I have made another page which joins this page with the rest of the Difference pages. Check differences between the books and the movies This article is a subarticle to Tolkien vs. Jackson: Differences Between Story and Screenplay.
Any work of the scale of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings movie screenplay is going to exhibit differences from the source material. While the three movies have a large number of minor and trivial differences from the book, there are quite a few substantial differences as well. These major differences take two forms— 1. differences in form, such as the way in which the story is laid out and the various parts of the original story that are included or not, and 2. differences in substance, such as alterations of theme and character development. This article presents the major differences between the Jackson movie screenplay and J.R.R. Tolkien's book.
Differences of FormEdit
As amazing as it may seem for a single screenplay that lasts well over eleven hours in its extended form, there was still considerable material in the story that was not filmed. The table below gives a rough idea of how much material from each chapter was filmed. Of a total of sixty-two chapters in the three-volume book set, little to none was filmed from nine of them. These are indicated in red. Another thirty-one chapters had substantial portions left out of the screenplay. These are indicated in blue. The Remaining twenty-two chapters—less than half of the total—had most or all of their material included. These are indicated in green.
|The Lord of the Rings|
|The Fellowship of the Ring||The Two Towers||The Return of the King|
|A Long-expected Party||The Departure of Boromir†||Minas Tirith|
|The Shadow of the Past||The Riders of Rohan||The Passing of the Grey Company|
|Three is Company||The Uruk-hai||The Muster of Rohan|
|A Short Cut to Mushrooms||Treebeard||The Siege of Gondor|
|A Conspiracy Unmasked*||The White Rider||The Ride of the Rohirrim|
|The Old Forest*||The King of the Golden Hall||The Battle of the Pelennor Fields|
|In the House of Tom Bombadil*||Helm's Deep||The Pyre of Denethor|
|Fog on the Barrow Downs*||The Road to Isengard‡||The Houses of Healing|
|At the Sign of the Prancing Pony||Flotsam and Jetsam‡||The Last Debate|
|Strider||The Voice of Saruman‡||The Black Gate Opens|
|A Knife in the Dark||The Palantír‡||The Tower of Cirith Ungol|
|Flight to the Ford||The Taming of Smeagol||The Land of Shadow|
|Many Meetings||The Passage of the Marshes||Mount Doom|
|The Council of Elrond||The Black Gate is Closed||The Field of Cormallen|
|The Ring Goes South||Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit||The Steward and the King|
|A Journey in the Dark||The Windows on the West||Many Partings|
|The Bridge of Khazad-dûm||The Forbidden Pool||Homeward Bound|
|Lothlórien||Journey to the Crossroads‡||The Scouring of the Shire*|
|The Mirror of Galadriel||The Stairs of Cirith Ungol‡||The Grey Havens|
|Farewell to Lórien||Shelob's Lair‡|
|The Great River||The Choices of Master Samwise‡|
|The Breaking of the Fellowship|
† - Chapter moved to The Fellowship of the Rings Film
* - Not In The Movie
|Note: This table is likely to elicit some controversy, so further explanation is in order. The table is intended to show the relative amount of each chapter that appeared somewhere in the three movies. For example, none of the material of 'The Shadow of the Past', which is chapter 2 of The Fellowship of the Ring, appears at that place in the movie. Instead, all of its material is spread out in various places throughout the three movies. Much the same could be said for 'The Council of Elrond'. Decisions about color-coding were based on rough percentages. Red is used when less than about 10% of the material from the chapter appeared in the final, extended-edition movie. Blue is used for up to about 66%. And green is used for more than 66%. In some cases, such as 'The Departure of Boromir', the material was just shifted from one film to another.|
Differences of SubstanceEdit
The differences between the story and the screenplay take various forms and degrees, and while they are mostly of a trivial nature, there are some differences that alter the major themes of the story.
