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Christopher Tolkien On The Legacy Of His Father, J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien

Christopher Tolkien, the son of J.R.R., is the person who has undoubtedly done the most to explain the background and history of his father’s writing to the general public, and in particular to his many fans and admirers. Le Monde recently carried a lengthy interview with Tolkien from his south of France home, noteworthy not least for how rarely he grants access to his self-imposed rural retreat. In the article he discusses the complex relationship of J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy of books, “The Lord of the Rings”, to the Peter Jackson produced movies of the same name. As some may be aware all is not well in this particular area, and a real note of sadness, despair even, seems to be the prevailing feeling. One is left wondering at times how much Christopher Tolkien is the inheritor and protector of his father’s legacy and how much he has become it’s prisoner.

Now Sedulia Scott has generously translated the article from the original French into English, including Tolkien’s disquiet views on the forthcoming movie, The Hobbit. It can be read here and for most Tolkien fans it will make for poignant reading.

“”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.”

This policy, however, has not protected the family from the reality that the work now belongs to a gigantic audience, culturally far removed from the writer who conceived it. 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 15 to 25,” Christopher says regretfully. “And it seems that The Hobbit will be the same kind of film.”

The divorce is systematically reactivated by the movies. “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.”

It is hard to say who has won this silent battle between the respect for the word and popularity. Nor who, finally, has the Ring. One thing is certain. From father to son, a great part of the work of J.R.R. Tolkien has now come out of its boxes, thanks to the infinite perseverance of his son.””

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