Sunday 3 October 2021

Unboxing a Red Book

Unboxing Parma Eldaliéva Special II by Elmenel

I am certainly not used to doing these things, as you can surely see from this video, but I found that this book is worth trying it out for.

I believe that her work deserves a larger audience, not just to be seen by many, but also to be bought by many. There is something exceedingly satisfying about having these red books on your shelf, knowing that such a level of beauty is awaiting inside.

The magic, the enchantment, of Tolkien's fiction is in his words. It is the words themselves that capture us, that enchant us, that puts us under that Elvish spell of Secondary Belief.  What Elmenel does is to take that enchantment and work yet another enchantment on top of it by making the words themselves into works of Art in one more way: she takes the beauty of Tolkien's words and adds the beauty of her own Tengwar calligraphy, and the result is enough to bring tears of joy, even though I still have to work my way painstakingly through every page using a Tengwar chart.

So, I urge you: get yourselves to Elmenel's website,, and purchase yourself a book written in Tengwar, and then find the link to her Patreon site, where you can sign up for a small support to keep this unique Tolkien artist in business.

The music is “Galadriel's Song of Eldamar, Ai! Laurië Lantar” from An Evening in Rivendell with The Tolkien Ensemble and is used with permission. 

Sunday 11 July 2021

Tolkien and Diversity – and Tolkienian Inclusion

Re-reading this post before publishing it, I find that it appears a bit rambling or unstructured, but I haven't been able to do much to improve on it. I suspect that this is, at least partially, a result of trying to express some views that, while deeply felt, I haven't had much occasion to express in a coherent manner. If true, that could probably also explain why I have felt the need to resort to concrete examples to explain what I mean. 

I have, on this blog, already tried to indicate that I support the efforts of the Tolkien Society to open the society to be more inclusive of voices that have found it difficult to be heard, and of perspectives and readings of Tolkien that have long experienced being summarily – and perhaps even angrily – dismissed. I am well aware that these efforts are not new, but they have so far been kept in the academic domain, where they have, for many reasons, not disturbed the broader Tolkien community.

As a life-long member of the Guide and Scout Movement, firmly grounded in the Movements inclusive values[1], I welcome this and I embrace it. But I also recognise how extremely difficult it is – even for those who preach the inclusion – to actually practice it, when it comes to being inclusive of those whose views differ. Actually, my experiences in the Guide and Scout Movement has taught me to appreciate the need to coexist in constructive dialogue with people who hold views that I might find abhorrent.

This has taught me that I am not really inclusive myself before I can remain in constructive dialogue with such people: firmly stating my views, and firmly disagreeing with them, while still allowing that they are entitled to their opinions and views (though not to deny or contradict verifiable facts ... I am a physicist, after all 😉).

With that in mind, I have seen some rather dismissive comments about those who support the more traditional readings – e.g. about males who disagreed with a homoerotic reading of the relation between Frodo and Sam. Now, I haven't seen the comments that occasioned those dismissive comments, so they may, of course, have been entirely justified, but they made me think.

How would I express the fact that I read the text differently?

How would I express the fact that I believe that Tolkien intended the text differently?

How would I ask the other person to allow that my reading is also possible?

A few examples, not necessarily of how I would react, but of how I would want to react – of how I believe that my Scout Promise would commit me to do my best, to strive, to react (the opinions portrayed are to some extent caricatured, the responses are my honest views & opinions).

Opinion: “Frodo and Sam's relation is homoerotic.”

Response: “Now that's an interesting reading – I can see how you can arrive at that understanding, though I have to say that I have always, myself, understood it differently." 

Opinion (referring to the opinion above): “This is an affront against Tolkien, who was a devout Catholic!” 

Response: “Well, I think this would come under the freedom of the reader that Tolkien himself allowed as ‘applicability’. While I am, for my own part, inclined to at least agree with you that Tolkien's personal reading would be different, I also think that this reading is possible, and in no way an affront to Tolkien. Actually I like to believe that he would be happy to learn that the homosexual community can find applicability and identification in his work, even if he probably didn't himself intend the relation to be homoerotic.”

Opinion: “Fan-fiction is the most interesting topic in Tolkien studies!”

Response: “I am really happy for you that you enjoy fan fiction. I have never really found it particularly appealing or interesting myself, but I think it's great that others like it. It's certainly a field that deserves academic research, though for my own sake, I have found it difficult to see how such studies can inform my understanding of Tolkien – maybe you can help me with that?”

Opinion: “You can only understand Tolkien by reading him through a Christian lens!”

Response: “Hmm ... for my own part, I have found that the Christian – and indeed Catholic – lens has helped me see and understand some things or connections in Tolkien's work, that I hadn't discovered otherwise, but I don't agree that this is necessary to understand and appreciate his work per se, nor do I think that this lens is more important than e.g. the philological/linguistic lens or the lens of the pagan Northern Spirit, or the Classical Greek and Roman mythologies. All of these lenses, and probably more, in my view, contribute equally to inform my reading and understanding and appreciation of Tolkien's work.”

And so on and so on. 

Surely you get the idea? 

I would have loved to have a paper at the Tolkien Society Seminar, “Tolkien and Diversity”, that would have promoted a firmly Catholic reading of e.g. The Lord of the Rings, though, in the spirit of the seminar, it would, of course, have been inappropriate for such a paper to claim a monopoly as a lens for understanding and appreciating the book. Unfortunately, there seems to have been no such paper proposed (I will refrain from speculating as to the reasons for this absence, as my speculations might end up being uncharitable) – next time (yes, I do hope that there will be a ‘next time’ for this important theme), I hope that we can see an even larger diversity of readings and reading lenses represented – one that also includes the more traditional lenses, so that we can have a scholarly dialogue between these perspectives.


  1. Readers whose impression of our movement is based on e.g. the attitudes of the Boy Scouts of America of 15 years ago might find this a bit puzzling, but please believe me when I say that they were not representative of the Movement as a whole. Back

Saturday 3 July 2021

The Tolkien Society Seminar 2021 – part 2

I have been wanting to post more about the 2021 Tolkien Society Seminar on “Tolkien and Diversity” (I started writing “Diversity and Inclusion” ... that'd be my Scouting & Guiding background ?), but time has been scarce over the past few weeks for me to be able to say something coherent on this topic prior to the start of the seminar.

So, I will start out with a link to the programme of the “Tolkien Society Summer Seminar 2021

Due to family planning, I have been unable to follow the first papers until the break, where I had particularly looked forward to the paper by Sara Brown. Alas!

The four papers after the break have all been brilliant, and as Shaun Gunner, the Chair of the Tolkien Society, pointed out in his remarks closing out the first day, no-one have tried to rewrite the books or tried to speak for or on behalf of Tolkien himself. And that is exactly the point here. The presenters at the seminar do not attempt or claim to speak for Tolkien, or to re-write his work, and that is precisely what most of those who have ranted against the seminar are doing.

As for the pre-seminar discussions, others have, fortunately  been able to do more than I, and I will review a few recent contributions here, starting with Robin Reid's excellent blog post “Response to Backlash against Tolkien and Diversity Summer Seminar”. Also see her “ Overview of recent posts regarding "Tolkien and Diversity" (Tolkien Society Summer Seminar 2021)” as well as ”Catholicism, Tolkien, and Diversity

Brava, Robin! And kudos!

To a very large extent, I think that the main problem here is a fundamental inability to handle alterity. Those who rant against the seminar (henceforth “the ranters”) are generally engaged in exactly what Shaun discussed: they believe that they (and they alone) can speak for  Tolkien himself, and they project this belief onto the speakers at the seminar, believing that the speakers are trying to speak for Tolkien. There is a Danish proverb that speaks to this kind of projection: “Tyv tror hver mand stjæler”, which literally means “the thief believes (that) all men steal”. The point is that someone who is doing something morally reprehensible such as stealing projects this behaviour onto everybody, thus justifying their own stealing by their (mistaken) belief that “everybody does it.” I keep thinking this when I read the accusations being brought against the seminar and the papers by the ranters.

This displays an inability to handle otherness in so many ways that it's left to the reader as an exercise to list at least three ways that they (the reader) believes significant for this situation ??.

There have also been some nice articles relating to the queer aspect. The first that I saw was this one:
Lauren Coates, “Why Queer Readings of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ are so Popular – and Important”, SyFy Wire.

This article seems to has been spread fairly widely already:
Molly Ostertag, “Queer readings of The Lord of the Rings are not accidents”, Polygon.

And this article appears to pick up on the theme, adding some thinking related to the future film adaptations:
Ben Child, “Future Lord of the Rings films should acknowledge the book’s queer leanings”, The Guardian.

While the question of “authorial intention” is debateable, I have no doubt that Tolkien would have been happy to hear that there was a possibility for queer people to find identification in his book through, at least, the “applicability of the reader”. And that is exactly one part of what the 2021 Tolkien Society Seminar is about: the ability of diverse readers to find identification and applicability in Tolkien's works, regardless of whether this was intentional by the author. Diversity in this case can cover any dimension along which humans have had the (bad) habit of making distinctions ... gender, race, religion, ethnicity, class, etc.

