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CHRISTOPHER TOLKIEN IS APPARENTLY A CHARMING AND NOBLE OLD CHAP, PRONE TO OCCASIONAL BOUTS OF STUBBORN PRICKISHNESS.

UPDATE 10/05/2006: I just got a letter from Christopher Tolkien's lawyer requesting that I change the title of this post (formerly: CHRISTOPHER TOLKIEN IS A BIG PRICK). I have indeed felt bad about the title of this post, especially since he's been in the news again. So I have complied with their request.

The letter also requests that I correct a number of "significant inaccuracies." While I'm all for accuracy, most of the statements they cite are in fact from the newspaper article I linked to and other sources, including Tolkien's bio on the Internet Movie Database. Quoting sources and commenting their content is precisely what bloggers do, and this is protected speech. Mr. Tolkien is welcome to publish his own web page or article disputing these sources, but it's certainly not my job to sort it out.

Nevertheless, I'm not one to withhold the other side of the story, so here it is:

Tolkien_inaccuracies

Lastly, they requested that certain comments by myself and commenters be removed, including the previous title of this post and spacewaitress' opinion that Tolkien is a "friggin' bastard." After these articles were published about The Hobbit apparently being held up by Tolkien, plenty of people reacted by calling Tokien names appropriate to his perceived behavior. The legal letter says these statements are obviously hurtful and damaging to Mr. Tokien and his family and "have resulted purely from the inaccurate information that you have published." I'm sorry, but no. A simple Google search will yield plenty of unhappy Tolkien fans reacting to this news, particularly on Tolkien forums and the like. People are free to express and own their opinions about public figures. I should hope Mr. Tolkien is not an advocate of censorship or opposed to the free expression of opinion in public forums.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Blogger's Guide to Defamation strongly suggests I'm within my legal rights, due to Tolkien's status as a (obviously rather sensitive) public figure, my lack of "actual malice," my quoting of published news articles on this controversial matter, and this web site's status as a blog – which are opinionated forums by nature.

.........ORIGINAL BLOG ENTRY BELOW........

Chances look slim of ever seeing Peter Jackson direct The Hobbit. Whereas J.R.R. Tolkien sold the film rights to LOTR in 1968 for £10,000 plus a cut of royalties, The Hobbit is controlled by his eldest son Christopher Tolkien:

hobbit.jpg

Christopher Tolkien has yielded not an inch to pressure from Hollywood and has barely put any greater effort into explaining his stance as head of the trustees governing his forebear’s memory, releasing just a single terse statement to the effect that ... he deemed The Lord Of The Rings unsuitable for big-screen adaptation.

When Christopher's son Simon went to see the first film, he was removed from the Tolkien Company board and disowned by his father: “I never saw the films as a threat and I’ve enjoyed the movies for what they are, but I crossed my father on a Tolkien issue ... he will never speak to me again as long as he lives, he will never see my children and will never have anything to do with me.”

Also? The old Oxford chap moved to France and guards his house with a wild boar. Man, this would make a killer documentary. [ via Incoming Signals ]

UPDATE: Ian McKellen believes hurdles to making The Hobbit will be cleared

January 8, 2004 at 03:28 AM in Film | Permalink

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Comments

More proof that Christopher Tolkein is a friggin bastard. He disowned his son over a movie? That is seriously messed up. Insane, even.

Peter Jackson wanted to build a "mathom-house" in New Zealand with all the props and artifacts from the films. It would have been a wonderful tourist destination and a chance for fans of the films to see some of the props up close. Christopher Tolkein said "no."

------

I was chased by a wild boar once in France. Well, not really. But I was out hiking with a group and we saw one. It was pretty scary.

Posted by: spacewaitress at Jan 8, 2004 8:14:16 AM

I don't know that he's a prick so much as a lunatic. He should probably be put away in one of those scary, damp, old British institutions with the chains and the rats.

