How Does the Ending of “The Shining” Differ from Stephen King’s Novel?


The Shining’s (1980) hedge maze chase is one of the most iconic endings in horror history. The tension felt when Jack (Jack Nicholson) chases Danny (Danny Lloyd) through the hotel grounds is incredible. The final, terrible shot of Jack on the ground, his frozen face forever stuck in its maniacal, upward-looking open-mouth gaze, instantly freezes itself into the brain of anyone who witnesses it.

The death is also nothing like Jack’s fate in the novelization of The Shining, written by Stephen King. The film version made big changes to the character of Jack overall, and subsequently, many elements of the story were completely modified to better represent the character the picture was working with.

In the novel, Jack chases Danny out into the hotel grounds to find the hotel’s topiary animals suddenly alive and in pursuit of him. While Kubrick thought that would be a fun effect to maintain, they couldn’t make it realistic looking, so the hedge maze was created. It ended up being a more suitable ending for the film’s interpretation of Jack, who was more of a jerk and a through-and-through villain than in the novel.

Though it’s never once mentioned in the film, a big part of Jack’s duties in the novel involve dumping the boiler on a daily basis. At the end of the novel, Jack had ignored the boiler for too long, and the hotel explodes. After telling Wendy and Danny to get out, Jack tries to relieve the pressure in the boiler, fails, is caught in the explosion, and dies.

Fans of the film know that Stephen King was outspoken about his disappointment with the film overall - his greatest disappointment being the casting of Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, and the manipulation of his character’s foundation and backstory.