10. One of the most iconic scenes is based on the cartoon
The Fellowship of the Ring is full of memorable sequences ripped straight from J.R.R. Tolkien's masterwork, but one of the best bits is nowhere to be found in the books. Early on, the hobbits are being pursued by ringwraiths who will do anything to get their hands on Frodo's precious. Lacking fighting skills, the halflings had no choice but to hide under an outcropping of tree roots. We know that the hobbits won't be disemboweled right then and there because it's like 30 minutes into a 12 hour trilogy, but that doesn't make the scene any less creepy.
It's impressive that such a sequence might come straight from the minds of the filmmakers, but that's not exactly how it happened. A similar scene can be found in the Ralph Bakshi-directed Lord of the Rings animated movie from 1978.
The resemblance is undeniable. You'd think that this was director Peter Jackson's way of paying homage to his forbears, but apparently the truth is a little more complicated. See, the scene we see in the film was actually inspired by this painting:
Contrary to what the watermark tells us, this was actually painted in the 80s. Artist John Howe explains on his website that he saw the animated movie and loved that scene so much he remade it in his own style. This very painting appeared a couple years later on a Tolkien calendar, and seeing that is what inspired Peter Jackson and his team to create the scene for the film. In a roundabout way, the live-action film was inspired by the animated movie, even if nobody realized it at the time.
9. Legolas and his snow walk
Elves have a lot of fine qualities superior to that of mortal men. Besides the fact that all members of the race are born as TigerBeat-ready dreamboats, elves are blessed with disease-free immune systems and immortality. And judging from the Fellowship of the Ring, they uh, have built-in snow shoes?
Notice that while everyone including Gandalf trudges through the snow, Legolas deftly walks above it all. This is actually an accurate representation of what happens in the original text.
Slowly they moved off, and were soon toiling heavily. In places the snow was breast-high, and often Boromir seemed to be swimming or burrowing with his great arms rather than walking.
Legolas watched them for a while with a smile upon his lips, and then he turned to the others.
`The strongest must seek a way, say you? But I say: let a ploughman plough, but choose an otter for swimming, and for running light over grass and leaf or over snow-an Elf.'
With that he sprang forth nimbly, and then Frodo noticed as if for the first time, though he had long known it, that the Elf had no boots, but wore only light shoes, as he always did, and his feet made little imprint in the snow.
So not only are elves undying supermodels, they're also very light on their feet. Like a lot of great details in the Lord of the Rings movies, nobody ever calls it out. This bit is only on the screen for a few seconds and could easily be missed, but the production team still thought it was important enough to depict on-screen.
It's such a neat detail that it's replicated in the LEGO Lord of the Rings video game.
Oh Legolas, you beautiful mannequin asshole.
8. Aragorn's sneaky tribute to Boromir
Boromir is misunderstood. Yes, he spends most of his time in the Fellowship bickering over who gets the ring and lusting after its power, but his epic sacrifice has to be recognized. Boromir is more of less the Vegeta of Lord of the Rings. He's treated like a hero by the survivors in the Fellowship, given a proper viking sendoff in a boat headed for Gondor. But you might have missed just how much Aragorn takes the death to heart. After cradling the dying man in his arms, Aragorn takes Boromir's bracers from his body and wears them for the rest of the trilogy.
Aragorn can be seen wielding Boromir's bracers on and off throughout Two Towers and Return of the King. And even in the extended editions, nobody says a word about it -- all we get is a quick shot of Aragorn slipping on his gauntlets that presumably give him +10 to badassery. It's another silent detail that is much better left unsaid.
Hell, according to a flash-forward in The Two Towers, it looks as though Aragorn will be wearing the bracers at his own funeral.
Of course, it's probably only a matter of time until someone loots Aragorn's corpse for those bracers. Can't let that kind of legendary gear go to waste.
7. Peter Jackson is everywhere
Director cameos have been common ever since the days of Alfred Hitchcock, but the lord of the Lord of the Rings motion pictures Peter Jackson really stepped up to the plate. You can see PJ in various forms in every single LotR and Hobbit movie, often multiple times. Above you can see him in one of his more obvious cameos, as the carrot-munching Albert Dreary in Fellowship of the Ring.
You can also spot him in The Two Towers. Here he is throwing a spear, with vigor.
He's shown very briefly in a scene in Return of the King, but in the Four Hour Sedentery Marathon Edition, you can see PJ die a grisly death as a punchline to an oafish Legolas/Gimli joke.
The other Jackson cameo in RotK is impossible to find without foreknowledge. For just a second during a shot when Sam confronts the giant spider Shelob, PJ swapped in his own arm.
You can bet the cameo train kept rolling when it came time for the Hobbit movies. Here's an almost unrecognizable PJ dressed up as a dwarf in An Unexpected Journey.
Desolation of Smaug has a particularly puzzling instance when it returns to Bree, the site of Jackson's first cameo. He looks to be playing the exact same character, despite the fact that this movie takes place almost 80 years before the events of Fellowship of the Ring. Maybe he's of the same race as Aragorn?
