The Lord of the Rings is arguably the greatest trilogy of films ever made. In our opinion, it is, and really, it isn’t even close. The sheer size of this franchise makes it one that is completely unrivaled. It has an endless re-watchability quality and the story is one of the best ever told. OK, so why the hell are we going to criticize it? Well, if you can’t point out the issues in a film, then you’re doing film wrong. No single movie is perfect, especially one that comes from source material with such cultural significance. We are not purists who feel that the source material is in any way tarnished by films. We are not those people who say, ‘ow, my childhood is ruined because they’re making a film version of The Cat in the Hat.‘ Those people make our blood boil. We are the type of people that can have some fun with the things we love. Any journey into Middle Earth is a journey worth taking. So, we’re able to point out the issues we have with The Lord of the Rings and then watch it again this Christmas as per the annual tradition and love every goddamn second of it. Even the parts that make no sense.
That brings us to a qualifying statement. The things on this list are the things that make no sense in The Lord of the Rings mythos. In the film universe alone (should it be contained in a vacuum), many of these things are perfectly acceptable. We only take issue when you hold these bits up to the entire world of LOTR. That’s when these moments become oversights and mistakes. Truthfully, however, this is all nitpicking. We honestly believe that these films are nearly perfect. But, if you were looking for a way to be “that guy” the next time you watch LOTR, we’ll give you 15 ways.
Here are 15 Things in The Lord of the Rings That Made Absolutely No Sense.
15. The Witch-King’s Death
The Witch-king of Angmar was a bad, bad wraith. We know, as he tells Eowyn before she jams her sword down his throat, that “no man can kill” him. Eowyn struts her femininity around and then kills him. But how? Well, we don’t know. In the books, this death makes sense. Merry undoes Sauron’s magic by stabbing the Witch-king with a barrow-blade, a dagger forged by the men of Westernesse to battle the evil forces of Angmar, making the Witch-king vulnerable to Eowyn’s strike. Now, in the films, you might argue that the blades Aragorn gave the hobbits at Weathertop were stand-ins for the barrow-blades. Sure, that’s likely correct, but Merry lost his blade before the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. In the films, the blade he stabbed the Witch-king with was one that Theoden had given him. Really, it makes no sense.
14. Arwen And The River
As soon as we first saw Arwen, fans of the books noticed a difference right away. Where is Glorifindel? We accept the change because there was definitely a need for more women on the screen, but it leads us to an issue. When Arwen gets to the ford of Bruinen outside Rivendell, she starts chanting in Elvish. This then causes the river waters to surge up in the shape of white horses and trample the Ringwraiths and their horses. Now, we can give credit to the filmmakers and say that Arwen was calling out to Elrond for help, but there’s no indication that that’s what’s happening. The film makes it seem like Arwen calls the waters up herself, possibly creating shapes inspired by her own white horse, Asfaloth (Glorifindel’s horse in the books). This isn’t how it works, though. First of all, the waters are controlled by the ring-keeper, Elrond. Secondly, Gandalf was the man behind creating the white horses in the books, “I added a few touches of my own: you may not have noticed, but some of the waves took the form of great white horses with shining white riders.”
13. The Moth And The Eagles
We won’t spend much time talking about this one because it’s been beaten to death. Even if you never read the books, by now, you probably know that the moth that Gandalf talks to in the films prior to being rescued by Gwaihir, the eagle, is not from the original story. Instead, what happened was that prior to his imprisonment in Isengard by Saruman, Gandalf told his bro, Radaghast, to send any messages via birds and beasts to Orthanc. One of these messengers, Gwaihir, comes and recuses Gandalf. In the films, we must assume that Gandalf asked the Moth for help. The moth then asked Radaghast to send for help or it asked the eagles directly. Either way, since we never saw Radaghast, we have to assume that the moth talked to Gwaihir directly, which is crazy talk. What’s next, talking dragons?
12. The Army Of The Dead
This one is pure nitpicking; we accept that, but it’s still a mistake. When Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli travel through the Paths of the Dead, Legolas starts talking about the cursed men. He says that it was Isildur who cursed them. This is correct. Well done. But then, he says that Isildur was “the last king of Gondor.” This is crazy talk. Isildur was the second king of Gondor. Yes, he screwed up with the ring, but the line of kings remained unbroken for many years. It wasn’t until Earnur, the 33rd king of Gondor, was challenged by the Witch-king of Angmar to a battle that the line was broken. Being foolish and strong-willed, Earnur accepted the challenge and rode into Minas Morgul to fight the Witch-king and was never heard from again. That was the last king of Gondor, 31 kings after Isildur.
