Sunday, March 31, 2013

Aaron's Book of the Week :: The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

I drafted this back in the Fall, when The Hobbit was first hitting the theaters but neglected to post it. So belatedly, the Book of the Week is The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien, the second in the legendary Lord of the Rings trilogy. This is the 1965 Ace Books "pirated" edition, the first American paperback, with cover art by Jack Gaughan.

I previously covered the story of Ace's unauthorized edition of Lord of the Rings, and you certainly don't need me to tell you who this fellow Tolkien was. So let's use this space to discuss another aspect of the Lord of the Rings intellectual property rights, unrelated to the dispute with Ace Books. I confess I've never watched the animated Lord of the Rings films, so I was not aware of this oddity until researching the Ace editions for this blog.

It seems that when Ralph Bakshi was creating the 1978 animated version, the studio persuaded him to adapt the three books into two films. (That's not as odd as it sounds, since Tolkien himself never conceived of the story as a trilogy.) So for the first film, confusingly released (over Bakshi's objection) under the title The Lord of the Rings, the studio only acquired the film rights to The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. That left the door open, when Bakshi ended up not making the second film, for Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. (who did the previous animated version of The Hobbit) to make the 1980 animated edition of The Return of the King. The trouble is, they only had rights to the third book, so most of what occurs in the second half of The Two Towers, including the defeat of Saruman and what happens in Shelob's lair, is omitted from any of the animated films. Thankfully, Peter Jackson came along and made the whole issue moot.

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