The LOTR Movie Site
March 10, 2000

Essay of a 16-year-old

     Before I state my opinions concerning the filming of this trilogy, I feel it is only appropriate that I prove my claim as a Tolkien purist.  When I was in the fourth grade, my father read The Lord of the Rings to me. I had heard The Hobbit on several occasions, watched the poor animation interpretation, and even listened to audio tapes of
the tale. Now I was finally “old enough” to hear what happened after Bilbo returned to Bag End. After hearing the chapter “The Council of Elrond” in the Fellowship, what should befall me upon the playground at school, but an adventure of my own?  Well, sort of.
     My best friend and I found a golden ink pen just lying on the ground. There was no inscription, but I assumed letters would appear if I held it in the fireplace. We tried to write with it, but no mark was made upon the paper. Lo! Invisible ink! Sauron’s hand had come to southern Ohio! I supposed I was destined now to be the Pen Barer.  I wanted no part of it, there was no drop of Tookish blood in me!  I approached the on-duty teacher and told her all about the dark lord’s evil schemes and the significance of the pen.
     “Oh, yes,” she said casually. “Well, I never read those little stories, but if you want the pen then I say finders keepers.”
      “No!  I didn’t find it!  Sauron’s craft isn’t found!  It finds you!”
      “Well, if you want it, just keep it!” She said becoming annoyed.
     “You don’t understand!” I cried, but the bell rang at that moment. Frustrated, I sought the aid of my classroom teacher.
     Poor woman. She was a substitute, and I think my usual teacher would have understood what she called my “vivid imagination.” This woman was not amused, “Go sit down. Young lady, either you are just stupid, or you’ve found a very clever way to keep from doing your vocabulary words!”
     “But Ms. Smith you don’t understand!  Unless this pen is destroyed the Black Riders will come and they’ll sniff around until they find me!”
     “That’s enough!” She cried standing. “Unless you want a detention, sit down!  And I’ll have no more racial slurs in my classroom!”
      That night I told my father I was embarking upon a quest to destroy the accursed pen. With a smile he said, “Well, I’ve been on many adventures. I think the pen was meant to come to me.”
      Since my ordeal seven years ago upon the playground, I have come to cherish these stories. Upon hearing there was to be a movie trilogy based upon them, I was overjoyed, for I am a deep lover of the theater. However, if the current rumors are true, not only will I be disappointed, but offended.
     First, there is the folly of cutting Tom Bombadil from the script. Perhaps many consider his character non-vital, but that is to say the journey of the four hobbits through the Old Forest in non-vital, and that simply is not true. The ordeals suffered by Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry in the Old Forest symbolize the trek into peril this quest means for them. Yes, they might simply meander into Bree, meet Strider, and suddenly be tossed into treacherous danger. However, the transition of the safety of the quiet Shire to the erie fearfulness of the Old Forest to the ultimate peril before them is much smoother. 
     On the other hand, I do hope that, considering Tom’s absence from the screen, the hobbits do not cross the Old Forest, for without his aid they cannot come out alive. It simply is not plausible. To say that mild-mannered hobbits, even Tooks, could waltz into the Old Forest, slay the Barrow Wights, or even escape the clutches of Old Man Willow, is altering the design of Tolkien’s creation. 
     Now we come to the horrible error of portraying Arwen as anything less than a symbol of elegant peace (I say less, and not more, because changing Tolkien’s character of Elrond’s daughter in any way can only be degrading.) I have read that Mr. Jackson admits he is only creating a “cinematic adaptation” of The Lord of the Rings, but what many do not seem to understand is that there is a long leap from “cinematic adaptation” to outright alteration of the essence of a character, or even the theme of a story.
     To create Arwen as a warrior is not only laughable ( or should I say it would be if it were not true) it unravels her character. This matter has been addressed by many talented writers on this website and I will not ramble about the abasement of her character for long. Let me say that I believe the ideas of Jackson are important, but not so as the fans of the Lord of the Rings, the patrons who have adored this work for so long. Above all is the intent of Tolkien himself. He seems as forgotten now as good old Tom Bombadil. 
     One issue I have not seen discussed (forgive me if I have overlooked someone mentioning this) is the effect Arwen as a warrior will have upon Eowyn’s role. The wonder of the Lady of Rohan was not only her courage and her skill, but her determination to ride to battle. Perhaps in our modern world it is not only assumed every woman from the elderly to the young have not only the power to fight wars to renowned victory, but that they would want to. 
     Whatever the world today is like, The Lord of the Rings does not take place today. It takes place in Middle Earth and the women of that realm did not commonly jaunt off to wars. As proof, recall the scene in the chapter “Battle of the Pelennor Fields” in The Return of the King.  Eowyn has just smitten the Nazgul lord and now her supposedly lifeless body is being borne from the battle along with Theoden’s. The Prince of Dol Amroth has just wept for the King of Rohan.  “And rising he looked then upon Eowyn and was amazed. ‘Surely here is a woman?’ he said. ‘Have even the women of the Rohirrim come to war in our need?’” 
     If Arwen and Eowyn fight in the wars it makes the presence of women upon the fields, and the fiery spirit of Eowyn, seem more common than Tolkien intended. Whoever owns the “rights” to the story, it shall ever remain Tolkien’s vision, and little if any should be altered.
      A final point I must make with a chuckle, why is Jackson even bothering to create these films? If he remained true to the books the dedicated readers would overflow the box offices. Perhaps he does not realize the vast number of people affected for life by this story. Yet, if he offends them to the point of driving many or all from the theaters, who else will go to watch? However he appeals to the “general” audience, the majority of non Tolkien fans will not set foot in a theater to see the films. “The Lord of the Rings?” They’ll cry abashed. “That’s as bad as being a Star Wars fan! No, worse! You have to read to like those stories!” I mean no offense to anyone. I am simply trying to make a point through over exaggeration. Please, do not respond with hateful essays simply because of the above remark.
     My guess is that if half the rumors are true, the movies will make very little money, yet if Jackson would but comprehend the magic of The Lord of the Rings as written by Tolkien, he could not only make astounding money, but add a link to the rich legacy of this story.