Christopher TolkienThe French Magazine Le Mond had a rare opportunity to interview Christopher Tolkien (JRR Tolkien’s son responsible for publishing The Silmarillion and all the Histories of Middle-earth books) recently, and has just published the article. While much of the article simply recounts his involvement in preserving and publishing his father’s works, he unsurprisingly talks about his rather negative feeling toward the films, the filmmakers, and the artists involved. Here are a couple of choice quotes:
But none of this bothered the family until Peter Jackson’s films. It was the release of the first film of the trilogy, in 2001, that changed the nature of things. First, it had a prodigious effect on book sales. “In three years, from 2001 to 2003, 25 million copies of Lord of the Rings were sold– 15 million in English and 10 million in other languages. In the United Kingdom, sales went up by 1000% after the release of the first movie in the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring,” says David Brawn, Tolkien’s publisher at HarperCollins, which retains the English-speaking rights except for the United States.
Rather quickly, however, the film’s vision, conceived in New Zealand by well-known illustrators Alan Lee and John Howe, threatened to engulf the literary work. Their iconography inspires most of the video games and merchandising. Soon, by a contagion effect, the book itself because less of a source of inspiration for the authors of fantasy than the film of the book, then the games inspired by the film, and so on.
“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,” explains Adam Tolkien, “the executors of the estate want to promote a work as much as they can. But we are just the opposite. We want to put the spotlight on what is not Lord of the Rings.”
“Tolkien has become a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed by 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 gone too far for me. Such commercialisation has reduced the esthetic and philosophical impact of this creation to nothing. There is only one solution for me: turning my head away.”