Research reveals spiritual journey of Tolkien fans


Tolkien fans do not just watch the films and read the books again and again - they are on a spiritual journey and doing their best to forget the ending, says an international study that voyaged to many lands to bring back wisdom and understanding.

Led by a wizard from out of the west, Martin Barker, of the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, the team explored reactions to the film Lord of the Rings III in 20 countries.

They found devotees reread the books, but tried to convince themselves they were seeing the story for the first time (although not knowing one of the most drawn-out and self-indulgent endings in cinema history must be a plus in the case of Lord of the Rings).

"Not knowing the plot or the ending means they can experience as much of the full emotions and tension as possible and their pleasure is increased," says Prof Barker, whose project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Fans felt the movie was more than just an escape, but it was more important and enjoyable to those who work in jobs where they feel they have little control over their lives.

Prof Barker said: "And we found that the highest levels of enjoyment and importance came from those who saw watching it as going on a spiritual journey. It was not just 'entertainment', but a source of inspiration. It offered a sense of moral lessons that they want to apply to their own lives, if they can."

The study, conducted in 13 different languages, had almost 25,000 responses - hugely greater than any previous piece of audience research. It allowed in-depth analysis by age, sex and occupation, as well as revealing how the final blockbuster film in the Tolkien trilogy mattered to different people in various countries.

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