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Implied changes in Tolkien's Timeline in FOTR, in the film: what do you think?


First Post
Peter Jackson made a very major change in Tolkien's story concerning the Timeline of Events.
He did this ... and he did not do this. That is to say, I cannot prove Peter Jackson made any changes in the Timeline at all, but ... changes in the Timeline are implied rather forcefully in the film.

The changes I am referring to involve Gandalf, Frodo, and by default Sam, Merry, and Pippin.

- - -

Here is the Timeline as set forth by Tolkien (this is a rough timeline, since I do not have my copy of Return of the King handy, and must extrapolate by rereading Fellowship of the Rings.)

Bilbo's 111th Birthday: This occurs, and is the base point of the timeline.

BBB + 3 years: Gandalf visits Frodo. He will visit on and off again for the next 2 years.

BBB + 16 (?) years: Gandalf visits Frodo. Gandalf proves Frodo's Ring is the One Ring. They discuss the whole matter (the Shadow of the Past.) Frodo decides to destroy the Ring in Mount Doom. Sam ends up being his companion.

BBB + 16 years and over 2 months: Gandalf leaves the Shire.

BBB + 16 years and over 5 months: Frodo leaves Bag End, just as the Nazgul reach Bag End.

In other words, Gandalf's first visit with Frodo after Bilbo's Birthday Party was 2 years after the Birthday Party.
The big visit, as it were - the visit that set off everything that followed - occurred 16 years after the Party.
Then, it would be over 5 months (April to September) before Frodo himself set out on his quest to destroy the Ring, Sam at his side.

It is implied in the book Fellowship of the Ring, that Gandalf and Frodo had no significant discussions during the visits 2 to 5 years after the Party - they COULD have been significant, but Tolkien doesn't say, one way or another (at least, not according to my limited knowledge of Tolkien's works. He might have said something in the other works about these visits.)

So, that is the timeline.

We all know, of course, that during those 16 years Gandalf and Aragorn hunted down Gollum.
We know that Gandalf visited Minas Tirith during those years, and read Isildur's writings.
We know that the Black Riders set forth from Minas Morgul in the final year before Frodo set forth, and over a period of many months finally discovered the location of the Shire and stormed their way through the Rangers at Sarn Ford, commencing their invasion of the Shire.
And finally, we know that Gandalf - who did not know the Nazgul had set forth - went south to Isengard for help from Saruman, and was betrayed.

- - -

Now, in the film Fellowship of the Rings, the timeline is honored in words.
For example, Gandalf states the exact date (and, if I remember right, the exact time as well) when Frodo awakens in Rivendell.

There is absolutely NO way for me to prove that Peter Jackson IN ANY WAY altered Tolkien's Timeline as set forth above.
I wish to make that clear now. In no way can I prove Jackson wasn't absolutely faithful to Tolkien's works in this regard.

Having said that ... consider the following ...

- - -

I asked someone who had not read any of Tolkien's works, but who had seen the film FOTR 3 times, to guess the amount of time that had passed between the major events set forth in the Timeline.

This person said:

Bilbo's Birthday Party occured (as in the book.)
Frodo and Gandalf talked after the Party, then Gandalf departed.
Gandalf returned TWO WEEKS later (I described the distance from the Shire to Minas Tirith, and we discussed how fast a horse could run, after I heard this from said person.)
Frodo set out IMMEDIATELY from Bag End, with Sam (as in, he set out right after Gandalf himself left.)
The Black Riders set out almost IMMEDIATELY after Bilbo's Birthday Party.

Now, why would this person get such an impression?

Well now ...

In the film, there is a great sense of urgency in Gandalf's voice, when he speaks to Frodo after the Party (I don't have any answers, Frodo ... that was said, implying Gandalf wanted answers, and wanted them quickly.)

The scene showing Barad-dur comes right after that, then we see the Black Riders issuing forth from Minas Morgul.
We see Gandalf galloping up to Minas Tirith, and fire and thunder erupts from Mount Doom in the distance.
All of this massively increases the sense of urgency.

Gandalf reads the writings of Isildur.

