January 28, 2013

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

All that is Hollywood gold does not glitter.

Via Reddit.

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

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?

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.

Invited 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).

Read 23 Comments and Reply

Read 23 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Elephant Journal  |  Contribution: 1,510,285