Christopher Tolkien Resigns

Even as the Lord of the Rings movies garnered critical praise, made billions of dollars, and won fistfuls of Oscars, one man was very unhappy with the films: Christopher Tolkien. The son of author J.R.R. Tolkien was an outspoken critic of Peter Jackson’s take on his father’s fantasy novels and, as the director of the Tolkien estate, stood in the way of other Middle-Earth-centric stories being told on the big and small screen.

But now, Christopher Tolkien has resigned as director of the Tolkien estate and that means more movies and shows (and possibly projects beyond that) set in this legendary fantasy world may come to pass.

TheOneRing.net brings the news of Christopher Tolkien’s resignation, which follows the publication of Beren and Luthien, described as “[his] last book in the long series of editions of [his] father’s writings.” Tolkien is 93 years old and has dedicated his life to preserving his father’s work, editing and publishing various stories and collections over the decades. Regardless of whether you agree with him about the Lord of the Rings movies or not (“They gutted the book, making an action film for 15 to 25-year-olds”), he’s the reason Middle-Earth, and the brilliant characters who inhabit it, endure to this day. His stepping down is a monumental moment for fantasy literature.

For the finer points of Christopher Tolkien’s legacy, I recommend clicking that link above. After all, they’re bonafide Tolkien experts and I’m but an amateur when it comes to Middle-Earth.

However, we can talk about the timing of this resignation. It seems that Tolkien resigned from the estate in August, but the news is just now starting to become public. And as you may remember, Amazon just signed a massively expensive deal to make a Lord of the Rings prequel series, complete with a press release touting the support of the Tolkien estate. At the time, this was puzzling – Christopher Tolkien didn’t like to play nice with Hollywood. And now we know why. This decision was clearly made without him at the helm.

To be clear, J.R.R. Tolkien’s daughter, Priscilla Tolkien, and various grandchildren are still members of the estate. However, they seem far more open to making movie and television deals than Christopher Tolkien…which means we could be seeing a lot more in the near future.

Hypothetically, this means that works like The Silmarillion could be optioned for television. It could also mean that a theme park could potentially buy the rights to build a Middle-Earth land, similar to what Universal Studios has done with J.K. Rowling’s work in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. For the first time in years, the Tolkien estate seems open to, well, making some money.

This doesn’t mean we’ll suddenly see a rush of Middle-Earth movies and shows, but it does suggest that the gates have been opened and things are on the table. And while I love Peter Jackson’s take on Lord of the Rings, I hope the estate continues to protect this world just enough. After all, Jackson’s sincere (and admittedly bombastic) work still feels in line with what’s on the page. Video games like Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, while fun, feel like they’re ripping Tolkien apart for spare parts and excuses to stab digital orcs.

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