Through a Glass Darkly: The Diminution of Heroism in Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy

After recently rewatching Peter Jackson’s rightfully famous and well-regarded The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, it occurred to me that Jackson’s heroes are remarkably less lofty than their counterparts in Tolkien’s novel. If Tolkien’s heroes seem to exist in a time wherein heroes were larger than life figures that seem to defy the laws of humanity, Jackson’s are made of somewhat humbler stuff, plagued with doubt and required to go through the traditional hero’s journey in order for their personalities and their journeys to have meaning for their very modern audiences.

These changes range from the relatively minor to the significant, and some that appear to be the latter but are in my view the former. The shattering of Gandalf’s staff by the Witch-king at the gates of Minas Tirith might seem to be a relatively minor change in the context of the film as a whole, but it signifies that Gandalf, even in his iteration as the White, is far more vulnerable and susceptible to the power of his enemies than his novel counterpart. He is also plagued by doubt as to the fate of Frodo, and it is only Aragorn’s wise words that bring him back from the depths of despair during the events of The Return of the King.

Aragorn also suffers from this crisis of doubt. Unlike the Aragorn of the novel, for example, he does not at first set out with the intention of claiming the throne of Gondor for himself. It is only after fighting in the Battle of Helm’s Deep and gradually realizing the necessity of coming to Gondor’s aid does he seem to finally give in and accept the necessity of ascending Gondor’s throne as the rightful air. Admittedly, Viggo Mortensen does a magnificent job bringing together the essential nobility and world-weary aspects of Aragorn’s character, but there can be no doubt that, except in the very final scenes in which he appears, he definitely skews more toward the latter than the former.

The greatest casualty of this phenomenon, however, is the Steward Denethor, who definitely does not come out very well in his appearances in either The Two Towers or The Return of the King. This Denethor is not the proud throwback to the days of Númenór as described by Tolkien, not some lofty lord who has been slowly led into madness by his wrestling with Sauron through the palantír, but instead something of an arrogant and extremely deluded fool. Since the film does not really emphasize the fact that Denethor possesses one of the old seeing stones, we don’t get the sense that he has spent many long hours wrestling with the Dark Lord. Even his death is robbed of its rather tragic nobility, replaced instead with a disturbing scene in which Shadowfax kicks him into the pyre he had put together for himself and his son Faramir, after which Denethor runs screaming and plunges from the lofty tower into the burning city below. It’s visually striking, certainly, but not nearly the dignified and tragic ending envisioned in the novel, an ending that was more in keeping with Denethor’s lofty, if ultimately tragic, persona.

For Jackson, then, it appears that heroism is something far more bound to the foibles of mortality and the humble world of the flesh than is the case with Tolkien. His heroes are, for the most part, denuded shadows of their novel counterparts, cut down to a size that Jackson (for better or worse) deems more palatable and appropriate for a late-20th/early 21st Century audience.

Of course, part of this no doubt also has to do with the medium in which Jackson is working. While Jackson’s films certainly operate in the idiom and within the paradigm of the epic, there is still only so much detail, narrative complexity, and character development that can be squeezed into 3 hours. In order to get a full sense of Aragorn’s growth as a character, we can’t rely on pages of exposition and information revealed in the Appendices; instead, we must see the doubt that troubles him throughout his journey. We must be shown that he still bears the heavy weight of Isildur’s fatal weakness.

Just as importantly, the hero’s journey (so memorably outlined in the works of the mythologist Joseph Campbell in his The Hero with a Thousand Faces) has proven to be a remarkably durable and ubiquitous blueprint for Hollywood filmmaking. In that sense, it’s not surprising that Aragorn in particular becomes one of the people, in particular during the Battle of Helm’s Deep (in which he several times almost loses his life). It is worth pointing out that the release of Jackson’s film coincided with the resurgence of another type of film featuring somewhat larger-than-life heroism, the historical epic. Inaugurated with Ridley Scott’s film Gladiator, this genre also expressed a certain measure of ambivalence about the nature of male heroism, as Russell Crowe’s Maximus has to enter into the realm of the abject and the outcast in order to fulfill his historical and political mission (Robert Burgoyne makes a compelling argument about this in his book The Hollywood Historical Film).

