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2.02How does the animated movie work with Tolkien's text?

As only the first volume of LOTR is dealt with here I chose to disregard that part of Bakshi’s movie that follows the breaking of the Fellowship (Chapter 24 on the DVD).

‘The Lord of the Rings’ (1978) opens with an introduction explaining the origin of the Great Rings, their forging, Sauron’s fall, Isildur’s fall, the story of Sméagol/Gollum and the Ring finally getting to Bilbo, before it delves into the actual course of the storyline of Tolkien’s text at Bilbo’s birthday party. The movie follows this storyline truly, but leaves out Crickhollow as well as the encounters with Old Man Willow, Tom Bombadil and the Barrow-wight. After Frodo is wounded near Weathertop the company does not meet Glorfindel, but Legolas, who takes his place, a change introduced in order to cut down the number of characters. The story advances quickly, sometimes, especially between Moria and Lothlórien, somewhat too quickly, and continues true to the book right until its end, when Frodo and Sam leave the Fellowship on their own.

There is, sadly, one mix up with the name of one of Tolkien’s major characters. After test screenings showed that some viewers were confused with the similar names of the two chief villains, the Dark Lord Sauron and the wizard Saruman, the production company decided to rename Saruman into Aruman in post-production, dropping the first letter. As this is not applied consistently throughout the final film the name appears eight times as Saruman and four times as Aruman, thus only creating more confusion. The German translation does not, however, follow this confusion and restores the name consistently as Saruman.

Advancing through the DVD chapter by chapter I am now going to give an overview over the present textual material and its connection to Tolkien’s text. Please refer to Appendix A, the partial movie transcript, when in doubt about the plot or dialogue situations. As I made use of the DVD version of the movie, which is divided into chapters, in order to analyse and to create the transcript, all quotations taken from Bakshi's movie are marked with a ‘B’ followed by the number of the chapter on the DVD.

Chapter 1 of the DVD does not include any spoken text.

Chapter 2 provides the viewer with the history of the ring, its forging and how it went from one to another. Most of this comes from Gandalf’s meeting with Frodo at Bag End (T 68ff) and from Gandalf’s explanations at the Council of Elrond (T 331ff), but is not, with the exception of the dialogue between Sméagol and Déagol, actually a quotation.

Chapter 3 covers Bilbo’s birthday party, during which he addresses the present Hobbit families and confuses them with the famous line ‘I don't know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.’ All of Bilbo’s lines are taken directly out of Tolkien’s written direct speech. His final conversation with Gandalf at Bag End is heavily shortened and rewritten and not a direct quotation.

Chapter 4 of the DVD deals with Gandalf’s return to Bag End seventeen years after the party. He greets Frodo, realising he had not grown a day older (a direct quotation) and talks to Frodo about the ring. A number of lines out of this dialogue are taken directly out of the same scene in Tolkien’s book1. Other new ones are included to tie the quotations in with the shortened action. Gandalf explains the origin of Bilbo’s Ring to Frodo, but in doing so also mentions the first two lines of its inscription in the original Black Speech it is written in, although he says explicitly in the book ‘...the language is that of Mordor, which I will not utter here. ...’2. Bakshi breaks with Tolkien in this aspect in order to present to the viewer unfamiliar with the text some of the mystic and strong qualities of the Ring with words in an unknown language. The rest of the scene, including the meeting with Sam Gamgee is mostly directly quoted, though transferred, for practical reasons, to the outside of the house.

Chapter 5 describes Gandalf’s meeting with Saruman. This encounter is set rightly here in the timeline of the story, but the reader of the book is not informed of this until the Council of Elrond (T 338ff), when Gandalf tells everybody about it. Although Tolkien provides some direct speech of Saruman within Gandalf’s explanations Bakshi chooses to rewrite most of that text into new lines for this scene

Chapter 6 features a first meeting with a Black Rider and serves as a cover up to bridge the gap, which is left by leaving out the moving to Crickhollow. The essence of the chapter ‘A Conspiracy Unmasked’3, the idea of Merry and Pippin knowing much about Frodo’s plans from Sam, is rewritten into the dialogue in this scene, but only the last few lines are directly quoted.

Chapter 7 has the Hobbits arrive in Bree at the Prancing Pony. The scene is heavily rewritten, but features the song Frodo sings in the book, ‘There is an inn, a merry old inn’4. Although it is never easy to really integrate a song like this, and music has to be written to Tolkien’s lyrics as well, Bakshi’s result does sound quite well. The scene with Frodo singing is intercut with Merry meeting the Black Riders on the streets of Bree, so what we hear of the song is most of the first verse, then a badly made up line by Bakshi ‘with a fol-de-do and a fol-de-da Hobbits all of the Shire we are’ and then, after a second cut, two lines out of the last but one verse presented as the end of the song. It is apparent that Bakshi’ script writers Peter S. Beagle and Chris Concling cut and changed heavily as they saw fit, but the result seems believable. Other than the song and one line spoken by Butterbur at the end of the scene the rest of the dialogue is new.

