"Return of the King"
For some reason, my
webpage about Rankin/Bass' Return of
the King has
become one of my most popular pages. After an e-mail exchange with
cartoonist/writer Scott Roberts
about that movie, I just HAD to watch it again, just for
There isn't any need to detail the plot
itself this time, as I had done that already. Instead we'll take a look
at the additions and omissions that Rankin/Bass had done to their
adaptation of ROTK. In the case of the additions, we'll see if these
add anything useful, and if they have some internal logic in them that
makes sense in the context of the story. As for the omissions, we'll
see if the overall story can survive without them, or if we have
seemingly irrelevant references to people, things and events with no
explanation about what they are and why they're there.
Scott's commentary is in green, and my
commentary is in yellow.
Most of our observations fall into
these general categories:
"laugh out loud"
B) completely contrary to the
C) newly made-up and makes
things even more confusing or nonsensical
D) omits such key parts of the
story that their version is something
E) "all of the above"
LOL moment: Gandalf's opening
narration. "Concern yourselves
with blah blah blah...Consider no less yak yak yak." And how many times
does he say "Behold"?
LOL moment: After all these years since Bilbo left,
Frodo still keeps the Ring on a velvet pillow in a bell jar on the
mantle. Sure he does.
eagerly poking his head in the
window of Bag-End, like they're getting ready to go fishing. Once they
start their journey, Sam's
hat has the jaunty feather. How come Sean Astin didn't get one of
those? Bet he was jealous. Sam's
choice of headgear adornment makes better sense than Frodo's. Frodo had
a pipe tucked in the flap, making one wonder why it just didn't fall
out during the long trip.
fellowship never existed,
Frodo and Sam set out alone, had some adventures not worth mentioning,
and now our story begins.
Key plot omission:
been doing his own thing
all along off in some distant land, completely divorced from any sort
of involvement with
Gandalf, Hobbits, the Ring, etc. There was some silly prophecy that
promised him a kingdom, provided that someone else did all the hard and
dirty work of destroying some Ring, not that Aragorn knew anything
confusing moment: Sam and
Frodo arrived ALONE at Rivendell to attend that
all-important Bilbo's 129th birthday party. Which makes it unclear of
how and when Merry and Pippin arrived to attend the same party. Did
Merry and Pippin beat them to Rivendell? Were Merry and Pippin
Johnny-come-lately's? Why'd they split up at all and arrive
LOL moment: Sword
proportions.... even Bakshi had this
too. According to Bakshi and R/B, Sting, and any other sharp metal
instrument carried by a Hobbit is perfectly
sized as a hobbit's
dagger. The blades are about 10" long (hobbit's measurement) and the
hilts are proportioned to a hobbit's hand. BUT... since these blades
were supposed to have been forged by Elves or the Dúnedain for
their own use as daggers,
they're supposed to
be sword-sized in proportion to a hobbit. The hilts should be thick and
somewhat oversized in a hobbit's hand. So Sting and the other blades
were originally ... Elvish cheese-spreaders or little cocktail swords
for spearing cherries in a goblet of sweet
wine? Only Peter Jackson got
the sword thing right.
Speaking of swords, the prologue shows Frodo
randomly swinging his sword at... nothing, after leaving a dark tunnel.
Sam follows with a concerned look. Not the look of "Oh dear, look at
that ugly dangerous spider", but the look of "Is Frodo going mad? He's
flailing at nothing". Why couldn't R/B add a silhouette of a
Key plot omission:
doesn't seem very wise and powerful
in Romeo Muller's script. More than anything, he appears to be a worry
wort and wet blanket. He sits and gazes out on the battlefield
predicting nothing but doom, and seems unable to lend a hand in any
way. What's the use of having a wizard like this on hand? For this he
fought the Balrog and became Gandalf the White? Sure he confronts the
goofy voiced Witch King, but so what? He's just going to go back and
sulk later anyway.
Prize for the
most annoying character has to go to
Pippin. Having Kasey Kasem voice him in best Shaggy style wasn't a good
move. And listen to him asking what the Palantír is when
reveals it. Like Pippin of all people never saw one before!
palace guard who yells at Pippin "His word is law!" in his best
Saturday morning, bad acting voice. Heck, if Pippin is going to be
straight out of Scooby Doo, why not?
book: Merry is
"dispatched" from Minas Tirith to summon
help from Théoden. That means that Merry and Pippin were BOTH at
Tirith together! Once Théoden agrees to come, he's perfectly OK
Merry, on a little pony (slowing down the pace of the other horsemen)
ride with him and go into battle. Then, when Théoden is killed,
wails, I will AVENGE MY LORD!". When did Théoden become his
the ride from Rohan to Minas Tirith, where they met each other for the
first time, apparently?
confusing moment: Do you somehow feel a tinge of sympathy for
Orcs after hearing "When there's a whip, there's a way?". Sad-eyed,
long-suffering Orcs are forced to march by their captains, and those
poor "average Joe" Orcs are just trying to avoid the lash. Maybe it
would have better if this scene had been removed, because a viewer
starts to feel sorry for the Orcs, completely forgetting about their
innate wickedness, appetite for cruelty and torture, and hatred for
Elves, Men, Hobbits, etc. Those same Mordor Orcs were the types who
chopped off the heads of the men of Osgiliath and used them as catapult
ammo during the siege of Minas Tirith. How can one reconcile that
with the Orcs singing, "We don't want to go to war today, but the lord
of the lash says nay, nay, nay. We are the slaves of the Dark Lord's
LOL moment: The
happy Orc who waves at Sam and Frodo in Sam's dream of times to come.
