In Autumn of this year Prop Store, a UK based business dedicated to movie collectibles, will be hosting their annual Entertainment Memorabilia Live Auction! Every year film fanatics from across the world bid on pieces of cinematic history, and each year the items auctioned off become more and more valuable.
Among the nine-hundred lots being auctioned this year the big ticket items this year range from the Nike’s Tom Hanks wore in Forrest Gump, to Harrison Ford’s fedora from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
But what item has us the most excited? The axe used by Jack Nicholson in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, of course.
Here’s Johnny(‘s axe)/Image via Entertainment Memorabilia Auction
Not only is Jack Torrance’s axe an iconic piece of horror history, but it’s also a symbol of literary controversy. As many of us probably know, there are numerous differences between Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, and Stephen King’s The Shining. A lot of these differences may seem minute to the average viewer/reader. Little things like the fact that in the King’s version Jack is clearly stated to be writing a play about the history of the Overlook Hotel, while the movie never really says what Jack is writing other than the fact that it’s a book.
The Grady twins/Image via E! News
However, there are also larger differences, like the fact that the famous twins aren’t in the book at all, they’re a Kubrick creation. Another large difference is the presence of ghosts. King’s version of the Overlook Hotel is much more reminiscent of a classic haunted house, with spirits and apparitions going bump in the night.
However, Kubrick decided to remove this aspect almost entirely, choosing instead to present all the weird happenings in the Overlook as if they’re happening inside Jack’s head. This shifts the whole tone of the story from a supernatural thriller, to a psychological thriller, a shift which spawned the famous Kubrick vs. King feud.
Kubrick and Nicholson on set/Image via Geek Shizzle
So, the axe. In King’s novel there is no axe at all. Jack still terrorizes his family, but he swings a roque mallet instead. It may not seem like a big difference, the result is ultimately the same, but the symbolism of the mallet is totally disregarded. King wrote about roque as being a “schizo sort of game,” and described the mallet as “express[ing] that perfectly,” pointing out the irony of a game that requires both “finesse and aim” as well as “raw bludgeoning power.”
To King, the roque mallet represents Jack (who is actually named John Daniel Torrence in the novel) and the split between his two personalities; the loving family man and the violent alcoholic.
The famous axe scene/Image via What Culture
So what happens when you take the roque mallet, and turn it into an axe?
To be honest, I’m not sure.
Lurk on some horror forums and you’ll find theories ranging from “the axe represents Jack’s descent into pure madness and the abandonment of all other sides of himself” to “axes are just scarier.” However, since Kubrick is no longer with us, we may never have a definite answer.
But what you can have is the definite axe itself. If owning a literal piece of literary controversy excites you, then you can participate in the Entertainment Memorabilia Live Auction either in person, online, or over the phone.
You might get a cold shoulder from Stephen King, but at least you can defend yourself from psychic five-year-olds.
Featured image Hollywood Reporter