It’s fair to say that when Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring debuted back in 2001, it blew more than a few people’s minds.
For fans of The Lord of the Rings, it was the big-budget spare-no-effort faithful adaptation that they were waiting for. Though some details were changed or lost in the transition to the movie, by in large it had the look and feel of the Middle-earth that many fans grew up loving.
For those who were brand new to the story, or who never finished the books, the tale was an astounding introduction to a realm of fantasy that they had never seen before. The rich backstory made this world seemed lived in and real. It single-handedly redefined what a fantasy movie could look like.
Not only did it make a gazillion dollars, but it also kicked off a fantasy franchise that became an instant classic. These are living, breathing fairy tales that fans pour over and watch again and again, like Star Wars or Harry Potter.
However, perhaps it’s because of these repeated viewings that dedicated fans have unearthed an impressive set of plot holes.
When world-building an entirely alternate history, it goes with the territory that you might accidentally create a few things that aren't quite logical. Some of these discrepancies rest solely on the shoulders of the original writer, J.R.R. Tolkien, while others seem to fall more on Peter Jackson and his adaptation.
Regardless, like any classic work, it isn’t perfect.
Here are the 20 Things About The Fellowship In Lord Of The Rings That Make No Sense.
20 If The Nazgul Hate Water So Much, Why Not Travel By Boat?
It’s made clear in the Fellowship of the Ring that the Ringwraiths don’t particularly like water. They’ll ride through shallow waters but they would really prefer not to. They're also not exactly sailors, so you’re not going to see them on ships.
So why didn't the Fellowship take a boat for most the way? You could get on the Brandywine River from Hobbiton heading west until you get to the ocean, then sail south down the coast all the way to South Gondor.
From there, you could approach Mordor from the south, until you reach the base of the mountains.
There would be no trolls, no orcs, no giant spiders, and most importantly, no Ringwraiths-- at least until you make landfall.
The elves know how to sail. Why wasn’t this an option?
19 Why Is Gandalf So Stingy With His Magic?
Gandalf barely uses any magic at all, but when he does, it’s a showstopper. However, it always seems like the Fellowship has to be close to finished before he pulls something out of his bag of tricks.
When confronted by the gigantic Balrog in the Mines of Moria, Gandalf single-handedly holds him off with his magical staff, announcing, “You shall not pass!” Though he seemingly perishes from the fall, we find out afterward that he survives.
Later, while Gandalf is on horseback, he fends off a winged Ringwraith simply by waving his staff around. He battles orcs like a one-man army in Return of the King, using a combination of swordplay and magic.
Why didn’t he use his magic when they were ambushed by Orcs in the mines?
18 Why Aren't More Elves In The Fellowship?
Legolas is an amazing addition to any questing party. The dude is a genius with a bow, and he can also make fast work out of enemies with his two swords. Light on his feet, he is agile and accurate, with probably the best pure stamina on the team.
Better yet, he never complains and seems to be able to make friends with everyone, even Gimli.
So why aren’t there more elves on the team? It seems like a no-brainer to trade the useless Merry and Pippen for a couple of elves like Legolas.
The elves are about to sail for distant lands as the War of the Ring approaches. Still, if they can spare a few elves for the Battle of Minas Tirith, they ought to be able to give at least one more to the Fellowship.
17 Why Didn’t Gandalf Bring Fireworks For Defensive Purposes?
Gandalf’s fireworks display at Bag End indicates that he has a sophisticated understanding of explosives.
His finale was a firework that took the form of a dragon made of fire and swooped low over the crowd before erupting into a huge multi-explosion display.
If Gandalf can make fireworks appear like dragons, why wasn't he be able to make something practical in warfare, like a bomb or a grenade?
Going further with this idea, shouldn’t Gandalf have packed some explosives with him for the purpose of defense? They would have been handy in the Mines of Moria to light up the dark and confuse the Orcs.
Perhaps it just wasn’t his style. However, it seems like a wasted opportunity.
