Book vs Movie: Lord of the Rings

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Tolkien spends pages upon pages describing scenery that filming in New Zealand can accomplish in one frame. The narrative is tedious and exhaustingly descriptive while the dialogue feels pretty cheesy and annoying at times, something I never noticed during the movies. I breezed through the A Song of Ice and Fire series, but this book took me longer than I care to admit. I first fell in love with the movies and I wanted to love the books so badly, but the books were awfully boring by comparison. I wanted to learn more about the Tolkien universe but watching these videos answered a lot more questions than reading the trilogy and it only took 10 minutes.

The movies probably feature the best soundtrack I’ve ever heard and it multiplies breathtaking cinematography. The books aren’t devoid of music as there are songs and poems every other page, but it’s not the same. It’s not the same! Seriously though the book is half songs and poems…

There’s no real depth to the characters, everyone is chivalrous and honorable, and for the most part they all make logical and moral decisions. Boromir and Saruman may be the only two people corrupted by the ring. Gollum too of course, but I felt he was more fleshed out in the movies than in the books.

Book lovers may have disliked dumbing down Gimli, Merry, and Pippin but there wasn’t any depth originally, they didn’t lose too much. Turning them into comic relief characters saved them from blandness that described most of the heroes.  Jackson didn’t go overboard like Lucas did with Jar Jar and I thought the comic relief characters had plenty of moments to shine, they weren’t just there for laughs.


Legolas and Gimili are not the bickering odd couple we see in the movies. I always wondered how Tolkien described the cool action scenes in the books like Legolas sliding down the castle on a shield while firing arrows and taking down a battle elephant by himself, to my surprise they just weren’t in there. Didn’t happen. Merry and Pippin aren’t really funny or mischievous, Merry in particular is actually pretty smart. Most of the plot was moved forward by their stupidity in the movies. Aragorn wants to be king instead of reluctantly taking it. The change didn’t bother me too much as I felt it gives his character development over three movies so I understand the change.

A picture is worth a thousand words, well apparently Tolkien thought that was inadequate and doubled the total. I feel stupid for not being able to appreciate them for what they should be, a masterpiece, and as blasphemous as it is to say that the books weren’t good compared to the movies, that’s what I’m saying. The small details that usually make books better than movies couldn’t compare with what the movie added- cinematography, humor, music, acting, action. There was somehow better character development in the movies than in the books.

I went into the books with the movies in mind and I think that’s what ruined the experience for me because I ended up reading a drawn out summary of a story I already knew. I expected the action to be less impressive, but I never realized that the humor and quotable lines I fell in love with weren’t in the books either.

The Tolkien estate got no money from the movies because apparently the movies didn’t gross any profits, but I don’t feel too bad for the family. Peter Jackson took those shitty books and turned them into great movies. Kidding, but I still think Movies > Book.

I went over the differences I noticed while reading the books, I’m sure I missed a ton, but the title of the movie links in bold take you to the wiki that lists all the differences.

daa na nu na naaaaa

The Fellowship of the Ring

Aragorn fights with a broken Narsil, the sword that was used to defeat Sauron, instead of being in Rivendell on display. I think it’s less wrecked in the books than it is in the movies, but still, fight with a real sword Aragorn!

Gandalf – “You shall not pass!
Amazing line, debatably the best line in the movie. In the book it’s “you cannot pass”…so lame. I almost threw the book out of frustration when I read the scene in the book. ‘Cannot’ is like saying the Balrog couldn’t pass because the bridge was broken. Can I go to the bathroom? I don’t know can you? See how lame that is? Shall is like I’m not letting you cross Balrog, deal with it. Shall I go to the bathroom? There’s someone who’s comfortable with who he is. See how awesome shall is? Shall > cannot.

A girl I knew refused to watch the movies because it was a “dude movie,” we weren’t friends, but she’s sort of right. There’s few female characters in the movies and even less female characters in the books. Arwen, Eowyn, and Galadriel’s roles were boosted in the movies to give women more screen time, and still their roles were minor. I can’t think of another female character with a name in the books…or the movies for that matter.

Arwen is introduced in the movie by rescuing Frodo after he was stabbed by the Ringwraiths. In the books it’s Glorfindel, some random elf dude, who rescues Frodo and brings him to Rivendalde. I’m honestly not sure if she had any speaking lines in the book, but in the movie she at least had some river horse magic so that’s pretty cool.

Tom Bombadil, thankfully he’s not in the movies. He’s fat, friendly, and basically a mythical stoner. He saves the Hobbits early on in their journey before they get to the Prancing Pony and meet Aragorn. He’s basically useless to the overall plot, but he still manages to occupy fifty some pages of my time. The ring has no affect on him either because… well it doesn’t effect anyone. There’s no point to his character and the movies benefited from his removal.  This fan wrote an amazingly interesting theory on Bombadil that could make him the best part of the story though.

