The Lord of the Rings: Why Peter Jackson Changed the Novel’s Ending

In adapting The Lord of the Rings into three films, Peter Jackson had to make choices, including ignoring one of the final chapters of The Return of the King, which sees the return of Saruman to ravage the Shire. He explains it.

The perfect adaptation does not exist! This is confirmed by an interview with Peter Jackson about his scriptwriting choices when adapting the novels of the Lord of the Rings At the movie theater. Find out in particular the reasons why he cut a major chapter from the novel.

In The Return of the King in long version, the sequence of the death of Saruman (Christopher Lee) occurs at the 11th minute of film, but it was not always thus and especially, by turning this scene invented from scratch, Jackson allowed himself a big departure from JRR Tolkien’s text. Here is his rationale:

We differed from the books because Saruman’s death occurs there in a sequence called “The Cleansing of the Shire”, which takes place after the events of Frodo and the Ring. It’s a 70-page denouement, which for me is the anti-climax as possible in the novel, and not my favorite part. We decided in 1998, when writing the screenplays, not to include The Cleansing of the Shire.

The ending of The Lord of the Rings indeed includes two post “quest for the Ring” chapters: The Sweeping of the Shire, which sees Saruman sweeping over the land of the Hobbits with bandits in order to plunder them. It is here that Grima’s character dies. The second chapter, The Gray Havens, figures well in the film. Jackson continues on the need to spin Saruman’s ending:

“So we had Saruman die in Isengard, which is completely different from the book, but we wanted to get the character out of the way, and that was the easiest way to do it. [en combinant deux éléments du livre : la confrontation Aragorn/Théoden/Gandalf/Saroumane et la mort de Grima “Langue de serpent”, NdlR].”

Warner Bros.

The fall of Saruman

Remember, however, that the death of Saruman, although filmed, did not appear in the cinema version of Return of the King, leaving the public perplexed as to the fate of the evil magician. Still in the pages of Starlog, Peter Jackson explains this initial choice:

“We know that the public has seen the Ents take Isengard, that Saruman is a prisoner in the tower, and that the battle of Helm’s Deep is won. We have come to the conclusion that most people would naturally come to understand that Saruman was defeated. Whether he was dead or not did not matter. We could thus directly interest ourselves in the story of The Return of the King (…).”

This scene with Saruman is seven minutes long, and we had to cut [pour la version cinéma] one hour of film. When you have a 4:15 movie, you’re in trouble. It’s not a good way to release a movie, so it becomes critical to cut the length of the movie down to something that the audience will endure without a pain in the ass.

“We felt that by starting The Return of the King with seven minutes of Saruman’s death, we concluded the events of the Two Towers, which gave the [nouveau] film a precarious beginning which prevented the launching of the events of the Return of the king. The major concern is that Saruman plays no part in these events, he should have disappeared in The Two Towers. The Return of the King is the story of Sauron. They got rid of Saruman and now face the big bad.”

And that’s how Saruman’s death was not included in the 2003 version discovered by the public. It is now present in the long version of The Return of the King, but The Cleansing of the Shire remains cut forever. Changes from Tolkien’s work, which fans were able to digest… or not.

The Lord of the Rings: Why Peter Jackson Changed the Novel’s Ending