"Fool of a Took! Throw yourself in next time, and rid us of your stupidity."Even though it is considered one of the most popular trilogies of all time, it doesn't mean there aren't any moments of stupidity. You may put examples from both the books and Peter Jackson's film adaptations.
—Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
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The Fellowship of the Ring
- During the prologue, at the Battle of Mount Doom, between the Last Elven-Human Alliance and the Forces of Darkness, Sauron shows up to personally turn the tide in his favor, with the power of the One Ring, and a huge mace. He manages to knock several soldiers around like golf balls, and manages to p'wn Isildur's father. When Isildur grabs his father's blade, he smashes it with his foot.
You'd Expect: Sauron would quickly finish Isildur with his huge killing mace, and kill him instantly. After all, just because you foot stomp and break a blade, doesn't mean it's useless, and can still be used as an improvised weapon.
Instead: He reaches his arm out to Isildur, intending to grab him and burn him, but is too slow about, and Isildur cuts Sauron's fingers off, including the one with the Ring. It leads to Sauron's body blowing up, and he ends up (after the Ring continued to exist) existing as a flaming eyeball over Barad-Dûr.
- While Aragorn (aka Strider) is trying to lead the Hobbits (Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin) to safety from the Nazgûl (aka the Ringwraiths), the group stops at Weathertop to rest for the night. Aragorn goes to have a look around (patrol the farther area), and tells the Hobbits to wait.
You'd Expect: The Hobbits to wait patiently and not try to do anything foolish.
Instead: Sam, Merry, and Pippin make a fire while Frodo's asleep to cook their evening breakfast, tomatoes, sausage, and nice crispy bacon, which unfortunately gives away their position to the Nazgul (aka the Ringwraiths), even when Frodo tries putting the fire out.
The Result: The Nazgul attack the Hobbits, and Frodo gets impaled by the Witch King's blade, and is nearly killed as a result of it.
- After Gandalf gets held captive at the top of Orthanc, Saruman's tower, Gandalf manages to have the moth go get one of the eagles to come and help him escape, which he does later. Saruman is at the top of the tower at the time.
You'd Expect: Saruman would summon a fireball (like how he does in the Extended Edition of Return of the King) and kill the eagle by burning it, along with Gandalf, so that he can't escape.
Instead: He just lets him go and makes no attempt to stop him from escaping with the fact that Saruman has allied with Sauron. Less of a problem in the book, since we don't see Saruman using fireballs (and some of Tolkien's notes give multiple versions of Gandalf's escape that agree on Saruman not being there at the time).
- Gandalf is adamant in his refusal to go to Moria, because the Dwarves Dug Too Deep and released the Balrog.
You'd Expect: Gandalf would explain this to the Fellowship. "We can't go there because there's a deadly fire demon" is not a complex explanation.
Instead: Gandalf only gives a vague answer that he would only go there if he had no choice, and when Saruman blocks the other paths, he punts the decision to Frodo rather than confess to his fears. Furthermore, even in this instance, Gandalf refuses to warn them until said demon is basically on top of them. Again, not a problem in the book because Gandalf didn't know there was a Balrog; all he knew was that there was some vague danger.
For Added Stupidity: Up to this point, Gimli has been constantly boasting about the hospitality of the Dwarves, having no idea that they're all dead, so Gandalf's refusal to go there makes even less sense because it looks like he's actively making the Fellowship take more dangerous routes rather than go through an area controlled by allies. And again, Gandalf would rather let Gimli find their bodies instead of just telling him what happened.
- When the Fellowship arrives at Amon Hen, Boromir leaves the camp to go get firewood.
You'd Expect: Boromir to bring his shield with him when going to gather firewood, in case there's the off chance that the enemy could launch a surprise attack and have protection against long range attacks.
Instead: He leaves it behind at camp. And unfortunately, the Uruk-hai launch a surprise attack on the Fellowship and he doesn't even go back for his shield quickly, and when he tries to go save Merry and Pippin, he is left defenseless against Lurtz's bow and arrow attacks, and is killed from the arrows as a result of it.
The Two Towers
- The party of Uruk-hai that captured Merry and Pippin camp for the night near Fangorn Forest alongside a group of Orcs who joined up with them not long ago. Members of the party complain about the lack of decent food they've had recently, and a few Orcs consider eating Merry and Pippin. In response, the leader of the Uruks explicitly tells them that the Hobbits are to be taken to Saruman "alive and unspoilt".
You'd Expect: Everyone in the party would come to accept this fact.
Instead: One of the Orcs attacks the Hobbits, claiming that he just wants a nibble. He gets his head lopped off, and the party decide to eat him instead.
- After Gandalf has removed the spell on Théoden and he's back to normal, Saruman no longer has any power over Rohan and Gríma Wormtongue is thrown out of the court (literally, down the steps). Théoden then goes to kill Gríma.
You'd Expect: Aragorn to let Théoden kill that treacherous S.O.B.