Molly Ostertag's argument that Tolkien intended Frodo and Sam's relationship to have homoerotic overtones is, I think, not entirely convincing, but if we tone it down a bit, there is, I think, a stronger argument to be made that Tolkien must have known about the applicability of their relations to the homosexuals of post-war Britain (he did, after all, have good and close friends who openly belonged to that community), and while not necessarily intending it, Tolkien must have accepted this applicability.

Another aspect that could be brought up is Tolkien's own embrace of diversity in his professional and private life. His warm friendships with, and professional support of, people who differed from himself. While I do not wish to attempt to speak for Tolkien, I think that a lot of what he did say can be read in many different ways, and it is, at least to me, not really clear that he would truly condemn (to put it mildly) the things that most of the ranters condemn (often anything out of the very narrowly heteronormative, anything non-white, etc.). Robin Reid, in her “Catholicism, Tolkien, and Diversity” blog post, provides quotations from Tolkien's and others' letters as well as from Verlyn Flieger's essay, “But What Did he Really Mean” from the 2014 Tolkien Studies XI. Flieger discusses many of the same points in her later MythCon Guest of Honor address, “The Arch and the Keystone”, which is more readily available from Mythlore vol. 38 no. 1.

I will leave this small group of other articles and blog posts that address the seminar uncommented. 

Mike Glyer, “Purported Event Will Counter-Program the Seminar on Diversity in Tolkien”, File 770.
Anna Smol, “Upcoming Tolkien conference sessions (Tolkien Society Seminar and IMC Leeds)”.
John Rateliff, “Diversity and Counter-Diversity in Tolkien Scholarship”.
Troels Forchhammer, “Tolkien Society Seminar 2021 – “Tolkien and Diversity””.

Finally, as discussed above, the backlash against the seminar has been savage and, to be frank, has missed the point so badly that it is embarrassing to read. I will nonetheless provide a few links, most of them without comment, and none of them to the original post, so as not to generate traffic and page-hits to these sites.

Michael Foust, “Tolkien Society to Examine Diversity in The Lord of the Rings”, Christian Headlines.
The presumption of Albert Mohler in his utterly nonsensical description of what “this means” is, frankly, staggering – besides being, of course, completely mistaken.

The rest of the ranters are, to be honest, just that – incoherent and fact-resistant rants against straw men and windmills that only they can see ... (honestly, you're probably better off not reading these, but for completeness).
John Daniel Davidson, “In An Affront To Its Namesake, The Tolkien Society Goes Woke”, The Federalist.
John F. Trent, “The Society Of Tolkien Launches Counter-Programming In Response To The Tolkien Society’s “Tolkien And Diversity” Seminar”, Bounding Into Comics.
John F. Trent, ”The Tolkien Society’s Summer Seminar 2021 Will Focus On “Tolkien And Diversity””, Bounding Into Comics.

Saturday 12 June 2021

Tolkien Society Seminar 2021 – “Tolkien and Diversity”

First: crikey! Has it really been nearly three years since my last post ...! Sorry! 😳

What prompts me to write at this point is seeing reactions to the announcement of the speakers for the 2021 Tolkien Society Seminar on “Tolkien and Diversity”.

Now, let me be honest with you from the outset: it is very few (less than an handful) of the papers that I would, personally, be interested in attending, but that is really besides the point here.

Or perhaps it is actually precisely the point, because even if I am not necessarily personally interested in the individual papers, I am truly happy that the Tolkien Society is addressing this topic, and I am very happy that there are people who wish to speak on all of these topics, and that there will be an audience within the Tolkien Society for all of these papers.

Over the years we have seen many attempts by various special-interest groups or movements to appropriate Tolkien and/or his work, by which I mean attempts to claim that not only did Tolkien support their particular cause, but reading his work from that particular ideological perspective was actually the only ‘proper’ way to read it (and anyone claiming otherwise didn't understand his work). Examples of this ranges from the Hippie movement and the eco-environmentalist movement to neo-conservatives and far-right racist groups and from Roman Catholics to Pagans. All of these have seen examples of people claiming that Tolkien supported their views and that theirs was the only ‘right’ way to read and understand Tolkien.

If anything, it shows how diverse the applicability of Tolkien is.

Let's revisit this concept, which Tolkien speaks of in the Foreword to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings

Other arrangements could be devised according to the tastes or views of those who like allegory or topical reference. But I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.

What we see in the vicious comments on the 2021 TS Seminar is an inability to appreciate that the applicability of one's own reading to one's own particular and personal experience is not universal.

For instance, that Tolkien as himself a Roman Catholic does not mean that he would agree with the particular religious position of any given Roman Catholic today. Actually, I think that there are some hints in his writings that his firm faith allowed him to be quite inclusive of other people whose faith was different – something we have also seen in Scouting and Guiding in Europe, where many Muslim immigrants feel more comfortable in Scout and Guide associations with a Christian religious affiliation than in a so-called ‘open’ associated (i.e. an association that does not have a specific religious affiliation). The same, obviously, applies to any of the other positions.

Furthermore, we can see that Tolkien's thinking evolved throughout his life, and we cannot allow ourselves to blindly believe that the view Tolkien held in the historical context of, say, 1942, would also be the ones he would hold in the context of 2021.

With all of this, I think that many of the protests against both the broad theme of the 2021 Tolkien Society Seminar, “Tolkien and Diversity” and against the specific papers to be given are both worrying and problematic. They are worrying because they appear to associate Tolkien with a close-mindedness that I think was alien to him (there is, for instance, the description of Hobbits in the 1963 draft letter to Mrs. Eileen Elgar, no. 246 in the published Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien), and they are problematic because they seem to represent a refusal to allow the intellectual investigation of a theme (these are people who would, 10 years ago, have tried to prevent research into the impact of human activity on our climate).

When I see the kind of comments that are posted on this topic, I worry that the critics may be right – the critics who only see the same things that these commenters are seeing, but who reject this world-view (as do I!), but then I see the considerate and appreciative recognition of the author from eminent scholars such as Verlyn Flieger and Dimitra Fimi, and I am relieved and believe again that it is possible to engage with Tolkien and his work with an inclusive mindset, recognising the problems in the texts, but also loving the story to bits.

As I said at the beginning, whether I, personally, am interested in any given paper is irrelevant. I am joyful that the Tolkien Society is providing a platform for all of these papers, and I wish all the best for every single paper, not least a large and interested audience who will provide appreciative and useful feed-back, and I would like to thank both the Tolkien Society and every single one of the presenters for standing up and standing out on this highly important topic.

As one of the speakers at the seminar has pointed out on Facebook, let us, with the Gaffer, exclaim that “we could do with a bit more queerness in these parts.”

Monday 24 September 2018

Oxonmoot, Day 2

Oxonmoot 2018 – Friday, 21 September

The 81st anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit!

Being at a moot or convention of any kind is at least as much about the social parts as about the special contents (such as lectures, shows, workshops etc.), so the day really does start over breakfast, which can inevitably be enjoyed in good company – often with new-found friends.

The day-time programme at this year's Oxonmoot offered two separate tracks of lectures and papers, an art-room, a dealers' room and various workshops ... of course on top of just good company in the hospitality room or elsewhere around college (if you do not take a quick trip into town).

I started out in the Investcorp Auditorium, hearing Fiona Tomkinson speaking on “Total War and the Eschatology of Peace: Tolkien between Hegel and Levinas”. Unfortunately I was a couple of minutes late, and in the business of finding a chair and getting settled I missed a couple of key definitions that were invoked several times throughout. Overall, however, the talk did seem promising, and I would like to get a copy of the paper in order to understand and assess it better.

The next session was run by the Maggie and Mike Percival (who also organised the pub quiz on Thursday evening). The session was a preparation for a quiz they plan to run at Tolkien 2019 in Birmingham. Once more, I move that all questions about adaptations be precluded from Tolkien Society quizzes for not being about “the life and works of Professor John Ronald Reuel Tolkien CBE” as per our objectives according to our Constitution (obviously this has nothing to do with my utter inability to answer such questions ... 😉). More seriously, I look forward to seeing the results come August next.

After the break (and the much-craved cup of coffee), I enjoyed Colin Duriez talk in the Nissan Lecture Theatre on “Affinities between Dorothy L. Sayers and the Inklings circle of C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and Charles Williams”. Duriez was careful to speak of “ affinities/“ such as may arise from moving in the same circles and admiring each others' work rather than making any claims to direct literary sources. Duriez focused on Sayers' relationship with C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams, both of whom she is known to have been a personal friend with, though of course he also brought up Tolkien's personal distaste for the the later Peter Wimsey books featuring Harriet Vane, though Tolkien had liked the early stories quite well. I was a bit surprised to hear that Miss Sayers only visited Lewis and Williams by invitation, having heard an anecdote from Mr and Mrs Reynolds, stalwarts of the Tolkien Society, who had met Anne Spalding, who was Williams' landlady during the war, and whom he asked to tell her he wasn't at home, when a rather fan-girlish Miss Sayers turned up unannounced at Mr Williams' lodgings.

