Faculty of Arts Department of English
and American Studies English Language and Literature
The Difference Between The Reception of The Lord of the Rings Then and Now and the Role of Christianity in the Work Bachelor’s Diploma Thesis
Supervisor: prof. Mgr. Milada Franková, CSc., M.A.
I declare that I have worked on this thesis independently, using only the materials listed in the bibliography.
I would like to thank my supervisor, prof. Mgr. M. Franková, CSc. M.A. for her time, patience and valuable advice.
Table of Contents
2. Tolkien, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion
2.1. The Biography
2.2. And how The Lord of the Rings came about?
3. The Reception of The Lord of the Rings
3.1. And there it all began. The Lord of the Rings
3.2. The Lord of the Rings then
3.3. Christianity and The Lord of the Rings
3.4. The Lord of the Rings now or Tolkien rediscovered
3.4.1. From Page to Screen or J. R. R. Tolkien vs. Peter Jackson
Three Rings for the Elven-Kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. (J. R. R. Tolkien ”LOTR”)
Millions of copies have been sold around the world since its publication in 1954. It has been translated into many major languages. The year 2005 was an anniversary of this major work. In 1997 it was voted 'the book of the century' by the Waterstone's Books of the Century poll (UK book retailer). It was also adapted to the screen in 2001 by the director Peter Jackson: The Lord of the Rings.
In my thesis I would like to examine the popularity of this most famous literary work, written by J. R. R. Tolkien. I would also like to point out to the aspects that contributed to the popularity of this masterpiece and also compare how the work was received in the period right after the publication of the book in the 1950’s and 1960’s and later, after the film version, directed by Peter Jackson, in 2001 came out.
Apart from this I will also focus my attention on religion and Tolkien. My main concern will be to answer the question to what extent religion, the Christianity in particular, had influence on Tolkien’s most famous literary writing as the author, J. R .R. Tolkien was known to be a devoted Christian.
The chapter, Tolkien, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings, which is divided into two subchapters The Biography and And How The Lord of the Rings Came About? where the former one provides basic information about Tolkien’s background and life, and the latter one deals with his most significant work, The Lord of the Rings, which I am going to concentrate on in my thesis, and two other, no less important works, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion, which are closely interconnected and had in a way influence on LOTR and are therefore important to be mentioned and briefly described.
The next chapter The Reception of The Lord of the Rings which is the main body of my thesis is divided into four subchapters,the first being And there it all began. The Lord of the Rings, dealing with the beginnings of LOTR, when the writing of the book was commenced, how long it took and all the problems and struggles Tolkien had to face before he managed to finish the book and other delays resulting in postponing the completion of the book and its later publishing.
The next subchapter The Lord of the Ringsthen is dedicated to the reception of the book in the years straight after it was published and those which followed after. It also deals with initial scepticism of Tolkien’s publisher, who was concerned about the saleability of LOTR at first.
The following subchapter Christianity andThe Lord of the Rings is concerned with religion in the work of J. R. R. Tolkien. It analyses different points of view of some critics who tried to find certain specific features of religion present in the work. Is also provides information of the author himself clarifying his attitude towards religion and its influence on his writing.
The last subchapter The Lord of the Rings now or Tolkien rediscovered which contains onesubchapter From Page to Screen or J. R. R. Tolkien vs. Peter Jackson, deals with the LOTR in the period after the film adaptation by Peter Jackson was released. It examines the reasons why the book retains its popularity after more than fifty years after the publication. The subchapter about the film contains information about the challenges the filmmaker had to face and critical comments of some critics and the media about the film adaptation.
2. Tolkien, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion
2.1. The Biography
A fantasy writer, linguist and university professor John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in 1892 in Bloemfontein, in the Orange Free State, now part of South Africa, to Arthur Reuel Tolkien and his wife Mabel. Arthur held a post as a bank clerk there. The family later moved to England and Arthur, his father was to follow them. However, he never joined them since he died unexpectedly. In 1900 his mother Mabel converted to Catholicism which had, to a great extent, an impact on Tolkien’s future writings. Tolkien started to become interested in languages as early as he was ten years old. Old English in particular appealed to him and since he loved words, he started to develop his own languages.
While studying at King Edward’s school in Birmingham, in 1911, Tolkien and his friends formed an unofficial group called T. C. B. S. (Tea Club and Barrovian Society.) They would often meet in the school library or in Barrow Stores to have debates and discussions over tea or coffee. Between 1911 and 1915 Tolkien attended the Exeter College in Oxford.
When the war broke out in 1914, young men were eagerly enlisting, but Tolkien did not rush to join up. He rather went to Oxford to work hard on his degree. In 1915 he was awarded First Class Honours degree in English Language and Literature. In 1916 he married Edith Brath, his childhood sweetheart. Together they had four children John Francis (1917), Michael Hilary (1920), Christopher (1924), and Priscilla Anne (1929). It was them, Tolkien would later write and read the stories to, The Hobbit, which became hugely popular after its release, particularly.
Tolkien studied at Oxford University where he later became a Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon (1925-1945). Here, together with his friends, he formed a group called ‘The Inklings’, a literary group, where they would usually meet to discuss their unpublished works. From 1945-59 he was a Merton Professor of English Language and Literature where he remained until his retirement. During these years he wrote two books, which became bestsellers, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. He lived in Oxford, but spent part of his retirement in seaside resort. After his wife died, he moved to back to Oxford, where he himself died in 1973 at the age of eighty-one (All the information in this subchapter is based on Carpenter’s A Biography).
2. 2. And how LOTR came about?
