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My Father's "Eviscerated" work - Son of J.R.R. Tolkien finally speaks out (worldcrunch.com)
153 points by porker on Jan 5, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 191 comments

I'm a little torn on this.

On one hand, the estate is clearly a victim of "Hollywood accounting" (as was Peter Jackson, I believe, which is why he refused to direct the Hobbit movie for such a long time). That's a downright criminal practice and "victims" perfectly describes those unfortunate enough to be targeted.

On the other hand, JRR the man passed away years ago, and his son is almost 90. Copyright law says one thing, but at what point do we as humans say that the creator has died long ago, and his work should now pass to the public to retell as it sees fit? How long should his children, and their children, and their children, expect to control and profit off of the work of a long-dead man? (Yes C. Tolkien did some original stuff with Silmarillion and Hurin but we're talking Hobbit and LotR here.)

That's a loaded question and obviously C. Tolkien and companies like Disney think copyright should be eternal. (And no doubt New Line now wishes its own copyright on its little gold mine would remain eternal too.) But personally I think stuff should enter the public domain much more aggressively for the good of culture and society.

In such a world C. Tolkien might have made a little cash for a while, perhaps been happy that his family created a cultural touchstone, and maybe went on to do something original and no doubt productive with his own talent. But we'll never know, and now he's spending his last days growing increasingly embittered because he feels that he's lost control of something he didn't even create in the first place.

I wouldn't call it loaded, because the same companies trying to screw over Tolkein Junior want these unlimited copyrights to stifle culture and innovation and hold a vicegrip on information. They are just hypocrites, but that is nothing new, they have been for decades.

If the big businesses get to fuck over every new idea under the sun that borrows from creative works of the last century without a license, the descendent's of the creators of those works that still, by the hands of the same enterprise, inherit the licenses deserve their compensation. It is the house of cards built by Hollywood and they want to live in it.

It's not only a question about copyright laws, money, etc.

Popularization of JRR works sometimes disgusting.

The most disgusting thing(for me, and I think I'm not lonely): LONG ELVEN EARS.

JRR almost reinvented elves. He transcend them from butterfly-like insects into unearthly beautiful beings almost like humans, but in every aspect better.

This effort is ruined: now everybody knows that elves are "guys/gals with long ears". Of cause: it's a lot easier to make long ears, than to make ... unearthly beauty.

(Excuse me my Runglish )

I would not say, "in every aspect better". One of the major themes of Lord of the Rings was that the elves are tied to nature but not really to history. They can't evolve as Men and such can, and so as history drags on they just sort of decay with entropy until eventually becoming nothing more than ghost-wraiths, voices on the wind... unless they pass into the Uttermost West, the only place protected from entropy such that elves can exist eternally there.

A quick note about elves: it's a misconception that before Tolkien's work an elf was pictured as a fey. Nordic elves were very Tolkien-ish, for example.

I've read explanations that elves as winged 5" fairies were a Victorian invention, and it kind of fits. European myths from before then generally much more serious.

Even though elves were mostly not fey, many descriptions of an elf are/were quite non Tolkien-ish.

best comic book guy answer ever

Elves are totally mentioned in Genesis 6. JRR Tolkien merely gender flipped it.

Elrond is not pleased.

Elves are totally mentioned in Genesis 6.

As in, Genesis, chapter 6, in the Tanakh? I've never heard of that one before. Ancient Hebrew culture had no notion of elves whatsoever, to my knowledge.

Is this a joke, or can you cite chapter+verse?

Yes, it's a joke.

2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.

3 And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.

4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

6 And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

7 And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

Ah, thanks. The last time I checked any details of the story of Noah was when I read them in a Madeleine l'Engle novel, ie: years ago.

I thought the Dwarves were the ones that were like humans but better.

"The Dwarves have a peculiar history. The first Seven Fathers of the Dwarves were actually created before the Elves by Aulë, beneath the mountains and against the will of Eru Ilúvatar. Eru was displeased with Aulë's rogue action, and ordered them destroyed. As Aulë rose his great hammer to smite his creations and children forever, he wept, and the Dwarves begged for mercy in fear. Seeing this, Eru decided that their life was valuable and that they should live, but the Dwarves must sleep until it is their time to walk Middle-Earth, so they were granted long life so they could hibernate as time elapsed."

Source: http://lotr.neoseeker.com/wiki/Of_the_Dwarves

So the dwarves were kind of a first draft done by an angel instead of the actual creato/god.

> the estate is clearly a victim of "Hollywood accounting"

I agree with you that this is an amoral practice, but the thing I can never understand: since virtually everyone is aware of this con, how is anyone still taken in by it?

I mean, by all accounts the negotiations for the LOTR rights were tense--but neither Jackson's nor Tolkien's lawyer figured out to put a "percent of box office" clause in there?

It's technically legit. Here's one way they could do it. The movie studio makes no money on the movie. The studio sells the movie to the distribution company for a fixed amount. Then the distribution company made $300 million on it, but that's not part of the contract.

IvyMike wasn't asking how it was done, but why people still seem to get screwed by it. Why didn't Jackson's lawyers know better? Asking for something like a percentage of the box office sales, or similar should be standard practice.

Jackson's lawyers know to ask for a percentage of the gross. And the studio lawyers know not to give it up.

Then Jackson doesn't make the movie, and the studio doesn't profit.

That's an interesting opinion, but I doubt the studio considered Jackson essential to making the Lord of the Rings movies. They had the rights and financing, and both they and Jackson knew they could have found someone else to direct.

For The Hobbit on the other hand...

The easy way french actors do to "give the fingers" to Hollywood accounting is simple: a % given depending on the number of people going to see the movies in theaters.

That's why actors like "Omar Sy" ("Les intouchables") are now very rich.

The film rights to Lord of the Rings were sold in the 1960's.

The LOTR film rights is a separate issue, since that was from decades ago.

But for other films, think of it like with VC terms and startups. The best ideas can dictate their terms and get points on the gross, while the ideas in the middle have to accept a deal where they get points of profit in order to get the film made.

Somebody like Eddie Murphy can demand gross points, while a first time indie filmmaker cannot.

Neither Peter Jackson not the Tolkien estate was a first time indie filmmaker.

Tolkien's deal was signed in the 60's and Jackson did have gross points, he was also a producer of the film so he was the other side of the table. His lawsuit was much more nuanced than a straight up gross vs net calculation.

You are putting the wrong argument to this situation. C. Tolkein is obviously far less concerned regarding the financial situation 'to control and profit off the work of a long-dead man' (in your words) and far more concerned with the disneyfication of the stories and characters. This come across pretty strongly in the article, for example he says "The commercialization has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation to nothing".

The way he chooses to pursue this is denying/restricting crappy productions as far as possible.

I happen to agree that Tolkeins books were quite special and the films pretty run-of-the-mill. I'm not so sure thats a big problem, or one that can be solved using copyright to block other interpretations, however I am sure the primary intent is not monetary.

I understand that he's not primarily concerned with money, but I still think that after a certain, comparatively short amount of time after the creator's death, IP should be released to the public. If the public wants to Disnify it, then so be it; the originals are still around for the rest of us to enjoy. Actually I think this perspective was how copyright was first imagined--it was only recently made outrageous by corporations like Disney.

C. Tolkien seems to disagree, and his desire for complete control over books he didn't even write seems to be both stifling genuine re-imaginings of modern classics by a long-dead author, and making him fairly unhappy.

I'm picking on Tolkien but obviously this applies to a huge amount of IP out there that's in a similar situation.

I broadly agree with you on issues of IP, but just think your characterization of this case (especially of the intentions of C. Tolkein) was off, and that your general argument is probably stronger for other cases of IP rather than this particular one.

