Tolkien estate tries to kill novel starring fictionalized Tolkien

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012

We always knew that if we tried to write and market a novel (as opposed to fanfic) about Bilbo or Frodo or Aragorn, we'd get our heads handed to us by the Tolkien estate. But we never even thought about what would happen if we did the same with a book starring J.R.R. Tolkien himself. One writer just found out.

Author Stephen Hilliard wrote Mirkwood, a novel that takes place from 1970 through the near present and features six characters—five fictional ones (no problem there) plus Tolkien.

Here's the book's description over at Amazon:

Enter Mirkwood, the Great Forest of Doubt Bold new author Steve Hillard's wildly original debut, Mirkwood, re-invents J.R.R. Tolkien as a man haunted by the very myths he rewove into his famous works. As much literary criticism as boisterous epic, this episodically-driven plot explores the blurred borderlands where ancient tales, lost heroines, and epic journeys are stalked by dim monsters that will not be still. In 1970, Professor Tolkien makes a little-known visit to America-and sets in motion elvish powers embodied in a cache of archaic documents. Destinies are altered, legends become real, and two heroines must race for their lives in vastly different worlds.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, when the Tolkien estate learned about this:

Hilliard says he was sent a cease-and-desist letter from the Tolkien estate, which alleged that it had a property right to commercially exploit the name and likeness of J.R.R. Tolkien. The estate also alleged that the cover art and typefaces in "Mirkwood" were similar to Tolkien's work to a degree that it would provoke unfair competition. The demand letter threatened Hilliard with a lawsuit if he didn't cease publishing the novel and destroy all copies.

Hilliard's response was to file a lawsuit against the estate, claiming that he was within his rights to publish due to to fair use and the First Amendment. You can check out the complete complaint below.


So while the legal system tries to figure this out, which side do YOU think is in the right here?

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