mirkwoodThe Hollywood Reporter updates a story I mentioned a couple of months ago, regarding the lawsuit filed by a historical novel author whose book featured Tolkien as a character. When Stephen Hilliard received a cease-and-desist order from the Tolkien estate, he filed a preliminary suit himself seeking a declaration that he had a first-amendment right to publish Mirkwood. Now, Hilliard and the Tolkien estate have reached a settlement that will allow the continued publication of the novel.

Under the terms of the settlement, Hilliard is changing the cover to involve a modified reference to Tolkien and a disclaimer stating that the estate does not endorse the book. Hilliard is accordingly dismissing his lawsuit. A Tolkien estate lawyer expressed satisfaction with the outcome. On Techdirt, Mike Masnick expressed disappointment that Hilliard didn’t stick to his guns and force the estate to back down. (But then, it’s easy to do that when you’re not the one paying legal fees.)

Either way, the lawsuit and associated hoopla might be the best thing that could possibly have happened to Hilliard. It earned his (self-published) book a whole lot more publicity, and that has almost certainly translated into more sales. (I know I’m more than passing curious about how the book holds up, myself. The few reviews it has seem by and large positive. Perhaps after I finish my current reread of Lord of the Rings, I’ll buy it and see for myself. It’s only $2.99 for the Kindle edition, after all.)


  1. As a writer who clashed with the Tolkien estate in court and won (the judge dismissed their lawsuit ‘with prejudice’), I talked with Hillard shortly after his dispute hit the news. He works in finance, but was trained as a lawyer, so he knew what he was doing. At the time, I suspected that the lack of a legal disclaimer about estate non-endorsement in the original edition was a deliberate move to have something to toss to the estate’s lawyers. That seems to have been true.

    And settling out of court for all you want does make more sense that going on at great expense to achieve an emotional putdown of the estate’s lawyers. Courts also don’t look with favor on a party that’s unwilling to settle out-of-court with the other side’s offers are reasonable.

    Hillard’s book devotes attention to the oft-lamented lack of female heroes in The Lord of the Rings (with the remarkable exception of Eowyn). I have some expertise in that area. I published in paper (as More to William Morris and On the Lines of William Morris) the four Morris tales that most influenced Tolkien and plan to publish them as ebooks with more Tolkien-centric titles.

    William Morris heroes are likable enough and heroic enough, but in the presence of a pretty face, typically encountered in some haunted wood, they’re totally smitten. What sense they have utterly disappears. That’s the central conflict in two of his greatest warrior tales: The House of the Wolfings and The Roots of the Mountains (my More to William Morris). Such a plot probably fits will Morris’ own personality, but it often means the clash with the enemy takes second place to the romantic clash in the heroes’ heart. Tolkien, I suspect, decided to eliminate that entirely in The Lord of the Rings. His heroes are strickly business during the war.

    That said, if you’re a writer of either sex who wants to describe your women heroines in appealing, classic terms (not as crude, modern ‘hot babes’), take a look at Morris. It’s easy to understand his heroes’ behavior. It’s hard not to fall head-over-heels for the women in his tales.

    –Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books, Seattle

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