"The commercialization has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation to nothing"

He is wrong but it certainly looks like that.

You don't have to care for the commercialization of the stuff and Happy Meals with Hobbit toys. The aesthetics and philosophy are still there.

The validity of copyright really isn't the issue here... if anyone and everyone could make Tolkien films then C. Tolkien's desire to get paid might be worth discussing, but that simply isn't the case.

I might agree with you, except that's it's not really how "the public" sees fit, is it? It's been turned into a Hollywood blockbuster, rather than something closer to the original book.

Why does the movie even have to be "The Lord of the Rings" anyway? Most of the races and themes are fairly well public domain - there were lawsuits around D&D that saw to that. Peter Jackson doing a fantasy action movie would still do well.

> Copyright law says one thing, but at what point do we as humans say that the creator has died long ago, and his work should now pass to the public to retell as it sees fit?

Especially in this case.

Do you know why Dungeons and Dragons was able to be so Tolkien-esque without being sued? Because there actually was a court case, decades ago, and the only thing the court ruled that the Tolkien people (I don't know if J.R.R. was still alive at the time) actually owned was the word 'hobbit'. Everything else was taken from the public domain. Hence 'halflings' in all subsequent D&D works.

Not that Dune, to pick an example, was that much more original, but with Tolkien's work it's especially easy to pick out the borrowings.

The languages and plots were original with Tolkien. The races were not.

Would you care to expand a little bit here? I tend to think that most of the races were original.

Dwarfs, elves, trolls, goblins, and plenty others come from Norse mythology.

Orc I think was original to Tolkien, but derived from Old English for giants and ogres.

Many others, like uruk-hai and hobbit, were original.

Also, even though some of the races come from Norse mythology, Tolkien's description of them and their habits are unique (and many times quite different from the "sources").

It is worth pointing out that Tolkien was a phonologist--a linguist specializing in how words sounded--and his stated goal for the entire Middle-Earth universe was to provide a mythic backstory for England.

These two facts converge to make claims of originality very strange and difficult, because the derivations themselves are examples of original work.

I've been reading a book on Irish Mythology (Lady Gregory's compilation) and it reads a lot like LoTR

Tolkien came up with new stories and characters, but the style is similar (and of course with sources from Norse Mythology and others, that mixed and grew apart, etc)

I very much recommend Tom Shippey's Road to Middle-Earth, which discusses Tolkien's influences from the perspective of a contemporary and friend and academic colleague.


I haven't yet read Shippey's "Author of the Century", which is about a second set of influences (like the World Wars).

No. He was a philologist. Whatever… I agree with the rest of your comment.

For more background, Tolkien was heavily inspired by - among other material - a compilation of Finnish oral tradition called "Kalevala". I've read that he used to complain that the English culture lacked such a tradition which most certainly lead to what the Silmarillion, The Hobbit, The Lord of the rings and everything else.

> No. He was a philologist.

I forgot the exact term, googled the one I used, saw it was a thing, and assumed I had remembered it correctly. :( My bad.

No problem.

There's some pretty strong evidence that "hobbits" existed in prior works and tales to Tolkeins.


OED has not, even after all this time, granted him "invention" of the term, despite long inquiries into its origins.

Well, I know trolls, elves, goblins, orcs, wraiths, wargs, wizards, dragons and eagles at least were all existing notions. Some of them he popularized (e.g. "orc" and "warg" were both lost to modern usage before Tolkien brought them into currency), but he didn't invent them. I know "balrog" and "hobbit" were original, but I think most of it was a synthesis of existing mythology. Can you come up with many more original species?

Pretty sure lots of the Tolkien races come from Norse mythology.

They did (except for orcs and hobbits), but if not for LotR, they would not appear in popular fiction as they are appearing now. Besides, the comment above looks like it's disagreeing with originality of hobbits.

As a possibly-incorrect point of pedantry, I don't think New Line holds the "rights", though they distributed the film. Doesn't United Artists hold the rights? To be frank, I skimmed Wikipedia before leaving this comment, and I remain unsure.

EDIT: Ah, Saul Zaentz's company, Middle-earth Enterprises, licensed the film rights to New Line. TIL. What a complicated situation.

Ah, yes. Zaentz. The guy who once sued John Fogerty for sounding too much like...himself.

I'm actual a strong advocate of "deferred inheritance", which is to say, when one of your wealthy ancestors donated vast sums of money and/or property to X organisation, his/her descendants implicitly have the right to take it all back at any point in time -- imagine the havoc that would cause ;-)

With regards to the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy:

  Cathleen Blackburn, lawyer for the Tolkien Estate in 
  Oxford, recounts ironically, "These hugely popular films 
  apparently did not make any profit! We were receiving 
  statements saying that the producers did not owe the 
  Tolkien Estate a dime."
In "Hollywood Accounting", a $19 million movie can make $150 million and still not be profitable.



Isn't it amazing how wildly successful films like The Return of the Jedi never made a dime, and yet Hollywood seems eager to make more every year?

I'd like to see this used as evidence that the movie viewing may cost 12$ for a ticket, the movies are actually worth negative dollars.

Use their own tax cheating against themselves.

If films aren't making any profit then how are they being hurt by file sharing?

you are combining two very broad generalizations there

That is how most attempts at humour come about...

It's also how Hollywood can demonize file sharing!

We all know what high ethical standards the movie industry adheres to. The lawyers they hire must be experts in these accounting shenanigans

Their lawyers don't need to be experts: It's trivial. It boils down to buying services and rights from other companies you control, such as production companies for past movies you didn't grant royalties for to channel the revenue straight out again.

If the transactions aren't arms length, he IRS and SEC can punch right through them and see that there was a large gift made from one side to the other, for purposes of tax evasion. But for whatever reason, the courts don't give the same protections to private counterparties.

Just to be somewhat fair, the next paragraph describes the Tolkien estate filing a lawsuit and getting 7.5% of the actual profits. Yes, it's still horrible, but it's not that different from Silicon Valley or any other US business.

To call Jackson's work an "evisceration" is just so misguided I can barely stand to read on. J.R.R. Tolkien was an academic of the highest caliber, and it seems his son has retained his love of the more arcane and in-depth aspects of the Middle Earth world. I, personally, agree with them: I find the Silmarillion to be the most interesting work of Middle Earth, but that's only because I'm a massive geek.

As far as a pop-culture and on-screen rendition of the books go, Jackson's work has been superbly loyal to the source literature and to the audience who pays to see them.

This is just straight-out snobbery, and I don't care for it.

While the Jackson films may be entertaining and good in their own right, they aren't very loyal to Tolkien's source material, or even their own canon, as someone else has pointed out.

For a Tolkien fanatic like myself, they are almost unwatchable. I can understand changing details and dialogue because it is a different medium. But Jackson changes the motivations and major actions of many of the main characters in LoTR.

It has been loyal insofar as the character's names are the same and occasionally including lines verbatim from the books (although sometimes in the wrong place).

I don't actually know if them myriad of changes, small and large, made the films more accessible to someone who had never read the books, but calling the work "superbly loyal" is laughable - especially the Lord of the Rings "Extended Editions" which contain almost no material from the books whatsoever.

Cartoon physics meets gratuitous story changes. The Jackson films have gone downhill from Fellowship (which wasn't too bad) to the unwatchable Hobbit film.

A lot of "tough shit" responses here. I like to sympathise with sensitive people - I think Tolkien was clearly a very sensitive, quiet, private man, and Christopher similarly. I don't think Tolkien ever imagined his work becoming as popular and mass-culture as it did. He took it so seriously I think it would have shocked him. And from the way this article describes it, Tolkien's work formed the bedrock of a very sensitive, private, tender father-son relationship - and that bedrock is now being smeared around every cinema and toystore in the world. Rightly or wrongly, that must hurt a lot for Christopher.

