien vs. Jackson: Differences in book and screenplay

Courier Correspondent
Thursday, May 11th, 2017


A brief analysis of the clashes between the high fantasy epic novels and the award-winning “Lord of the Rings” trilogy


The Lord of The Rings by J R R Tolkien has sold over 150 million copies worldwide. It is the second best-selling novel of all time and has captivated generations of readers, starting with the publication of The Fellowship of The Ring on July 21, 1954. Classified as an epic tale set in parallel worlds, the trilogy was published in three volumes, with two books per volume.


This is a tale of intense struggle by all of Middle Earth to defeat Lord Sauron, master of the One Ring that is capable of ruling Middle Earth and of destroying Middle Earth. The complexity and the enduring popularity of the trilogy have influenced it to appear several times in reel life.


The most recent of these is Peter Jackson’s 2001-2003 adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. One of the most ambitious and biggest film projects ever taken, this is also regarded as the most successful adaptation of the LOTR trilogy. As it with all cinematic adaptations, however, the films omitted certain details and included others, some of which enhanced the story while others distorted it, in varying degrees.


The Fellowship of The Ring, published in 1954, film released in 2001


The ‘dumbing down’ of Merry and Pippin: In the books the two young Hobbits, while being simple in nature, also mature and show much common sense at times. The films essentially reduced them to comic reliefs by having them fool about with Gandalf’s fireworks at Bilbo’s party; starting the fire at Weathertop instead of Aragorn starting it and attracting the Nazgul; Pippin throws stones disturbing the sea monster at Moria instead of Boromir. Eventually, though, this gives the Hobbits more room to develop as characters later on in the film trilogy.


Frodo wearing the Ring: The Hobbit just disappears when he wears the Ring. In the film, the action causes Frodo to see the world in a distorted way which significantly weakens him. No such detail is mentioned in the books, at least, not until much later in the trilogy when the Ring takes control over Frodo. This is an inconsistency with Bilbo and the Ring, who frequently wore it and treated it more like a toy with seemingly no ‘distortion’ or negative effects.


Boromir’s relationship with Aragorn and the Fellowship: Much of the film portrays Boromir to be very disrespectful of Aragorn, stating with conviction that Gondor needs no king. In reality, these were views expressed by Denethor, and Boromir has a certain amount of admiration for the Ranger. It was also Boromir who threw the stone in the pool in Moria in the books because of boredom, foreshadowing that he would eventually become a problem for the Fellowship. The film makes up for it by including a scene (not in the book) where Galadriel warns Frodo that someone from the group might steal the Ring. This, however, paints a more negatively image of Boromir than is actually the case in the original story.


The Two Towers, published in 1954, film released in 2002


Treebeard’s character: The Ent Treebeard is fully aware of Saruman’s treachery, the killing of Boromir and the kidnapping of Merry and Pippin and decides to take care of Saruman. The films, however, show great reluctance on the part of Treebeard on doing anything, even when Merry and Pippin enlighten him about these and beg for his help. It is only when he finds out that Saruman has been felling trees to develop Orcs does he call the other Ents to help.


Theoden and Faramir: Theoden is shown to be cursed by Wormtongue, a shell of a man in the movies who only mumbles. This is an unsuccessful addition as it makes his character more one-dimensional: the book shows him to be fully aware of what is going on, heroically argumentative with Gandalf, but deceived by Wormtongue. Faramir in the books is a noble man, who learns of the Ring on Frodo from Sam, and decides not to look at it, but lets him go. He also treats Gollum well. In the movies, Faramir, seduced by the Ring, makes several attempts at taking the Ring to Gondor and even takes Frodo to Denethor. His treatment of Gollum is brutal.


Arwen: Arwen appears several times in the movie, mostly in Aragorn’s dreams. She also is very heroic, convincing her father to reforge Isildur’s Bane, and in the previous movie, defeat the Nazgul. Arwen does not appear at all in this volume. This beefing up was mainly done to make her a viable love interest for Aragorn, and also to more effectively explain why he would reject Eowyn for Arwen.


The Return of the King, published in 1955, film released in 2003


Gollum causing friction: The books reveal that Sam is the only one who ever hears Gollum’s mutterings about killing the Hobbits, leading him to distrust the creature. Frodo doesn’t trust him much either. In the movie, however, Gollum attempts to turn Frodo against Sam, by throwing lembas bread down the cliff, pinning the blame onto Sam. Frodo does turn against Sam after this incident, and even sends him away from the stairs in Cirith Ungol. He is also unwavering in his trust of Gollum. Neither of these happens in the book.


Killing of the Witch King: Merry’s sword in the books has spells imbued on it, that makes his hit on the Witch King more critical than Eowyn’s, which shatters her sword. Eowyn and Merry both collapse immediately after striking him. The movies diminish his power greatly: no significance is made of Pippin’s sword and Eowyn’s remains intact, and the two collapse much later.


Arwen’s immortality and request: The movies show Isildur’s Bane being reforged at Arwen’s request when she is on her death bed, and that she is dying because the Ring hasn’t been destroyed yet. This is giving unwarranted importance to Arwen, as in the books the sword was reforged right after the formation of the Fellowship and given to Aragorn before starting the journey, and the only reason she will die is because she chose a mortal life.

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