- Hobbiton to Buckleberry Ferry
- From Buckleberry Ferry to Bree
- From Bree to Weathertop
- From Weathertop to Rivendell
- From Rivendell to Moria
- Through Moria
- From Lorien to Rauros (big falls of Anduin)
- Battle at Rauros (begin of 2nd volume and 3rd book)
- From Rauros to Fangorn
- From Fangorn to Isengard (Merry and Pippin)
- Fangorn to Edoras (Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas)
- From Edoras to Helm’s Deep
- Battle at Helm’s Deep
- From Helm’s Deep to Isengard
- From Rauros to Black Gate (begin of 4th book)
- Black Gate to Ithilien
- Ithilien - Meeting with Faramir
- From Ithilien to Crossroads
- From Crossroads to Shelob’s Lair
- Shelob’s Lair
- Minas Tirith (begin of 3rd volume and 5th book)
- From Isengard via Helm’s Deep to Dunharrow
- From Dunharrow via Dimholt to Minas Tirith
- From Dunharrow via Edoras to Minas Tirith
- Battle of Minas Tirith
- Pyres of Denethor
- From Minas Tirith to Black Gate
- Escape from Cirith Ungol (begin of 6th book)
- From Cirith Ungol to Mount Doom
- From Black Gate via Cair Andros to Minas Tirith
- From Minas Tirith to Edoras
- From Edoras to Isengard
- From Isengard to Rivendell
- From Rivendell to Bree
- From Bree to the Shire
- Gray Havens
- Journey’s End
After a long time I have finally bought the books of Lord of the Rings. In this post I intend to show the differences between the book(s) and the movies. Regardless of any shown differences, the movies are and remain my most beloved of all and are a very good adaptation of the books.
To clear up terminology, what we call books is called volumes in Lord of the Rings. The first volume entitled “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” is internally consisting of two books. The same is true for the second and third volumes that correspond with the movies.
That said, let’s start with the differences of (for now) the first two volumes/movies.
Hobbiton to Buckleberry Ferry
It is difficult to clearly outline what is different from the movie as many things are never mentioned in the movie and therefore even mentioning them would require an extensive summary of the book which I cannot do. Nonetheless I will try my very best to give as much details as necessary to understand the background of things.
The time before the party of Bilbo is mentioned with detail. He receives presents from Dale and the Lonely Mountain and dwarves are regular visitors. The Sackville-Bagginses are distant relatives of his and they already bought Bag End in the auction at the end of The Hobbit story line. Ever since they had to give it back, they yearn for owning it again. Bilbo makes Frodo (a cousin) his official heir, which makes S.-B. even more hatred, because they see less of a chance to get Bag End again. At some point Bilbo places the sign “No admittance unless on party business” at the entrance of the estate.
Gandalf arrives in the shire for the feast. The party is held on premises of Bag End. When Bilbo does the speech, he mentions that Frodo not only becomes of age at 33 years but also into inheritance. Everyone is puzzled. Then he puts the ring on disappears. Gandalf added some light effects which make people think that Gandalf let Bilbo disappear. Therefore he is named “disturber of the peace”.
After the guests were all home, Gandalf makes sure that Bilbo leaves the envelope with the ring in the house. Frodo is given the ring and asked to keep it secure.
17 years pass in which Gandalf tries to figure out if the ring is actually “the one ring”. Eventually he comes back and has a lengthy talk with Frodo and tells him of the task ahead and that Frodo must go to Rivendell. At this meeting the black speech on the ring is also revealed. To make his disappearance seem normal, Frodo plans with the help of his friend Meriadoc to move to Buckland (east of the Brandywine river) and buys a small home there, which is out of eyesight from other buildings. Bag End is sold to the S.-B. Sam was eavesdropping and was conscripted to help Frodo in the endeavour.
Gandalf sets out again and on his return to the shire (some weeks/months before Frodos move) he meets Radagast near Bree, who tells him that Saruman wants to see him. Gandalf now writes a letter and gives it to the innkeeper in Bree who should send it to Frodo.
Finally the day of the move is there and Merry and Pippin help Frodo with moving the chairs and similar things to the new home. Merry is riding ahead. Short before Frodo is set to depart, he sees a black man near the house of Sam. At midnight Frodo goes with Sam and Pippin by foot through the countryside, trying to avoid the streets. They go in a big berth south over the main east-west street and into Took land. Their journey lasts multiple days and on the way they encounter black riders some number of times and meet the elves which travel from the Grey Havens. One night they stay with the elves and Frodo talks about the problems and the black riders with the leader of the elves. The leader promises to send out messengers to alert other elves of the problems.
The supplies of Frodo, Sam and Pippin are running already thin when they finally arrive during late evening at the farm in the east of the shire. Pippin is known by the farmer so they are friendly greeted and have supper and tell parts of their story. The farmer agrees to transport them with his carriage in the dark to the Buckleberry Ferry. There a dark shadow on a pony comes close to them but it is revealed as Merry who was wondering where Frodo was. The farmer said good bye and together they travelled with the ferry over the Brandywine.
I already left a lot out but the gist of it should be clear. In the movie the seventeen years comprise of one scene where Gandalf journeys to Minas Tirith to read the accounts of Isildur. Also Gandalf is disturber of the peace prior of Bilbo’s disappearance. Further the S.-B. are mentioned and Bilbo is wary of them but it is not clear why exactly. All the dwarves and the connection to Laketown (and hence the key location of The Hobbit) are missing. Pippin and Merry are not introduced during the party. The dragon firework however was in the book.
The journey through the shire is implied but Pippin is not part of it and they only see elves in passing. Pippin and Merry are reintroduced running through a farm and afterwards they hide the first time from the black rider. In the following they run to Backleberry Ferry and barely escape. The black riders asking around in Hobbiton and the shire in general is shown, however.