While I may sound critical of Jackson’s film, I actually think it works well for what he is trying to do, and he definitely deserves credit for his portrayal of Boromir and Faramir, both of whom are compellingly drawn characters. In fact, I would say that Boromir, at least, is one of the characters whose characterization matches fairly closely between the book and the film. While the same cannot entirely be said of Faramir–who, after all, decides to take the Hobbits to Osgiliath in the film rather than unequivocally denying the Ring–he does emerge in The Return of the King as an essentially noble and heroic figure.

Clearly, Jackson has a different agenda in his vision of Tolkienian heroism for the 20th and 21st Centuries. That doesn’t mean that one is any less valid or intriguing than the other. It does, however, allow us to see the very different uses to which Tolkien’s work can be put in the visual imaginary.

The Exquisite Queerness of Jackson’s “The Hobbit”

It is no secret that we queers have always had an appreciation and an adoration of Tolkien’s work.  The richness and depth with which he paints the relationships between men–especially that between Sam and Frodo as they make their way to Mount Doom–almost inevitably strike a resonant chord with young queer nerds reading Tolkien’s work.  Jackson, whatever else he has done to translate Tolkien’s work to film, has also heightened and intensified the affectiveness of these relationships, depicting them with true emotional richness.  And, whether one hates or loves his new Hobbit trilogy, these new films have also opened up fascinating new avenues for queer reading and appropriation.

Perhaps no character in this new trilogy typifies this queer aesthetic as much as Thranduil, ably and memorably portrayed by Lee Pace.  Now there are some who have referred to Pace’s acting as scenery-chewing, and perhaps they havev a bit of a point, but hit is precisely the ever-so-slightly over-the-topness of his acting that not only renders him such a sinfully queer character (for some reason I always think of Jeremy Irons’ iconic portrayal of the villain Scar in The Lion King when I hear Lee Pace’s delivery) but also gets across some of the haughtiness and selfishness that was a characteristic of many of the less noble of Tolkien’s Elves.

Fans have picked up on these particular qualities, as in the gif below, which juxtaposes Thranduil (labeled here as the “Bitch King”) with the Witch-king of Angmar from LotR.  What strikes me as especially resonant about this image is the way in which it manages to capitalize on the elements of camp that suffuse Lee’s performance of Thranduil.  He is at once the idol of our adulation and a subject of fun, a powerful king in his own right yet also possessing the flaws of personality that will eventually come back to haunt him as he loses his only son to his own hubris and unwillingness to imagine a worldview (at least until it is too late).  And, above all, he is fabulous, and in his own way he manages to capture the cruel beauty of the Elves of Tolkien’s world.

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Just as importantly, however, Thranduil, as well as many of the other most notable characters in the trilogy, embody various elements of physical beauty so fetishized and adored by gay men.  For a straight director, Jackson has a remarkable penchant for casting lots of eye candy and dishy leading men in his roles, perhaps conscious that women and gay men (and maybe even some straight men) find male beauty fascinating.  And fans have responded, finding in these beautiful male figures an object to desire, to identify with, and to objectify.  One Twitter user, for example, utilized the image below to bring out the desires evoked by Jackson’s films, preceding Lurtz’s grisly visage with a listing of the leading men of both trilogies.

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Elements of the fan community have, of course, also embraced the queerness of Jackson’s iteration of The Hobbit with an enthusiasm to rival that of the earlier shippers of The Lord of the Rings (who can ever forget the legions of fan fictions and fan art depicting such memorable pairings as Aragorn/Legolas, Pippin/Merry and, of course, Frodo/Sam?)  While the Dwarfcest theme hasn’t caught on just yet (surely I’m not the only one who detected the on-screen chemistry between Dean O’Gorman and Aidan Turner as Fili and Kili, am I?), there is a remarkably invested fan following around Baggenshield, the inevitable pairing of Bilbo Baggins and Thorin Oakenshield.  Twitter is nearly bursting with memes, gifs, and images celebrating the bond between Hobbit and Dwarf, a celebration and an embrace of the obvious chemistry between Armitage and Freeman, as well as the equally obvious bond that develops between Bilbo and Thorin in the course of three films (I have even seen Bilbo referred to as Thorin’s “wife,” a particular reading that has queer written all over it).  One does not have to look far in the film to see glimmers of this queerness, as when Bilbo seems to hesitate about how exactly to define his relationship with Thorin, both in his last conversation with Balin and, later, when the auctioneer asks him who Thorin was.  This gap, I think, is crucial for the appropriation of this text by its queer fans.

