Although Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings saga makes many tweaks in bringing J.R.R. Tolkien’s world to the big screen, it is by and large a faithful adaptation. But pressure from the studio in one weird way would’ve taken it down a very different path: a bit of halfling havoc.
Speaking to IGN about their new Lord of the Rings podcast series — called “Friendship Onion” — Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd (who played Merry and Pippin) touched upon a time when pressure from executives above the Lord of the Rings production team wanted to amplify the stakes of the series by killing off one of its four smallest stars. Apparently, the tall folk were off-limits, and the stakes of, say, a massive war between the forces of good and evil for the fate of all Middle-earth could only be raised if you found one of the cutest hobbits around and stabbed them to death or something.
“It’s a good job that didn’t happen, because it would have been me,” Monaghan joked to IGN. “It definitely would have. There’s no way they are killing Frodo and Sam, and the only ones that would be left would be Merry and Pippin. They wouldn’t kill Pippin because Pippin has a really strong story with Gandalf. It would have definitely been me.”
Both Merry and Pippin find themselves placed into the kinds of peril that might undo even the bravest of Shirefolk as the trilogy builds to its conclusion, of course. In Return of the King, Pippin is roped into the servitude of Denethor and fights alongside Gandalf in the siege of Minas Tirith, while Merry, hoisted to the side of an in-disguise Eowyn, rides with the Rohirrim to flank the forces of Mordor on Pelennor Fields. But… c’mon. You can’t kill them! It’d go against the spirit of the books! And not just because they survive alongside Sam and Frodo to return to the Shire — and in the books face the forces of “Sharkey” and “Worm” (a.k.a. Saruman and Grima Wormtounge) as they assault the Shire — but because one of Lord of the Rings’ most beloved themes are about “small folk” rising to the occasion and enduring in the face of monumental odds.
Killing one of the hobbits might grant momentary shock (and a lot of anger from fans of the books), but it robs the point of their survival: that the bravest among us can come in unlikely shapes and sizes, and that those “unimportant” to the world at large can play grand roles in saving it. Thankfully, as we know, these demands never made it far. “I think Pete quite rightly was like, ‘This is a luminary piece of written work, and we need to stick close to the text,’” Monaghan added. “So, he stuck by his guns. Yeah, I’m thankful that didn’t happen.” We’ll raise a full pint of the Prancing Pony’s finest to that.
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