The topic of supplies, eating and the duration of the journey is excessively mentioned in the book but almost never in the movie.
If you solely watch the movie you do not get a sense of the size of the shire, nor of the exact geography of the things.
From Buckleberry Ferry to Bree
How shall I put it, in the movie it is instantaneous. The next scene after the ferry is Bree, heavily implying it is a trouble free journey. In the book a whole part of the journey exists that was completely cut from the movie.
A very short account of the narrative in the book follows.
East of the Brandywine Merry is again riding ahead, since Frodo knows the way and Merry wants to prepare things. After some foot walk they arrive at the new small home of Frodo. There they wash and eat. On the early morning of the next day they want to go on. Frodo is feeling bad, because he wants to say goodbye. But it is revealed that indeed Sam, Pippin and Merry guessed a long time ago the plans of Frodo and conspired to help him.
The next day they start each with a pony through the forest east of the shire. This forest is troublesome for them and the trees are blocking their way until they eventually arrive at Old Willow. There Pippin and Merry are taken in by the tree [this type of scene was added to the Extended Version of the second movie and is placed in the Fangorn forest]. Tom Bombadil comes to their aid and together they travel to Tom’s home, where Goldberry waited. There they recovered and heard stories. It was revealed that Tom was not influenced by the ring.
After some time they went on but were caught by wights. They barely survived and their ponies went back to Tom. Frodo sang a song that Tom taught them to sing when in peril. Tom came and freed the hobbits. Once more they went to the home of Tom. Afterwards Tom brought them to the street to Bree. There they said goodbye and went to the city gate of Bree.
During this time Gandalf escaped from Saruman, rode with the fastest horse of the Rohans (Shadowfax) to Hobbiton and then back to Bree and arrived there few days before the hobbits. He did not stay there and moved on towards Rivendell.
The entire presence in Bree is far more detailed than in the movie.
They arrive at the Prancing Pony and get their rooms. There they wash and eat supper. Afterwards everyone but Merry goes to the big room and joined the company there. Pippin told a lot of stories of the shire which got a lot of attention. Also there were Underhills who thought Frodo was a long lost cousin.
Frodo spoke with Strider who warned him of the attention that Pippin got. Then Frodo decided to sing a song to get the attention away from Pippin. But ofter a while he fell and the ring slipped on his finger. The crowd was crazy. Frodo took the ring off again and explained that he was not gone. The other people thought him a magician.
They went back to their rooms with Strider who explained who he was. Then the innkeeper came and remembered that he was given a letter from Gandalf. This letter explained who Strider is and urged Frodo to leave Bag End immediately.
Upon the realization of the imminent danger, they relocated to another room and stuffed something in the beds to irritate the black riders. Merry was still gone. The helper of the innkeeper was told to keep watch for Merry. Later in the night Merry was brought back and was shocked.
Their deception proved important as the black riders went to the hobbit rooms in the inn and when discovering that those were empty, they fled the scene. The ponies of the hobbits moved away as well. On the next morning the innkeeper asked around in town who would be willing to sell a horse. Only one person proved willing and that person was also implicated as working for the dark lord. Nonetheless the hobbits got the horse and used it to pack the supplies and went with Strider out of the town.
The key points are kept in the movie but overall the book gives much higher fidelity.
From Bree to Weathertop
Strider leads them off-road to the Weathertop, which takes many days and supplies are dwindling. The journey to Weathertop is very much shortened in the movie.
Three days away from Weathertop the company sees lightning on the Weathertop. This is later revealed to be a fight of Gandalf with the riders. Afterwards Gandalf rides fast to Rivendell.
The events of the Weathertop are in effect similar but the exact location somewhat different. It is explained in the book that the black riders cannot see normally. They need their black horses for visual direction. Rather they smell things. As long as Frodo did not have the ring on, he was invisible to the riders without their horses. The other hobbits were not endangered by the riders. Once Frodo took the ring on, they saw him and stabbed him with a morgul blade. Gladly for Frodo they missed, otherwise he would have become one of them.
From Weathertop to Rivendell
The journey to Rivendell was long and perilous. At some point they came across the trolls of The Hobbit and took some weapons from there. Short before the Ford of Bruinen they met Glorfindel who came from Rivendell. Frodo was to ride on the white horse on to Rivendell. When the riders came, Frodo did not want to ride fast away. Glorfindel spoke something to the horse which then gallopped fast towards the Ford and barely came first place ahead of more riders. Once over the Ford, Frodo stopped with his sword high and wanted the riders to stop. The riders stepped into the river and were then flooded away. It is later revealed that the forms on the water (horses) were added by Gandalf.
In the movie the journey is very much shorter and it is not Glorfindel but Arwen that comes to their aid. Furthermore Arwen is travelling with Frodo to the Ford and the chase to the Ford is made longer than it was in the book. Lastly Arwen seems to cause the flood when in the book it is revealed that Elrond is the reason for it.
Rivendell takes a much longer time than it was in the movie. In fact is is so intensive that I cannot give a clear abstract of the order of things.
Differences of the book to the movie
- prior to the council of Elrond, many months pass in which scouts are searching for the black riders
- the council itself is much longer, Gloin is present as well and tells from the Lonely Mountain
- Legolas reports that Gollum fled from imprisonment
- Gandalf tells the full tale of the betrayal of Saruman
- Aragorn has the broken Narzil with him, it is not lying in Rivendell
- the sword is reforged and Anduril, Flame of the West, is given to Aragorn
- many more scenes with Bilbo
- almost no mention of Arwen (connection of Aragorn and Arwen is not mentioned at all and only visible if you know what to look for)
From Rivendell to Moria
The fellowship sets out with the pony. Supplies and the duration of the journey, as well as the specific route are far more detailed in the book. Dark birds are flying over them but not in the least in the way it is depicted in the movie. It is not an attack. At last they come to Caradhras (or Redhorn) and try to take the mountain pass. In the book it is Aragorn who pushes for this route. They are defeated by the snow and the snow is not caused by Saruman in a wizard battle with Gandalf.
