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Old 06-21-2010, 06:11 PM   #1
Archaic Elf
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Did LOTR need more action?

I haven't seen the Lord of the Rings live action films yet, but we've all heard insults about the LOTR involving nothing but characters walking endlessly across Middle Earth. Obviously that's an exaggeration, but couldn't the story of the Lord of the Rings have been expanded to include more action to show just how destructive the entire ordeal was?

After reading the Unfinished Tales, there is quite a bit of material (and not just action sequences, although that's what I'll focus on here) that could have been added to the main story:

1. The battle between the rangers and the Nazgul
This could have been one of the earliest battles in the LOTR. It would add tension by showing just how deadly the Ringwraiths are capable of being...who else could defeat a band of rangers while outnumbered?

2. The battle of Dale
Where the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain and the Men of Lake-town fought against an army of Easterlings

3. The fall of Osgiliath, Pelargir (to the corsairs), and other cities
There are two cities in particular that Aragorn thought were secure, but he was surprised to have heard were fallen to the forces of Mordor. I'm pretty sure Pelargir was one...does anyone remember what I'm talking about here???

4. The battle of Mirkwood (the battle between orcs and Thranduil/the elves of Mirkwood)

5. The battle at the Fords of Isen.
This would really explain why Rohan was at such a disadvantage while defending Helms Deep...many of their soldiers were killed while holding off the Uruk-Hai at the Fords of Isen.


Personally, I think the LOTR is fine as it is, but I suppose that a few more chapters depicting some of the scenes listed above might add to the excitement. The battle at the Fords of Isen as it appears in Unfinished Tales is a startling omission from LOTR. It looks complete to me, but would it have disrupted the flow of the story? I don't think so...
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Old 06-21-2010, 06:59 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Archaic Elf View Post
I haven't seen the Lord of the Rings live action films yet, but we've all heard insults about the LOTR involving nothing but characters walking endlessly across Middle Earth. Obviously that's an exaggeration, but couldn't the story of the Lord of the Rings have been expanded to include more action to show just how destructive the entire ordeal was?
I think the 'destructive' nature of the War of the Ring was indicated well enough in the books. You have the Nazgûl's invasion of the Shire and their servants' break-in at the Prancing Pony as a precursor to the things to come in the first book.

All-out war begins in Two Towers and continues until the Ring is destroyed. Even then, the War comes to the Shire and more battle awaits the Hobbits even after Sauron's fall. I think overall the events you cite were left out of the main narrative because they contributed no more to that point.

Also, as LOTR was written, it concerns mainly the four Hobbits, and was 'archived' as a history of that time written from their point of view. The things they personally did not witness that are detailed were taken from the accounts of their friends, the others of the Fellowship.

Only the events at Pelargir were seen by the Hobbits' friends, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, and we do get an overall summary of what happened there.
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Old 06-21-2010, 08:50 PM   #3
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It all depends on what the battles are being used for.

Fact of the matter is, LotR is not meant to be an "exciting" book. It's supposed to be intense, and unfortunately adding in superfluous battle scenes distracts from the intensity of, say, the battle over a hobbit's soul.

Tolkien was masterful at using fight sequences to portray what he wanted to portray. Helm's Deep, for instance, is important because 1). it's the turning point in the fight against Saruman, and 2). it develops the characters of Theoden, Eomer, Aragorn (who challenges the Uruk-hai), Legolas, and Gimli. It's also a part of Gandalf's Master Plan, so we need to see all the pieces coming together. Then there's the additional empathy we get for Rohan, which sets up for the confrontation with Saruman in "The Voice of Saruman." We were there when the King found out about Hama's body being hewn even after he was struck down.

See, in Tolkien (unlike Jackson, I might add), battles are a means to an end, not an end in themselves--they serve the higher purposes of plot, not to mention character. Every time a battle scene was longer than it had to be in the films, that meant that much less time for character development*. In a book, you're not limited by time like that, but too much of a superfluous thing adds clutter and detracts from the main conflict**.

If excitement were all that Tolkien was after, why didn't he describe the Battle of Bywater more? I'd argue it was because to do so would have detracted from the simple, anonymous pathos of nineteen hobbits killed. Yeah, it's not the same thing as an epic battle, but there's this innocence lost. We're supposed to identify with hobbits, and to turn their loss--the personal loss of the in-universe recorders of the tale--into something exciting is tragic.