Let's give ol' Chris Tolkein a little credit, though. Without him we wouldn't have the Silmarillion or numerous other supplemental materials that may be totally unreadable, but without which we wouldn't be able to understand numerous significant layers to the Lord of the Rings story. Like why the Hell do the elves have to go off "into the West," and what's this important line Aragorn is decended from, why doesn't Gandalf just kick out the jams, and who the fuck are the Valar? etc. But, yeah, clearly he's out of control and must be stopped.

Posted by: jonathan at Jan 8, 2004 11:04:08 AM

And I thought my family was screwed up.

Posted by: Sharyn at Jan 8, 2004 12:26:44 PM

Jonathan raises some good points. Why the hell do the elves have to go "into the west"? And I always did wonder why Gandalf didn't open a big can of hot, smelly whoopass on everyone. I guess I should go find out, and thanks to Chris Tolkien I can. However, now that we have no use for him (except to allow PJ to do his thing), I can freely say that I fart in his general direction.

p.s. I love the Bilbo pic, Chuck. I actually got the Rankin/Bass animated "The Hobbit" for Christmas. I have already watched it 4 times.

Posted by: Tim at Jan 8, 2004 2:33:12 PM

I watched the animated Hobbit in junior high i think... i wouldn't mind seeing it again.

So jonathan, can you tell us the Cliff's Notes answer to those questions?
Are those things C. Tolkien wrote about in the appendices?

Posted by: Chuck Olsen at Jan 8, 2004 4:14:13 PM

It's almost impossible to give a Cliff's note answer to the elf question. You really have to read some sizable chunks of the Silmarillion, which only got completed and published thanks to Chris T. Basically: The elves want to go home. They are immortal, but only if they return to the Undying Lands in the West. That's where all the other elves and the gods (the Valar) frolick about in eternal bliss, it's also where the wizards come from. Gandalf, though possessing power akin to a god, was entrusted with the task of spurring the peoples of Middle Earth into action against Sauron, but not to lead the charge himself. He is the catalyst that brings the hobbits into the mix, gets Aragorn off his duff, etc. Aragorn is descended from the Numenorians, a race of supermen (of sorts) who got in good with the elves and the Valar, until Sauron, back in the day, stirred them up against the Valar and they tried to sail into the Undying Lands. Needless to say they were soundly trounced by the Valar and as a result their kingdoms on Middle Earth eroded over time. A lot of the ruins and statues seen in the background of the films are the remnants of the Numenorians' former glory. So are the Palantir (the crystal balls). Um, yeah...so that's not very thorough but should give you some hints about some of the obscure references in the films.

Meanwhile...contradictory news from IMDB:
Ian McKellen is predicting that the film-rights conflict between New Line Cinema on the one hand and MGM/UA on the other over J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit will be resolved. In an interview with Britain's Channel 4 Wednesday, McKellen said, "There is currently a situation where two companies own the rights [to The Hobbit], but when that's sorted out Peter [Jackson] and I will sit and talk it over. We've mentioned it recently and Peter is looking forward to getting it into production." (Jackson's next scheduled production is a remake of King Kong.) McKellen has previously recommended that Jackson turn The Hobbit into a long-running television series. It is a prequel to the Lord of Rings trilogy, describing how Bilbo Baggins originally acquired the ring.

Posted by: jonathan at Jan 8, 2004 6:51:29 PM

At the risk of looking like a complete nerd/ass....Christopher Tolkien is the third child of JRR. He has two older brothers. Unless my brand new "The annotated Hobbit" is in error. In which case I think JC should get his money back.

I apologize for not adding anything of substance to the convversation.

Posted by: kelly at Jan 8, 2004 6:56:56 PM

Ahh, wow! That's terribly interesting and informative... I never got to the good bits when I tried to read The Silmarillion back in the day. Thanks for the condensed executive summary of the Cliff's Notes.

kelly: I think you're right there. I found a family tree that curiously doesn't list Christopher's birth date, but the article said he was 77 so he was probably born in 1926... which means he has two older brothers.

The Tolkien Society is having a 5-day conference/convention to celebrate 50 years of LOTR.

