In book six, which is the first part of Return of the King, Samwise Gamgee is alone in Mordor with the One Ring having just found out Frodo is still alive and taken captive after the confrontation with Shelob.
His thought turned to the Ring, but there was no comfort there, only dread and danger. No sooner had he come in sight of Mount Doom, burning far away, than he was aware of a change in his burden. As it drew near the great furnaces where, in the deeps of time, it had been shaped and forged, the Ring’s power grew, and it became more fell, untameable save by some mighty will. As Sam stood there, even though the Ring was not on him but hanging by its chain about his neck, he felt himself enlarged, as if he were robed in a huge distorted shadow of himself, a vast and ominous threat halted upon the walls of Mordor. He felt that he had from now on only two choices: to forbear the Ring, though it would torment him; or to claim it, and challenge the Power that sat in its dark hold beyond the valley of shadows. Already the Ring tempted him, gnawing at his will and reason. Wild fantasies arose in his mind; and he saw Samwise the Strong, Hero of the Age, striding with a flaming sword across the darkened land, and armies flocking to his call as he marched to the overthrow of Barad- dûr. And then all the clouds rolled away, and the white sun shone, and at his command the vale of Gorgoroth became a garden of flowers and trees and brought forth fruit. He had only to put on the Ring and claim it for his own, and all this could be. In that hour of trial it was the love of his master that helped most to hold him firm; but also deep down in him lived still unconquered his plain hobbit- sense: he knew in the core of his heart that he was not large enough to bear such a burden, even if such visions were not a mere cheat to betray him. The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command. ‘And anyway all these notions are only a trick,’ he said to himself. ‘He’d spot me and cow me, before I could so much as shout out. He’d spot me, pretty quick, if I put the Ring on now, in Mordor. Well, all I can say is: things look as hopeless as a frost in Spring. Just when being invisible would be really useful, I can’t use the Ring! And if ever I get any further, it’s going to be nothing but a drag and a burden every step. So what’s to be done?’
Peter Jackson, Phillipa Boyens, and Fran Walsh must have read The Lord of the Rings before they decided to write the scripts yet somehow to most of the viewing audience the only power the One Ring had was to turn people invisible. Then again these are the same people who thoughts a simile about stretching shadows meant Balrogs had wings, that the metaphor for Sauron’s reach across Middle-Earth meant he was a giant flaming eye, and that because Ents language is much slower than English that this meant they were both passive and unaware of Saruman’s destruction.
I wonder if people ask them the same questions friends will ask me when they find out I am an avid reader of Tolkien. “Why is the One Ring such a big deal if it just turns you invisible? To convey it did anything else, it was probably a bad idea to show that scene of Isildur retreating into the water with the ring on and turned invisible. It was probably a bad idea to cut this bit of dialog between Frodo, Sam, and Galadriel.
‘I would ask one thing before we go,’ said Frodo, ‘a thing which I often meant to ask Gandalf in Rivendell. I am permitted to wear the One Ring: why cannot I see all the others and know the thoughts of those that wear them?’
‘You have not tried,’ she said. ‘Only thrice have you set the Ring upon your finger since you knew what you possessed. Do not try! It would destroy you. Did not Gandalf tell you that the rings give power according to the measure of each possessor? Before you could use that power you would need to become far stronger, and to train your will to the domination of others. Yet even so, as Ring- bearer and as one that has borne it on finger and seen that which is hidden, your sight is grown keener. You have perceived my thought more clearly than many that are accounted wise. You saw the Eye of him that holds the Seven and the Nine. And did you not see and recognize the ring upon my finger? Did you see my ring?’ she asked turning again to Sam.
‘No, Lady,’ he answered. ‘To tell you the truth, I wondered what you were talking about. I saw a star through your fingers.”
You could easily cut to her ring after showing Frodo, then do it again after showing Sam to show he can’t see the ring. You can cut this dialog down a bit and still have it explain how the ring works. This is literally dialog you could of used, Jackson. You show plenty of times when resisting putting on the ring is difficult, but you do a terrible job of showing why the ring is a power, a threat, and wanted by Boromir and Denethor (Faramir too in the movie version.) What about how the ring makes Frodo appear to Sam when Gollum swears upon the precious?
For a moment it appeared to Sam that his master had grown and Gollum had shrunk: a tall stern shadow, a mighty lord who hid his brightness in grey cloud, and at his feet a little whining dog. Yet the two were in some way akin and not alien: they could reach one another’s minds.
That’s not a metaphor, that is literally how the One Ring’s power affects Frodo by being its bearer. Hard to convey, maybe, but no less hard than the spirit world in which Frodo enters when he puts on the ring. Later when Gollum tries to suggest giving the ring to him Frodo tells him.
In the last need, Sméagol, I should put on the Precious; and the Precious mastered you long ago. If I, wearing it, were to command you, you would obey, even if it were to leap from a precipice or to cast yourself into the fire. And such would be my command. So have a care, Sméagol!’
Having this dialog would
- Show how the ring gives the power to command, even to a hobbit.
- Show how Frodo has grown in power, even though the ring is making him weak physically the closer they get to Mordo
- Show how susceptible Gollum is to the power of the ring
- Give some well needed credibility to your version of Frodo, who has been made younger and has all the parts where he has shown any sort of bravery cut from the movie, but that is a post for another time.
It is one thing to cut parts of the book out of the movie. Obviously there are time restraints but some of these moments would add seconds, maybe five minutes at most that could easily but cut elsewhere. It is not a matter of audiences being dumb either, but the One Ring in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings is not explained very well at all. It is portrayed as more of an sigil for addiction rather than an artifact of power.