First of all there was The Hobbit, the precursor of LOTR, Tolkien's first book, published in 1937. It was written on the dull exam papers he was correcting. On the blank paper he wrote: "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit" (J. R. R. Tolkien, “The Hobbit” 3). At first Tolkien did not know what Hobbit meant and for some time did nothing about the story. At that time, he was working on another story, more detailed and mythological work about the creation of Middle-earth, The Silmarillion (Carpenter, “The Letters” 215). The book introduces us to the history of the First Age. Tolkien worked on the book for most of his life. He never managed to finish it though. Christopher, his son, managed to put it into publishable shape and the work was published in 1977, four years after Tolkien’s death. It serves as a background for LOTR. Tolkien had no intention to connect The Hobbit to it however it gradually became somehow part of it. Originally, The Hobbit was not meant to be published at all, yet one of Tolkien’s former students encouraged him to finish the work and later, after being read by the son of Tolkien’s publisher Stanley Unwin it was recommended for publication (Carpenter, “The Letters” 14) . The hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the main character of the story, challenged by the wizard Gandalf, sets out on journey together with his fellows dwarves to reclaim the treasure seized by dragon Smaug. During his journey he manages to acquire, not exactly by fair way, the magic ring from Golum, the creature, formerly hobbit too. This ring would later become a central notion of the sequel to The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, the story, which took twelve years to write. The Ring in LOTR appears to be the One forged by the Dark Lord Sauron. It is the Ring created to rule all the others, the other nineteen rings, which were also created together with the One Ring: three for the elven-kings, seven for the dwarf-lords, and nine for mortal men. Into This Ring Sauron put all his power. It is so powerful, that it cannot be used by someone intending to do good without corrupting his or her mind. This One Ring was cut from Sauron’s hand in the battle. It should have been destroyed, but was taken by Isildur, who was later murdered. The ring fell into the river Anduin and was found by Déagol. His friend Sméagol demanded the Ring and in order to get it he killed him. The ring was later found by Bilbo and given to Frodo. And here starts the heroic quest, the battle of Good and Evil, The Lord of the Rings. The Enemy believes the Ring has been lost and seeks for it. It would give him power to rule the Middle-earth, therefore it must be brought to the Crack of Mount Doom, where it was forged, and destroyed. It is the only way, how to get rid of the Ring.
Tolkien hoped to have his mythological work The Silmarillion published alongside The Lord of the Rings. This was never carried out, since he never managed to finish the history of the First Age during his life.
LOTR however made it to publication after initial problems concerning the publishing.
3. The reception of The Lord of the Rings
3. 1. And there it all began. The Lord of the Rings
LOTR has been voted the most popular book of the last century according to a survey carried out by Waterstone's and Channel 4's Book Choice in January 1997. In the poll of Amazon.com in 1999 The Lord of the Ring was chosen as the greatest book of the millennium by customers.
In BBC competition in 2003 it was voted Britain’s favourite book receiving 23% of the poll with 174,000 votes. Over 150 million copies have been sold around the world so far. The first editions are worth £40 000 nowadays. The book has been translated into more than 40 languages. (“Tolkien Proves”). It has never been out of print since the first volume was published in 1954 (TheOneRing.net).
Tolkien's work enjoyed great popularity in the 1960's, had persisted throughout the years and gained again even greater success in the beginning of the 21st century, after it was adapted to the screen by the director Peter Jackson.
A how did it all begin? Stanley Unwin warned Tolkien before the publication of The Hobbit that the public might be “clamouring next year to hear more from you [him] about Hobbits” (Carpenter, “The Letters “ 23). He and Tolkien met in London in order to “discuss a possible successor to the book” (Carpenter, “A Biography” 183). Tolkien offered Unwin a work called The Silmarillion, which he desperately wanted to have published. Although Unwin seemed to like it, as he said in the letter addressed to Tolkien, it did not “quite fit[s] the bill” (ibid. 184). What he really needed was another story about Hobbits. Tolkien was not very keen on the idea. He felt he had nothing more to say about Hobbits; however he promised Stanley to consider some more writing for the same audience on the same topic including Hobbits. His publisher, in the letter addressed to Tolkien, expressed his confidence in Tolkien's ability to produce another story (Carpenter, “The Letters” 25).
A few months after The Hobbit had been published, although the exact date is not known, Tolkien started working on its successor, TheLord of the Rings. He managed to write an opening chapter, but struggled to get further. He felt that the he had exhausted all the topics concerning hobbits. Since The Hobbit was not meant to have a sequel, it was “difficult to find anything new in that world” (Carpenter, “The Letters” 29). And the other reason why Tolkien had postponed writing it was that he “wished first to complete and set in order the mythology and legends of the Elder Days, which had then been taking shape for some years” (J. R. R. Tolkien, “LOTR” foreword).
Completing the story took a long time, twelve years, due to Tolkien’s duties and other interests related to his teaching and mainly because of working on another important work, the mythology and legends of the Elder Days, The Silmarillion. Another reason for postponing the writing was the outbreak of the Second World War. As the story slowly progressed, Tolkien realized that it was taking a turn away from the “juvenile level of The Hobbit into the sphere of grand and heroic romance” (Carpenter, “A Biography” 188). It “was drawn irresistibly towards the older world, and became an account, as it were, of its end and passing away before the writing of The Hobbit, in which there were already some references to the older matter…” (J. R. R. Tolkien, “LOTR” foreword). That was actually what Tolkien wanted. He did not wish to write any more children’s stories, what he wanted to write was a serious work dealing with mythology. After all, he succeeded. “The new story had attached itself firmly to The Silmarillion, and was to acquire the dignity of purpose and the high style of the earlier book” (Carpenter, “A Bibliography” 188) He produced a compromise between what he desired and what was expected from him. “They wanted a sequel. But I wanted heroic legends and high romance. The result was The Lord of the Rings….” (Carpenter, “The Letters” 346). The work was completed eventually, in 1949.
The Lord of the Rings was published in 1954 after long delays. The book, however being one continuous story, was published in three volumes, purely for a practical reason - its length. Each book carries a different title, The Fellowship of the Rings, Two Towers and The Return of the King. The overall title for the book, which Tolkien insisted on, was agreed to be The Lord of the Rings (Carpenter, “A Biography” 216).
In the next chapters I am going to compare, how The Lord of the Rings was received after the publication in the 1950s and again in 2001 after director Peter Jackson released his film adaptation of the book.
3. 2. Lord of the Rings then
It is not clear when exactly Tolkien started to write the story. The author himself could not remember the date although he said it to be sometime in the early 1930s. He finished the book in 1949. However, it was not until 1954, five years later, after long delays, that the book, the first volume and shortly afterwards, the second volume, finally made it to publication. The last volume was published the following year. The book was published under a profit sharing agreement since for the immense size of it and for the untypical genre, the saleability could not be estimated. For the same reason it was printed in very a modest amount, only around three and a half thousand copies (Carpenter, “A Biography”217).
The science fiction readers were the first to discover the book of LOTR. They were reading and analyzing it eagerly in their fanzines, in amateurishly published magazines. Shortly afterwards, it became a topic of discussion in Greenwich coffee shops, later at high school courtyards and university dormitories. Eventually, the book found the way into the hands of ordinary people (Carter 9).
The book received mixed critical responses however, Tolkien expressed contentment, since he was not expecting them to be so praising.
