I‘ve just read an interesting article entitled Tolkien’s children fight for ‘Lord of the Rings’ gold by Los Angeles Times columnist Rachel Abramowitz. She claims that the Tolkien Estate has not received a penny from New Line Cinema for basing their trilogy of hugely successful films based on his fantasy classic Lord of the Rings.
While this may be true and I deplore the chronic failure of crooked movie companies to compensate authors, what she fails to mention in her article is that the success of Peter Jackson’s three LOTR movies has created a windfall for the Tolkien Estate because of the concurrent upsurge in the popularity of the professor’s books.
I remember what it was like back in the early 2000’s walking into a bookstore. The shelves were brimming with all sorts of Tolkien books. The truth is that this resurgence was all made possible by Peter Jackson and the New Line movies. Christopher Tolkien had nothing to do with it.
Making the Forbes List
For 3 years in a row J.R.R. Tolkien made the Forbes Richest Dead Celebrities List. In 2001 Tolkien ranked #8 with $8 million. In 2002 he ranked #7 with $12 million. Finally in 2003 Forbes ranked him a stunning #3 with $22 million only surpassed by Elvis and Charles Schultz of Peanuts comic strip fame. Let’s also not forget that the Tolkien Estate probably earned a significant boost in book sales from the films both before and after the movies were released.
I find it amusing that the columnist tries to make us feel sorry for the Tolkien Estate. Many times in the article she refers to the Tolkien heirs as “elderly” conjuring up images of frail senior citizens wasting away in an old age home. Once she refers to them as children — as if they are helpless waifs trapped in Dickensian workhouse. Well they’re hardly children anymore and they’re certainly not penniless.
It’s hard to feel sorry for Tolkien’s heirs considering the way they may have treated their own children as reported by the UK Independent article and by Entertainment Weekly both in December of 2001. Imagine being disowned by your father all because you publicly expressed the opinion that you liked Peter Jackson’s films. Some family!
Sticks and Stones
Every time Christopher makes the news he’s suing someone. The Tolkien Estate is now trying to prevent New Line Cinema from making the Hobbit movie. He even sicked his lawyers on a blogger who called him a “pr*ck”. When you consider the horrors that J.R.R. Tolkien must have witnessed in the trenches in France in World War 1 being called a foul name pales in comparison. Methinks the prodigal son should grow a thicker skin of mithril.
Considering the millions of additional dollars that this glorified file clerk who has existed for most of his life on the coattails of his famous father and the Tolkien Estate have made because of Peter Jackson’s adaptations of his father’s classic works it’s hard to feel sorry for him. Apparently Christopher Tolkien failed to appreciate the themes of the ills of greed and abuse of power contained within the Lord of the Rings.
How many millions is enough for you Christopher?
The True Impact of the Movies
Let’s also not forget that because of Peter Jackson and New Line millions of people have been exposed to the literary masterpiece that is Lord of the Rings both in books and in movies. That fact alone should be enough of a triumph to console poor old Christopher Tolkien.
I’m getting tired of the stranglehold that lawsuits over intellectual property are having on our freedom and culture. The sooner that the works of J.R.R. Tolkien enter into the public domain and join the esteemed ranks of Homer,Virgil, Shakespeare and other literary giants — the better.