No one who gets a postgraduate degree in Hobbit Studies ever imagines they’ll be sued by the Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. I certainly didn’t expect to wind up in court against Christopher Tolkien and his lawyers, like Frodo Baggins facing down the Nazgûl on Weathertop. Little did I know I was heading into a legal and scholarly Midgewater when I wrote and published The Lord of the Rings: A New English Translation.How I Defeated the Tolkien Estate. So funny I read it twice. Enjoy!
As anyone who’s read the appendices to The Lord of the Rings knows, both it and The Hobbit are Tolkien’s translations from the so-called “Red Book of Westmarch,” an ancient manuscript written in Late Vulgar Adûni. How Tolkien came to possess the Red Book is a mystery, and the Tolkien Estate has never allowed other scholars access to it.
I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and put my research skills to work on my defense. Unfortunately, the case law was sparse. The only similar case I found was The Estate of S. Morgenstern v. William Goldman over the latter’s abridged version of The Princess Bride. It was settled out of court. There was also Lemony Snicket’s lawsuit against Daniel Handler over Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography, though the court ruled that a pseudonym may not sue his own author, no matter how delightfully wicked and meta that would be.