Unsung Heroes of The Lord of the Rings: From the Page to the Screen

Unsung Heroes of The Lord of the Rings: From the Page to the Screen

Unsung Heroes of The Lord of the Rings: From the Page to the Screen

Unsung Heroes of The Lord of the Rings: From the Page to the Screen


Most criticism of The Lord of the Rings trilogy emphasizes the most likely heroes in the tales: Aragorn, Frodo, Gandalf, and even Sam. From popular to scholarly literature, the women and smaller characters often go overlooked. But our notions of what makes a hero have altered since September 11, and sometimes the most unlikely people can come to embody all that we look up to and admire in a person. Here, Lynnette Porter examines what we mean when we talk about heroes, and for the first time illustrates the heroic qualities that can be found in the women and other beloved, though less-celebrated, characters in the The Lord of the Rings books and movies. She takes a critical look at the importance of literary and cinematic heroes in general, emphasizing the roles of Merry, Pippin, Galadriel, Eowyn, Arwen, Legolas, and Gimli, who can all be considered heroes despite their relatively smaller roles. She shows, ultimately, that our attraction to and celebration of heroes does not have to be limited to the leading man, but rather that women and youth often display essential characteristics of true heroes.

Bringing together a discussion of both the books and the movies, Porter reveals for readers the heroic nature of several characters in The Lord of the Rings who have been ignored in terms of their status as heroes. Nevertheless, these female and youthful characters have received incredible popular acclaim and illustrate the shift in the way the Western movie-going public identifies and glorifies heroes. While other stars may have outshone the likes of Merry and Pippin, Arwen and Galadriel, Porter redirects the spotlight on these favorites of the books and movies to show us how the roles they play, the actions they take, and the behaviors they display are worthy of our praise and admiration. This unique and refreshing perspective adds dimension to our understanding of The Lord of the Rings phenomenon.


Readers who enjoy J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and filmgoers who thrill to Peter Jackson's adaptation of the books are not always the same people. Some fans of the books have been dismayed, if not downright angry, at the differences between the books and the latest nonbook version of Tolkien's epic. Fans of the films may not like the books because they are long and lack the rapid action sequences common on screen. Then there are those who enjoy both tellings of the story but appreciate the differences and similarities of the adaptations of Tolkien's text into other media, most recently as films. I am one of this latter group. I do not consider Jackson's works superior or inferior to the original books—they are simply different and will be discussed in light of their own merits.

Since 1999, when word of the filming began to spread rapidly through Internet communities, and popular fan Web sites such as TheOneRingNet became established places where production news was posted daily, Tolkien's works celebrated an unprecedented revival. Although many of his books have been extremely popular at different points throughout the latter half of the past century, for a time in the early 2000s, everything remotely related to Tolkien took on special meaning as Jackson's films moved from production to postproduction to release of each of the three films. Discussing The Lord of the Rings for at least the next few years probably means talking about both the books and the films. The Lord of the Rings may face a similar fate as The Wizard of Oz—to become best known on film—although the books on which the film was based remain popular.

Jackson's films came about during a pivotal period in recent history. All three movies were filmed primarily during approximately eighteen months . . .

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