The Hope of the WestEdit
One of the most important thematic differences is the alteration of the state of mind of the lords of Middle-earth in their conflict with the Dark Lord. In Tolkien's story, they understood their role in the struggle and shouldered their burden with purpose and resolve—even in the long years when they despaired of hope in a successful outcome. In addition to the Ruling Ring, there were the Three Rings that had been made for the Elf-lords by the Elvish craftsman Celebrimbor. It was by the Three Rings that the Elf-lords and Gandalf, who wielded Narya, the Ring of Fire, resisted the power of the Dark Lord. So great was the power of these rings that Sauron's mind was unable to penetrate the realms in which they were at work—Rivendell and Lothlórien. While the lords of the West did not always hope for final victory, they vigorously carried out their appointed task and depended on the Valar to help them. Gandalf, himself being a Maia, was an emissary of the Valar to aid the Elf-lords in contesting Sauron. Moreover, Aragorn, who was the Heir of Isildur, had been raised in preparation for his role in the final struggle with Sauron. Such hope was placed in him that his name among the Elves had been Estel, which means 'hope' in their language. Long before the War of the Ring, Aragorn had fought under another name as a disguise in the wars of Gondor and Rohan and had openly embraced his destiny, and the Elf-lords saw in him portend of the final end of the struggle whether to victory or to defeat. He had prepared for that war, and they had prepared with him in such ways as they could. The Valar, too, had opened the way by placing the Ruling Ring under the power of the council of Gandalf and Elrond, and they knew the great chance that it offered—indeed the only chance they had for victory. They seized that chance and sent the ring to the Cracks of Doom. Even before these events, Aragorn and Gandalf had worked side-by-side for many years toward the accomplishment of their desired ends.
In the screenplay, the Elf-lords had abandoned all hope and saw no chance for victory—even when presented with the opportunity of defeating Sauron by destroying the Ring. The last of their people were fleeing Middle-earth, and Elrond in particular appears determined to surrender Middle-earth to the Dark Lord. Since the fall of Isildur, Elrond had lost confidence in men and had no hope that they would be reliable allies against Sauron. He regarded the struggle to be one of inevitable defeat and took no more thought of it than on how to effect the escape of his people before the end.
Gandalf was in great fear and doubt himself. While he still saw a glimmer of hope in Aragorn, he was in a state of near panic about the imminent threat of the Ringwraiths. Far from having confidence in the work of the Valar, at the beginning, Gandalf was almost in a state of madness over the discovery that the hobbit's ring was the Ruling Ring. (In the book, his mood is one of deep but calm deliberation.) As the movie progresses, Gandalf becomes more secure in the rightness of their Quest such that he is able to speak of being reassured that Frodo "was meant to have the Ring". This is, of course, a veiled reference to the work of the Valar. When he is met in Fangorn Forest by Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, he has finally come into his full power and intended purpose, and though his doubts continue to haunt him, his resolve from that time never falters.
Unlike his character in the book, Aragorn had refused to embrace his calling to challenge Sauron and make a play for the kingship of Gondor, openly declaring that he did not desire the task. When Gandalf reminded Elrond that there was "one who could reclaim the throne of Gondor", Elrond declared that the man (meaning Aragorn) had 'turned away that path long ago—he has chosen exile.' While Aragorn did wish to wed Arwen, there did not seem to be anything that he cared to do to bring that about. In the story, her father's terms were that she could only wed the man who had become king of both Gondor and Arnor, and this was a driving motive for Aragorn through the long decades of his struggle. In the screenplay, there is just his love for her and no effort to achieve the end. Aragorn seems content to live out his life in peace and safety without taking up his forefather's sword. While in the story, he bore that sword wherever he went, at first in shards but later reforged, in the screenplay, he does not take it up again and accept his calling until nearly the middle of the final movie when Elrond brings the reforged blade to Dunharrow.
Instead of carrying on the long defeat in nobility and wisdom such as they had, the lords of Middle-earth were in a state of despair and hopelessness from which each took his own time in recovering. Even Arwen allowed herself briefly to forsake her oath to Aragorn and take, for a time, the road toward the Havens and escape. Except perhaps Galadriel, there were none who held a noble head in purpose and resolve against the Dark Lord at the beginning of the screenplay. This was most likely done in order to add tension to the movie.
The Wrath of CaradhrasEdit
In the book, Aragorn wishes to go over Caradhras, where Gandalf argues to go through Moria. In the movie on the other hand they do not argue much over the way of transport. Instead they just ask Frodo his decision. Gimli is not afraid of Moria as portrayed in the book, but does not push to go there as is seen in the screenplay.
