Apparently it is Sunday. I’ve been completely distracted the last few days, and the last two have been spent doing some reading for an article on The Silmarillion. I’ve often wondered how many Tolkien fans manage the book, considering I have read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit upwards of a dozen times each and The Silmarillion just three times, I am perhaps hopeful that other fans also have a little trouble with it. Last year I read it again, needing absolute concentration, unusual for me as I am usually a quick reader. I finished most of it in a silent, cold hospital room waiting for Craig to come out of surgery. Not an ideal environment for reading but it did provide me with the solitary hours I needed to absorb Tolkien’s great work, what he called his “real” work.
I don’t know exactly why the book seemed to affect me more on this third reading, I can surmise it was perhaps all the controversy surrounding the supposed “sudden” decision of the Tolkien Estate not to sell the rights allowing the book to be filmed. The speculation on whether or not Peter Jackson would film it, a large and sweeping assumption that the media and fans were making, was reaching a frenzy by the middle of last year. Apparently because Peter Jackson has adapted The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings then he has the absolute right to take all of Tolkien’s work and adapt it into the action-adventure genre that he applied to his other films based on Tolkien’s work.
It was a difficult thing to remain objective after spending a day going through The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, reading the letter he wrote a few weeks before his death when he was describing losing his confidence and still fretting about The Silmarillion (which he did not complete before his death) broke my heart. The addition of an essay in Tom Shippey’s Road to Middle Earth delighted me however. It was added to the third edition, and I had no idea about it, the book has been sitting on my TBR pile for a while. The essay in itself is largely complimentary, but he discussed some points which summed up my feelings about the films perfectly (don’t you love it when someone else does that?) especially in his statement that “Jackson is quicker than Tolkien was to identify evil without qualification”.
I’ve found the attitude fans have towards the Tolkien family, Harper Collins and Tolkien scholars absolutely sickening. This is where we can see the actual negative effect movies can have on literary work, when they attract large groups of morons who think they have the right to cast judgement on everyone so they can satisfy their need for another brainless special-effects-fest and it’s associated merchandise.
Of course I like Peter Jackson’s films. I watch them once a year, usually after my yearly ritual of reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, last year I even got them on blu-ray. They are also superficial and they don’t even scratch the surface of the book, but then who was expecting them to? I dont watch the films expecting to get any shred of feeling I get when I am reading one of Professor Tolkien’s books. I cannot even imagine what a dreadful, horrible, travesty of a film Peter Jackson would make if he were allowed the rights to The Silmarillion. I would rather be thrown bodily into a murky pond and eaten alive by lampreys than watch The Silmarillion butchered by Peter Jackson.
And on a final note, let me just address some of the things I have seen people saying around the web. Having the rights to The Silmarillion would not have improved The Hobbit film one bit. They already had the appendices from ROTK to work with and used the material from Durin’s folk. They also changed it, which is not surprising considering they would have to have added several other characters to stay true to the tale and 14 leads is quite enough. It is ridiculous to claim that he needed the rights from The Silmarillion to expand The Hobbit as he wanted to. I think three films is quite enough expansion.
To those making hopeful comments that Christopher Tolkien can’t live forever, his son Adam also works for the Tolkien Trust. Stop holding your breath. Christopher Tolkien is an 87 year old man who has spent the last forty years of his life preserving his father’s legacy, giving it a new life and expanding his father’s vision to the constant delight of fans. To those of you who think he doesn’t have the right to protect his father’s work, you are wrong. You are dim-witted if you think “enough money” will change his mind, and to those who like to call him names like “asshole”, the only asshole in the room right now is you.