Some critics, such as C. S. Lewis found the book amazing and in Time & Tide he wrote that: “The book is too original and too opulent for any final judgment on a first reading. But we know at once that it has done things to us. We are not quite the same men” (qtd. in Carpenter, “A Biography“ 222) Another praise of the book came from Bernard Levin, who for the Truth said, that he thought of the book as “one of the most remarkable works of literature in our, or any, time. It is comforting, in this troubled day, to be once more assured that the meek shall inherit the earth” (ibid. 222).
There were also commentators who were critical about the book, such as Edmund Wilson, who treated the book as ‘A Boys World’ and according to him “all the characters are [were] boys masquerading as adult heroes” (qtd. in Carpenter, “A Biography” 223). Another, anonymous reviewer in the Times Literary Supplement said: “This is not a work which many adults will read through more than once” (qtd. in Lindrea), however, the opposite proved to be true. John Metcalf in The Sunday Times criticized Tolkien’s style by saying that: “Far too often Mr Tolkien strides away into a kind of Brewers, Biblical, enwreathed with inversions, encrusted with archaisms” (Carpenter, “A Biography” 223).
Many critics compared the work with Ariosto, Malory or Spenser. Despite the views, the books sold reasonably well and exceeded the publisher's initial expectations and six weeks after the publication a reprint was ordered (Carpenter, “A Biography” 220).
Although, LOTR was meant to be sequel to The Hobbit, and The Hobbit was originally meant to be for children, LOTR turned out not to be for children at all. It was drawn towards mythological work of The Silmarillion, which was for adults. Tolkien was aware, that LOTR was stuck somewhere between these two works and wrote to his publisher in 1938, while being in the process of writing LOTR, about “forgetting children and becoming more terrifying than The Hobbit” and that “it may prove quite unsuitable”(Carpenter, “A Biography” 190). Tolkien later, after the book was published, explained in The Letters by J. R. R. Tolkien his worries about children reading LOTR: “I found that many children become interested, even engrossed, in The Lord of the Rings, from about 10 onwards. I think it rather a pity, really. It was not written for them. But then I am a very ‘unvoracious’ reader, and since I can seldom bring myself to read a work twice I think of the many things that I read – too soon!” (ibid. 249) And later, in his letter addressed to Michael Straight, the editor of New Republic, he explained: “It is a ‘fairy-story’” and they are addressed to “proper audience - for adults” (ibid. 232, 233).
In America, positive articles by Auden, published in The New York Times, helped to boost the sales and made many Americans buy LOTR (Carpenter, “A Biography” 221). As Auden in the article from 22 January 1956 remarked “Nobody seems to have a moderate opinion: either, like myself, people find it a masterpiece of its genre or they cannot abide it…” (Auden, “At the End”). And this is how it has been like since then. Even Tolkien agreed on the situation then by stating:
The Lord of the Rings
is one of those things:
if you like you do:
if you don’t, then you boo! (Carpenter, “A Biography” 222)
The sale of the hardback version in the USA continued to grow consecutively. However after the book was published in paperback version – first to do so were the unauthorized publishers Ace Books in June 1965 and afterwards in October it was Ballantines Books, Tolkien achieved historic success. A sort of cult appeared in conjunction with the book. Tolkien was often associated with counterculture, with the Green movement in particular (Carpenter, “A Biography” 228-229). The reason why it had attracted so many people in the 1960s was the “distrust of technology and its effects” that Tolkien expressed in the book (“The People’s Guide” 205). He was known for hatred of industrialism and machinery and love of nature, which is evident in his work. People would often be seen wearing buttons labelled “Frodo lives” or “Gandalf for President”. His books had become a phenomenon.
Although the Ace Book version was unauthorized and the publishers paid no royalties, it was published very accurately and sold reasonably well due to its price. “Ace book had unwittingly done a service to Tolkien, for they had helped to lift his book form the ‘respectable’ hard-cover status in which it had languished for some years and had put it at the top of the popular best-sellers” (Carpenter, “The Letters” 229). By 1965, 100,000 Ace Books versions were sold but the figure altogether 250 thousand copies, 2.25$ (Ace) and 2.85$ (Ballantines), were sold in the USA (Carter 16). It was selling faster than Lord of the Flies or The Catcher in the Rye. People were reading The Lord of the Rings in cafés, in subways, and at bus stops; and millions worldwide continued to be inspired by Tolkien's work. By 1968 The Lord of the Rings had almost become the Bible of the "Alternative Society" (Yates).
The book began to be respected in American academic circles and was the “subject of the thesis with such titles ‘A Parametric Analysis of Antithetical Conflict and Irony in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings’ (Carpenter, “A Biography” 230). Also Tolkien’s criticism began to emerge in the University bookshops.
A fan-club, ‘The Tolkien Society of America’ had been founded, which also helped Tolkien in his campaign to eliminate the unauthorized Ace Books edition of LOTR from the shelves (Carpenter, “A Biography” 229).
Sales in the UK also rose constantly. In 1957 Rayner Unwin reported excellent sales of the book and sent Tolkien his first cheque for more than three and a half thousand pounds. This was obviously more than his annual income from the university. He was delighted but little concerned because of the taxes. Knowing this before, he would have considered earlier retirement (Carpenter, “A Biography” 224).
Although the book was selling rather well in the UK, it could have been even better if it sold in paperback edition, which was more affordable for the young people especially than the hardback edition, but Tolkien was known with his dislike of paperbacks, therefore the first paperback edition in England appeared fourteen years after the first publication of the book, in 1968.
During 1955 and 1956 the condensed twelve episodes radio version of LOTR was broadcast on the BBC. Tolkien, however, expressed his disillusionment about it. As he mentions in The Letters by J. R .R. Tolkien, he “think [thought] the book [was] unsuitable for ‘dramatization’” (Carpenter “The Letters” 228). He believed that the process of adaptation of the stories “reduced them to their merely human and thus most trivial level” (Carpenter “A Bibliography” 224). And another reason for the unsuitability of the book for dramatization which Tolkien emphasized was the space that was needed for doing so (Carpenter “The Letters” 255). Despite his disapproval, the radio version undoubtedly considerably contributed to the popularity of the book. In United States, the dramatization of LOTR was broadcast in 1979 and afterwards issued on tape and CD. (Wikipedia, “LOTR”)
One thing was now obvious; LOTR was not going to lose any money (Carpenter, “A Biography” 224). The sales of LOTR continued to rise during 1956. In 1957 Tolkien sold manuscripts of his stories to Marquette University, a Catholic institution in the Middle West of America. For this, he received £ 1250 (ibid. 224).