Timelords aside, the most meaningful cameo might have come in The Battle of Five Armies, when Bilbo is fixing up his home in Bag End.
Do these portraits look familiar? On the right you can see what Peter Jackson would look like if he didn't have a beard (apparently like a grown-up Cabbage Patch Doll). On the left you can see Fran Walsh, co-writer of Lord of the Rings and Jackson's wife. It's fitting that these two, who are essentially responsible for bringing this vision of the books to life, are represented in the movie as Bilbo's parents.
It's even better when you realize this easter egg has been there since the beginning. While it's pretty blatant in Battle of the Five Armies, you can actually see these same portraits way back in Fellowship.
Judging by the behind the scenes material, there was one cameo that didn't make the cut. Originally, PJ was supposed to play a spy that made bird sounds:
But when Fran heard Jackson's awful squawking, she nixed the scene entirely. Too bad she couldn't have done that when someone said "Let's make The Hobbit into three movies."
6. The hidden meaning of Boromir's death song
We already talked about how badass Boromir's death scene was, but we should probably talk about it again. Yes, he had minutes earlier tackled a hobbit to steal his jewelry, but his heart was in the right place. B-mir just wanted to save his people. Though the rest of the Fellowship pay tribute in their own way, the movie does so in song. If you listen closely as Boromir dies, you can hear Elvish singing in the background.
If you translate the lyrics, you get this:"I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness; I love only that which they defend."What sounded like Enya murmuring gibberish is in actuality an exact quote from the book, as spoken by Boromir's brother Faramir. It's a miracle that anyone figured out the reference in the first place, much less the fact that someone thought to sneak that into the film. This is yet another example of an amazing detail that isn't shoved in your face but instead is tucked away as a clever reward for ardent fans.
5. Links between Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies
The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies are obviously set in the same world and share a few key characters, but if you look closely you can see a lot more than a familiar seven foot tall wizard. characters. Maybe the most prominent links between the trilogies are the trolls, seen only for a brief moment in the Fellowship theatrical edition but explicitly called out in the extended edition.
These are of course the same trolls that turned to stone in The Hobbit. They're even in the exact same positions.
That's not the only location that repeats in the Hobbit. In the Hobbit, the scarred albino orc Azog has a meeting at a place called Weathertop, which resembles Stonehenge if it jutted up three hundred feet off of the ground. This is the very same place where the Nazgul attack Frodo and Co. in Fellowship.
But there are several more references to the Hobbit buried within LotR, the best of which involve the dwarves.
On the left you see Gloin, who happens to be the father of Gimli. Note that dad and son both wield the same axe. At some point between films, the weapon was passed down in the family line, along with what appears to be the exact same helmet Gloin finds in Battle of the Five Armies.
The other references are a bit sadder. In Fellowship, you can see the withered corpses of a couple of the dwarves in Moria.
At some point during their tour of the mines, they come across the tomb of Balin, the wise old dwarf seen in the Hobbit films. He had led a doomed expedition into Moria to reclaim it for the dwarves, about 25 years before the founding of the Fellowship. Though Balin's crew found some successin recovering dwarven artifacts, they were eventually overrun by orcs and the Balrog. After Balin was killed, the rest of the dwarves barely had time to build him a tomb before they themselves were slain.
If you look closely next to that tomb above, you can see another dwarf corpse sitting on the ground.
That's Ori, the dopey dwarf who was so fond of writing. It's somewhat somber for an easter egg, but it does give breadth to the world and tell us that the dwarves lived their lives well after the cameras stopped rolling.
4. Subtle book references
We've gone over a few neat book references already, but there are way too many to count. They're usually nestled in little moments that last just a few seconds. Above you can see Gandalf "sleeping" with his eyes wide open. This is actually briefly mentioned in Tolkien's text.Driven by some impulse that he did not understand, Pippin walked softly to where Gandalf lay. He looked down at him. The wizard seemed asleep, but with lids not fully closed: there was a glitter of eyes under his long lashes. Pippin stepped back hastily. But Gandalf made no sign; and drawn forward once more, half against his will, the hobbit crept up again from behind the wizard's head.
PJ and crew seem pretty fond of oblique references to the books. There's a funny exchange midway through the Two Towers that is played for laughs, but has real basis in the lore.
We're led to believe that Aragorn is joking, but he's not. In Middle-earth, dwarven women really do have beards. This is implied in Tolkien's appendices, which state that they are "in appearance" much like the males, which would imply said facial hair.
It was said by Gimli that there are few dwarf-women, probably no more than a third of the whole people. They seldom walk abroad except at great need. They are in voice and appearance, and in garb if they must go on a journey, so like to the dwarf-men that the eyes and ears of other peoples cannot tell them apart.
Some of the references are a little more overt, though still relatively obscure to the average viewer.
This exchange probably got a chuckle out of fans, who know that "A Shortcut for Mushrooms" is the name of a chapter in The Lord of the Rings text.
