Thread: WHAT TOLKIEN MIGHT HAVE CHANGED IN LIGHT OF THE MOVIE
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Improving "deletions" might be noted too. For instance, should Tolkien have excised things like the Barrow-wights from LOTR?
I'll stick my head in the noose and say I think having Arwen in place of Glorfindel in "Flight to the Ford" was a superb idea (even if it's execution in the movie left much to be desired - later scenes between Aragorn and Arwen were mostly brilliant, I think!)
Anyway, what do others think?
[quote="J.R.R. Tolkien in Letter 210":2zpp3d32]If Z[immerman] or others do so, they maybe irritated or aggrieved by the tone of many of my criticisms. If so, I am sorry (though not surprised). But I would ask them to make an effort of imagination sufficient to understand the irritation (and on occasion the resentment) of an author, who finds, increasingly as he proceeds, his work treated as it would seem carelessly in general, in places recklessly, and with no evidence signs of any appreciation of what it is all about....[/quote:2zpp3d32]
The first is: I have always been curious about T's view that he was creating a Mythology that others might take up and expand (I trust I interpret my sources correctly). How does this fit with the truth that the Tolkien Estate won't have a bar of adding or expanding to his Myth (nor Eldorion neither!) Was all the talk of T starting an English Mythology which others could add to (enrich?) just pure bunkum? It was, indeed!
The second point is: this thread is not put up to seriously suggest anyone might be as presumptious as to tell T (if he was alive) that he should change anything. It's about asking interested folk on this forum to suggest what 'they' think would be an improvement if added to the text. Tolkien, quite rightly, only ever made changes he wanted to make. This subborn determiation to write exactly the book he wanted to write is totally respected. It's a key reason his works stand apart (and above, I'd argue ) all other fantasy novels.
By the way, this thread in no way encourages criticism of Tolkien's work - it's more a response prompted by love and enthusiasm and the urge to use one's imagination. I fear, seeing your quote, that you have missed the point completely!
NB I'm suddenly wondering: what would Tolkien have changed himself, if he had been Graced with the opportunity to do so? You know, he was never satisfied...
An example is the compressing of the time-frame between Bilbo's birthday and Frodo's leaving the Shire. And also the altering of Frodo's age. I think these changes did improve the pacing of the narrative. Though, in a sense, they captured the impression that many, many people (including myself) always gathered from the story as written.
Narratively in the book, the time-frame is compressed when Mr T simply tells us many years passed between the events in the space of a few sentences. But because such short shrift is given to Frodo's life in the Shire after Bilbo, this makes almost no impression upon the reader.
Likewise, Tolkien's description of Bilbo and Frodo's relationship always suggests a much younger Frodo than Tolkien actually explicated. I doubt that Tolkien would have altered his books to match the films, but I honestly don't think he would have been displeased with how these bits (and many others) were interpreted.
Bilbo was much older than Frodo. Frodo was always a youngish 50 to me! (Bilbo, come to think of it, was a youngish 111!)
NB It is a tangential thought, I know, but I was willing to accept substantially more compromise in LOTR than I am in TH. I think because TH is upfront far more filmable in my opinion, and therefore needs far less meddling with. (Away with you: White Council!)
I think that it is indeed bunkum. Tolkien's dislike for changes to the story in the process of adaptation is set out quite clearly in Letter 210, from which I quoted only a small passage. The idea of creating a mythology that others could add to is mentioned in Letter 131 (I believe) as part of a sales pitch to Collins but it is part of a description of his [i:bcvp80za]past[/i:bcvp80za] ideas that predated [i:bcvp80za]The Lord of the Rings[/i:bcvp80za].
I'm not entirely sure what [i:bcvp80za]I[/i:bcvp80za] would change and I'm not sure if I would dare do that to someone else's work, especially LOTR. I am confident however that Tolkien himself would not have changed anything, and that is the question the title of the thread was asking.
As to: "that is the question the thread is asking", could you please try to be a bit more subtle in your thinking on that score.
Is that what you're getting at Odo?
Actually, the whole point of the thread was to get us forum-type-people thinking about what PJ added or deleted and wondering 'if' we were T, might we have thought about adopting any of them.