Taking a bit of time off Oxonmoot matters to sort out a couple of private e-mails brought me to lunch, after which I settled down in the Intercorp auditorium for a set of afternoon sessions starting with Murray Smith on “Farmer Giles and George – Two monarchs and their royal houses compared and contrasted”. For me, this was more an excellent introduction to the House of Hannover than anything else, but the references to the unwritten sequel to Farmer Giles of Ham were both excellent and a welcome reminder to check up on more things.

Then Ian Spittlehouse spoke on “The Wright Stuff, Part Two. ‘The E.D.D. and E, M, and W’”, which continued on from a talk Spittlehouse had given at Oxonmoot two years ago (featuring, among other things, a Minecraft reconstruction of the house of the Wright family). In this part, Spittlehouse focused on the English Dialect Dictionary (EDD) (link to search at, of which Tolkien's later tutor, adviser, and friend, Joseph Wright, was the editor. Spittlehouse mentioned a number of dialect words from the dictionary that also appear in Tolkien's writings, starting at the letter A with “Attercop” and moving on from there through a number of interesting words, hinting at a possible source without explicitly claiming it (given Wright's influence on Tolkien, it seems highly likely – almost inevitable – to me that Tolkien would have known the EDD, though that alone does, of course, not make the EDD the source (or even a source) for every dialectal word that Tolkien used which also appear in the EDD.

Last Seamus Harnill-Keays from the local historical society in made the claim that the Buckland we know on the east marches of The Shire was inspired, not by Buckland in Oxfordshire, but by Buckland estate in the Brecon Beacons, Wales. The evidence was, in my mind, very flimsy, and relied too much on “might-of-been” and “could-of-been” suppositions and a willingness to embrace random similarities as evidence (just how many do you think have drowned in England when going boating after a very wet party ...?).  While the evidence is, admittedly, also too insufficient to reject the hypothesis, it is also much too insufficient yet for me to do other than ask for (far) more evidence.

The last period of sessions, I spent going to the Art Room and the Dealers' Room (conveniently placed in the same building). The Tolkien-inspired artists in the Art Room comprised (going round counter-clockwise from the entrance), Ruth Lacon, Ted Nasmith, Tsvetelina "Elmenel" Krumova, Jay Johnstone, Pauline Baynes, Stephen Walsh, Anke Eissman, and Soni Alcorn-hender.  Most of these are of course well-known and admired and need no further introduction, so I will simply let you take a look at my snaps (quite deliberately not showing the individual works in a good quality – click through to the artists' own web-sites). See my photos at the end of this post.

Towards the end of the afternoon, college was flooded with the participants of the now regular Dwarven Beard Workshop – Dwarves (of all genders) sporting fine beards, both long, short and ... well ... special ...  It really is such a joy to see the creativity that Oxonmooters can exhibit in constructing their Dwarven beards.

At dinner on Friday we did the toasts as per the ancient Rules (well, perhaps more like guidelines ...), to the Queen, to absent friends (yes, I was thinking of you!) and to “The Professor!” – toasting the Professor with three hundred other people at an Oxonmoot is ... well, special.

After dinner, we all waited round for the Masquerade and the “ents” –the little performances, or entertainments, of varying kinds that are put on by members of the Oxonmoot. None of this is, of course, professional, but all are enjoyed in the good spirit of the moot, though of course one may at times find one's attention wandering when it proves difficult to keep up with a long reading of own poetry (I find it increasingly difficult to sort out background noise and focus on just one source of sound, which makes it near impossible for me to follow a reading once the level of the ‘buzz’ in the room begins to rise).

We had some both hilarious and wonderful performances from both Masquerades and Ents, ending with A Elbereth Gilthoniel in polyphonic song so beautiful I still get goosebumps when writing this up three days after ...

Pictures by Ruth Lacon (left) and Ted Nasmith (right)

Art by Tsvetelina Krumova, “Elmenel”
See See note 1

Art by Jay Johnstone

Art by Pauline Baynes (left) and Jay Johnstone (right)

Art by Stephen Walsh

Art by Anke Eißmann

Art by Soni Alcorn-Hender, “Bohemian Weasel”

Note 1:  Despite what I said above, I'm going to add a couple of words about the art of Tsvetelina Krumova because most of it is of a different kind from most of the other Tolkien-inspired artists we know and love. Tsvetelina Krumova mainly works with calligraphic art, where the text itself is the artwork, and for a word-lover such as me, there is a particular pleasure in seeing the words made into art at more than one level. Also, her maps are stunning examples of what might have been hanging on the walls in e.g. Bag End (in the spirit of Tolkien's Book of Mazarbûl facsimile pages, where the text transcribes into English. Back

Saturday 22 September 2018

Oxonmoot, Day 1

Oxonmoot 2018 – Thursday, 20 September

I had arrived at St. Anthony's on Wednesday evening, and so had the whole day on Thursday – of course in order to be able to spend some more time in the Tolkien – Maker of Middle-earth exhibition at the Bodleian Libraries. On Wednesday evening, I had also found out that Harm Schelhaas (from the Netherlands) was in town and had a ticket for the exhibition at the same time slot as I had, so we set out together from St. Anthony's to have a bit of breakfast on the way to the Weston Library where the exhibition is.

Coming in with Harm proved a real boon (thank you very much, Harm!) as he had already visited the exhibition and could point out many of the highlights (including two or three errors – one being two swapped translations in the interactive Elvish stands, and others related to the 3-D map thing (I later also found the erroneous claim that all the Dwarf-names in The Hobbit were taken from the Elder Edda [the list of Dwarves in Völvuspá]).

Having thus been introduced to some of the highlights (and some of the “notice this” features and exhibits), I set out to go through the exhibition.

Starting with the parts showcasing Tolkien's life from childhood to world-famous author, which were very nice, but ultimately didn't add much new to neither knowledge or understanding of Tolkien's life.

Seeing the original fan-letters from young Terence Pratchett, from Iris Murdoch and not least from (as she was then) Her Royal Highness, Crown Princess Margrethe was quite an experience, though of course their existence and (at least most of) their contents were known, there is something a bit more magical about being in presence of the original (that same feeling of enchantment and awe filled me, both as a physicist and a Scout, when standing in front of that original World Scout Badge that Neil Armstrong brought to the moon).

And that particular magic was my main take-away from the exhibition, even despite the many, many wonderful small details that could be gleaned from the exhibits.

The artwork that is on display is well preserved: the colours are still full and vibrant, and the details are sharp. I was in many cases struck by the size of them – the originals are generally smaller than I had thought, making the detail even more impressive (and yes, I probably ought to have known based on the various books that often state the size of the original, but the actual meaning of those measures often doesn't really register until I stand before the actual original).

Much of the artwork is of course well-known, so – besides the enchantment mentioned above – the particular experience of seeing them in the exhibition mainly contributed two things for me:
  • An overview coming from being able to see the entire piece with related pieces next to them. This is especially true of the many maps that have been reproduced in black and white with varying success in the History of Middle-earth series. 
  • The ability to correlate between different pieces. I particularly wanted to take a look at all the images that Tolkien had done of Elvish architecture (not that there are very many of them) and correlate them.
This brings me to some of the main points, I came away with (yes, I did manage to get some things out of it, despite being in that enchanted state nearly throughout).

The maps – particularly those for The Lord of the Rings really ought to be more broadly available in better reproduction than what is given in the History of Middle-earth series (unfortunately it is not possible in the shop to purchase a reproduction of Tolkien's own map, but you can buy a copy of Christopher Tolkien's map with his father's and Pauline Baynes' annotations, and you can buy a copy of Pauline Baynes' map).

Rivendell. Tolkien never did much in the way of illustrating Elvish architecture and other results of Elvish craft, but he did do illustrations of Rivendell, which are fundamentally different from the way it is usually portrayed. Though I am not aware of any Tolkien drawings of e.g. Elvish furniture, interior decorations etc. I am convinced that Tolkien would not recognise the usual illustration (which I suppose is mostly Art Noveau in style) as depicting his Elvish cultures in Middle-earth. Tolkien did portray the city of Kôr (later renamed Tirion on the hill of Túna) on the shores of Aman (or, as one of these pictures is named, The Shores of Faery).
Looking at the symmetrical designs Tolkien did for his Elvish heraldic devices, at the images of Rivendell, and more broadly at what we know about Tolkien, I think that the Arts & Crafts movement would be a more likely source of inspiration for artists wishing to portray Tolkien's Elvish crafts and arts (though possibly the overloaded style of e.g. Arts & Crafts wallpapers would not be appropriate for larger surfaces – there would need to be some more free space, but without the Art Noveau curls etc.).

Oh, and I really like Tolkien's work in the Book of Ishness – marvellous! I shan't try to analyse or rationalise it, I just know that I like that work very, very much.