Stanley Unwin informed Tolkien that he might get offers for the film adaptation. They both agreed on certain terms: “either a respectable ‘treatment’ of the book, or else a good deal of money” (Carpenter, “A Biography” 226). On 19 June 1957, Tolkien received an inquiry from an American film maker, Forrest Ackerman about a possibility of making an animated film about LOTR. On 4 September the same year, the representatives of the same company visited him and he was given a copy of Morton Grady Zimmerman’s synopsis to the film to read. In The Letters by J. R. R. Tolkien, he expressed his disapproval of the synopsis and accused Zimmerman of being incompetent and having disrespect for the original. He blamed him for cutting out fundamental and essential parts of the film in favour of battles and not preserving the main idea of the plot. Despite having many objections to the concept, due to his lack of money he agreed on the film being made on certain conditions (Carpenter, “The Letters” 267, 271). The proposal, however, never got any further and the first film adaptation was made in 1978 by Ralph Bakshi.
It was not only money, LOTR was bringing to Tolkien. The expanding popularity of LOTR meant for him increasing interest about his writings from the readers, who would often write letters to him demanding more information about the book. It was the kind of popularity Tolkien longed for. At first, he would eagerly write exhausting letters in replies, however, since this was time consuming and time was what Tolkien lacked, he started to reply in brief.
The fans would often send Tolkien various kind of presents or inquire whether they could borrow the character names, taken from LOTR and use them to name their pets, houses etc. There was a case of hydrofoil, crossing from Calais to Dover in 1964 named by the famous horse from the LOTR called Shadowfax, which made Tolkien piqued (Carpenter, “The Letters” 349).
Since Tolkien’s telephone number could be still found in the Oxford directory in 1966, he would sometimes be bothered by unwanted calls from his fans. He had become sought out person for the interviews although he was known for not liking giving any. He neither liked being visited at home although he never refused to see anyone (Carpenter, “The Letters” 355).
In 1968 a film called ‘Tolkien in Oxford” by the BBC had been made about him. On the whole, being a ‘cult figure’ did not really please him, as he expressed in the letter addressed to one of his readers (Carpenter, “A Biography” 232).
LOTR has been translated into at least 40 other languages (Dutch 1956, Swedish 1959, Polish 1961, Danish 1968, German 1969, Italian 1970, French 1972, Japanese 1972, Finnish 1973, Norwegian 1973, Portuguese 1974) (Carpenter, “A Biography” 273). Tolkien analyzed and commented on them since he was usually not satisfied with the outcomes. He was concerned mainly with the author’s rendering of the names, as it was the case with the Dutch translation, which was eventually published after Tolkien’s comments in 1956. Other translations followed afterwards. Tolkien was even less satisfied with the Swedish translation. He expressed his outrage not only about the translation itself but the introduction inserted in the book by the translator – Åke Ohlmark, which he referred to as ”nonsense” (Carpenter, “The Letters” 225).
The translations were often bound with invitations to travel abroad and “be feted”, however, he only accepted one invitation, to Holland in the spring in 1958 (Carpenter, “A Biography” 225).
The sales of the book grew continuously and by the end of 1968 around three millions copies had been sold around the world (Carpenter, “A Biography” 231). “Students at Warwick University renamed the Ring Road around their campus ’Tolkien Road’, and a ‘psychedelic magazine’ entitled Gandalf’s garden was issued with the avowed objective ‘ to bring beautiful people together’” (ibid. 231).
Between 1954 and 1966 The Fellowship of the Ring was reprinted in Britain fourteen times, The Two Towers eleven times, and The Return of the King ten times. Second edition (1966) of all three volumes reprinted many times. All the paperback editions, English or American reprinted many times (Carpenter, “A Biography” 273).
Tolkien's book has influenced many musicians. Ledd Zeppelin is one of them, where the influence is obvious. They “have several songs that contain explicit references to The Lord of the Rings ("Ramble On," "The Battle of Evermore," "Over the Hills and Far Away," and "Misty Mountain Hop")” (Wikipedia “LOTR”).
Tolkien mania had lead to many fan clubs sprouting up all around. The enthusiasm from the book had spread to others countries too. In Vietnam a dancer was seen with the eye of Sauron on his shield. In North Borneo “Frodo society” was formed (Carpenter, “A Biography” 230).
The fantasy genre was known to have little readership in the first half of the twentieth century. Tolkien re-awakened an appetite for fantasy literature among readers and inadvertently founded the genre of "adult fantasy." The demand for fantasy fiction is to a considerable extent attributed to Tolkien’s publishing and the enduring popularity of the LOTR (Eaglestone, 162). The book was also awarded by the IFA in 1957 (International fantasy award).
Critics, trying to find some ‘bequest’ in the book analyzed it from many different points of view and continue to do so, even though Tolkien clearly explained his intention.
The prime motive was the desire of a tale-teller to try his hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them. As a guide I had only my own feelings for what is appealing or moving… As for the inner meaning or ‘message’, it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical. As the story grew it put down roots (into the past) and threw out unexpected branches; but its main theme was settled from the outset by the inevitable choice of the Ring as the link between it and The Hobbit (J. R. R. Tolkien “LOTR” foreword).
According to Tolkien, there was no 'message' to be conveyed to the readers. “... I [he] had very little particular, conscious, intellectual, intention in mind at any point” (Carpenter, “The Letters” 211). It was written, as he later explains “as an exciting story” (Carpenter, “A Biography” 212) and “as a personal satisfaction, to amuse (in the highest content): to be readable” (Carpenter, “The Letters” 211). In The Letters by J. R. R. Tolkien he expressed his amusement over 'interpretations' and expressed his worries about academics who are going to be “occupied for a generation or two by the search for the sources of LOTR.” (ibid. 379) He would also “remain puzzled, and indeed sometimes irritated, by many of the guesses at the ‘sources’ of the nomenclature, and theories and fancies concerning hidden meanings” (ibid. 418).
One aspect, which has invoked interest in Tolkien’s writing and continues to do so is religion. Tolkien’s mother converted to Catholicism and author himself was a devout Catholic. It certainly must have influenced his writings in some way. Many of his critics therefore argue that LOTR is an allegory. And to what extend is religion represented in J. R. R. Tolkien’s LOTR is the topic I am going to analyze in the next chapter.
