Right off the bat I want to do exactly what the title says and thank Christopher Tolkien for his decades of diligent management, guidance, and protection of the legacy of his father, J.R.R. Tolkien. As you may have heard, Christopher, now 93, resigned from managing his father’s estate this past August.
Some media companies are apparently rushing to try to acquire new rights or projects from the estate, now that the man seen as “the biggest hurdle” to their progression is gone.
I’d like to think the opposite. He wasn’t a hurdle, he was a guardian. It would have been easy for Christopher Tolkien to exploit his father’s works for as much money as possible. Instead, he has steadfastly protected the integrity of those works, at the expense of multiple opportunities to cash in. This is a man of integrity.
Amazon has apparently already secured the rights to make a new TV series based in Middle Earth. Frankly I don’t need a new Lord of the Rings filtered through a Game of Thrones sensibility.
Christopher Tolkien was always suspicious of those who wished to portray his father’s universe, and given the angrier, grittier times we live in and the reflection of that in our modern fantasy, I suspect he was right to try to keep his father’s works separate from the modern interpretation.
Peter Jackson, for his part, did an admirable job of preserving J.R.R.’s sensibilities, portraying evil without resorting to gore, degradation, or any of the current oeuvres’ ideas on how to present evil. The archetypal evil of Sauron, Saruman, and Mordor is visceral, not physical. Let’s hope that whoever buys and exploits the newly available rights gets that.
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On a side note, a few years ago, I met Mahatma Gandhi’s son. Just stop for a second and visualize that. What do you think he would look like? For some reason, when I hear “son” of a famous person, I think of, if not a child, then at least someone younger than me. Mr. Gandhi is a wise, gentle man, a peace activist like his father, but not young.
I had the same response when I heard that Tolkien’s son had retired - he’s a son, he must be younger than me… yeah, no. Christopher Tolkien is 93.