Having spent some 3 to 3½ hours at the exhibition (far too short, but one does need to move on), I visited the shop to buy a few souvenirs, and then moved on for some errands in town including ordering a wreath for the Enyalië to be laid down on behalf of the Copenhagen Tolkien Society, Bri (Bree).

Back at St. Anthony's it was time for registering, unloading, and a bit of dinner, and above all, for greeting friends both old and new.

The only Oxonmoot-related event on Thursday was the pub-quiz in the evening. Now, that was a diabolical quiz! The maximum number of points was 90, and the winning teams (we had a tie!) scored 64. Fortunately I had some very clever team mates, so we managed to score 58½ points, which I think was quite fine. Many thanks to the Percivals for organising this (though I would, of course, prefer that anything related to adaptations was banned entirely ... I have no chance of contributing to answering that kind of questions).

Saturday 9 December 2017

Reading Experiences – Musings on a Facebook Question

In the Tolkien Society Facebook Group, a poster recently asked:
"We have to deal with it as if it were true", one of my favorite professors once said, and he meant how we should deal with fictional texts. It's now quiet a long time ago, but the professor was definetly not the kind of person who has a whim in his head. With other words, it's not a mere "pipe dream" (no matter one stands to the habit of smoking). As I see things, that's exactly the game every sentient reader plays anyway, and he does it in a most natural way. Now I want to ask you for your individual approach to fantasy. How would you describe the ratio between your reading experience and your everyday experience? Do you merge these realms of human experience, or do you keep them apart? I am genuinely curious to read your answers!

My answer to that question unfortunately had to weave through several layers, and quickly became much too long for any reasonable comment on Facebook.

Firstly, I have always felt that my experience as a reader of fiction is expertly captured by Tolkien in his essay On Fairy-stories, when he writes,
Children are capable, of course, of literary belief, when the story-maker's art is good enough to produce it. That state of mind has been called ‘willing suspension of disbelief’. But this does not seem to me a good description of what happens. What really happens is that the story-maker proves a successful ‘sub-creator’. He makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is ‘true’: it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside. The moment disbelief arises, the spell is broken; the magic, or rather art, has failed. You are then out in the Primary World again, looking at the little abortive Secondary World from outside. If you are obliged, by kindliness or circumstance, to stay, then disbelief must be suspended (or stifled), otherwise listening and looking would become intolerable. But this suspension of disbelief is a substitute for the genuine thing, a subterfuge we use when condescending to games or make-believe, or when trying (more or less willingly) to find what virtue we can in the work of an art that has for us failed.
‘On Fairy Stories’, in Tree and Leaf, Kindle edition

I have never been satisfied with the explanation of ‘willing suspension of disbelief’, though I am perhaps a bit more generous than Tolkien himself when it comes to ignoring minor discrepancies and inconsistencies (such as e.g. appear in The Lord of the Rings – see e.g. my old blog post ‘The Lord of the Rings’ as a Transitionary Work from February 2011), but as long as the magic, the enchantment, is ‘good enough’ as it were, I will remain enchanted, and if the enchantment is broken, I can often re-create it by thoroughly analysing the break.

I am not sure what exactly is required for the enchantment to work. The ‘ inner consistency of reality’ of which Tolkien speaks elsewhere in On Fairy-stories is a good starting point, though, as I have hinted above, a perfect consistency is probably neither necessary nor even desirable (and it is certainly not attainable).

Most story-makers (to borrow Tolkien's term) takes the approach of not altering the known reality too much, and I think this is a crucial point. If the reader ends up not being able to relate to the experience of the Secondary World, then Secondary Belief is, I think, not possible, or is only possible in another sense – the enchanted state might be attainable, but it would be another kind of enchantment than the one Tolkien describes, and which I enjoy.

Many people seem to believe that the introduction of magic into a world constitutes a massive violation of the natural laws, but in nearly any fantastic story that I have read, this has not been the case. Actually magic is usually merely a small lemma to the natural laws of our world – a minor addition of a way to harness the energy of the world, and possibly and additional source of energy.  Generally the effects of such magic fit very neatly within the natural laws of our own Primary World, if only we could direct the energy in the right way. Speaking as a physicist here, I have never had any problem seeing magic as simply an addition to our current understanding of nature, rather than a violation of it.

Where I have, however, encountered problems (in fantastical literature as well as in other genres – historical fiction, mysteries, science fiction) is in human behaviour. When an author insists on portraying one race as human, then I expect that race to act according to my experience with humans. Snape's mawkish death in the Harry Potter books was completely inconsistent with his portrayal in the preceding seven (almost) books, and thus did not come as a revelation for me, but rather broke the spell completely.  The seventh of the Harry Potter books remains the only one that I have read only once.

This idea of building on the recognisable, the familiar, when building your sub- creation, is something Tolkien mastered fully, though he doesn't seem to fully acknowledge his own achievement. Instead, in On Fairy-stories, he seems to think that the idea of the ‘inner consistency of reality’ is all there is to it, and if you do it right, you can create a world with a green sun 1 ... 

Another point is what happens when you put away the book.

Some readers appear to become, as it were, stuck in the enchantment, unable to fully escape it. Fairy-stories are full of warning against what happens when humans become stuck in Faërie, and I think that the same warnings ought to apply here. Personally, I find that I have a choice. It is difficult, when reading, to not come under the enchantment (though it can be done), and likewise it is difficult, when not reading, to become enchanted (though, again, it can be done). The Primary World, I prefer to address as the Primary World and with the solutions offered in the Primary World. I have no use for the idea that “everything was better in the old days”, when everything we know clearly shows us that it wasn't (it was , admittedly, simpler, but also much, much worse), and the solutions that applied a hundred years ago, are typically useless today. We cannot feed the world' s population by “going back to the earth” or some such nonsensical foolishness.

This might also be the reason — or, more likely, a part of what is a complex system of rational and emotional reasons — why I have so little patience with the whole idea of a ‘true’, or ‘canonical’, conception of Middle-earth . Such a conception is, for me, representative of the same unhealthy sort of escapism. I agree with Tolkien that the escape is not necessarily a bad thing, but I think his discussion of ‘Escape’ in On Fairy-stories ignores that there are also kinds of escapism that are unhealthy.

Having come this far, I think I had also better touch on some of my thinking (if that is not too large a word for my musings) about the relations between the Secondary and the Primary Worlds. From one perspective, this is of course a highly utilitarian perspective, that I would rather avoid, but from another perspective, it is fun to reflect a bit about it.

Fiction, of any kind, can never represent the full complexity of the Primary World.

If this statement seems puzzlingly obvious to you, it is because it is. The consequences of this, are, however, not necessarily obvious.

When a story-maker sets out to create a new detective mystery, the underlying assumption is that the story takes place in the Primary World, with the full complexity of that world in place. The story-maker doesn't need to say this, nor indeed to explicate the way the world works. This is not the case with fantastic fiction (and in this case I include science fiction), where the story-maker has to make explicit, either by showing or by explication, which of the elements that govern causality (from physical causality to phychological) in the Primary World that also apply in their Secondary World. This is important, because this means that the complexity of causality is up to the choice of the author.

I am, as implied earlier, a physicist. I have some knowledge of theory of science as well as experience with teaching science. One of the strongest features of modern science is the concept of the model. While the philosophical aim of science of course remains to uncover Truth, the practical aim of science is to create sequentially better models for predicting the behaviour of any (scientific) system in the Primary World, and the model is the crucial educational tool used to teach science. We start with very simple models – a mass moving at a given speed without any interactions. Then we begin adding interactions: constant acceleration in the same direction as the velocity (often as a model of gravity), several forces, non-linear systems (first in two dimensions, moving on a surface, then in three dimensions), more particles (point objects with mass, then bodies (extented objects with mass), etc. etc.

The key point here is that, for educational purposes, we always choose a model that is only just complex enough to encompass the elements (typically some sort of interactions) that we wish the students to study, and we choose a model that is designed to focus on the particular aspects of science, that we wish the student to learn about.

I would claim that the same is, to some extent, true for fantastic literature.

Fantastic literature, as I have argued above, is capable of working in a Secondary World of deliberately reduced complexity (as compared to the Primary World), both with respect to the scientific complexity and with respect to psychological complexity. Simply by virtue of this characteristic, the Secondary World of fantastic literature becomes a model, and as any literature worth reading has something to offer with respect to the human condition in the Primary World, it would follow that good fantastic literature offers a Secondary World that functions as a model of the human condition in the Primary World.

If the story-maker has successfully created his Secondary World, then it will allow her ... him ... to use it for a study of precisely those aspects of the human condition in the Primary World that he wishes for the reader to, if not exactly learn about, then at least reflect on and that way become wiser about. This is of course not an easy thing to get right: When we complain that a story is too ‘black and white’, as we often say, in its portrayal of good and evil, then we need to ask ourselves if that is because the story enables – or urges, even – the reader to reflect about the very nature of Good and Evil in a way that makes us wiser on our own perception of what is good and what is evil? Very often the complaint will arise, when this is not the case, and be a result of a model that has been simplified too far for the intended reader, who then feels that the story lacks relevance with respect to the human condition of the Primary World.

