August 28, 2001

Dreaded Changes to the Story
Steve L.

I feel extremely sad when I read about the changes that are being made to Tolkien's story, and I can't imagine how any of them can really be justified. I've been waiting for a quarter of a century for this epic to be brought to life on the screen in a way worthy of it, and when I saw the trailers I really believed at first that Jackson was going to bring it off. Now I'm not so sure.

For me, the first nagging doubt was raised by pictures of Arwen on a horse with Frodo, as if she were acting the part of Glorfindel. I got a sick feeling that changes are being made just to give Liv Tyler more screen time, or to appease some people complaining that women make few appearances and seem to play few important roles.

Now I'm reading that Arwen might even appear in Helm's Deep, and that Bombadil has been dispensed with entirely! Why don't they just write another story and give it a different name, instead of twisting Tolkien's story in the hopes of winning a wider audience and exploiting its name for gain?! Is LOTR going to be reduced to another commercial product like Star Wars, its incomparably richer story simplified and romanticized for mass marketing? I'm very afraid it will.

I suppose it was naive of me to expect Jackson to be truly faithful to the story. He probably isn't even free to do so, but bound largely by the dictates of producers.

For what it's worth, I think the story should definitely NOT be changed AT ALL with respect to characters or events. The only changes acceptable to me would be the addition of scenes and dialogue for some parts of the story that are described by characters rather than shown in detail (e.g., the battle at Pelargir) or explained in appendixes more than in the story itself (e.g., scenes from the relationship between Arwen and Aragorn).

Glorfindel is one of the greatest Elf-lords remaining in Middle Earth, a close friend of Aragorn's, and a living reminder of the glory of the Elves in the First Age. A thousand years earlier, it was he who prophesied to the last King of Gondor how the Witch King would finally fall--"not by the hand of man." The idea that Arwen can take over his role in the story is laughably ridiculous! I wonder whether Gildor, Elladan, and Elrohir have also disappeared or been changed for the sake of someone's convenience?

As it has been said by others here, Arwen is not some sort of warrior princess like Sheena! In the story, she is said to resemble Luthien of the First Age, renowned for her courage and the beauty of her singing--not for skill with a sword! When she comes to marry Aragorn, Frodo says, "Now...night too shall be beautiful and blessed and all its fear pass away." Gimli can forgive Eomer for not saying Galadriel is fairest, since Eomer loves "the Evening" (Arwen) above "the Morning"--which is only natural for a mortal man. Galadriel, who was among the first Elves to arrive in Middle Earth from Valinor, represents perhaps all that was best about that world before it was darkened by evil influences, wars and tragedy. That was the time of the Elves. Arwen, who renounces Elvenkind and immortality to live with Aragorn, represents the final passing of the last remnants of the Eldar Days--the beginning of the time of Men. As such, I think she represents peaceful acceptance of mortality.

Bombadil is of course another important character who should not be meddled with. I don't understand at all the problem of representing him on the screen. He is no less credible than Elves or Ents. He is one of the most important representatives of what is powerful, good and uncorruptible in the world. His home is a brief escape into a kind of natural paradise where people can be free from the conflicts and cares of society. Tom is a great and mysterious legendary figure of Middle Earth, and his presence enriches the background like the presence of the Ents. He also serves as a warning against the desire to avoid responsibility to destroy the Ring, since Gandalf must overrule a proposal to make him the Ring's guardian.

I also saw a picture recently of a servant of Saruman with a name like Lurtz--a character that seems to have been invented only for this film! A Middle Earth Sith Lord, perhaps?

Sorry to write so much here. Like all of us, I hope the films turn out to be spectacular. I just can't help fearing the worst when I see such major changes being made to the story I love. Keep your fingers crossed.