December 19, 2012

To the typically brutish, English-speaking Americans, “Ekenskjöld” doesn’t sound like much. But it’s an honored Swedish noble name,  and has one Swedish resident in legal fits because of a fantasy novel written before World War II. In the first film installment of The Hobbit, there’s a character named Thorin Oakenshield (pictured above), which translates roughly to “Torin Ekenskölde” in the Swedish tongue. A woman named Yvonne Ekenskjöld is claiming that’s far too close to her own name, and because of a Swedish law giving a level of protection to unique surnames so that they can’t be co-opted as trademarks*, she wants the Swedish Film Institute to change the subtitles in the movie. “It’s like a slap in the face. I don’t think our name should be associated with fairytale figures,” she told a Swedish newspaper. “I actually feel violated, and it’s offensive that they didn’t even bother to call and ask if it was alright.”

Which, no offense, is sort of a wild reaction to a book that’s been around for decades—and especially because, as the information head of the Swedish Film Institute alleges, she may have only changed her name to Ekenskjöld in the last decade. Even if she does turn out to be in the right, what a buzzkill! I mean, it’s The Hobbit. It’s Lord of the Rings. It’s art. In the meantime, the Swedish Film Institute appears to be lawyering up in anticipation of a lawsuit, because it’s apparently on them whether or not to make the adjustment, and not the movie producers.

* For example, imagine the nobility gained by naming your beer or chocolate “Sjodin” or “Ruud,” neither of which are particularly unique. But how would I know?

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