This lack of relevance can of course also occur if the reader engages in a story that has a far too complex model for that reader's prior understanding of the aspects implicitly discussed in the story.

Striking this balance of complexity of the Secondary World portrayed in a story is another of the balances that need to be taken into account.

Yet another balance is that of story vs. ‘message’. I put the word in quotation marks because I use it in a rather more broad sense, than is perhaps usual. I say above that the successful Secondary World will urge us to reflect about some aspect(s) of the human condition of the Primary World. It is this urging that I am referring to as the ‘message’. When it becomes unbalanced, and the urging to reflect on the Primary World becomes too strong, it will quickly be perceived as what is, more usually, called a message: that the story-maker wishes the reader to adopt a particular view, or in some other way agree with the story-maker (as this is perceived by the reader). This is the balance that has to be found: between staying relevant to the reader, and not imposing on the reader or the reading. The reflections on the story's relevance to the Primary World should not be forced upon the reader while still in the process of reading, lest they destroy the enchantment. Instead, I think that the ideal is that they come naturally after a while, when the book has been put away and the reader is once more firmly rooted in the Primary World.

I will stop here, though I might some day return to these thoughts with a discussion of why Tolkien is such a master in this. For now, let me just briefly hint that a part of the explanation is that he has successfully created a Secondary World containing within one story a multi-layered model that, as we might say, ‘just keeps giving’...

1 Actually a green sun isn't all that difficult  – all you have to do is nothing! Human sight would only seem affected for an observer coming suddenly to such a world from a world with, e.g. a sun like our own. return

Wednesday 2 August 2017

Tolkien Transactions: A Break

I have done some serious thinking, and I have, with regret, decided that I need to take a break from producing my Tolkien Transactions.

With increasing responsibilities elsewhere, I have less time for my Tolkien interest, and I am forced to prioritise firmly with both Tolkien and other spare time activities (such as my Scouting).

As an example of the reasoning, I have yet to find time to read the last couple of Tolkien books (The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun and Beren and Lúthien), making it even more difficult to justify to myself the time I spend on the transactions, and this realisation has helped me make this decision.

If everything works out as hoped, I will soon be able to share the Feedly board, I use to organise my transactions, and so you can follow that board to see what would normally be the long list of articles for my transactions (i.e. including items that would not end up in my transactions). Watch this space, where I will keep you updated when I know more.

I hope that you will understand this decision, and whatever may happen with the Feedly board, I hope to return to the blog transactions when time allows.

In the meantime, I wish you an excellent summer!  Unless you're south of the Equator, in which case I wish you a fine winter :-)


Sunday 18 June 2017

Tolkien Transactions LXXXI

May 2017

Things have been rather hectic again, so I have decided to mostly go about things the easy way and use the intro I get in my feed reader, just citing the first something characters of the post. Everywhere where the description is given as “<text> […]”, the <text> is from the blog post itself. In a very few cases, I have added something or done a comment myself, but these are the exceptions. If this works well, I might choose to use this feature a bit more often, though of course I do hope to find time to comment myself.

These transactions are posted on my blog, Parma-kenta (Enquiry into the books) and on the Tolkien Society web-site.

This month it has suited my purposes to sort the contents under the following headlines:
1: Beren and Lúthien
2: News
3: Events
4: Essays and Scholarship
5: Commentary
6: Reviews and Book News
7: Tolkienian Artwork
8: Story Internal (Ardalogy)
9: Other Stuff
10: Rewarding Discussions
11: Other Reading
12: Web Sites
13: The Blog Roll
14: Sources

Lótessë (Yén 15, Loa 1)
by Tsvetelina ‘Elmenel’ Krumova
Lótessë corresponds roughly to the month of May.
Enjoy it in full size in Elmenel's calendar.

Beren and Lúthien

Jeffrey R. Hawboldt, Tuesday, 02 May 2017, “"Beren and Lúthien" Waterstones Events: An Evening With Alan Lee
“ Waterstones, national bookseller of the UK, is hosting a series of Beren and Lúthien events close to the book's publication. You can read more about them here:®ion=&author=332510 " Celebrate the launch of J.R.R. Tolkien's "Beren and Lúthien" with Alan Lee, the book's illustrator and the man behind much beautiful and iconic Tolkien artwork, […]”

Starts at 60, Friday, 05 May 2017, “A powerful long-lost story from JRR Tolkien
“Painstakingly restored from Tolkien's manuscripts and presented for the first time as a fully continuous and standalone story, the epic tale of Beren and Lúthien will reunite fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings with Elves and Men, Dwarves and […]”

Jeffrey R. Hawboldt, Monday, 15 May 2017, “Beren and Lúthien Tease

John Garth, New Statesman, Saturday, 27 May 2017, “Beren and Lúthien: Love, war and Tolkien's lost tales
“For Second Lieutenant J R R Tolkien the dance in the glade inspired a fairy tale, written that same summer in hospital, after a relapse of Somme trench fever. To call it a difficult birth would be the understatement of a century: it has taken 100 years […]”
John Garth reviews the new Tolkien book with his deep understanding of the story and of its gestation and evolution.

John Garth, The Telegraph, Sunday, 28 May 2017, ‘The man who brings Tolkien to life
An interview with Alan Lee by John Garth. Requires login, but is more than worth the effort of creating the account!!

Tom Beer, Newsday, Tuesday, 30 May 2017, “What's new: A classic Tolkien tale, …
“BEREN AND Lúthien, by J.R.R. Tolkien. The legend of a mortal man (Beren) who loves an immortal Elf (Lúthien) and captures a precious Silmaril jewel in order to win her hand, appeared again and again in Tolkien's writings about Middle Earth, beginning […]”

Liza Graham, NPR, Wednesday, 31 May 2017, “'Beren And Lúthien' Reflects Tolkien's Real Life Love Story
“One night in December of 1993, I stood in a frost-bound churchyard in Wolvercote, near Oxford. The tombstone in front of me bore the names of Edith Mary Tolkien and her husband John Ronald, but underneath each name was another: "Lúthien" and "Beren.". […]”


Thrice He Rose
by Jenny Dolfen
Iowa Public Television, Wednesday, 1 March 2017, ‘IPTV Presents Tolkien & Lewis: Myth, Imagination & The Quest For Meaning

Sandy Elliot, Cherwell Online, Monday, 01 May 2017, “Tolkien and 'the problems of another place'
“I do not know precisely, or even approximately, how many hours of my life have been passed watching The Lord of the Rings. Just watching each of the three films once in their theatrical cut amounts to about twelve hours of screen time. […]”

Jordan Harris, Express and Star, Monday, 15 May 2017, “Over 90000 people visit JRR Tolkien exhibition in Staffordshire
“The Exhibition, which was launched at the Museum of Cannock Chase in March 2016, is led by the Haywood Society, supported by Staffordshire Libraries and Arts, and largely funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. […]”

Jennie Ramstad,, Tuesday, 30 May 2017, “The Rio Theatre gets geeky with Dungeons & Dragons comedy and Tolkien burlesque
“On Friday (June 2) weary workers can celebrate the end of the week with Lord of the Schwings, a night of burlesque inspired by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Presented by the Geekenders and Kitty Glitter, the evening will feature silly, sexy routines […]”


Reports or comments on past events
23 May 2017, East Yorkshire, ‘Centenary Tour of Tolkien's East Yorkshire’, Michael Flowers
Michael Flowers, Tuesday, 23 May 2017, “Centenary Tour of Tolkien's East Yorkshire

1–4 June 2017, National Conference Center, Virginia, US, ‘Mythmoot IV: Invoking Wonder’, Mythgard Institute
David Bratman, Saturday, 3 june 2017, ‘Moria with the lights turned on

Info on upcoming & on-going events (as of 15 June)
11 May – 8 July 2017, Gallerie Arludik, Paris, ‘John Howe’, Gallerie Arludik
John Howe, Thursday, 20 April 2017, ‘Paris, May 11, 2017

16–18 June 2017, Waddow Hall, Clitheroe, Lancashire, ‘The Middle-earth Beer & Music Festival’, The Ale House Clitheroe

24 June 2017, East Yorkshire (Hull), ‘JRR Tolkien Shire Safari’, Phil Mathison, Michael Flowers

2 July 2017, Hilton Leeds Hotel, ‘Tolkien Society Seminar 2017’, The Tolkien Society – The theme this year will be “Poetry and Song in Tolkien's works”The Tolkien Society, Sunday, 14 May 2017, “Programme announced for The Tolkien Society Seminar 2017

3–6 July 2017, Leeds, ‘International Medieval Congress’, University of Leeds, Institute for Medieval Studies
Anna Smol, Friday, 19 May 2017, “Tolkien sessions in Leeds, 2017

28–31 July 2017, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, USA, ‘Mythcon 48’, The Mythopoeic Society
Lynn Maudlin, Monday, 08 May 2017, “Mythcon 48 Progress Report Published

10–13 August 2017, California State University, East Bay, Hayward Campus, USA, ‘Omentielva Otsea: The Seventh International Conference on J.R.R. Tolkien's Invented Languages’, Omentielva

