Why Tolkien’s son hates Peter Jackson’s Hobbit & Lord of the Rings movies so much.

Via on Jan 28, 2013

All that is Hollywood gold does not glitter.

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Via Reddit.

If Christopher Tolkien hates the movies so much… how did they get made in the first place?

hobbit book

Because Christopher Tolkien (through the Tolkien Estate) did not control the rights to the film.

United Artists purchased the rights in 1969 and sold them to the Saul Zaentz Company which has since been the licensing body for the films based on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit as well as their accompanying merchandise (video games, board games, etc.)

The Tolkien Estate retains the film rights to all of the other works by Tolkien (including The Silmarillion), and Christopher is pretty adamant about not giving them up. For this reason, Peter Jackson’s films can’t refer to any of the history of Middle-earth that isn’t included in the books and the appendices nor can he make a film based on The Silmarillion (Thank Eru!).

What has he said about them?hobbit movie trailer video

Christopher Tolkien rarely speaks publicly, but last summer he did an interview which you can find here.

Some choice quotes:

No, Christopher Tolkien’s reserve has a very different explanation: the enormous gap, almost an abyss, which has been created between his father’s writings and their commercial descendants — work he does not recognize, especially since New Zealand film-maker Peter Jackson made Lord of the Rings, three phenomenally successful films, between 2001 and 2003. Over the years, a sort of parallel universe has formed around Tolkien’s work, a world of sparkling images and of figurines, colored by the original books of the cult, but often very different from them, like a continent that has drifted far from its original land mass.

“I could write a book on the idiotic requests I have received,” sighs Christopher Tolkien. He is trying to protect the literary work from the three-ring circus that has developed around it. In general, the Tolkien Estate refuses almost all requests. “Normally, the executors of the estate want to promote a work as much as they can,” notes Adam Tolkien, the son of Christopher and Baillie. “But we are just the opposite. We want to put the spotlight on that which is not Lord of the Rings.

the hobbit poster movieInvited to meet Peter Jackson, the Tolkien family preferred not to. Why? “They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25,” Christopher says regretfully. “And it seems that The Hobbit will be the same kind of film.”

This divorce has been systematically driven by the logic of Hollywood. “Tolkien has become a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed into the absurdity of our time,” Christopher Tolkien observes sadly. “The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has overwhelmed me. The commercialization has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation to nothing. There is only one solution for me: to turn my head away.”

tl;dr: Christopher Tolkien dislikes that the films have grown more popular than the books and that they are now the dominant representation of Tolkien’s legacy in popular culture. Furthermore, he dislikes that the films are a rather poor adaptation of the books and they made shallow action the main focus.

and how much has he personally done for the series (Tolkien mythos)?

It’s not an understatement to say that second to his father, Christopher has been the most important person in bringing the writings of Middle-earth (and others!) to the public. As a child, he listened to his father’s story of Bilbo Baggins. As a soldier in WW2, he corresponded often with his father about the writing of The Lord of the Rings, and he later greatly assisted in the typing of it. After his father’s death, he left his post at Oxford to work on bringing his father’s work to the public. The Silmarillion was perhaps the most significant accomplishment coming out of this, but the greatest work was The History of Middle-earth — 12 volumes that contain his father’s drafts relating to the writing of The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings as well as notes and commentary. He’s also edited and published The Children of Húrin, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún and more. (Edit: as /u/TragedyTrousers (and others) have noted, Christopher was also the one responsible for drawing the map of Middle-earth you’re likely familiar with.)

Basically, he’s the person most responsible for letting people read his father’s work, and he’s done much more for Middle-earth than Peter Jackson or anyone else aside from his father (though, unfortunately, Peter Jackson very likely wins the popularity contest, but he’d likely win that even against JRR Tolkien himself).

hobbit video trailer

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11 Responses to “Why Tolkien’s son hates Peter Jackson’s Hobbit & Lord of the Rings movies so much.”

  1. [...] Read th&#1110&#1109 article: Wh&#1091 Tolkein's son &#1281&#1077&#1109&#1088&#1110&#1109&#1077&#1109 Peter Jackson's Hobb… [...]

