A Semiotic Analysis on The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
IntroductionA friend and I werediscussing „The Lord of theRings‟ trilogy and I said“well, Lord of the Ringsisn‟t just some fairytale.The main plot is toocomplex to break it down tobasics, you have to includeeverything for it to makesense”. But she disagreedwith me. So this is whatgave me an idea for myfinal project. I‟m usingsemiotics to break the epicof „Lord of the Rings‟ downto a basic fairytale.
So what is a fairytale?I grew up knowing that a basic fairytale is about a hero(or heroes) who do a brave deed to vanquish evil. They would also fall in love with a heroine and have a little help along the way.
So Who is Our Hero in Lord of the Rings? There are four…Frodo Baggins Gandalf Aragorn Samwise Gamgee
Signifier: The Heroes Frodo and Sam Signified• Brave• Small• Loyal• Compassionate• PureWhile Frodo is the main hero in this film. Sam is also a hero because he also carries the burden of the ring and keeps a hopeful heart that there will be a return journey home and he never truly let‟s that go. Sam: “I made a promise, Mr Frodo. A promise. Dont you leave him Samwise Gamgee. And I dont mean to. I dont mean to.”
Signifier: The HeroesGandalf and AragornSignified•Brave•Strong•Fearless•Fights for the good ofothers•WiseAragorn and Gandalf arethe ideal heroes one wouldthink of for a fairytale.Unlike the hobbits, Frodoand Sam.
Who are the Helpers?Merry and Pippin Legolas and Gimli
Aragorn: "Gentlemen! We do not stop till nightfall."Signifier: The Helpers Pippin: "What about breakfast?" Aragorn: "Youve already had it."Signified Pippin: "Weve had one, yes. What about•Witty second breakfast?"•Funny•Supportive•Dependent (you‟ll see thismore with Merry and Pippinrather than Legolas and Gimli)Merry and Pippin are the idealhelpers aka the break from allthe serious action. Legolasand Gimli become more likethe ideal helpers in the second Merry: "Dont think he knows about second breakfast, Pip."and third film. Pippin: "What about elevensies? Luncheon? Afternoon tea? Dinner? Supper? He knows about them, dont he?" Merry: "I wouldnt count on it."
Who are the Villains?There are two... Others are just minions… Sauron Saruman
Saruman: “We must join with Him, Gandalf. WeSignifier: The must join with Sauron. It would be wise, my friend.”VillainsSignified•Evil•Heartless•Obsessed with having power•Cruel•Intimidating•PowerfulWhile it‟s obvious that Sauron isthe main villain, Saruman is also avillain because he decides to jointhe side of evil because he knewthat he would not win against thepowers of Mordor. He did notwant to lose anything, just wanted Gandalf: “Tell me, „friend‟, when did Saruman the Wiseto keep his power in Isengard. abandon reason for madness?”
Signifier/Signified Heroes/Helpers/Villains Refer to Past 7 Slides Metaphor No matter how bad things get, Good will always triumph over Evil. Paradigmatic Analysis Good vs Evil, Innocence vs Adulthood, Loyalty vs Betrayal Syntagmatic Analysis Refer to next slide Indexes Whenever Frodo puts on the Ring, the forces of evil are able to see him Symbols There are two important symbols: (1) the One Ring – symbolizes evil and temptation. (2) Smeagol/Gollum – he symbolizes what Frodo could become if he allows the Ring to control him.Intertexuality There are many Biblical allusions in Lord of the Rings. For example: Gandalf represents a Jesus figure (he dies while fighting a Balrog and is later reborn to finish his mission to help Frodo destroy the Ring). Codes In the first film, the Fellowship is trying to enter Moria but the door is locked until they can speak the password which is the riddle: “Speak Friend and Enter” Gandalf misinterprets this, but Frodo sees that you must say “Friend” in Elvish to enter.
Syntagmatic Analysis of the Main Plot•At the beginning of the trilogy, Frodo is presented with the ring (0) and is warnedby Gandalf of the powers (1).•He sets out to bring the ring to Rivendell with Sam, Merry, and Pippin. (11) Whenthey arrive the council argues about who will go to Mordor and destroy the ring.Frodo decides that he‟s going to do it (10) and the full fellowship is on its way (11).•A few times throughout the trilogy Frodo slips the ring on his finger (3) and theenemy is able to see that Frodo has the ring (5).• Frodo isconstantly tested by evil by just being the ringbearer (12). He finallymakes it to Mordor (15) and destroys the ring (18).•The hobbits return to the Shire (20) but soon after Frodo must depart for the GreyHavens because the damage he got from the ring never fully healed.http://changingminds.org/disciplines/storytelling/plots/propp/propp.htm
ResultsIn my opinion I was right, TheLord of the Rings cannot bebroken down to a simple fairytale. While parts of the mainplot (following Frodo and theRing) went along with Propp‟smorphology, a lot of the storywas left out because there areat times where we‟re followingthree different stories (in theTwo Towers where Merry andPippin were separated fromAragorn, Legolas, and Gimli).There is just so much storythat it‟s hard to break it alldown to basics usingsemiotics.
SourcesThe Lord of the Rings the Fellowship of the Ring. Dir. Peter Jackson. Perf. Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortenson. New Line Home Entertainment, 2001. DVD.The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Dir. Peter Jackson. Perf. Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortenson. Entertainment in Video, 2004. DVD.The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Dir. Peter Jackson. Perf. Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortenson. New Line Home Entertainment, 2003. DVD."Propps Morphology of the Folk Tale." Changing Minds and Persuasion. Changing Minds. Web. 29 Apr. 2012. <http://changingminds.org/disciplines/storytelling/plots/propp/propp.htm>.