21–24 September 2017, St. Anthony's College, Oxford, ‘Oxonmoot’, The Tolkien Society

3–5 November 2017, Chaska, Minnesota, USA, ‘Tol-Con’, Tol-Con Committee

9–10 November 2017, Greenville, South Carolina, USA, ‘Celebrate Tolkien’, Dan Cruver
Andrew Moore, Greenville Journal, Tuesday, 25 April 2017, ‘In November, the armies of Middle Earth will invade downtown Greenville

1 June – 28 October 2018, Weston Library, Oxford, ‘Tolkien – Maker of Middle-earth’, Bodleian Libraries

Essays and Scholarship

“J.R.R. Tolkien” on
“Tolkien Studies” on
A sampling of papers uploaded to in May (-ish ... probably ... or thereabouts, the exact upload date is generally not available). Unsorted. Where a paper is indicated as having been previously published in a journal, this is included here:
Robert T. Tally Jr., Popular Fiction and Spatiality: Reading Genre Settings (ed. Lisa Fletcher), ‘Tolkien's Geopolitical Fantasy: Spatial Narrative in The Lord of the Rings
Eric Gilhooly, In-formarse 56, ‘Death and the Numenoreans: Is This Life All There Is?
Rune Tveitstul Jensen, University of Oslo thesis, ‘The Role of Trees in Shakespeare, Tolkien and Atwood
Lisa Chinellato,, ‘Nostalgia and homesickness: a manifestation of the yearning for a better, ‘primitive’ life in J.R.R Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings"
Simon J. Cook, Tolkien Studies 13, ‘The Cauldron at the Outer Edge: Tolkien on the Oldest English Fairy Tales
Liuwe Westra, Lembas 2017, ‘There and Back Again – but Whence?
Diego Klautau, Ciberteologia vol. 2 no. 8, ‘Evil and Power. The symbolism of the One Ring in " The Lord of the Rings "
Olga Polomoshnova,, ‘Let It Shine

Dimitra Fimi, Monday, 1 May 2017, ‘How Social Media Has Helped my Research (or, the kindness of strangers!)
Or perhaps ‘how modern technology expand the opportunities of scholars&rsdquo;.

John Edwards,, Sunday, 07 May 2017, “Did everyone believe in religion in medieval Europe?
“ One common idea about medieval Europe was that everyone were firm believers in religion. […]”

Dimitra Fimi, The Tolkien Society, Monday, 8 May 2017, ‘Dimitra Fimi - Tolkien and the Art of Book Reviewing: A Circuitous Road to Middle-earth
Video of Dimitra Fimi's excellent presentation at the 2016 Oxonmoot.
See also Dimitra Fimi, Wednesday, 17 May 2017, “Tolkien and the Art of Book Reviewing: A Circuitous Road to Middle-earth
“ The Tolkien Society has just uploaded on YouTube my talk for Oxonmoot 2016, titled: “Tolkien and the Art of Book Reviewing: A Circuitous Road to Middle-earth”. I thought, therefore, that it would be a good idea to publish the text of the talk and slides too. The talk focuses on Tolkien's three book reviews on “Philology” for The Year's Work in English Studies , published between 1924 and 1927. […]”

Annalisa Palmer, Monday, 22 May 2017, “Wilderness, Faerie, and Character in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
“ French Arthurian romances, like those of Chrétien de Troyes, often gloss over particulars of geography. Other romances involving Sir Gawain, in particular, follow suit; contrary to this, fitt II of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (SGGK) highlights specific geography of Northern England. Certainly, scholars elaborated on “Þe wyldrenesse of Wyrale” before (see Elliott and Rudd), […]”

Annalisa Palmer, Monday, 22 May 2017, “Chrétien and the Silent Majority
“ “Well I didn't vote for you” Silence versus speech, namely question and answers, serves as one of the central conceits of Chrétien de Troyes' The Story of the Grail (Perceval ). Perceval begins the story as an uncouth youth who states whatever he wishes, and as indicative of most bildungsroman narratives, he matures, but he matures into silence. […]”, Monday, 22 May 2017, “Thousands of Vikings were based at Torksey camp, archaeologists find
“ A huge camp which was home to thousands of Vikings as they prepared to conquer England in the late ninth century has been uncovered by archaeologists.[…]”

John D. Rateliff, Wednesday, 31 May 2017, “Reinventing the Wheel? (Tolkien's sources)
“So, while I was at Marquette on my most recent research trip, the name Holly Ordway came up as someone who had what looks to be an interesting book in the works: TOLKIEN'S MODERN SOURCES. I wasn't able to find out too much about it, other than this brief description: “My current project is a literary-critical study, Tolkien's Modern Sources: Middle-earth Beyond the Middle Ages, to be published“ […]”

Farewell to Lorien
by Peter Xavier Price
An older piece from 2002 that I wanted to bring to your attention.


Shawn E. Marchese, Prancing Pony Ponderings, Sunday, 16 Apr 2017, “Smells Like Elf Spirit
“ In an early Prancing Pony Ponderings essay, I made brief mention of the following passage in The Hobbit … ‘Hmmm! it smells like elves!’ thought Bilbo, and he looked up at the stars. They were burning bright and blue. (The Hobbit, p. 45) … and quickly skipped past the questionable implications of “elf-smell.” […]”

Alan Sisto, Prancing Pony Ponderings, Sunday, 30 Apr 2017, “Túrin: “Simple Twist of Fate”? or “Freewill”
“ Yes, I referenced both Bob Dylan and Rush in the title of this essay. Fair warning: that may very well be the essay's high point. After all, philosophers have been debating – without a certain answer – the nature of free will for centuries, and I'm unlikely to solve it here. (Spoiler alert: I don't really try.) But it's such a fascinating subject […]”

Stephen C. Winter, Monday, 1 May 2017, ‘Legolas and Gimli in Minas Tirith
“On the morning after the great battle Legolas and Gimli are eager to find Merry and Pippin. “It is good to learn that they are still alive,” said Gimli; “for they cost us great pains in our march over Rohan, and I would not have such pains all wasted.” And so they make their way up through the city towards the Houses of Healing and as they do so they ponder this greatest of cities and see […]”

John D. Rateliff, Wednesday, 03 May 2017, “A Certain Resemblance
“So, after trips and scheduling conflicts and illness, we finally managed to get the Monday night D&D group together for another session of Ravenloft last week and again this week.* During the first of these we explored a place we'd been chased out of once and now got chased out of all over again; during the latter we actually snuck into (and back out of) Castle Ravenloft itself, […]”

Bruce Charlton, Thursday, 04 May 2017, “The universal realm of the dream world in The Notion Club Papers - Tolkien's personal beliefs and experiences
“Sleep experience, especially dreaming, lies near the hart of The Notion Club Papers (NCPs). One aspect of this is that there are multiple references to the idea that the dream world is a realm of experience which is universal - in other words, dreaming is a single, vast domain - with distinctive qualities, different from the waking state - that is potentially accessible by all people. […]”

Grant P. Hudson, Clarendon House, Monday, 08 May 2017, “Galadriel and Tolkien's Imagination
“ The character of Galadriel is an instance of Tolkien's retroactive imagination at work. Not originally envisaged in his first tales of Middle-earth, Tolkien, having written her into a key role inThe Lord of the Rings, felt compelled to weave her history backwards into the tapestry of that earlier set of stories - a process which he did not complete, leaving us with various sometimes contradictory […]”

Tom Hillman, Friday, 05 May 2017, “Aglæca
“ There was just something about the word aglæa -- 'awesome opponent, ferocious fighter' as the DOE defines it -- that seemed familiar. From the first time I encountered it in Beowulf , it rang a bell. There the poet most frequently uses it to describe Grendel or the Dragon as, according to the gloss in Klaeber, ' one inspiring awe or misery, formidable one, afflicter, […]”

John D. Rateliff, Sunday, 07 May 2017, “Echoes of Eowyn
“So, recently I came across a passage I'd found years ago and never been able to re-locate. I had been reading the first (and, so far as I knew at that time, only) volume of Ursula Dronke's edition, with extensive commentary, of THE POETIC EDDA, Volume I: HEROIC POEMS […]”

Stephen C Winter, Monday, 08 May 2017, “Legolas and Gimli Speak of The Greatness of Aragorn, The Heir of Isildur.
“ So it is that Legolas and Gimli meet and speak with Merry and Pippin in the gardens of the Houses of Healing. And there the Elf and the Dwarf tell of the mighty ride of the Dunedain and the hosts of the Dead through the valleys of Gondor through Lebennin to the mouth of the Great River at Pelargir. […]”

Ryszard Viajante Derdzinski, Monday, 22 May 2017, “«debt of £700 and upwards due to me by my Brother» Brothers Daniel and John Tolkien!
Here is, as you might say, the smoking gun! Congratulations – and thank you – to Ryszard Derdzinski for keeping at it and digging out the evidence.
I have been critical of Ryszard Derdzinski's premature conclusion that Mr Daniel Tolkien and Mr John Tolkien were brothers, which I think was based on not considering other possibilities and concluding on rather shaky evidence. However, with the addition of this document (the last will and testament of Mr. Daniel Tolkien), the totality of the evidence is now sufficient to say that other (identified) options are now much less likely than the possibility that they were indeed brothers.
Do not forget to also check the many other interesting posts that Ryszard has made during this month (see the link to the May archive in the blog roll at the bottom of these transactions).

