Lord of the Rings flow chart

From xkcd, this is sure to amuse you and amaze you.

Here is a flow chart of character interaction in The Lord of the Rings…. the movies not the far superior books. This explains the absence of Tom Bombadil.

Right click below and then view image to enlarge.

You can see a sliver of the Star Wars chart at the bottom.  Go to the original blog for more.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. JP Borberg says:

    Love that site. The LOTR chart is impressive, if a little inaccurate. The one for Primer is bang on though. It’s a brilliant movie, btw, if you like movies you have to think about. Just try not to find out anything about it first. Then look on the net for a (proper) timeline to help understand it.

  2. JulieC says:

    Tom Bombadil was my favorite character: “Master of wood, water and hill.”

  3. FrCharles says:

    Thanks for this. I need something similar for the books, and probably an atlas, and various charts. One of my great shames is not having read them. Once on Z-Chat is was mentioned that it was important for a Catholic to have read The Lord of the Rings. In her charity another Z-Chatter sent me a set. I got through the first during fraternal TV hour, but I feel like I have no idea what I read. I want to do what I can to be a good Catholic, but I need help. :)

  4. Rouxfus says:

    Seems to be an homage to the famous chart by Charles Joseph Minard showing Napoleon’s march into Russia and his retreat:



  5. Jacob says:

    Father Charles:

    If you contact me, I can set you up with an atlas and a book explaining where people go and how they interact in Lord of the Rings. Both books are used, but very informative.

    If you’d just rather get the books on your own (both are in stock at Amazon):

    The Atlas of Middle-earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad
    Fonstad’s maps are nice and big and easy to figure out.

    J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century by Tom Shippey
    Shippey is a philologist who learned under Tolkien himself for a bit and later held some of the same academic positions as Tolkien. He looks at the novel’s literary significance and Tolkien’s work in interlace (hence the diagrams and who was where doing what and with whom).

  6. nzcatholic says:

    I drove passed Peter Jackson the Oscar winning director of lotr just the other day here in Wellington

  7. Jaybirdnbham says:

    Fr. Charles, another helpful book about Tolkien is “The Philosophy of Tolkien” by Peter Kreeft.

    It’s quite readable.

  8. FrCharles says:

    Thanks for the tips!

  9. Don’t feel that you absolutely have to read LoTR. Tolkien himself was well-aware that it wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea, about which he said:

    The Lord of the Rings
    Is one of those things.
    If you like it, you do.
    If you don’t, you boo.

  10. I should add that I love LoTR and read it as a kid; but I know people who hate it and can’t get through it, though they are great fantasy fans and widely read. It really is just one of those things, liked by people who think a certain way and disliked by those who don’t. And by “think a certain way” I may mean neurologically or aesthetically, not ideologically. (Which creates some pretty strange bedfellows among fans.)

    The other great litmus test is the Silmarillion and other supplementary material. Even many diehard Tolkien fans just can’t get into it. Russian fandom almost uniformly loves the Silmarillion, which may tell you something. :)

    Oh, and a lot of Tolkien fans hate his poetry and think it’s a great disfigurement on the books, while the rest of us tend to memorize it or set it to music. (Though of course people’s judgment of individual poems also varies wildly, and some are dissed by even the most forgiving fans.) And so on, for pretty much every element of the books.

    The thing is… it’s great literature in my opinion and has high purpose; but Tolkien first meant to entertain and interest his readers. So if you read for a while and don’t like it, and skip around a bit to see if you’ll like anything else and still don’t like it, you’d be better off dropping it than continuing to torment yourself. Forcing yourself through literature you don’t like is not a good plan.

    But if you just really really want a timeline, there is one in the appendix of LOTR. Very full of spoilers, though.

  11. Jordanes says:

    What explains the absence of Tom Bombadil is Peter Jackson’s having to try to mash everything into three gargantuan (and hence nearly unwatchable) movies instead of six regular length movies. Something had to go, and old Tom Bombadil, Tom Bombadillo, was the obvious choice.

  12. Jaybirdnbham says:

    At my first attempt at reading the entire LOTR trilogy, I bogged down somewhere in book 2. Didn’t finally succeed until third attempt about a decade after first attempt.
    It really is very hard to absorb all the necessary details with just one reading. This is one of those classics which gets better and shows more depth with each reading. Well worth the effort!

  13. Sacristymaiden says:

    Suburbanbanshee: “while the rest of us tend to memorize it or set it to music.”
    That is so totally me!
    I know some people who couldn’t care less about reading the book, but they love to read everything else. It’s uncanny. It’s so true that you’re either a Tolkien fan or not.

  14. BenFischer says:

    You’re right. The books are far superior to the movies. The movies actually got worse. The Fellowship of the Ring was superb, but by The Return of the King, I was let down. There should be a cinematic version of “Say the Black Do the Red” with each movie, the story drifted farther from the letter and spirit of the books.

