“They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25,” Christopher Tolkien says, explaining why the family declined to meet Peter Jackson. In what’s said to be his first interview , published in  Le Monde , the 87-year-old executor of the literary estate and editor of the twelve-volume History of Middle Earth expresses his sadness over what the world his father created has become. He mentions not only the movies but video games and the like.

“Tolkien has become a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed into the absurdity of our time,” Christopher Tolkien observes sadly. “The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has overwhelmed me. The commercialization has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation to nothing. There is only one solution for me: to turn my head away.”

Christopher Tolkien’s own extraordinary work took not only a scholar’s care — he resigned as a professor of Old English at Oxford to do it — but a son’s devotion. He
received his father’s papers after the death: 70 boxes of archives, each stuffed with thousands of unpublished pages. Narratives, tales, lectures, poems of 4,000 lines more or less complete, letters and more letters, all in a frightening disorder. Almost nothing was dated or numbered, just stuffed higgledy-piggledy into the boxes.

“He had the habit of traveling between Oxford and Bournemouth, where he often stayed,” Baillie Tolkien [Christopher’s wife] recounts. “When he left, he would put armfuls of papers into a suitcase which he always kept with him. When he arrived, he would sometimes pull out any sheet at random and start with that one!” On top of all this, the handwritten manuscripts were almost indecipherable because his handwriting was so cramped.

Articles by David Mills

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