Before Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, before The Rings of Power, there were others—claimants to the title of The Lord of the Screens. But the hearts of Hollywood are easily led astray…
The characters and themes of LOTR are fairly easy to grasp if you’re familiar with the series. Not for the screenwriters in this series. Last time we covered the first part of John Boorman’s The Lord of the Rings script. Hold on to your trousers because it only gets better (or worse). When we left off, Arwen and the elves of Rivendell were performing a bizarre ritual to get the shard of the cursed morgul blade out of Frodo’s shoulder.
Once the ritual is a success, the elves of Rivendell put on a Kabuki-style play about the history of the ring. Sauron appears, described as “a combination of Mick Jagger and Punch,” and dances around, chasing a dog. Characters playing Gandalf and Saruman arrive, and Saruman turns into a woman and attempts to seduce Gandalf into joining the enemy. Obviously, Saruman could only seduce Gandalf to evil as a female. Later, once the fellowship leaves Rivendell to begin their quest, Elrond’s face is superimposed into the scenery during his voice-over, and the Hobbits scramble across it.
The most outrageous scene in the script features Arwen. While the Fellowship is resting, Boromir demands Aragorn give him the shards of Narsil, the symbol of kingship. When Aragorn refuses, Boromir attacks him. Before their blades can meet, there is a flash of light, and Arwen appears. What occurs next is difficult to summarize, so here it is in full:
Peace. The quest must not fail in the quarrels of the fellowship. Each of you will take one half of the Sword-that-was-broken.
BOROMIR and ARAGORN bend the two sword-halves to her. She kisses each blade on their keen edges. She looks up and there is blood on her lips. She goes first to Aragorn and kisses his mouth, then to Boromir and kisses his. Her blood is on their blades and on their mouths.
Aragorn and Boromir, I bind you in brotherhood with my blood.
The two men bend their knees and kiss the thighs of her dress. BOROMIR weeps openly and a tear starts out of ARAGORN’s grey eyes. They rise up and BOROMIR kisses ARAGORN’s mouth. They turn back to ARWEN but she is gone.John Boorman, Rospo Pallenberg, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, 1970.
So much about this is wrong. Just a reminder–Arwen is 13 years old in this script. There are no blood rituals in the books, and if there were, they would be considered an evil practice. The shards of Narsil (the broken sword that Aragorn’s ancestor, Isildur, used to cut the Ring from the hand of Sauron) have passed through the line of Elendil for three thousand years as an heirloom of the kings in exile. In The Two Towers, Aragorn is forced to put aside this sword when entering the Hall of King Theoden. He is extremely hesitant, and when he finally relents, he says the following:
“Here I set it,” he said; “but I command you not to touch it, nor to permit any other to lay hand on it. In this Elvish sheath dwells the blade that was broken that has been made again. Telchar first wrought it in the deeps of time. Death shall come to any man that draws Elendil’s sword save Elendil’s heir.”J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Harper Collins, 2003, 136.
This script stacks alterations like Tetris blocks. When wargs attack the Company, Gandalf hypnotizes the fellowship and places them into a stream, freezing them in blocks of ice. Instead of the doors to Moria being opened by a simple riddle, Gandalf casts a spell on Gimli, and another absurd scene occurs. Gandalf asks Gimli if he can speak “the ancient Dwarf Tongue” to open the doors, Gimli says no, and this happens:
GANDALF advances on GIMLI, who retreats, terrified.
Only Gimli has the memory to open the door.
Then he booms out.
You greedy Dwarves…
GIMLI falls backwards as if the power of GANDALF’s voice has knocked him to the ground. GANDALF grabs him and thrusts him into a spiky and dusty bush of gorse. GIMLI is terrified, unable to talk. He slides to the ground, and brandishes his axe. The others jump back in fear.
Greedy Dwarves! Just dig, dig, dig, for precious metals… Dig! You greedy dwarf!
GIMLI begins cutting into the ground with his axe, and chopping through rocks. Working with animal fury, he digs away, scooping out the earth. He burrows into the ground like a mole.
Greed! Greed! Greed!
Dig deep, delve into the depths of the earth, greedy Dwarf.
At which, GANDALF strikes GIMLI with his staff. He howls and digs even faster; earth flies out of the hole. GANDALF swirls off his cloak, and casts it onto GIMLI, covering him. With his staff he thrashes the shape beneath the cloak.
In darkness, GIMLI goes on digging frantically.John Boorman, Rospo Pallenberg, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, 1970
Eventually, Gimli is allowed to get out of the hole and thanks Gandalf. He then chants in the “ancient dwarf tongue” and opens the door. In the book, “Speak Friend and Enter” is written on the door, the fellowship says the word friend in Elvish, and the door opens. The significance of Boorman’s scene is indeterminate, but at a guess, it was meant to show how Gandalf’s crippling addiction to mushrooms is beginning to affect the fellowship. The whole sequence is nonsensical and incomprehensible. Boorman made the door an obstacle much more complex than it was in the source material.
Remember the obsession Boorman has with the Arthurian legend that we talked about in Part One? It is illustrated not-so-subtly in the next scene. The Company finds Galadriel in a Lake instead of a forest, scantily clad, and the Fellowship begins acting like howling looney toons characters. Boromir grabs Galadriel and kisses her but pulls back, wailing in embarrassment when she does not reciprocate. After this interaction, Sam says, “She is a pretty flower, but she badly needs watering, she does!” If this sounds like the beginning of a bad parody porn, that is only half wrong. Galadriel takes Frodo into her tent to look into her magical mirror, and instead of seeing anything about the quest, they hold hands, and then the mirror shows them kissing. The script cuts away. Whether more relations occurred between them is ambiguous, but since this is Boorman, Hobbit sex is the most likely implication.
This circus clown acid trip continues, so look out for part three, coming soon!