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Julian Bradfield

It's a bit cheeky to claim copyright in your translations when they are themselves violations of copyright.

Incidentally, the appropriate translation of "professeur" wrt Christopher is "lecturer" or "fellow"; Christopher was never a professor. He started as a college lecturer, and became a fellow, but I don't think he even held a university position, though I could be wrong on that. The key ritual will refer to his position as fellow.


You are right, of course, but you are also reading this, right? If anyone feels injured by this translation as a copyright violation, they have only to ask and I'll take it down. The reason I have that notice on my site is that I was tired of seeing my translations on the web under other people's names.

As to your point about "professeur," the correct translation into American English, my language, is "professor." "Lecturer" is not used in the sense you mean in the U.S.


Many thanks for translating this very interesting article! Solid work and a read to remember.

It's sad to see that Christopher can't find any joy in the way the work has spread. Even though the form is (perhaps inevitably) eviscerated when reaching this wide, the genuine interest in the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien has expanded with it.

At the same time, I understand Christopher's perception of the movies and to a large extent agree with him.

Finally, I'm so thankful to Christopher Tolkien for his labour in making the writings of his father available.

Mark R. Shipley

I have to disagree that the philosophical impact of the novels has been lost. If anything, Tolkien's work has gained more power.

Tolkien remains the most important writer of the last century and the exposure of his work to a mass market so many decades after its first publication has insured that his creation will be a cultural signpost for at least another century.

That isn't a bad thing.

William Hickey

I am grateful to Christopher for making Tolkien's written world and imaginary world available to us. I would encourage him to know that some of us love his father's words while still appreciating the general imagery of the Jackson films. I've watched the movies about a dozen times but read the Lord of the Rings over fifty. One is worthy of the Oscars the other will still be read in one hundred years.


Y'know, I was a 15 to 25 year old who really enjoyed the films when they came out. They got me to read the books, which I might have never read if I hadn't seen the films. I understand that some of what his father intended in his books was lost in translation to film, but is that really a reason to use the word 'eviscerated'? I'd think the one thing to be happy about in all this is that so many people, including myself, will have read and enjoyed his and his Father's work because of all this popularity.
He can feel as he wishes though, and I still respect and am happy that he's put so much work into presenting us with his Father's world. Thanks for translating this article!

Lissa S.

Thank you for translating this unique article.

I sympathize with Christopher Tolkien; today, his father's work is known throughout in the western world - but what is known is the movies, the RPGs and the merchandise! Comparatively few have read the actual books and many believe The Lord of the Rings to be the title of just another Hollywood movie.

Sad indeed.

Terry Hutchinson

What I want to know is if he is doing a Story of Beren and Luthien the way he did The Children of Hurin. The poems in the History of Middle Earth were long, but cry out for that kind of treatment from Christopher.


Unbelievable article, thank you.
I always wondered how the relationship between Christopher and Peter Jackson has been, and now I understand.
I as well disagree on Christopher's perception on how Tolkien's work has erupted in today's commercialism after Jackson's films, however I do 100% understand him.
Imagine growing up from a seed around your father's work, your entire life, it sort of becomes like a religion. Then Jackson comes in, adds his own seasoning to the pot, and from book to film screen erupts this world to life that captures our hearts. I will always respect Peter Jackson for what he's done, no one will ever reach his pinnacle in bringing what is the greatest masterpiece to life.
I was 14 when I saw the Fellowship in theaters, then 15 when I read The Hobbit & Lord of the Rings. If it wasn't for Jackson, I can guarantee you that the passion I possess in Tolkien, and my growth & love for fantasy, sci-fi, and everything geeky would not be a part of who I am today.
As a fan, if Christopher were to read these words, I can assure him that the beauty & core of Middle-earth & its story is felt also within the movies.
Mr. Christopher Tolkien, from the bottom of a passionate fans heart and all fans out there, thank you for being a genuine warrior of your father's life and bringing the rest of Eä to our lives.

Paulo Brasil

My problem with Christopher is that he fails, and refuses to Recognize that the movies rekindled the love for Tolkien's life works and introduced millions of new readers into middle-earth and other of his works.

He seems more bitter about not seeing the green from the movies (which i think it's a real complaint and i don't have a problem with him claiming that).