So no, LOTR didn't need more action, because action is not what LOTR is about. If people have a problem with characters walking and talking and living in this beautiful, fictional world, I suggest that they entertain themselves with Conan the Barbarian or some other, more visceral work.

*One of the bigger problems in the films, as evidenced by the fact that they cut the Choices of Master Samwise in favor of keeping the audience in the dark about the Ring's fate just a little bit longer... as if no one could tell that it was going to be okay in the end!

**This, and the fact that none of the characters were sympathetic anymore, is why I stopped reading Wheel of Time.
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Old 06-21-2010, 09:37 PM   #4
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Also, While Tolkien was Masterful Portraying Battle on Paper is Extremely Difficult the AfterMath is much easier to show.

But that's more opinion than a reason.
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Old 06-21-2010, 10:11 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Archaic Elf View Post
I haven't seen the Lord of the Rings live action films yet, but we've all heard insults about the LOTR involving nothing but characters walking endlessly across Middle Earth. Obviously that's an exaggeration, but couldn't the story of the Lord of the Rings have been expanded to include more action to show just how destructive the entire ordeal was?

After reading the Unfinished Tales, there is quite a bit of material (and not just action sequences, although that's what I'll focus on here) that could have been added to the main story:

1. The battle between the rangers and the Nazgul
This could have been one of the earliest battles in the LOTR. It would add tension by showing just how deadly the Ringwraiths are capable of being...who else could defeat a band of rangers while outnumbered?

2. The battle of Dale
Where the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain and the Men of Lake-town fought against an army of Easterlings

3. The fall of Osgiliath, Pelargir (to the corsairs), and other cities
There are two cities in particular that Aragorn thought were secure, but he was surprised to have heard were fallen to the forces of Mordor. I'm pretty sure Pelargir was one...does anyone remember what I'm talking about here???

4. The battle of Mirkwood (the battle between orcs and Thranduil/the elves of Mirkwood)


5. The battle at the Fords of Isen.
This would really explain why Rohan was at such a disadvantage while defending Helms Deep...many of their soldiers were killed while holding off the Uruk-Hai at the Fords of Isen.


Personally, I think the LOTR is fine as it is, but I suppose that a few more chapters depicting some of the scenes listed above might add to the excitement. The battle at the Fords of Isen as it appears in Unfinished Tales is a startling omission from LOTR. It looks complete to me, but would it have disrupted the flow of the story? I don't think so...
Hmmn. I think the same question applies to fight scenes as to any other type of scene: what you have to ask is not "is it cool?", but "what does it do for the story?"

So, regarding the first four, I'd say Tolkien was right to leave them out, as they're pretty extraneous, and would have been hard to work into the (mainly) Hobbit point-of-view narrative. Also it's a matter of balance– too many fight scenes can become quite dull to read about (or watch– you see this effect in action movies quite often).

The Battle of the Fords of Isen, now– that, as you point out, does have a function, in that it gives the reader fairly important information; also you actually get to "see" Theodred in it. So I'd agree that it could well have been included. I think, though, that, to fit into the novel's structure, it would have had to be related through dialogue flashback (Eomer's?). That needn't have been a problem, as a lot of events in LOTR are described in just this way. However, people who don't like a lot of description also tend to flip past long passages in quotation marks, so I'm not sure that including the Fords of Isen would have satisfied them anyway. (I'm sorry if I sound like an intellectual snob there, but you know what I mean.)
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Old 06-21-2010, 11:04 PM   #6
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Lord of the Rings is paced as it is because it is Hobbitcentric. In other words, if it did not touch the four main Hobbit characters directly, the extraneous storylines were told as if second-hand information. Tolkien maintains this formula for most of the books, except in the case of 'the hunters' Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas, who warranted inclusion because they are members of the Fellowship. Therefore, the battle scenes you alluded to do not adhere to the formula Tolkien set, and would detract from the aspects the author wished to draw the reader to.

