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All That Glitters: The Return of the King

abstract:The third film of The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien opens today in theaters nationwide to cheers by moviegoers and readers.


December 17, 2003
— The blockbuster movies by Peter Jackson have definitely renewed interest in the books around the world. In Britain, The Bookseller reports that Britainís best-loved novel(s) according to the BBC Big Read poll is not the Harry Potter series or the beloved Austen classic Pride and Prejudice; itís The Lord of the Rings. In the United States, a recent article in USA Today noted that 14 million copies of the Ballantine paperback editions have been sold since the first movie came out in 2001.


But has Tolkienís classics been turned into mere merchandise? Last weekend the Boston Globe published a lengthy article looking at the "much beloved, misunderstood, and now massively marketed The Lord of the Rings. No quaint cottage industry anymore, marketing Middle-earth has assumed a world-girdling corporate form, a behemoth encompassing publishers, merchandisers, educators, law firms, webmasters, not to mention countless hordes of opportunistic hangers-on. For sheer commerciality, Rings has arguably become the most profitable fictional work of all time."


Tolkienís son Christopher is the estate's literary executor, however since rights had been sold off long ago, he can do little to combat the corporate marketers. Still, the article suggests, ďultimately, it's the estate's secrecy, protectionism, and reputation policing that may harm the Tolkien name, not the phenomenon's crasser aspects. By aggressively defending the family brand like a corporate bulldog rather than accepting it as a public artifact, the estate only reinforces the commerciality of the entire enterprise and alienates its most devoted fans."

Donít understand all this ďring madnessĒ? Read the books and watch the movies!

The Fellowship of the Ring (I) 

The Two Towers (II)

The Return of the King (III)

  • Movie... at a theater near you!

Also available:

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Gift Set (books)



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