But the fact that he refers to the fans letters and requests as IDIOTIC makes me really dislike the guy. And it's not because i don't like his work or don't appreciate his dedication. I loved Children of Hurin for instance, about as much as i loved Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion.

But he forgets that we still stuff his family's pockets full of money and they shun us away.

Tolkien wasn't like that when he was alive.
The fact that he expanded the universe so much was an statement of how he felt about his readers.

And Christopher just seems to absolutely not get it at all.

Alan Reynolds

". I understand that some of what his father intended in his books was lost in translation to film, but is that really a reason to use the word 'eviscerated'? "

One translation I've seen uses the word 'cannibalized'. Both would sum up my feelings about the movies and the attendant merchandizing.

Dan Hayward

Wow...anyone who honestly believes that the movies "eviscerated" or even "cannibalized" the original work, quite frankly, is simply a snob. The movies have dramatically expanded the reach, and rekindled the interest in, the books and the entire universe that Tolkien. Complaining about the merchandising??? How naive can someone be? This is simply typical upper-upper class snobbery - thy look down on the "masses" because they can't possibly believe that the average person could have the level of appreciation of art as someone so cultured.


I agree with Christopher Tolkien... esp after hearing reports of what is going on with the Hobbit all the changes from Tolkien's beloved book. I realize no film will ever be what the books were but there is no reason to turn that book into something it is not. Snobbery I don't see it as that I see it as maybe Jackson should have had a bit more reverence for what Tolkien wrote instead of finding every way possible to add his own written fanfare material instead. going over the movies compared to the books there are almost 3 hours of PJ made up material in them, much of the dialogue was modernized and changed, and. a few of the characters were totally changed from the way they were written such as Aragorn and Faramir. Yes the films were good but they did stray a bit far from the path in terms of being a good adaptation. I mean it was a good thing to get people interested in reading Tolkien again but if they need to change as much material as they did to make a good. interesting film, I would have rather waited another decade until the films were made with the utmost revernce to what Professor Tolkien wrote.


To Paulo Brasil > I think you're talking about things that you do not know. Christopher Tolkien and the Tolkien Estate are very open to requests. The proof is that they allow translations of some Tolkien's texts on some foreign websites without claiming compensation. If Christopher Tolkien believes that some demands are silly, is that they are clearly in this category.
Then you seem to forget that much of the money the Tolkien Estate receives is donated as grants to charities, then stop saying that they put it in their pockets.


I loved Lord of the Rings (not The Hobbit: no girls), and I also love old English literature and the Norse sagas, so I feel as if I understand why Christopher Tolkien, who is a scholar of those subjects, rejects the movies that turned the book into a sword-and-sorcery adventure with unnecessary trolls and plot twists that perverted the main characters' personalities-- Aragorn as a modern shrink-ridden angsty guy, Frodo as a kid, etc.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote that the thing that would bother him the most about his book made into a movie would be if the film changed the fundamental character of one of his people. Now, the Jackson movie completely changed the character of Faramir, and Faramir was the character Tolkien said he himself felt closest to. Given that one of the points of Faramir's personality was that he, and some people, are not drawn to the Ring of Power, I think Tolkien would have been disturbed by what the movie did to him.

But Jackson did love the books too, and introduced a vast audience to them. Surely some of those people will love them the way Tolkien would have wanted, and perhaps be drawn to the Old English literature and sagas by way of the movies.

Crom God of Steel

Poor Christopher. I feel sorry he feels that way , the flip side is of course that a lot of people who never read the books are now reading the books and can get a deeper connection with what Tolkien really was... By reading the original texts. I hope he comes around to that kind of thinking for his sake, it'd be a shame for him to pass away with such bitterness.


I think it would be good for Christopher and the Tolkiens to get together privately with Peter & Fran and maybe talk. I can see Peter cares about these works, and tho he may not make the decisions in regards to rights, that seems to be a lawyers turf, I can see some amount of needed healing and mutual understanding coming out of a private beneficial meeting.

James Watson

It seems to me that Christopher Tolkien may yet be persuaded to allow Sir Peter to film _The Silmarillion_.