When back down, they are attacked by wargs which pushes them towards Moria, rather than the Gap of Rohan. After a long journey they find the door. Gandalf takes quite some time until he finds out that the riddle is meant literal, the door to Moria opens. The company has to leave the pony behind. After the water was disturbed, an octopus-like being comes out of it and pushes them into Moria and then barrs the doors from the outside, so that they cannot push the door open again from the inside (which they could have done otherwise).
The movie makes the journey on the one hand shorter and more dramatic. Also it adds scene where Boromir picks up the ring from Frodo, which has no resemblance in the book. Furthermore Saruman is mentioned far more often and is a crucial plot device in the movie.
The journey through Moria is longer and more detailed in the book. At the junction with the three pathways (depicted in movie) there is an additional guard room where they make rest for the night. In that guard room is an old well and there Pippin throws a stone inside which runs deep down. Gandalf’s remark is the same as in the movie.
Gandalf leads the company at length to the room with Balin’s last stand. Here he reads the accounts which are written in various languages. The company hears drums in the background. They are attacked and Frodo is hit. The company escapes through the second door which leads them down and Gandalf creates a magical barrier but is throne back. It is not revealed from what or whom. The fellowship is moving towards the bridge of Khazadûm. The Balrog is coming for them and Gandalf makes a stand and is thrown down. His last words are “Fly you fools”. After some further rooms the remaining fellowship makes for the main entrance of Moria, kills the guards there and after a short momento stop for Gimli, they make haste for the forest of Lorien.
The overall journey through Lorien is way more detailed. An orc company is following them out of Moria. In Lorien they make rest for the night and try to climb the trees. The elves in the trees say the famous line that they could hear them from a mile away. Legolas negotiates with the elves and the company can stay on the flots for the night.
Afterwards they are led to the central part of the forest, at some point they blindfolded to ensure the exact way is unknown to them.
In the city they meet high up in the trees Galadriel and Celeborn. The dialogue is more detailed. The company gets a pavillon to sleep in. Overall they stay many weeks in Lorien where time seems to be different. The key scene of the mirror involves Sam as well and more visions are mentioned.
From Lorien to Rauros (big falls of Anduin)
Lastly the fellowship is departing from Lorien and brought to the harbour. There they get Lambas bread, their cloaks and the boats as well as rope for Sam. With them they travel in direction of Anduin, The Great. Before leaving the forest, a large ship of Galadriel and Celeborn is towed to them and they eat on the grass next to the river. There they get the presents.
- Aragorn: a sheath for Anduril and the jewel that Aragorn received in the movie in Rivendell from Arwen
- Boromir: golden belt
- Legolas: a bow
- Gimli: three hairs of Galadriel
- Sam: a box with earth of Galadriel’s orchard and a silver nut from a mallorn tree
- Frodo: the light of Earendil
- Pippin/Merry: silver belt
Afterwards they journey for a long time through various regions along the Anduin. One night they encounter Gollum but after Frodo draws Sting, Gollum disappears and is not seen again, though he continues to follow them. At some point they come to the rapids of Sarn Gebir and they transport the boats to the other end of the rapids. Then they journey on to the falls of Rauros. At the beach they make camp for the night and finally have to decide whether to go to Minas Tirith as Boromir was headed or to Mordor. Frodo asks for time to think about it and walks away. Some time later Boromir meets him and the scene from the movie plays. Frodo takes the ring on and runs to the top of the hill. In a stone chair he sits down and walks in all four directions of the sky. In the east he sees the ever watchful eye and manages to take the ring of mere seconds before Sauron would have known his exact location.
Frodo made a decision to leave everyone alone and move to Mordor without saying goodbye. He slips the ring back on trying to come to the beach without anyone noticing.
Meanwhile Sam asks where Frodo remains. Boromir reappears and it is revealed that Boromir threatened Frodo. Aragorn tries to keep order but fails. Pippin and Merry are running to the wood calling for Frodo. Legolas and Gimli, being already friends, move together to search for Frodo. Aragorn asks Boromir to at least protect Pippin and Merry. Aragorn is going with Sam. But Sam cannot keep the pace of Aragorn and falls back. He thinks that Frodo needs a boat to get to the other side and runs back to the beach. There he discovers that Frodo is in one of the boats. Sam is running into the water and is saved by Frodo, who still has the ring on. Frodo takes the ring off, gets Sam aboard and rows back to the shore.
Sam takes his things and makes hole into the other boats and sets off with Frodo to the other shore, where they hide the boat and move on.
The journey is shorter and the first movie concludes with a battle of the Urukhai, where Boromir dies. This part is not even in the first book and only hinted at in the second (which I will feature later). The scene with Boromir and the almost drowning of Sam is, however, depicted close to the book.
Battle at Rauros (begin of 2nd volume and 3rd book)
Before I start with the summary of the battle on the west coast of the Anduin, I will give some general information about the second volume and how I will portray it here. The second volume focuses first only on the things west of the Anduin (Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, Gandalf, Pippin, Merry) and then in the 4th book on the things that Frodo and Sam are experiencing. This order will be preserved here. Furthermore, there will be quite big differences between the book and the movie.
Frodo and Sam have already departed when the battle begins. Aragorn is at the top of Amon Hen when he hears the horn of Gondor. By the time he arrives Boromir is pierced by many arrows and Merry and Pippin are taken. Legolas and Gimli arrive much later and were at a different part of the forest. After some parting words with Boromir, Aragorn sends Legolas and Gimli back to Parth Galen, where the boats still lie. They take both remaining boats and bring them close to the point where Boromir is. Boromir is put into one boat together with his sword and tokens of the slain enemies. Then they paddle with the other boat close to the falls of Rauros and let the boat of Boromir go over it.
