Not a Tolkien quote: “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”
It is one of the most favourite quotes on the internet ever since the films came out.
And it is a film quote, spoken by Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) to Frodo (Elijah Wood), no doubt about that, when they are at her Mirror.
The ‘origin’ or ‘inspiration’ will probably be Elrond’s suggestion at the Council that the Ring should be destroyed:
‘At least for a while,’ said Elrond. ‘The road must be trod, but it will be very hard. And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.’ [my emphasis.]
It is not quite fair to compare two different media but it becomes obvious with such a passage what an author can do in a book – and what a director has to achieve with a script that needs to convey messages more via images and sounds, not via a comprehensive text with a lot of exposition.
It also centres around an individual on screen, a necessary shortening of a complex issue.
That is also the explanation why it is such a well-loved meme – Cate Blanchett’s rendition has drawn a lot of admiration by fans and because the message conveyed is one of hope, quite obviously. We all feel small at times and the hobbits are the embodiment of that statement …
I certainly do not want to pick a fight here but Tolkien’s words are, of course, the expression of a true fellowship – only as a team can you achieve these feats. With the film the message needs to be compressed, reduced – and in my view it is a misrepresentation of what is central to the story: “small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere” – the Nine Walkers are something of a joke in the face of the threat posed by Sauron while the ‘great’ movers and shakers are planning all of the moves on the chessboard of power: Denethor, Elrond, Galadriel, Gandalf.
By reducing it to ‘the smallest person’ – that is, Frodo – the focus needed in the film is directed at the leading character and it is well done.
However, it is not a Tolkien quote.
‘Of course, my dear Bilbo,’ said Gandalf. ‘If you had really started this affair, you might be expected to finish it. But you know well enough now that starting is too great a claim for any, and that only a small part is played in great deeds by any hero. [my emphasis.]