The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey finally hits theaters this week – a long-expected party for J.R. R. Tolkien fans the world over.
What does this have to do with the iCopyInsider? Nothing, really, except that your humble blogger was more or less weaned on the likes of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. And as far as big giant collections of words go, before Peter Jackson turned New Zealand into Middle Earth, the original books were still some of the most popular in the English language.
Not that your business should be cranking out fantasy content – although that’s kind of awesome if you are – but here’s our take on what lessons all scribes can take away from the ink-and-paper version of The Hobbit.
Lesson #1: What do elves have to do with your work?
Tolkien was legendary as an Oxford professor for being incredibly boring and for his infuriating habit of obscuring the classroom blackboard with his own body. Not to mention the fact that he was a professor of Anglo-Saxon philology, a subject so arcane that even Max Fischer wouldn’t bother to save it.
Who knew that, in his off hours, he was writing about the fearsome dragon Smaug? But Tolkien’s books very much spin out of his deep knowledge of Anglo-Saxon mythology and literature such as Beowulf. Ever the linguist, Tolkien even famously invented his own languages for the races depicted in The Lord of the Rings.
THE TAKE AWAY: Creating content can be difficult, but take boring Professor Tolkien here as inspiration. What compelling content can you create that spins out of your day job?
Lesson #2: Expand on your cool ideas – like Gollum.
The original edition of The Hobbit published in 1937 was very different from its predecessor, with Gollum willingly betting his ring in a game of riddles with the eponymous hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. Of course, with the success of the book, Tolkien’s publishers were eager for a sequel, which eventually led to the author going all out with what would become The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Knowing he had a bigger story to tell, Tolkien rewrote the original scenes featuring Gollum for later editions to give them a more sinister cast. So what started as a charming children’s book became part of a more epic sage.
THE TAKE AWAY: With that in mind, where can you tell a larger story?
Lesson #3: Even if you’re writing about scary dragons, don’t take it too seriously.
The Hobbit works so well not just because it’s an exciting yarn; it’s also really funny. Tolkien fits witty asides in the narrative, goblins drop some ridiculous rhymes and Bilbo is usually thinking about lunch.
THE TAKE AWAY: So, the question is, are you taking your content too seriously?
Did we miss anything? What other lessons can The Hobbit teach us?
Photo credit: Gwydion M. Williams