16 Why Are Four Hobbits A Part Of It?
So pretend you’re building a fellowship to ensure that the One Ring gets destroyed. Frodo, the ring-bearer is the one Hobbit you have to have— his very nature is the least corruptible and thus he is the safest person to actually carry the Ring.
An argument can be made that Sam is important for Frodo's moral as well as for logistical support.
However, why are there two other Hobbits, Merry and Pippin? What do they bring to the table other than complaining that they haven’t had second breakfast yet?
Sure they helped to recruit the Ents to stop Saruman, but they didn’t really do much of the heavy lifting.
You’d think that they’d stack the Fellowship deck with a few more warriors. Merry and Pippen are about as useful on the trip as teenagers who complain they have no wi-fi.
15 Why Isn’t Radagast The Brown In The Fellowship?
Radagast the Brown makes a bit of a splash in the books and also appears in The Hobbit prequel movies. However, he is nowhere to be found during the great War of the Ring. Nor is he mentioned. Why?
As a powerful wizard with nature on his side, he would have been a great ally. He could have at least convinced the Ents to join the fight earlier.
In the books, an attempt was made to recruit him into the fight, but they could not find him at home. You’d think that with all of the magic they’d find a way to communicate with him somehow.
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales, he mentions that Radagast’s real duty was to defend animal and plant life, something that would have taken all his attention regardless of the outcome of the War of the Ring. However, surely the War of the Ring would have impacted both plants and animals.
14 Why Not Use The Giant Eagles To Drop The Ring Into Mt. Doom?
We all thought it when we saw it. At the end of Return of the King, Frodo and Sam are saved from the volcanic wastes of Mount Doom by giant eagles that come to rescue them.
“But wait,” we’re thinking, “if the eagles can just fly to Mount Doom, then why did the Hobbits hike for three movies to get there?”
They could have avoided the Mines of Moria, Golem, and Shelob, and the other larger scale battles of Helm’s Deep and Minas Tirith would never have had to happen.
Thousands of lives would have been saved.
The hardcore fans have theories for this, ranging from a complex code of honor from the eagles to “the flying Ringwraiths would have stopped them.”
However, shouldn’t they have tried? Or at the very least, given them a lift partway?
13 Why Don't Gandalf Or The Elves Realize That Boromir Might Be Problematic?
The human Boromir became corrupted by the Ring and tried to steal it. However, this was arguably out of desperation to save his people. He eventually made good by realizing his wrongs and sacrificing his life to save the Fellowship.
However, was there not anyone who could see Boromir’s betrayal coming?
Aragorn, as heir to the King, seemed like a must-have on the party. As a fellow human and brother-in-arms, couldn’t he pick up clues that maybe Boromir wasn’t on the up and up?
Also, what about Gandalf and Elrond? They are two of the wisest characters in Middle-earth. Couldn’t they see Boromir's designs and liability from at least a mile away?
It seems like even centuries-old beings and magical wizards are just lousy at reading people sometimes.
12 Why Did Bilbo never see Sauron when he used the ring?
Perhaps the easier answer here is that as an author, J.R..R. Tolkien perhaps did not have the whole story fleshed out yet, so he even he did not guess the full significance of the Ring as he was writing The Hobbit.
Still, the inconsistency is jarring. Bilbo seems to use the Ring freely with little detriment at all, until much later in life when he becomes attached to it. This is a period of almost a generation.
Frodo, on the other hand, starts to become corrupted by the Ring by the very end of the third movie, which arguably happens in less than a year. He also began to have visions of Sauron almost immediately upon using the Ring.
Did Bilbo have a stronger spirit than Frodo? Or was Frodo, for whatever reason, more susceptible to it?
11 Why Did They Not Attempt To Recruit The Ents?
Though they make no contact in the movies, Gandalf and Elrond must have known about the Ents. It's possible that even Gimli had heard of them, so it’s baffling that none of them were recruited.
