Thursday, November 16, 2017

Christopher Tolkien, semi-retired!

So, the big news last night is that Christopher Tolkien has resigned (retired, I suppose would be a better word) as the director the Tolkien Estate. He'll remain the literary executor, but still, this is pretty big news. This announcement also comes on the heels of the big news from a few days ago that Amazon just acquired the global t.v. rights for a prequel series to The Lord of the Rings, and it's hard to imagine that the two pieces of information are unrelated.

Anyway, though, as can be gleaned from the comments section in the above link, Christopher Tolkien's centrality to Tolkien Studies is about as high as you can possibly get, and his influence on the field as great as any scholar, just about, could make to their field. I certainly don't know any comps, especially as C. Tolkien started his work decades before Tolkien scholarship became as prolific as it has been. I wonder sometimes if the fact that he's the son of Tolkien Sr. has partially obscured his scholarship -- before I began my dissertation (I admit this to my embarrassment), I had the lurking cynical suspicion that the plethora of new posthumous editions of Tolkien's was just a money ploy. Of course I realize that's all nonsense. A literary executor can make or break the reputation of a great writer -- Franz Kafka had a great one, Edgar Allen Poe had an awful one. The still-strong popular reputation, and the booming critical reputation, of J. R.R. Tolkien just wouldn't have been possible without the decades of work C. Tolkien put into setting and correcting new textual editions.

If someone ever complied a list of the top literary scholars of the 20th- and 21st-centuries, I'd have to imagine that C. Tolkien would make the top-20.

About the new Amazon series of LOTR, I have high hopes. I never really liked the Peter Jackson films, even his critically acclaim
ed first trilogy, and this could be something good. Of course, there's no script or ideas for the prequels yet, but Amazon has the money and apparently has the willpower and daringness to emulate what HBO did for Game of Thrones. Martina and I watched the first episode of Amazon's adaptation of The Man in the High Castle, and it was quite competent. (Although, ultimately, we didn't continue the series; as a Czech, Martina usually refuses to watch anything involving Nazis or World War II.) So maybe they could work some magic for these new prequels.

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