Over the years it seems Tolkien had to defend his writing against those who said the interminable Lord of the Rings was an allegory for anything from World War II to Catholicism. Which it clearly is, by the way. The religious bit rather than the war bit. He had his own horrendous experiences during the Great War before inflicting it on an unsuspecting world. He actually served at the Somme before being rather marvellously invalided out and spending the rest of it holed up in Blighty writing endless shite about elves. Or orcs. Or whatever they're called.
Apparently he never expected his work to become popular. I can see why. It's not a popular position to take clearly, as The Lord of the Rings trilogy has been voted Britain's favouritist ever ever book a couple of times now. It topped a poll of the nation's favourite book. This boggles my mind. Not that people like it at all - I get that other people have different opinions to me (I mean, they're wrong, obviously, but they are allowed to have their opinion) but for so MANY to cite it as their favourite book leads me to believe that most of those polled haven't actually read it but have some vague idea that it's intellectual-ish yet still sort of cool because all forms of nerdery are in.
Tolkein is hailed as the grandfather of the fantasy genre. Yep. He started it. And his first effort - The Hobbit - was discovered by accident by a publisher who decided to give it a whirl. Next thing you know people are gagging for stories about dragons, rings and hairy-footed midgets.
He's one of those writers who insists you become utterly immersed in the world he spent 10 years creating. You can't casually read Tolkien. You have to concentrate. You have to try and remember all the interlinking and back stories and details. And more than that, you have to care. All well and good if it wasn't so fucking boring.
I first came across Tolkien at school. I was 10. Our teacher used to read The Hobbit to us every week after swimming. I have next to no memories of school or my childhood but I remember the desperate boredom of these sessions in detail. I remember trying to stay awake while a cacophony of bewilderingly dull characters with ridiculous names bimbled around for aeons.
Many years later and being dragged to the cinema by my ex to watch the final Lord of the Rings film brought all those feelings rushing back. Three times I got up under the mistaken belief that it must have ended by now, only to realise that there was yet another scene of hobbits clinking tankers in fucking Hobbiton to endure.
And now they are making three more films of The Hobbit. Why only three? Why not split it into 12? 20? Squeeze 50 episodes out of it? Why not have it going on for fucking EVER?
I'm reading Titus Groan at the moment. Again. If you want a fantasy world that'll immerse you and won't treat you like a rather boring child, then you should read Mervyn Peake. What wouldn't I give to have someone somewhere put the money, time and effort into making films worthy of the world he created? Never going to happen is it? Not while the massive franchises crash on. And on. And on. And on.