In The Two Towers, the Hobbits have a difficult time convincing the Ents to get involved until they see whole groves of trees being cleared out for the Orcs’ project.
If that is all it takes, wouldn’t a high-level “show and tell” mission be in order to get the giant and powerful Ents involved in the battle?
These beings seem at least as strong, if not more so, than the enemy’s giant trolls. They also have the added bonus of being easily disguised as a tree when they set up camp.
However, they only get involved in part of the battle because of happenstance.
10 Wouldn't It Have Been Wiser Not To Have Humans In the Fellowship?
Elrond and Gandalf knew that humans were among the easiest to corrupt. It was the human Isildur who failed to throw the Ring into Mount Doom the first time, taking it for himself.
The nine Ringwraiths were actually once human beings who essentially sold their souls to Sauron.
So why risk having human beings on the team at all? Gandalf is an exception— he’s not exactly human. Aragorn, the heir to the King, seemed like a must-have in the party, and he had already proved his worth by tracking down and defending the Hobbits in advance.
However, as we discussed before, Boromir was a bad bet.
How many times are the smartest guys in the room going to trust humans anywhere near the Ring? The humans are lucky they weren’t wiped out by the other races as a pre-emptive measure.
9 Why Doesn’t Gandalf Figure Out What The Ring Is Earlier?
When Gandalf discovers the Ring and ponders over it at Bilbo’s house, he tries to figure out exactly what it is. When he touches it, he immediately sees the eye of Sauron.
Shouldn’t this be enough information for an intuitive guy like Gandalf to assume this is the Ring of Power that he was worried about?
Even if he wasn’t sure, wouldn’t it be wise just to high-tail it over to Elrond’s place and get a second opinion? Instead, Gandalf goes to some ancient library and comes back a few days later in an absolute panic.
If this is the Ring that nearly caused Armageddon in Middle-earth once before, you’d think that the wisest people in the land would be much better at recognizing it.
8 Why Can’t The Ringwraith Detect The Ring?
Early in the journey, when the Hobbits were on their way to The Prancing Pony, they forgot one piece of Gandalf’s warning to stay off the roads. When you’re on the road, it seems, the Ringwraiths can find you.
Of course the Hobbits forget, and sure enough, a Ringwraith instantaneously approaches. Frodo and company hide underneath some tree roots, so the Ringwraith starts poking around the foot of the tree, inches from Frodo and the Ring.
One of the other Hobbits throws a rock further down the road to distract the Ringwraith, and the crew makes a break for it.
The Ringwraith can’t detect the Ring. However, wouldn’t the Ring be trying to be found?
Why is this Ringwraith so terrible at finding a ring that’s literally right beneath his nose?
7 Why Do Neither Gimli Nor Gandalf Know What Happened In The Mines Of Moria?
When the Fellowship reaches Balin’s tomb deep in the Mines of Moria, Gimli is devastated. After the events of The Hobbit, he had no idea that Balin’s Colony had failed to reclaim Moria.
Earlier on some years ago, word had gotten out that Balin’s band of dwarves were doing well in the mines, but after a while, there was no word at all.
Saruman mentioned, “Moria... You fear to go into those mines. The dwarves delved too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of Khazad-dum... shadow and flame." However, Gandalf and Gimli had no clue about this.
Shouldn’t someone have discovered that Balin's Colony was gone after nearly 30 years?
With all that magic, wasn't there some way of viewing it through a bird or using some kind of seeing crystal to figure out what was going on down there?
6 Why Didn't Gandalf Or The Elves Try To Take Down Saruman's Orc Factory?
After Gandalf escaped Saruman's tower by jumping on to the back of a giant Eagle, he bee-lined over to Rivendell to warn Elrond and meet up with the Hobbits to form the Fellowship. It was there that he warned Elrond that Sarumon had fallen to the dark side and was assisting Sauron.
Knowing full well that Sauron’s fortress would now become ground-zero for reproducing Orcs, why didn’t the powers that be make an effort to counter Sauron’s effort? It wouldn’t be long before everyone would be armpit-high in Orcs.
