Book Review: Fan Phenomena: The Lord of the Rings


Ronan Daly relaxes in the Shire and leafs through Fan Phenomena: The Lord of the Rings, which  delves into the philosophy of the series and its fans, the distinctions between the films’ fans and the books’ fans, the process of adaptation, and the role of New Zealand in the translation of words to images.


We all know that the Lord of the Rings is huge. No, I’m not talking about the hefty weight of the combined literary tomes. I’m not even talking about the marathon length of the (extended or original) cinematic trilogy. The Lord of the Rings is huge in terms of its impact; the adoration that its fans feel, the significance of the films within modern cinema and the fact that it legitimised the fantasy genre, whilst ensuring that all other fantasy films would be forced to live in its shadow.

Fan Phenomena: The Lord of the Rings, edited by Lorna Piatti-Farnell, takes up the daunting challenge of investigating exactly how and why The Lord of the Rings has come to be such a landmark in the worlds of literature, cinema, fantasy and beyond. Remarkably in depth and well researched, this book examines the significance of the differences between text and film and even the importance of fan-films in understanding LOTR in a series of essays by a number of contributors in a very concise and accessible package. Chapters include looks into how different fans celebrate the series worldwide, the roles of women both in fandom and within the books and films, and even an examination into why the more recent Hobbit film trilogy never really stood a chance of living up to the acclaim or popularity of LOTR.

There’s a special focus given to New Zealand in places, both as the filming location for the films, but also in its adopted identity as the “official” site of Hobbiton, the hobbit village, and its status as the Mecca for the majority of Tolkien-themed pilgrimages. This is also contrasted quite astutely with Birmingham, the place of Tolkien’s childhood and therefore the “true” site of veneration for many fans whose love of the series far predates or, perhaps even ignores, the films.

Incredibly respectful to the books and films, and to the fandom, Fan Phenomena feels quite academic at first, but in truth it’s a labour of love, an examination of what makes this series quite so spectacular in the eyes of so many people. Eleven contributors present the world of Middle Earth from all angles, providing insights and background information that may have escaped even a lot of major fans. From behind-the-scenes photos to excerpts from obscure interviews and insider info, this book has really done its homework into the worlds created by Monsieurs Tolkien and Jackson, as well as everything from fan-fiction to video games and Lego adaptations.

For a series with such a diverse following, spanning generations, continents and media, this book does a superb job in bringing the world behind the creation(s) of Middle Earth to life. So, whether you’ve devoured the books and films and just haven’t satisfied your LOTR appetite or you just want to know a little bit more about what makes this series’ following tick, the fine folks at Intellect Books have you in good hands.


Paperback: 156 pages

Editor: Lorna Piatti-Farnell

Contributors: Lorna Piatti-Farnell, Alexander Sergeant, Maggie Parke, Joshua Wille, Miguel Angel Perez-Gomez, Emily M. Gray, Cait Coker, Karen Viars, Paul Mountfort, Anna Martin, Abigail G. Scheg

Publisher: Intellect Book



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