Tolkien vs. Jackson: Which One Rules Them All?

– by Andrew Charlton


Adapting any book into a screenplay is a difficult task.

You can fit more into a book than you ever could a movie, and there really is no limit on how long it can be. A movie though, a movie has to be somewhere between one to three hours, and should be easily kept up with by an average audience.

There will always be people who prefer the books or the movies.

Lord of the Rings is one of the densest, complex trilogies ever written, and I pity whoever had the task of turning that into a screenplay.


Understandably, a lot had to be cut. In the trilogy overall, sixty-two chapters were cut completely, with a further thirty-one that were substantially slimmed down. Only twenty-two chapters, less than half the trilogies content, actually makes it into the movies.

That seems like a gigantic amount, but with the Fellowship of the Ring alone having a full run time of three hours and forty-eight minutes, it becomes fairly obvious why so much was cut.

But things weren’t just cut. They were changed, fairly substantially in some places, to make the plot better for the big screen. Frodo didn’t wait until he was fifty before beginning his journey, the cities were less active, and far more pessimistic about their fate.


The elves, especially, took a hit. In the books, the elves are aware of their task, and fight Sauron to the bitter end. They also don’t make several of the battles we see in the movie, including Helm’s Deep.

Much of the lore was cut as well, such as the three rings the elves used to resist Sauron’s power. We get one mentioned, and Gandalf is spotted wearing another, but the significance they had in the books isn’t present.

An endless number of things will change through compromise, debate and decision, and it’s not for me to say whether they were good changes or not. There will always be people who prefer the books or the movies, in the end it’s a matter of opinion, but no matter what, things will change.

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