Perhaps my initial post was ambiguous. I never thought of that until Eldorion seemed to take umbrage a little... Mind you, this is no citicism of Eldorion. I respect her because she is always on the look out for Tolkien Heathens. And it might be people like me she needs to be most wary of; what with me worming my way into discussions, a simple hobbit fom Rushock Bog (but you can't know that!), saying un-Purist things at times. Hey! I understand her fears. After all, I purport to be something of a Purist myself, but then I go off and join with all you suggesters-that-change-is-sometimes-okay type people. For me this cavorting is just an intelllectual adventure (promise!), but nonetheless I 'am' consorting with the enemy! I can see my behavior would make any true Purist suspicious! You see, it's easier with you GB, you're Heathenism is more out in the open and therefore easier to combat.
I'm glad it's not criticism, but I do apologize if I was too assertive earlier. I didn't think I was, though the quote (in fact all of Letter 210) is rather strongly worded. That's sort of the point though: it illustrates Tolkien's feelings on the matter.
[quote:2hvp1orq]I respect [b:2hvp1orq]her[/b:2hvp1orq] because [b:2hvp1orq]she[/b:2hvp1orq] is always on the look out for Tolkien Heathens.[/quote:2hvp1orq]
...I'm a guy.
[quote:2hvp1orq]And it might be people like me she needs to be most wary of; what with me worming my way into discussions, a simple hobbit fom Rushock Bog (but you can't know that!), saying un-Purist things at times. Hey! I understand her fears. After all, I purport to be something of a Purist myself, but then I go off and join with all you suggesters-that-change-is-sometimes-okay type people. For me this cavorting is just an intelllectual adventure (promise!), but nonetheless I 'am' consorting with the enemy! I can see my behavior would make any true Purist suspicious! You see, it's easier with you GB, you're Heathenism is more out in the open and therefore easier to combat.[/quote:2hvp1orq]
I think everyone agrees that change is sometimes necessary; the good debating is about how much change is necessary and for what purposes. I take a fairly minimalist stance on the matter, advocating change only when necessary to adapt the story to a new medium. Others of course advocate or at least accept change for many other reasons. I'm not as partisan as some I've seen though and I think it's great to have people like you, Odo, who flit back and forth between sides and challenge the ideas and assumptions of both. It makes things much more interesting and brings a perspective we wouldn't necessarily have any other way.
As to mentioning Tolkien Heathens. I coined that term especially to taunt GB. Yes, I'm a big bully. And when I say "big" bully, I don't refer to my "expanding" tummy! That's just middle age!
A Tolkien Fundamentalist believes nothig should be added or taken out, altered or revised from LOTR. This may make any Adaptation quite tricky - but we Tolkien Fundamentalists don't allow logic to sway us from our Mission. We're superficially like Purists, but are far more Spiritual.
Oh and I only know one Purist who is a closet Heathen. I just assume one in all in. It's a kind of bigotry on my part, I guess; but we Tolkien Fundamentalists don't mind a bit of bigotry - as long as we're giving and not getting.
Does that help?
I think it might a bit....
Do you mean from the book? If so I absolutely disagree, I think they're a good part even if I wouldn't include them in an adaptation.
[quote:2yc0ye8x]PJ himself actually thought they added nothing of real importance thematically.[/quote:2yc0ye8x]
I'm afraid I disagree with PJ on that point.
But what thematic importance do those chapters hold?
Just nit-picky things really
I don't think Tolkien would have done that, he states in Letter 210 that in [i:v8kqx8yj]The Two Towers[/i:v8kqx8yj]:
[quote:v8kqx8yj]The narrative now divides into two main branches: 1. Prime Action, the Ringbearers. 2. Subsidiary Action, the rest of the Company leading to the 'heroic' matter. [i:v8kqx8yj]It is essential that these two branches should each be treated in coherent sequence.[/i:v8kqx8yj] Both to render them intelligible as a story, and because they are totally different in tone and scenery. Jumbling them together entirely destroys these things.[/quote:v8kqx8yj]
For my part, I agree with Tolkien's assessment. I think he is correct about the differences in "tone and scenery" (for instance, there's not really a war going on for Frodo and Sam while a war is the major focus for the rest of the Fellowship). I also rather like the cutting back and forth, I remember from my first reading that it make me anxious to know what would happen to the other characters so I kept reading with great interest.
I haven't really thought about the thematic significance that much, but I think that it shows just how out of their league the hobbits are at that point and sets the groundwork for them to grow and develop over the rest of the book. Obviously this can be done differently, but if it were possible (again, time) I'd prefer the original.