Afterwards they get back to the land and set out to hunt orcs.
The movie version at the end of the first movie is close enough. However, one major difference there is: In the book the attack involves not only orcs from Saruman but also orcs under direction of Sauron. Also, Legolas happens to be out of arrows in the book. In the movie he is never out of arrows.
From Rauros to Fangorn
Both parts of the remaining fellowship travel to Fangorn forest.
Merry and Pippin
Overall the journey to the forest is more detailed in the book and the different orcs are fighting with each other. This is actually indicated in the movie, albeit much shorter. Other than that there are no big diversions to be noted.
Before the Fangorn forest the riders of Rohan are encircling the camp of the orcs. Merry and Pippin manage to flee into the forest.
Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas
Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas are running for days with minimal rest and cover a huge distance to keep up with the orcs of Saruman that can travel both during day and night. Along the way they try to understand what happens in the orc company and keep track of the lost hobbits. Eventually, they meet Éomer and have some longer talk than during the movie. They get two horses and travel forth to Fangorn forest where they encounter the camp of the destroyed orcs.
The major difference relates to the Aragorn part of the story. Éomer is not exiled but went on his own to hunt the orcs. The horses are given to Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas with the clear instruction to give them back in Edoras in a few days time. As usual the dialogues in the book are more extensive and give more insight into what is going on.
Furthermore, in the dialogue of the orcs is revealed that the black riders are now using winged animals.
From Fangorn to Isengard (Merry and Pippin)
Merry and Pippin travel through Fangorn forest until and initially stay close to the river Entwash. After some time they arrive at a plateau when they meet Treebeard there. It is revealed that his name is actually Fangorn and he is the master of the forest. Together they travel a great distance to the home of Treebeard. Ents do not eat and only drink. As a consequence Merry and Pippin are drinking their meals as well.
The gathering of ents happens and Merry and Pippin meet a “hasty” ent. They talk a while and eventually the ents have decided to go to war against Saruman. With Treebeard the hobbits now travel to Isengard where the ents attack and put it under water.
In the book there is a lot more information aboout ents and their lore. Plus, the entire story up until the destruction of Isengard is longer. The biggest difference is that Merry and Pippin do NOT meet Gandalf in the forest.
Fangorn to Edoras (Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas)
Near the camp the three companions discover signs that the hobbits escaped into the forest. Before entering it, they camp one night and seem to see Saruman but when they try to speak to the old man, he disappears. Their horses also disappear during one night. In Fangorn they eventually reach the same plateau. There they meet Gandalf again, who is revealed to be the white wizard now. Together they leave the forest and find their horses again. Gandalf is again riding with Shadowfax. Following Shadofax and Gandalf, they travel straight south towards Edoras.
The encounter with Gandalf is different and, again, the dialogues are more detailed. No major plot differences though.
From Edoras to Helm’s Deep
In Edoras they are at first locked out of the city. Eventually they are allowed inside but have to leave their weapons outside of the king’s hall. Gandalf can keep his staff. Inside Gandalf frees king Théoden of Rohan from the influence of Wormtongue. However, Saruman was not directly controlling the king. Éomer was arrested but is now freed and gives the sword of the king back to him. With sword in hand, the king remembers his strength, although the old age is not gone. Wormtongue is banished from Edoras, free to choose his path.
After a short meal the host of Edoras is setting out to make war to Isengard. Eowyn is given control of Edoras and is tasked to guide their people to safety.
On the way to Isengard they are informed that the Westfold defense has been broken by Saruman. The general Erkenbrand is said to be in Helm’s Deep. Gandalf leaves the host and gallops away. The rest of the host move towards Helm’s Deep. Éomer is riding with the king and Aragorn.
Helm’s Deep is set behind a dike, which is open only for the road. They realise that it cannot be guarded against the onslaught of the enemy. Therefore, they move to the Hornburg. The entrance to the caves is behind the Deeping Wall and not through the Hornburg. It is revealed that Erkenbrand is not in Helm’s Deep. Gamling is the leader of the troops at Helm’s Deep.
There are no warg attacks. Aragorn is not lost in the waters. There are no two young boys from the Westfold that come to Edoras to report an attack. Éowyn does not travel together with Aragorn. No elves are coming to help at Helm’s Deep - knowing the distance from Rivendell to Helm’s Deep, where the only pass is held by Saruman, they would have to depart in Rivendell weeks before the fellowship is broken to arrive in time. The only other elven stronghold is in Lothlorien and they would not leave their forest. Éomer and the rohirrim are not banished and therefore are at the battle from the start.
Battle at Helm’s Deep
Shortly after arriving in Helm’s Deep the enemy forces are approaching. Among them are the urukhai but also wild men from the western lands. The events of the battle:
- rearguard from dike is galloping to Hornburg
- gates of Hornburg are almost destroyed
- Aragorn and Éomer are entering the area before the gate to relieve it for a while
- Gimli followed them and prevents harm to Éomer
- the gate is blocked from the inside and holds for the remainder of the siege
- ladders were put against wall
- some orcs crept like rats through opening in wall (the one for the river) an were behind wall
- Gimli saw them, jumped down from wall and attacked them
- Gamling saw this and attacked the orcs with some men from the Hornburg
- the orcs were crushed
- bolders were used to block the inner part of the culvert for the stream of water
- a short pause in the attack
- culvert is blown to pieces while Aragorn, Éomer, and Gamling talk
- at the same time more ladders are put against the wall
- orcs are swarming in and the defense is driven to the caves or the Hornburg
- Aragorn and Legolas retreat into Hornburg
- Gamling, Éomer, and Gimli are driven to the caves
- a plan is made to ride out
- Aragorn parleys with orcs and wild men and warns them
- gate is blown to pieces
- sound of horn of Helm rings
- Théoden rides out with Aragorn, men in the caves attack the orcs and drive them back (the morning after a night of fighting)
- Théoden rides up to the great dike
- all the orcs retreat behind the dike and stay there, in fear of both the king and the forest (the tree-like ents marched to Helm’s Deep instead of Isengard)
- Gandalf appears and close after a great host of men appear
- they are led by a great warrior with a red shield, Erkenbrand
- the king’s company, Gandalf, and the host of men charge into the orcs and wild men
- the wild men lie down to the earth while the orcs are fleeing to the forest, where they are destroyed
With this the battle concludes.