Chapter 8 has Aragorn/Strider introduce himself to the Hobbits. Only a few single lines, notably Frodo’s line ‘I think one of the Enemy's servants would, well, seem fairer and feel fouler, if you understand.’ are quoted from Tolkien directly (T 226 ‘... I think one of his spies would – well, seem fairer and feel fouler, if you understand.’).

Chapter 9 features no spoken dialogue.

Chapter 10 covers the voyage through the Midgewater marches and the attack at Weathertop. Only two lines are quoted, slightly rewritten, from Tolkien: ‘I’m being eaten alive!’ and ‘What do these things live on when they can’t get Hobbit?’. Aragorn’s description of the story of Beren and Lúthien, which he really does deliver in the book, is heavily shortened.

Chapter 11 picks up after Frodo is wounded by a Ringwraith. Aragorn and the Hobbits meet Legolas, who replaces Glorfindel, but other than the name of the character most of this scene happens exactly as in the book. Apart from the Elf’s line ‘Ai na vedui Dúnadan! Mae govannen!’ in Elvish, most of the text, up to the encounter with the Ringwraiths at the ford of the Bruinen, is rewritten.

Chapter 12 finishes the scene with the Ringwraiths at the ford, quoting more or less word for word from Tolkien’s book.

Chapter 13 shows Frodo waking up in Rivendell and meeting Gandalf again. Although the storyline is followed the text itself is mostly rewritten.

Chapter 14 has Frodo meet Bilbo again, who quotes one of Tolkien’s poems. This is one of the rare occasions, where Bakshi shifts a bit of Tolkien’s text to a different place in the storyline, in this case a poem recited by Aragorn at Weathertop two chapters earlier, which is puts it into the mouth of Bilbo in Rivendell. As will be shown later Peter Jackson worked like this much more often. One other noteworthy line delivered by Bilbo here is ‘Don’t adventures ever have an end?’, as he sees his Ring again, which is taken from the same scene in the book on T 304. Much of the Council of Elrond, that is featured afterwards, is summarized by the narrator, but the remaining lines are also no direct quotation and have been rewritten.

Chapter 15 concludes the Council of Elrond and shows how Bilbo gives his sword Sting and his mithril shirt to Frodo. A number of lines of Bilbo, Frodo and Elrond at the Council are direct quotations. The chapter closes with two lines of a poem quoted from T 365: ‘I sit beside the fire and think of all that I have seen.’

Chapter 16, which shows the Fellowship leaving Rivendell is again commented by the narrator quoting lines of Elrond and Gandalf from the Council (T 361f). The remainder of the scene, the Fellowship attempting to cross the Caradhras and deciding to cross through the mines of Moria instead, consists of mainly new lines.

Chapter 17 shows Gandalf attempting to open the door to Moria. The scene is somewhat rewritten, but follows the storyline.

Chapter 18, the first one in the mines of Moria, begins with Gandalf’s prophetic line ‘There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.’ directly from T 406. Much of the rest of Gandalf’s lines here are from T 410ff, although in a different order.

Chapter 19 of the DVD presents the tomb of Gimli’s cousin Balin. As in the book, Gandalf reads from the chronicles in the Mazarbul chamber (T 422f) and the members of the Fellowship are attacked. A number of lines, and even the battle-cries ‘The Shire!’ and ‘For the Shire!’ are quoted in detail from T 424 and T 426.

Chapter 20, Gandalf’s encounter with the Balrog, was textually rewritten up to Gandalf’s last line ‘Fly, you fools’ (T 434).

Chapter 21 shows the Fellowship minus Gandalf outside the mines mending their wounds. The text is almost completely rewritten here. After a rather harsh cut the storyline continues in Lothlórien and the Fellowship is greeted by Galadriel. A song included here in English (‘Let the night never cease to call you’) is to replace an Elvish song, which Tolkien only mentions at this point in the story and does not actually write the lyrics for. He mentions on T 471 that the Elvish name for Gandalf was Mithrandir. It seems that the spoken dialogue for the movie was written before the song, because, although the name Mithrandir is not heard in the song, Aragorn and Frodo refer to that name.

B 21 Elvish choir Let the night never cease to call you
Let the day never more be the same

Frodo It’s a song about Gandalf, isn’t it?
Aragorn Yes, Mithrandir was the Elves’ name for him. It means, Grey Pilgrim.

Chapter 22, the Mirror of Galadriel, is almost completely quoted from Tolkien’s text in T 475 - T 495, though many lines are delivered in a different order.

Chapter 23 covers the entire journey on the river Anduin, the arrival at Amon Hen near the falls of Rauros and Boromir’s attack on Frodo. Only a few lines of Aragorn and Frodo, and some of Boromir trying to take the Ring, are quoted directly, although the storyline is followed in detail.

Chapter 24 concludes the breaking of the Fellowship after Boromir admits to the group what he has done. Sam follows Frodo to the shore of the lake and they leave together for Mordor. Most of the lines of this chapter, especially those of Frodo and Sam, are taken directly from the concluding pages of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ (T 531 - T 535).

1The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 1 Chapter II ‘A shadow of the past’

2The Fellowship of the Ring, p. 66

3The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 1, Chapter V

4The Fellowship of the Ring, p. 209

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