    (I’m not complaining about the absence of the war of the Shire in the last movie, that was a waste of paper in the book and it’s just as well it was missing from the movie)

  15. Scuffy the Tugboat says:

    Someone once told me that Tom Bombadil & Goldberry = Adam & Eve in the garden. Before it all went wrong.

  16. Vincenzo says:

    “You’re right. The books are far superior to the movies. The movies actually got worse. The Fellowship of the Ring was superb, but by The Return of the King, I was let down.”

    I agree. The Fellowship of the Ring was the best of the films IMO.

  17. Latter-day Guy says:

    “There should be a cinematic version of “Say the Black Do the Red””

    Ugh, no. Film is a different medium altogether, and faithfulness to source material is not necessarily a benefit. In the books, Tom Bombadil was bizarre and annoying enough. In the movie? Disastrous. I actually loved the ‘Scouring of the Shire’ in the novel, but agree that it would have been wrong for the film.

    FrCharles, you might try the audiobook versions. I find I enjoy it most at a leisurely pace––perfect for reading aloud/listening. The books tend to move a bit more like mythology and less like modern thrillers.

    Finally, though it will only be appreciated by true Tolkien nerds/fanboys, this is very funny: [http://flyingmoose.org/tolksarc/theories/bombadil.htm]

  18. JonM says:

    Oh there is no debating it, the books are far superior.

    Even with the expected elisions of any screenplay, certain aspects of the story were changed for no good reason. Faramir became this dark tormentor, Arwen filled the role as Altar Girl, Elves magically appeared at Helm’s Deep (a battle intended to show Men can stand up to evil), the Ents elected not to get involved even though the forces of evil were chopping them apart – but then get involved when one Ent sees what they already knew…

    And don’t get me started on Jackson’s Luke Skywalker hommage and salute to total silliness at Minas Tirith (horses will not charge elephants. Ever. Nor would any remotely able King order such!)

    Argon’s heroin chic look was distracting as was the contrived plot about the Steward refusing to welcome him and evacuate residents from the city (and his order to send his remaining son to death.)

    I mean, we are talking about Hollywood so I guess we are fortunate that they did not turn the Council at Rivendell into a Kubrickian Eyes Wide Shut black mass.

    One change from the book that gave many fans great pain was Jackson’s reinterpretation of Sauron as a disembodied eye floating up top an unfinished pyramid. Totally absurd in the world of LOTR, but an interesting dig, intended or not, at Freemasons.

    Re: Later-day Guy: Tom Bombadil and the Scouring were crucial to the epic in my view!

    Tom signifies the notion of Creation persevering; empires come and go, but the eternal always was, is and will be. In many respects Tom is more important than the Scouring, but if so then only by a hair. The Scouring was a direct indictment of socialism and industrialism/corporatism. Tolkien was keenly affected by the widening gap between nature and common life. Look at us today, hunkered down in buildings with fluorescent lights. For how many of us is it even possible to walk around the community without getting run over within three minutes?

    One edition of the book contains all three in a single volume with wonderful illustrations. It is my personal favorite for my shelf.

    It must be noted, Tolkien was a devoted Catholic who lamented the loss of the TLM.

  19. Latter-day Guy says:

    “Tolkien was a devoted Catholic who lamented the loss of the TLM.”

    I remember reading somewhere a very entertaining anecdote about Tolkien attending Mass in the vernacular. Evidently, he found it pretty vexing, so he began say the responses loudly and conspicuously in Latin!

  20. LawrenceK says:

    I agree with Ben Fischer. I liked the first movie a lot, and didn’t even mind that they dropped Tom Bombadil: if you have to make cuts, that’s a logical place to start. But then in the second and third movie, in addition to cutting things they started adding things. And all the characters became much less noble: Frodo attacking Sam, Faramir being a savage…. it was as if Peter Jackson actually had not understood the characters.

    And the Ring became a force that was irresistable. This ruined Tolkien’s moral point. The Ring is indeed a temptation, but those who succumbed to its lure did so because of their own moral choices. In other words, it was more like the temptation to sin than it was like a drug addiction. Jackson failed to understand this as well.

    If anyone is interested in reading Lord of the Rings together with the two lesser-read canonical volumes (The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales), you may find this site useful.

  21. JonM says:

    I remember reading somewhere a very entertaining anecdote about Tolkien attending Mass in the vernacular. Evidently, he found it pretty vexing, so he began say the responses loudly and conspicuously in Latin!

    Yes! I heard of this too, that he would very distinctly pray using the traditional responses (apparently embarrassing his children.) I can only imagine the furor of someone with the linguistic appreciation as Tolkien being subjected to, at the summit of worship, to stupid things like the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and other ‘folk’ music!


    Yes, I agree that the moral tensions of the epic were totally lost on the film’s producers and thus cheapened the storytelling. I guess when you live in a relativist world without sin (a capital city of such is Hollywood) then it so follows that you mess up a great work.

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