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OFF BEAT: Hobbit dispute resolved before getting too hairy


It may not be necessary to bring in the orcs after all.

Fans of The Hobbit, a pub in Southampton, England, had been up in arms over an initial report that the tavern was a target of the company that owns the film, stage and merchandising rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “The Hobbit,” according to a British newspaper, the Daily Echo.

The pub’s owner, Stella Roberts, had said she was ordered by Berkeley, Calif.-based Saul Zaentz Co. to remove all references to Mr. Tolkien’s creations or face litigation.

The pub, which has been in business more than 20 years, has interior and exterior artwork, a website and fonts, as well as “Lord of the Rings”-themed cocktails that evoke the Tolkien classics.

Ms. Roberts told the newspaper she does not have the funds to stand up to the company. “It’s not just a case of changing the name—it’s all the merchandise, artwork, absolutely everything. We never planned to steal anybody else’s ideas—we’re all such huge fans of Tolkien that it’s more like homage.”

But it may all have been a misunderstanding. In a follow-up article, the newspaper said it had been told by Mr. Zaentz that he does not necessarily want to remove all references to Mr. Tolkien’s work and “certainly doesn’t want to run anyone out of business.”

He said he wants to resolve the dispute “amicably” and suggested the pub could be asked to pay a nominal license fee of $100 a year.

Mr. Zaentz contacted the newspaper after a Facebook campaign to save the pub attracted worldwide attention, with backing from actors Stephen Fry and Sir Ian McKellen, who both appear in the upcoming film, “The Hobbit.”

One can imagine that, somewhere, Gandalf is looking on approvingly.