Perhaps nothing should be allowed to remain private. Perhaps privacy is an affront to the rights of the people. But I don't think so. I think everyone has special, private things from their lives - special things they would be upset to see appropriated and distorted at will by other people with little to no understanding or reverence for the meaning those things hold to you. Christopher is only different because the things that made his childhood special and to which he feels protective have become an unstoppable blockbuster film series.

Hell, I can sympathise. Maybe it's just snobbery, but damned if I don't feel disgusted by the shameless, opportunistic faux-Tolkienism whipped up by by New Zealanders in the wake of the films. Nobody in New Zealand gave a shit about Tolkien before the movies. It was only when people realised that it was going to be huge that suddenly everyone became a lifelong Tolkien fan and every farmer next to a film site was running a Hobbit tour... You know, my grandpa read The Hobbit to me when I was young, and he even has a photo from when he met Tolkien (before the books took off.)

Edit: On another note, I think it's a bit rich for Hackernews readers to criticise Christopher for snobbery/possessiveness - after all, the whole bloody point of Hackernews is to discourage average internet users, prevent that 'Eternal September' thing - and maintain a conversation to an elite-defined standard. Everyone has their own snobbish preferences I think.

"Perhaps nothing should be allowed to remain private. Perhaps privacy is an affront to the rights of the people. But I don't think so."

What are you talking about? This has nothing to do with privacy. Tolkien sold his books publicly and then sold the rights for the movies.

We can certainly argue about the quality, and correctness of the films, as well as the due compensation to the Tolkien estate. But privacy, really?? It's not like hollywood execs snuck in and recorded these bedtime stories in the dark. They were sold by their owner.

I wasn't talking about the legal situation. I was trying to sympathise with why this man might feel wounded - after all, he was young when that decision was made, and he didn't make it. And neither he nor Tolkien everimagined how big LotR would become. But he still has to accept and deal with something very private and special to him being reshaped and reappropriated for the whole world, in a way completely alien to his own feelings about the works.

Like I said, maybe he is wrong to feel possessive, maybe not. But I still think just writing him off as a hyper-sensitive, overly-possessive snob, as a few HN readers have done, is very mean-spirited.

> 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."

no, hobbit is worse. the first episode of hobbit was a 3 hour long trailer with zero substance.

Wait, what do you mean no substance? We had a rabbit-powered Santa Clause-esque sleigh, a "thunder battle" between two Michael Bay-esque transformers ("robots in disguise" as mountains), lots of silly makeup for the dwarves, Voldemort from Harry Potter made a cameo as the "pale orc," and we got to re-watch maybe 25 minutes of The Fellowship of the Ring again. Oh, and we learn that Kili is apparently related to Legalos, when you see his unrivaled agility and skill with a bow and arrow.

It takes a lot of effort and hard work to take a great story that would have easily made the best 3 hour movie of the decade and turn it into a 10 hour, 3-part ridiculous something. "No substance," he says!

The giants were in the book. Everything else was in the books and writings around the Hobbit (apart from the rabbits of course). I'd heard that the Radagast scene was terrible but I didn't think it was that bad in the end - they portrayed him pretty well as one of the wizards that had lost interest in the peoples of Middle Earth in favour of animals.

> The giants were in the book

Yes. But the giants were in the book for all of one paragraph.

The Hobbit is a much lighter work than LotR, and it was aimed at a younger audience, and so can sustain a lot more whimsy and silliness.

IMHO the Radagast stuff worked well enought, and the giants a lot less so, mainly since the movie was too long and there's no good reason why they were there at all. They didn't add to any plotline, or tie up with anything else.

> The giants were in the book.

Do you mean the mountain transformers? Sorry, they weren't.

Here's a quote from the "thunder-battle" scene:

> He knew that something unexpected might happen, and he hardly dared to hope that they would pass without fearful adventure over those great tall mountains with lonely peaks and valleys where no king ruled. They did not. All was well, until one day they met a thunderstorm, more than a thunderstorm, a thunder-battle. You know how terrific a really big thunderstorm can be down in the land and in a river valley; especially at times when two great thunderstorms meet and clash. More terrible still are thunder and lightning in the mountains at night, when storms come up from East and West and make war. The lightning splinters on the peaks, and rocks shiver, and great crashes split the air and go rolling and tumbling into every cave and hollow; and the darkness is filled with overwhelming noise and sudden light.

To me, that quite clearly is a symbolic "battle." Not mountains turning to golems or giants or transformers or what-not.

I think Tolkien meant the giants to be real in the Hobbit. The paragraph after then one you quoted starts with:

When [Bilbo] peeped out in the lightning flashes, he saw that across the valley the stone-giants were out, and were hurling rocks at one another for a game, and catching then, and tossing them down into the darkness where they smashed among the trees far below, or splintered into little bits with a bang...They could hear the giants guffawing and shouting all over the mountansides.

"This won't do at all!" said Thorin, "If we don't get blown off or drowned, or struck by lightning, we shall be picked up by some giant and kicked sky-high for a football."

After the party escapes the goblins and gets through the mountains, Gandalf suggests blocking up the entrance in the pass through which they had been ambushed:

"I must see if I can't find a more or less decent giant to block it up again," said Gandalf, "or soon there will be no getting over the mountains at all."

I stand corrected.

You shouldn't, at least not completely. The giants in the book are giants--very large humanoids. They are not mountains that transform into something else.

Tolkien never actually describes them, so we don't know if they're stone-giants because they live among the stones of the mountains, because they throw stones, or because they are made of stone. I actually pictured them as Pdonis describes them, as very large humanoids, although I can't be sure.

But I don't think we can definitively settle the question of the giants' form, as we simply don't have enough data. So I suggest we branch out to another unanswerable question: would Gandalf have used Emacs or Vim? How about Sauron?

Tolkien doesn't come right out and say "giants are very large humanoids", but so what? They are described as throwing stones, which clearly implies that they are humanoids. The "very large" part is implied by the word "giant"; also, of course, there are plenty of mythological references to giants, in particular in Norse mythology, which Tolkien is known to have drawn upon, and they're always very large humanoids.

Yeah, most of the silliest things in The Hobbit movie [er... "Part 1"], where "silly" sometimes turns into "cringe-inducing", were places where they expanded a couple of sentences in the book into a long drawn-out super-CGI-heavy battle/chase scene.

I can forgive the moviemakers some poetic license, but these sequences typically feel very out of place, like very expensive padding, and detract from the general atmosphere rather than adding to it.

The worst, in my mind was the whole undergound goblin battle sequence ... realllllllllly long and repetitive, resembling a roller-coaster ride more than anything else. That sort of thing is great for Transformers Part VI, but it's utterly out of place in the Hobbit.

The book was not an action adventure, it was much more about exploration, leaving the familiar for the wider world, a sense of wonder, whimsy, etc, and the movie often just completely flubs this.

I really, realllly, wish stupid movie politics hadn't resulted in Guillermo del Toro quitting, because I think he could have done a much better job at capturing the atmosphere of the book. Pan's Labyrinth is a much, much, better movie, and shows a deft touch with this sort of material that Jackson (though I respect him greatly) just doesn't seem to have. Nature, for instance, in Jackson's movies is basically a very pretty backdrop; in Pan's Labyrinth, on the other hand, it's a presence, fantastic, a little threatening, full of portent and vast depths. That's the sort of sense The Hobbit should have had.