To use the Fist Age of Middle-earth as an illustration, we are living in the time after the _Nirnaeth Arnoediad_, when the hordes of Morgoth grow ever more dominant, apart from the occasional heroic delaying action.* Therefore, _The Silmarillion_ will eventually fall into the hands of the servants of Morgoth, and when it does, they will delight in committing unspeakable atrocities against it. If there is then in the public imagination no likeness of the true story, the daemons will be little hindered as they teach men to see, in its name, a grotesque zombie that shall appear when they make its corpse to walk upon the entertainment screens of the future.

Thankfully, there lives today a man who, though tainted by the Shadow, nevertheless holds in his heart a genuine affection, if not actual love, for the sub-created world of Ea. Among those who have the talent and the wherewithal to bring a story to life for the great mass of mankind, his vision of Ea, though sadly all too imperfect, is immeasurably closer to the truth than that which we have any right to expect will ever arise in the heart of anyone else who will ever live, while this Satanic world endures. If this man, Sir Peter Jackson, can create in the public imagination a grand, noble, beautiful and powerful—albeit flawed—version of _The Silmarillion_, then the coming debauchery of the daemons will be significantly less effective. This is not only because the people will already possess a deeply ingrained and contrary vision, but also because the remnant of conscience, present even in the wicked, will have created in them an emotional attachment to that vision.

Please, let us have pity upon the spiritually destitute masses of this sad world. Let us supply their imaginations with some Goodness, Truth and Beauty which can help some of them to rise, perhaps, even to the level of Humanity.


James Watson

* Our _Nirnaeth_ may have occurred on 5th July 1945. It was then that the people of Britain, weary of the cares of the world, turned from freedom, embodied in Winston Churchill, to that species of slavery known as Socialism. The defeat of that great Man of the West was the death knell of the British Empire, sounding at the very moment of history when her indispensability to the freedom of mankind had just been proven beyond all doubt. Briefly, the light of freedom flickered dimly in the West, as it seemed that the United States might rise to the Imperial challenge, catching the world with republican arms as it fell from the royal shoulders of dying Atlas, whose ruddy health drained from his cheeks with the hideous blanching of Imperial red from that namesake of his revealed by the cartographers. But, alas! The United States suffered from a crippling birth defect, a schizophrenia foisted upon her by the clever but rebellious Britons who cut her like a limb from the Imperial body to which she belonged, the schizophrenia that caused Britons to reject Britannia, the children of Empire to be anti-imperial. Even more deadly was the growth of Socialism, which had already begun under the Wilson administration, and which was soon to turn malignant and metastasise during the Johnson administration. Today, with the fall of Europe already in progress and the United States teetering on the precipice, little hope, in Tolkien's sense of _amdir_, is available to us. How thankful we can be to that great sub-creator for fanning to white-hot ferocity the flame of _estel_ in our hearts, that was ignited and is sustained by the holy Word of God!

Kevin Margulis

"These hugely popular films apparently did not make any profit! We were receiving statements saying that the producers did not owe the Tolkien Estate a dime."

New Line Cinema (now part of Warner Brothers) is clearly practicing the now infamous "Hollywood accounting" where, despite the Lord of the Rings trilogy being on the list of the top-grossing movies of all time, they claim that their costs to produce and market the films (which they won't reveal to anyone) have consumed all of the top-line profits from the box office.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Line_Cinema#Accounting_practices reveals just a bit of the ongoing stonewalling that New Line/Warner's lawyers are still doing.

Kirk Spinks

An interesting article.

It's now 30 years since I first read the Hobbit at the age of 9. I went on to read everything else I could get my hands on & it has been a very powerful influence on my life.

I thinks it's unfortunate Christopher feels that the producers of the films 'eviscerated' the book. Translating such a complex written work to a different medium is no easy task, I'm grateful that they have and feel they've done it with the utmost respect to the original work. J.R.R. made compromises when publishing the book too, it's widely know he wanted to publish it in one volume and didn't like the title of third book The Return of the King, yet he made those compromises so the work could reach people.

Also, do people realize the films were in pre-production for nearly 10 years before the The Fellowship of the Ring was released? The huge amount of effort by hundreds of people, not just Peter Jackson, that went into bringing these works to life in film format shouldn't be undermined by petty purism, everything from artistry, sets, weapons, even down to beautifully designed clothes took a lot of time, dedication and investment to create. That same dedication is now being used to bring The Hobbit to film format too I, along with thousands of other people am really excited to see that happen.

