World-wide attention is now focused on a little pub in Southampton, England (not to be confused with Southfarthing, Shire) called, The Hobbit. In service for more than 20 years, the location is something of a homage to the works and characters of J.R.R. Tolkien, one of which lends its name to the drinking establishment.
However, the book of the same name is also big business and The Saul Zaents Company, who purchased the rights to the book-name in question and The Lord of The Rings after they were sold by Tolkien, has threatened the pub with legal action. According to the BBC, “It (the pub) features characters from Tolkien’s stories on its signs, has “Frodo” and “Gandalf” cocktails on the menu, and the face of Lord of the Rings film star Elijah Wood on its loyalty card.”
Headquartered in Berkely, California, the rights-holding company says this on its website:
“Middle-earth Enterprises owns exclusive worldwide rights to motion picture, merchandising, stage and other rights in certain literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien including The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. We have produced and licensed films, stage productions and merchandise based on these Tolkien works for more than thirty-five years.”
The story is similar to another case where a cafe was told to change its name, that time in Birmingham and these are two of other examples that may include fan websites.
This time however, word of the events have gained more world-wide media attention, partly because of a Facebook page offering support of the pub. Twitter has also played a part, spreading the word quickly and even prompting a tweet from Stephen Fry that said, “sometimes I’m ashamed of the business I’m in. What pointless, self-defeating bullying.” Fry plays the Master of Laketown in one of those licensed films, Peter Jackson’s two-part adaptation of The Hobbit. A search will prompt dozens of news stories from all corners of the web and even regions of the world.
Landlady Stella Mary Roberts talked to the BBC about the pub:
“We were absolutely stunned. It was completely unexpected, we never intended to infringe anyone’s copyright. Are we doing any harm? I don’t think so. We’re bringing people to the books and the stories who haven’t heard of JRR Tolkien. We don’t have the financial resources to fight it – I can’t fight Hollywood.”
The topic was discussed on TORn Tuesday and has also been a topic on our message boards. A Twitter account @savethehobbit has also been created to rally readers and was what prompted Fry’s response. Thanks to all the many, many readers who wrote in with news tips.