3. 3. Christianity and The Lord of the Rings The Lord of the Rings is a book about the struggle of Good and Evil, the battle of Darkness and Light. It is a great fantasy as well as a great Christian novel. Tolkien as a deeply religious man had great impact on others. His long-time friend C. S. Lewis is known to convert to Christianity thanks to Tolkien. Their works are often compared, even though Tolkien’s faith was never overtly expressed in his works unlike those of Lewis’s, although it has shaped the Middle-earth to a great extent. Many critics read LOTR as an allegory. Tolkien himself detested allegory. In The Lord of the Rings foreword, he expressed his aversion towards it.
I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author. (J. R. R. Tolkien “LOTR” foreword)
Tolkien explained that he believed there was a ‘moral’ in most good stories, but these were not to be confused, since they meant something different. For him it was “just particular phase of history, one example of the pattern, but not The Pattern…” (Carpenter, “The Letters” 121).
Further, he also stated that “any attempt to explain the purport of myth or fairytale must use allegorical language” (Carpenter, “The Letters” 121) and they “must, as all art, reflect and contain in solution elements of moral and religious truth (or error), but not explicit, not in the known form of the primary ‘real’ world” (ibid. 144). He also thought that “it is [was] impossible to write any ‘story’ that is [was] not allegorical in proportion as it ‘comes to life’; since each of us is an allegory, embodying in a particular tale and clothed in the garments of time and place, universal truth and everlasting life” (ibid. 212). According to him allegory and story meet together in “Truth” and “the only perfectly consistent allegory is a real life; and the only fully intelligible story is an allegory… But the two start out from opposite ends” (ibid. 121).
Stratford Caldecott in interview for ABC radio explained that the story about LOTR is not an allegory and although it is full of symbolism, for everyone, the Ring can symbolize something else. For Tolkien the Ring was a symbol of power. According to him it was a “machine”, which gives us power to rule over the others. But since the Ring was forged by the Dark Lord Sauron, even if one would use it for good purposes, it would corrupt his or her mind (Caldecott).
Although Tolkien denied allegory he saw LOTR as a “fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first but consciously in the revision” (Carpenter, “The Letters” 172) and states in The Letters by J. R. R. Tolkien that “I [he] have [has] not put in, or have [has] cut out practically all references to anything like ‘religion’, to cults and practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism” however, he has “consciously planned very little” (ibid.172) and everything, all the Christian influence was put down to his religious mother and her Christian upbringing. Tolkien’s writings (LOTR) are known to lack any direct evidence of religion such as churches, symbols or rituals which is, as Tolkien explains, due to the historical context of the writing. LOTR is situated in the Third age that is not a “Christian world” (ibid. 220) Tolkien argues that LOTR was written as a Primary world, there is no meaning conveyed. “It is not ‘about’ anything but itself. There is no ‘allegory’, moral, political, or contemporary in the work at all” (ibid.232). C. S. Lewis backed Tolkien’s claim about LOTR not having any particular meaning. He wrote that: “these things were not devised to reflect any particular situation in the real world. It was the other way round; real events began, horribly, to conform to the pattern he had freely invented” (Carpenter, “A Biography” 190). Tolkien asserted that: “I [he] don’t [didn’t] feel under any obligation to make my [his] story fit with formalized Christian theology, though I [he] actually intended it to be consonant with Christian thought and belief…” (Carpenter, “The Letters” 355).
Despite LOTR being a Catholic work, even though not an allegory, many nonbelievers can still enjoy it. However, there are many symbols in it such as Frodo’s carrying the Ring into Mordor to Mount Doom, collapsing under the growing weight of the Ring. This in Christian symbolism resembles the journey of Christ to Calvary, the place of his crucifixion, with the cross on his shoulders, falling many times under its weight, which according to Caldecott could be understood as Frodo’s carrying the sins of the others. There are also other characters, such as Aragorn or Gandalf, who experience “resurrection”. Gandalf the Grey dies in the battle with the Balrog in Moria, but later comes back as Gandalf the White and as far as Aragorn is concerned, he returns from the path of death. Another very important thing, which many people do not notice is the date, when the Ring is destroyed. It is 25th March, which in the Catholic calendar is the day, when the Virgin Mary conceived Jesus Christ, which is a significant event for Catholics, “the turning point in the battle of good against evil” (Caldecott). Another significant event from the Christian point of view is the departure of the Fellowship from Rivendell, which is set on Christmas day (Eaglestone 46).
Caldecott also argues that there are some women characters in the story who suggest the resemblance with Virgin Mary, one of them being Galadriel, who, as the Elf Queen is very wise and supportive (Caldecott). Orcs, which used to be elves before but became corrupted, suggest fallen angels or devils, who were angels once, but because of disobeying God, they were punished. Also Boromir’s deceiving could be compared to Judas’s betrayal of Christ (Wood). Although there are many symbols suggesting the resemblance with Christian figures, Tolkien explained that because the story was set in the Third Age which was not a Christian World, the characters don’t worship God, practice any religious rituals, or talk about faith.
What is important to LOTR according to Chris Mooney, is “the central role of the virtue of pity” (Mooney), being emphasized by Tolkien in the book. Both Bilbo and Frodo decide to spare Gollum’s, the previous owner of the Ring, life. This “act of mercy” (ibid.) leads towards saving the world at the end, seeing that Gollum’s mission was not fulfilled yet.
Krivak states in his article that:
Considering Tolkien’s insistence that we not lose sight of the fact that the odyssey of the ring bearers is the heart of the tale, The Lord of the Rings is at its core a story driven by the classical motif and Christian tradition of the journey, the completion of which brings a character or characters to a change of heart, and to a deeper understanding of God’s salvific activity in the world. (12)
Krivak further suggests, that there is “the need to journey, the need to set out and return, or to set out and begin anew” (13), which links both classical and Christian literature, and that “what makes The Lord of the Rings religious without being about religion is Tolkien’s realigning of the classical and the Christian journey in a way that is constantly shifting the focus from the story’s design and purpose to the unfolding of characters’ decisions and actions, then back again” (13).
Krivak argues that: “Frodo’s burden-both the ring and the journey-is not fated so much as it is chosen” (13). An individual in classical narrative cannot chose the destiny whilst in Christian narrative there is a free will, given by God, which replaces the destiny and this gives us chance to make choices in our lives (13).
As far as Tolkien’s and Lewis’s approaches to literature are concerned, they were both against modern technology but they had different opinions about the conveying of the religious message through their writings. In Tolkien’s writing there is no explicit reference pointing to religion whereas Lewis’s works were known to contain such message, therefore for these visible references pointing to Christianity Tolkien disliked Lewis’s books (Mooney).
