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January 7, 2002

The Book Ain't Perfect Either

Okay, everyone’s been ranting on about LOTR and complaining - often to the point of pettiness - about all the mistakes that Peter Jackson has (apparently) made in the movie. Well, I’d like to point out some of the mistakes that J.R.R. Tolkien made when he wrote the books.

Don’t get me wrong – Tolkien tells an excellent story in the LOTR trilogy. The thing is (and I know I'm going to recieve death threats over this) he just doesn’t tell it particularly well.

His narrative is incredibly long-winded. His characters are one-dimensional. He seems so obsessed with presenting the ENTIRE world of Middle Earth in the books that the relevant details of the plot get lost in the general miasma of history, songs, walk-on characters and lengthy descriptions of everything from Hobbit cuisine to the trees of Lothlorien. The Council of Elrond is far too long and completely kills the pace of the story. When Merry and Pippin are captured, you get so lost in all the comings and goings of the different Orc factions that you can barely tell who they’ve actually been captured by. And as for the much-lamented Tom Bombadil – what purpose does he actually serve in the story, other than to provide a fairly pointless diversion from the plot for three entire chapters?

Then there’s the things that should be portayed in the books but aren’t. Important elements of the story – Boromir’s obsession with the Ring, Saruman’s corruption, and Aragorn’s relationship with Arwen to name but a few – aren’t explored with nearly enough depth. And Boromir’s death, as portayed in the book, is one of the biggest non-events in literary history. This is the moment where Boromir conquers his demons, redeems himself for his fall from grace and lays down his life in a courageous and ultimately futile attempt to save Merry and Pippin from the Uruk-Hai – and it boils down to about half a page of text. Gandalf’s plunge into the abyss in Moria is handled slightly better, but not by much.

Okay, so the movie isn’t perfect. I spotted a few things that could have been done better. But it's faithful to the essence of the story, it fixes almost all of the problems I've mentioned above, and it only improves the better elements of the book.

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