Aw, now they're all buddies!
LOL moment: Sam
imagining how Frodo will reach the Cracks of Doom and casually toss the
ring over his shoulder. They probably went for a sundae right after.
omission: Where the heck does Gollum
come from, and what relationship does he have to them? Why is Frodo his
Master and how did Frodo trick him? If you're going to leave huge
of story out, then don't refer back to them! And why is Gollum played
by Kermit the Frog?
book: How did Gollum become a frog? His
people were forefathers of the Hobbits. We can understand it if the
Ring corrupted his features and wasted away his body, but to turn him
into an entirely different species? LOL.
LOL moment: The
lyrics to the song THE CRACKS OF DOOM.
"Aragorn..... he who would be 'our' King", says
Gandalf. Aragorn will be Gandalf's king too? Gandalf will become
Aragorn's subject and do him fealty and obeisance?
implied that it's all Frodo's fault that
Théoden died on the battlefield. The Battle of Pelennor
Fields and Frodo's claiming of the Ring at Mt. Doom happened
simultaneously (instead of 10 days apart, like Appendix B in the book
says). As the
soldiers crowd around Theoden's fallen body, Gandalf even says, "What
event at that moment caused evil to enlist such power?" Cut to the
events at Mt. Doom where Frodo succumbs to the Ring's temptation. By
adding 1 + 1 together, one can see that evil got emboldened and
stronger because of what Frodo did. And evil used that extra power
boost to kill Théoden and almost win the battle. Now poor Frodo
weight of Théoden's death to carry around, in addition to all
psychological damage the Ring caused him!
LOL moment: The
second the Witch King starts cackling at Gandalf. Gee, maybe when Éowyn
slays him, he should've said "And I would've got away with it too, if
it hadn't been for these pesky kids!"
Aragorn has little respect for Gandalf and thinks he's
a coward. During "The Last Debate", Aragorn addresses Gandalf by
occupation, as "Wizard", as if Gandalf were of lower status. Also,
listen for the tone of oozing contempt in his voice as he asks
Gandalf, "Does the mere thought of Sauron's vast forces (sneer)
(sneer) your spirit?"
LOL moment: The
eagles airlifting the entire army.
LOL moment: Frodo
and Sam trying to outrun the flowing lava. "Die well, Samwise!"
Coronation Day, the crowd sings a song about the
"Return of the King" that goes, "He [King
Aragorn] will rule with a true healing hand". LOL, this must be wishful
thinking. Where did the people of Minas Tirith get THAT idea
Aragorn actually HEAL anyone, like, say, Éowyn or Merry? Nah. They were perfectly
after their encounter with the Witch King. The Houses of Healing? Who
'em? Athelas? No need
for that either.
Then the song intones "The bearer of the Ring
we hail, praise them with great praise!" Ummm, praise them? Praise
whom? How? No one can see the hobbits way up there in that high
Why aren't they riding alongside the new King in honor, just like
what's-his-name, that dark haired, clean-shaven fellow who's making
googly-eyes at Éowyn? Did that dark-haired guy do to something to
deserve that honor, something that completely eclipses whatever minor
heroics the hobbits did? Why are the hobbits smiling at each other, way
up there, instead of thinking, "shouldn't we be down there too?"
confusing moment: As Gandalf tries to explain his
newfangled evolutionary theory (Hobbits will evolve into Men someday), notice how he
home that each successive generation of hobbits get larger (with the
camera angles showing the younger hobbits as MASSIVE critters). Yet the
difference is non-existent in earlier parts of the movie! In fact, at
the very beginning, Merry looks like a li'l shrimp, sitting in a chair
next to Sam, at Bilbo's 129th birthday party! This is extremely bad
the end, Bilbo
napping in the pouring rain on board the ship. There's no cabin?
confusing moment: What's
with the cover
illustration on the DVD box? Two Samwises astride a horse, holding a
sword (Anduril?) and the ring- The Ring- as they ride in triumph from
Sleeping Beauty's castle. Guys, what happened to destroying the
Riding off with it in triumph is what got Isildur in trouble.
Accompanying them are two dwarves- Happy and Grumpy? Or is that Thorin
Oakenshield alive and well? Oh and look, there in background-
Yeah, he's in this story! Sure. There must be a thousand artists
looking for work who have actually read the book.
not truly a Tolkien
purist. I can accept some changes, as long as it still
makes for a coherent story afterwards, or if it adds a new and exciting
characters or events. For example, in my
opinion, Glorfindel was not a necessary character, and his activities
at the Fords of Bruinen were not
something that only he could do. Bakshi's replacement of
Glorfindel at the Fords doesn't bother me at all. As for
Peter Jackson's replacement of
Arwen for Glorfindel... I'm all for it. We could always use a little
more "grrrl power" in Tolkien. The replacement
of an extraneous character for someone that we
would get to know more intimately is fine with me.
Lord of the Rings
of the King
This article is
2006 K.F. Louie and Scott Roberts (as noted).
May not be reproduced
without the written permission
of the author.
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