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What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.

Not all that glitters is gold

Many Hobbits Facing Shutdown Due to Lawsuits… From People Behind The Hobbit

Here’s a name you don’t see in articles about The Hobbit movie adaptation very much: Saul Zaentz. He’s a producer of music and film, and the guy who actually owns the worldwide film, stage, and merchandise rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. And his relationship with New Line Cinema hasn’t been the most placid journey to there and back again.

But the newest wrinkle in his tenure over performances of Tolkien’s work seems to be a campaign of cracking down on UK businesses that use the word “hobbit,” no matter how small or old or appropriately named they are.

A few years ago, New Line Cinema swore up and down that they’d never let Peter Jackson direct another Tolkien movie because he’d asked an independent auditor to take a look at New Line’s profits on The Lord of the Rings to make sure everybody was getting paid the right amounts (as allowed under his contract) and then sued. At the same time, Zaentz was doing much the same, because the company had refused to reveal the numbers that would confirm their profits.

However, when it started getting close to the time that Zaentz’s agreement with New Line over the LotR and Hobbit rights would expire, things worked themselves out, a director (Jackson) was found for the project, and The Hobbit moved forward. Now that the movie is only about nine months away, Zaentz appears to be making some belated attempts to keep its name from appearing on places that aren’t actually associated with it.

A Scottish firm has been forced to rename its round doored, round everything holiday cabins from “hobbit houses” to something less specific. The Hungry Hobbit Cafe and Sandwich Bar, which has operated under that name in the town where Tolkien grew up (after his family left South Africa for England) for six years, has also been ordered to change “signs, menus, aprons and other items would be expensive for the small business.” One Southampton pub has operated under the name The Hobbit for twenty years, and, since it can neither afford a defense against Zaentz’s lawsuit or afford the full rebranding that his lawsuit demands, is facing closure.

The word “hobbit” itself is even of dubious parentage. Accounts differ as to whether Tolkien himself felt he had invented the word, and research has found it in a book of folklore published in the mid-1850s.

Fortunately for the The Hobbit pub, it has a set of very powerful voices on its side in the battle: the two titans of British tabloid The Sun, and the Telegraph, and one titan of English sensibleness and wit: Stephen Fry. Fry is playing the role of the Master of Lake-town in The Hobbit, so if there was any one capable of getting the right people looking at the issue, it’s him, unless it were the very hobbity Peter Jackson himself.

(via Den of Geek.)

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  • Anonymous

    Ask a D&D fan about the loooong history of the Tolkien estate and them.  What are now referred to as “Halflings” in the game originally had a VERY familiar name.

    And as for Saul Zaentz…go look up what he did to John Fogerty and see if you can guess why not much love is sent his way.  The song on Centerfield was called “Zanz Kant Danz” on the first pressing; I’ll leave it at that.

  • Anonymous

    It’s a crying shame that someone like Saul Zaentz owns the rights, what with his very… Sharky-esque attitudes. It’s reminding me of the Scouring of the Shire, when all the pubs were shut down and all the beer and pipeweed was sent to Sharky and his ruffians, but in this case, it’s all homages to the brilliance of Tolkien instead of beer.

  • Elle Edwards

    Super heartening to see news about our Hobbit angst here. Been visiting the Hobbit pub for a good 6 years now, and will be most sad if it disappears. 

  • Emma Jones

    This is quite ridiculous and sad. What are these businesses really doing to hinder any money-making on the movie’s/book’s part? If anything, they are inspiring interest in all things Middle Earth.

  • ainok

    I heard he can’t dance, but he’ll steal your money.

  • Anonymous

    Watch him, or he’ll rob you blind.

  • wynterlantyrn

    Maybe they could add a second ‘ T ‘… Hobbitt…

  • Frodo Baggins

    Uh oh…

  • Franken Fran

    Toho does something similar with businesses using the name “Godzilla”, but they’re apparently a bit nicer about it and allow people to be grandfathered in and keep using the name if they’ve been around for at least (iirc) 5 years. For any gamers familiar with Seattle, it’s why Pink Godzilla changed its name to Pink Gorilla a few years back (they’d been around for *just* under 5 years at the time… so close!).

    Unfortunately, I have no idea if this could be helpful to any of the businesses in this case since 1) it involves US and/or Japanese law, not UK, and 2) I don’t know if Toho’s allowing some businesses to keep using the name was due to a law or their own goodwill.