The overall choreography of the battle is changed a little, made more linear, and shortened. That said, the battle makes up a larger percentage of the screentime than it does in the book relative to the number of pages in it. This is due to the paradoxical effect of writing length to filming length. Action can be summarised quite succinctly. In a movie all these actions actually have to be shown. Conversely, a dialogue that takes only a few minutes of talking will fill many pages in a book.
From Helm’s Deep to Isengard
After the battle it is revealed what Gandalf did, that Gimli, Gamling, and Éomer survived, and the captain of the king’s guard Háma was dead. The wild men were allowed to go home if they swore an oath never to cross the fords of Isen again bearing arms or helping otherwise the enemies of men.
Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, Théoden, Éomer, and some warriors travelled to Isengard. On the way Gimli told Legolas about the caverns of Helm’s Deep and that before their end Legolas had to visit them together with Gimli. In turn, Legolas got the promise from Gimli that they would visit Fangorn forest together, despite Gimli feeling unwell in it.
Arriving in Isengard, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas met again with Merry and Pippin. While Gandalf and the king’s company went with Treebeard, the three companions stayed and a great deal was told about what happened to each party. Eventually, the parley with Saruman took place but no useful information was taken from him. Gandalf broke the staff of Saruman and removed him from the council of wizards, Saruman was now colour-less. Wormtongue, who had fled to Isengard, threw out a palantir. Pippin found it but Gandalf quickly took it over and covered it. Gandalf asked Treebeard to keep watch on Saruman, who might be encircled but had still the power of Orthanc. Furthermore, Treebeard should let in the water once more to find out all drains that Saruman might use to escape. On their departure, they heard how Wormtongue was killed by Saruman, likely because he threw out the palantir.
A few hours of Isengard the company made camp. Pippin looked at the palantir and it was revealed that Sauron thought it still in Isengard. Pippin told nothing but that he was a hobbit. Sauron likely thought him a prisoner of Saruman and did not question further. Through this revelation it became clear how Saruman kept in touch with Sauron. Aragorn was given the palantir to keep it secret. Shortly after a nazgul was over them and headed to Isengard. Now they made haste and Gandalf took Pippin and rode swiftly towards Edoras and then Minas Tirith.
For once, the journey to Isengard is the starting scene of the third movie. Aside from this, the major difference is that Saruman remains alive and Wormtongue is killed by Saruman. Furthermore, the scene with the palantir takes place on the road and not in Edoras.
From Rauros to Black Gate (begin of 4th book)
I am now continuing with the story of Frodo and Sam. It starts with finding their way through Emyn Muil. There they meet Gollum and tame him. With his help, they find a way out of Emyn Muil and afterwards through the Dead Marshes. While in the Dead Marshes, a nazgul comes flying over them. This encounter triggers something in Gollum and makes the evil part surface again. After leaving the Dead Marshes, the three companions make their way to the Black Gate.
The journey takes longer in the book. However, the Dead Marshes are more uneventful than portrayed in the movie. Also, the movie has less details. But in general the movie is very close to the book in this part. One noteworthy difference: Frodo does not run down towards the Black Gate in the book.
Black Gate to Ithilien
They decide to go through a back-entrance into Mordor and set out to the south. After leaving the barren lands close to the Black Gate behind them, they enter the former garden province of Gondor, Ithilien.
In Ithilien, Sam is stewing a rabbit with a small fire and for the first time in a while the hobbits have something warm to eat.
In the movie the journey is shorter and it also works with implied concurrency. By cutting away from Frodo and Sam after the Black Gate and only returning once they are in Ithilien, the viewer can assume that the story of Frodo and Sam continued while they saw the western events unfold. In the book they see a nazgul leaving for the west on their way to Ithilien. This very nazgul arrives in Isengard a few hours later. Therefore, the western events told in the second volume are almost over when the story of Frodo and Sam is really starting.
Ithilien - Meeting with Faramir
The fire of Sam was observed by the men of Faramir. Shortly after, the hobbits were discovered and had to wait with two guards, while the rest of the men attacked the Haradrim from the south. After the battle, Faramir questioned Frodo on the spot about Boromir and Isildur’s Bane. Eventually, they moved to a secret hideout and were blindfolded for the last meters.
The following part of the story diverges massively from the movie up to the Crossroads. During their stay at the hideout they get proper food and have a lengthy talk with Faramir. He is at no point trying to take the ring and once it is revealed that Frodo has the ring, he still did not do it. No other man was informed about the ring. At some point Gollum is observed in the forbidden pool. Frodo convinces Faramir to leave Gollum alive. But Gollum is taken prisoner and questioned by Faramir. It is revealed that Gollum intends to bring them to the stairs of Cirith Ungol. Faramir warns Frodo about the stairs and the dangers that lie there, though he cannot give any specific information. Eventually, the hobbits are given food for the way and escorted out again, together with Gollum, until Faramir leaves them.
There are so many differences that I can only list the biggest ones. Faramir is more wise in the book and does not try to bring Frodo to Minas Tirith. He even gives him the promise of safe passage through Gondor for one year and a day. Frodo should come to Minas Tirith and explain him before the steward if he wanted to make it lifelong. The hobbits have multiple meals with the men and upon departing are given fresh food for the journey. They are not brought to Osgiliath.
