Christopher Tolkien, son and heir of the late J.R.R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, has stepped down as director of the Tolkien Estate. This heralds a tectonic shift in the well-storied legend of Middle Earth.
Just this year, Christopher Tolkien, age 93, edited and published one of his father’s works, Beren and Luthien. The names refer to Christopher’s father J.R.R. Tolkien and his mother Edith. The book was inspired by J.R.R.’s life with Edith, and the names adorn their tombstones. In the preface of this book, Christopher writes, In the preface of the book he writes, “this is (preemptively) my last book in the long series of editions of my father’s writings.”
Christopher resigned last August, and we’ve only just learned of it — and with the departure of Christopher R. Tolkien’s departure comes the end of an era. The battle for media rights to Tolkein properties has begun.
An $80 million law suit between Warner Bros. and the Tolkien Estate was settled amicably on July 3. Part of the statement the studio released at the time foretold the new agreement between Warner Bros., the estate, and Amazon Studios:
“The parties are pleased that they have amicably resolved this matter and look forward to working together in the future.”
The estate has now sold the television rights (as contrasted to the motion picture rights) for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Warner had paid the court to clear the decks so that this TV series deal could happen.
The new landscape of the Tolkien properties rights obviously opens broad new vistas in terms of development of these properties for various media, including many that simply did not exist when the motion picture rights were originally sold in 1969.
With the removal of boundaries, though, comes a new danger: how far removed from the original Lord of the Rings books can they stray before it becomes just generic Dungeons and Dragons fan-fic? The dilution of the original core of the fictional universe Tolkien created may weaken the properties to the point where they simply lose their value and appeal.
The Tolkien family still has significant representation in the board of officers of the estate, including Tolkien’s youngest child Priscilla Tolkien, as well as other grandchildren in the family.
Christopher Tolkien has carried the flame and spirit of Middle-Earth throughout his lifetime.
At long last, it is time to rest.
Thank you, Christopher, for all you’ve done, for all of us.