While some might call this over-reading, seeking out something in the text that “isn’t really there,” I would draw our attention to the words of the late, great queer scholar Alexander Doty, who cogently reminded all of us that texts are always layered with queer potential and that finding, exploiting, and enjoying those potentials is just as valid as the allegedly straight readings that the mainstream so enjoys and attempts to enshrine as the norm.  Embracing these methods enhances our appreciation for the richness and variety of  readerly responses to Tolkien and the works he created and inspired.

Are Tolkien’s Orcs Really THAT Evil?

In the moral universe Tolkien created, good and evil, at least on the surface, appear fairly cut and dry.  Races like Hobbits and Men (at least certain types of them) are unequivocally good, while races like Orcs, Trolls, and the lesser types of men are transparently evil.  Anyone who has read his work with any level of attention to detail and depth, however, soon realizes that these moral divisions quickly break down; Gollum was in origin a Hobbit, and even many of the much-vaunted Numenoreans fell under the sway and influence of evil.  But what of the Orcs, those seemingly utterly dispensable minions of both Morgoth and Sauron that periodically emerge to scourge the rest of Middle-earth’s inhabitants?  Can anything even remotely redeeming or laudatory be said of them?

I would like to argue that it can.

For one thing, we must remember the origins of these terrible creatures.  The Silmarillion suggests that the Orcs were once Elves, taken by Morgoth and tortured until they became something utterly alien to their original natures.  When one considers the extraordinary physical and spiritual agony these Elves must have endured in order to produce the twisted, baneful creatures that we meet several times in the various tales of Middle-earth, one cannot help but feel at least a pang of sorrow and remorse that creatures as fair and beautiful (if often prideful and stubborn) as the Elves should be turned so thoroughly to evil and destruction.

Even though Orcs are cruel and seemingly immoral, hating all things (including, it would seem, themselves), they are not always obedient, nor indeed loyal, to the dark powers that constantly command them (usually through a form of intimidation and the threat of physical violence and pain).  Take, for example, the conversation between Shagrat and Gorbag in The Two Towers.  It quickly becomes clear that these two Orcs, at least, do not wish to be in service to Sauron, for they broach the subject of one day setting up on their own, out of the control and out of the reach of those who have so consistently dominated them and made their lives a misery.  While they will, it is suggested, maintain their Orcish ways, plundering and pillaging those around them, there is something in this particular passage that speaks of a desire to escape from the bonds set about them, that they do not, necessarily, enjoy being evil (though they clearly enjoy the idea of doing evil and violent things).  While they are clearly unrepentantly evil, it is not clear that they are, necessarily, irredeemably so.

Of course, one cannot ignore the fact that, with a few exceptions, the Orcs are rarely given anything remotely resembling character development.  Yet even this, I think, contributes to the reader’s understanding of them as a race victimized and abandoned by those who created them and continues to exploit their labours (which, of course, are not at all appreciated).  In one of his letters, Tolkien referred to them as the rank and file (a clear echo of his own experience in the trenches of World War I), suggesting to me at least that he intended the reader to view them with at least something of a sympathetic eye.  These are creatures, it seems, whose lives have no value and whose deaths (unlike those of Elves, Men, and Dwarves) receive no marker nor memorial from either their own side nor their enemies.

Some of this even bleeds over into Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, particularly in The Fellowship of the Ring.  Saruman, the traitor, asks his Uruk-hai henchman Lurtz whether he knows how the Orcs first came into being.  He notes that they were taken, tortured and mutilated, and rendered into a ruined and terrible form of life.  Indeed, Jackson’s adaptation does an excellent job of showing us the squalour and agony from which the Orcs (or at least this particular breed) are created.

Whatever else one can say about the Orcs, these few vignettes do allow us to see that they are more complex than many have them credit for being.  All of this, of course, raises significant questions about nature and about just how much sympathy we as readers are supposed to have for the alleged nature of these creatures.  I know that I, at least, am moved to at least some measure of…pity?…understanding?…empathy?…I can’t quite decide how to classify my emotions.  The Orcs are, in a way, the abject of Tolkien’s universe, the castoff and the refuse that has to exist in order for the moral order to make sense.  As with most cases of abjection, however, they evoke a complex and often contradictory range of emotional responses from readers, myself included.  But then, it is precisely moral complexity and questions of agency that Tolkien’s work always creates, and that is definitely a good thing.