The Bombadil scene doesn't advance the plot, it's a lovely digression that is just fine in print which we can read at our own leisure. But in a film with time and budget constraints, it's clearly one of the first scenes that can be cut without damaging the plot. And PJ was thoughtful enough to at least give it a nod by having Old Man Willow visiting his Fangorn cousins (as I've mentioned previously ).
Of course I wouldn't for a minute suggest that Tolkien cut the scene from his book.
[quote="Eldorion":36ee0jpo]I think that it shows just how out of their league the hobbits are at that point and sets the groundwork for them to grow and develop over the rest of the book.[/quote:36ee0jpo]
In other words the Bombadil, et. al sequence illustrates the theme of loosing innocence (the Shire) as the Hobbits are thrust headfirst into strange and dangerous places (the Old Forest and the Barrow-downs) and also sets the stage for the theme of the Hobbits coming into their own (culminating in the Scouring of the Shire). That's how I see it at least.
This was done differently in the films of course (though I'm still a stickler for the Scouring) and Bree was made into the first dark and dangerous place (a mistake in my mind, though Weathertop also served that purpose). I like the book the way it is, I just don't think that part would necessarily work on film.
We agree on something about adaptations? What's the world coming to these days?
I hope this is not a sign of things to come. My kids are already draining my resources.
Oh well, I don't have a cat anymore. So unless my dog finds out, I should still be able to make my mortgage payments...
Luckily, my dog does not like cats. Not saying that that's neighborly or anything, but at least he won't hear about things I don't want him to hear about!
Oh goodness gracious me! Isn't life complicated enough already?
On the issue of a younger Frodo I don't think Tolkien would have minded as I believe it's in keeping with the book. The youthfulness of both Bilbo and Frodo is commented upon by the worthies of Hobbiton and its source is of course the ring. If a hobbit matures at 33 that would be a human equivalent to 18-21 and it is at this youthful hobbit age Frodo comes into possession of the ring and his ageing slows. In the film he looks young before he gets the ring but he is the hobbit equivalent of a human about to leave his teenage years and the film skips the intervening 17yrs Gandalf is away so he should look like he's just out his teenage years. I think on film you best get that across by casting younger than the characters years but in keeping with the character of the original which is clearly youthful of spirit at the beginning.
On the point of Jackson making Bree a "darker" place, although I think Tolkien would have disliked seeing Bree portrayed that way, he would have understood why it was done. Like many of the changes it has its roots in the book itself, in this case the idea that refugees are coming north from the south lands- a problem more acute in the books in the months after the hobbits leave than at the time when they are there and before it turns to trouble ;"Some folk killed, killed dead!." Jackson seems to have used this idea to represent Bree as being over full, with the streets heaving with disreputable refugees in worn clothing. Therefore I think even where Tolkien would most likely disagree with a change he would have some respect for Jackson trying to represent the ideas. From a film point of view it also helps build up a sense of possible danger for the heroes which is present in the book in the characters of Bill Ferny and the squint eyed southerner- characters difficult to introduce at that point in the film narrative as a threat.
On the Bombadil issue I too would leave it out of an adaption but believe Tolkien would fight to keep it in. I would be sorely tempted however to find a way to include the Old Forest and the Barrow Downs, if only because the sword given to Merry and which he uses on the Witch King was forged for just that purpose in the days of the Necromancer- and its just that sort of tiny detail which gives Lord of the Rings its sense of depth and which hints at the religous questions underpinning much of LOTR in terms of free will versus fate and which I am sure Tolkien would be loathe to lose.
On the splitting of the narrative lines v's intermixing the scenes in Two Towers- I mentioned on another thread I'd edited the films for my own pleasure, and when it came to the Two Towers I first tried laying it out as the book does- one of the benefits of this is that the later Mouth of Sauron scene works properly as neither Gandalf nor the audience know if Frodo is alive or dead or where the ring is. However to watch as a film, because of the disparate lengths given to the Aragorn, Pippin etc line and the Frodo, Sam line, when you reach the point where Aragorn line ends its 1hr 50 in and then Frodo line starts and it feels way to long to watch another 1hr 10. Inter-cutting the scenes however works far better in terms of pacing the film but it does lose the sense of journey and emotional attachment the separate stories provide. So I think in the end I would come down -though I think Tolkien would stick to the high ground and defend the thematic value-on the side of inter-cutting because it suits the medium of film better, but with reservations.