Faramir recounts to Frodo how he saw Boromir travel by in the boat on the Anduin. This retrospective scene is shown in the movie very accurately. The movie does portray the key points like them meeting Faramir and Gollum taken prisoner but there the similarities end. Effectively, the movie gives Faramir a slightly different character and probably chooses to introduce Osgiliath so that the viewers have more emotional ties to it in the third movie.
From Ithilien to Crossroads
This entire journey is completely different in the movie. In the book they travel some days through Ithilien along its wester border until the trees become scarcer. Then they go closer to the southward road until they come to the crossroads. At the crossroads is a statue with a severed head. This scene is in the third movie. The road from Osgiliath continues straight to Minas Morgul behind the crossroads.
From Crossroads to Shelob’s Lair
After crossing the southward road and following the road to Minas Morgul, the ring all of a sudden grew heavy again. A short while later they arrive at Minas Morgul. They hide while the army marches out. Then they climb the two stairs up and rest.
The scene down at Minas Morgul is exactly as in the book. But in the book Sam is never sent back and Gollum does not throw away the Lembas bread. Also, the leader of the ringwraiths is riding on a horse to battle and not on a nazgul. Furthermore, the phial of Galadriel is already used by Frodo when hiding from the army to stay the desire to touch the ring.
Frodo and Sam are entering the tunnel together with Gollum. After a short while Gollum disappears. Along the way multiple side passages are running away. They follow the main tunnel up to a Y-shaped point. The left path is blocked. Following the right path, they hear some noise behind and see multiple eyes. With the phial of Galadriel in hand, Frodo is approaching them. They retreat.
Then both continue upwards until they are stopped by cobwebs. Sting is successfully used to cut them. Frodo runs forward out of joy of them having escaped the tunnel while Sam cannot quite keep up. Sam is attacked by Gollum but manages to fight him off. When Sam leaves the tunnel, Frodo lies on the bottom and Shelob is above him. Sam attacks Shelob with his sword and lies below her, when she hammers her body down on the sword. Afterwards she retreats. Sam thinks Frodo dead but does not know what to do. After some deliberation, he takes the ring and Sting, and leaves Frodo. Then he hears voices of orcs, puts on the ring and follows them.
A group of orcs came up from Minas Morgul, while another came from the watchtower. Both met and took Frodo back into the tunnel. The previously closed tunnel path was the entrance to the watchtower. Sam managed to get inside the path but was not able to enter the tower. There the second volume ends.
Sam and Frodo are together in the struggle of the tunnel. It is cleared up how Sam got the ring, the entrance to the tower is different and overall there is less drama in the book. Furthermore, there is a great deal more background information provided in the last chapter, where Sam hears the orc captains talk with each other. However, it is somewhat weird that Sam can keep the ring on for so long (many minutes at least) without being discovered by Sauron. In any case Sauron does not seem to know immediately where the ring is when someone uses it.
Minas Tirith (begin of 3rd volume and 5th book)
I continue with the 3rd volume. The 5th book covers all events up to the battle at the Black Gate, whereas the 6th book tells the remaining story of Frodo and Sam, and subsequently finishes the tale of the Lord of the Rings.
Gandalf rides with Pippin to Minas Tirith. On the way he shortly stops at Edoras and gives orders to muster the troops of Rohan at Dunharrow. They reach the outer walls of Minas Tirith and are allowed in. Eventually they reach the citadel and talk with Denethor. Pippin enters the service of Denethor and they walk to their home in the citadel. On his first day in the city, Pippin makes friends with a captain of the guard and gets a tour of the city by the son of that captain. Most women and children were evacuated out of the city and troops from far away parts of Gondor came.
The first day in Minas Tirith is portrayed with far more detail and the actual size of the realm of Gondor and the city of Minas Tirith becomes more clear. Furthermore, there are outer walls around the fields of Pelennor to protect the farmlands and cottages there. This short summary does not do justice to the book, so please read it. ;)
From Isengard via Helm’s Deep to Dunharrow
After Gandalf and Pippin departed, a host of Dunedain from the North came and with them the sons of Elrond. The entire group rides back to Helm’s Deep. There some form of feast happens. Aragorn reveals himself to Sauron. Merry enters into service of Théoden. Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas ride together with the Dunedain over the plain to Dunharrow. Merry, Théoden and his army moves through the mountains to Dunharrow, which requires more time.
There is no stop in Helm’s Deep in the movies. The feast is moved to Edoras, Gandalf and Pippin are still there, no Dunedain or elf lords are present, and the reveal of Aragorn to Sauron is moved to Minas Tirith after the battle.
From Dunharrow via Dimholt to Minas Tirith
The three companions leave Dunharrow with the Dunedain one day ahead of the arrival of Théoden. They travel through the Dimholt, call the dead, and then ride hard to Erech to receive the fealty of the dead army. A long journey to the Anduin follows. Eventually, they reach it and take over the Corsair fleet. The slaves are freed, the southern men flee, and the dead army has fulfilled their pledge.
Aragorn presents himself as king and the people of the southern Gondor travel with him to Minas Tirith by ship.
All horses march through the Dimholt, the pledge is taken at Erech, and the distance to Anduin is shown. In the movie, this trip is shortened substantially and is also geographically false. Furthermore, the dead army is not released after freeing the ships but only after the battle of Minas Tirith.
From Dunharrow via Edoras to Minas Tirith
Riders from Gondor come to Dunharrow to call for aid. Merry, Théoden, Éowyn, Éomer and the army is moving quickly to Edoras and from there to Minas Tirith. On the way they meet old people from the forest. These people seem to be related to the dead people. With their help the Rohirrim can avoid an orc host which stands between them and Minas Tirith. Eventually, the army reaches the now destroyed outer walls of Minas Tirith.
