Although it's a very good scene from the film, I don't see why Peter Jackson added it to the story (remember).
In the books, the Hobbits do not meet the Nazgûl in Bree, and that does not really advance the plot of the film (even if the scene in question remains excellent).

Then why did he add it?

  • 7
    To introduce the villain/s earlier?
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 20:46
  • 10
    @NKCampbell They do attack the bolsters: "the beds were tossed about, and the bolsters slashed and flung upon the floor". Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 21:16
  • 8
    FWIW - the VTC votes are inappropriate. As Valorum's answer has shown, there is direct information from the director himself as to why he did what the question asks. Additionally, my answer demonstrates that the film scene isn't that much of a departure from the text as the question may indicate.
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 21:35
  • 10
    It bears mentioning that Jackson was speeding up the plot of LOTR fairly significantly. In the book, Frodo held the ring for 17 years while in the movies, he set out on his adventure almost immediately after Bilbo's birthday party. Having the Nazgul attack so early in the film made the danger seem more imminent.
    – geewhiz
    Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 14:15
  • 6
    Although it's a very good scene from the film, ...what other reason would you need? ;)
    – xDaizu
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 13:36

4 Answers 4


Jackson and Boyens felt that the medium of film (as opposed to Tolkien's fairly stodgy prose) allowed them a unique opportunity to create a scene that would heighten tension for a few minutes as well as giving audiences an ambiguous moment where they could ultimately learn that Strider/Aragorn was a good guy.

Jackson: I liked this gag where we deliberately made people think that the Hobbits were asleep, and it's a cheap and cheesy one, but it's always good value doing this kind of stuff. It's what cinema can do so well. You can't really do it in the book, but in the movies you can. You can juxtapose places and time and make people think they're looking at something and then reveal that they're looking at something completely different.

Boyens: This is one of my favourite shots, not because Viggo looks so gorgeous, but because he looks so dangerous and that helps sell the idea that you're not sure which way Strider is going to go. We played with that a little bit more in the script, where and when you would reveal that this guy was on their side but in the end we decided, as with most things, to do it as quick as possible, but for that one moment you're not sure.

LOTR: DVD Audio Commentary - Director's Cut.

  • Well done - I had just popped my disc in to grab this but you beat me to it :)
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 21:31
  • 3
    @NKCampbell - I have them on my desktop for just such an occurrence. I might invest a few hours into transcribing the whole thing at some point.
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 21:34
  • 2
    I found I only had the theatrical cut on my Plex server so I had to go to physical media
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 21:36
  • 6
    This scene also follows the Ralph Bakshi animated version, as do a lot of sevens in PJ's version. Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 22:24
  • 2
    stodgy: "dull and uninspired; lacking originality or excitement." Wait, what? Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 0:23

He didn't deviate from the book...much

At least one Ring-Wraith does enter Bree in the night and is seen by Merry:

"I have seen them Frodo! I have seen them! Black riders!...Here. In the village. I stayed indoors for an hour. Then as you did not come back, I went out for a stroll. I had come back again and was standing just outside the light of the lamp looking at the stars. Suddenly I shivered and felt that something horrible was creeping near"

Merry continues his story:

"I went to pieces. I don't know what came over me." 'I do,' said Strider. 'The Black Breath. The riders must have left their horses outside, and passed through the South-gate in secret.'

Strider / Aragorn is aware that there are human enemies and ne'er do wells in the town who would gladly give the company up:

"They will know all the news now, for they have visited Bill Ferney; and probably that Southerner was a spy as well. Something may happen in the night, before we leave Bree".

Here is where the major deviation occurs:

'What will happen?' said Merry. 'Will they attack the inn?'

'No, I think not', said Strider. 'They are not all here yet' And in any case, that is not their way They will drive these wretches to do some evil work; Ferny, and some of the strangers, and maybe, the gatekeeper too.

Here, we find some similarity again w/ between the film and the text:

[Aragorn] 'Stay here, and do not go to your rooms! They are sure to have found out which those are. The hobbit-rooms have windows looking north and close to the ground. We will all remain together and bar this window and the door.

Nob, the hobbit working at the inn, sets up a decoy:

'Well Masters' said Nob, "I've ruffled up the clothes and put in a bolster down the middle of each bed. And I made a nice imitation of your head with a brown woollen mat'

During the night, the Riders (or someone - as Strider indicated earlier, perhaps Ferney or the like) entered and turned over the room:

"As soon as Strider had roused them all, he led the way to their bedrooms. When they saw them they were glad they had taken his advice: the windows had been forced open and were swinging, and the curtains were flapping; the beds were tossed about, and the bolsters slashed and flung upon the floor; the brown mat was torn to pieces."

In the text, the company departs Bree the following morning without interference from the Black Riders. So, in the book, the Riders do enter Bree and the company does hide from the Riders, and someone rousts the bedroom, but, in the text, the attack on the bedroom is not shown, nor is there any indication it is the Black Riders that perform the deed. Strider thinks any attack would be perpetrated by humans in Bree, not the Riders.


Just to build tension. The whole of the first half of the first movie was a desperate race to Rivendell, being chased the whole time by the Nazgûl. It's more or less the same in the book, the main difference being that the book moved a lot slower, and relied on other ways of building tension (e.g. Old Man Willow, the Barrow Downs). They cut out a few of those other scenes, so they added this one in to keep pacing and make sure we didn't have a chance to get bored and lose the fear.

They're still a ways away from Weathertop, which is the first real confrontation both in the movie and in the book, but the filmmakers know that the audience expects that confrontation, and want a little more danger than Strider sighting the enemies miles off in the distance.

  • 3
    The funniest difference between the book and the film is, for me, in the urgency with which Frodo and the other Hobbits leave for Rivendell. In the book, after Gandalf tells Frodo he has Sauron's ring of power, a terribly dangerous artifact, and he must take it to Rivendell, Frodo potters about Hobbiton for (IIRC) several months before getting it together to actually leave. Stark contrast with the movie's "You're in terrible danger, go now!" tone of this part of the film, continued in the Bree scenes. Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 8:12
  • 3
    more like years @MaxWilliams
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 13:08
  • @NKCampbell was it? haha. Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 13:23
  • 1
    Check this question for timelines.
    – molnarm
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 14:02

Before Jackson's movies there was an animated movie (1978). The attack in Bree scene is nearly a shot for shot copy from that movie.

So although the other answers may be right as well, it wasn't Jackson or Boyens who first thought of telling the story like this.

I think it is a respectful nod to these earlier animated adaptations.

  • 1
    This is very likely, thank you for your answer ;)
    – Foxy
    Commented Oct 13, 2018 at 12:25

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