No, I don't like commercialism, or the ridiculous merchandise that comes after, but each to their own, if people want to waste their money on that then let them, that's a wider issue that surrounds every piece of art that becomes popularized.

J.R.R. also had a dislike for allegory, so to claim that the films are in some way 'cannibalizing' the message of original story is to miss the very essence of why he wrote them - which was to tell a damned good tale that makes the reader, or watcher feel something, happiness, sadness, awe, etc. Any moral messages realized from the story are derived by the reader, not necessarily intended by the author. Obviously J.R.R. put his moral perspectives into his writing, but we're still left with the freedom to accept or reject them. Also, the book is full of action packed sequences so to bemoan them being expanded for visual impact I think is really just rather naive and a little childish. We now live in a very visual world so to bring the essence of telling a good tale into this day an age can only be a good thing when you look at the vast majority of junk that's churned out at the cinema.

When it comes to The Hobbit, there's a huge back drop of storyline that happened outside the original published book detailed in the Appendices of The Lord of the Rings & The Book of Unfinished Tales - J.R.R. rewrote the Riddles in the Dark chapter from the original published version of The Hobbit to be consistent with the sequel, so he clearly understood the need to be flexible with his writing.

It seems to me that some people, (possibly even Christopher himself) are just a little bit like the Noldor Elves, wanting to lock things in stasis, keeping all things the same, which is merely a form of purism gone to the extreme.

I agree with the statement posted above by Crom God of Steel. I think the Tolkien Estate should be embracing and working more closely with the producers of the films, that way they'd be far more empowered over whats happening and possibly better equipped to deal with the greedy film distributors too!

With love and respect for the works of a great man.


Brian Boru

Why should Christopher Tolkien meet with Peter Jackson for? What is not being understood here is that both JRR Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien were lecturers of Old and Middle English and Old Icelandic literature and, therefore, the best way to approach Christopher Tolkien is with that understanding. I have studied these things at University and I have read the books and seen the movies and have come to the conclusion that the latter are a strange comulgation of research into such scholarship and the conventions of the Hollywood action movie, the former being supplied by scholars in that research who were employed by Peter Jackson for the purpose of adding that texture to the movies, which in the end gets lost in the translation into the action sequences.

Once upon a time, through my former lecturer, my classmates and I met another lecturer in this scholarship who was actually tutored by JRR Tolkien at Oxford University and had a lot of professional dealings with him in the years that followed up to JRR Tolkien’s death. The thing that this lecturer told us was that The Lord of the Rings was a description of the Oxford University environment where the young graduates would live on campus in their own rooms who were supplied both a tutor to teach them and a servant known as a scout to look after them, which formed the basis of the Hobbits, Bilbo being modelled on the tutor, Frodo and his cousins on the undergraduates and Sam on the scout. Meanwhile, the quest was a description of the educational processes that the undergraduates went through to learn that scholarship complete with the conflict that existed between both medieval and contemporary learning often exacerbated by outside agendas, which the undergraduates experienced on the way, which still exists today. And after going through that process myself at the other end of the world from Oxford, an environment which I could only have been part of as the scout in both of the Tolkiens’ days, I have come to the conclusion that you can really only understand JRR and Christopher Tolkien if you have gone through that process, which is something that Peter Jackson hasn’t done.

I live in Wellington New Zealand, which is of course the centre from which the movies were or are in the process of being made and I can tell you that the productions of the movies are too far removed from the educational processes that made the books they are based on possible in the first place. Indeed the movies are only viewed by the people involved in the film industry in relationship to how it will bring other productions to New Zealand that will have nothing to do with the world that JRR Tolkien created. Meanwhile, the tourist industry only looks at in relationship to how its ‘Middle-earth’ campaign will help promote New Zealand as a tourist destination. And I think that is a shame given that JRR Tolkien’s ‘Bilbo’ was a New Zealander by the name of Kenneth Sisam, a graduate of Auckland University, who went on a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University who twelve years after tutoring JRR Tolkien went up against him for the professorship of their scholarship there, which had to be decided in the end by the vote of the Vice Chancellor of the University, on one of the rare occasions that he got to cast it, and obviously he favoured JRR Tolkien. And JRR Tolkien said of Sisam, in later years, that he owed him a great debt for teaching him how to reading the texts that made both his scholarship and the books possible.

