Tolkien Estate Bans Scientists From Calling Tiny Prehistoric Hominids 'Hobbit'

#Science

Thu, Nov 1st, 2012 12:00 by capnasty NEWS

Because of the size of the Homo floresiensis, no more than three-feet tall, they have widely been called 'hobbits.' Unfortunately, a scientist from New Zealand, who was planning an event about the species "has been banned from describing the ancient people as 'hobbits' by representatives of the Tolkien estate."

Dr Brent Alloway, associate professor at Victoria University, is planning a free lecture next month at which two of the archaeologists involved in the discovery of Homo floresiensis in 2003, Professor Mike Morwood and Thomas Sutikna, will speak about the species. The talk is planned to coincide with the premiere of The Hobbit film, and Alloway had planned to call the lecture "The Other Hobbit", as Homo floresiensis is commonly known.

But when he approached the Saul Zaentz Company/Middle-earth Enterprises, which owns certain rights in The Hobbit, he was told by their lawyer that "it is not possible for our client to allow generic use of the trade mark HOBBIT."

"I am very disappointed that we're forbidden by the representatives of the Tolkien Estate to use the word 'Hobbit' in the title of our proposed free public event ... especially since the word 'Hobbit' is apparently listed in the Oxford English Dictionary (and hence apparently part of our English-speaking vocabulary), the word 'Hobbit' (in the Tolkien context) is frequently used with apparent impunity in the written press and reference to 'Hobbit' in the fossil context is frequently referred to in the scientific literature (and is even mentioned in Wikipedia on Homo floresiensis). I realise I'm in unfamiliar word proprietry territory (as an earth scientist) ... so I've gone for the easiest option and simply changed our event title." said Alloway.

The event is now called "A newly discovered species of Little People -- unravelling the legend behind Homo floresiensis".

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