Wrong quote. The giants were in the book. Some quotes:

> When he peeped out in the lightning-flashes, he saw that across the valley the stone-giants were out and were hurling rocks at one another for a game, and catching them, and tossing them down into the darkness where they smashed among the trees far below, or splintered into little bits with a bang.

> They could hear the giants guffawing and shouting all over the mountainsides.

> "If we don't get blown off or drowned, or struck by lightning, we shall be picked up by some giant and kicked sky-high for a football." Quote:

> "I must see if I can't find a more or less decent giant to block it up again," said Gandalf

You see, the producers discovered J.R.R. Tolkien belonged to the Lucas and Rowling school of thought, and named Kili — or should I say… Kill-i — after the role he was meant to play in the story.

lol, this made my day. probably the best summary i have read.

You forgot the fast-paced escape from the goblin caverns.

Which was at least partly in the book: ""Good heavens! Can you ask! Goblins fighting and biting in the dark, everybody falling over bodies and hitting one another! You nearly chopped off my head with Glamdring, and Thorin Was stabbing here there and everywhere with Orcrist. All of a sudden you gave one of your blinding flashes, and we saw the goblins running back yelping. You shouted 'follow me everybody!' and everybody ought to have followed. We thought everybody had. There was no time to count, as you know quite well, till we had dashed through the gate-guards, out of the lower door, and helter-skelter down here. And here we are-without the burglar, confusticate him!""

Yeah, I hate it when they do that. The worst part is when the MPAA henchmen break into my house and steal the copies of the original books that I legitimately paid for. I guess Orwell was right... control the past, and you control the future.

Or maybe Christopher Tolkien needs to STFU, sign his royalty checks, and let culture take its course. Or - gasp - get a word processor and earn his own keep.

I haven't seen the Hobbit, but as far as I'm concerned, Jackson owns LotR now. The best-rendered edition of the story is his.

get a word processor and earn his own keep.

He has, by organizing, editing, and publishing all of his father's posthumous work, from The Silmarillion on. He is his father's literary executor, so he was doing his job, and publishing books that people will pay for counts as earning his keep.

I think people hating on The Hobbit were just mad they ran out of popcorn before the third act. It's a valid criticism that the film does run a little long to not have a definite conclusion.

There were many, many, many things to hate about the Hobbit beyond its length, and none of them are particularly well kept secrets.

- Hobbit Hater

Funny, me and my friends certainly belonged to 15-25 age bracket when we got into Tolkien books.

As to literary qualities of Hobbit, well. I like it quite a lot less now than when I was 15.

Best age for Hobbit is probably 6-8, and re-read at 13-15, with the LOTR...

I did pretty much that. Which makes it even weirder that the movie was so dark and gloomy and showed so many cut-off heads up close. (Maybe some of the darkness was caused by the 3D.)

I had somehow managed to never read or see any of the Tolkien books or related films, until going to see The Hobbit a few weeks ago. I greatly enjoyed the movie, and have thus far greatly enjoyed reading the book (about 2/3 of the way through now).

I suppose I can understand how he feels though, as he is probably closer to the original material than anyone else alive today.

I sympathize with Christopher. I won't even say that he's wrong to feel the way he does.

However, I do not think what has happened with the films is wrong at all. I think it is a fine and lasting tribute to Tolkien. It has done more than any single thing to introduce a vast audience to this fabulous world and to Tolkien's original work, millions of people that would never have picked up the books otherwise.

I read a lot of comments that people felt the movies were pretty loyal to the books, so I thought I would add my own little rant to add some perspective for those who maybe read the LOTR books when they were ~15 or so and never read the Silmarillion.

The movies are fairly loyal to the books from a pure "action" perspective, in that they're about some midgets that find a ring and try to drop it in a volcano, there's a wizard, a ranger who's supposed to be a king, some elves and dwarves and stuff, and some battles, etc ...

The movies are NOT loyal at all to the broader mythology and spiritual aspects of Tolkien's world. The movies are full of scenes where these aspects are sacrificed in order to add very tiny bits of drama and action.

Case in point: Elrond's racist rant in "The Two Towers" movie to his Elf daughter Arwen, trying to convince her not to marry the mortal Man Aragorn. Look, I get it from a screenwriter's perspective: it adds some drama to the Aragorn/Arwen love story (which doesn't get much play in the books), it modernizes the story a bit to add the racism angle, and Elrond is a minor character in the movies anyway, so why not make him a Heel?

The problem from a broader perspective in the Tolkien universe is that Elrond (the Half-elven) is himself a descendant of Elves, Men, and Maiar (angels). His ancestors are among the great heroes of the First Age of the world. And in fact the reason why Sauron's boss isn't ruling the world at the time of LOTR is because Elrond's half-elf dad went himself to the Gods to request their help, on behalf of both Elves and Men. He was returning to the Gods a jewel containing the original Light of the world, that Elrond's human great-great-grandfather rescued from the Devil so he could marry Elrond's elf/angel great-great-grandmother. Oh, and Aragorn is a direct descendant of Elrond's brother Elros. And Elrond himself had lived 6000+ years by the time of LOTR and had fought alongside Men at the end of the Second Age.

From that perspective, the scene in the TTT movie, and the characterization of Elrond in general, is ridiculous. And the movies are full of these sorts of changes, where a little bit of drama/action is added at the expense of RUINING the story from the broader perspective of Tolkien's mythology.

I would say two things in response to this.

Firstly, think of the plight of the screenwriter who has to a) adapt a story that will take most people about a week to read into a three hour film; and b) has to create something that will make lots of money. I can completely understand the resentment felt at a beloved book being turned into a very different film - I have seen a number of well liked stories turned into something completely different (see my next point). I think you just have to view film adaptations as a completely different product.

Secondly, there is a long history of books being turned into films that do not bear much relation to the original work. A few examples from my own life. The Stephen King novella "The Running Man" was turned into a film that contained the same themes, but was a very different story. The film "The Lawnmower Man" was also taken from a Stephen King short story of the same name. The story of the film bore absolutely no relation to the film, and to this day I can't work out how they could possibly draw any relation between the two. A long time ago I hired a video of a Dean R Koontz story called "Watchers". I had enjoyed the book and jumped at the chance to see a film adaptation. I was to be disappointed. What I watched, whilst having the name of the book was not an adaptation of that book - the story was completely different. I can only think that they wanted the name of a popular author to help sell their shoddy film.

Yeah I get it. My point is just that a lot of people consider the movies to be fairly loyal to the books, and I have to agree with Christopher Tolkien that they really do "eviscerate" the story and aren't much more than action movies aimed at 15-25 year olds. That's not to say other people can't enjoy them, many do.

I've thought a lot about how I would do the LOTR movies or the Silmarillion as a TV series if I had the chance! And I really think the choices Peter Jackson made suggest (1) a weak understanding of the source material, and (2) not an especially strong film-making ability, and nothing PJ's done since LOTR has convinced me otherwise.

dwarf tossing!

Honestly, I think the only thing you need to know to understand how the books and the movies differ is that, in the books, the ring is destroyed half-way through the last book...

I was bummed when they changed the ending; I loved how in the books the Hobbits went back home and kicked ass.

I prefer the ending in the film, that the go back to the shire as ordinary folk. That when Sam proposes to his sweetheart he does it not as a conquering hero, but as a humble, nervous young man. "It was the bravest thing he ever did". Perfect.

He could have kicked ass scourging the shire AND get nervous proposing to his sweetheart. That's even endearing.

