Guest writer Matthew Bossons brings us this fascinating look at how Tolkien fandom has made its way to China; and he reflects on whether Amazon’s upcoming Middle-earth series is likely to find fans there.
Panjiayuan is Beijing’s biggest and best-known antique market, regularly attracting orc-like hordes of tourists and locals alike to wander the warren of booths and stalls, both indoor and outside. All manner of old and made-to-look-old items are on offer here: jade carvings, stone Buddha statues, ancient coins, Chinese Communist Party pins and propaganda posters, replica Korean war medals and mounds of books.
On a brisk October day, while standing at a hawker stand specializing in old Chinese books – mostly Chairman Mao’s iconic ‘Little Red Book’ – I came across a curious title: The Art of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, in English-language and hardcover form. The book, a collection of sketches and maps made by Tolkien, was published in 2015 and compiled by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull – both well-known scholars of the ‘father of high fantasy.’
SO … you heard Amazon’s working on a Lord of the Rings TV series or a Middle-earth TV Series, or something, and now you want to be ‘read and ready’ when the show premiers (sometime later this year, we hope!). But you don’t know Tolkien from Tookish? Get your pens, pencils, or pixels handy! This is your Reading List to help you prepare! With the understanding that this list will go way beyond the scope of what Amazon has purchased the rights to work with, here’s what you Need to Read:
The Lord of the Rings: Especially allll that stuff after the story ends, known as the Appendices. VERY IMPORTANT! The Appendices are the source from which Amazon is generating, or on which they are basing, their storytelling; but reading them on their own will be of little worth if you have no context or passion for Middle-earth.
[Ed’s note – if you have a REALLY short amount of time, your ‘Cheat’s guide’/last minute revision is Appendix A I (i) ‘Numenor’ and Appendix B ‘The Tale of Years – The Second Age’.] [Amazon.com]
It is with a heavy heart that I write this news. Christopher Tolkien has passed away. He was 95 years old.
Christopher was the third son of our beloved author Professor J.R.R. Tolkien, and had spent much of his life honoring his father’s legacy and bringing us so many of the Professor’s works posthumously. He edited and published such monumental works as The Silmarillion, The Unfinished Tales, The Book of Lost Tales, The History of Middle-earth and, in recent years, the individually released tales of The Children of Hurin, Beren and Luthien, and The Fall of Gondolin.
Collider announced earlier today that 23 year-old British actor Maxim Baldry “has landed a significant role” in the upcoming Amazon Middle-earth TV series. Baldry is perhaps best known so far for his role in the 2019 BBC/HBO joint production series Years and Years. According to Collider: “Character details are being kept under wraps along with plot details.” While that doesn’t give us a lot to go on, ok almost nothing to go on, we do know that the new series is set in the Second Age of Middle-earth, which narrows down, if only slightly, what “significant role” might imply.
Today represents a landmark anniversary for fans of J.R.R. Tolkien. Eighty years ago, what started as a bedtime story for his children became an enduring tale that would eventually be translated into over 40 languages. Published on September 21, 1937, The Hobbit, Professor Tolkien’s tale of Bilbo Baggins and his great adventure through Middle-earth with a wizard and a company of 13 Dwarves, captured the imagination of readers young and old. Continue reading “The Hobbit celebrates 80-year Anniversary”
Adding to the list of rich foreigners who are buying land in New Zealand is singing sensation Justin Bieber. Fresh off a tour of NZ, during which he tweeted his love for the place, the ultimate Bielieber has entered negotiations to buy a substantial tract of land at Glenorchy, near Queenstown. The property includes various film sites from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, and is where many Lothlorien scenes were shot.
“What the world doesn’t know is that Justin is a massive Lord of the Rings fan – but the movies only, not really the books which he’s never read,” says a source close to the singer. “Although he knows about Tom Bombadil, he thinks he’s hilarious. He’s seen some Bombadil fan videos online and he wants to create his own, but using these woods that appeared in the films.
“His plans are to build a replica of the horse-people hall and hold big Middle-earth parties exclusively for his friends – but he’ll likely want some local ring-ins as character props, so anyone who looks really hobbity will have a good shot at being invited.”
Bieber spent a few days in Queenstown after his concert in Auckland before jetting off to South America to continue his Purpose World Tour. The source added: “I can say for a fact that he was overheard having several phone conversations with a “PJ.” Whether that was ‘the’ Peter Jackson, I can’t really say. I just know the conversations definitely mentioned Bombadil, something called the Sil-merryland, and roles of interest to JayBee.”
Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien will recognize that the ‘Sil-merryland’ almost certainly refers to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, an epic compilation of stories recounting, in part, the struggle of the peoples of Middle-earth against the dark lord Morgoth. “Getting the film rights was apparently going to be a major hurdle” said the source. “‘Impossible’ and ‘a real long shot’ were overheard quite often.” But apparently Justin hopes to use his considerable influence to sweet-talk some of the members of the Tolkien family and Tolkien Estate who are huge fans, and devoted Bieliebers, to release at least limited rights to some of the Silmarillion stories.
Regarding possible roles for Bieber, one can only guess. Given that his physique doesn’t lend itself to playing the rotund Tom Bombadil, and Bombadil doesn’t appear in The Silmarillion anyway, fans can only speculate that it would have to refer to some other major role. Given Justin’s rather elfin features, the roles of the heroic Fingolfin, or even the proud Feanor come to mind. The mention of “growing acceptance of gender neutrality trends” was reportedly also overheard by our source, so the roles of Luthien or Melian can’t be ruled out completely.
Meanwhile, if the Queenstown land purchase goes ahead, the Mayor of Queenstown Lakes District has promised to name Bieber as an official inhabitant of Middle-earth. “I’m sure I can get Peter Jackson down here to dub him with a replica of Anduril – the guy owes me a favour for having to muck up all the horse poo he left behind after filming the charge of the Rohirrim,” says the Mayor.