Remember (years) back when everyone was talking about the Lord of the Rings movies and how amazing they were? I wasn’t one of those people. I absolutely love and adore the series by J.R.R. Tolkien. And though I do not like the movies, I was content to merely let my dislike stand amongst the shadows unless pressed.
While visiting friends in Arizona recently, I ended up meeting new people (it does happen from time to time). We were discussing various topics in the midst of which I stated my dislike for the movies clearly. One of the guys seemed shocked and ready to question, but I was using the statement as an example for a different discussion. The conversation never got back around to my outlandish claim, so this is my explanation.
I have the über-nerd complaints about the missing and mis-represented characters and secondary storylines, but those would not be enough for me to dislike a movie. I completely understand that not everyone will see the story the same way I do and that there is only so much time one can sit in a theater.
The movies fail in one major way – they miss the point of the story by not ending the movies with the scouring of the Shire.
For those who may not have read the novels, Lord Saruman does not die in the tower at Isengard. He dies in the Shire at the hands of Wormtounge after coercing the hobbits to “modernize” their land which begins killing the land, their way of life, and them. Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin return home to a much-changed land that they end up scouring.
See, in the novels, Tolkien writes the reason for the story when Gandalf bids farewell to the Hobbits on the border of Tom Bombadil’s forest. The hobbits ask Gandalf to come back to the Shire, and Gandalf tells them no, because he can see the road ahead of them. He challenges the concern they express at their ability to save their home by basically calling them out. Gandalf asks them why else they’ve traveled to the far reaches of the land and face the great challenges than to be prepared to handle the life of the Shire.
The moment where Gandalf points out the growth the hobbits have undergone is one of my favorites. It’s an assurance and a challenge to all readers who view themselves as being too small or unworthy to change their community much less the world. Each step we take on the journey back to our front door shapes us, and the story of the hobbits in the Lord of the Rings novels reflects this truth.
By deleting the moment where Gandalf turns a mirror on the 4 hobbits, and making the Shire safe simply through the destruction of the ring, the movies diminish one of the most empowering moments for those who discount themselves. The removal of the scouring also undercuts the purpose of having the hobbits take the ring to Mordor instead of one of the many, better qualified, humans, elves, or dwarves.
The movies were beautiful, and they did introduce a number of people to one of my favorite worlds, but I don’t watch them. They annoy me, and then when the whole series is over again, it makes me a little angry. But I’m also not one to discourage people from watching them. They are good movies. They just aren’t a good adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.