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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

A bit of Middle Earth

There is nothing wrong with myths & legends until the priests get hold of them....

Research reveals spiritual journey of Tolkien fans
Donald MacLeod, The Guardian
Saturday August 6, 2005


Tolkien fans do not just watch the films and read the books again and again - they are on a spiritual journey and doing their best to forget the ending, says an international study that voyaged to many lands to bring back wisdom and understanding.

Led by a wizard from out of the west, Martin Barker, of the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, the team explored reactions to the film Lord of the Rings III in 20 countries.

They found devotees reread the books, but tried to convince themselves they were seeing the story for the first time (although not knowing one of the most drawn-out and self-indulgent endings in cinema history must be a plus in the case of Lord of the Rings). [A FAIR POINT ABOUT THE FILM].

"Not knowing the plot or the ending means they can experience as much of the full emotions and tension as possible and their pleasure is increased," says Prof Barker, whose project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Fans felt the movie was more than just an escape, but it was more important and enjoyable to those who work in jobs where they feel they have little control over their lives.

Prof Barker said: "And we found that the highest levels of enjoyment and importance came from those who saw watching it as going on a spiritual journey. It was not just 'entertainment', but a source of inspiration. It offered a sense of moral lessons that they want to apply to their own lives, if they can."

The study, conducted in 13 different languages, had almost 25,000 responses - hugely greater than any previous piece of audience research. It allowed in-depth analysis by age, sex and occupation, as well as revealing how the final blockbuster film in the Tolkien trilogy mattered to different people in various countries.

"Our research is very unusual in trying to open up what is normally taken for granted: how does fantasy, and in this case film fantasy, matter to people? How does a story which is very English in origins appeal to people in countries as different as Italy, Slovenia, China and Columbia?" said Prof Barker.

The professor added: "It appeals to both men and women. Even though many women have thought of this as a male genre - something in the film makes it work very powerfully with female audiences."

Those people, a large proportion of them older women, were also most likely to have read and reread the books, he added.

People in creative jobs enjoyed the film more than expected, although the study points out that they looked for different things - going beyond "superficial" meanings to try to discover something deeper.

The study found that many young girls saw the film with their best friends, and liked the way it showed friendship, especially through the character of Sam. By contrast, there were men - dubbed in the study "lonely epic males" - for whom viewing the film was a very private experience.

An unexpectedly large number of unskilled manual workers had read the books. Prof Barker added: "The coming together of moral and emotional audience reactions to films is in line with some other research, suggesting a surprising changing role for today's cinema.

"However, our findings that audiences make such conscious efforts to reread the books and watch the film again as if they had not done so before, was completely unexpected. We are now exploring its significance," he added.

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