The LOTR Movie Site
June 26, 2000

In Response to David's Article
Brian R.

David B.'s comments are well-taken. Tolkien certainly cared about the literature he produced and the way that it was represented. (In fact, I own the original American edition of The Hobbit - the one with the weird emu and fruit tree on the cover. This cover art, of course, had nothing to do with the plot and when a baffled and livid Tolkien asked why it was used, the publisher said that the foliage was meant to resemble a Christmas tree. Tolkien's response was something like, "I must be in a mad house.")

My reason in posting the quote about Tokien's willingness to sell LOTR movie rights for "a good deal of money" was to point out that he, too, was human. This is a very simple point that is often overlooked by fans all too willing to lionize Tolkien (and, like David B., demonize certain members of his family).

Tolkien sacrificed many productive years as a philologist in the pursuit his imaginative languages and fairy tales. I'm sure it was an enthralling hobby for an academic with linguistic and literary talents. However, in the years Tolkien devoted to developing LOTR and the languages that he would eventually label as elfish, he consistently failed to deliver the translations and commentaries on Old English, Old Norse, and other languages that his peers expected of him.

Do I mean that Tolkien should not have written LOTR and confined himself to academic publication? Not at all. However, his obsession with his imaginary world at the expense of his academic career and reputation, similar to his willingness to make some money off a LOTR film, reveal a human side to a man that - on certain web sites at least - is not always immediately obvious.