The LOTR Movie Site
July 23, 2000

The Scouring of the Shire
John K.

Here are some more reasons that I believe Tolkien fans are quick to criticize and quick to anger over deviations from the books.

Tolkien doesn’t just tell us a nice little everyday fantasy story in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, the author gives us a whole extremely detailed world, with a history, races and even languages all its own. So much specific detail is given throughout this history, if one wanted to know all they could about Middle Earth, it is pretty much there for the knowing, right down to the very plants that grow there. It is this painstaking detail that sets LOTR apart from fantasy novels of this genre in my opinion.

It is this incredibly detailed and thoroughly thought out history, that remains sacred to the fans of Tolkien. We know what his characters would do, and what they wouldn’t do. We know exactly when and where his characters did things in Middle Earth, the author even went as far as to realistically depict the amount of time it would take to walk or ride a horse over his map of Middle Earth. What are Elves? what are Dwarves? Tolkien doesn’t just use simplistic examples to define them, we are given a timeline with thousands of years of historical documentation in Middle Earth of who they are and what they are about, right down to their initial creation into Middle Earth. Elves, Dwarves and Hobbits are not just some loose fantasy titles thrown around, subject to changing. For instance a Tolkien Elf is not a Santa’s Elf by any stretch of the imagination. Elves in Middle Earth have a lengthy history, culture and well developed character psychologies given by the author. Deviations from the precise details the author gives us in the books are picked out immediately by fans in movies or other adaptations, this defines well I believe the harshness that abounds from the disgruntled Tolkien fan when such "wrong" things are identified. The details the author gives us are so completely defined and so readily available to decipher when reading the stories, that it leads to angered voices when things are contrived, changed or thrown out. Tolkien put a huge amount of thought and time into details of his characters and his world, and that is something fans don’t want to see overlooked or changed on a simple whim.

Here is a little example, from an massive multiplayer online game that was due out this year about Middle Earth. The development team, that was set on creating an extremely accurate depiction of Tolkien’s world, was canned. Why? Well, the higher ups stated it didn’t have... you guessed it "mass market appeal." The majority of fans were of course angry and outraged, yet the company decided to go ahead with their new plans for the game. Speculation overwhelms the game now, and a lot of the fans agree, that a Middle Earth game that is not accurately presented, with respect and integrity intact to the author’s very detailed and precise history, is not worth playing. If the game is made in this manner, and not congruent with the stories, or great in it’s differences from the stories and history of Middle Earth, there is no doubt with the it will still sell initially, but I think this decision will no doubt hurt the longevity of the title, if the fans of Tolkien, which is their target audience, don’t approve. The fact of the matter is, Tolkien fans feel it really isn't a hard thing to accurately represent Middle Earth, it's all there in the books for the knowing, in great detail. For instance, if someone presented the game in a generic "swords and sorcery" genre, where anything goes, and where Gandalf the generic Wizard type, flies around throwing fireballs at people, it would be a laughable thing to fans. It  would truly go to show whoever produced the game had no knowledge or respect for the content of the stories whatsoever.

What I cannot understand is, why these "higher-ups" feel that a multi million selling story, and six million trailer downloads on the first day doesn’t loudly scream "mass market appeal." It is plain to see there is a humongous fan base ready and waiting for the story they love to be depicted on the silver screen with mind boggling technology.

In response to John R.'s point in the case of marketing "The Thirteenth Warrior" or any film without a major female character, truly though, this is The Lord of the Rings, the name and the story will sell itself, no doubt, this is what the "higher-ups" fail to see, they probably haven’t even read the story, or at least not thoroughly, or categorize it as simplistic, every day sword and sorcery fiction and that is why I must believe they probably feel it requires "changes."

"I don't want a director's Lord of the Rings, I want Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. You don't change Tolkien's sequences, you don't combine, you don't collapse, you don't throw away. ... You change nothing if you're doing Tolkien. Why change brilliance? I mean, who the hell are we to change Tolkien? It's the height of Narcissus." - Ralph Bakshi

If Bakshi implies here that the story is well and there, and not to make any profound changes to it, I must say I totally agree.

Peter Jackson has made it clear that it will be his interpretation of LOTR. And that is exactly what it will be, no arguments, and I am very anxious to see it. But where I wonder, did he interpret Arwen to be a warrior? If this is indeed what happens, what led him to think that from reading LOTR? And why change things that are plain to see that they will upset fans? Which is no doubt your foremost target audience, unless I am mistaken. If someone is going to call their movie "The Lord of the Rings, Part I The Fellowship of the Ring", why am I so crazy in thinking that is the story we’re going to see? If you’re going to spend so much time re-creating the look and the feel of Middle Earth, right down to the runes on Eomer’s helm, why not give the storyline such attention to detail as well? And as artistic interpretation goes, I for one will be overjoyed to see the visions of Middle Earth come alive on the big screen. It is my humble opinion, that the majority of artistic interpretation should be given to the visions and the architectures of LOTR though, the storyline I think is best left in the hands of it’s author, and the dialogue interpreted and made to fit the movie format by the director. Changing the storyline in profound ways is just unwanted and unnecessary I feel, however well done even.

In my opinion, from what I feel and from reading the feelings of many other Tolkien fans, they are just asking for respect, respect for presenting the incredibly detailed work Tolkien created, and to keep the integrity of it intact on the big screen. Granted the books will live on forever unchanged, yet this is most likely our last hope for an extremely high quality depiction of The Lord of the Rings on the silver screen, and we as fans, would just love to see the real story told.

Changes... Why? Why are they so necessary? If the story is deemed to be so lacking in something , a love story, as many put it, why is it so wildly popular already? Why do people read it every year, year after year? Why is it considered by many the greatest fantasy story of the century? At first I thought Bakshi's opinion was a little harsh, but really, Who the heck are we to change the story? And why?