Why I’m Not a Tolkien Purist

We Tolkien fans are, not surprisingly, a very diverse group.  There are those of us, for example, who are exclusively fans of Tolkien’s original works (and even then there are further subdivisions, as there are those who only like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings but not The Silmarillion).  There are those who came to Tolkien and then came to the Jackson films, and then there are those that came in the reverse order.  Perhaps no group is as devout, and often as judgmental, as the purists ( my Mother, who introduced me to Tolkien all those years ago, is most definitely one of them).

I think most Tolkien purists would agree with the assessment that, for them, Tolkien’s words and vision are, if not perfect, then quite adequate as they are and do not need meddling or changing, even in a film adaptation.  The most die-hard among them (the most famous and high-profile being Christopher Tolkien), have even gone so far as to say t Tolkien’s work is, in essence, unfilmable.  How could any film, and perhaps any television series, possibly do justice to a world so elaborately and meticulously developed as Middle-eath and a novel so equally developed as Lord of the Rings?  For that matter, how to convey so many of the rich and deep themes that Tolkien does explicitly through language?

Now, I’ve never aligned myself with the Tolkien purists, though I do recognize the validity of their viewpoint and am sympathetic to the concerns they raise about, for example, the translation of Tolkien’s work into screen (most notably in the films of Peter Jackson).  However, as a passionate fan of both film and the written word as Tolkien set it out, I always find myself caught in something of a conundrum, one that I’m sure many people who are fans of novels find themselves in when their beloved text is brought to the screen.  However, I do not find myself caught up (as a rule) in the mindset that Tolkien’s vision for his works should be respected at all costs, not least because, as a student of post-structuralism, Foucault, Derrida, Barthes, and the like, I don’t really think that authorial intention is ever fully recoverable nor should it be the only way that we read or take pleasure from a text.  Again, this is not to devalue that particular way of reading (and, indeed, I think with Tolkien it can be very productive to think through the author-centric perspective), but that shouldn’t, in my view, be the only, or even the dominant, aesthetic criteria by which to judge Jackson, or any other filmmaker’s, interpretation of it.  (Also, if I read one more reviewer or commenter who says that Jackson thinks he’s a better storyteller than Tolkien I think I shall scream).

Part of my coping mechanism has been, I think, to recognize that Jackson is a fan, and that as a result he has a particular vision of Tolkien’s work that he would like the rest of the world to see and enjoy.  This isn’t necessarily to excuse all of the decisions that he has made, particularly when it comes to the recent Hobbit films (though, as I have said elsewhere, I think they are truer to Tolkien’s vision than a lot of people give them credit for being).  After all, I still cannot quite wrap my head around the idea of the were-worms, even though it’s pretty thoroughly proven that they are, tangentially, canonical.  However, thinking of Jackson as a fan, and thinking of any work of adaptation, as a fan text can, I think, allow us as Tolkien fans to begin to find other ways of taking pleasure in and enjoying these texts.  I also remind myself that Jackson, like myself and countless others, particularly those who write fan fiction, has a stake in this vision, which helps me from becoming too irate at the changes he has made.

Remaining wed to a purist point of view, for me at least, proves more crippling than enabling.  Spending the entirety of a Jackson film nitpicking and teasing out every single change can provide pleasure, it is true, but for me it ultimately proves tedious and spoils the pleasure of the visual.  There are, I think, much more compelling ways of talking about the changes required from page to screen, as well as the motivations (both of the filmmaker and others) that motivate such changes.  It also, I would argue, helps us to think more complexly about the ways in which Tolkien’s works change and become ever more enmeshed in the world around them.  I suppose the most compelling reason that I am not a Tolkien purist is my belief that, no matter how many changes are made to Tolkien’s works as they are adapted to different media (and I know I’m not the only one holding out for a TV serial drama to be made at some point in the not-too-different future), the original works, complete with all of the other commentary that both J.R.R. and Christopher, and countless others, have provided, are still waiting for me, resting at their ease on my bookshelf.

