What It All Means

In the conclusion of these essays, we return now to the question of whether or not PJ’s Lord of the Rings films were faithful adaptations according to purist theory. The first two essays have given a brief overview of some of the major changes to the film. They are not intended to chronicle every single change that was made, since many changes (and cuts, and in some cases even additions) during the process of adaptation are acceptable to purists.  However, changes in order to fit a story to a new medium lose their purpose if the original story no longer exists in a meaningfully similar way.

With that in mind, many of PJ’s changes, cuts, and additions are far significant and unnecessary to be wholly shrugged off. In the first essay in this series it was reviewed how a number of major characters in the film were shown in fundamentally different ways than they had been in the book. For example, Frodo and Aragorn, arguably the two most important characters, both have dramatically weakened forces of will. Frodo is much less independent and steadfast, and Aragorn fights self-doubt till almost the very end of The Return of the King.

In the most extreme examples, these characters bear little to no resemblance to the original versions, and cannot reasonably be said to be faithful representations.  One cannot defend changes as necessary to portray a character in a new medium when those changes alter the fundamental nature of that character.

The second essay covers some similarly major changes to the plot of the story.  These are especially obvious in The Two Towers where the emphasis of the entire film is shifted largely to war, culminating in the now-massive Battle of Helm’s Deep, and away from the primarily Mannish saga of the book, giving a larger role to the Elves.  These changes do not necessarily make the story bad (though this is a highly subjective issue), but they do make it quite significantly different from the book.  As above, these and other changes tell a largely different story than the original, rather than the same story in slightly different form.

The result of this is that the films are not faithful adaptations of The Lord of the Rings.  It cannot be stressed enough that purists do not want a literal transcription of the book to the film, and accept some alterations, but alterations such as those summarized here represent fundamental changes to the characters or the plot.  Instead of simply making the story fit its new medium, PJ changed its very nature.

At this point the reader may be asking why it matters that PJ changed what he did. Of course, on a fundamental level it does not matter that much at all: the question of whether a film adaptation resembles the source material does not have any real importance in life. It is, however, an interesting question for those who enjoy thinking about such topics. Insofar as the question of faithfulness matters, however, PJ’s changes are significant because it means that his films were unfaithful under the purist theory of adaptation outlined in The Purist Manifesto.

Back to Changes index.

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