13 April 2015

I have never had any sympathy for those who are against the screen versions of J.R.R. Tolkien's books. Being totally against screen adaptations is an attitude which is doing a disservice not only to fans everywhere, but also to J.R.R. Tolkien himself. We are going to see how exactly this happens.

An Era of Different Entertainment

Director Peter Jackson
People consume art and entertainment in a different way that they did 200, 100 years ago, even 50 or 20 years ago. The general taste is ever changing. If you want to spot obvious differences, compare old romance movies with new ones. Or, compare Bible-themed ones. You will see a great difference in tone, costumes, cinematography etc. Music, writing, painting etc., all have changed with time. Nowadays we like our art in a certain way. We are entertained by certain features. It's only natural to accept and understand than an author who created many decades ago will be envisioned later in a 'modern' way. It cannot be as back in the day, nor as it all was in his mind or any of his readers' mind.

Bringing The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit on the silver screen in a 'commercial' manner is no crime, especially as it perpetuates the noble message of the author.

Harsh as it may sound, Tolkien's writings would have been far less popular by now if it weren't for Peter Jackson's adaptations. He'd still be a classic, especially in English-speaking countries, he'd still be mentioned as the father of high fantasy, he'd still have his avid readers... but things in general would be tremendously different. He'd be more like a piece in a museum. Nowadays he's so alive! His heart is beating in thousands and thousands of hearts who feel the gratitude as they both watch and read the Middle-Earth stories. Without the support of a movie, Tolkien would have a very different status.

A Fierce Competition

Let's take two of the most popular examples of successful literature today: George R.R. Martin and his Game of Thrones or J. K. Rowling and her Harry Potter books (I wouldn't want to mention Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey, because I believe those to be geared towards the teen crowd and not aimed at the general adult audience). While I can't compare these to Tolkien's brilliant work, we can sure talk about what success and popularity mean today. Nowadays, turning a book into a film is the method that works best if you want to boost its appeal and reach more people. Undeniably, these examples are powerful.

Imagine a world where Tolkien wouldn't benefit of screen adaptation, but these writers would. Could that be fair? Would it really be nice to have a fabulous author like him fade into oblivion, while these ones who do nothing but copy him enjoy such massive success? Would it really be fair? I am surprised the Tolkien family isn't thinking about it.

The Films Do Him Justice

Keeping Tolkien in the literature zone only would be a terrible thing to do. If he never got on screen, the Tolkien phenomenon would have been greatly reduced today. He could even become misunderstood. Now thankfully, through these films, be they good or bad (it's not necessary to discuss this here), his name is known to the world, to every nation, even to the youngest of us... and a huge gate is open - the gate to his books, now made easier to connect to.

I dare to think that his aura would fade with time, outshun by the less original authors. Totally not fair. Tolkien is, after all, the creator of a highly successful genre and no one did it better than him.

Why Royd Tolkien Is Admirable
Royd Tolkien, great grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien

If you are part of the fandom built around Peter Jackson's 6 Middle-Earth movies, you must have
noticed Royd Tolkien by now. He's active and, most important, is supportive. Moreover, he's quite a contrast to his other relatives, it seems. While he's not exactly in his twenties, nor thirties, he is young enough to taste entertainment as it is enjoyed today. He's a man of the newer generations. He understands the appeal of movies and the fact that this can only do good and no harm to his great grandfather's name. He had cameos in the movies, participated in promoting them, attended the premieres and voiced his opinion when needed. Royd always has a word of support when asked about the films and he's very enthusiastic in his answer. This should matter.

It is also worthy to observe how Royd embodies some of the virtues cherished in Middle-Earth. Personally, I greatly admire his friendly, open and easy going nature, as well as the honourable way in which he speaks his mind when he has to. He's one to understand completely that there will always be a difference between books and movies, that people want to get inside the story (hence the fanfiction, cosplay, conventions etc.) and that every such story will be lived according to the fashion of the current time.

As long as the author's original message is intact, no harm is done.

We Are More Visual

Entertainment got to be centred on visuals. We are not necessarily getting dumber. Lazier perhaps, but not dumber. Besides, it's only normal to become more visual nowadays, since technology has evolved so much in this direction. We have means that have been unheard of, unspoken and undreamt of until very recently. It's fabulous to have these.There's so much more that's possible on screen now. It was only a logical step and an honourable attempt to create Middle-Earth in a visual form like that.

It is a dear hope that, one day, someone will be daring enough (and allowed) to bring The Children of Hurin or maybe a few tales of The Silmarillion on screen.


  1. Given the resources and the professional expertise now gathered in New Zealand, not to mention the support by the New Zealand government, which will be uniquely assembled for some time to come, but not forever, we could only call a lack of opportunity to continue making Middle Earth films A CRYING SHAME. But all is not lost; we can make films out of the stories of Numenor, the Last Alliance, and even about the Witch King of Angmar until the people in the Tolkien Estate consider, if they do, a change of heart.

    Here are a couple of scripts that tantalize with the demonstration that stories from the Silmarillion can be told in screenplay form:

    The Flight of the Noldor script:
    The Beren and Luthien script:

    1. Thank you very much for your input! That is indeed something I'd be interested to read, glad you shared it.

      As for the New Zealand aspect, you are definitely right. What it's got now is something it's never had - the expertise you mentioned is unprecedented. There is an army of professionals who have been dealing with the screen version of Middle Earth for years already.