11. The Eagle Thing
Ugh! We hate that we have to address this, but we will because people still point at this and laugh thinking that they’ve just solved global warming. So why didn’t the eagles just bring Frodo and the ring right to Mount Doom? Well, this wouldn’t work for so many reasons. The only reason we need to discuss is that the eagles were not just free to involve themselves in the plight of man wherever and whenever they wished. The eagles were ancient godlike creatures, servants of the god Manwe. They were instructed to watch upon the goings-on of Middle Earth and only get involved in “extreme cases.” Over time, the battle for Middle Earth became a battle that men were responsible for. The gods and many of the creatures in Middle Earth washed their hands of these events. The eagles were not going to defeat Sauron, even if they could. A major reason they got involved in The Hobbit was because they hated goblins so passionately. Stop talking about this one and let it die.
10. Aragorn Killing The Mouth
There’s a part of us that love watching Aragorn killing the mouth and a part of us that hates it. The loving part loves it because it’s bada*s. It’s also hotheaded and irresponsible, totally out of character for someone as honorable as Aragorn. In the books, the Mouth of Sauron bluffs that they have captured a “spy,” insinuating having only one hobbit. That’s the first hint that he’s lying. When he asks who’s in charge, Aragorn answers. The Mouth then mocks him and his claim as a king. Aragorn then glares at him so hard that the Mouth feels threatened and quickly announces that he is a herald and cannot be harmed. Gandalf agrees by doing nothing, so too does Aragorn. Eventually, they take back the hobbits’ things and the Mouth leaves unharmed. It’s a small change but a meaningful one in the grand characterization of Aragorn, the king of Gondor.
9. Frodo Seeing The Eye
This one is more of a clarification than a mistake, but since people are under the impression that Frodo can be seen by the literal “eye of Sauron” every time (or sometimes) he puts the ring on, we felt the need to include this one. The eye cannot always see Frodo. In the films, the argument is that when Frodo puts the ring on in the Prancing Pony, Sauron sees him because he says exactly this. But that doesn’t make sense. Sauron and the Ringwraiths can sense the ring when it’s put on and its power is being used, but Sauron was only ever able to “see” Frodo when he sat on the seat of seeing in Amon Hen. In the books and in the films, Frodo uses the magical properties of that seat and sees all the way to Barad-dur: “And suddenly he felt the Eye. There was an eye in the Dark Tower that did not sleep. He knew that it had become aware of his gaze. A fierce eager will was there. It leaped towards him; almost like a finger he felt it, searching for him.” It’s only here that Sauron sees him (in a way) because the magical seat in combination with the ring works both ways.
8. Elves In Helm’s Deep
Ahh, every purist’s favorite outcry, ‘there were no elves in Helm’s Deep!‘ They’re right, though; there were no elves in Helm’s Deep and their appearance there makes no sense. In the films, a large troop of elves comes to help hold the night at Helm’s Deep. This is problematic for one very important reason, but it’s also probably why it was included in the film. At around the same time of the Battle of the Hornburg, the elves of Lorien were fighting their own battles. They were holding off massive orc armies from both Moria and Dol Guldur. Since this battle would be one too many in The Two Towers, the LOTR film crew decided to, in a small way, combine the two wars into one.
7. The Trolls Not Turning To Stone
Once more, this is a clarification more than a mistake. Critics always point out that LOTR messed up by not having the trolls at the Battle of the Black Gate and at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields turn to stone in the sunlight. But what you were seeing were not simple cave trolls. Those trolls were actually called Olag-hai, a mixed breed of troll created by Sauron. Much like the Uruk-hai, the Olag-hai were better able to withstand the sun. There was also the fact that Sauron had covered the land in darkness to allow for greater moving speeds for his armies.
6. The Mirror Of Galadriel
The biggest criticisms of the LOTR films is in what is left out. Of the omissions, perhaps the one most criticized is “The Scouring of the Shire.” In the books, the hobbits return to the shire to find it under the control of Sharkey. We learn that Sharkey is actually Saruman, and after a wicked battle, it is in the Shire that Wormtongue turns on Saruman and kills him. We don’t mind the omission, but we didn’t appreciate being misled by the Mirror of Galadriel. When Frodo peers into the waters, he sees enslaved Hobbits and an industrialized Shire, much like we see in the books. While you could certainly argue that this was a nice way of Peter Jackson alluding to that portion of the books without actually including it, its inclusion in the Mirror of Galadriel makes it so the Mirror’s predictions were way off.
