April 30, 2006 Book and Movie versions of Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring Adherence to Book’s Spirit Binds Jackson’s Film to Original Work
Impossible is what many considered the task of adapting J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic The Fellowship of the Ring into film. The first of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Fellowship transports readers to Tolkien’s fantasy world of Middle Earth, a land inhabited by odd races of beings and strange and horrific creatures. New Zealander Director Peter Jackson, with screenwriters Fran Walsh and Phylippa Boyens, poured untold hours into condensing the beloved adventure fantasy into a three-hour movie. Director Anthony Minghella described the dangers Jackson faced when he said, All readers are filmmakers in a sense. Reading is personal, particular and wonderful and it’s not for me to say my version is definitive. I’m just going to my inner screen and sharing it (qtd. in Puig). And although Jackson’s adaptation includes obvious plot exceptions, scene omissions and character deviations, the final product is remarkably true to the spirit of the original work and general arc of the book’s narrative.
Tolkien’s fans are legion, and their loyalty to his original work borders on fanaticism. They picked up immediately on the changes in story and dialogue Jackson made, such as:
The addition of a wizards’ fight between Gandalf and Saruman, dimly alluded to in the book but played out through Jackson’s creative filmmaking
Merry and Pippin stealing fireworks at Bilbo’s Long Expected Party
The deletion of Tolkien’s chapter, In the House of Tom Bombadil
The omission of the hobbits captivity scene The Barrow Downs
Frodo and Aragorn conversation before the breaking of the fellowship
But author David Howard said about adapting novels to film, If you stay faithful to every beat of the story as it’s told in the novel, it might not work at all in the film (qtd. in Nazarian). Jackson’s love of the source material, however, led him to include exact dialogue from the novel, even in odd places. Pity It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy. not to strike without need (Tolkien 92). This quote, from The Shadow of the Past chapter, made its way into the movie in a conversation between Gandalf and Frodo in the mines of Moria. Also at Moria, Frodo solves the riddle at the gate in the movie version, where Gandalf, with a little prompting, solves it in the book saying, Of course, of course! Absurdly simple, like most riddles when you see the answer (401). You should not be waking! Eat earth! Dig deep! Drink water! Go to sleep! (Tolkien 169), Tom Bombadil tells Old Man Willow in the novel. Jackson, in another trilogy installment, includes a similar scene as a nod to the beloved Bombadil character. Let him go, or I’ll have you, Longshanks! (The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring), Sam tells Aragorn in a Jackson addition that stayed true to the original content. And Boromir’s declaration, Gondor has no king. Gondor needs no king (The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring), while a departure from original text, alludes to the doubt and suspicion Tolkien lays on Boromir regarding Aragorn.
Indeed many similar examples can be made between the two works, but in the end Jackson and his team have created a remarkable cinematic rendering of a volume of work though too unwieldy for the big screen. His vision, realized in The Fellowship of the Ring, was that no matter what liberties we took with the dialogue and the plot, we did want to give people the feeling that we’d gone to Middle-earth to shoot this film (qtd. in Perenson). Anyone who has viewed the film will believe they have made that fantastical journey.
The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring. Dir. Peter Jackson. Perf. Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Ian Holm with Andy Serkis. New Line Cinema. 2001.
Nazarian, Eric. Prose and Pictures: A Conversation About Adapting Literature Into Film. MovieMaker.com. 30 April, 2006. .
Perenson, Melissa J. Director Peter Jackson Proves To Be the Lord of The Fellowship of the Rings. SciFi.com. 30 April, 2006. .
Puig, Claudia. Film Directors Don’t Always Play By the Book. 1 Dec. 2003. USA Today. 30 April, 2006. .
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fellowship of the Ring (Being the First Part of the Lord of the Rings). New York: Ballantine Books, 1954.
Director Peter Jackson said, We did feel very strongly that we wanted to be as accurate as we possibly could to Tolkien’s descriptions of Middle-earth. that no matter what liberties we took with the dialogue and the plot, we did want to give people the feeling that we’d gone to Middle-earth to shoot this film. Perenson, Melissa J. 30 April, 2006. Director Peter Jackson proves to be the lord of The Fellowship of the Rings. SciFi.com. http://www.scifi.com/sfw/issue244/interview.html.
The way Jackson solves the problem of visually stitching the narrative together is impressive: he uses scenery changes (as Steven Soderbergh used colored lenses in Traffic) to signal shifts in place, time and mood and keep the many characters in some kind of order. – Benson, Etienne. Into the mines of Middle Earth. 4 February, 2002. INTHEFRAY. http://inthefray.com/200202/imagine/lor11/lor11.html
Director Anthony Minghella All readers are filmmakers in a sense. Reading is personal, particular and wonderful and it’s not for me to say my version is definitive. I’m just going to my inner screen and sharing it. Puig, Claudia. Film directors don’t always play by the book. 30, 2006. USA
David Howard author and screenwriter said, You need to write a film according to specific needs that must be fulfilled. If you stay faithful to every beat of the story as it’s told in the novel, it might not work at all in the film. Nazarian, Eric. Prose and Pictures: A Conversation About Adapting Literature Into Film. MovieMaker.com. http://www.moviemaker.com/issues/38/38_prose.htmgt.. TODAY.
Pity It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy. not to strike without need. Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fellowship of the Ring (Being the First Part of the Lord of the Rings). Page 92. 1954. Ballantine Books. New York.