As it stands, the only reason why Sauron perished is that the Ents decided to belatedly get involved. It seemed like the alliance between men and the other races couldn’t be bothered.
As a war strategy, it seems horribly negligent.
5 Why Does Frodo’s Sword Fail To Glow When They're Attacked In The Mines Of Moria?
If you’re going to set up a plot device where you have a magical sword that glows every time there is danger imminent, you have to stick to it.
So early on, Frodo’s sword glows when the Ringwraiths approach the Hobbit’s campsite-- as it should.
However, later, in the Mines of Moria, the Fellowship is attacked by dozens of Orcs and a giant Troll, but the sword never glows.
The whole heroic band is cornered in one room and is forced to make a stand in order to survive. Wouldn't this be one an obvious time for the sword to glow?
Somehow, the sword doesn't It seems to be highly selective on what it considers a real danger. There’s no excuse for this.
4 Why Didn’t The Ring Try To Escape Frodo When He Was Attacked By The Nazgul?
They make a great effort in the movies and the books to explain that the Ring is crafty and somewhat sentient and can change its size and shape to find a new owner. As is said so often, "it wants to be found."
Yet, if the Ring is capable of planning, its strategy is completely mystifying.
If it wants to get back to Sauron, why did it not just slip off Frodo’s finger at the Prancing Pony so it could be found by the Nazgul?
Sure, it slips onto Frodo’s finger, which alerts them to its presence, but why not just fall off when he's hanging out at the inn? It must know that the Ringwraiths are coming. After all, it sort of summoned them in the first place.
Instead, the Ring chooses to hang out with Frodo, for… reasons, we guess.
3 Why Does Gimli Say They Can Have His Ax After It Shatters?
There’s one thing about Dwarves that's true: they don’t mince words. These are hearty people who are used to warfare and don’t let their smaller statures get in the way of being total pros on the battlefield.
So they don’t often to succumb to figures of speech— they prefer to be literal.
When Gimli tries to personally take care of the Ring problem by smashing it with his ax, it's his ax that shatters into pieces instead. By the look on Gimli’s face, he was definitely not expecting this.
Yet, moments later, when the Fellowship is pledging their fealty to each other, Legolas says “you can have my bow” and Gimli adds "and my ax."
You know, the one he just smashed to pieces. Was this a Dwarf joke?
2 Why Didn’t The Ring Try To Escape From Bilbo?
It seems that the best way to win a battle is to already have won it in advance. This is a notion that Sun Tzu maintains in The Art of War. So the best time for the Ring to have escaped was when the darkness had only begun to gather and no one had suspected anything.
If the Ring really wanted to be found by the forces of evil, then it shouldn't have hung out at Bag End with Bilbo for almost thirty years.
It could have escaped much earlier, perhaps by falling off Bilbo's hand while crossing a stream that led to Mirkwood or being found by a lesser creature that would migrate closer to Mount Doom and Sauron.
Instead, it was so far "offside" that it gave the Fellowship a fighting chance to actually win.
1 How Do The Hobbits Eat So Much On The Fellowship Journey?
There’s a line in The Fellowship of the Ring where Legolas informs Merry and Pippin about Elven bread and how it works. He says, “Lembas bread. One bite is enough to fill the stomach of a grown man.”
Merry asks Pippin, “How many did you eat?” Pippin replies, “Four.”
We’re not sure what it is in their diminutive statures that require them to eat seven meals a day (we’re not kidding: breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, luncheon, high tea, dinner, and supper).
Worse, these two particular Hobbits contribute the least to the group, so it seems odd that they would eat the most.
We would be far more concerned if Gimli, Legolas, and Aragorn go hungry than if a Hobbit is feeling a wee bit peckish.
With Merry and Pippen around, it’s a miracle that anyone else had anything to eat at all.
Can you think of any other aspects of The Lord of the Rings' Fellowship that don't make any sense? Sound off in the comments!