While Peter Jackson took a different route to deliver a happy ending, Tolkien’s conclusion to The Lord of the Rings was much darker.

Any work of fiction is only as good as its ending, and JRR Tolkien’s Peter Jackson adaptation The Lord of the Rings definitely has a big one. It ties all of the loose ends neatly together, provides closure, and gives most of the characters a happy ending. Unfortunately, this is specific to the interpretation of Peter Jackson. In the books, Tolkien’s ending is entirely different. While this doesn’t change the overall story, it does provide much-needed space for new, upgraded Hobbits to test their skills against an enemy they previously thought was dead – Saruman.

At the beginning of The king’s return film, Saruman is pushed out of Orthanc Tower by Gríma Wormtongue and is impaled by the water wheel, killing him instantly. In the books, Saroumane is not killed after the fall of Isengard. The Ents trap Saruman in the tower while his base of operations is destroyed. When Gandalf and his company arrive on the scene, Gandalf expels Saruman from the Istari (the magical wizards placed on Middle-earth to maintain order and peace) and breaks his mighty staff.

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After his fall from power, Saruman travels to the Shire to meet his distant co-conspirator Lotho Sackville-Baggins, who had since brought the Shire under his control. Lotho traded pipeweed for Saruman’s money and used it to buy land in the Southfarthing where Saruman’s men were stationed. With their support, Lotho supplanted the real mayor and took power for himself. Thus, when Saroumane decided to take refuge there, he was easily accepted.

When Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin return to the Shire after Aragon’s coronation and the end of the War of the Ring, they come to a spooky version of the house they knew. Once lush and green, the County has become a desolate industrial wasteland. They hear about a master criminal named Sharkey and plan an attack. After the Battle of Bywater, a battle entirely excluded from the films of Peter Jackson, Saruman is finally killed by a spiteful and bitter Gríma Wormtongue at the gate of Bag End.

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It’s easy to see why The Lord of the RingsThe adaptations leave that end aside – just as the Hobbits reach what they believe to be the end of their journey, they are faced with a fight for their home, without the help of men, elves, or dwarves. While the movies provide a crisp ending and a bow tie and give a sure sense of closure, they forget the epitome of The Hobbit’s strength. After all they’ve been through, the fight for the Shire is the most important fight for them to date. It shows how much each of them grew on their respective journeys and put their experience to the test.

Once the Hobbits settle the Shire, the plot unfolds much the same as The Lord of the Rings movies. Frodo heads to the Gray Havens, where he meets Bilbo, Gandalf, Galadriel and Celeborn. Together they leave Middle-earth forever, with the War of the Ring finally over and peace restored to earth. The only thematic difference in Tolkien’s ending is that it solidified the end of the innocence of Middle-earth. The Shire had been the Hobbits’ beacon of hope, reminding them why they were fighting. But when they returned, he was as corrupt as Isengard.

The two ends of The Lord of the Rings are satisfactory. While Tolkien’s conclusion provides a more thematic element, Peter Jackson perfectly ties together the massive film trilogy that swept the country by assault. Jackson’s adaptation might be different, but it doesn’t lose any of its power.

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