In the film Saruman uses the Palantir as a crystal ball to see the fellowship attempting Redhorn Pass, and calls forth a storm to thwart them and force them into Moria which is unsuccessfully repelled by Gandalf. This is drastically different from the book. In the book Saruman has not yet been revealed to have a Palantir, Saruman is likely unaware of the location and perhaps the very existence of the fellowship, and the storm is portrayed as coming from the ill will of the cruel mountain itself which Gimli curses when feeling it.
The Breaking of the fellowshipEdit
In the book; the Fellowship rest on the shore of the Anduin river while they discuss if they should go to Minas Tirith or to Mordor to destroy the The One Ring. Because of the hard decision he has to make, Frodo asks Aragorn for one hour to decide where to go. It is during this time that Boromir chases Frodo and tries to take the Ring from him. In the movie on the other hand, the fellowship is collecting wood for a fire when Boromir finds Frodo and tries to take the ring. Another difference is the attack of the Uruk-hai. In the book, the fellowship are aware of the enemy as they were ambushed at the rapids of Sarn Gebir but in the movie they are all caught by surprise.
In the movie, Frodo is seen meeting Aragorn after fleeing to the seat on Amon Hen, when he is given Aragorn`s permission to carry on the quest alone, and shortly thereafter Merry and Pippin are seen conniving in Frodo`s departure by distracting the orcs so he can get away. This doesn't happen in the book. In the book, Frodo leaves on his own without meaning to go with anyone else. However, Sam figures it out and rushes to his master to help him where Frodo has mixed feelings about taking Sam with him but he finally relents. Boromir's death is also changed as in the book he is slain by numerous unnamed orcs while in the movie he is shot by the Uruk-hai commander Lurtz.
The Role of the ElvesEdit
A number of curious alterations exist in the screenplay pertaining to the role of the Elves in the war. The largest and most significant of these is the presence of an Elvish army at the Battle of Helm's Deep. No such force came to Helm's Deep in Tolkien's story, and what Elvish force did exist was required to repel an attack on Lothlórien by a small force from the ancient fortress of Dol Guldur.
To understand the significance of this difference, one must go back to the secret purpose of the Quest of Erebor. That quest, which is told in somewhat of a fanciful way in Tolkien's story The Hobbit, had been organized by Gandalf ostensibly to destroy the dragon, Smaug, and restore the kingdom of Dwarves at Erebor, the Lonely Mountain. There was, however, an underlying purpose to that event. Erebor lay in the far northern lands of Middle-earth on a path by which the armies of Sauron could bypass Gondor and penetrate deep into the West. By the overthrow of Smaug and the restoration of the Dwarf kingdom at Erebor, Sauron's northern march was checked. By the further resettling of the city of Dale by the men who had been displaced from Lake Town, Sauron's opportunity in that direction was further quashed. It is clear, from this, that Gandalf was already laying out his strategy for confronting Sauron, and it further puts the lie to the panic and despair that he had in the movie at the discovery of the Ruling Ring. Indeed, the Ring would represent to him a great hope to further, unexpectedly, his cause.
Aside from the northern route into the West, there was also a central path that might have been of some use to Sauron, but the Quest of Erebor eliminated it as well. Following the Battle of Five Armies that brought the Quest of Erebor to a successful completion, the Orcs of the Misty Mountains were substantially reduced in number, and the Beornings who lived between the mountains and Mirkwood Forest were greatly multiplied. It was the men of Beorn and the Elves of Lothlorien that prevented Sauron from exploiting an invasion of the west through the forest and over the mountains. His force at Dol Guldur was used in the war, but it was of insufficient strength to be of any credible threat. Its only purpose was to prevent possible northern allies from coming to the aid of Rohan and Gondor. In consequence of this force, the only significant Elvish army that then existed in Middle-earth was completely occupied in the defense of Lothlórien.
