How wrong can you be (II)

Around 100 million copies of The Lord of the Rings had been sold by the end of the twentieth century, and 60 million copies of The Hobbit, with sales of around 3 million per year of the two books combined. Readers just love reading Tolkien's books. It's that simple. You can't force people to buy books or go see movies; there's isn't a magic formula (or ruling ring) to hypnotize readers and consumers (if there was, it'd be worth billions). And the Tolkien phenomenon began with readers. Back in 1937, 1954 and 1955, the publishers Allen & Unwin did their bit, of course, with reviews, blurbs, advertizing and so on, promoting The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but it was readers who first started the phenomenon that has become truly global.

Tolkien's influence on literature has been considerable, too, and not just in the realm of fantasy, sci-fi, fairy tales and related genres. As fantasy author Terry Brooks said, Tolkien 'was the premier fantasy writer of the last century, and all of us writing today owe him a huge debt.' No other writer W.H. Auden reckoned had 'created an imaginary world and a feigned history in such detail'. Colin Wilson agreed that only a few writers have concocted a total universe, and that Tolkien's was very impressive. Tolkien's mythological writings may be the 'largest body of invented mythology in the history of literature', according to David Day. Invented, that is, by one person. It's also 'certainly the most complex and detailed invented world in all literature'.
.
If you thought that there wasn't really a Tolkien industry prior to the 2001-2003 Lord of the Rings films, you were wrong. A massive Tolkien industry has been around for decades: the 2001-03 films were simply adding to that. The Tolkien industry consists of (among other things): Tolkien societies in many countries, Tolkien fan newsletters, Tolkien merchandise catalogues, Tolkien websites, Tolkien chess sets, decorative porcelain plates, fantasy posters, Middle-earth maps, Tolkien calendars, Lord of the Rings plastic figures (Mithril Miniatures, Harlequin, and movie tie-ins), music and songs based on Tolkien's writing, Tolkien's verse set to music, Middle-earth puzzles, fan fiction, Middle-earth poems, Middle-earth playing cards, Middle-earth games and activity packs, Lord of the Rings keyfobs, Tolkien diaries, a Hobbit birthday book, Frodo necklaces, Gandalf pendants, replica swords, replica jewellery (including the golden ring, of course), telephone cards, Kinder Surprise chocolate egg figures, Tolkien role-playing games (MERP, METW), Lord of the Rings stickers, Tolkien postcards, fridge magnets, and Middle-earth stationary. Tolkien fan conferences, seminars and symposia, Tolkien art exhibitions. Then there are myriad editions of Tolkien's books: limited editions, collector's editions, boxed editions, anniversary editions, pop-up books, cartoon books, etc.
.
Among the books dedicated to the world of Tolkien's fiction are: dictionaries of elvish, guides to Tolkien's invented languages, guides and atlases to Middle-earth, Tolkien bestiaries, teachers' guides to Tolkien, Middle-earth quiz books, Tolkien books of days, books of fantasy art, spin-off books, and spoofs (Bored of the Rings). BBC Radio versions of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit (on CD, tape, etc), audio books (read by the author, or by actors), film versions (on video, DVD, etc), and stage productions.
.
The combination of music and Tolkien includes bands with Tolkienesque names (thousands of them), acts singing about Tolkienesque subjects (Led Zeppelin, Rush, Genesis), and the many singers, songwriters and acts who interpreted the verses in Tolkien's books.
.
If that isn't an industry gathered around a writer's work, I don't know what is. Also, it existed quite healthily prior to the 2001-03 films (before the 2001-03 films Tolkien's books had sold in the 100 million plus mark). And it only occurs to a very, very writers (in the U.K., the Bront√ęs, D.H. Lawrence, Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, etc).
.
Extract from "J.R.R. TOLKIEN" by Jeremy Mark Robinson

No comments: