Tolkien's son holds middle ground over Hollywood's handling of Middle Earth

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The son of J R R Tolkien has broken his silence over the Lord of the Rings films, saying that his father's trilogy is "peculiarly unsuitable" for translation to the big screen.

But Christopher Tolkien, one of the author's three surviving children, insisted he would not criticise the film industry's interpretation of Middle Earth.

Tolkien, an Oxford professor who died in 1973, aged 81, sold the film rights to his cult fantasy books in 1969 for £10,000, leaving his family and those in charge of his estate with no control over the films.

Previous reports had suggested that Christopher Tolkien was dissatisfied with the film of The Lord of the Rings, to the extent that he had fallen out with relatives over the matter. But, in a statement issued yesterday through his solicitors, he insisted that while he had doubts about the viability of the cinematic projects, these were personal opinions.

"My own position is that The Lord of the Rings is peculiarly unsuitable to transformation into visual dramatic form," he said. "On the other hand, I recognise that this is a debatable and complex question of art, and the suggestions that have been made that I 'disapprove' of the films, whatever their cinematic quality, even to the extent of thinking ill of those with whom I may differ, are wholly without foundation."

He added: "I have never expressed or entertained any such feeling, which I would think altogether inappropriate and wrong-headed."

The author Michael White, who has written a book on J R R Tolkien, said the mild-mannered academic, who fought in the trenches in France during the First World War, would probably have loathed the project.

"I think he would have just closed his eyes to it. He had a hatred of all things Hollywood and did not believe in the idea of imitation being the best form of flattery."

Starring Sir Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Christopher Lee and Cate Blanchett, the first film of the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, will have its world première on Monday in Leicester Square, London. It goes on general release on 19 December. The trilogy, directed by Peter Jackson, cost an estimated $300m (£210m) to make.