I don't know... I always thought that Saruman as a cheap hood was the weakest part of the book, and it doesn't really work unless you also take the time in Fellowship to go into the whole Bill Ferny thing, which would lead to Maggot as more than a mention. At some point you have to make the story fit the screen, and I think Jackson did that admirably. Even keeping the Men of the Mountains going until the end of the Battle of Pelennor fields made sense, in that it didn't have to involve the Rangers and another whole army raised elsewhere. It wasn't the original story, but it was an elegant solution to a story-telling problem.

I much prefer the movie approach where The Shire and its inhabitants remain largely oblivious to and untouched by all the evil, death and suffering that has happened. It's almost as if everything happened so a little part of the world could remain innocent like a child.

Well, this was a major theme in the book - how you can never go back to innocence and pretend all the bad stuff didn't happen. But in Hollywood everything is happily-ever-after and we never have to learn from our mistakes.

He really doesn't like the movies Peter Jackson made? Shit. Other authors weren't so lucky with their movies... The LOTR series is a real success.

Stephen King didn't like Kubrick's "The Shining", one of the best book adaptations ever. People just like to complain sometimes.

King recently announced a sequel to the Shining, 36 years after the original. Danny is grown up and working in a care centre. All seems well, but then something from Stephen King's brain knocks at the door!

I never liked the LOTR movies for the reasons described. Certain scenes are spectacular, and Gollum is cool, but that's about it for me.

For a great Peter Jackson movie that suits his epic action style, try King Kong.

I wish PKD could have lived to see Blade Runner, (the original) Total Recall, and A Scanner Darkly. He would have loved them.

PKD did see an early cut of Blade Runner, and commented that it was 'exactly as i'd imagined it', which was ironic since neither Scott nor the art and set design guys had actually read Androids.

edit: Wikipedia says "given an opportunity to see some of the special effects sequences", but i'm certain that Scott says in the documentary that he showed him a complete early cut of the film

I think too. It's funny you mention PKD because he sold Paycheck $200 and another only $2500


How does that make Tolkein lucky? According to the LOTR producers the trilogy didn't make any money, so they don't owe the family anything.

keep on reading, they got their money in the end. Besides, their books were making piles of bacon

While I usually prefer film adaptations to be as truthful to the original as possible, I think in order to be be good films, they sometimes need to introduce something new. A simple example mentioned in the article are women. I don't really understand what they complain about. While book story can ignore some aspects of the world, visual film is a different matter. Imagine picturing Dale without showing any women. While Tolkien doesn't speak about female Dwarves for example, ignoring them completely while picturing refugees would be simply unnatural. The same goes about Elves and etc.

However not all changes are the same. When characters are changed in some weird manner, which makes them very different from the books - it already becomes bothering and there is simply no justifying reason for it, except for director's ego. In the Lord Of The Rings there were several such examples. For example Aragorn, Boromir and Frodo were changed in a big way. Their actions in the film didn't match their characters from the book (i.e. for their book versions it'd be unnatural to do certain things which they did in the film). So I partially agree with criticism, but only partially. Making a carbon copy of the book probably wouldn't make a good film.

Surprisingly, one of the most interesting things on that page is the comment by Thomas John Mosbo explaining a subtle but profound difference between the way the One Ring is destroyed in the book and the way it is destroyed in the movie.

I noticed this too, and I agree with Mosbo's take on it.

Everything I ever heard on the subject says that Tolkien "wanted to write a mythology for England" when he started writing LOTR.

Mythologies are almost by definition uncontrollable, so the fact that it's taken on a life of its own in a way proves that Tolkien actually succeeded with his initial goal.

Anyone wanting to know the perspective in which JRR Tolkein wrote his fantasy ought to read this PDF:


You should be able to then judge whether or not the movies have done justice to the spirit in which his books were written. Judge for yourself as C. Tolkein may or may not be right.

After reading it, I think the movies get a lot right and a little wrong. It helps to know the mind of the one you are reading.

After reading it, I think the movies get a lot right and a little wrong.

I read this essay years ago (in The Tolkien Reader), and I couldn't disagree more. If the standard is being faithful to the spirit in which Tolkien wrote, I think the movies got a lot wrong and very little right. There's plenty of discussion of this elsewhere in the thread so I won't belabor it, but I'm surprised that anyone could read "On Fairy-Stories" and think that that spirit is what the films portray. The films are Hollywood action movies with a "fantasy" veneer; Tolkien's essay was talking about something very different.

> 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 much prefer the Legend of the Seeker author's attitude toward the television adaptation: The story in the two different mediums are each their own separate things, to be enjoyed in their own separate ways.


Let's face it, there are certain people who will read the books and enjoy them for what they are. Then there are other people who won't read the books but will see the movies. What difference does it make?

As for the "Hollywood accounting," that's unfortunate. All parties in a deal should feel they benefit, and none should feel hey have short shrift.

I don't mean to sound so mean, but I am kind of looking forward to the day when C. Tolkien is "out of the way" and J.R.R's materials (which are hopefully somewhat organized by now thanks to CT) can be turned over to an author who is able to spin a proper tale out of those notes. Middle Earth is a great setting, but it took a consummate story teller to make LOTR into a three-volume page-turner. I'm not terribly interested in reading what CT has published. It's like reading a screenplay for an unfilmed movie or code for an unfinished video game. While it's interesting, it just feels like spoiling what could be a great first-read somewhere down the line.

I seriously do not understand his problem. I don't like LotR either, but its cultural impact is huge and it does in no way devalue the gigantic literary work that Tolkien has created. Idiotic copyright lawsuits won't change reality, either.

Never a fan of Tolkien's works, many friends have been, and I still recognize what's not in the movies. But I don't underestimate the power of the literature that moved so many.

It's not diminished one iota by any attempt at a performance in another medium. Some who've not read the originals may be misled about them for a time, just as a great piece of music may be misrepresented by a crappy performance - say, what Karajan did for Beethoven (not saying Jackson did that or not) - but never diminished by it. One is momentary, one is lasting.

Ah he has a book coming out. Mystery solved.

This article says Chris Tolkien hasn't spoken to the press in about 40 years.

Consider what the hacker community was like forty years ago, and the meaning that LOTR had to this community forty years ago compared to now.

I could be wrong, but maybe that could be what Chris Tolkien means by "eviscerated."

I find it hard to have sympathy for Christopher Tolkien, who hasn't exactly been a model steward of his father's imagination. I'm reminded a lot of Brian Herbert, who really hit left field with the posthumous Dune stuff.

Given some of his actions, calling the film franchise an "evisceration" is the pot calling the kettle black. Yes, let's film a 16-hour word-for-word rendition of each book, because that will work on film. I've liked everything Jackson has done, and I think his work can coexist with the source material without issue.

I'm in the minority; I enjoyed The Hobbit even fully aware it suffered from First Film Syndrome. (Just had a thought: Peter Jackson should film Dune next, so he can annoy two posthumous estates.)

Christopher Tolkien can be called many things. He hasn't always done the best job stewarding his father's world, erring on the side of conservatism and disapproving of anyone else's work based on his father's (rightly or wrongly). And he's kind of a jerk.

But the Brian Herbert comparison just means you've never read anything Christopher Tolkien actually published (or you never attempted to read Brian Herbert's terrible terrible work). The only publication where Christopher Tolkien embellished or added to his father's writings was The Silmarillion, published under pressure from their publisher to get it out the door as soon as possible after his father's death and when he was younger (relatively) and less sure about his bargaining position to leave his father's work untouched. The added narrative was mostly connecting prose, meant to keep the story more coherent, and one full chapter replacing a version that was hopelessly out of date compared to the rest of the updates his father had added over decades. He's repeatedly expressed regret about changing The Silmarillion (including again in this article), and has even laid out exactly what he added to the story so you can mentally edit it out.