  2. gindew says:

    i have always thought of peter's films as his version of the books and if people want to see the real thing read the books, i think of the films as Peter's view of them instead of a film version, its a fan fiction type thing

  3. gordolph says:

    its odd to me the c.tolkien is bothered by an action film adaptation. its almost like he doesn't like movies. I can't understand what type a movie he would prefer? The books are too dark to be strictly a kids film and without action I don't see how you sell hobbits and elves to adults without action. There isn't a a genre this book fits into on a movie level. I would've never read the hobbit if I hadn't seen the movie. To me its a gateway and I'm sure the tolkien books are selling more. I just don't get why he only sees the film taking the place of the books.

    • John says:

      I agree so much, Gordolph.

      Also, the books are good but they would never have the widespread international fame they now have if not for the movies.

      C. Tolkien is an elderly person and doesn't understand movies or modern storytelling. He views it as something bad when it should instead be viewed as the wonderful gateway to the books that it actually is, attracting so many more readers.

      • Michael W. says:

        Tolkien's works already had international fame–they are some of the most translated novels of the 20th Century. And, unless you know Christopher Tolkien personally, making such comments is presumptuous.

        I do agree that the films are a gateway to the originals, as have been the film adaptations of many other wonderful novels/series.

      • Elinor Dashwood says:

        Oh, and, of course, "widespread international fame" is the greatest good anyone could desire. Pay any price, bear any burden, sacrifice your principles in any way necessary, as long as you achieve "widespread international fame". {facepalm}

  4. @KevinKuzia says:

    I've always loved The Hobbit and The LOTR – have re-read them about 5 times in my life and I will return to them again like a very cherished, old friend.

    That being said, all of Christopher Tolkien's comments come across very much "GET OFF MY LAWN!", which is too bad. Are the movies perfect and exact replications of the books? Well no… but the better question is… should they ever be? I would also think not.

    Just a shame he cannot appreciate them for the wonder that they are.

    • Terry says:

      I wholeheartedly agree with your comments Kevin. I have also read the books over and over again. Much like you so eloquently put it, "like returning to an old friend". I have also been puzzled by Christopher Tolkien's response to the films. The only thing really comes to mind is that since he does not own the rights to the moviemaking he may be angry about how much money he's not getting. Hasn't the Tolkien family filed a lawsuit because they are getting as much royalty money as they think they deserve?
      I only hope that he can come to an agreement with somebody to do the Simarilian movies after "The Hobbit" has been completed.

  5. Greg says:

    I would disagree somewhat. I thought the Lord of the Rings were beautiful adaptations. Let's face it, Tolkien was not adept at writing "action scenes" as we would understand them. But then that wasn't his intent. The films obviously built on the groundwork laid by the books' descriptions. But, as always, they are *adaptations*

    I AM a little annoyed that the Hobbit films have been pumped up into action flicks though, with fight sequences crammed into every possible corner.

  6. Carl Chambers says:

    You know I really respect C.Tolkien for what he has done with his fathers work, and I would really like to back him up with his words, since I actually knew him before Peter Jackson and grew up with the books, but he is really just being ridiculous now. What did he expect Peter Jackson to do? It is incredibly difficult to make a movie adaption from a book, especially a book collection of Lord of the Rings standards. Peter Jackson has done an amazing job and has kept to the lore as much possible. It seems to me that C.Tolkien hates the movies only because, in the modern era, it is now the primary adaption to the middle-earth lore that people prefer referring to. You cannot deny Peter Jackson has done wonders with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, C.Tolkien is asking way too much from Peter in fact he is asking for the impossible, although I doubt that is what it is all about, C.Tolkien is, in the words of this modern time, butthurt. He needs to keep up with the era.

  7. Sushi says:

    The movie has been a great introduction and reminder but the book holds more magic and its a fact universally admitted that no book has ever had an entirely faithful representation (minus any exceptions) and like any artist drawing from the books the movies are Peter Jacksons personal journeys into the book as well. I would love to see a movie adaptation series of Silmarillion one day. Maybe Christopher Tolkien one day can see that the movies are abridged stories of a classic much like something you would read to your kid.

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