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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
LOTR vs. Bible

Paulo Gabriel

Oct 29 2021, 9:15pm

Post #1 of 8 (1743 views)
LOTR vs. Bible Can't Post

Well, not what you might be thinking from the topic's title.

Joan Barger wrote in her review of ROTK (the movie): "claiming that it [undertaking the project of adapting LOTR to the big screen) was a risky venture, that Jackson and New Line were taking a tremendous risk in the project (and thus implying that we have a moral obligation to be grateful) is also a bit disingenuous. Making a film based on a classic book, one which has remained as few have continuously in print for nearly half-a-century, all around the world, perhaps more widely read than Scripture, beloved by generations of readers, and which itself was guaranteed to bring in viewers simply to critique it a risk? When I compare the problems all self-created in producing LOTR-M, with the history of filming epics, adaptations or otherwise, from the past, I shake my head. Huston took risks, Kurosawa took risks, Lean took risks, their studios took risks but that there was risk involved in making a long special-effects laden movie post-Indiana Jones, full of medievalesque battles, post-Braveheart, and packing in extraneous romance, post-Titanic really now"!

Emphasis mine.

There is a wider context in the review, but I feel that I have already provided more than enough of that for my question. So, "cutting to the chase": Barger says on that excerpt, amongst other things, that LOTR is (albeit with the qualifier "perhaps") more widely read than Scripture".

Well, needless to say (but being pedantic as I am, I will say it anyway): Scripture = The Bible (the "Christian" Bible, presumably).

My question, finally, then, is this: on what it can be said the LOTR beats the Bible in readership?

IOW, can we say she was accurate in her assessment?

(This post was edited by Ataahua on Oct 30 2021, 9:42pm)


Oct 31 2021, 6:38pm

Post #2 of 8 (1600 views)
I think this is a case of somebody engaging in hyperbole. [In reply to] Can't Post

Clearly, if we interpret this statement literally, it's not true. The Bible has a head start of a few centuries on LOTR in terms of attracting readers.

That being said, LOTR and the Bible might be competitive in terms of readers if we are looking only at the 20th/21st centuries, but even then the Bible would likely be favored.

Tolkien R.J.J

Nov 1 2021, 1:25am

Post #3 of 8 (1570 views)
Nahh [In reply to] Can't Post

But i did her that LOTR was second to only the bible in sales in the English language last century. No idea if that is so.

I am in fact a Hobbit (in all but size). I like gardens, trees and unmechanized farmlands; I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food (unrefrigerated), but detest French cooking; I like, and even dare to wear in these dull days, ornamental waistcoats. I am fond of mushrooms (out of a field); have a very simple sense of humour (which even my appreciative critics find tiresome); I go to bed late and get up late.
J.R.R Tolkien


Nov 2 2021, 7:33pm

Post #4 of 8 (1456 views)
I would argue that very few people actually "read" the Bible [In reply to] Can't Post

whereas most people who buy the LOTR read it.

Tol Eressea

Nov 2 2021, 9:31pm

Post #5 of 8 (1445 views)
for many the Bible is a reference book or a collection of books // [In reply to] Can't Post


"I shall not wholly fail if anything can still grow fair in days to come."

Wielder of Anduril
The Shire

Nov 3 2021, 7:19pm

Post #6 of 8 (1400 views)
Yes, it likely comes down to the definition of "read" [In reply to] Can't Post

If we define read as sit down and read cover to cover, then I would say LotR likely is more widely read.

If we look at sales and count referencing and reading excerpts, then I am sure the Bible would still come out on top.

Paulo Gabriel

Nov 19 2021, 5:19pm

Post #7 of 8 (1030 views)
Yes... [In reply to] Can't Post

It would depend entirely on the definition we mean by "read". Smile


Nov 20 2021, 5:40am

Post #8 of 8 (983 views)
Languages [In reply to] Can't Post

On one hand, the Bible is one of the most translated books/anthologies in the world, with selections published and available in most of the world's languages. For what it's worth, you might like to check out The Book of a Thousand Tongues at https://archive.org/details/B-001-001-424/mode/2up(Disclosure: my father was a translator for one of those languages, Tok Pisin or Neo-Melanesian. I think I know what I'm talking about. :) )

On the other hand, you have The Lord of the Rings, widely translated but hardly into that number of languages, but widely read and working as a template for fiction for the last seventy-off years.


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