I think we all wish for aspects of the story to be expanded. Things like Galadriel laying bare the pits of Dol-Guldur, or the Battle of Erebor, both of which only managed a few sentences of text, but which could have obviously been expanded into full-blown tales in and of themselves. Unfortunately, time and temperment were more enemies than allies to Tolkien, and he was a putterer and a perfectionist. He himself was not satisfied with many aspects of his creation. He just didn't have time to do everything he wished to do. Who does?
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Old 06-22-2010, 06:52 AM   #7
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I think that the answer to this depends on how you view "The Lord of the Rings" . Many people come to it as a stand alone story and from that point of view, you don't get every single related episode. Tolkien mentioned that he agreed with the criticism that it was too short! However he did have to move some of the story to the appendices. He also talked of "unexplored vistas" things referred to but not explained which give the story depth and richness and which keep so many of us going back to it time and time again - the difference between a passport photograph and one of those marvellous Renaissance pictures where there is far more to see than the main figure in the foreground.

Realistically there are only so many threads and characters a reader can keep track of in one story - on first reading at least. It is always a daunting prospect to be faced with an intricate cast list in Russian or historical novels. I know I struggled the first time I read the Lord of the Rings as a child - by the time I left Frodo and Sam in Cirith Ungol I had forgotten what was happening with the rest and gave up for a while. Can you imagine a first time reader in addition to the newly split paths of broken fellowship cutting to a new bunch of people and places whe hadn't really heard of before with no introduction... Theodred? Elfhelm? Fords ofIsen ...who? Where? What?

Aside from the confusion it would have, IMO, lessened the sense of deepening menace as the Fellowship severally get closer to the crisis if we had the insight to the situation in Rohan and Isengard that the Fords of Isen battle would have given and how could, as has been pointed out, any member of the fellowship have found out what happened? They had limited contact with anyone who was there. Gandalf obviously met Elfhelm while he was dashing back and forth and Merry tripped him up but with new threats pressing it wasn't exactly the right moment for the details to be discussed.

If you get sucked into the world of Middle Earth and end up seeing LOTR as part of its history then you can enjoy these stories as part of it. I adore Unfinished tales for this reason - because the whole world fascinates me. I don't know if they could have ever been sucessfully integrated - Tolkien was still discovering things about his creation to the end of his life - I think the battles of teh fords of Isen was among his last writings. They are great as part of the history but as parts of a specific tale then it is harder to get them to work.

If you want to include more battles then you have to change the perspective - hobbits aren't usually warlike. The films could have been more action packed perhaps if they had told it more as Aragorn's story - it would have told the story of The War of the Ring and been accurate to the "historical" information we ahve but would it still have been " The Lord of the Rings"? Hmm...
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Old 06-22-2010, 07:17 AM   #8
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Excellent answers to the original post. It's just that when I hear people complain about the movies being "boring" or whatever, I just wonder if maybe there could have been more mindless sword slashing to satiate the thrill seekers. Some of the battle scenes in the films appear to be very intense (from the clips that I've seen), but the action sequences aren't always describe so graphically in the books, so I wonder if moviegoers would enjoy the books. Maybe, maybe not. They are very different experiences anyway...

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Also, as LOTR was written, it concerns mainly the four Hobbits, and was 'archived' as a history of that time written from their point of view. The things they personally did not witness that are detailed were taken from the accounts of their friends, the others of the Fellowship.
You're right. I haven't read LOTR in about nine years (I guess), but I've read the Silmarillion several times in the past ten years, so I wasn't really considering the book as the Hobbit's documentation. Great point.

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Fact of the matter is, LotR is not meant to be an "exciting" book. It's supposed to be intense, and unfortunately adding in superfluous battle scenes distracts from the intensity of, say, the battle over a hobbit's soul.
Another good point. Frodo, Sam, and Gollum's internal struggles with the ring are the most important battles fought in the books. It doesn't help if fans don't like the characters in the movies, but I doubt people that read the books would complain about their depictions as much, especially if key material is left out of the films, like the choices of Samwise, which was already mentioned.