One other way in which the Elves resisted Sauron to great effect was by the power of the rings that they bore. When Sauron first took up the Ruling Ring and uttered the accursed incantation, he was unmasked to the Elves, and they immediately removed the rings that they wore and thus prevented him from bringing them under his dominion. When the Ruling Ring was lost, the Elves again took up their rings and used them to heal the hurts of the world and, eventually, to resist the dark power as it slowly regained its former strength. Although the power of the Elvish rings was tied to that of the One, they gladly would work toward its destruction and in so doing accept the loss of their own. Of the rings of the Elf-lords, Elrond stated at the Council, "They are not idle. But they were not made as weapons of war or conquest: that is not their power....But all that has been wrought by those who wield the Three will turn to their undoing, and their minds and hearts will become revealed to Sauron, if he regains the One. It would be better if the Three had never been. That is his purpose." The might of the Elves to resist Sauron by the power of the Three Rings was great when they were wielded in strength of purpose. In the screenplay, the only one of the Three that was revealed in any detail was Nenya, the Ring of Adamant, which was worn by Galadriel.
Entmoot: Differences Between the Books and MoviesEdit
Entmoot is a meeting of Ents. In both the story and screenplay, such a meeting occurred in a place in Fangorn Forest called Derndingle. The circumstances and outcome of the meeting however were very different between the two. In the book, the felling of the trees by the Orcs of Saruman had angered the Ents, and the coming of the hobbits, Merry and Pippin, had boiled them over. It was the news that they had brought to Treebeard that caused him to realize that the forest was in danger of destruction and that the Ents must take their part in the war. The Entmoot was called, and in it, Treebeard slowly laid out the situation to the other Ents. It was not that they had to be talked into war so much as they needed to rationally deliberate the provocations so as to justify doing so. The Ents living in the southern part of the forest that had been savagely felled by the Orcs had already spread the word of the attack, and one among them, Quickbeam, had decided in a haste that was uncharacteristic of Ents that war was necessary. The outcome of the Entmoot was that they decided to go to war against Saruman, and they began their march to Isengard.
In the movie, the story is much different and incongruous. The Ents were strangely unaware that Saruman's Orcs had been harvesting the forest, and so remained in blissful ignorance of their danger. When Merry and Pippin came, their report of the events in the wider world brought about the Entmoot, but the outcome was totally different. The Ents, still not knowing of the felling of the trees, decided that the war was not their affair and that they would just stay out of it. Even though he had met with Gandalf, as in the book, Treebeard was still utterly ignorant of the events that were rapidly overtaking him. (Note: Just prior in the film, Treebeard had accused Pippin and Merry of being Orcs, knowing that Orcs have been coming with axes and fires to cut down the forest and drive Saruman's machines of war.) Despite the pleas of the hobbits, the Ents remained steadfast in their conviction that they were not taking part in the war. As Treebeard explains, they won't get involved in the war because it is a war between peoples of Middle-earth who never paid any attention to the Ents, and therefore are not on the Ents' "side." After the Entmoot Treebeard took his journey to the western border of his land to send the hobbits on their way home. During this journey, an idea came to Pippin, and he asked Treebeard to turn to the south. (Aside from this, because Fangorn Forest was on the eastern side of the Misty Mountains, a journey to the west would have forced them to the south and directly into the valley of Saruman anyway.) As a result, Treebeard discovered for the first time that the southern part of the forest had been destroyed by the Orcs of Saruman. As Pippin expected, the discovery of the ravaged wood so angered Treebeard that he declared war on the spot. Calling for the other Ents, who were, mysteriously, in position to immediately step out of the wood, Treebeard took them to war. These Ents might arguably have resided locally or been 'escorts' on the journey, but how they could be right there on the edge of the forest but remain ignorant of the depredations of the Orcs is never explained.
The Treason of IsengardEdit
When Gandalf arrives at Isengard in the film, Saruman greets him and they take a walk in the gardens, then go to Saruman's study in Orthanc, where they converse about Sauron's forces. Saruman takes Gandalf to his throne room to show him the Palantir (when in the books Saruman is not revealed to have a seeing stone until The Two Towers). Saruman then reveals that the Ringwraiths have already crossed the fords of Isen and are currently searching the Shire. Gandalf attempts to leave and make haste for the Shire, but Saruman magically closes all the exits, trapping Gandalf in his throne room. The two wizards then have a brief argument, resulting in Saruman becoming enraged and throwing Gandalf into the wall with his staff. However, Gandalf fights back and eventually hurls Saruman through one of the doors. Saruman then telekinetically snatches Gandalf's staff, and sends him corkscrewing up through the ceiling, which he passes right through and lands on the top of the tower. Gandalf summons the eagle Gwaihir by means of a small moth. As Saruman comes to interrogate him about the ring's location, Gwaihir arrives. Gandalf leaps from the roof of Orthanc and lands on Gwaihir's back. The Great Eagle flies off with Gandalf.