Instead: Aragorn stops him, claiming that "Enough blood has been spilled on [Gríma's] account".
You'd Then Expect: Them to imprison Wormtongue to stop him from returning to Saruman with vital information.
Instead (!): They let Wormtongue escape back to Saruman without even trying to stop him.
The Result: Gríma Wormtongue tells Saruman exactly where to attack and how, subsequently leading to the Battle of Helm's Deep, which kills hundreds more Red Shirt soldiers, presumably including children. Although, in the book, Wormtongue doesn't arrive at Orthanc until after the Ents have had their communal spring cleaning.
- In the film, Elrond and the household of Rivendell decides to leave for the Grey Havens in the middle of war, complete with ritual lanterns glowing in the dark and almost no visible armor or weapons. At night!
You'd Expect: Elrond to be a mite more strategic, knowing full well that the area around Rivendell is swarming with Orcs (who attack in the dark), and to just wait it out until the whole thing is over.
Instead: He urges them to leave Middle Earth within the hour.
The Return of the King
- Gandalf goes to Minas Tirith with Pippin, where they meet Denethor, the Steward of Gondor. They tell him that the enemy is going to be on his doorstep.
You'd Expect: Denethor would listen to Gandalf, who has proven to be wise — if somewhat obtuse at times — and pretty much the one thing that can push the Nazgul back. And even if Gandalf supports Aragorn as King of Gondor, it does not mean that he cannot maintain his position, advising the king on important matters.
Instead: He rebuffs Gandalf's quite sensible suggestions and rage about the fact that he'll never let Aragorn take the throne, saying that the throne of Gondor is his, and no other's. And in the film, when Pippin lights the beacon that will call Rohan to battle, at Gandalf's prompting, he gets angry with Gandalf.
Then: He gets upset at Rohan for not getting to Minas Tirith fast enough, claiming his allies abandoned him.
- On the Frodo/Sam front of the story, during one of their resting breaks as they climb the Secret Stairs, Gollum throws the last of Lembas bread off the cliff to frame Sam for eating the last of it. Sam finds out the Lembas bread is gone! Frodo gets tricked by Gollum into believing that this is true, and tells Sam to leave and not follow.
You'd Expect: Sam to go "screw it", and still accompany Frodo. After all, like he said at the end of the first movie, "Don't you leave him, Samwise Gangee"! Alternatively, if Frodo flat-out refuses to travel with Sam any further, Sam would just try and follow him from a distance.
Instead: He obliges, despite knowing that he didn't eat the Lembas bread, breaks down, crying, and lets Frodo go on his own with the treacherous Gollum! In addition, he starts leaving and when he hit the bottom of the area, he sees the Lembas bread, and gets reminded of the fact that he didn't eat it! By the time he gets back up, Frodo has been poisoned by the giant spider, Shelob. Sam takes him for dead and abandons him to the orcs, though he takes the Ring first, and it is only the orcs' expositional banter that clues him in to Frodo's Not Quite Dead state. Frodo then gets taken to the Orc fortress of Cirith Ungol, necessitating a side trip by Sam to save him.
- On a related note, Frodo siding with Gollum against Sam the whole journey.
You'd Expect: Frodo, even if he was being influenced by the Ring, to pick up on the fact that Gollum is a selfish and cold-hearted murderer who wants nothing more than the ring for himself, or at least notice Gollum is very clumsily trying to manipulate him. And even if he missed all that, he should have at least remembered that he and Sam have been friends for years, and that he knows Sam is a good person who wouldn't do any of the shit Gollum accused him of.
Instead: He believes every word Gollum says, turns against Sam, and gets predictably sold out by Gollum in Shelob's cave.
- The "Faramir being thought dead" fiasco. We expect Denethor to be unreasonable, but that doesn't excuse everyone else taking leave of their senses.
- Faramir reports that tens of thousands of orcs have taken Osgiliath, which he and just a few tens of soldiers have survived thanks to Gandalf's intervention.
You'd Expect: Denethor to listen to his son and realize that Osgiliath is lost for the moment, order the fortification of Minas Tirith and bring reinforcements and call for any allies that may be willing to come.
Instead: He rebuffs Faramir's claims, saying that he and his men ran away because of cowardice, and orders him to lead a small army to retake Osgiliath, which leads to disastrous results.
- Faramir's attempt to retake Osgiliath ends in failure with the entire unit wiped out, except for Faramir and his horse. Faramir is knocked unconscious from a poisoned arrow, and Denethor assumes he's dead. Pippin, however, notices he's still kicking, saying, "He needs medicine, my lord."
You'd Expect: Denethor, as grief-stricken as he is right now, to listen to what Pippin's saying, which would give him a sign of relief.
Instead: Denethor ignores that, yelling "My line has ended!" When he sees Sauron's army at his doorstep, thinking Rohan will not aid him, he yells "ABANDON YOUR POSTS! FLEE! FLEE FOR YOUR LIVES!" Gandalf at least corrects for this last bit of stupidity by knocking him out and rallying the defenders, yelling, "Prepare for battle!", but this leads into something even stupider.
