Tolkien’s Ghost to Sue All Writers Who Use Orcs, Elves and Dwarfs
I’m honoured to have interviewed the shade of the greatest fantasy writer of all time!
I won’t lie, I was terrified. This was the interview opportunity of a lifetime. I’d been granted access to the one and only J.R.R. Tolkien for a very rare face-to-face.
I can’t disclose the exact location that I was given; a place where the veil between worlds was thin, where dark things shuffle and dreadful madness creeps in the shadows. All I’m allowed to say is that it was just outside Stoke.
Arriving at a gloomy tomb in the hills, I was ushered by two stoic, black-suited agents of the Tolkien Estate into a back room. A chair and table, complete with some water and a few triangular sarnies, had been placed next to a crystal sphere. The glimmering orb was not unlike a palantír, though it had a Virgin Media sticker on the side.
Green smoke whirled inside the glass. The lights dimmed. A moaning filled my ears. I ate one of the sarnies.
The smoke billowed out into the room and from its depths emerged the shade of J.R.R. Tolkien, glowing green with a haunting light. His form was slightly transparent, like expensive knickers. His pale face was gaunt and his tweed suit was elegantly old-fashioned.
“Right, you’ve got ‘till twelve, then I’ve got to be in Rochester to open a cosplay convention,” intoned the great man.
“Er, hi,” I stammered, in awe of the legend. “Well, I’ll get right to it. I’d love to know what you think about the way fantasy has changed since you published The Lord of the Rings.”
“I’m glad you’ve asked that shit question, because it’ll save me calling a press conference. I hate talking to the living, you’re all full of bollocks.”
“Okay… so I take it there’s something you’d like to announce?”
“Obviously. You ask about how fantasy has changed, yet there’s still a ton of new writers, for want of a better word, who still use derivatives of my creations- the archetypal dwarves, elves, orcs and the rest. So I’m suing them. Any and all writers who still, decades down the line, feel it necessary to create rich fantasy worlds and populate them with big green thugs called orcs, short bearded miners called dwarves and pointy-eared waifs called elves. I’m lawyering up.”
“That’s… wow. That’s a bombshell. I didn’t know the dead could sue the living!”
“I can, because I’m J.R.R. Tolkien. If I still had back teeth, I’d be sick to them. Where’s the creativity these days?!”
“Well, if I may, your work was so iconic in forging the shape of fantasy, it was bound to be replicated. It’s a mark of honour and love that some people still can’t picture fantasy without the elements you created.”
“No, it’s a mark of being a lazy, fat bugger who lives with his mum!”
“Or ‘her’ mum.”
“With his grandmother? The point is, I mean, sometimes there aren’t even any differences. They have the same bloody culture, appearance, behaviours, the works. Video games do it all the time… whatever they are.”
“But they’re beloved hallmarks of fantasy! Wood elves climbing through the trees in their green cloaks…”
“Yeah, wood elves, you know. Elves that live in the-”
“I know where they fucking live! I invented them!”
“Well, uh, they’ve been re-used a lot since then. So have high elves.”
“Well, uh,” mocked Tolkien in a fine mimicry of my voice, “the next time someone uses High Elves, I’ll twat them with the wrong end of an Ent.”
I coughed nervously and shuffled, trying to think of anything to say other than ‘I am Groot’. I checked my notes.
“So… clearly you feel a strong sense of ownership over your iconic IP. But don’t you also admit that your creations were themselves inspired by folklore, particularly Norse myth?”
“Oh, yes, absolutely. But after being inspired, I went away for a while and did this little thing called ‘writing’, where I created new creatures with thematic vestiges of real folklore but fleshed out with original backstory. We didn’t have the internet then, pal. If you wanted to learn something, you had to go to a library. That’s a big building full of-”
“Books, I know!”
“I was going to say virgins, but yeah. So I don’t mind people coming up with new, interesting ways of using orcs. Or dwarves. Breathe new life into them, find new names and cultures for them! But if you write one more book featuring a wizard with a staff and a pointy hat, I’ll boil it, mash it and stick it in a stew. Then up your arse.”
“I see. I’m glad you said that. I mean, the first part, because I feel it’s important to let people be inspired by great works of the past, like yours. And many writers use iconic works as standpoints for satire and comedy, like Sir Terry Pratchett. I don’t suppose you’ve seen him lately…?”
“Have I seen him? Erm, no, you tool of a fook. There isn’t a bloody country club on the Other Side, you know! We don’t all sit around having afternoon tea with Glen Miller or playing golf with Ghandi!”
“Sorry, sorry! The mysteries of Heaven are… well, they’re very mysterious.”
“Who said anything about Heaven? If I was up there, I wouldn’t know so many lawyers.”
I laughed nervously, but Tolkien looked very serious. To be honest, he wasn’t as accommodating as I’d imagined. I decided to change tack.
“On that subject, there are many who see Christian allegory in The Lord of the Rings. Gandalf dies and comes back, for example. I bet you’re sick of being asked, but what’s your final word on that?”
“I want to bite off your ears and poop them out into Peter Jackson’s sushi.”
“Steady on! Er… so does that mean you don’t approve of Jackson’s movies?” I asked, hiding behind my notepad.
“The first set were alright, if a little cheesy. I liked the fellow who played Gimli. He was in Sliders. Top show, that. But the merchandising was more soulless than a Nazgûl’s arsehole. Lord of the Rings action figures! What’s next, the One Cock Ring? As for the Hobbit movies, well, they make the torture methods in Hell seem like a picnic. What’s with that Tauriel nonsense?”
“You don’t approve of the addition of a female character? Now that’s interesting.”
“Don’t get me wrong. Babes with blades? I’m down with that, check out Eowyn. But they crowbarred Tauriel in like Vanessa Feltz trying on people shoes. ‘Mellon’ she says! They only put her in it for her ‘mellons’, if you ask me. Sells more to sweaty teenage boys, my core market. Don’t even get me started on Radegast the shit-stained or Bjorn the sodding hipster. And you can shove your CGI Pale Orc where the light of Eärendil doesn’t shine!”
I felt the need to eat another sarnie. Honestly, I felt I’d lost control of the interview. Tolkien tapped his wrist impatiently. I ploughed on:
“So… can I just confirm for my readers… you’re serious about this lawsuit? You’ll sue anyone using elves, orcs and so on that closely resemble your own characters?”
“Yes, those people will be issued a court order by the most vile, twisted being I have at my command. A cursed creature, incapable of mercy or love, neither alive nor dead; a dreadful slave to darkness.”
“Worse. Katie Hopkins.”
I dropped my sarnie and let out a tiny wee of terror. The Tolkien Estate doesn’t fuck about.
“I’m… going to make a few edits to my latest fantasy story when I get home.”
“You do that, mouth-breather. Any more questions?”
“Well, just one. I think a lot of people are dying- no offence- to know this. In the Lord of the Rings… why doesn’t Frodo just ride an eagle all the way to Mount Doom?”
Tolkien’s face turned from stern to livid in less time than it takes to kill a Game of Thrones character.
“That’s it. I’m shutting your butt down,” growled Tolkien, before conjuring up a cloud of billowing green smoke.
Tolkien nabbed the last sarnie as the cloud enveloped him and he disappeared in an awkward huff. The smoke was sucked into the crystal ball with an unearthly shriek, leaving me alone in the room.
“Bollocks, I forgot to ask him if Samwise is gay.”