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| 1 minute read

Nordic company buys Norse-based mythology

Swedish game firm the Embracer Group has acquired Middle-earth Enterprises, the holding company that controls a huge amount of Tolkien-based intellectual property, which means the likely future adaptation of works which, to date, have remained on the page. On the one hand, Tolkien might be pleased by this were he still alive; Norse and Finnish mythology is embedded in the DNA of his stories and languages so he should be heartened by it ending up on the hands of owners from that part of the world. He also viewed his legendarium as something others could build on with their own creative input and never adopted the same proprietary attitude and hostility to fan fiction that many authors have. On the other hand, he could never empathise with the cult following his books garnered among the  so called "hippy generation" and he would probably never have dreamt of the plethora of media (games, TV series, films, merchandise and so forth) his works and their offshoots now dominate. Certainly his son Christopher was overtly hostile to the direction the franchise took and never thought cinema was the best medium for the stories anyway.

This latest development has some salutary lessons for other authors who, whether expectedly or unexpectedly, hit the big time. Don't sign your rights over without adequate remuneration and try to retain some creative control, although usually more of one means less of the other. Don't get too precious if your work is tampered with to make it fit the world of games, film or TV; the rules are completely different. And in granting rights to derivative works, be aware that in the future they may reside in creative media that no one yet has even dreamt of.

As a Tolkien fan I am relatively sanguine about the direction the franchise is going in. If it produces things I don't like, the elements I love will still be there. That said, I like to picture Tolkien's face were the producers to ever pitch the Hobbit trilogy to him; "Dame Edna rules the goblins, Poldark scores with an elf girl and Billy Connolly turns up at the end riding a giant pig. It'll be AWESOME!!!!"

But then he could take a look at what happened to "The Wizard of Earthsea" and he would instantly cheer up.

The deal also includes “matching rights” in other Middle-earth-related literary works authorised by the Tolkien Estate and HarperCollins – primarily The Silmarillion and The Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-earth – which were published after Tolkien’s death in 1973.


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