- Just to take stock, Denethor is now unconscious, and Pippin is presumably still by Faramir.
You'd Then Expect: Pippin would get someone, anyone, to drag Faramir to the House of Healings, or do the task himself, saving his life. Or at the very least, bring the poor guy some medicine.
Instead: Against all logic, everyone completely forgets about Faramir, and leaves him and Denethor up there in the courtyard while they go to defend the city, including Pippin, who knows for a fact the guy is alive. This becomes a waste of time for Pippin, who is told to go back to the Citadel as requested by Gandalf. Unfortunately, by the time Pippin gets back, Denethor woke up, and is still under the delusion that his son is dead, and decides a Viking Funeral is in order.
- When Denethor carries Faramir's unconscious body to the Tomb of the Stewards, to kill himself along with Faramir, he tells his members of the Citadel Guard to "bring wood and oil" for the funeral pyre.
You'd Then Expect: Given they've already seen their steward try to abandon defense of the city and get laid out by a wizard for his stupidity, they'd respond with a "You're Insane!" and lock him up for being demonstrably crazy. Pippin said Faramir was alive, and these guys surely must have heard him. At the very least, they are assisting in the willing suicide of their leader, which no sane person would do in time of war (unless you have 100% lost).
Instead: They continue blindly following Denethor's orders without question like it's a brilliant idea (What?!?), despite the fact that he has clearly lost his mind, and don't even seem to care that they might be burning Faramir alive.
Worse Still: When Pippin comes in, yelling "HE'S NOT DEAD!" and trying to save Faramir by taking the pyre apart.
You'd THEN Expect: At least one of the guards or anybody that isn't Denethor to stop and ask Denethor something like, "Sir/My Lord, what if he's right?" Even though Denethor's an a-hole, asking is at least better than nothing.
Instead (!!!): The guards straight up ignore Pippin like brainless idiots as Denethor drags him out.
Even Worse: In the book, one guard does come to his senses and tries to save Faramir, but unfortunately, he ends up facing resistance from the rest who continue to follow the crazy guy's orders.
- Once Pippin gets thrown out of the Tomb of the Stewards, Denethor tells him to go away and die in what way seems best for him, and closes the doors. This ends up leading to idiocy on both sides. First off, nothing is stopping Pippin from walking back in.
You'd THEN Expect: Pippin to open the doors, walk back in, maybe try to talk some sense into the guards or anyone who isn't Denethor.
Instead: Apparently writing the idea off as a lost cause, he immediately gives up, and instead runs through the city currently being overrun by orcs to get Gandalf for help, taking all night to accomplish this, risking not only his life and thus Faramir's by extension, but possibly wasting enough time for Denethor to burn himself and Faramir alive.
- As for Denethor...
You'd Expect: Denethor would lock the doors, ordered them barred, maybe send one or two of his Yes-Man guards out to keep watch.
Instead: None of this happens. Pippin could have just walked back in, and Gandalf eventually comes charging in on horseback.
- Once Gandalf finally shows up to "stop this madness", Denethor grabs a torch from one of his guards and lights the pyre (in the extended edition, before doing so, he says, "You may triumph in the field of battle for a day. But against the power that is risen in the East, there is no victory.").
You'd Expect: If Denethor is really this set on killing himself, he would go all in and have his guards hold the line against Gandalf, who will doubtless interfere.
Instead: He does nothing of that sort, and Gandalf grabs a spear from the nearest guard (who for some reason, doesn't stop him) and knocks Denethor off the pyre, allowing Pippin to push Faramir's body off the pyre and save him from being burned to death. When Denethor threatens to do something terrible to Pippin while yelling, "You will not take my son from me!", he gets knocked into the pyre by Gandalf's horse. As he finally realizes his son is in fact alive, he gets set on fire, and runs all the way out of the room and jumps to his demise.
- Faramir reports that tens of thousands of orcs have taken Osgiliath, which he and just a few tens of soldiers have survived thanks to Gandalf's intervention.
- King Theoden and his forces have driven away the orcs from the White City, then an army of Haradrim shows up on their steeds, the Mumakil (basically giant war elephants).
You'd Expect: Théoden would order his men to keep their distance from the Mumakil and shoot arrows at them or throw spears (like what Eomer does during the below "Instead") at the riders.
Instead: Thanks to Executive Meddling (shooting elephants in the eyes would be rather blatant animal cruelty, regardless of the reality of the situation, and would invite protest from animal protection groups), he orders his men to charge the Mumakil and we're then treated to a montage of them getting trampled, tossed aside by their tusks or shot by the Haradrim. Had Aragorn not shown up with the Dead Men of Dunharrow when he did, it's likely the Rohirrim would have been wiped out. Ironically, it's not this act of stupidity that gets Théoden killed. It's the Witch-King that does him in.