Uhh, and here's Ian McKellen's elven tattoo.

Posted by: Chuck Olsen at Jan 8, 2004 8:10:44 PM

I live in France and to my amazement, I met Christopher Tolkien the other day at a dinner party. He's a charming, highly intelligent guy with a brilliant sense of humour. He's 80 now and still very much on the ball. He just doesn't think LOTR should ever have been made into a film.

Posted by: Laura at Apr 20, 2004 4:46:36 PM

Laura: Wow! Thanks for sharing your encounter. I kind of regret the title of this post, and it comes up quite high in Google when searching for Christopher Tolkien related things.

Posted by: Chuck at Apr 20, 2004 5:01:38 PM

Interesting topic you've picked. Of course, since your knowledge of Christopher Tolkien appears to be confined to a series of quotes from articles, it would seem that little evidence is needed to declare someone to be a "prick." Granted that it is very harsh to disown one's son for seeing a movie, but one has to consider that Christopher Tolkien probably has strong personal reasons for detesting the film versions of the Lord of the Rings. Not did he edit and publish many of JRR Tolkien's posthumous writings, but was also involved with the actual writing of the Lord of the Rings. But it dosen't really matter, just as long as a few noisy zealots are able to have their hobbit movie and dance on his grave. Chris owns the Hobbit rights, so I guess life goes on, and one less story is commercialized, whether we like it or not.
ps. interesting rumor about the guard-boar, but even I could think up a better one.

Posted by: tomas at Jun 16, 2004 3:30:04 AM

Tomas: That's what we bloggers do. We quote articles and call people pricks! Duh.

Posted by: Chuck at Jun 16, 2004 3:40:40 AM

Hey all.

I'm guessing that the original post above on Christopher is incorrect. Read this news article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/film/1697884.stm.

It says that Christopher never really "disapproved" of the film and certainly never had a falling out with family members over it. He does think that LOTR is unsuitable as a film, but that's about it, but he's not exactly adamantly against it either. (Nothing is said about the wild boar, but I'm guessing that claim is about as truthful as a dragon guarding his house. Houghton Mifflin does confirm that he lives in France, though.)

Also, according to almost all the sources I've seen (including the update above), Christopher doesn't even own rights to "The Hobbit"--two movie companies do. (I think those are New Line Cinema and MGM/UA.) So he wouldn't even have anything to do with the current difficulty. Besides, I heard the difficulty is not so much over anyone's unwillingness to do "The Hobbit" as a movie, but just over various legal/financial/bureaucratic details.

So there's my two cents. But to the guy who's met him: Holy crap! I'd LOVE to meet Christopher. But I live in America and am not going to Europe anytime soon (that I know of). Sigh.

Posted by: Rew at Sep 14, 2004 10:22:43 PM

Like his father, Christopher is a man who ought not to be disrespected. People that disrespect such men are worthless. I think J.R.R. himself would not have liked the kissing scenes added to his story, nor Liv Taylor,s sluttily tailored dresses, etc. - he even rebuked C.S. Lewis' seeming support of fallen marital standards in Great Britain. Movies are generally a bad idea, and none can approach real life or a well written book.

Posted by: peter t. jackson at Dec 1, 2004 4:55:15 PM

Mmm-hmm.

*backs slowly away*

Posted by: Chuck at Dec 1, 2004 8:04:02 PM

"sluttily." nice.

Posted by: Jonathan at Dec 2, 2004 10:18:16 AM

Real life is generally a bad idea, and can't approach the thrill of a good movie. People who believe otherwise are worthless.

Posted by: Chuck at Dec 2, 2004 2:50:41 PM

Yeah, Christopher Tolkien is a big prick for hating these pieces of shit movies and not wanting his father's other works to be raped by Hollywood.

Posted by: niki at Jan 28, 2005 5:32:48 AM

Mmm-hmm.