The movie removed the entire portion about the forest people, the orc host, and the riders from Gondor. Furthermore, the geography is changed by implying that Dunharrow is closer to Gondor than Edoras.
Battle of Minas Tirith
Faramir returns with his company from Cair Andros. Gandalf defends him against a nazgul. After some discussion with Denethor, Faramir is sent to Osgiliath to help defend the outpost. The enemy proves to be too strong and drives the defence towards the main gate of Minas Tirith. A sortie is released to help Faramir’s men return to the city. Faramir is wounded but alive, he is brought to Denethor.
The orcs create a proper siege circle around the city. Catapults throw the heads of fallen soldiers into the city, incendiary ammunition follows. Gandalf rides together with Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth, around the city to bolster morale. Grond is used to break the city gate. Gandalf stands alone to face the king of the nine. The horn of Rohan is heard; a victory ride through the orc defences follows until Théoden stands on the road from the river to the gate. Other Rohirrim are destroying the siege engines but the gate was not won yet. Haradrim stand south of the road and run towards Théoden, he reacts and matches the Haradrim, the Rohirrim win that battle.
Victory is followed by defeat: A nazgul comes and Théoden falls. All other Rohirrim close by are dead or flee. Only Dernhelm, now revealed as Éowyn, remains. She challenges the nazgul, killes it, and afterwards fights with the king of the nine. Merry stabs the legs of the king, a death blow to his face by Éowyn follows. She falls besides the king.
All remaining forces of the enemy are about to join ranks, Éomer reassembled a huge line of riders, and the men of Gondor come from the gate of the city. Éomer sees Théoden, with his last words Éomer is made king; upon seeing Éowyn, Éomer rides back to the Rohirrim and charges towards the enemies. Imrahil comes to Éowyn, discovers her alive and sends for help. Afterwards he joins the battle. Éowyn is brought to the houses of the healing. Merry is following Éowyn into the city.
Éomer’s charge ends up at the river and they are about to be destroyed, Aragorn arrives at the port just in time to relief Éomer. Together they win the day and the remaining enemies flee.
Movie: The battle is shortened, the dead army is still around, the Haradrim only attack after the first charge of Rohan, Éomer has a smaller role, Imrahil is not present, the orcs break into the outer rings of the city, Éowyn is discovered after the entire battle is over, Merry is not going into the city by his own means, Faramir is sent to retake Osgiliath after the defences failed, and the king of the nine is all the time on a nazgul.
Pyres of Denethor
During the battle, Pippin discovers the plot of Denethor. He runs down to the city to search for Gandalf. On the way, he asks the aforementioned captain of the guard to stop Denethor from burning Faramir alive. Eventually, Pippin finds Gandalf and together they save Faramir. Denethor burns himself. Faramir is brought to the houses of the healing.
This part is rather accurate in the movie, only the guard captain is removed entirely. Furthermore, Gandalf and Pippin encounter a nazgul on their way to the citadel. Lastly, Denethor does not stay in the house of the dead.
From Minas Tirith to Black Gate
Aragorn resides in a tent outside the city. He does not want to enter the city and claim the kingship yet. Pippin finds Merry in a street in the city and calls for help. Merry is brought to the houses of the healing. After some hours, Aragorn enters the city in disguise and heals Faramir, Éowyn, and Merry in that order. Aragorn and the Dunedain heal many wounded through the night; eventually, Aragorn retreats into the tent and on the next morning people wonder wether the visit of the king was just a dream.
A council is held and an army assembled to march to the Black Gate. Faramir remains Steward of Gondor. Some forces are sent to destroy the orc host north-east of Minas Tirith. The army moves through Osgiliath, walks to the crossroads, places the king’s head back on the statue, destroys a bridge to Minas Morgul, and moves north into Ithilien. Along the way the territory is reclaimed. Some men waver and are allowed to leave to take back Cair Andros. The remaining army reaches the Black Gate. Only Pippin went to the Black Gate. Merry stayed in the city.
The gate opens and a parley with the mouth of Sauron takes place, tokens of Frodo and Sam are handed over but the terms of Sauron are denied; Aragorn, Gandalf, and the rest are riding back to the army and prepare the immediate battle.
Sauron’s forces are outnumbering the army of Aragorn by far, it was a planned ambush; trolls attack Pippin and the aforementioned captain of the guard. Pippin manages to kill the troll but is buried below corpses, he sees eagles before losing consciousness.
Movie: Aragorn enters the city and the council happens in the throne room, the healing is reduced to Éowyn, Théoden is forgotten after his death, the funny scene at the houses of the healing involving healer Ioreth is cut, Faramir is not the Steward, the march to the Black Gate is severly shorter, Cair Andros is not mentioned, the mouth of Sauron is killed by Aragorn (he lives in the book), the guard captain is cut (again), Merry is at the battle, Haradrim are not part of the battle, and the army of Aragorn is far smaller than in the book.
Escape from Cirith Ungol (begin of 6th book)
The last book continues where the 4th book ended: Sam is on the outside of the tower at Cirith Ungol. He moves out of Shelob’s Lair and back to the point, where he heard the voices of the orcs. This time he moves further into Mordor to find the main entrance of the tower. He arrives, uses the light of Earendil to pass some magic watch status, and finds all orcs dead. One orc tries to flee but Sam touches the ring, appears bigger, and the orc moves back to the tower; Sam follows and listens to a discussion of two orcs. The bigger one escapes with a box, which contains the mithril coat among other things; Sam follows the other one.
He moves up the tower but is stuck, out of desparation Sam sings, Frodo tries to answer. The smaller orc thinks Frodo sang and uses a ladder to reach the level of Frodo. Sam follows and kills this orc, he finds Frodo and frees him. Sam returns the ring but keeps Sting and the light of Earendil; he collects some clothes for Frodo, and gives him food.
Together they leave the tower, use the light to overcome the watch statues again, and run. Immediately after their departure, a nazgul is flying down and calls orcs to the tower.