In the book, this event is very, very different. After leaving Bag End in June and telling Frodo that he must leave by the end of September, Gandalf is met by Radagast in the Southfarthing. Radagast tells him that he has been sent by Saruman to inform him that the Nazgul are abroad and looking for a location called "Shire." Gandalf decides to visit Isengard and instructs Radagast to tell all the "birds and beasts" to send messages to Saruman and Gandalf there. When Gandalf arrives at Orthanc, there are people there, whereas in the movie he and Saruman are alone. Saruman and Gandalf begin talking about the finding of the ring and the power of Sauron, when Saruman eventually reveals that he has sided with Sauron and changed his title to 'Saruman of Many Colours'. He claims that since Sauron's victory is inevitable, it will be for the benefit of all that is good and noble in the world for the wise to be in positions of power. It is not clear whether Sarauman believes this or is just trying to sway Gandalf, but his character is significantly more nuanced than the evil caricature in the film. Gandalf is forced to surrender, as he knows that he can not beat Saruman. A few of Saruman's minions (it does not say whether they are men or orcs) take Gandalf to the pinnacle of Orthanc. Gwaihir arrives after having been alerted by Radagast and carries Gandalf off to Rohan. In this version, there is no combat between the wizards.
The differences between story and screenplay that are believed to be those that altered characters in some fundamental way.
One of the few remaining Noldorin lords in Middle-earth, Elrond, who is over 6,500 years old according to the book, has despaired of all hope and has lost confidence in Men. His attitude is one of capitulation, and his purpose therefore is simply to quit Middle-earth with as many of his people as possible. His opposition to the marriage between his daughter and Aragorn is taken to the extreme of deceit to prevent her from remaining in Middle-earth. It is only when he fears her outright death that he orders Narsil reforged and then delivers it to Aragorn in person. Throughout the screenplay, Elrond is deeply scornful of men. Isildur's fall was, to his mind, the fall of all Men, and he lacks any confidence in any Man or group of Men to save the honor of that kindred.
In a sense, Elrond himself has fallen. His fears dominate him until near the end of the screenplay, and his possessiveness of Arwen leads him to perpetrate a deception upon her. Knowing of her intent to forsake the immortal life and wed Aragorn, he deceives her by willfully withholding crucial information from her while convincing her to break fealty and abandon her betrothed.
A man presented by Tolkien as having a singular destiny for which he is prepared by Elrond and toward which he labours throughout his life, the movie version of Aragorn is, instead, a man of doubts turned inward. His love for Arwen becomes a weight around his neck, almost literally because of the jewel necklace she had given him. He is full of fears and self-doubt, and he is unwilling to embrace the destiny that had been pronounced over him at birth. He is named Estel, that is 'hope', by the Elves, but he is far from being the hope that they are expecting.
Aragorn had previously suggested to Arwen that she take advantage of her chance for a better life in the Undying Lands, and he later tells Galadriel that he would have her take the ship to Valinor, which is possibly a reflection of the doubt he suffers in the movie. In the story, Aragorn's destiny drives him as much as his love for Arwen, but in the movie, it seems that he would have Arwen without the kingship if he could.
In the story, his use of the Palantír to reveal himself to Sauron is a brilliant stroke that accomplishes Aragorn's purpose. Sauron is terrified by the sight of the blade that had once defeated him, and his doubts and fears cause him to miscalculate his preparedness for war and launch his offensives prematurely. In the movie, the strategic purpose of Aragorn's confrontation is not emphasized, leaving the possible impression that the use of palantir is reduced to depicting the increase of Aragorn's desperation, as Sauron manipulates the stone into showing a dying Arwen to him. In addition, the purpose of Aragorn's strategem is subtly altered, as in the film his purpose is not to necessarily goad Sauron into a premature attack, but to simply focus his attention off Frodo.
