IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Simon Tolkien has left Frodo’s shadow

Until age 40, Simon Tolkien was sure he could not write. Now 51, he feels he has established himself as an author and is comfortable with the name he shares with his grandfather, author of “The Lord of the Rings.”
/ Source: Reuters

Until he reached the age of 40, Simon Tolkien was sure of one thing; he could not write.

After all, his late grandfather J.R.R. Tolkien, famed for "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit," was the author in the family, and he was a London criminal lawyer.

"The one thing I knew from a very early age was I can't write," Tolkien told Reuters in an interview to promote his second novel, "The Inheritance," published this week by Minotaur Books.

"We all knew my grandfather was this amazing man who could speak all these languages and do these amazing things; the professor," he said.

Living in the shadow of such a literary titan kept the younger Tolkien from even considering trading in his wig and gown for writing.

But as he turned 40 in 1999 and then with the hype ahead of the 2001 release of the Peter Jackson-directed blockbuster movie, "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," he had something of a mid-life crisis and decided to write.

"I wanted to create something," he said, adding that he found being a lawyer stressful.

Tolkien wrote a novel, which was rejected. He found a publisher for his second effort "Final Witness," published in the United States in 2002.

Now at 51, with the publication of "The Inheritance," he feels he has established himself as an author and is comfortable with his name.

"I feel much more at ease with my grandfather and being the grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien," he said. "Before I was writing I was very uncomfortable with it and when Jackson came on the scene I was exceedingly uncomfortable with it."

Tolkien's support for the Jackson's adaptation of "The Lord of the Rings" sparked a five-year falling-out with his father Christopher, who cut him off from managing his grandfather's literary estate.

But Tolkien said he has since made up with his dad and that he grew less fond of Jackson's work over the trilogy.

"I thought Jackson's movies got worse and worse as they went on, he lost character, he stopped dealing with character and you got more and more special effects," he said.

In Tolkien's latest book, an estranged son is accused of murdering his father but the policeman who charged him begins to suspect he may be innocent and reopens his investigation even as the murder trial is taking place.

Tolkien feels he has written something his grandfather would have appreciated.

"I think he would be more pleased with me," he said.

Fans of his grandfather's work can look forward to more movies. Director Guillermo del Toro is planning a two-part adaptation of "The Hobbit," which is in preproduction.

Fans of the younger Tolkien can expect another book soon. He says he has already finished his next novel, featuring the same detective as in his latest book, Detective Inspector William Trave.