Every single other book (that would be 13 of them, I believe) that he's published has been literally a written guide to trying to piece together a chronological view of all the undated scraps of rough drafts and notes his father left behind. The only thing he adds are clearly delimited notes about why he thinks some scrap came next and summaries about how some minor change made elsewhere suddenly made ripples of changes through future drafts of other sections, which he then proceeds to include verbatim.

In other words, there's no way to get less respectful of his father's work, short of leaving it unpublished. Again, he can be called many things (he really does seem to be like a total jerk, and there's no way any adaptation would have pleased him, even a word-for-word dramatic reading), but comparing him to Brian Herbert and what he did with Dune is beyond the pale.

Yes, Brian Herbert's work is just that bad :)

I take it you haven't read The Children of Hurin. It really has no comparison to the rest of Tolkien's work. Compared to the other books and collections, it feels like a John Grisham novel.

I realize this is subjective, but I didn't get that feel at all from The Children of Hurin. I thought it did a pretty good job of capturing Tolkien's style (and, of course, significant passages were taken verbatim, or nearly so, from the shorter versions in The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales).

In other words, there's no way to get less respectful of his father's work

Odd, from what you just said, it seems he was respectful of his father's work. I just found that sentence hard to parse.

"More" respectful, perhaps, was what he was going for. I've found it can be very easy sometimes to get the meaning of a sentence entirely flipped between thinking it and writing it out.

Ahem.... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unfinished_Tales

Not exactly prime rib eh?

Allow me to clarify that the reminding of Herbert that Tolkien triggers for me is not based upon the quality of the work -- and I think you and I are going to agree on how bad Herbert's is -- it's only the territorial and overbearing defense of a creation not his own, often with ill effect.

In both cases, I wonder if we'd be better off had forward progress in the canon died with the author.

This and your comment above ("Some argued that elder Tolkien would not have published his notes and thoughts in that form") are a fair point, though Tolkien really did want to publish The Silmarillion for decades, he was just unable to find the time to finish it. I actually have some family members who feel the same way as you, and they've chosen to not read The Silmarillion at all because they prefer the off-handed hints and references to earlier times that pop in LotR to remain like that, rather than knowing the full stories. Personally, I've always loved JRR Tolkien's notion that these were legends, so conflicting drafts and different versions of tales were part and partial of that history, just as most mythological characters have sometimes conflicting and inconsistent stories told about them.

While it does sometimes seem slightly strange that Christopher Tolkien spent basically his entire adult life helping with and then documenting his father's work, it's really not that different from what most people choose as their life's work.

And while it might reduce some of the artistic aura around his works, I love seeing his thought process and how he evolved his world and characters. I really don't see much difference between reading the assembled published drafts and visiting Oxford and getting special permission to view the drafts, short of the fact that they've now been curated by the person most likely to be able to put them in close to the order they were actually written in. If it helps, think of them as an academic work, purely for the Tolkien scholars that came later, and not intended to be read cover to cover by most people. It's only an accident that there was enough commercial interest in Lord of the Rings to put these books in regular bookstores.

Brian Herbert sinned unforgivably when he claimed that his books were based on his father's notes and unfinished drafts, so were basically the stories he was going to tell, while constructing the plots around characters that had only appeared in Brian's other made up Dune stories. He and his cowriter should also just not be allowed to write. They have a terrible, terrible way with words.

As someone who suffered through the Silmarillion, I can attest that it sucks. If you read it, you'll wish you hadn't. Partly as a result of this, and partly due to other idiocy through the years, I have some schadenfreude knowing the Tolkien estate is mad about the movies (as was inevitable). Couldn't happen to better people. The stories would be much better off in the public domain. I don't think it's a huge surprise the world works this way -- think of Star Wars. Do you really think those stories are better off in the hands of George Lucas or Disney? It turns out heirs are really poor custodians. We don't have royalty either, for much the same reasons.

As someone who has had the pleasure of reading The Silmarillion, I can attest it is a supreme work of literature and a joy to (and in my opinion, superior to LotR).

In other words, people's tastes are their own. Don't let this person put you off.

Like many, I was disappointed the first time I read The Silmarillion. But later, I read it with the guidance of an english professor who brought The Silmarillion alive for me and in doing so made me appreciate The Lord of the Rings so much more. The Silmarillion is what makes Tolkien stand far above other authors who play at the fantasy world-creation game. Frank Herbert is one who also has a well-developed world that makes his books enjoyable over and over again.

I can appreciate that creating a fantasy world requires a lot of behind-the-scenes notes and bookkeeping, and that the final product readers enjoy spares them this drudgery. Few but the most obsessed fans are going to be entertained by the detritus left on the floor during the crafting of the polished product.

Skip the first biblical section and the Silmarillion is mostly readable. It took me 2-3 passes to realize this.

I agree for most first time readers. My first exposure to the first section also delayed my first reading of The Silmarillion for maybe 4 or 5 years before I finally picked it up again and happened to flip forward to see what else was in there.

I've found that now that I have some context, I find the first section much more interesting. It's still not a barn burner, but it was important to Tolkien for a reason. It of course mirrors the rest of the tales in the book, the counterpoint of the music also functioning as a counterpoint to the events to come later, but it also lays out Tolkien's notion of the nature of evil, and how it operates in a world created by a loving but subtle god (or at least the one that Tolkien created).

I think it's rather beautiful, but, again, only after skipping it and reading the rest first :)

For what it's worth, the beginning of the Silmarillion is by far my favorite part. Maybe it's easier to read if you've had previous exposure to mythology and/or the Bible?

I found the Ainulindale to be one of my preferred parts, but I'm also the kind of person who would enjoy reading Hesiod or the Bhagavad Gita as well. I enjoy religious literature without the bother of agreeing with it; it has a different quality that mercilessly bends the strict fiction/non-fiction line we like to pretend exists.

I actually read it while I was young and hadn't the money to buy my own books: I got it as a single, enormous Word document from a friend and read it by CRT display.

I never read any of the Dune books, but I will not soon forget my introduction to rage comics:


I think you're being too hard on Christopher Tolkien. The first time I read through The Silmarillion I was disappointed by how much it resembled a history text book...then I realized: it is a history text book. This interview just cements what I had already suspected: much as the history of the real world is mostly mundane, punctuated by a few good "stories", the same is true of Tolkien's works. Surely, when you see the Mona Lisa your eyes are drawn to the face and slight smile, but da Vinci still had to paint the background for it to be the painting it is. In some regards, this is the difference between art and pop culture. Once you get past the surface, pop culture is typically hollow.

All that said, I think the original movies are artistic masterpieces (haven't seen the Hobbit yet, so I can't comment)...just masterpieces of a different sort, in a different medium.

> Once you get past the surface, pop culture is typically hollow.

I'll be pedantic and take issue with that.

Pop culture is unable to stand on its own, but once you get past the surface, it's really more of a guidebook to the nature of culture which can rapidly become a very deep exploration if you have the stomach for it.

Art tends to be able to stand on its own outside of the culture it came from.

Yeah, it's Middle Earth's Bible, which is part of the reason why I disagree with its existence. Some argued that elder Tolkien would not have published his notes and thoughts in that form, and it dilutes Tolkien's published works of their artistic value.

Yes, I've heard that argument as well, and felt it myself to some extent. Not to torture the analogy too much, but one thing to note about the Mona Lisa is the amount of discussion, debate, and research that has gone into questions such as "what location does the background represent?" and "who is this lady, anyway?". Literally hundreds of years have gone into an analysis of that painting, and posthumously publishing Tolkiens background notes almost guarantees that the legacy of his work will be treated very differently. That said, Tolkiens works exist at an interesting cusp in the course of human history, as we are transitioning from a dearth of contextual clues surrounding works of art, to an extreme excess. Nothing is sacred, but such is the way of things today...