Then, we are back with Frodo, and there is Gandalf suddenly grabbing him out of the darkness (IS IT HIDDEN?! IS IT SAFE?!)
We see Gandalf throwing it in the fire, proving it is indeed the One Ring.

Then we see the Black Riders storming through the Shire's borders, killing one of the Bounders (a very unfortunate, hapless hobbit, that Bounder ...)

We see Frodo hastily throwing clothes into a backpack. Everything that is said implies an immediate departure.
Then Gandalf espies Sam, drags him into Bag End, and implies that Sam shall be going with Frodo, which turns out to be the case.

Then we see Gandalf departing (to meet Sauruman.)
However, when he departs, he, Frodo, and Sam, are ON THE ROAD ALREADY.
And this is the first scene after the - hurried - discussion in Bag End.

So, it is implied that Gandalf immediately raced to Minas Tirith after Bilbo's Birthday Party.
It is implied he raced back to Bag End immediately.
Just how long that would take, depends on how fast Gandalf's horse could go without collapsing - it is a long way from Bag End to Minas Tirith.
It is implied that Frodo and Sam set out within an hour after Gandalf and Frodo talked (and Sam was grabbed and pulled in the window.)

So, without actually altering the Timeline, Peter Jackson ... altered the Timeline.

I honestly believe the average person who has not read Tolkien (or who has read Tolkien but is fuzzy about the specifics) would think like the person did, that I talked to.
They would believe the implied timeline.

Some of them might even think the implied timeline more logical than Tolkien's actual timeline.
They might say that Gandalf, realizing Frodo's Ring might be the One Ring, and thus crucial to the survival of Middle Earth, would race to Minas Tirith to find out.
They might say, that Gandalf would race back to Bag End afterwards - his suspicions just about confirmed.
They might say, that once Gandalf and Frodo realized this was the One Ring, that is was necessary that all possible haste be made to get the Ring to safety - and, since Sauron knew now of the Shire because of Gollum - that there was very extreme urgency for Frodo to leave, right then and there.

Now, I am NOT SAYING they are right.
I am NOT SAYING that Peter Jackson improved on Tolkien!
I am merely commenting on what THOSE PEOPLE (who have not read Tolkien) might say.

What I AM saying, is that Peter Jackson changed Tolkien's storyline.
I cannot prove it, because in the film Gandalf gives clear dates and times, but it is implied.

Also, there are implied changes in the timeline concerning Rivendell and Lothlorien.
The person I talked to, when asked how long Frodo stayed in each place, guessed 2 or 3 DAYS (after Frodo recovered) in Rivendell, and 1 DAY in Lothlorien.

We knew that Frodo stayed for over 2 months in Rivendell, and over a month in Lothlorien.

Again, Peter Jackson did not challenge Tolkien's timeline, but the way in which events were portrayed, and most importantly the way the characters TALKED, implied differently.
And again, I believe that the average person who has not read Tolkien, or who has but is fuzzy on the details, would have been fooled by the film.

- - -

Peter Jackson has - in my opinion - changed Tolkien's story by the implied changes in the timeline.

I was wondering what all of you, who know Tolkien extraordinarily well, in and out, think of this?

What do you think of Peter Jackson's decision to imply a speeded up Timeline?

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Prince Atom

Hasty Timeline

I think, in all honesty, that Peter Jackson was rather hard pressed to keep everything within his three-hour timeline.

That being said, how hard could it have been to imply the passage of time? IIRC, he footnoted the beginning of the film -- saying, "The Shire, year [whatever]." Why couldn't he have done this in later scenes? It's just a visual thing, and could have been slipped in on the setup scenes. When Gandalf returns to the Shire in the movie, we see Frodo leaving the pub with Sam, then he gets back and finds his house ransacked. Why not slip in a note that said "Sixteen Years Later?"

Maybe aging Frodo 16 years would have put too much strain on the budget....

So, yes, IMO, Peter Jackson did speed up the timeline, for better or for worse. But then, he had three hours to keep the American public's attention while Tolkien's book can sit there for as long as necessary. I'd say Jackson had all due reason to up the pace.

