Lord of the Rings

I have a backlog of blog posts that I wanted to get caught up on. This blog has been pretty academic lately, so I figured a change of pace would be nice. I figured I’d post some of my thoughts on the Lord of the Rings. To set the record straight, I really like the books and the movies, but I noticed something about the movies which disturbs me somewhat: in nearly every case where the movie deviates from the books, it is in the direction of weakening the characters. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the pattern is held. Here I give a summary list of the changes to the characters. Perhaps there are more examples. Are there any counter examples?

Character Comment ([M]=movie, [B]=book)

  1. hits his head in Bilbo’s home [M]
  2. staff is broken by the Nazgul [M]

  1. falls down, defenseless, when approached on Weathertop [M]
  2. strikes back bravely (although ineffectually) at Weathertop [B]
  3. ditches Sam in the middle of Mordor! [M]

  1. nearly gets killed by an orc, and needs to be revived [M]
  2. is not strong enough when looking in the Palantir, to counter Sauron (drops it) [M]

  1. information about the attack on Minas Tirith is leaked to Pippin’s mind during the contact with the Palantir [M]
  2. Everyone knew where the next attack would be, and the attack is rushed due to Aragorn’s confrontation in the Palantir [B]

  1. Eowyn is clearly afraid up to and including the battle [M]

  1. Faramir is seduced by the ring, and takes Frodo to Osgiliath [M]
  2. Faramir is only momentarily seduced by the ring, but quickly comes to his senses and lets Frodo go [B]
Eomer + Minas Tirith

  1. Rohan and Minas Tirith are not enough to combat the first army of Sauron, and need the dead (called by Aragorn) to clear them out. [M]
  2. Only the back-up armies and navies of Sauron are cleared out by the dead called by Aragorn, and the Rohan is enough to fend off the armies at Minas Tirith itself. [B]
King Theoden

  1. Theoden needs Aragorn’s prompting to help Minas Tirith. [M]

Any more?


About brianblais

I am a professor of Science and Technology at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI, and a research professor in the Institute for Brain and Neural Systems, Brown University. My research is in computational neuroscience and statistics. I teach physics, meteorology, astonomy, theoretical neuroscience, systems dynamics, artificial intelligence and robotics. My book, "Theory of Cortical Plasticity" (World Scientific, 2004), details a theory of learning and memory in the cortex, and presents the consequences and predictions of the theory. I am an avid python enthusiast, and a Bayesian (a la E. T. Jaynes), and love music.
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2 Responses to Lord of the Rings

  1. Ryan Smith says:


    Gandalf: The movie pretty much omits all his greatest uses of magic (e.g. causing a hill full of trees to burst into flame and magically growing himself by double his size), making him seem like the only Squib of the LOTR wizarding world. (I'm pretty sure in the movie his only real use of magic is causing the sun to shine really, really brightly)

    Elrond (and all elves): The movie turns them into brooding, dark, and entirely unpleasant denizens of Middle-Earth, while in the book they are fond of poetry, sing viraciously, and often laugh, joking, are very pleasant to be around. This really derails them in my mind. and takes away from the plot.

    Black Riders: The movie actually makes them far too menacing in my mind. They were supposed to defintiely stick out but to appear to be normal riders dressed in all black, which is why citizens of Hobbiton and Bree didn't freak out when they rode through, only noticed how peculiar and slightly menacing they seemed. Again, derails the characters.

    Sauron: The movie makes him look even more incompetent indirectly. In the book, the characters are careful to leave Rivendell and travel only under the cover of darkness, so that Sauron's many spies won't get their eyes on him. In the movie, they merrily walk along in bright daylight and are surprisingly never once seen (save one encounter with the black crows). Apparently movie-Sauron only has one flock of evil crow spies.

    Bilbo: In the movie, Bilbo does absolutely nothing at Rivendell except pass along Sting and his mithril mail (and give children nightmares when he tries to take back the ring). In the book, he is a key member of the Council to determine the best actions to take concerning the ring and even think he will be chosen to take Frodo's place as the ring-bearer!

    Farmer Maggot: All we see of him in the movie is a scythe chasing Merry and Pippin through a field (assuming that is actually him). In the book he is far more pivotal and is actually one of the key reasons the Hobbits don't get caught by the Black Riders.

    Tom Bombadil: Key character deosn't even make it into the movie. Enough said 🙂

  2. bblais says:

    I'm with you all the way, Ryan, except for Tom Bombadil. Even the BBC radio version, which follows the books quite closely, (wisely) omitted Tom Bombadil. You could skip that whole section and, as far as I can tell, nothing is lost.

    I also add one I forgot: Denathor. In the book, when he dies, he simply dies on the pyre. In the movie, he makes a very ungraceful and undignified run off of the pyre and over the edge of the castle.

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