At the Real Clear Religion web site, Jeffrey Weiss nails the problem with Peter Jackson’s rendition of Tolkein. Summing up the climax of the Lord of the Rings , Weiss writes:

“In book and film, Frodo has heroically carried the Ring to the one spot where it can be destroyed. Instead, he claims it and — in that one moment — Gollum attacks and bites off Frodo’s finger with the ring. In the book, this is what follows: ‘But Gollum, dancing like a mad thing, held aloft the ring, a finger still thrust within its circle . . . And with that, even as his eyes were lifted up to gloat on his prize, he stepped too far, wavered for a moment on the brink, and then with a shriek he fell. Out of the depths came his last wail Precious , and he was gone.’

Jackson’s portrayal is different in crucial ways:

“In the movie, after Gollum bites off his finger, Frodo heroically launches himself at Gollum and hurls them both over the side. Gollum falls with the Ring into the lava but Frodo is barely saved by Sam. I’ll grant that Jackson’s version is more exciting, in the same way that loading Ophelia with a suicide vest and having her blast herself to smithereens center-stage would liven up a production of Hamlet. But that wouldn’t be Shakespeare.”

Frodo, in short, failed, and according to Tolkein that was the whole point. In a letter, he wrote, “Frodo ‘failed.’ It is possible that once the ring was destroyed he had little recollection of the last scene. But one must face the fact: the power of Evil in the world is not finally resistible by incarnate creatures, however ‘good’; and the Writer of the Story is not one of us.”

Frodo is not a hero; he is a frail creature, saved finally by a providential act of grace.

More on: Film

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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