June 28, 2001
Re: The Biggest Problem
Shakespeare has been filmed many, many times in many
incarnations. Kenneth Branaugh did Hamlet. Mel Gibson did Hamlet. Lawrence Olivier did
Hamlet. I count 82 reditions of Hamlet that have been done for movies and television on
IMDB. And yet, we still read Hamlet...in High school English, in College English, and,
some of us, on our own for the sheer pleasure of reading.
3 months ago, the publishers of Lord of the Rings printed a movie-tie in volume of the
novel. Surprising themselves, and everyone, they've had to do a second print run because
the first print run is being so quickly sold. No one said 'I'll wait until the movie comes
out'. These people reading these books aren't all Tolkien fanatics trying to keep their
mental image pure one last time before the movies come out. Those people already have the
books. People are hearing the name. There's buzz. They're curious. And so they're reading
And when the movie is over? Very few people read Lord of the Rings because they were
forced to, and that's the primary reason I've ever heard for people seeing the movie
rather than reading the books. It's just not used that often in English Classes. People
read the books because they want to read them, because friends recommend it, or whatever.
That is still going to be there. They know no movie will be just like the book. But, if
they like the movie, and do decide to see that first, they may well be inspired to read
the book when previously they wouldn't have because they would get bored in the first 3
chapters like many people who try to read Tolkien for the first time do.
I think the opposite of your fear is true. I think that these movies will make more people
read Tolkien than before. And from the current press runs on LOTR, I'd have to say that
seems already to be the case.