I surprisingly found I like the Arwen scenes, even her replacing of Glorfindel makes perfect film sense if not any narrative sense but would have kept all her scenes in Fellowship and Return and in Two Towers just stuck with Aragorn having the odd moment of pinning- which the story line with Eowyn gives perfect scope for. I think Tolkien would not have minded the injection of the love story into the main story- something he wanted but could not find a fit for-but he may have found the means used often objectionable. I reckon he may have found a way if he'd lived to see the films.
On Aragorn the big question is would Tolkien alter him to be more the reluctant king of Jacksons version? - I'm sure Tolkien would see this makes Aragorn a more sympathetic character to an audience and whilst I doubt he would have rewritten him to be more like Jacksons, he may have brought more of the genuine conflicts Aragorn does have more to the fore.
Oh and one other thing Jackson (Weta really) does well but would not/could not effect the writing is Middle Earth itself. I think Tolkien would have loved to see the world, to have seen Minas Tirith up there on the screen; the Balrog and Gandalf on the Bridge of Khazad-Dum, Gollum sneaking up on the hobbits, the Charge of the Rohirrim on the Pelannor Fields, the Witch-King rising from the ruins of his mount, whatever his reservations about the adaptions.
Well that's everything I can think of off the top of my head so here's hoping its sparked enough interest.
[quote="pettytyrant101":t2bwk7jn]If a hobbit matures at 33 that would be a human equivalent to 18-21 and it is at this youthful hobbit age Frodo comes into possession of the ring and his ageing slows.[/quote:t2bwk7jn]
If we accept that 33=18-21 I would agree with the rest of your paragraph, but I'm not sure about that. I don't really think that humans mature at 18-21 (most humans at that age that I've met haven't matured, at least). While hobbits may mature somewhat slower than humans, I doubt the difference is quite that large.
[quote:t2bwk7jn]On the point of Jackson making Bree a "darker" place...[/quote:t2bwk7jn]
Your points are well thought-out, but I think that it was made darker for a different reason. In the book the Old Forest and the Barrow-downs are the hobbits' first experience outside of the Shire and a dangerous experience. It establishes just how lost they are while in the outside world and is really their first step on the road that will ultimately lead them to greater strength and autonomy, culminating in their liberation of the Shire without the help of anyone else. Obviously the end of these character arcs was removed in the film, but that first step remains, albeit in altered form. The hobbits' first post-Shire experience in the films is Bree, and Bree is consequently darker and more dangerous.
However, while I think I understand why the change was made, I still would have liked to see the Bree of the books.
[quote:t2bwk7jn]On the Bombadil issue I too would leave it out of an adaption but believe Tolkien would fight to keep it in. I would be sorely tempted however to find a way to include the Old Forest and the Barrow Downs[/quote:t2bwk7jn]
I've thought about this and, to be honest, I think the Bombadil scenes would have been very hard to work into the film. I agree about the Old Forest and the Barrow-downs though, but since Bombadil was important in rescuing the hobbits in the Barrow-downs it would be good to have him. Perhaps in an abbreviated role compared to the book. This one is difficult for me.
[quote:t2bwk7jn]Inter-cutting the scenes however works far better in terms of pacing the film but it does lose the sense of journey and emotional attachment the separate stories provide. So I think in the end I would come down -though I think Tolkien would stick to the high ground and defend the thematic value-on the side of inter-cutting because it suits the medium of film better, but with reservations.[/quote:t2bwk7jn]
Tolkien did say that he thought the storylines should remain separate in Letter 210, and he mentioned that they are pretty much unrelated (Books III and IV were only grouped together because the published wanted to print LotR in three volumes, after all) and in markedly different settings. I can understand those points but I too would have them intercut, though for a slightly different reason. I simply don't think that you can have a long developing storyline and climax in a film and then stop and begin a whole new storyline with its own climax. It would be jarring and would bifurcate the film very noticeably.
[quote:t2bwk7jn]I think Tolkien would not have minded the injection of the love story into the main story- something he wanted but could not find a fit for-but he may have found the means used often objectionable. I reckon he may have found a way if he'd lived to see the films.[/quote:t2bwk7jn]
I think the reason Tolkien could not find a way to insert the love story into the main narrative is because the love story was only marginally related. The bulk of it took place years before the LotR. Besides, Aragorn is, to be blunt, not the main character. The focus of LotR is on the hobbits, and while Aragorn is certainly a [i:t2bwk7jn]major[/i:t2bwk7jn] character, I think he got far too much screentime in PJ's films.