Shawn E. Marchese, Prancing Pony Ponderings, Sunday, 14 May 2017, “Pity and Fear: the Tragic Tale of Túrin
“ It's been three weeks since Alan and I finished our trilogy of episodes on the story of Túrin Turambar in The Silmarillion, and no one is looking forward to Tuor showing up on the podcast more than I am. But before we say farewell to the son of Húrin, I still wish to explore the idea of Túrin as a tragic hero, as I promised to do […]”

Stephen C Winter, Monday, 15 May 2017, “Gandalf Thinks About the Weather
“ We can forgive Gandalf for mixing not just two but three metaphors because of who he is. Perhaps he mixes them deliberately in order to leave his hearers in no doubt about the point that he is making. The hearers are the lords of the allies gathered at the gates of Minas Tirith. […]”

Middle-earth Reflections, Tuesday, 16 May 2017, “Glorfindel: the power of white light (II)
“The rider's cloak streamed behind him, and his hood was thrown back; his golden hair flowed shimmering in the wind of his speed. To Frodo it appeared that a white light was shining through the form and raiment […]”

Lynn Forest-Hill, Southfarthing Mathom 2012, Tuesday, 16 May 2017, “First in May
“ 13.5.17 At our first meeting in May we were without Ian but were joined by Julie again, so 6 of us tackled the issues raised by ‘Mount Doom&rquo;. This led to a discussion heavily influenced by theological matters, with occasional references to World War One. […]”

Quickbeam / Bregalad
by Peter Xavier Price
John D. Rateliff, Thursday, 18 May 2017, “Gygax Tolkien-bashing
“ So, just before leaving for Kalamazoo I got a message from my local Barnes & Nobel that an item I'd pre-ordered had come in: RISE OF THE DUNGEON MASTER: GARY GYGAX AND THE CREATION OF D&D by David Kushner (text) and Koren Shadmi (art). Essentially this is a biography in graphic novel form, with word balloons sometimes representing the biographer's narration or commentary […]”

Stephen C Winter, Monday, 22 May 2017, “Gandalf Speaks of a Time to Risk Everything
“ I never thought that I would ever quote Lenin in this blog but there is no doubt that he was a man who knew how to recognise and then to seize opportunity when it came. […]”

Tom Hillman, Tuesday, 23 May 2017, “Things You Find In Grammar Books

Middle-earth Reflections, Tuesday, 23 May 2017, “Language notes /// On Galadriel.
“Lady Galadriel, who is so poetically and very precisely described by Sam in his conversation with Faramir, came to become one of the pivotal characters in Tolkien’s mythology. […]”

Allya Whiteley, Den of Geek UK, Friday, 26 May 2017, “The little known fairy stories of J R R Tolkien
“In 1938/39 JRR Tolkien was just beginning the task of writing The Lord Of The Rings. He was a meticulous writer and rewriter, building his world one detail at a time […]”

Stephen C Winter, Monday, 29 May 2017, “The “Hopeless Journey” of the Armies of the West.
“A few days after the great battle the armies of the West gather once more upon the Pelennor Fields in order to march towards the Morannon, the same Black Gate that Frodo and Sam saw upon their journey to Mordor and realised was impossible to enter. Tolkien describes the march as a “hopeless journey”, one that must end in inevitable defeat and death, […]”

Lynn Forest-hill, Southfarthing Mathom 2012, Tuesday, 30 May 2017, “Last Meeting in May
“ 27.5.17 Only four of us managed to get to the meeting today, partly on account of train cancellations, music festivals, and general Bank Holiday demands. However, Chris had sent some thoughts on the chapter(s) we had planned to discuss. Because Ian had been away for our last meeting we revisited some topics discussed then, so Carol's comments on these were included last time. Laura opened proceed”

Reviews and Book News

Abe Kenmore, The Guilfordian, Monday, 1 May 2017, ‘Professor Caroline McAlister presents story on Tolkien's life

Brenton Dickieson, Wednesday, 03 May 2017, “John Lawlor's Memories and Reflections on C.S. Lewis
“ I have just had the delightful experience of reading John Lawlor's book, C.S. Lewis: Memories and Reflections (1998). Prof. Lawlor was an undergraduate student of C.S. Lewis' before and after WWII before continuing on to do his graduate work with J.R.R. Tolkien. […]”

Douglas A. Anderson, Sunday, 07 May 2017, “Beginnings and Endings
“Some recent events have got me looking back upon how I got started in this field. I first read Tolkien in the summer of 1973, and for the next few years I looked for anything similar to Tolkien to read. There were some notable successes, like Lord Dunsany, Ursula K. Le Guin, Clark Ashton Smith, and Patricia A. McKillip. […]” – About four bibliographical resources from the late seventies that stand out still.

John D. Rateliff, Wednesday, 10 May 2017, “festschrift flyer (Flieger)
“ So, I'm happy to announce that A WILDERNESS OF DRAGONS: ESSAYS IN HONOR OF VERLYN FLIEGER now has a publisher, Gabbro Head Press. Primary editing has now been all but completed. The book still needs a second editorial pass, plus an introduction and index. We're hoping for a publication date before the end of the year. Here's the flyer I'm distributing here at Kalamazoo, […]”

DB's Data Base and nal de jour, Thursday, 11 May 2017, “scholarly book review
“ Tom Shippey, Hard Reading: Learning from Science Fiction (Liverpool University Press)
Tom Shippey is, of course, the renowned Tolkien scholar, famous for his lucid explanations of what Tolkien was actually trying to do, and his robust denunciations of critics who carp at Tolkien from positions of cluelessness as to either his intent or achievement. […]”

Douglas A. Anderson, Monday, 22 May 2017, “A New Issue of ORCRIST!
“Orcrist no. 9, dated April, but published May 2017 The J.R.R. Tolkien Society at the University of Wisconsin--Madison was founded in 1966. It has met continuously for over fifty years. It also published eight issues of a journal, Orcrist, with issue one dated 1966/1967 and issue eight dated 1977. Orcrist has been dormant for forty year, but now, at long last, issue nine has just been published! […]”

Anna Smol, Monday, 22 May 2017, “Forthcoming: Essays in Honor of Verlyn Flieger
“ I'm very happy to announce that one of my essays will be part of a festschrift for Verlyn Flieger, a renowned Tolkien scholar and someone I admire very much. The book, A Wilderness of Dragons: Essays in Honor of Verlyn Flieger, is edited by John Rateliff. […]”

David Bratman, Thursday, 25 May 2017, “publications ahoy
“After too long an absence from other scholarly venues than the one I edit for, I got to finalize the texts of two papers today, OKing the final tweaks from their editors. Both are fairly short, but it's good to have them out. And for one of them, it means I get to be in this. […]”

John D. Rateliff, Friday, 26 May 2017, “The Inklings Book of Arthur
“So, last week I learned about the Go Fund Me drive for Sørina Higgins' project THE INKLINGS AND KING ARTHUR, a collection of about twenty essays looking at the Arthurian works of Tolkien, Lewis, Wms, and Barfield. Apparently the book is done but permissions ran higher than expected, hence the fund drive to fill in the gap. […]”

Andrew Higgins, Tuesday, 30 May 2017, “Building Imaginary Worlds (2012) by Mark J.P. Wolf and Revisiting Imaginary World (2016) edited by Mark J.P. Wolf
“Book review of Building Imaginary Worlds (2012) by Mark J.P. Wolf and Revisiting Imaginary Worlds (2016), edited by Mark J.P. Wolf, reviewed by Andrew Higgins.”

Tolkienian Artwork

Šárka Škorpíková, DeviantArt, Wednesday, 1 March 2017, ‘Nenuial (Lake Evendim)

Miruna Lavinia, DeviantArt, Monday, 01 May 2017, “Hobbits resting

The Prancing Pony
by Tomás Hijo
Currently available as a poster at reduced price
… I have already bought mine.
Tomás Hijo, Monday, 08 May 2017, “The banner of Lake Town

Joe Gilronan, Fine Art America, Tuesday, 09 May 2017, “Late Evening Bag End

Tomás Hijo Art, Tuesday, 09 May 2017, “The banner for King Théoden of Rohan

Elena Kukanova, DeviantArt, Wednesday, 10 May 2017, “Lúthien Tinuviel

Tomás Hijo Art, Wednesday, 10 May 2017, “Westu hál, Théoden, King of Rohan

Rhett Whittington, DeviantArt, Friday, 12 May 2017, “Gandalf Progression

James Turner Mohan, DeviantArt, Friday, 12 May 2017, “Going Treeish

Joe Gilronan, Fine Art America, Tuesday, 16 May 2017, “Good Morning

Elena Kukanova, DeviantArt, Tuesday, 16 May 2017, “Finrod

Elena Kukanova, DeviantArt, Tuesday, 16 May 2017, “Orodreth

Tomás Hijo Art, Thursday, 18 May 2017, ““The man in the moon”: As they have never landed in, I have sold only...