You make a good case, and I don't disagree.

Agreed. My experience of Tolkien was reading the hobbit (which I remembered from an animated version in my childhood) without realizing that a whole trilogy would follow.

Learning that I could return to middle earth, I was excited, and devoured the lord of the rings trilogy soon after the hobbit.

Then I learned that I could spend some more time in middle earth with the Silmarilion, so I dove into that next. Total buzzkill. I quit a little way in, my enthusiasm for middle earth mostly drained.

You shouldn't have quit. There's really good stuff in the Silmarilion and if you really like middle earth and all that, you won't be sorry to have read it entirely in the end.

When I read a great book, I usually end up thinking, "Damn, I wish there was more about that one thing they briefly mentioned". Usually, if somebody goes in later and tries to fill in the blanks, you end up with a turd, because they're going in later to answer questions.

The Silmarillion is different. I'd argue it's the main work, and I appreciate it largely because it's not a novel, it's a Biblical compilation covering thousands of years that required decades of world-building and re-writing to bring it to the incomplete state it's in now.

I'm in the minority; I enjoyed The Hobbit even fully aware it suffered from First Film Syndrome. (Just had a thought: Peter Jackson should film Dune next, so he can annoy two posthumous estates.)

I didn't know there were 3 films, so I was so annoyed at the ending that I went back and read The Hobbit. And you know what? The movie is actually a pretty good adaptation.

somewhat <SPOILER ALERT>:

The battle of five armies, which will show up in the last movie is likely to be much more epic than the book, based on Jackson's renditions of other battles of Middle Earth.


I would go one step further: Peter Jackson's adaptation has been nothing short of fantastic. He's been pretty faithful to the LoTR story, but his movies have sparked interest in Tolkein's universe among those who would have never known about it otherwise. None of my friends would even consider reading the Hobbit or LoTR, but they've all seen and enjoyed the movies. (A tiny minority even tried reading the book). Now, its something that we enjoy talking about over many afternoons

I have to disagree, at least about the LoTR films (I haven't seen The Hobbit yet). I think Jackson "adapted" the story out of all recognition. It may well have drawn a larger audience, but the Middle-Earth that the audience is seeing is not the Middle-Earth that Tolkien wrote about.


Just a few points:

(1) The elves in the movies are way too immature. For example, Elrond, who is something like 6500 years old at the time of the War of the Ring, acts in the movies like an angst-ridden middle-aged father in a second-rate TV drama about Arwen wanting to marry Aragorn.

(2) Way too much screen time is spent on stuff that isn't even depicted in the books and adds nothing to the story, such as Saruman breeding the orcs.

(3) There are some major plot changes that make no sense: for example, the part in The Two Towers movie where Aragorn apparently falls off a cliff and is lost. (When I watched the movie in the theater with a friend, who had already seen it and who has been reading Tolkien as long as I have, he told me when it got to this point, "Here's the part you're going to hate.")

(4) The Scouring of the Shire is completely missing; that's an integral part of the plot in the books and omitting it takes away a lot.

Again, if someone is just taking the movies as their own story, without knowing anything about the books, I can see how they would like it; but they're not seeing the same world that Tolkien wrote about.

You've probably heard this counterargument, so I'm just putting it out there for the sake of completeness:

If Jackson hadn't done those things, there was no way he could have culled the story down to 3 3-hour segments.

That said, I do agree. I was disappointed that Bombadil and his immunity to the Ring didn't show, for instance. But while the Scouring of the Shire was immensely critical to the books, it was also profoundly anticlimactic: it would have broken the simpler narrative of the movies to pull in those more complex themes to have a second climax.

As it was, Jackson only barely managed to hang the two main plotlines together. They didn't need a connection in the books, but it's much more challenging in a movie format. It might have been worth it to split The Two Towers into two films in order to give each its room. (Frodo and Sam from the Breaking to the escape from Cirith Ungol in Film 2; Aragorn and Gandalf's contests with Theoden, Saruman, and Denethor as a very long Film 3; and twisting the two back together in 4 with room for the Scouring.) Nolan managed it in The Dark Knight, where after the Joker was beaten, there was one final emotional explosion. So it can be done. I don't know if Jackson could have done it.

If Jackson hadn't done those things, there was no way he could have culled the story down to 3 3-hour segments.

Done what things? Except for omitting the Scouring of the Shire (for a further comment on that, see below), the things I was criticizing could have been changed without lengthening the film at all. Indeed, leaving out all the "Hollywood" stuff like Saruman breeding the orcs would have left more time for things that would have added more value.

while the Scouring of the Shire was immensely critical to the books, it was also profoundly anticlimactic

Again, if Jackson hadn't wasted screen time on "Hollywood" stuff, he would have been able to add the extra themes that would have helped the Scouring of the Shire to make sense to the movie viewer.

Incidentally, I took my short how-to-include-the-Scouring and lengthened it drastically: https://plus.google.com/u/0/113476531580617567600/posts/AN6J...

I don't agree that the Saruman breeding the orcs should have been left out, but I'd have to re-watch the entire thing to be certain my argument holds water and well... I'm not going to do that anytime soon.

I don't agree that the Saruman breeding the orcs should have been left out

Perhaps not entirely left out, but a lot of screen time was spent on it that, IMO, added no value whatsoever to the movie. A quick cut or two would have been enough.

Also, he basically destroyed the Ents. That was my favorite part of the book ("You have angered an elder power. The elder power hits you. You die.")

Instead we get Treebeard being basically a dummy sidekick for the hobbits, who realises late that Saruman is destroying the trees and then goes on a rampage.

I was greatly peeved at how many times Jackson expanded a 1- or 2-sentence mention in the book into major scenes. See Radagast and the stone giants for prime examples.

I think a PJ-style movie adaptation of The Hobbit would have fared well as a 3-hour theatrical cut, plus some extras for the Super Deluxe Director's Extended Blu-Ray Edition.

And why the hell didn't Bilbo's actual finding of the Ring from The Hobbit match the scene from the first LoTR film? Can't Jackson follow his own freakin' canon?

Just wait until the next Lord of the Rings special edition comes out, where they digitally insert the new bilbo actor to replace the old one.

Also, tons of additional CG characters in the foreground.

Just kidding, I don't think PJ could fall that far.

The only way for it to match would be for them to have filmed The Hobbit first, then copied footage. They changed actors too - obviously not following his own freakin' canon. Does that ruin it too? Should he have used the same actor, damn the results, to satisfy canon?

The actor is not canon. The story is.

The story in the LOTR movies was "Bilbo found the ring in a hole and Gollum yelled 'Loooost!'". There's no canon. That is not a story, it's an obviously-intentional massive oversimplification that was obviously not intended to be reused verbatim in The Hobbit.

An unsatisfying excuse: all the stories are from eye witnesses and second hand story-tellers. No wonder, there are discrepancies. Bilbo tells the finding different than Gandalf. It is like the chinese whispers/telephone game.

And the entire one armed orc subplot that was completely made up for the movie.

Not entirely made up. In Tolkien's world. Azog was indeed the leader of the orcs in Moria and he did behead Thror. However, Tolkien's story has Azog killed by Dain in that same battle. The scene at the end of the first Hobbit movie did take place in the book, but Azog was not present--if I remember right, they were just treed by some random goblins, who sang a cheery song :)

While I enjoyed the Hobbit movie, I was annoyed by the Jabba the Hut scene, and some of the slapstick that was lifted right out of Laurel and Hardy movies.

What's wrong with Laurel and Hardy?