About Arwen replacing Glorfindel: I don't mind it so much compared to other changes, but I would rather have not had any elf shown up and let Frodo ride the whole way to the Fords of Bruinen on his own. At least then he could have shown a bit more spirit than a sack of a potatoes. I would have given Arwen a scene or two in Imladris though, even though that wasn't in the book. A few lines of description by the narrator works in a book, but you need dialogue and character interaction in a film (unless you want someone narrating via voiceover throughout the film ).
[quote:t2bwk7jn]On Aragorn the big question is would Tolkien alter him to be more the reluctant king of Jacksons version? - I'm sure Tolkien would see this makes Aragorn a more sympathetic character to an audience[/quote:t2bwk7jn]
I don't think it made Aragorn seem more sympathetic, it made him seem like a whiny emo kid. Seriously, "I will not take the Ring within 100 leagues of your city!"? Way to keep the Fellowship working together in difficult times. Aragorn had some moments of doubt in the book, and I think that was plenty. Besides, as I mentioned above, PJ gave far too much attention to Aragorn.
I also stand by my statement in my [url=http://the-hobbit-movie.com/forum/what-tolkien-might-have-changed-in-light-of-the-movie-326.html?view-post=3429#p3429:t2bwk7jn]first post[/url:t2bwk7jn] that Tolkien would not have changed anything because of the movies.
Thank you for your very detailed post, I've enjoyed responding to it.
On the points raised by Eldorion, a full and thoroughly enjoyable response, I had not considered the removal of Barrowdowns etc to be a factor in the matter of a darker Bree, but I think you are absolutely spot on.
On inter-cutting you sum up what I was trying to say about the problem of having two seperate tales better than I did, and I concur with your assessment.
With Arwen I would have liked to see more use of the places in the story where Tolkien gives parts of the history-admittedly few and far between but they exist- at Lothlorien when Frodo has a vision of Aragorn betrothing his love to Arwen dressed in white would be one example. And on Aragorn himself, I find in the books after Rivendell Aragorn would seem somewhat arrogant to a modern audience presented as written. He often lists his long credentials, he appears outwardly to suffer few doubts and none about his right or destiny- which is fine in book where his character is given depth and reason for him to seem "grim" but perhaps doesn't work so well on film.
I don't have my books handy, but I don't think Frodo's vision, such as it was, was particularly detailed or revealing of Aragorn's character. If I'm mistaken please correct me with a quote, but as far as I recall the account of Aragorn's and Arwen's betrothal occurs only in Appendix A.
[quote:s6eob4b0]And on Aragorn himself, I find in the books after Rivendell Aragorn would seem somewhat arrogant to a modern audience presented as written. He often lists his long credentials, he appears outwardly to suffer few doubts and none about his right or destiny- which is fine in book where his character is given depth and reason for him to seem "grim" but perhaps doesn't work so well on film.[/quote:s6eob4b0]
I agree that Aragorn might seem rather arrogant (he seemed like that even in the book to me), but that's simply what his character is. He's not constantly arrogant or unpleasant though. I see no reason to change a character just to make him more 'palatable'. There will always be people who dislike the characters one way or another, but I would rather see the true characters.
I'm not really sure why the true character of Aragorn wouldn't work as well on film as in the book. We learn most of Aragorn's backstory in the appendices, so I don't think there is as big a difference in room for depth between book and film. For that matter, the film actually gave Aragorn's character far more time for development, especially in FOTR.
"He (Aragorn) was wrapped in some fair memory: and as Frodo looked at him he knew that he beheld things as they once had been in this same place. For the grim years were removed from the face of Aragorn, and he seemed clothed in white, a young lord tall and fair; and he spoke words in the Elvish tongue to one whom Frodo could not see. [i:1sgvn5j2]Arwen vanimelda, namarie[/i:1sgvn5j2]! he said, and then he drew a breath..."here is the heart of Elvendom on earth...and here my heart dwells ever."
My point really was that if you are going to have the story of Aragorn and Arwen in the film then I would have preferred if PJ had used the source material as a guide for where to place it more.
On the point of leaving Aragorn alone I too prefer the Aragorn of the book, I found the idea of him being a reluctant king fearful of the blood in his veins weak and a cheap way to create a bit of drama out of the character- I didn't mean to imply Tolkien would adopt such means if he had seen the film only that it might have made him think of places where perhaps he could have presented Aragorn in more sympathetic light and less like a "noble horse" as one critic put it.