Tolkien Gateway

Letter 210

Revision as of 15:34, 27 July 2008 by Ederchil (Talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)

Letter 210 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.


This fragment of a letter, dated June 1958, is sent to Forrest J. Ackerman. It deals with Morton Grady Zimmerman's proposed film of The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien had been sent the script, and he wrote a lengthy reply on it.

First, he apologizes that he may sound irritated or aggrieved, but that is because he feels the story is handled carelessly, and sometimes even recklessly. The story has basically been reduced to fights and magic, and the Ring-bearer's final part has been "murdered".

The references are by page number of the script that Zimmerman (simply called "Z" in the commentary) sent him.

  • Page 2: Fireworks and Gandalf. There were flags and hobbits included in the firework, and Gandalf was to be splutering. Tolkien dissaproves both.
  • Page 4: The Eagles. Z, according to Tolkien, completely misunderstood Eagles, and by letting one - named Radagast - show up in the Shire, he more or less ruined the surprise of Gandalf's escape from Orthanc. Z anticipated future events, which Tolkien thinks is not good for the story.

Tolkien also mentions the time-line of the film: it is heavily contracted, and does not take the seasons into account. These seasons are important: starting in the autumn, through winter, and ending in the Spring. In Z's mind, a snow-storm would have to take place in Summer. Despite being a faery-story, miles are miles, days are days, and weather is weather.

  • Page 7: Tom Bombadil. He is portrayed as the owner of the woods, and his language is sillified. So is Goldberry; she would have been better off if she were omitted.
  • Page 8: Barliman Butterbur. He wanted the guests to "register", but this is unnecessary, because Bree had neither police nor government, and rooms were not numberedTemplate:Ref.
  • Page 9: Aragorn and the Black Riders. Aragorn and the Hobbits leave Bree at night in Z's script. This is the opposite of what "book-Aragorn" would do, and Z shows he completely misunderstood the greatest weapon of the Riders: fear. They hold no power over the fearless.
  • Page 10. Rivendell and Narsil. It is not a shimmering forest. That is Lothlórien, which it did not resemble. Z also makes it visible from Weathertop, despite it being 200 miles away and in a ravine. Aragorn would not "whip out a sword"; it was broken, after all. Z gives Narsil elvish light, which is another anticipation Tolkien does not like.
  • Page 11. Weathertop. Aragorn, rather than Sam, sings the Fall of Gil-galad, which is wholly inappropriate. Black Riders scream in Z's script, but Tolkien says they kept a more terrifying silenceTemplate:Ref. Sam sinks his sword in one of the Wraith's thigh, but it does not crumble like Merry's did. The whole scene has been rewritten, and it does not please Tolkien at all.
  • Page 15. The Ring Goes South. Z again shows his utter misunderstanding of the story by having Eagles serve as taxi's.
  • Page 19. Orcs. Orcs are beaked and feathered, according to Z. Not so to Tolkien, who describes them as humanoid.
  • Page 20. The Balrog. "Z may think he knows more about Balrogs than I do, but he cannot expect me to agree with him". This Balrog luaghs, talks and sneers, while the Balrog was not supposed to speak at all.
  • Page 21. Lothlórien and Galadriel. Lothlórien is now a fairy castle, and the Elves are tiny fairies. Tolkien is iritated and aggrieved, and slams Z for omitting the temptation of Galadriel, and all moral material in the rest of the story.
  • Page 22. Lembas. It is not a food concentrate, or superior over other wheat-bread. It's function in the story is two-fold: to explain why such a long voyage needs so little provision, and a religious function at the end of the story.

Tolkien hopes the speeches of the characters will be represented with the proper style and sentiment, and he dislikes perversion of them (and characters) even worse than destruction of the scenery.

Parts II and III. Part II suffers from the same problems as Part I, and II is even worse. The narrative divides in Prime action and Subsidiary action, and they differ in tone and scenery.

  • Page 31. Treebeard. Z must not like trees as much as Tolkien did, however, they play an important role. However, Z completely fails to explain what Ents really are.
  • Pages 31 and 32. Théoden and Edoras. Z shows he has no understanding of the "heroic" Rohirrim, and makes Meduseld appear as a hotel, complete with glass windows and private rooms.
  • Page 34. Saruman and Orthanc. Z had imagined a giant staircase weaving around Orthanc, and Tolkien does not like this. Saruman had a hypnotic voice; Tolkien comments that neither genuine hypnosis nor scientificticious hypnosis occur in his work. Saruman's voice is persuasive, not hypnotic. Rejecting this voice was possible with free will and reason (emphasis in original), like Gimli did.

Since Z has cut out the ending, he shows neither the death nor the reason for his death, therefore, he might as well leave him alive. He would not have committed suicide, as Z had him do.

Part III: Tolkien doesn't even bother to give a detailed reply to this. It is "totally unacceptable to me, as a whole and in detail". It simply tidies up a couple of loose ends, and if that is what Z wants, than Tolkien would rather not have his book garbled.


  1. Template:Note Despite this, the same oversight was made in Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring and Vivendi's The Fellowship of the Ring.
  2. Template:Note This too was forgotten in Peter Jackson's script.