Tolkien is a religious fantasy writer drawing attention of not only Christian interpretations whilst Lewis is less likely to attract other than conservative Christian critics. Bradley Birzer admits that “the beauty of Tolkien is that he’s not explicitly Christian. I [he] think[s] I [he] would be turned off if we had Jesus running around the story” (qtd.in Mooney). There is no such thing in Tolkien’s writings; in any case some Christians treat the book as theirs (Mooney).
Tolkien unlike Lewis disapproved of convincing people into Christianity by argument. For Tolkien, churchgoing meant more than forcing people to convert by reading his works. He thought of it as not being effective. He “practiced the method of indirection, quietly imbuing his pre-Christian epic with concerns that are obliquely rather than overtly Christian” (Wood). Church was of more importance to Tolkien than Lewis, who approached it from individualistic point of view, whilst there is nothing of this nature found in Tolkien’s writings. Communal life constitutes the centre of his book of LOTR (ibid.).
Michael D. C. Drout’s statement, that “we can never know what the author really meant if our only evidence is that author’s text: the logic is circular” (Eaglestone 21), makes sense. He argues that “meaning in a text exists not only because an author has consciously put it there, but also due to factors outside the author’s control” (ibid. 21). According to Barthes, the impact achieved by reading the book should be of main concern of the critics, not the intention of the author (qtd.in Eaglestone, 21).
It is not that text itself has meaning, it is the reader who can explain it, and the effect the writing has left on him or her. This is an important fact that we have to consider when trying to explain what impact the religion had on Tolkien’s writings.
The interest in Tolkien’s works has never quite fallen into oblivion. It has even expanded beyond the cult status of the 1960s after the release of Peter Jackson’s film adaptation. In the next chapter I would like to concentrate on the period after the film release.
3. 4. The Lord of the Rings now or Tolkien rediscovered
Tolkien's critics continue to analyze his writings and his books continue to sell. “Other writers achieve popularity and admiration as well as critical acclaim; but the Tolkien books breed a kind of fierce discipleship that seeks to proselytize the unenlightened" (Dowie, 123). Even though, Tolkien’s was criticized for the use of archaic language in LOTR, his writing still remains popular.
Almost 55 years have passed since the publication of the first volume of The Lord of the Rings. What is so attractive about the book that makes people read it after so many years after publication? Why has the popularity of the work persisted over the years and why has it become even more popular than before? These questions I would like to answer within this chapter. One of the reasons, undoubtedly, is the release of the film version of the book, directed by Peter Jackson. Before I start to analyze Peter Jackson’s film, I would like to concentrate on and analyze the factors, which contributed and helped to maintain the enduring popularity of LOTR over so many years from its publication.
Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings has influenced and inspired many other writers, film and music industry, videogames and many more others. Numerous adaptations of LOTR have been made not only for the film and radio but also for the theatre. Books about Tolkien and his writings continue to be published. Many fan clubs were founded; thousands of websites are dedicated not only to the book itself, but also to Peter Jackson’s film adaptation. And this film, which had appealed to young people mostly, lead to the video games being created. Tolkien’s writing inspired also many musicians, not only in the 1960’s and 1970’s such as those I have previously mentioned but also heavy metal bands such as Blind Guardian whose whole album is based on the famous mythological writing The Silmarillion. Growing interest in LOTR, the film version especially, lead to many types of merchandising items being created such as action figures, jewellery, costumes, trading-card games, puzzles, collectibles, replica swords, maps, posters, postcards, calendars. The internet certainly helped to raise the interest in Tolkien’s works, which would have been impossible fifty years ago, that is one of the facts which we have to take account of, when trying to explain the enduring popularity of Tolkien and his writings. Admittedly, the end of the 20th century brought a vast range of possibilities how to make Tolkien’s works more accessible to all the spheres of society.
As far as the video games are concerned, according to Barry Atkins, they offer “a special form of engagement” (Eaglestone 151) to the players which is different to the one that the book or the film provides. It enables the player to “penetrate and explore” The Middle Earth (ibid. 151). “… the game appears to offer … the possibility of ‘immersion’ (ibid. 152). Atkins also argues that the interest in the video games with Tolkien’s theme is not due to the story told but for the “complexity of the evocation of place within the work” (ibid. 154). And “as Tolkien discovered after the eventual success of The Lord of the Rings, he had generated interest in a place, and not just a plot, and readers were keen to revisit that space” 159). This is exactly what can videogames offer to their players, the opportunity to visit the place.
LOTR was adapted to the radio version several times before but only the reading for Recorded Books performed by Rob Inglis in 1990 was captured in the full unabridged form.
The book was also adapted into the stage musical version in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001, followed by The Two Towers in 2002, and The Return of the King in 2003. Due to the insufficient funding, the first part of the trilogy was not successful however the other two parts succeeded among the audience as well as the critics. Consequential performances inspired the theatre producer Kevin Wallace and Saul Zaenty who created similar stage musical adaptation in 2006 in London. The original production in Toronto suffered from poor reviews and high costs which lead to the collapse after only 6 months of the production (Staines).
The possibility of transforming LOTR into the radio, film, stage and games forms brought Tolkien a new set of fans. The work has attained even more popularity now, as it was enjoying during the period immediately after the publication of the book.
The Reasons of continuing popularity of Tolkien’s works have been subject of many discussions of the scholars and critics for many years. It has been analyzed from many viewpoints; different questions of religion, influence, race, environment etc. have been raised in conjunction with his works. Ross Smith is one of the critics dealing with Tolkien’s popularity. In his article about Tolkien, Smith argues that the enduring popularity of LOTR persists due to the fact that his characters are not “‘squeaky-clean goodies or wicked baddies’” (Smith, “Tolkien the Storyteller” 45) as is typical of other novels that are “‘cracking good read’” (ibid. 45) and “the exciting pace and continuous action, combined with ingenious plots in them, provide fine entertainment. Yet these books are essentially superficial: the action may be gripping, but the characters are shallow and onesided, and in general are rapidly forgotten” (ibid. 45) Whereas Smith believes that Tolkien’s “characters are carefully developed, subtle and convincing …they suffer in the face of hardship, have to make difficult decisions implying sacrifice, occasionally become desperate and lose faith in their goals” (ibid. 45). Good wins in the end, but not without effort. He thinks that if LOTR was only “a childishly simple tale of good beating evil and everyone living happily ever after” (ibid. 45) it would not be so successful and would be long forgotten.