This scene is mostly authentic to the book, although many details have been omitted. Furthermore, the threat of their discovery after escaping the tower is not existing in the movie.
From Cirith Ungol to Mount Doom
Frodo and Sam travel long miles north along a small river, they use up the remaining food from Faramir, and have a short encounter with Gollum. Eventually, they reach a road down from an orc tower. They are discovered but they are believed to be orcs. After some time, the road meets other roads and the company halts. Frodo and Sam use this situation to flee.
They crawl towards the northern mountain range, dare the road to the South towards Barad-dûr, and then move strait to the mountain. Eventually, they reach the road on the moutain that guides them to the entrance. Gollum attacks Sam and Frodo but can be beaten back, he feints a retreat but continues to follow the hobbits. Finally, Frodo enters the chamber but hesitates to throw the ring into the fire, Gollum comes and bites off one finger of Frodo, stumbles into the fire, and Frodo and sam retreat ouf of the mountain.
Sauron is defeated. The western forces win. Gandalf uses the eagles to save Frodo and Sam. Gimli discovers Pippin under the corpses. An eagle flies to Minas Tirith to inform them of the victory.
The journey is far more detailed in the book. In the movie the entire move towards the North is cut, the journey to Mount Doom is shorter, and their food supply is far more problematic. The final scene in the mountain, the nazgul flying to the mountain, and the save by the eagles is very accurate in the movie.
From Black Gate via Cair Andros to Minas Tirith
Frodo and Sam are flown to the fields of Cormallen. Aragorn and the army reside there; a reunion of the companions takes place. Merry moved there as well. A big feast happens and some troops come back from destroying former property of Sauron inside Mordor. Eventually, everyone moves to Cair Andros and sets sail for Minas Tirith.
Meanwhile, Faramir and Éowyn become close.
Aragorn arrives in front of the city. Faramir meets Aragorn outside the city and gives him the crown, Aragorn returns it and bids Frodo to give the crown to Gandalf; Gandalf crowns Aragorn, Faramir stays Steward. In the following days, Aragorn passes judgement on a lot of things. He pardons the captain of the guard, who will serve Faramir in Ithilien. Faramir becomes a Prince of Gondor and gets Ithilien to rule.
Éomer returns to Rohan, Aragorn bids the hobbits to stay.
In the movie the fields of Cormallen, the power transfer from Faramir to Aragorn, and the judgements of Aragorn in the days after the coronation are cut. The marriage takes place at the same time.
Some weeks later, Aragorn gets a new white tree with a flower and plants it in the courtyard in the Citadel. Elrond with Arwen and Galadriel with Celeborn arrive, Éomer comes back; Aragorn marries Arwen. Arwen gives the Elfstone to Frodo.
The movie removes Galadriel and adds kinsfolk of Legolas. Arwen gives the Elfstone to Aragorn in the first movie.
From Minas Tirith to Edoras
Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf, Merry, Pippin, Faramir, Éowyn, Éomer, Arwen, the prince of Dol Amroth, and many knights move to Edoras, they take Théoden with them and pass the forest of the forest people, Aragorn gives these people control over their forest. Théoden is buried in Edoras, Faramir marries Éowyn and Merry gets a horn of Rohan. Elrond says his final goodbye to Arwen.
From Edoras to Isengard
Imrahil, Arwen, Éomer, Éowyn, and Faramir stay in Edoras. The rest travels to Helm’s Deep, Legolas goes with Gimli into the caverns. Next, everyone travels to Isengard. Treebeard reveals the release of Saruman and gives the keys to Orthanc to Aragorn.
From Isengard to Rivendell
Aragorn parts with the company, Pippin remains in service to Gondor; Legolas and Gimli go to Fangorn forest. The rest meets Saruman and Wormtongue along the way: a small interrogation unfolds but nothing comes of it. Galadriel, Elrond, and Gandalf do some form of telepathy during their night camps. Eventually, Galadriel and Celeborn take leave and go over the mountain pass to Lorien.
The remainder of the company proceeds to Rivendell. Frodo reconnects with Bilbo. Some days pass and Frodo has a feeling they need to leave.
From Rivendell to Bree
Gandalf and the hobbits ride from Rivendell to Bree, the innkeeper tells them the news about bands of ruffians who make the territory unsafe.
From Bree to the Shire
Gandalf takes leave and rides to Tom Bombadil. The hobbits continue to the Shire on the main road. They encounter a wall, some discussion later they are allowed in. Eventually, the hobbits arrive in Bywater, raise the Shire, and defeat the ruffians. The leader is no other than Saruman. Frodo allows Saruman to leave, Wormtongue kills Saruman and is killed himself afterwards.
Frodo becomes Deputy Mayor and leads the Shire back to orderly life. Eventually, he resigns. Sam marries Rosie, moves in with Frodo and gets a daughter.
Movie: The entire journey home is completely cut, the Shire is untouched, and Saruman is already killed much earlier in the movie; Faramir does not actively marry Éowyn and the promise between Legolas and Gimli is not mentioned.
Some years pass and Frodo rides with Sam to the Havens, they meet Elrond, Bilbo and Galadriel; Merry and Pippin join as well - being informed by Gandalf. They are welcomes by Cirdan. Frodo says goodbye to the other hobbits and goes onto the last ship. Galadriel, Elrond, Gandalf, Bilbo, and Cirdan go as well.
This last part of the story is accurately enough. Cirdan is never mentioned by name in the movie but apparently present in that scene.
You may have noticed the shorter summaries in the later parts, it was just too much to go into any detail. Previously, I thought the third movie is extensive; now it feels like a shallow representation of what the full story contains.
Nonetheless, the movies of Lord of the Rings remain my most favourite movies of all time. I can wholeheartedly recommend to read the books in English, it opens up a whole other dimension of story.