Frodo, who resisted the power of the Ring much longer than most others could, was depicted as succumbing to it much more rapidly and was almost completely overmastered by the time he had reached Ithilien. Of his interrogation by Faramir in the story he could say, "I have told you no lies, and of the truth all I could," while in the screenplay, he told a bald and brazen lie about "the gangrel creature" that had been seen with him. Even under the strongest influence of the Ring, Frodo never lied in the story.
(More on Frodo...)
Tolkien regarded Sam to be the "chief hero" of the story, and his role was a key one in driving the Quest to completion. The screenplay, however, has Sam actually abandoning his master at a moment of highest danger—a moment where, in the book, Sméagol was very nearly reformed, portraying an idea that Sam could turn back from the Quest even if so ordered by Frodo (in the movie version, Sam was seen walking down the stairs, crying until he accidentally slipped and fell to a cliff where he found the remains of the lembas Smeagol threw away. Angered, he looked up the stairs). There is no doubt that Sam's love for Frodo would have held him on the road even if he had to follow at a distance. He did not have to do so, however, because Frodo and Sam entered the tunnel of Shelob together in the book, and they fought the terror of Cirith Ungol together—until, of course, Frodo was overcome.
Faramir is a widely loved character in Tolkien's story. This is due to his wisdom and purity of heart that makes him a great leader and an excellent judge of difficult matters. Despite his love for his brother Boromir, he is his exact opposite. The Ring had no purchase on him, and he understood that it must not come near the White City. He and his men treated Frodo and Sam with courtesy and honor, and even Gollum, when he was captured, received only kindness.
A major departure in the movies is that, rather than assist Frodo and Sam on their quest, Faramir decides to send the Ring back to Minas Tirith, crossing the Anduin and forcing a dubious detour into the journey. However, while tempted by the Ring, he never attempts to claim it for himself. While Boromir tries to take it for personal use, Faramir intends that the Ring would be a gift for his father(although the temptation seems as harsh as it was on Boromir. In the movie version, Faramir, tempted by the Ring, intended to gain personal glory by taking the Ring to Minas Tirith). He also does not react with anger when Frodo refuses to give him the Ring.
The fact that Faramir and his men brutalized Gollum is another major change from his character in the book, and does not really match his character in the movie either. This is somewhat incongruous to the man that we see in the scenes with his brother. Other views see that Faramir's taking the Ring to Osgiliath may be explained by the desire of the screenwriters to have Faramir "grow" in his understanding, as well as create suspense.
It is likely that these scenes were given to us for the development of Gollum in the film. [In an interview, Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh stated that they changed Faramir's character to fit with the overwhelming power of the Ring. In the books he is impervious to the Ring's power, Faramir had the potential to take the all powerful Ring which corrupts all and he didn't. The screenplay writers decided that to corrupt Faramir would fit into the nature of the Ring better. The commentary further comments that to make Faramir so easily forgo the Ring fundamentally neuters it as a threat, and undermines Frodo's struggle.
Instead of Tolkien's wise and mighty Lord of Men who had simply been overwhelmed by the lies of Sauron, Denethor is turned into an imbecile and madman. In him, nobility is reduced to premature and artificial senility. It might be argued that this was done for time, story momentum and so that there would be no ambivalence about Aragorn's takeover, but the degree and tone of these changes are quite radical. For example, to plunge from the Embrasure Denethor would have had to run up two levels and entirely across the city, all the while burning to death.
For reasons that are not clarified in the film (presumably as breaking the One Ring would break the power of the other great rings into which Elves have imbued themselves, but this is not explicit), the fate of Arwen is tied to the Ring in the movies as she decides mortality over eternal life. Why this is so is never explained. Fears arose after the first movie that she was to be made into a warrior princess due to her replacement of the character Glorfindel. While Arwen seldom makes an appearance in the books, she makes a much more influential appearance and power in the films, such as a brief vision of her son Eldarion.
- ↑ Hammond, Wayne, et.al., The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, Houghton Mifflin, 2005, p. 667, ISBN 978-0-618-64267-0. Quoting letter ca. 1951 written by Tolkien to Milton Waldman, Sr. Editor at HarperCollins. (This letter was written during a brief period in which Tolkien was intent on switching publishers from Houghton Mifflin, who had published The Hobbit, to HarperCollins over a dispute about the inclusion of certain reference material into The Lord of the Rings.)