5. Bilbo’s Aging
Bilbo’s aging in the films confused plenty of people and for good reason. We’ll try to explain the possibilities first, then the mistakes. First, Gollum and Bilbo appeared to age without the ring very differently in the films. This could be explained by Gollum having the ring longer and using it more. It could be explained this way, but that would be wrong. First of all, in the films, the first time we see Bilbo after he left the shire was in Rivendell. This seems like a couple of weeks have elapsed in the films and suddenly Bilbo is much older, but it’s really almost two decades. Also, the film aging was much too dramatic. In the books, he’s not way older. Although he is much more relaxed and sleepy. The end of the films, however, had it right. Bilbo did age dramatically after the ring was destroyed. If Gollum hadn’t fallen into Mount Doom, his dramatic aging would have been the same. It would have killed him.
4. Gandalf Knew About The Balrog
In the films, after the fellowship has been forced to trek through the Mines of Moria, Saruman indicates that Gandalf knows a Balrog is there, saying, “You fear to go into those mines. The Dwarves delved too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of Khazad-dum…shadow and flame.” This makes the decision to go into the mines all the more crazy. Still, knowing what other options they had, it might still be a risk anyone is willing to take. But that’s beside the point. Gandalf did NOT know a Balrog was awoken. He was aware of an evil there, the so-called “Durin’s Bane.” What that was wasn’t known. After the bit with the cave troll in the Chamber of Mazarbul, Gandalf puts a closing spell on the door. On the other side, he feels a power that he had never felt before. That’s clue one. Then, when he finally sees the Balrog, he exclaims, “A Balrog… Now I understand.”
3. Frodo Choosing Gollum Over Sam
For many purists, the thought of Frodo yelling at Sam makes them sick to their stomach. While there are people who mock the loyalty and dedication between hobbits, applying human relationship markers to them, there is nothing romantic there, but it is something special. Even though Peter Jackson and the film team were able to really hammer that relationship home, Frodo sending Sam home on the trek up the stairs of Cirith Ungol was a strange decision. In the books, we do see Frodo get a little angry with Sam when he realizes that Sam has the ring. There are two things going on in this moment: one, Frodo is experiencing a small iota of what it feels like to lose the ring and two, Frodo is worried for Sam. On the stairs of Cirith Ungol in the films, Frodo is just being manipulated by Gollum, something that would not be able to work in the real story. If mind games were all it took to drive a rift between Sam and Frodo, it would be far too easy to use them against each other.
2. Saruman Creating The Avalanche
In the films, we see the fellowship walking up the mountain, Caradhras. During their journey, Saruman is over at Orthanc chanting incantations that seem to cause an avalanche. While it was a cool way of forcing the group under the mountain, it wasn’t really all that sensible. In the books, it was the mountain itself that was restricting access. Although J.R.R. Tolkien never explicitly stated that Caradhras had sentience, he left it open enough that it was an option.
‘We cannot go further tonight,’ said Boromir. ‘Let those call it the wind who will; there are fell voices on the air; and these stones are aimed at us.’
‘I do call it the wind,’ said Aragorn. ‘But that does not make what you say untrue. There are many evil and unfriendly things in the world that have little love for those that go on two legs, and yet are not in league with Sauron, but have purposes of their own. Some have been in this world longer than he.’
‘Caradhras was called the Cruel, and had an ill name,’ said Gimli, ‘long years ago, when rumour of Sauron had not been heard in these lands.’
Now, add in the fact that we know the Misty Mountains, including Caradhras “were reared by Melkor,” the most ancient of evils, and it becomes much more possible that the mountain had a type of life in it.
1. Gandalf VS. The Witch-king Of Angmar
Even though the scene in the film is incredible to see, when the Witch-king breaks Gandalf’s staff and metaphorically defeats him, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense. In truth, Gandalf did have some self-doubt when confronting the Witch-king, but he was never outmatched. In the books, before they could even fight, they were drawn away so we never saw the result. But let’s remember. This wasn’t the first time they faced off. When Gandalf was grey, he fought off all nine of them on Weathertop.
“I reached it before sundown on my second day from Bree and they were there before me. They drew away from me, for they felt the coming of my anger and they dared not face it while the Sun was in the sky. But they closed round at night, and I was besieged on the hill-top, in the old ring of Amon Sul.”
At one point, Aragorn explains what having Gandalf on their side means, saying, “The Dark Lord has Nine. But we have One, mightier than they: the White Rider.” While Gandalf, like many of the high powers in LOTR may not show their true powers often, let’s not underestimate this old-timer.
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