And one thing that JRR Tolkien learnt from Sisam was that ‘middle-earth’ was the Modern English translation of the Middle English ‘middel-erde’, which comes from the Old English ‘middan-geard’ and the Old Icelandic ‘midgard’, all which, in turn, JRR Tolkien says is what he is referring to when he names the world his legendarium is set in ‘Middle-earth’. Therefore, when I see the monster that it has be turned into I am tempted to turn my head away too and can only conclude that if Peter Jackson wants to meet with Christopher Tolkien it can’t have anything to do with promoting film-making but has to be about promoting the educational processes that made The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings possible in the first place. And these books were both popular for the best part of nearly seventy-five years and nearly fifty years respectively before they were made into movies, which is why they were made into movies, along with the fact that JRR Tolkien and his family didn’t enjoy the tax breaks that the film industry has enjoyed.


I think to claim Peter Jackson has any 'respect' for the heritage of Tolkien is laughable.

One only has to consider the almost complete character re-writes of Aragorn, Elrond, Gimli and others to see his total lack of care.

(Disclaimer: I actually very much enjoy Peter Jackson's work 'based' upon the Lord of the Rings, but only in their own right, not as adaptations.)

The Lord of Rings is inescapably linked with Tolkien's Christian beliefs, and whilst we do not have allegories we do have strong motifs. Between them, Gandalf, Aragorn and Frodo all have Christ motifs running strongly with them.

When one starts rewriting this, it simply ignores the intent of the text.

As an adaptation, there is no need at all to re-rewrite Aragorn, Gimli or Elrond (my examples.) They would all work as well on screen as described (no one questions changes in presentation and abridgement.) However can one really imagine an Imladris governed by PJ's Elrond where the elves sing humorously to the Dwarves, Bilbo and Gandalf on their entry to the valley?

I think not. Peter Jackson has done entirely as Christopher described, made the Lord of the Rings into 'only' an epic adventure, though I would argue for all the family. A great deal of the filming is beautiful and it all 'works.'

Anyone who thinks PJ simply rewrites to make the story more cinema friendly is deluding themselves. Does a Gandalf (with Pippin) astride Shadowfax defying the Lord of the Nazgul at the fallen gate of Minas Tirith really film 'worse' than having a flying Witch-King blind side him and break his staff of office without a thought? I think not.

This is Peter Jackon's personal view of the world of the Lord of the Rings, how he would have written it if he had the wit to come up with such a work.

It's petty, and I dislike it. Thus I can never consider the films as adaptations without ire.

As films on their own merits, I enjoy them very much. Thus is a lovely quandary created. But I totally understand the position of the Tolkien estate.


The films were and are crass and poor works - a host of moderately talented artists, craftsmen & designers padding out a cynical appropriation that is highly insensitive to it's source work. Awful acting, modern-marketing inspired alterations and revisioning of the dialogue, formulaic CGI 'modern epic' visual style that already looks terribly dated. Their popularity is telling of insensitivities inculcated by technology.

Don Anger

CT did more to abominate the true vision of JRRT with his rushed '77 Sil and all its fabrications & omissions, for nothing less than the crass $ himself, that he's in no position to speak out against someone transmitting that vision in ANY way, let alone with such flair & measured integrity.

Shame on him!


I feel somewhat taken aback by the critical comments. When a director makes a movie adaptation of a novel, things do typically change. There is almost never 100% fidelity to the underlying book. I think it's naive to think there would be. I didn't like the elves coming the rescue of Helm's Deep, either. But a film director is an artist, too, and film directors must be given some room to express themselves. With actors too. That is why musicians become famous when they perform their own work or someone else's work: they are doing an interpretation. The good news is that there will likely be a re-make of LotR and The Hobbit someday, perhaps including Unfinished Tales, etc. And then, we will get to enjoy another interpretation. Welcome to art.

And yes, the history of films making profits or none is a long, ugly one. That issue is not new to these movies.

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