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The Battle of the Fords of Isen, now– that, as you point out, does have a function, in that it gives the reader fairly important information; also you actually get to "see" Theodred in it. So I'd agree that it could well have been included. I think, though, that, to fit into the novel's structure, it would have had to be related through dialogue flashback (Eomer's?).
Yeah, I suppose a few words from a scout that witnessed the battle would have been all that really could have been included. So I guess it would have disrupted the flow of the story after all. The chapter in Unfinished Tales documents the battle amazingly well, so I'm glad it's there.
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Old 06-22-2010, 07:43 AM   #9
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Part of the issue here is the way in which LotR was written. In its structure, it's character-driven, not plot-driven. The essence of the story is not the war; it's the people who are involved in the war, how they are affected by it and how they in turn influence it. It's not about the politics and the larger socio-economic issues of war -- which of course are a part of it, but not the focus of it -- but of personal choices and actions. For that kind of story, it has more than enough action. The introduction of Théodred and the battle of Isen would have dragged in a short-lived character only for the purpose of showing action that, while politically and strategically important, was not so important that it needed to be shown, even in an extended flashback. I've heard plenty of people complain about the need to remember all the names of LotR's large "cast"; as he was presented, Théodred didn't add to that burden. What we needed to know was that a battle was fought that demoralized the Rohirrim and Théoden in particular. Did we need to see it happen? Not really. It would have slowed down the rest of the action.

Much the same can be said of the corsairs. As presented, the arrival of Aragorn in the ships is a welcome surprise rather than another battle that telegraphs the outcome of his choice to take the Paths of the Dead. When Gimli and Legolas tell the hobbits what happened, it comes close to slowing things down too greatly, but it's important information about the central characters, Aragorn in particular -- it's the first "return of the king," after a fashion, and important to the characters and the plot.

For my money, there was just the right amount of action a character centered plot. More action would have just been more action -- nice if you like it, but not really necessary, IMHO.
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Old 09-08-2010, 07:08 AM   #10
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One of the reasons The Lord of the Rings is so good is that the action is paced perfectly. Add in a few extra battles and it becomes just another 'someone-else-dies-every-second-page' thriller.

But this book is more than that.

Don't worry about it. Every single thing in the world is 'boring' to at least 50% of the world's human population.
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Old 09-10-2010, 03:36 AM   #11
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On the contrary. I think there were too many battle scenes. Jackson made good films, but he really messed up Tolkien's elegantly crafted dialogue. LotR is not meant to be an action-packed modern film. It has a message, and messages are generally not delivered well enough with battles.
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Old 09-10-2010, 06:32 AM   #12
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On the contrary. I think there were too many battle scenes. Jackson made good films, but he really messed up Tolkien's elegantly crafted dialogue. LotR is not meant to be an action-packed modern film. It has a message, and messages are generally not delivered well enough with battles.
This discussion is about the book, mind.

I don't think anyone would argue that the films didn't labour the fight scenes.
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Old 09-20-2010, 09:35 AM   #13
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This discussion is about the book, mind.

I don't think anyone would argue that the films didn't labour the fight scenes.
Oopsie O.O

But even in the book, I think there was enough action...
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Old 09-28-2010, 10:49 PM   #14
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I think LotR had just the right amount of action, and Tolkien's style was far more interesting and immersive than the standard blow-by-blow thirty pages for one fight style that a lot of fantasy authors use.
That might be what throws people: The quality of the action in Tolkien's books comes from dialogue, and the vivid description of the atmosphere of the story (like how you could almost feel the will of Sauron striving against the fellowship, or how the orcs only spoke of the Nazgul in whispers and they were at first only seen as a black shape blotting out the stars), and when the real "action" arrives, half of it is in the breaking of the suspense, and seeing how the characters react to the situation, so there is less emphasis on personal combat.

Personally, that's the way I prefer it, it was Tolkien's characters that stood out to me and made the book great - not the battles.
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Old 09-29-2010, 10:01 AM   #15
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I think LotR had just the right amount of action, and Tolkien's style was far more interesting and immersive than the standard blow-by-blow thirty pages for one fight style that a lot of fantasy authors use.
While I LOVE action in books, I think some authors tend to go overboard (George RR Martin, anyone?). Tolkien managed to hit the nail.
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Old 10-01-2010, 05:58 AM   #16
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He's the one that wrote the "A Song of Ice and Fire" series right? Hope he actually finishes that next book one day.
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