When Saruman reveals he’s evil he changes his title to ‘Saruman of Many Colours,’ how lame is that?! That sounds like an old man coming out of the closet, not a wizard declaring he’s all-powerful and evil.

It takes 17 years for Frodo to leave the Shire, it’s ridiculous. All that time Gandalf is searching for evidence to confirm the ring of power is indeed the ring Frodo has, we all know it’s the ring!, but it takes him years to come to the conclusion. He’s searches for clues like being wrong would end the world, but not hurrying up is what will end the world! Gandalf the Slow.

The mines of Moria scenes gets fewer pages than most of his songs.

“We’ve had one yes, but what about second breakfast.” Not in the books!

And you have my sword, and you have my bow, AND MY AXE.” Not in the books!

“One does not simply walk into Mordor.” Not in the books!

The Two Towers

lotr best quoteNot in the books!

The ending scene in the first movie doesn’t have Boromir die until the first chapter of The Two Towers. Tolkien ends the first book during the middle of a skirmish and basically having a character die offscreen. Tolkien spends hundreds of pages describing a snowy mountain, but zero pages describing this fight scene. Aragorn comforts him as he dies and the gang decides to chase after the Uruk-hai that swept off Merry and Pippin. If I didn’t have the version of the book that merged the trilogy together I would be pissed with the Fellowship ending. There’s no badass Uruk-hai that fights Aragorn or kills Boromir, I don’t think there are many orcs with names.

The battle at Helmsdeep gets less pages than most of his poems.

The giant spider Shelob is in the 2nd book while she’s the main obstacle for the pair in the third movie. Learning about Shelob and Gollum’s relationship was my favorite part about the books.

Fewer battles in the book, like there was no hyena wolf skirmish where Aragorn “dies.”

Gollum seems less involved and less developed in the books than in the movies.

The Ents decide to go to war in the books, but in the movie Pippin tricks the Ents into going south to see the destruction Saruman did to their lands to spur an attack. It’s Pippin’s first smart decision in the movie and I thought it was pretty clever despite it not making too much sense.

Faramir’s character is kind of total jerk in the movies, but he’s almost too perfect in the books. He’s helpful to Sam and Frodo in the books almost immediately. He, like seemingly everyone else, isn’t swayed by the ring at all and he doesn’t torture Gollum. So he’s a lot more likable in the books and butchered in the movies, one of the few things I liked better in the books.

“You have no power here.”  Not in the books!

The gunpowder suicide Uruk-hai that Aragorn begs Legolas to take down during the battle at Helmsdeep, not in the books!

return of king

The Return of the King

The warning beacons of Gonder are lit!…without the help of Pippin and Gandalf. Pippin stealthily starting the chain reaction for the lighting of the other beacons on the mountain range was beautiful. I don’t care how ridiculous it is to have people living on top of a mountain their whole life just to light those beacons, the landscape shots were amazing. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is anticlimactic in the books as the beacons are already lit when the two get to Minas Tirith…so lame.

Instead of intercutting between the story lines the books focus on one group until it’s done and then switches to the other. I didn’t like that as much.

Sam and Frodo spend most of their time wandering in Mordor. Return of the King is actually pretty short compared to what the two do in the second book.

Aragon doesn’t say “you bow to no one” to the hobbits during his coronation.

Witch King – “Old fool! This is my hour. Do you not know Death when you see it?”
That was actually in the books and it’s a pretty awesome quote not in the movies. I don’t think this guy should have been stronger than Gandalf in the movies, but it’s not like the two fought in the books or anything. After saying this to Gandalf the Witch King leaves! They don’t even throw things at each other.

When the Steward Denethor goes crazy and tells the people of Minas Tirith to surrender Gandalf smacks him down and says “Prepare for battle” while pretty much taking over from there. This isn’t in the books. The Denethor isn’t as crazy and Gandalf isn’t as badass during the battle for Minas Tirith.

Merry and Pippin don’t lead the charge at the Black Gate…Merry isn’t even allowed to go in the books.

Faramir and Eowyn fall in love at first sight in sick bay after the battle at Minas Tirith. Tolkien may be a genius at creating other worlds, but he can’t write romance at all. Maybe he’s not Fifty Shades of Grey bad, but he’s Ayn Rand bad at writing romance.

It still ended 50 times in the book. People complain about that in the movies, but it may have been worse in the books. My least favorite thing may have been how Saruman was handled.

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Saruman dies at the beginning of the 3rd movie. Saruman is trapped in Orthanc surrounded by Ents and the Fellowship. He insults Wormtongue too much and he gets pushed off the top of the tower falling to his death. Done, his story is over with. In the books Treebeard lets Saruman leave the tower after the war because he believed Saruman wasn’t evil anymore. Saruman lost all his powers but still had the power of persuasion, but come on Treebeard, this wizard went brawny lumberjack on your tree friends. Don’t forgive him!