Whenever the films veer off too far from the source material, these kinds of winks and nods bring it back a little. They're the filmmakers' way of saying "Look, it's a movie, so we have to change some things. But that doesn't mean we don't want to be faithful." No other quote encapsulates this more than this scene during Return of the King, when Sam and Frodo desperately try to survive the battle at Osgiliath.
Sam is right, they shouldn't be there. In the books, Frodo and Sam aren't in Osgiliath at the time of the battle. Whether this was intentional on the part of the screenwriters is unclear, but even if they didn't do this on purpose, they should probably take credit.
3. The pun-filled dwarves of The Hobbit movies
It's easy to forget now, but the dwarves originally didn't really have much in the ways of personality. Apart from a couple exceptions like Thorin, the book depicts the gang as this mass of names, hobbling along from place to place on the mine cart ride to Smaugtown. The challenge of bringing those dwarves to life is reportedly what drove Peter Jackson away from adapting the book for so long. Before Jackson decided that he really did want to take back the reigns, Hellboy director Guillermo Del Toro was set to helm just a pair of Hobbit movies. Though he was not really involved in the project, it seems as though some of Del Toro's designs may have made it to the final product.
In an interview, Del Toro admitted that he was punning it up when it came to the character designs for the dwarves. "Thorin" was to have a "thorny" helmet, just because the words sound similar. That didn't pan out, of course, but that didn't stop fans over at TheOneRing from making some very convincing observations regarding other possible punnage involving the remaining dwarves.
In the film, the dwarf Oin is depicted as having a hearing problem. This could very well be because the Mexican-born Del Toro is using a linguistic pun. See, "Oin" sounds a lot like the Spanish word "oyen," which means "they hear." This would explain the earhorn Oin has on his person at all times.
Then there's Ori.
We mentioned Ori and his skeleton a bit earlier, but he might very well have his own pun name. Some speculate that Del Toro pulled from the Spanish word "orar" or to pray, which explains why Ori looks a bit like a monk.
Bifur is probably the strongest case for the yet-confirmed pun details. While there are some that take this to mean "bi-fur" as in "two furs" and point to the twin colors of his hair, others refer to the word "bifurcated" which literally means "split in two." That would also explain the axe blade in Bifur's forehead.
2. Meaningful mistakes
No one can blame them. The Lord of the Rings movies were made on an unprecedented scale with so much stuff going on, so a few flubs here and there are bound to make through the editing stage. It's not really fun to poke at things that are only visible via zoomed-in freeze frame, but the best kinds of "movie mistakes" give an insight onto how the movie was made.
One small tidbit you won't ever be able to unsee after this involves the clasps that hold together the Fellowship's elven cloaks. These leaf-shaped brooches flip around from time to time, sometimes flipping back within seconds. This probably isn't a costuming gaffe as much as it is evidence that this particlar shot was mirrored.
That's not the only wardrobe malfunction.
At certain points during the films, you can spot the filthy hobbitses filthy prosthetic feet -- or as humans call them, shoes. No one expects Elijah Wood to walk in the snow barefoot, but it's still interesting to get a peek at the solution they came up with for that problem.
Maybe the most famous flubs of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy might be considered a myth. It occurs in the first film, when Sam and Frodo are about to go further from home than they've ever gone before.
See that glint of light in the background, on the horizon and above the smoke? That's what many people claim is a car driving by. It's supported by a moving trail of dust in the next shot. They scrubbed out the windshield glare for the home release, but it managed to make it onto an Academy screener that was sent out to voters. So of course it got leaked onto the internet.
1. The secrets of Gandalf's staff
By far one of the best things about the Lord of the Rings movies has to be the insane amount of detail put into practical effects. The clothing in particular is out of this world, and for a reason -- reportedly some costumers scrubbed their fingerprints clean off after spending two years making fake chainmail.
Those are hard to appreciate individually, but there's a lot of detail put into an artifact put right in front of our noses this whole time: Gandalf's staff.
That's right, Gandalf's staff has a built-in pipe holder. He uses it throughout Fellowship. popping it out to take a few puffs whenever he feels like it. The Dalf wields it up until Saruman The Buzzkill confiscates his his goods after capturing the grey wizard.
Gandalf the Grey comes back with what seems to be a brand-new staff when he returns as Gandalf the White. Yet, if you look closely, Gandalf the White's staff was with us all along.
Gandalf has a different staff in the Hobbit films, but you can clearly see Gandalf the White's staff peeking through underneath the twisted bark. In no world was this detail necessary or even expected, but it's still awesome nonetheless.
But wait, if that's not the same staff Gandalf had in Fellowship, then what happened? Well, the Necromancer busted up the staff you see above. As a result, Gandalf ended up "borrowing" the staff of fellow wizard, Radagast the Brown.
And so it turns out Gandalf was using Radagast's staff in Fellowship this whole time. Though this was never something implied in Tolkien's works, it's still kind of a neat capper that brings the trilogies full circle. And it only took a hippie wizard with birdshit in his beard to do it.