The words spoken in the Lord of the Rings

investigating the scripts of my favorite movie trilogy

Scroll down for information


Who’s speaking in Middle Earth?


July 2016


data sketches’ July month


Excel, R, D3.js


Manually added locations to this dataset


In more than 11 hours of the Lord of the Rings trilogy all characters combined speak approximately 32,000 words. The 9 members of the Fellowship alone take up about 17,000 of these words, a bit more than half. In “Who’s speaking in Middle Earth?” you can find out how many words a member has spoken at each general location throughout the trilogy.


For the first month of data sketches our topic was movies and I was quickly drawn to the idea of doing something with the Lord of the Rings. While investigating what data was available I came across a dataset that counted the number of words spoken by each character, in each scene, of all 3 extended editions of the movies. Using this data I wanted to visualize how many words each character of the fellowship had spoken at each location. In original dataset, there was sadly no information about location. Therefore, I went ahead and manually added an on-screen location to each of the ±800 rows of data.

In June I got an email from Christian Wisniewski with a sketch that looked a bit like a Chord diagram but with nodes in the center. It seemed very intriguing and since I have a fond history of hacking the chord diagram for other purposes I wanted to try to create my own version of Christian’s idea. And while thinking of the LotR dataset I thought it could fit really well with version I vaguely had in my mind.

To build this layout I used d3’s chord and ribbon functions as my basis but then started systematically making alterations to the chords and adding another level of data through the inner labels. The colors are based on picking colors from screenshots of that location in the movie (and my own personal feeling on what color represented my memory of that location). Getting the Elvish translations of the locations took more time than I’d like to admit. And I’ll never know if the translations are truly correct… Regardless, I hope you’ll find some new insights. I for one never realized Sam spoke so much. Or that Legolas spoke even less than Boromir!

You can read more about the data, design and coding on the data sketches July write-up.