‘Aegeri’, DeviantArt, Wednesday, 17 May 2017, “Cirith Ungol

‘Suwi’;. DeviantArt, Wednesday, 17 May 2017, “The King of the Golden Hall

Miruna Lavinia, DeviantArt, Thursday, 18 May 2017, “The passing of the Elves

‘Aegeri’, DeviantArt, Monday, 22 May 2017, “Mirkwood

Peter Xavier Price, DeviantArt, Thursday, 25 May 2017, “Quickbeam/Bregalad

Elena Kukanova, DeviantArt, Friday, 26 May 2017, “Ard Gallen

‘Ellthalion’, DeviantArt, Saturday, 27 May 2017, “Sigurd, sigurd

Elena Kukanova, DeviantArt, Wednesday, 31 May 2017, “Princess of Nargothrond

James Turner Mohan, DeviantArt, Wednesday, 31 May 2017, “Beren and Lúthien (WIP)

Story Internal (Ardalogy)

Austin Gilkeson, Tuesday, 09 May 2017, “Smaug vs. Durin's Bane: Who Would Win in the Ultimate Dragon/Balrog Showdown?
“ No question animates the mind of a young speculative fiction fan more than “Who would win?” It's a question that provokes our firmest cultural loyalties and the lizard part of our brain that enjoys nothing more than smashing action figures together. It's a question that's lead to untold hours of heated discussion, ruined hundreds of friendships, and earned billions of dollars at the box office […]” (And which, Troels adds, is particularly uninteresting.)

Michael Martinez, Thursday, 11 May 2017, “How Long was the Voyage from Middle-earth to Valinor?
“ Q: How Long was the Voyage from Middle-earth to Valinor? ANSWER: This is one of those questions that can be answered in two ways. One way is a trick response, although probably technically correct. The other way is highly speculative[…]”

Michael Martinez, Tuesday, 16 May 2017, “Did the Black Riders Reach Hobbiton in Less Time than Gandalf on Shadowfax?
“ Q: Did the Black Riders Reach Hobbiton in Less Time than Gandalf on Shadowfax? ANSWER: Last year a reader asked me if I could explain an apparent discrepancy between the reported time for the Nazgûl's journey to Hobbiton versus Gandalf's […]”

Michael Martinez, Monday, 29 May 2017, “Answers Too Short for their Own Articles
“ Q: Was Celebrimbor Fëanor's only grandchild? ANSWER: A reader asked for clarification about how many grand-children Fëanor had. To the best of my knowledge, so far as I know, Celebrimbor was the only third-generation Fëanorian to live in Middle-earth. […]”

Good Morning
by Joe Gilronan

Other Stuff

Bruce Charlton, Tuesday, 02 May 2017, “Our destiny is to become both conscious and free - Owen Barfield in a nutshell...
“Owen Barfield's nature and achievement is usually under-sold by a partial, and therefore misleading, summary; that states his goal was to prove by evidence that human consciousness had evolved; and that this was achieved mainly via 'philological' investigations into the changing meaning of words. […]”

Dennis Wise, Thursday, 04 May 2017, “Chuck Willias -- the "Last Magician" or the "Third Inkling"?
“ I'm not a fan of Charles Williams, but Grevel Lindop's biography of him, Charles Williams:The Third Inkling , has been widely praised, even winning a Mythopoeic award for Inklings Studies last year. About the only criticism of Lindop's book I've seen concerned it's name. Tolkien scholar David Bratman, for example, has argued that calling CW "the third Inkling" unfairly puts CW into the shadow […]”

Tom Hillman, Monday, 08 May 2017, “Dreams of Beowulf
“ Sometimes I have the coolest dreams. The other night I fell asleep at my desk (as one does) leaning on my hands, trying to hold my head up and stay awake, so I could finish my daily reading in Beowulf. […] ”

Joshua Dudley, Observer, Wednesday, 10 May 2017, “People Who Podcast: Improv Meets Tolkien Adventures in 'Hello From the Magic Tavern'
“This is People Who Podcast, where we talk to the people behind some of the most fun and interesting podcasts available today. Why do they make their shows? What do they love about them? And is podcasting actually a viable career option […]”

David Bratman, Friday, 19 May 2017, “another one to cross off his list
“I confess I've never read much of the criticism of F.R. Leavis. What I have read was enough to demonstrate that, rather to my surprise, Frederick Crews' famous "Simon Lacerous" parody - "Another book to cross off your list" - isn't much of an exaggeration. Leavis really was that brutally waspish - or waspishly brutal. […]”

Grant P. Hudson, Clarendon House, Monday, 22 May 2017, “The Importance of Proofreading
“Have you ever been so moved by a piece of literature or so persuaded by an essay that you immediately changed your own views either of the world or regarding the topic it addressed? Have you ever re-read something just because it was so wonderful that you couldn't get enough of it? To tell you the truth, I often re-read my favourite books for just that reason […]”

Signum University, Friday, 26 May 2017, “Announcing Anytime Audits
“Signum University is proud to announce a new feature: Anytime Auditing! This is a brand new way of allowing people to access to our graduate-level courses whenever they like. […]”

Grant P. Hudson, Clarendon House, Tuesday, 30 May 2017, “C. S. Lewis: Allegory and Symbolism
“ Quite apart from the use of a commonplace wardrobe as a portal to a different world, and the introduction of a ‘re-booted’ God figure join the form of Aslan, Lewis used other symbology in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. […]”

Rewarding Discussions

Maria Messer, Middle-earth News, Tuesday, 16 May 2017, “Join Our Hobbit Book Club in June!
“All month long in June, Middle-earth News will host a book club were we will read Tolkien's The Hobbit. Ever wanted to discuss a scene or dialogue in The Hobbit? Something in the novel you […]”

Other Reading

Web Sites

Alan Sisto and Shawn E. Marchese, The Prancing Pony Podcast
Centred about the podcast done by Shawn E. Marchese and Alan Sisto, the site also includes much other content than just the podcast episodes. This includes the Prancing Pony Ponderings, which is a blog with short essays (usually related to the topics of contemporary podcasts).

The Blog Roll

These are blogs you really should be following yourself if you're interested in Tolkien ...
Contents from these blogs will only be reported here if there is something that I find particularly interesting, or posts that fit with a monthly theme. However, you will find below links to monthly archives of posts for months where the blog has featured interesting posts with at least some Tolkien connection. In some cases you may find a headline for a post, if I wish to recommend it particularly.
by Jenny Dolfen

Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond, ‘Too Many Books and Never Enough
Archive of posts from May 2017

Dimitra Fimi, ‘Dr. Dimitra Fimi
Archive of posts from May 2017

Jason Fisher, ‘Lingwë -- Musings of a Fish
Archive of posts from May 2017

Douglas A. Anderson, ‘Tolkien and Fantasy
Archive of posts from May 2017

John D. Rateliff -- ‘Sacnoth's Scriptorium
Archive of posts from May 2017

John Garth, ‘John Garth
Archive of posts from May 2017

David Bratman, ‘Kalimac's Journal
Archive of posts from May 2017

Jenny Dolfen, ‘Jenny's Sketchbook
Archive of posts from May 2017

Andrew Higgens, ‘Wotan's Musings
Archive of posts from May 2017

Anna Smol, ‘A Single Leaf
Archive of posts from May 2017

Edmund Weiner, ‘Philoloblog
Archive of posts from May 2017

Robin Anne Reid, her blog
Archive of posts from May 2017

Annalisa Palmer, her blog
Archive of posts from September 2016

Various, The Mythopoeic Society
News archive

Various (Bradford Eden, ed.)Journal of Tolkien Research (JTR)
Archive of contributions for the on-going volume 4, issue 1

Various, The Tolkien Society (TS)
Archive of posts from May 2017

Southfarthing Mathom
Archive of posts from May 2017

Various, The Mythopoeic Society, ‘The Horn of Rohan Redux
Archive of posts from May 2017

Sue Bridgwater, ‘Skorn
Archive of posts from May 2017

Tom Hilman, ‘Alas, not me
Archive of posts from May 2017

Michael Martinez, ‘Middle-earth
Archive of posts from May 2017

Bruce Charlton, ‘Tolkien's The Notion Club Papers
Archive of posts from May 2017

Various, ‘Middle-earth News
Archive of posts from May 2017

Jeffrey R. Hawboldt, ‘Expressions of Substance
Archive of posts from May 2017

Ryszard Viajante Derdzinski, ‘Tolknięty
Archive of posts from May 2017

Stephen C. Winter, ‘Wisdom from The Lord of the Rings
Archive of posts from May 2017


New sources in May 2017
Alan Sisto & Shawn E. Marchese, ‘Prancing Pony Ponderings

For older sources, see