Gandalf and the hobbits pass Saruman on the road disguised as a homeless man and recognize him instantly. They don’t stop or capture him even though they all know he’s still evil. Saruamn’s like, “hey I hope nothing bad happens to the Shire” *wink wink* and they still let him on his merry fucking way! Somehow they take longer to get home on horseback than this homeless wizard with no powers and when they do get back the Shire’s been taken over by some mysterious evil person, I wonder who could it be!? Apparently it’s some evil hobbit mentioned during the first chapters of the book that teamed up with Saruman! He destroys the Shire, but then Saruman takes over when he gets there. Seriously I’m not making this up, this happened.

Gandalf doesn’t help them because he’s too old for this shit. Saruman’s coup of the Shire allowed Tolkien to demonstrate how the hobbits matured during their journey and how they’ve grown, but it was completely unnecessary and anticlimactic after they just saved the world. Of course they’ve grown and matured, thanks for telling us that message again Tolkien! Retaking the Shire may be the longest written battle scene in the books… When they finally surround Saruman they don’t kill him because Frodo forgives him…even though half the Shire’s been burned down and Saruman’s been a dickhead the entire series, but okay, Frodo is figuratively the bigger man. Frodo is pure despite having no trouble killing orcs, giant spiders, and evil towers with great vision, but Saruman is where he draws the line. And then Saruman’s all like, “aw because you let me live you truly did beat me!” So lame. Wormtongue slices Saruman’s neck after Saruman pushes his buttons too far and then Wormtongue gets shot with a bunch of arrows, pretty much what happened in the movies, but Tolkien takes a roundabout way to get the same result.


8 thoughts on “Book vs Movie: Lord of the Rings

  1. I love lord of the rings, and I just think that the books are more detailed then the movies. The reason why is because in the books, they give more away, and in the movies, they leave a lot out. Don’t get me wrong or anything about not liking the movies, because I do like them, but the books are a lot better to be honest.

    • I think if I read the books before the movies I’d agree with you.
      And I usually always side with the books being better than the movies for having more detail, but in this case I found the movies better.

      • Yeah, that is very true. I love the movies. Its just that they leave out a lot of stuff which doesn’t seem right.

  2. Best movies ever!!!! I watched the first movie before reading the first book. Then I read the second book before watching the second movie. It was better seeing the movie first. And usually I never say that. But those movies are just awesome.

  3. I read those books when I was a kid and adored the Ralph Bakshi movie in the late 70’s. You have to take into account that J.R.R. Tolkien was the grandfather of 20th century fantasy novels and his profession wasn’t writing novels – he as a teacher for english and history. So his descriptions are kinda dusted and the characters are very stereotype. Even the races of middle earth have certain simple character traits to distinguish them from each other. Elves are mysterious and calm, dwarfs are grumpy and humans are noble-ish. It is stupid when think about it and I guess that is what Peter Jackson found too bland as well hence why he changed it. And it worked! There may be artistic changes due to the fact that movies are visual at first and you have to adapt things or even left out to give your movie a pace and logic people can follow.
    Tolkien’s books weren’t perfect but for their time they are masterpieces, like Jacksons movies and I don’t want to compare them since both give me different experiences that I wont miss. Unlike many other director’s, Peter Jackson loved those books and wanted to bring them onto the big screen and it saves alot of people the pain to read those books. It is not everyone’s taste, especially when you have to read through dozens of paiges where the landscape is described in detail.
    I remember having read Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “The Mists of Avalon” … I tossed the book in the corner after I was forced to read, what felt like 12 paiges of “meadow” description. As a writer you have to keep a certain pace and avoid drifting away in unnecessary details to not bore teh reader to death. You can slow down when it is useful for the plot – after a fight scene or when your characters in the book find the time to rest. I think that is the same with Tolkien – great ideas but pretty slow and sometimes dull executed. My biggest problem was always that Sauron & Saruman didn’t had real background to understand where their motivation came from, how they change and why.

    • Great comment, I think you hit the nail on the head distinguishing the differences.
      I’ve heard the Simarillion goes into more details of the universe and characters, but in the Lord of the Rings it sort of just feels like the dynamic ‘S’ duo are evil for the sake of being evil.

      • Yes, the Simarillion….well, I read that too but is more like source book than a novel. You can read it though, but when you already had troubles with the original books then you will hate this one for sure. I had serious trouble to follow the amount of details and information crammed together into that book. I think it is for hardcore fans instead for the casual reader and should stand on its own as an option to read and not a must-have.
        For me, the movie display really well what the books stands for without sacrificing too much. There are other movie adaption of famous books that totally screwed it but this trilogy didn’t forget its source and stayed mostly true to the original. What the movies made better was fleshing out the characters, adding more comic relief in form of Merry and Pippin and P. Jackson even managed to add some horror elements since he did some very gory stuff in the past, so he is no stranger to that as well.

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