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Tolkien's Lord of the Rings

J. R. R. Tolkien, a mild-mannered professor of ancient languages at Oxford, was slightly embarrassed when his epic fantasy, the Lord of the Rings trilogy (1950), became an international hit (selling more than 100 million copies worldwide). Tolkien was certainly embarrassed by the lurid cover illustration which adorned the first American paperback edition: "I think the cover ugly," he wrote to his publisher, "but I recognize that a main object of a paperback cover is to attract purchases, and I suppose that you are better judges of what is attractive in USA than I am. I therefore will not enter into a debate about taste -- (meaning though I did not say so: horrible colours and foul lettering) -- but I must ask this about the vignette: What has it got to do with the story? Where is this place? Why a lion and emus? And what is the thing in the foreground with pink bulbs? I do not understand how anybody who had read the tale (I hope you are one) could think such a picture would please the author."

[Tolkien later confronted someone at Ballantine about the artist's rendition; "her voice rose several tones and she cried: 'But the man hadn't time to read the book!'"]

["My work has escaped from my control," Tolkien once confessed, "and I have produced a monster: an immensely long, complex, rather bitter, and rather terrifying romance, quite unfit for children (if fit for anybody)."]

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