*backs slowly away*

Posted by: Chuck at Jan 28, 2005 6:08:51 AM

Although admitedly a loon for disowning his son over a movie, Chris has a right to his opinion, doesn't he? Just like we think he's crazy, surely he is allowed to dislike other peoples interpretation of a almost flawless work written by his father? (P.S, where did you hear about the boar from?)

Posted by: Huw at Feb 11, 2005 7:51:26 AM

All Christopher Tolkien did was say he doesn't think The Lord of the Rings is suitable for adaptation: and many people would agree with him on that.

The bitterness between CT and his son is not over the LotR film it's been going on long before they were even released. Who are we to judge a dispute between father and son? CT has kept a dignified silence over this matter and will not reveal to the press why he is no longer talking to his son; and he has the right to do so. Why are his family matters any of our business anyway?

Considering CT doesn't even own the movie-rights to the Hobbit in the first place I can't see how he can be held responsible for the film not being made. He never said that he was *against* The Lord of the Rings films he just stated that he believed The Lord Of The Rings unsuitable for big-screen adaptation. CT owns the movie-rights to The Silmarillion and he says he will never allow them to be made into films. This isn't just because he wants to be awkward it is because he believes any film made from the book will be detrimental to the story. And we must accept that he is correct there. The Silmarillion would not work well if it was made into a film unless it was seriously fabricated. At the end of the day, The Lord of the Rings films didn't pay any respect to his father and are just a (very successful) attempt by big business to cash in on Tolkien's life work. Many Tolkien fans despise these films, I'm wouldn't be surprised if CT hated them too. But he wouldn't kick his son out of the Tolkien Company Board for seeing them. He has seen them afterall, and I expect every other member of the TCB has seen them. This claim that CT thrown his son out of the family business and refused to speak to him ever again over seeing a film is lunacy. Especially considering CT and his son do communicate over Tolkien Estate business; which Simon has a financial interest in. Their relationship is strictly business, they don't obviously hate each other they just don't get on well. Why they don't get on well is none of our business but this dispute has been raging for over a decade now. It has nothing to do with the films.

CT moved to France to find some peaceful seclusion so he could retire. One reason for this was that he was constantly being stalked by Tolkien fans and many of them made abusive comments about his work in publishing the Silmarillion. I have never heard about this wild boar guarding his house but I somehow doubt it is true.

Posted by: Kadaveri at Apr 19, 2005 3:55:31 PM

Really, what right do you have to call him those various obscenities you yelled out in your ignorance? I certainly disagree, I have met CT once and he was quite wonderful, and if you really loved Tolkien's works, you would understand why he dreaded the production of movies based on the books. And those fears were entirely justified after watching the badly characterised movies whose plots were mutilated cruelly beyond almost all recognition, with little or nothing to commend them besides decent visuals and pretty, floaty Elves. And you know, the saddest thing is that they still have to be called 'The Lord of the Rings', even after PJ swayed the plot to his whims and fancies. I totally agree with CT, that movies on LOTR should not even be attempted. And after years of breaking his head over his father's notes and compiling the Silmarillion and the fantastic HoME series, and seeing it all go to waste in one second of camera time is heart wrenching.

Posted by: Gerontius at Apr 28, 2005 3:44:54 AM

Indeed, and I must ask - what right do you have to even render Tolkien's books in your own imaginations? I'm sure you're experiencing it entirely wrong. It's quite blasphemous and unfaithful to the work. Yes, it's sad that we'll never see what was inside J.R.R. Tolkien's mind as he wrote the LOTR series. The only possible true visual representation of his work went with him to the grave.

I'm still peeved about The Ten Commandments. Moses was surely more humble than Charleton Heston's overacting would have you believe. But, I'm pretty sure they got the voice of God right.

And with that, dear Google-surfers, the comments on this post will come to an end.

If it makes you happy, I'll revise my overstated and provocative headline: "CHRISTOPHER TOLKEIN IS APPARENTLY A CHARMING AND NOBLE OLD CHAP, PRONE TO OCCASIONAL BOUTS OF STUBBORN PRICKISHNESS."

Posted by: Chuck at Apr 28, 2005 5:39:57 AM