I have been re-watching them recently and I have been bugged at how small the distances seem. Osgiliath is clearly visible from Minas Tirith. I realize that they are close compared to some of the distances in Middle-earth but it seems that they are a five-minute gallop from each other.

And Mordor does not look much further away. Were these places literally 'in the shadow' of Mordor?

Is the scale in the films smaller than it is in the book?

  • Another example is the ride from Hobbiton to Minas Tirith by Gandalf. Naturally for a film they compress the time and the fact there is a 17 year gap between Bilbo's departure and Frodo's departure means they have to compress things that happen in those years (and omit some). I think the distance is one of the more forgiveable things Jackson did because it's a necessity. Another example that comes to mind is Gandalf's ride with Pippin to Minas Tirith; that too was shortened. I imagine (but this is speculation) most travelling (if not all) was shortened by some extent (perhaps varying extent). – Pryftan Sep 15 '17 at 18:59

I had a quick look at several maps (such as the ones below, taken from the Encyclopedia of Arda website and Karen Wynn Fonstad's Atlas of Middle-earth respectively), and all seemed to indicate that Osgiliath was somewhere between fifteen and twenty miles from Minas Tirith according to the lore. You certainly couldn't ride between the two in five minutes. As for being in the shadow of Mordor, the Ephel Dúath, the western mountains of Sauron's land were little more than twenty miles to the east of Osgiliath.

In Peter Jackson's film adaptation, it does appear that this distance was shortened considerably for dramatic effect, rather than getting the scale wrong (the fields of the Pelennor were also dotted with fields and farmsteads, and were not as open and barren as The Return of the King film suggests).

Another example of geographical poetic license would be Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli exiting the Paths of the Dead and appearing near Pelargir, whereas in the books, they found themselves in the Vale of Morthond, about three hundred miles to the northwest.

A further example of the journey being shortened in order to tell the story on film is seen, or rather not seen, in The Fellowship of the Ring. In the film, we see the Hobbits travelling through the Shire, and then in the next scene arriving at the western gate of Bree. As those who have read the books will know, they took a diversion through the Old Forest on the way, to avoid the Black Riders, and had to contend with an angry sentient tree and an evil spirit, whilst meeting a merry fellow and his nature-loving partner in between.

Map of the Pelennor Fields

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    Can I just say that the Encyclopedia of Middle-earth is a non-canonical book. I hope you don't mind me editing your map out with the more canonical version, from the Atlas of Middle-earth written by Karyn Wynn Fonstad, someone who doesn't come up with lies, unlike David Day. Here is a more canonical (and better looking) source: i.stack.imgur.com/GBUoo.jpg – Edlothiad May 2 '17 at 14:00
  • I got that image from the Encyclopedia of Arda website (glyphweb.com/arda), if that makes any difference to its accuracy. Please feel free to put Fonstad's map in its place. Thanks :) – maguirenumber6 May 2 '17 at 14:03
  • Can't ride between the two in five minutes? Faramir and his riders that got within arrow range of Osgiliath while Pippin was singing a 90 second Hobbit song beg to differ :P – DisturbedNeo May 2 '17 at 15:56
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    A truck, of course. That's how they got there so quickly. It all makes sense. Nothing unusual about the movies at all then :P – DisturbedNeo May 2 '17 at 16:02
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    I think in the DVD commentaries or the documentary features, Peter Jackson acknowledges that he shrunk some of the geography because he also had to (wanted to) compress time – HorusKol May 3 '17 at 0:04

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