A glimpse of The Hobbit on its last day

I flew out of Wellington late last week and – as the aircraft climbed into a flawless sky – caught a glimpse of Peter Jackson’s studios, with outdoor green screen, then of The Hobbit set perched atop Mount Crawford.

Yes, like a geeky Tolkien fan I had to pose in the entrance, such as it was - you could circle it, just like the door Aslan made to get rid of the Telmarines in .Prince Caspian'.
I just HAD to do the fanboy thing in the entrance to 2012’s Hobbit Artisan Market, central Wellington.’.

Shooting was wrapping up that day on the last pick-ups for the third movie. Ending, for Jackson, a fourteen year odyssey into J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantastic world that began in October 1999 with the first shooting day on The Lord Of The Rings.

In the process he planted Wellington, New Zealand, firmly on the movie-making map. Today we’ve got major Hollywood blockbusters under way in the capital – and top directors like James Cameron in residence.

It got me thinking. I was introduced to The Hobbit aged 8. It’s a timeless story. I re-read it recently, before I saw the movie – and it’s still got it. My nephew, now aged 8, is a fan and just loves watching the movies. It’s a story for all ages.

A story that, truth be told, Tolkien wrote not for the world, but for his own kids. And in creating something personal, something immediate for those he knew, he created something profoundly iconic – something that speaks to people of all ages, that spans the generations. In a way, it is a product of its time; his writing is firmly 1930s in many respects. But we don’t care.

That makes me wonder. Who do writers write for –  and how far do they get when writing for a specific audience, as opposed to a general one? What counts – commercial product or author satisfaction?

I have my own thoughts on the answers, and I’m sure you do too. I’d love to hear from you – let’s talk.

Copyright © Matthew Wight 2013


19 thoughts on “A glimpse of The Hobbit on its last day

  1. I have just begun listening to The Ring trilogy–I have the unabridged CDs–and have been remembering your wonderful posts on Tolkien. No matter how many times I listen or re-read Tolkien, I am enthralled not only with the story but with the way he put words together. I’ll finish the trilogy and then listen to The Hobbit, which has become my preferred order. A bit of synchronicity in my listening and this wonderful post. Thanks, Matthew!

    1. I always regard Tolkien as the English version of Wagner – taking the same mythic tradition and adapting the themes and ideas to the moment. To me the different ways they tackled the re-conceptualisation speaks a great deal about both these people and the cultures in which they were living.

  2. Both. A readership that appreciates what you have to say and who love your work giving your writer’s heart satisfaction. Then, maybe a little commercial value to keep up your supplies 😉 to make your stomach happy. That way you can write more books.

    1. Quite true. I believe even writing’s richest author, J K Rowling, actually wrote for her son to begin with. It all grew from there.

      The commercial side is a bit of a gamble, publishers spend most of their time trying to second-guess what will sell. It’s important; authors work best with a full stomach. Usually, though, any real money comes as a surprise.

  3. I think the answer is different no matter who you ask, but merely different in degree. Any writer, I imagine would like to make money from his work. It’s the amount of his focus upon the notion that varies. I see some writers out there cranking out books en masse that are too formulaic for this to be an accident. While other authors write brilliantly, but strictly from the heart. And some of these are mad geniuses whose work is incomprehensible to the masses, thus making little money. I think all must write from the heart, but remember the message of their own heart must be understandable to the audience. Somewhere in between the two, a balance must be struck.

    1. There’s definitely a balance. I recall the managing editor at Penguin NZ suggesting I shouldn’t write some of my transport books because they diluted my brand as a serious historian (which he was publishing). I had to point out that from my perspective the transport books paid for the other ones..

      1. Ha! It seems you are more savvy businessman than he. It’s great to be an artist, but we all have to pay the bills somehow. We cannot all count on a wealthy patron to support our lifestyle.

  4. For more than anyone I write for that young girl who continually found herself dissatisfied with the reading material available. Oh, there were many great books, and she read most of them, and she was deeply grateful that she had, but always there was something missing. Ultimately it became too late and so she passed on her desire, that book she’d always wanted to find, on to me. When I, too, failed to find it I sought to write it myself. Perhaps one day she’ll tell me if I created it, and if I did, then on that day I’ll consider myself successful.

    1. That’s exactly how I write my history books – I ask the sort of questions that I want answered. And, to my surprise, they often turn out to be questions that others want to know too…but that’s more coincidence than anything else, much of the time.

    1. I think all writers have to write for themselves – and it’s true of all the arts. It was Frank Zappa, I think, who said that he wrote music that pleased him, and if other people got pleasure out of it, well and good. To me that lends an authenticity to what’s written, whereas writing to try and second-guess what other people might want can cause the writing to be forced’.

  5. I think anything of value starts by being personal. It’s the personal spark of ingenuity that leads to something greater. Bestseller-success is a crap shoot, but an inspired stories well told will attract a loyal readership that provides for a “decent living”.

    1. Absolutely true. I think it is IS possible to ‘engineer’ a best seller, witness Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, but there is still a good deal of luck involved in the discovery of it by the target audience. Actually, the problem even for the better authors remains that discovery; and that’s one thing that seems to be resistant to deliberate engineering.

  6. I still haven’t read or watched The Hobbit – must get onto it.
    When you just make things up it’s hard to say who it’s for. I could entertain the universe better than my two kids, super fussy readers.

    1. Read the book first! It’s a gem, and – to me at least – way better than the movie. I first read it when I was 11 and it still gives today, (mumble mumble) years on.

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