Nitpicking Tolkien

31 Jan 2005

Paul R. Potts

This article started life as a response to a web site called “The Nit Picker’s Guide to the Lord of the Rings,” by Phil Eskew. That web site contains an exhaustive, obsessive catalog of all the ways in which Peter Jackson’s films diverged from Tolkien’s books.

This was marginally interesting to read, because I consider myself a Tolkien fan: not one of the ones who read the Lord of the Rings once a year, but one who has read it at least five times, and who taught a mini-course on the books (and, to some extent, the movies, which were then just coming out), at my son’s charter school.

I do need to take exception to Phil Eskew’s tone, though. Although he includes a disclaimer stating that he did, in fact, enjoy the movies, his comments are carping and irritable. He refers repeatedly to Jackson’s four biggest “mistakes,” and repeatedly uses the word “muddled” – as in “Aspect X of Tolkien’s story is muddled by Jackson’s rearranging of Y.” He refers to Jackson’s changes as “forgivable” and “unforgivable.”

More significantly, and I think of more interest to a reader, is that this nit-picking activity fails to take into account some fundamental facts. (To be fair to Eskew, he didn’t set out to take on these topics; I’m just using his writing as a jumping-off point). These fundamental facts are:

These should be non-controversial. To them I’ll add one that will probably be a bit more controversial:

To illustrate what I mean by the difference between the art of the novel and the art of the film, let me point out a few of the more laughable “nitpicks” in Eskew’s list:

“Gimli says that he killed 42 orcs at Helm’s Deep… Jackson has Gimli end his tally at 43.”

(this article is in progress…)

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