The Lord of the Rings franchise is well known to be one of the most beloved transmedia franchises worldwide. What started off as one book, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, released in September of 1937, blew up to become four books, two animated films, six live action films, over 30 video games, action figures, bobble heads, pop-up books, countless parodies like Bored of the Rings, and numerous fandom pages, blogs, and short stories. One could say that the Lord of the Rings franchise is one of the largest transmedia franchises ever created. The Lord of the Rings franchise has made billions of dollars by making the novels and films easily accessible to people around the world, offering dozens of translations. By the end of both the live action Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit films, the entire film franchise alone grossed almost five billion dollars. By the time writer J. R. R. Tolkien had died in 1973, his net worth was 500 million, and according to economic inflation 500 million in 1973, would be roughly two billion dollars today.
While the books and films of the Lord of the Rings franchise are non-interactive, the convergence of media platforms within the franchise have created an interactive Lord of the Rings world. The books led to the films, which led to games, fandoms, and tangible objects. The films actually re-popularized the books, film is popular, commercial, and can reach a wide audience; when billions of people watched the Lord of the Rings films, they became interested in reading the books as well. The same goes for those who grew up reading these books; they formed a relationship with the book, the fantasy world within it, and the characters. The fond relationship readers had as kids and adults reading this books, only made the excitement of seeing these films more real. The films eventually led to the gaming platform; gaming is interactive and the players become an extension of the story world they’re playing in: they can act as the character, manipulate the world they’re in, and possibly form their own narrative. And we see this interactive gaming platform used in the Lord of the Rings franchise not only with video games, but with board games as well, games like Lord of the Rings Risk and Lord of the Rings Monopoly. Action figures and toys representing this fantasy world have also been created, toys are tactile and interactive, toys help the players become a physical part of world and form a collective identity. Other examples of media platforms created include artwork, albums of the films music, graphic novels, and interactive blogs-including fandoms.
In the Lord of the Rings franchise we see a physical representation of a blurring of animals and humans. Dragons and giant spiders are able to speak, representing very human characteristics in non-human bodies. Orcs and Trolls were created as distorted images of humans. Elves and Dwarves bear human characteristics, but are distinctly not a part of the “Race of Men,” due to slight physical characteristics, lifespan, and whats known as “distinction,” or morality or immorality. Hobbits are known as “halflings,” though it’s not know what each half is, although most people speculate that one half is human. Many animals in the series are often portrayed as better than humans; the Great Eagles for example, have a hierarchy, having an eagle leader, they’re also immortal, which is distinguishable from the mortality of humans. Another example of the blurred human-animal relationship within the Lord of the Rings franchise is the fact that most of the humanoid characters consume meat, hearkening back to the question, when meat is consumed, where does the animal begin and the human end?
Of course there are examples of blurring between animal/human and machine as well, with the representation of technology as an extension of the characters in this world. Though they didn’t have cell phones and computers, they had clothing, swords, armor, shoes, jewelry, etc.
Writing and speech as a machine is present as well. There are countless languages spoken in this franchise, there are various languages spoken by the Elves, by men, by Dwarves, etc. All of these languages and the way in which they are written shape part of these characters worlds, how they think, act, what they believe, and how they interact with speakers of other languages.
This idea of Cyborgs and The Homework Economy probably greatly influenced the way in which the various workers went about their jobs. J. R. R. Tolkien probably thought that he was taking huge risks writing long novels about a fantasy world with unrecognizable cultures and species. As a writer there is automatically a lack of job security, how well your writings take off determines how much money you will receive, so that you can buy your own benefits financially and physically. This idea is the same for those involved with the films, writers(screen adapters), directors, and actors all have the same kind of lack of job security. How well the film does in the entertainment market determines what kind of money you’ll make, thus determining what kind of financial and physical security you can provide for yourself. Anytime an artist in the film industry involves themselves in a project, usually it is a risk. You never know how much money you’re going to make until the film is finished and in theaters. This leaves these artists completely vulnerable to the public opinion. It’s a lot easier for toy makers and graphic designers for video games to have some kind of job and/or benefit security. Graphic designers for video games are usually told what to do and they’re paid by the hour, make salary for a company, or receive a check for the finished product (which is usually agreed upon in advance). The same goes for toy makers who made action figures representing movie characters, or those who made board games; they have job security because they usually know how much money they’re getting and when they’re getting it.