June 28, 2001

Re: The Biggest Problem
Jeanne K.

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 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 the books.

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.