BTW, I just LOVED that shot of the Misty Mountains in the opening sequence, when it's talking about Bilbo finding the ring. Anybody know which mountains they were? Probably something from New Guinea :)

So... the timeline was hasted. Did it age a year?


First Post
I like the faster pace of the movies, but consider some points:

After Gandalf returns from Minas Tirith, and asks Frodo the ring, Frodo has to dig up the envelope from the bottom of a chest, which implies he had all but forgotten the ring.

At Rivendell, I believe word was sent out about the Council after Frodo arrived. Assuming Gandalf took a month to ride to Minas Tirith, then took a month to ride back, it's safe to assume Boromir took a month to ride up to Rivendell, and the invitation itself took a month to reach him. So that places Frodo at Rivendell for about two months (of which he may only have been awaken for half the time).

Also, it would take Frodo and the Hobbits about a week to get to Bree, and another week from Bree to Rivendell (including Asfaloth's amazing sprint at the final stretch), so it does appear that the council at Rivendell takes place 7 and a half months after Bilbo's birthday (I'm assuming Gandalf took about three months researching).

I agree that the timeline of events in the movie seems somewhat acceleated from those in the book.

Honestly, though, I don't think it matters.


First Post
Please remember that I am not attacking Peter Jackson.
Nor am I attacking the film LOTR: FOTR.

I think the film is incredibly good, and I think Peter Jackson has the gift of genius.

However ...

- - -

I also believe that in addition to the inevitable compression that was necessary to fit Tolkien's first book of the LOTR Trilogy to film, Peter Jackson deliberately changed the story in additional ways.

Now, for me, that is not a problem.
I like Tolkien, and Tolkien Variants (ala Arwen) are great, if they work (I thought Arwen did work, by the way.)

However, there are other people out there called the Tolkien Purists.
These folk might take exception to someone attempting to alter Tolkien's story.

- - -

Some people would argue that Peter Jackson improved on Tolkien.

Let me play Devil's Advocate for a minute, and show you how I think it could be argued that Peter Jackson did just that.

If Gandalf had any suspicion that Bilbo's Ring was the One Ring - and Bilbo's words after the Birthday Party made Gandalf very suspicious - then it would be a good assumption that Gandalf did something (what, we don't know, but something) quickly.
For the One Ring was the most strategically crucial of all things in Middle Earth. If Sauron got it back, finis. If the Ring was destroyed, finis Sauron.
And Gandalf was sent by the Valar to contest with Sauron, and ultimately to destroy him. It was Gandalf's job to act quickly concerning the One Ring - it was a responsibility he could not shirk.

So, it would make sense for Gandalf to race down as swift as a horse would go to Minas Tirith, and search through Isildur's records.

If you go by what he read in those records (in the film, at least) it would make sense for him to race right back to Frodo.

When the Ring was revealed, and Gandalf knew this to be the One Ring, and furthermore he knew that Sauron knew about the Shire - and that the Ring was IN the Shire - it made sense for Gandalf to rush Frodo (and Sam) out of Bag End within the hour, to get them out of the Shire as quickly as possible.

It would not make sense, if Gandalf suspected this to be the One Ring, for him to take 16 years to find out the truth when he could examine the Ring and it's bearer, Frodo.
Nor, once he confirmed the truth, placing the Ring in the fire at Bag End - and once he knew Sauron knew of the Shire, and that the Ring was in the Shire - would it make sense for Frodo to remain in Bag End for even 1 day, much less 5 months.

But now, that is just a theoretical opinion I am casting, for the sake of being Devil's Advocate.

I could argue that the implied speedup of the timeline, in the film, is illogical.

It took Gandalf and Aragorn a very long time to track down Gollum, in the books.
And it was only then, after Gollum was interrogated, did Gandalf learn that Sauron indeed knew of the Shire, and that the Ring lay therein.

If Gandalf had raced to Minas Tirith and back, he could hardly have heard anything from Gollum, or from Aragorn if Aragorn had captured Gollum and extracted this crucial information from him.

Once Gandalf realized this was the One Ring, in the film after it was withdrawn from the Fire, was it logical to suddenly send Frodo out the door?
The hobbits certainly would have taken notice of Frodo's absence, and word would have spread all over the Shire rather quickly.
The news would have reached Bree before Frodo did.

