Archive for the 'Lord of the Rings, The' Category



Ottawa Citizen Article (February 15, 1979): ‘Tolkien Fan Sees Movie 23 Times’

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Every once in a while you see someone coming back three or even four times to one movie. The last time I saw anything like this fellow is when I managed the Rideau during the Beatles craze…

Reader’s Digest Article on Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings (January, 1979)

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A couple of notable excerpts:

The first volume of Tolkien’s trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring… ranks with those favored few works such as Catcher in the Rye and Lord of the Flies that speak directly to a generation and are remembered throughout life. It is notable that the Rings trilogy outsold these two, at their peak, at places like Harvard and Yale […]

United Artists owned the movie rights on the story for 12 years, during which two well-known directors spent nearly a million dollars on screenplays without shooting a frame of film. Both were planning a high-budget, live-action production.

The two directors were Stanley Kubrick and John Boorman, although Kubrick’s involvement is largely apocryphal. I have yet to find a reliable source for the legend, but here’s how it goes: The Beatles wanted to make a Rings movie, with John as Gollum, Paul as Frodo, George as Gandalf, and Ringo as Sam. John Lennon, a great fan of 2001: A Space Odyssey, supposedly met with Kubrick about directing, but nothing came of the project.

UPDATE: The Beatles wanting to do a Lord of the Rings movie, similar in style to Yellow Submarine, appears to be true, according to Stuart Lee’s A Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien (2014) and Nigel Cawthorne’s A Brief Guide to J.R.R. Tolkien (2012). Kubrick is not mentioned by either source, but he is mentioned in the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia (2007), which cites Apple Records film executive Denis O’Dell: The Beatles’ 1968 “plans… to make a film out of The Lord of the Rings with a two-record soundtrack… were shattered when designated director Stanley Kubrick declared that a cinematic adaptation… was ‘unmakable’.” It’s also widely reported that Tolkien, who would sell the film rights to The Lord of the Rings to United Artists in 1969, got wind of the Beatles project and instantly nixed it.

John Boorman (Deliverance, Excalibur) was the first director with a legitimate shot at getting a live-action Lord of the Rings film done. More on that tomorrow.

(Images via Artwork and Olde Paper/eBay)

The Honda PA50 `Hobbit’ Moped, 1978

Honda Hobbit Ad 1978

Honda Hobbit PA50 1978

The Honda PA50 was produced in the US from 1978 through 1983, where it was marketed as the Hobbit. That’s how popular Tolkien was at the time. The official mascot you see in the ad was not Bilbo, of course, but Honda Harold. How the company managed to trademark ‘Hobbit’ is beyond me. The references in the ad are unmistakeable allusions to the Shire and its residents—“bright happy Hobbit hops,” “a love of comfort,” “a very agreeable nature,” “a mighty friendly helpful fellow to take on your travels.”

The moped was called the Camino in the UK and Europe, where it was produced first (1976) and continued to be produced until 1991.

(Images via eBay and Wikipedia)

The First Authorized Paperback Edition of The Lord of the Rings (Ballantine, 1965)

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Tolkien did not initially want his trilogy to appear in so “degenerate a form” as the paperback book. What happened is that Donald Wollheim, then editor-in-chief of Ace Books, released an unauthorized edition of LOTR in 1965, believing, or claiming to believe, that the soon-to-be literary phenomenon was in the public domain. The Ace edition, being affordable at 75¢/book, sold extremely well, and Tolkien immediately came to terms with the vulgar paperback medium. Ballantine’s revised and authorized edition, priced at 95¢/book, appeared in October, 1965 (The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers) and November, 1966 (The Return of the King). Said Tolkien to his son in October of 1965:

Campaign in U.S.A. has gone well. ‘Ace Books’ are in quite a spot, and many institutions have banned all their products. They are selling their pirate edition quite well, but it is being discovered to be very badly and erroneously printed; and I am getting such an advt. from the rumpus that I expect my ‘authorized’ paper-back will in fact sell more copies than it would, if there had been no trouble or competition.

Wollheim’s unscrupulous maneuver—he was eventually forced to pay Tolkien the royalties he deserved—was the single most important event in the popularization of the fantasy genre and the birth of geek culture.

You can see the spines and back covers of the original Ballantine editions at Tolkien Collector’s Guide, where I found the images above. The cover artist is Barbara Remington.

Middle-Earth Mural Poster Puzzle (1968)

Middle-Earth Puzzle 1968

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The art is from the first authorized paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings, released by Ballantine in 1965. Artist Barbara Remington famously had not read any of Tolkein’s books before completing the project; she had only heard accounts from friends. The end result befuddled and irritated Tolkien, but became hugely popular with his young fans—and most everyone attracted to mind-altering substances.

Remington’s bright canvas came in a poster version as well, seen below. The demarcations separating the individual covers are obvious.

