A random note on adaptations

I’m rereading The Return of the King right now, for the who-the-hell-knowsth time, probably somewhere between thirty and fifty. My current “reading copies” (I have a lot of different editions of this series) are the ones that came out along with the movies, and all three feature scenes from the films on the covers.

(I never really loved Viggo Mortensen’s casting as Aragorn, but in general I have very few complaints about the films, and I very well might end up taking a weekend to watch through the extended editions if I ever finish playing Elden Ring.)

Anyway, it just hit me tonight, as I moved into Book Six, the halfway point of ROTK, where Sam and Frodo finally reach Mount Doom: I have completely lost the versions of these books that existed in my head before the movies came out. And these are books that I read for the first time in second grade, and– again– reread repeatedly and religiously over my life between then and Fellowship hitting movie screens in a year long enough ago that I don’t want to look it up.

I had mental pictures of these characters once. All of them. Probably pretty detailed ones, too. Now, granted, they were probably at least a little influenced by Ralph Bakshi’s animated version of The Fellowship of the Ring, particularly Boromir, who will forever be a thickly-bearded Viking in my head. But they were there, and they didn’t particularly look like Elijah Wood or Sean Bean, and now they’re gone. Similarly to every other filmed adaptation I’ve ever seen of a book I read first– it’s fascinating and more than a little sad how completely and utterly watching a movie, even a movie you didn’t particularly enjoy, will just erase the ideas you had in your head of what everything looked like when everything was created in your head.

(Okay, probably not Dune. Nothing from Dune is rewriting anything. But still.)

I don’t have any larger point to make about all of this, but it was kind of a striking realization so I wanted to get it written down before I lost it.

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Luther M. Siler

Teacher, writer of words, and local curmudgeon. Enthusiastically profane. Occasionally hostile.

6 thoughts on “A random note on adaptations

  1. I had this realization awhile back about Harry Potter. Those books were a big part of my middle school-teenage years and yet I cannot remember the characters from before the movies.


    1. The movies for those books never really imprinted on me, but I don’t know if I’ll be rereading them to check anytime soon. Ms. Rowling has thoroughly failed the Don’t Want None Won’t Be None test, unfortunately.


      1. I can absolutely recognize the impact the books and movies had on me growing up while also acknowledging that there is so much better now. Ranks up there with Piers Anthony and his Xanth series. I threw the book across the room when I tried to reread Spell for Chameleon as an adult 🤮

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  2. This is why I don’t watch movies made from books I read during a certain period of my childhood. I have never seen any of these movies…I just can’t! 🙂


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