The Nazgul may be undead, but they are bright undead.
Their spies would have discovered who Frodo was, would have reported back that he was missing, and the Nazgul would have set ambushes at all logical destinations.
Bree was a logical place for Frodo to flee to.
The Nazgul would have been waiting for Frodo, in Bree, and they would have sprung their ambush on him when he arrived, with the help of as many Breelanders as necessary (since the Nazgul could frighten and cow people into doing their bidding.)
The Sign of the Prancing Pony would have been a death-trap for Frodo and the others.

- - -

So, there it is ... I have made arguments for both sides.
I have argued on the merits of the speeded up timeline that is implied in the film.
I have argued against the speeded up timeline that is implied in the film.

I will not presume to say Peter Jackson improved on Tolkien.
Nor will I speak against Peter Jackson and his impressive film.
I will say Peter Jackson changed Tolkien's story beyond mere compression - the implied compression of the timeline was a deliberately set up affair, in my opinion.

I have tried to give my opinions.

What do you think?
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Mod Squad
Staff member
I think perhaps he was considering the audience and the medium, and struck the happiest medium he could.

In the book, they can take time to show that the forces of Evil are willing to move slowly. The Tolkien fans in the audience have no problem accepting that Sauron waits. But, to many other folks, having 16 years between the ring resurfacing and Sauron doing something about it may not seem plausible.

Plus, he's got a bit of a problem - saying "16 Years pass" or the like on the screen is cliche, leaves unanswered questions, and for many doesn't actually get across the feeling of time passing. If he takes the time to make sure it gets across, he gets a big slow spot right at the start of the movie. That's no good, either way.

So, he strikes a balance. He edits to make it look fast, yet doesn't explicitly alter the timeline. Tricksy director, he is, yes, my preciousssss.... :D


First Post

*chuckle* I think I am glad there is someone who likes to hear themselves talk even more then I care to hear myself.

As for the timeline- I still don't understand the point of concern.

Tolkien is hardly some sacred icon of writing - be critical. His timeline is way too vast and does not make much sense considering the matters on the line.

PJ sped the timeline up to get the movie going. The general audiance is not going to appreciate characters sitting around for years.

Also- you mentioned Gandalf returned two weeks later. Was that spelled out or an assumption on your part? I saw the movie a few times, but not enough to memorize it. heh.

Edit: Oops, forgot my main point-

Who cares? It does not seem really relevant either way. It is not a plot hole in the sense that since it is behind the scenes- you have no idea what may have happened or when.

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First Post
Posted by Furn:

As for the timeline- I still don't understand the point of concern.


Peter Jackson altered the timeline, and thus altered the writings of Tolkien.
Did he do the right thing? Did he improve on Tolkien? Or did he lessen Tolkien's writing?

Posted by Furn:

Tolkien is hardly some sacred icon of writing - be critical.


Being critical of Tolkien is an invitation to a flame war. Not here on the ENBoards, but ... Gods ... go to the White Council and criticize Tolkien, and see what happens ...

Posted by Furn:

His timeline is way too vast and does not make much sense considering the matters on the line.


Furn, are you saying then that Peter Jackson improved on Tolkien?
If so, explain, would you? Tell how he improved on Tolkien, and why?
I, at least, am curious. I would enjoy hearing what you have to say.

Posted by Furn

Also- you mentioned Gandalf returned two weeks later. Was that spelled out or an assumption on your part? I saw the movie a few times, but not enough to memorize it. heh.


No. I did not make that assumption.
The person I asked, after seeing the film 3 times, had never read Tolkien, and that person guessed 2 weeks.
That person amended it to about 2 months, after hearing how far Minas Tirith was from Bag End.

Posted by Furn:

Who cares? It does not seem really relevant either way. It is not a plot hole in the sense that since it is behind the scenes- you have no idea what may have happened or when.


Tolkien is one of my favorite authors.
Discussing his works, how they could have been different or better or worse, and how Peter Jackson amended them, is an interesting topic for me (as long as it stays a topic of discussion, and doesn't degenerate into a flame war.)
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