Don't forget that The Hobbit is an adaptation of a childrens book. I think a bit of slapstick fits right in.

Hardy played the hit on the head with a brick, and then when he thought that was the worst, he'd get hit on the head with another brick.

This schtick has appeared (in various forms) in endless movies. It's so cliche I knew the goblin king was going to fall on the dwarves the moment one of them said "that wasn't so bad".

Then there's the good guy slicing the bad guy with a sword. You think he missed, then the bad guy looks surprised as his head slides off. I've seen that in probably at least 6 movies.

Falling into the abyss, and yet being grabbed and saved at the last second. Where have we seen that before? The literal "cliff hanger". And we get to see it several times over in The Hobbit.

I still liked The Hobbit. But in spite of those scenes.

It isn't any children's book Jackson felt like mixing in, it was one particular children's book.

I think the goblin king should have been played a little more subtly, but as jonny_eh points out, it's a children's story. While The Hobbit takes place in the larger world of Middle Earth, it is also significantly lighter in tone than LotR. It was silly in places, and some silliness is appropriate.

Consider the trolls they find early on. Do any of Tolkien's other works ever mention them being more than mute beasts? Yet in the Hobbit, they're dumb but capable of making tools, etc., and they turn to stone in sunlight, a weakness never mentioned elsewhere. This is much more in line with traditional fairy stories, down to Gandalf tricking the trolls until they're caught in sunlight and turn to stone.

I didn't know there were 3 films, so I was so annoyed at the ending that I went back and read The Hobbit. And you know what? The movie is actually a pretty good adaptation.

I have absolutely no idea what you mean by "pretty good". Enjoyable action movie? Sure. Has all of the right characters? Check. Actually follows the plot? Complete fail.

Off of the top of my head, Bilbo should sign the contract the night before, wake up, and only actually go out because Gandalf comes and tells him that he's late. When Bilbo goes to investigate the trolls, the dwarves have no fire and no idea what is there. It should be Gandalf who gets the trolls to argue with each other, not Bilbo. Azog should not appear in The Hobbit. There should be no encounters with orcs until, possibly, the battle of the 5 armies. There should be no encounter of goblins, or wargs until after visiting Elrond. The dwarves should be made far more welcome - I personally had been looking forward to the Elvish songs they were supposed to be greeted with, and did NOT like seeing a bad repeat of the meeting between Aragorn and Èomer in The Two Towers. Gandalf should leave Rivendell with the party. The white council should not meet while the dwarves are there, nor in the book is there any hint of romance between Gandalf and Galadriel. (Useless trivia, Galadriel is actually Elrond's mother-in-law.) The dwarves should hear the stone giants - but not be caught riding them. In the cave where they were captured, Bilbo wakes, sees goblins in the back, then shouts (which is how Gandalf escapes). He doesn't wake, have an eloquent conversation, then have the floor cave in. The goblin fight sequence is very long, entirely made up, and the goblin cave we see (complete with rickety structures, the messenger, and so on) owes no debt to Tolkien. (Goblins chasing behind, yes. Rivers of goblins coming from all directions being comically killed by every dwarf in sight, not so much.) Bilbo should be lost by the party because he falls off of a dwarf's back while they are running, and not because he managed to avoid initial capture. Bilbo should not meet the goblin that Gollum was killing when he lost the ring. Bilbo should lose his buttons leaving the goblin cave, not squeezing through some random rocks. The whole tree sequence complete with heroic fight, trees being pushed over, and dangling over cliffs...? All made up. As a reminder, in the book the wolves discover them, they hide in trees, Gandalf throws burning pine-cones, the wolves are driven crazy, goblins come, turn the fire on the trees, Gandalf gets ready to pay dearly with his life and then the eagles come and save him.

That's just off of the top of my head. If I was to actually put effort in it, I'm sure I'd come up with a much longer list of differences.

Of all of the changes, the only one that I consider completely justified was making it light enough in the goblin cave fights for people to see. A bunch of running in the dark would not translate to the screen very well.

Random disclaimer. I have no idea how many times I've read the books. But my last two times reading the Hobbit were painfully slow - I read it to my son.

I agree with almost all of your points, but there is one minor item to correct:

There should be no encounters with orcs until, possibly, the battle of the 5 armies.

"Orc" and "goblin" are just different names for the same creature. In the book the word "goblin" is the only one used, except for one passage in "Riddles in the Dark", where "orcs of the mountains" are equated with "big" goblins.

Wow, I had not realized that. But of course - both are names given to elves corrupted by Morgoth.

In which case the clear distinction in the movie between orcs and goblins is yet another sin against Tolkien's intent.

All the things I have read about Christopher Tolkien have done anything but make me sympathetic to him.

He reminds me of what happened to the estate of James Joyce, which is a very sad tale: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/01/james-jo...

I don't know whether a series like A Song of Ice and Fire could every be adapted well, but the TV show has definitely ensured that more people will read, and most important remember, the work of R. R. Martin.

Whatever you may think about the artistic merit of LOTR and The Hobbit, I think Tolkien has still benefitted immensely.

> calling the film franchise an "evisceration" is the pot calling the kettle black.

It's a little worse than that.

Compare how the stories were told back in the 80s: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdXQJS3Yv0Y (I saw this in first broadcast, and have probably been singing the song for 3 decades since.)

Peter Jackson wasn't an improvement on this? So let's be clear: This is not about showing respect for the stories. It is about the money.

To borrow a phrase from comedian Chris Addison, "[t]his isn't the pot calling the kettle black; this is the kettle calling another kettle a kettle."

What's First Film Syndrome?

Unlike The Matrix, The Hobbit was created knowing it would be the first of a trilogy (early in production, a two-part series). As such, it spends all of its frames laying the groundwork for the next film. One reviewer, I forget who, described the experience as "all foreplay with no sex", which I agree with. That said, still a rousing ride and a lot of fun. I enjoyed it, particularly the Thorin/Bilbo story that concluded near the end.

To borrow a term from TV, it's a "premise movie", the counterpart to a premise pilot, which doesn't work as a regular episode, but as the set-up for the rest of the show.

Ah, but occasionally you even get a "premise pilot" whose succeeding program is very little like it.

You might even get characters who magically disappear. :)

Like Prometheus, which was essentially an advert for another movie and a complete waste of my time and money.

Come on, be reasonable! That's not the only reason it was a waste of time and money.

Brian Herbert is a hack. IMHO, of course.

I would love to see a production of Dune with the budget and values of LoTR, even just book 1.

But yeah, I would definitely find some things to be annoyed about :)

> I've liked everything Jackson has done, and I think his work can coexist with the source material without issue.

So have I, and as much as I wish it could coexist, I'm not sure it really can. For an entire generation, "Lord of the Rings" really pretty just means the movies.

What is First Film Syndrome? Seems you invented the term.

I have a hard time seeing how the work was "eviscerated" -- last I checked I could still buy the actual work, i.e. Tolkien's books (which I'm sure got a bump in popularity from the movies).

"In an era where most people would sell their souls to be talked about..."

What an outlandish and completely rediculous intro. I stopped reading right there.

I wish the younger tolkiens were not such artistic snobs and would produce more material for my role playing games- both computer and pen and paper. Moar contentz already. I guess if you're a literary art-snob you retire to France and criticise and rarely produce. Pity

I'm sorry, but I think Christopher Tolkien is a pretentious cunt who has wasted his life squeezing the last drops out of his father's writing career. He should have spent his life creating original material rather than fussing endlessly over someone else's creative output.

I think he owes Peter Jackson an apology for pissing on the greatest thing to have happened to the Tolkien books in many decades.

What a whiny asshole.

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