In light of the recent comments floating throughout the blogosphere pertaining to pet blogging, the creation of this mini-series occured. For the next four weeks on Wednesday, The Zeus Excuse will be presenting a brief, informative article on an author from the past who has withstood harsh literary criticism but has gained tremendous fame and respect. Consider this a reminder that good writing can happen concerning any subject, in any form, and at any time.
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (J.R.R. Tolkien, if you prefer!) has been the source of much literary criticism throughout the years. Such condemnation has seemed to be oblivious to the millions of readers Tolkien has touched with his writings. His most prolific writing was The Lord of the Rings, but to those who would think of it as a trilogy, refrain from such heresy!
Coming off of the success of The Hobbit in 1937, Tolkien was asked to repeat the process with similar stories. In response, he had produced The Silmarillion, a five-part mixture of poetry and prose relating the stories of Middle Earth prior to The Hobbit. Unfortunately, when this work was shown to his publishers, George Allen and Unwin, it was turned down because the novel was viewed as not commercially viable.
Tolkien had been crushed by the news concerning The Silmarillion; however, he agreed to try again to craft a sequel to The Hobbit. As he wrote, Tolkien held great concern for The Lord of the Rings. He often penned a letter to his publishers that displayed his personal critique for his writing and his internal debate as to whether or not his style would be accepted (which included invented names, invented languages, and invented writing systems). He continued nonetheless, keeping in constant contact with Allen and Unwin.
The first edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring had 3,000 copies released in July, 1954 in Britain. Houghton Mifflin in the United States had purchased the rights to print the American copy, and several months after the initial release in Britain, published 1,500 copies. When the second installment, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, was published in 1954, there had been 3,250 copies printed for Britain and only 1,000 in America. By the time The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was prepared for print in 1955, more than 7,000 copies were prepared by Allen and Unwin while in America, 5,000 copies were bound.
Amazingly, the novels were met by equal love and disgust. On one hand, they developed a huge cult following where, on occasion, people would secretly clamber into the subways and spraypaint "Frodo Lives!" along the dilapidated brick. The phone calls and letters Tolkien received were numerous and overwhelming, so much so that he and his wife were forced to remove their phone number from public listings and move. On the other side of the proverbial coin, critics deemed his work to be too eclectic and hard to follow. Others felt that his books were encouraging people to deny progress and to fantasize about a world long gone. Regardless of how one feels about Tolkien's work, it is undeniable the influence he has had on our imaginations, our spirit, and our culture.
For more information concerning J.R.R. Tolkien, please visit:
J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biographical Sketch
A listing of books and pamphlets concerning Tolkien