This month, J.W. looks at the new Hobbit Tribute magazine and holds a contest with a free issue as the prize. Meanwhile, in his mailbag section he answers questions about Tolkien and the movies Tolkien inspired.

J.W. Braun’s Mailbag:

Did Tolkien invent the names “Rivendell” and “Mirkwood?” – Sarah

Tolkien himself admitted that he borrowed “Mirkwood”. (It appears in The Tale of the House of the Wolfings, published in 1888, by William Morris.) “Rivendell,” however, appears to be his own creation.

Is it true that each Lord of the Rings film made more money than the last? Was this the first time this happened with a three film series? – Taylor

It is true, but the same thing happened with the Austin Powers series (which concluded in 2002.) Interestingly, both The Lord of the Rings and Austin Powers were New Line Cinema endeavors. – JW

Why did Rankin/Bass do a sequel to Bakshi’s film as opposed to just starting from scratch with The Fellowship of the Ring? – Fedword

Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings (covering only The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers) was released in 1978. Because the Rankin/Bass Return of the King (which was made for television) came out in 1980, it’s easy to assume that the Rankin/Bass project was conceived and made as a sort of unofficial sequel. The truth, however, is that Rankin/Bass began work on an adaptation of Tolkien’s third LOTR book at the same time Bakshi was beginning work on his adaptation of the whole thing – and it looked for a time like they’d both be covering some of the same ground. So why did Rankin/Bass choose to skip The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers – instead adapting The Return of the King as a direct sequel to The Hobbit? It seems that they didn’t want to do too long of a TV movie, and condensing The Lord of the Rings down to a few chapters from The Return of the King seemed about the only way to dramatically shorten the tale. – JW

On my Fellowship of the Ring Extended DVD it freezes at the shot of Orthanc, right before it shows Saruman and Gandalf walking. I thought it was just my copy, but my friend’s DVD does the same thing! Did they mess up making the DVDs? – Stephanie

The first Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition set has double-layer DVDs. These DVDs must have a code at some point which tells the player it’s time to switch layers. Because the picture sometimes freezes during the change, DVD manufacturers try to put the code in unobtrusive places. For the set you have, the layer break code on Disc 1 is at the shot of Orthanc. The code for Disc 2 is just before we see the Mirror of Galadriel. – JW

J.W. Braun is a Tolkien scholar and author of The Lord of the Films, published by ECW Press in 2009. If you have a question for him, simply drop him a line at

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