Smith also asserts that majority of fantasy writers writing in the same period as Tolkien are forgotten even though they
have created cities, continents, planets, galaxies, even parallel universes, but none have succeeded like Tolkien, because his Middle-earth was much more than just a setting for his novels; rather, it was his life's work, spanning more than half a century, during which time he sought to fill in every detail, to leave no corner of his enormous canvas blank. (Smith, “Timeless Tolkien” 14)
It is because their “universe” was not so “unique” (ibid. 15), as the one Tolkien had created and this is important element having influence on Tolkien’s enduring popularity.
According to Smith, the fundamental reason for Tolkien’s popularity and persisting success is his gift as a teller (Smith, “Timeless Tolkien” 19). Tolkien himself in foreword to LOTR states that it was “the desire of a tale teller”, which motivated him to writing the LOTR (J. R. R. Tolkien, “LOTR” foreword). He created unique world and used great details to describe his stories. “The sense of full immersion in a new reality is exceptionally strong and many readers find this a thrilling and powerful experience…” (Smith, “Timeless Tolkien” 18), therefore many of them feel the need to come back to the story and read it again. W. H. Auden in his article in the New York Times from October 1954 also mentioned that “Mr Tolkien is fortunate in possessing an amazing gift for naming and a wonderfully exact eye for description” (Auden “The Hero”). Everything is described into great details, which means as Auden claims in his review, for the same newspaper, of The Return of the King, that “By the time the reader has finished the trilogy, including the appendices to this last volume, he knows as much about Tolkien’s Middle Earth, its landscape, its fauna and flora, its peoples, their languages, their history, their cultural habits, as, outside his special field, he knows about actual world” (Auden “At the End”).
Robert Evans states in his book Writers for the 70’s: J .R .R. Tolkien, that, what makes The Lord of the Rings so moving is “his [Tolkien’s] retelling of our most deeply believed myths about ourselves. Tolkien [He] is read because he tells a good story, his power to command Secondary Belief in his readers is real” (Evans, 196).
As Smith asserts, “Tolkien placed language at the heart of his works” (Smith “Why the Film”, 4). He invented many languages and although he in the Foreword to LOTR expressed his doubts about people being interested in his work, due to being “Primarily linguistic in inspiration” (J. R. R. Tolkien, “LOTR” foreword), continuous interest of readers has proved an opposite to be true. “… his [Tolkien’s] imaginary languages have provided generations of readers interested in such things with a vast treasure-trove of material for their study and enjoyment” (Smith, “Timeless Tolkien” 18).
Smith also thinks that “Tolkien’s prose is ideal for reading aloud” (Smith, “Tolkien the Storyteller” 47) since the text is divided into fragments which accurately “reflect how the text would sound if spoken” (ibid. 47) and this fact also contributes towards the lasting popularity of Tolkien’s works. And “despite the lavish use of language” (ibid. 47), they can be easily read by parents to their children, which generations of them can manifest. The same opinion is shared by Ursula LeGuin in her essay Meditations on Middle Earth: “It’s a wonderful book to read aloud or listen to. Even when the sentences are long, their flow is perfectly clear and follows the breath; punctuation comes just where you need to pause; the cadences are graceful and inevitable” (qtd.in Smith, “Tolkien” 47).
LOTR ranks among books which people read more than once. According to Lord of the Rings Research Project online questionnaire 47, 4% of the 25,000 respondents had read the book more than once (Baker). Smith thinks that perhaps it is for the size of the book (Smith, “Timeless Tolkien” 16), or when we read the book with the benefit of hindsight we approach the writing from a different perspective. What seemed to be nothing but some trivial reading then, might bring us more profound literary experience now.
Tom Shippey in his foreword to The People’s guide to J. R. R. Tolkien suggests that “major … factor in Tolkien’s success has been precisely his bone-deep commitment to diversity” (Shippey, “The People’s Guide” 13) Characters in his writing are left to do what they please.
In the following subchapter I will concentrate on Peter Jackson’s film version of LOTR and compare it with the book version.
3. 4. 1. From Page to Screen or J. R. R. Tolkien vs. Peter Jackson
Although many devoted readers of LOTR might see Peter Jackson’s film adaptation as a “betrayal of the original” (Smith, “Why the Film” 4), since it does not faithfully reflect the book, one has to realize that to portray such a vast and into great detail elaborated work would be impossible. Much as Tolkien himself was not convinced that a film adaptation of LOTR was possible and would probably despise this film too, it has certainly helped to promote the book and to boost the sales. It also might have given the people who would have otherwise not come across this masterpiece the inspiration to read it.
The reason Tolkien was opposed to the idea of LOTR being transformed into film was his disbelief that “Hollywood would understand the complexity of his story about a mythological time when humans shared the earth with hobbits, elves, and dwarves...” (Krivak 2). The only reason, however, why Tolkien sold his rights for the book to Hollywood, was purely due to his lack of money, which he needed for paying a debt. There were few attempts for the filming of LOTR before Jackson’s adaptation, such as one made by Zimmerman, which Tolkien absolutely disliked and in the end the project was turned down and later another attempt made by Boorman, which proved to be too expensive for that time. Only Ralph Bakshi in 1978 succeeded with his first part of the two parts planned.
LOTR had a stable fan basis and the film created a new, even larger audience. Since there were many devoted fans of the book, most of them were suspicious and nervously expecting what Hollywood would present them, film makers faced a huge challenge to gratify the existing fans and to attract a new base of fans. The other challenge was to “transform a literary work, that was aimed at adults while read by children into a movie for teenagers” (Thomson, 47).
One of the big challenges of the filmmakers was the problem how to approach the book in order to portray the film as accurately as possible. One thing was clear. The literal adaptation of the book was impossible.
LOTR is so enormous and elaborate a work that it had previously turned many filmmakers off since to interpret the book faithfully was a huge challenge and everyone was aware that it was going to be a lengthy, demanding and costly process. Therefore Jackson is one of those courageous people who, despite all the risks, decided to undertake this journey. So in 2001 The Fellowship of the Ring, first part of the so called trilogy came to light, followed by second part, The Two Towers in 2002 and the final part, The Return of the King in 2003.
Rozema in his article states that in general the Jackson’s film was very well received and he managed to preserve “the essence of the original story and the spirit of the original characters” (427). However there are some minor objections, which he raises in the article. According to his statement, Jackson “failed to portray the true nature of the main characters in the story” (427). He suggest, that Jackson omitted important element, “moral-theological theme” (427), which is necessary for full understanding of the plot and the characters. His remark might be reasonable however on the other hand, taking into account that LOTR is very large work and a faithful interpretation in given time is not possible.
