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In order to understand the debate concerning a novels translation into a film it is first of all necessary to know the definition of the concept narrative is and how narratives can be expressed in different ways.
There exists a substantial amount of definitions of the concept. I decided to introduce the conditions for a narrative text by Marie-Laure Ryan (2004), since they contain the most important features and try to be broad instead of narrowing them down to the basics.
According to Ryan, the first condition is that a world is created and that characters are thought of that live in this world. In the Lord of the Rings this is the continent of Middle-Earth with its various creatures. The second condition is that the world referred to by the text must undergo changes of state that are cause by non-habitual physical events (Ryan, 2004, p.8). These events can happen accidentally or as the result of the characters actions, respectively. In the LOTR1 this is the context I will describe later in this essay. Third, the reader should be able to identify the goals, plans, causal relations, and psychological motivations (p.9) connected to the events told. In other words, the reader should be able to make sense of the narrative.
When relating this to adaptation, it becomes obvious that these conditions are not allowed to change too much when being translated from original to film. To create another setting or new characters would be a major damage to the original and furthermore would give it a completely different sense.
The second theory I will explain very shortly deals with the concepts of story and discourse. Story is what I defined as narrative before. In this context it implies the idea of the story. The expression of this idea is called the discourse. Discourse can be separated into order, duration, frequency, mood and voice. These are also features that play a role when comparing original and adaptation. Generally, the story should stay the same, but its representation is sure to differ when transferring it from one medium to another. The main discussions on adaptation deal with story and discourse. However, I will use the terms content and form rather than story and discourse.