In Defense of Peter Jackson, Tolkien Fans, and Nerds Everywhere

Peter Jackson has taken a lot of flack for the alleged butchering of The Hobbit, variously described as bloated, silly, crass, and all of the familiar insults typically hurled at his work, and at fantasy in particular.  Most frustrating, and revealing, however, has been the consistent charge that Jackson has caved in to his own fan-boy impulses, importing many subsidiary plots into the main narrative of his new trilogy of films.  Indeed, Laurence Dodds of The Telegrapg even went so far as to say that, in essence, “This [Jackson’s film trilogy] is typical nerdism, which cannot imagine an imaginative gap which does not exist to be filled.”  Nor is Dodds the only one to argue that Jackson has done something awful to Tolkien’s legacy, for no less a luminary than Christopher Tolkien, J.R.R.’s literary executor, argued in an interview with the French periodical that Jackson has turned his father’s work into banal entertainment designed to entertain 15-25 year-olds (it hardly bears noting that it is precisely that age group that originally gravitated to Tolkien and has also consistently kept his works in print).

What emerges from both of these critics is a sense that it is precisely the fans of Tolkien’s work that have done the most “damage” to his literary legacy (I referenced this point in my post about the vexed question of Tolkien ownership).  Of course, it should be no surprise that the literary establishment, the intelligentsia, and film critics should fall into such frankly lazy ways of dismissing the work of Jackson’s.  Indeed, the terms they use to dismiss his work are eerily similar to those the established critics used to dismiss Tolkien’s works when they were originally published.  And, borrowing from Tom Shippey’s impassioned and well-articulated defense of Tolkien, I would argue that these folk do not know how to read Jackson and that this, more than the failings on Jackson’s part, lie at the heart of their stalwart and stubborn (and often quite vicious) unwillingness to grant him any appreciation or critical approbation.

Again and again, the reviews keep saying that Jackson did something wrong (and downright avaricious) by pulling in the backstory to The Hobbit that was only revealed in the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings.  But, you know what?  I’m actually glad that Jackson has fleshed out his version of The Hobbit.  I know that I am not the only Tolkien/Jackson fan that was looking forward to the epic battle between the White Council and the Necromancer.  Was every part of that confrontation as I would have wanted it?  Of course not.  I wasn’t the filmmaker, and so my vision doesn’t always mesh with Jackson’s.  That doesn’t lessen my enjoyment of seeing this background brought in, however, for it deepens and enriches our understanding and appreciation of The Hobbit.  The films allow us to understand many of the unseen processes at work even in the novel, and while this may not be to everyone’s liking, as a self-professed Tolkien nerd I highly enjoyed it.

Through it all, and through everything, I have been struck by the emotional truths that these films reveal.  As I noted in my review of the film, I think that The Battle of the Five Armies hits the closest to the spirit of the North that The Hobbit gestures toward (albeit obliquely).  There is a sense throughout this film of loss and of sorrow, of fighting even though the effort seems vain.  As with The Lord of the Rings (both novel and film), The Hobbit (novel and film) suggest that, with every battle we fight, we cannot remain unchanged or unscathed.  We are changed, and there will inevitably be sorrow, and sometimes even regret, at what has been lost.  Sorrow and regret suffuse Tolkien’s entire ouvre, I think, and the marker of Jackson’s success as a filmmaker has consistently been his ability to capture that sensibility, glimpsed most powerfully in BotFA in the final scenes, as Bilbo returns to his home and, when asked who was his employer, responds, “My friend.”  Shortly afterward, as he stands in his ransacked house, he makes to put on the Ring and we, in the audience, know that he has indeed been forever changed by the actions of his quest, that there is no going back.  The simplicity of these scenes, the sparseness of the dialogue, and the raw yet subtle emotion conveyed by Freeman’s Bilbo, all combine to engender in the viewer a profound sense of sadness and loss, a profound sense of emotion that grants meaning to the entire film that preceded it.

Likewise, I have always thought there was a genuineness to Jackson’s endeavours.  He did not want, originally, to do The Hobbit film adaptation.  And who could blame him?  The critical and fan reactions to George Lucas’s similar attempt to flesh out the back story of his famous film trilogy must have been uppermost in his mind, and I’m sure he wanted to avoid inviting the same kind of venom.  Sure, there is quite a lot of bombast in this last film, but who can blame Jackson for having a bit of visual fun with this last visit to Middle-earth?  And sure, some of it may be a trifle overdone (I still can’t wrap my head around the giant sandworms), but that last scene, and several more, really make all of the CGI worthwhile.  It is these moments, such as the fraught parting of Thranduil and Legolas, or the emotionally resonant one between Thranduil and Tauriel, that show that, for all of the bombast, at heart Jackson loves this world and the stories contained in it.  All that he has done, he has done for love, for Tolkien and for the fans who have stood by him through all of his endeavours.