Remington Poster

(Poster puzzle images via eBay)

Warren Special Edition: The Lord of the Rings Magazine (June, 1979)

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Don’t you wish you could thumb through the whole mag, written by the delightfully weird Forrest J. Ackerman? Oh, wait. You can.

If you think the Lord of the Rings “sculpture banks” are an odd choice for merchandise, wait until I post the finger puppets.

TV Guide Article on the The Hobbit TV Movie (1977)

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Will the late author’s many fans take kindly to the TV version? Producers Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass insist that purists can rest easy: they rejected half a dozen scripts before settling on one that satisfied all the experts. The production features 13 songs and the familiar voices of Orson Bean, Cyril Ritchard, John Huston and Hans Conried…

Italics mine.

Still, I have a soft spot in my heart for this one.

(Images via Cool Ass Cinema)

Bo Hansson’s Music Inspired by Lord of the Rings (1970)

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LOTR Matthews 1977

Released in his native Sweden in 1970 as Sagan Om Ringen (“The Saga of the Rings”), Bo Hansson’s Music Inspired by Lord of the Rings first appeared in the U.K. and the U.S. in 1972. It’s generally characterized as “progressive,” but it’s more of an idyllic, psychedelic suite centered around Hansson’s spacious, dreamy organ. It’s something of a masterpiece, in my opinion, and yet another insight into the connection between psychedelia and the budding fantasy genre.

You can hear the original vinyl release here, and the international version is on Spotify (and Amazon). Hansson released a number of other interesting albums, including Music Inspired by Watership Down (1977), which are currently unavailable.

The third LP pictured above shows the 1977 reissue, set to coincide with The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings animated films. The cover artist is Rodney Matthews.

(Images via Dream Chimney, Etsy, and rodneymatthews.com)

Tales of Fantasy by Larry Todd (Troubador Press, 1975) (Part One)

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I’ve briefly talked about Tales of Fantasy before. It’s one of the formative books of my youth, and I was very fortunate to find a copy in good condition. I asked Malcolm Whyte, founder and longtime director of Troubador Press, whose idea it was and how the project came together, and here’s what he said:

Tales of Fantasy was my idea. I wanted to round out a trilogy—a fantasy trilogy—that started with Monster Gallery (1973) and included Science Fiction Anthology (1974). All three books were then marketed as a set: if someone had one of the books, he must have the other two. I was also interested in having some of the underground cartoonists illustrate Troubador books. I knew of Larry Todd’s interest in science fiction from the underground comix he wrote for and especially his wonderful Dr. Atomic character, and signed him up for Tales of Fantasy.

As we were discussing which tales to include in the book, I was astounded by Larry’s depth of knowledge of great fantasy authors and realized that he had to write the book as well as illustrate it. Tales of Fantasy has more text than most of the other Troubador coloring albums.

Larry is a sweet, engaging, literate, post-hippy eccentric… Last I knew he was one of the few of a dying breed of hand-done sign painters.

Troubador’s `fantasy trilogy’ marks a high point not only in coloring books (fine art coloring albums, actually), but in the kind of intelligent entertainment publishers and culture creators once offered young people. Todd’s descriptions of the various tales are exciting and comprehensive, and his art is as enthralling today as it was then.

Fantasy became a genre proper when the young people of the 1960s embraced and popularized The Lord of the Rings. In fact, there’s an important passage about Tolkien’s influence in Theodore Roszak’s definitive analysis of the `youth opposition’, The Making of a Counter Culture (1969):

The hippy, real or as imagined, now seems to stand as one of the few images toward which the very young can grow without having to give up the childish sense of enchantment and playfulness, perhaps because the hippy keeps one foot in his childhood. Hippies who may be pushing thirty wear buttons that read “Frodo Lives” and decorate their pads with maps of Middle Earth (which happens to be the name of one of London’s current rock clubs). Is it any wonder that the best and brightest youngsters at Berkeley High School… are already coming to class barefoot, with flowers in their hair, and ringing with cowbells?

The allure of fantasy literature was (and still is, to many) that it offers a vision of “the days when the world was uncrowded and unregulated and ‘natural’ man flourished.” Emulating Middle Earth and its intrepid adventurers—even channeling the Cthulhu mythos of H.P. Lovecraft—was a form of protest against the crass industrial establishment, which Roczak called the ‘technocracy’.

Most of the territory geeks claim today was inherited from literate post-hippies like Larry Todd, thanks in part to literate, daring publishers like Malcolm Whyte.

Kids Using Library Computer, 1982

Library 1982

Caption, from JournalStar.com: Bennett Martin Public Library volunteer Laura McKee, age 12, shows her cousin David Nolan, 7, how to use the computer in 1982.

The Bennett Martin Public Library is in Lincoln, Nebraska. Dig that Lord of the Rings poster! It’s the Darrell Sweet cover for Ballantine’s Silver Jubilee Edition of The Two Towers (1981).

My mom took me to the local library once a week. I was that kid.


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