Tom Shippey thinks that “Tolkien’s narrative structures… are a part of his worldview. That is why they cannot be imitated on screen” (Shippey, ”From Page”). What troubled moviemakers was the fact, that LOTR has a lengthy beginning, that nothing significant takes place until about 200 pages are passed. From the reading of the book no one knows until then, what is it all about. What Peter Jackson did in order to keep viewer’s attention is that he put the explanation of what is going on at the very beginning of the film (ibid.).
Smith in his article raises few objections against Jackson’s film adaptation of LOTR. One of them is the cutting off of some scenes and inserting the new ones. Usually when transforming a book into the film, the removal of certain scenes and sometimes characters is inevitable due to the time limitations of the film, therefore it is necessary to compress a literary work into the required length. Hence the exclusion of Tom Bombadil is reasonable, since its removal has no impact on the storyline as such. On the other hand, Smith takes amiss of Jackson for omitting scenes such as the one at the end of the film, with Saruman destroying the Shire. He deliberately suppresses the dull and indistinctive scenes and highlights the “action-packed” ones.” Another objection, which Smith raises about Jackson’s LOTR is literary no build-up of the film comparing to the slow build-up of the book. According to Smith what is really great about Tolkien’s book is the long, gradually speeding up storyline unlike the one of Jackson’s which starting slowly, skips the building up stage and jumps straight into the action phase. “The steam locomotive, gradually and powerfully gathering momentum, becomes a bullet train, reaching top speed in a question of seconds and staying there to the end of the journey”(Smith, “Why the Story” 6,7).
Despite the mixed view the film brought, it succeeded in obtaining five BAFTA awards, four awards at the Golden Globes including the prize for the best film and eleven Oscars (all it was nominated for) at the 2004 Academy Awards including the best picture.
Many newspapers praised LOTR. Philip French in the article in The Observer from Sunday 14 December remarked on the film that “Jackson's Lord of the Rings is indeed a very fine achievement, moving, involving and, to many people, even inspiring. It redeems the debased cinematic notion of the epic” (French).
Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian on Friday 19 December 2003 wrote in his review about The Return of the King that: “With enormous energy and a passionately exacting eye for detail, Jackson has made the regressive-romantic legend live again. He has given the Tolkien myth a turbo-charged rush into the 21st century” (Bradshaw).
One of the LOTR fans, Robyn Kaplan, 24, waiting in line at the Loews 42nd Street E-Walk theater in midtown in Manhattan to see The Return of the King remarked: "I read the books and just really loved the stories …it's just . . . well, it's just the greatest story ever told" (Rosenbloom).
Minette Marrin in The Sunday Times on December 14, 2003 in her article commented that:”Great movies have always had great power, but the power of The Lord of the Rings seems to be of a different order. The entire world, young and old, seems to be mysteriously enthralled: the films have already attracted a passion exceeding in some ways that of the mighty Star Wars, and the box office millions that go with it” (Marrin). Marrin thinks, that LOTR has more to offer than just “mesmerizing fights and battles between goodies and baddies in an escapist fantasy world where reality is replaced by constant excitement, constant novelty and a happy ending” (ibid.) like its precursors other “myth-making” or “myth-makeover” films. It is because this myth was created by the specialist on mythology, someone, who really understood the process of creating anything like this and therefore, this accommodates people’s “hunger” for anything of such kind of art around the world in a better way. It offers more to the people, to whom the old myths do not appeal any more, who crave for more than the conventional myths can usually offer. Marrin argues further in the article that “what makes the films great is the story. And the story is a powerful collection of elemental myths that are woven together in a way that is spellbinding” (ibid.) LOTR is according to her a “parable about enduring hope” It is a story about love, friendship, heroism, bravery and points out at the fact that even the small person can be a hero and that is what the people crave for even nowadays. And “these days myth reaches the places that organized religion cannot reach any more, in the post-Christian world at least” (ibid.) And LOTR, according to Marrin offers religious experience.
Ian Nathan in the article for The Times from December 20, 2003 answers the question, why Tolkien’s books have mattered to the people for over 50 years. “The immediate answer is their mythical structure — the grand storytelling ethos that has been around for eons, the fantastical beings and supernatural powers that stand for a world beyond mere mortal grasp” (Nathan). And people like myths irrespective of the period we live in.
Smith thinks, that Tolkien would have hated Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of LOTR anyhow, since he was not interested in the visual art, but because of having degree in English and Literature and his love for languages, it was the language, that was central to his writings. He was a gifted story-teller and able to captivate the reader’s attention with his elaborated language. Thanks to the use of his lively and colourful English and “intricate detail” he was able to bring “the prose vibrantly to life” and such interpretation of the language in the film was simply not possible (ibid. 4).
The success of LOTR persists and the interest in the book is still great. Not only readers and film fans are attracted by the book but also the shoplifters in the UK. According to Ahmed Murad Fletcher, who in his article Book-stealing: want to buy a hot read? in The Times from February 9 2009 presents a list of ten most stolen books from UK shops, where LOTR trilogy is ranked on the 6th position (Fletcher). LOTR ranking among favourite books to read even though so many years have passed since its publication proves that the book still draws the attention of the readers.
The Lord of the Rings ranks among loved books and has been here for more than half of the century. Tolkien achieved success which many others had never hoped for. His writings have influence many fantasy writers and continue to do so.
In my thesis I tried to compare, how his masterpiece The Lord of the Rings was received in two different periods and I tried to trace the influence of religion on Tolkien’s writings.
First of all, in my opening chapter I offered a closer look on Tolkien’s background and how his writings came about. Next, in the core chapter, I dealt with the reception of the writing after the publishing of the book, not only in England, where the book was first published, but also in the USA. I also presented some critical reviews from different critics and reviewers and mentioned attempts for dramatization.
In the second part of my thesis I examined the popularity of LOTR after 2001alongside with Peter Jackson’s adaptation of the book which enabled many until then non-readers of Tolkien to get to know his writings and brought him even greater popularity than before even though Tolkien never approved of any adaptation of his writing for not being presented accurately because of the vast scope of the book. Nevertheless it certainly helped to revive the book and made it more accessible to the public.
And even though the book was published more than fifty years ago, it still remains its popularity due to many factors, which have been discussed above. The most important factor however argued by many critics is Tolkien’s gift as a storyteller and the details he used in the book to describe the story and the characters which makes it so attractive to the readers.
Alleva, Richard. “Peter Jackson’s Sorcery: 'The Lord of the Rings' Trilogy.” Commonweal 131. New York: 30 January 2004. 20 December 2008.