And as for those charges that he has somehow “ruined” Tolkien’s work or vision or whatever other idiotic expression the critic chooses to use, I would simply say this.  Tolkien’s original version of The Hobbit still exists, is still widely available, and is still in print.  If you prefer the (deceivingly) simple whimsy of that version of the story, by all means continue reading it.  I know I do.  But that doesn’t mean that Jackson’s version is complete rubbish, nor does it give anyone the right to dismiss (often in quite cruel and simplistic terms)  the nerds and fans who have not only made Tolkien’s work the cultural phenomenon it is, but have also dedicated substantial portions of their lives, and some cases their academic careers, to enriching their lives and those of others by finding new ways to appreciate Tolkien’s work.  Many of those same fans–but by not means all–have also done the same for Jackson, and I count myself fortunate to be one of them.  In closing, I would refer once again to Tom Shippey (still, to my mind, the authority on Tolkien), who argued some time ago that Jackson has provided one road to Middle-earth, though hardly the only one.  I know that I, whatever others may think, have been quite happy to go with Jackson down that road.

In Praise of Christopher Tolkien

Today I finally got around to finishing up a post I started two years ago. For some time now, I’ve been thinking about how very much we Tolkien fans–laypeople and scholars alike–owe Christopher Tolkien. From The Silmarillion to The History of Middle-earth (12 volumes!) to the upcoming volume on Beren and Luthien, Tolkien has been a masterful and truly dedicated curator of his father’s literary legacy. While I disagree with some of his positions (particularly about the Peter Jackson films), on the whole I admire him and feel very grateful to him for his willingness to devote his life to cultivating his father’s posthumous reputation.

Imagine how poorer we would be if Christopher (with the assistance of the wonderful Guy Gavriel Kay, a great fantasy writer in his own right) hadn’t managed to carve out a legible narrative from his father’s manuscripts to give us The Silmarillion. While I know that that particular Tolkien work is not to everyone’s taste, it’s important to remember that in many ways this later volume was the core of Tolkien’s entire life’s work. To my mind, no appreciation of Tolkien is actually complete unless one has read The Silmarillion at least once. To this day, I am in awe of the amount of dedication and editorial virtuosity it must have taken in order to gather together such far-flung and often contradictory fragments into a cohesive (and very compelling) narrative.

Or take, as another example, the publication of the voluminous The History of Middle-earth. While some might find this slow going, I was surprised (upon picking up the first volume some time ago), how eminently enjoyable it was to read. It really is utterly fascinating to see the ways in which Tolkien’s vision slowly took shape over the long years. While the works’ primary value is in showing the working processes of the elder Tolkien’s mind, Christopher’s commentary is often enjoyable, as he always has a keen grasp of his father’s mind, and one cannot help but be in awe of the sheer amount of hours it must have taken him to make his way through the mountains of manuscript pages.

However, it is also important to point out that Christopher has also been slowly but surely solidifying his father’s academic reputation. It’s no secret that J.R.R. was not a prolific writer of academic articles–something no doubt incomprehensible to today’s academics, who seem to exist in a perpetual state of anxiety about their lack of publications–but he had a mind that was more than suited to his chosen profession. One need only look at something like the extensive commentary in the recently published Beowulf  to see that Tolkien was that most extraordinary type of academic, i.e. one who brings a true passion to the material that he taught, translated, and loved.

One area in which I fundamentally disagree with Christopher is in his not-so-secret disgust with the way that his father’s work has been translated to screen. There is, of course, a great deal of discussion among Tolkienists about whether Jackson’s adaptations, and the question of whether or not they were faithful to Tolkien’s original vision (or whether that is even the right question to ask) will no doubt continue to motivate many in the community to write about it. While I disagree with Christopher about this, I do think that his is an important voice. After all, if there is anyone who is familiar with the intricacies of the elder Tolkien’s mind, it would of course have to be this man, who has done so much to excavate and make public his father’s work.

While it may seem impossible that Christoper Tolkien could unearth any more of his father’s work, those of us who just cannot get enough of the elder’s work are in for a treat this spring, when the stand-alone volume finally comes to bookstores. It’s hard not to be in awe of this venerable editor, who even well into his 90s continues to be a custodian of his father’s work and an inspiration to all of us who continue to yearn for more of the old master’s work.

We can only hope that Christopher has at least a few more volumes in the pipeline.