It tickles me when the 'great and good' of the Literary Establishment portentously award prizes to and sing the praises of self-consciously 'literary' authors. Hell, I could produce a thousand pages of turgid, impenetrably elaborate prose and cryptic dialogue between broken characters hung on a gossamer-thin thread of plot, but to be honest, I'd rather write another Hermione and Ron caper story! At least that would be fun!
But when you consider how many of the suthors whose works have been canonised (Bill, Charlie, Jane, Emily and the rest) were, in their time, immensely popular authors, you wonder if the literary G&G have got the wrong end of the stick!
The Lord of the Rings is, after all, a Marmite text, you either love it or hate it. (Marmite, for those in the Colonies who might not know, is a yeast extract which can be spread thinly on toast, or used to flavour casseroles - it has a powerful taste which one either appreciates or loathes, there is no middle gound). Peter Jackson was making a high-budget trilogy of flms which needed to draw a much wider audience than the 'nerds and geeks' who read the books. Thus Tolkiens' remote descripions of battle became visceral combat scenes. His chivalrous, steel-willed Aragorn became a human and humane figure, vulnerable to self-doubt and actively seen to be hurting at his assumed loss of Arwen. Legolas and Gimli develop from mere cypher-like representatives of their races to a double-act whose sparky/spiky dialogue and prowess in battle make the Felowship into the team it needed to be. Even the old, one-armed Orc (Gothmog?) who leads the assault on Minas Tirith has a vewpoint of his own, courage and a certain dignity.
Of course, if Tolkien had been less principled, we might have seen LOTR rendered into the Epic genre you, Dr West, have written so well on. Directed, of course, by Cecil B ("Who do you have to sleep with to get off this movie?") DeMille. Charlton Heston and Kirk Douglas playing Aragorn and Boromir as Tolkien wrote them; Felix Aylmers' Gandalf; Yul Brynner as a ferocious Eomer; Charles' Laughton a slightly-camp Saruman and Larry Olivier brooding all over Minas Tirith as Denethor, sending Tony Curtis off to war as Faramir ("We gotta defend da bridges, Faddah!"). Ouch? Probably!
For the record, though Sir Ian McKellen did an excellent job as Gandalf in the films, I do regret that Sir Sean Connery is said to have turned the role down. He would have been brilliant! Mind you, I often daydream about how the late and irreplaceable Boris Karloff would have brought his quiet, courteous menace to the role of Lord Voldemort!