Cabbages Not Kings

Two Great Tastes

This week has shaped up busier than I expected, even as I wrote about my busy start of the year last week.  The page proofs for A New Clan in mass market arrived roughly two months earlier than I expected them, and with a shorter deadline.  Deep sigh.

Last week, in my FF, I asked a question.  Several people indicated an interest in my thoughts, and so here they are.  Thus follows my wanderings on how two of Jackson’s more significant omissions to the Lord of the Rings saga in the movies change the emphasis of Tolkien’s original story.

Let me start by stressing that I really liked the movies.  Jim and I saw each one in the theater (and if you know us, you realize that’s a Big Thing).  We bought the expanded versions.  We have watched them several times.

However, we’ve also read the books, both before and—perhaps more significantly—after we’d seen the movies.  The most recent re-read of the novels was actually a re-listen, as audiobooks during several long road trips in 2022.

Background established, here goes.  This time in particular, I felt that two plotlines that Jackson omitted actually changed the story Tolkien was telling in a significant fashion.

The first is the omission of the entire section dealing with Tom Bombadil.  I know some people find Bombadil silly and all that…  Let’s just take that as read.  He plays a very significant role in the novel.  He is the only person to hold the One Ring, put it on, take it off, and it has no power over him at all.  This is not an oversight on Tolkien’s part.  At the counsel in Rivendell, it is suggested the One Ring be given to Bombadil to guard and protect.  This is rejected because he’d just mislay it or lose it.  Again…  It has no power over him.

Even Sam (who is the only other person to give up One Ring) struggles to do so.  Only the fact that he loves Frodo more than he loves the visions the Ring gives him lets him remove it.

Omit Tom Bombadil and the One Ring becomes omnipotent, which changes the entire story.

The second change that Jackson made in the movies that I felt changed Tolkien’s story in a significant fashion is the omission of the Scourging of the Shire and attendant events.  Without this section, where the hobbits take charge of the Shire and associated hobbit territory, including their accepting responsibility for creating the land of pastoral peace they desire, the entire emphasis of the narrative changes.

The “return of the king” changes from a tale of the passing of responsibility from the prior guardians to a new and varied group that includes even the hobbits, to one where the king becomes the new person to run for help to when the going gets rough.  I can’t help but feel that in this context, Frodo’s “it’s too much for me, I’m off to the West” also changes, because we don’t see him stepping in to promote a solution to the problems in the Shire that will include as little violence as possible.  Instead, he’s a beaten soldier with PTSD.

To me, these changes are a pity because there are now generations of viewers of the movie who do not—as Jim and I did, without even thinking about it—fill in the parts from the book that weren’t in the movie.  Tolkien’s tale of learning to take responsibility, even when the challenge seems to be insurmountable, becomes more one of finding a new “parent figure” who will be in charge.

On that note, I’m off to read proofs and do all the other things… 

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5 Responses to “Cabbages Not Kings”

  1. Beverly Martin Says:

    Excellent! Thank you!

  2. A. L. Kaplan Says:

    Reblogged this on alkaplan and commented:
    Jane Lindskold brings up some important thoughts on The Lord of the Rings. I love both books and movies.

    What say you?

  3. James Mendur Says:

    I was not thrilled at how Aragorn went from an ambitious man, leader of the Rangers of the North, who planned for *decades* to be king … to an unemployed drifter in love with an elf lord’s daughter, who had to be pushed and coerced into making a play for the throne.
    It undercut the whole idea of Gandalf that Men were worthy successors to the Elves as the ruling group of Middle Earth and could stand up to Sauron. In the movie, the ones who wanted power all fell, and the one man who did not want it, but who had the right ancestor, became king.
    That’s a lesser point than the two you mentioned, but still important, I think.

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