Paul found this article by Joseph Bartley about Tolkien. It’s from the Brisbane Courier Mail.

“Today on my way to work, as I do everyday I listened to the local radiostation taking in its below par humour and repetitive nature. I sat and felt alone in my car as the radio relayed news of an eighteen-year-old girl auctioning her virginity over the Internet. Time seemed to slide until I heard a question, a question asked to a caller who had six hundred and forty dollars on the line. “Who wrote the Lord of the Rings Trilogy?” the radio jockey asked, and the caller remained silent. The outcome of this small event was irrelevant but the implications are far reaching. What was a radio station doing with a “geek”- like question of this sort? Did they not stick to superficial irrelevant social questions? As I contemplated this oddity I began to realise the social implication of Tolkien, which I try to relay to you, the reader, today.

A good forty to fifty years ago a professor known today as J.R.R. Tolkien published the final book in his epic trilogy (which in reality was really six books) The Lord of the Rings. I don’t think anyone at the time would of even considered the possibility of how much effect these books would have on the modern world, as we know it today.

Without naming names or getting bogged down in politics and causing the possibility of a counter-argument to anything I am to write here,Tolkien was not overly loved and probably is not still today by critics world wide. Not long after the original release before any form of paperback, critics thought they had seen the end of the Tolkien epic and rejoiced. Little did they know they were dancing in a fool’s paradise. Today the tally of books sold is somewhere in the halfway mark to a
massive one billion. [nope, more like 100 million -Tehanu] At this rate it will be so in perhaps another forty years.

A recent survey of British readers confirmed the worst fears of these critics when it was named the most popular book of the Twentieth Century. This punched the final nail cleanly into the coffin of any
criticism of Tolkien the man and Tolkien the book.

So how is it so that this book of fantasy is the most popular around? Surely there is something more worthwhile to read or spend your time doing? The answer is obviously no!

Years ago on university walls you could read slogans such as “Tolkien is Hobbit-Forming” or “Frodo Lives”, but what did this all mean. The key is in the second slogan, which in essence was a public outcry for the Tolkien’s mythological world and beings to be reality. And in essence this is what it is all about, reality and how disappointed most of us are with it. Tolkien’s world is one of beautiful landscapes, wonderful creatures, magic, ghouls, goblins, swords, quests, battles and of course powerful rings. Some would call these people who long to live in these world “geeks”, but there is something they miss here! The “geek” as they so eloquently put it is in fact responsible for most modern marvels. The people who have devoted fascinations to anything that deals with this kind of mythology are generally hard-working, devoted, intelligent, moral individuals who have a very good handle on life. So why are they like this? Because they can escape and immerse themselves in an alternate reality and forget the worries of society today and return to it wholly fulfilled and ready to take on anything. And they do, they are responsible for many achievements, most notably the wonderful computer-generated images we see in modern films today. The “geek” is most certainly a more superior species to the normal human being. And of course who invented the worlds these “geeks” feed off? Tolkien!

There is a new wave sweeping over society today and the critics would do anything to stop it, throwing the label of “geek” everywhere they possibly can. It is the return of Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings in the form of three enormous movies. Suddenly now all of these “geeks” are coming out of the wood work in anticipation of this marvel and no matter how much we fire at them they will win out on top. Why? You may rightfully ask. Because today “geeks” outnumber the rest of us. With the surge of technology in all aspects of life, with our increasing need for entertainment we need these “geeks” to provide it to us. And what is the reason for a “geek”? These fantastical worlds which can all be traced right back to one man – Tolkien!

“How could one story inspire so much in us?” is a question I would like to answer but unfortunately it would make this article so long no one would read it. Therefore I will say only this. Some of the most significant events in the past from Star Wars to the hippy revolution to the birth of the Internet there was a “geek” or more appropriately a dreamer behind it. And these dreamers would escape and dream of a world a man invented so many years ago. A world that inspires them to manufacture valuable tools and movements in our modern society. This world is Middle Earth and the man is Tolkien.

Which brings me back to the radio and that question and my puzzlement at hearing it. Now I realise that behind the competition, behind the radio station inside some office somewhere is a “geek”, a dreamer coming up with new ways to attract our attention to his radio station. Now with the resurgence of Tolkien and the birth of these movies he feels more accepted in modern society for being a “geek”. And as he logs onto he writes into his latest question list for the competition, that question I heard this morning. The “geek” is a far-reaching phenomenon and sooner rather than later, we, the rest of us will find ourselves alone, outnumbered and perhaps considering reading Tolkien for ourselves.”