Monday 13 December 2010

Twelve Days of Christmas

We recently had a resurgence of the classic Christmas thread: how best to create a Tolkien version of the Twelve Days of Christmas carol. Personally I am of the opinion that one should try to make both the numbers and the items fit something from Tolkien's texts — five golden rings simply doesn't work because there were no five Rings anywhere. To make it more challenging, I further hold that one should attempt to keep not just the metre of the original, but also the patterns of rhymes and alliterations. Having made it that challenging, it is inevitable that I cannot myself live up to this standard, but I will nonetheless impose my best effort on anyone reading this ;-)

  1. On the first day of Christmas, the Valar gave to me
    A Good King from the Great Sea
  2. Two fallen lamps
  3. Three Elf-kins
  4. Four Free Peoples
  5. Five Istari
  6. Six Dwarf mothers
  7. Seven Stones a-seeing
  8. Eight fellows fleeing
  9. Nine Wraiths a-raiding
  10. Ten Noldor knighting
  11. Eleven Houses housing
  12. Twelve guards a-guarding
Unfortunately I cannot find a good word to replace ‘Christmas’ — neither ‘Yule’, ‘Lithe’ or any other word that I can come up with fits the metre.

Since the Tolkien references for these are, perhaps, not equally obvious to everyone, I follow with a brief explanation of what each line refers to:
  1. May refer to either Elendil or Elessar — a good king from the people of Númenor that came out of the Great Sea, Belegaer.
  2. The Two Lamps, Iluin and Ormal, that Aulë raised, Varda filled and Manwë hallowed for the spring of Arda
  3. The Vanyar, the Noldor and the Sindar
  4. From the long list of the Ents (before the addition of Hobbits): Elves, Dwarves, Ents and Men
  5. The five Wizards
  6. According to the legend Durin, the eldest of the Dwarven Fathers was not put to sleep without a spouse, whereas each of the other six Dwarven Fathers were put to sleep each with his proper spouse.
  7. The Seven Palantíri mentioned in the rhyme of lore Gandalf quotes as he is riding with Pippin from Dol Baran
  8. The eight members of the Fellowship of the Ring that fled Moria
  9. Fairly obvious, I suppose — the nine Ringwraiths 
  10. The ten companions, Felagund's most faithful knights, that went with Finrod Felagund to help Beren (and who died in Sauron's captivity without giving away the secrets of the their king). ‘Knighting’ is here meant as the proper activities of a knight rather than to the elevation to knighthood by a ruler
  11. The Eleven Houses of Gondolin that housed its population
  12. The guards, ‘knights both of Rohan and Gondor’, that guarded the bed of state of Théoden King in the Hall of the Tower before the throne of Gondor after the Battle of the Pelennor.
Please do try to come up with something better — whether for a single word, a line or more.

Here's some references to the threads in the Tolkien newsgroups
2010 version: Google Groups: Twelve days of Christmas -- again
2008 version: Google Groups: 12 Days of Christmas revisited
2003-4 version: Google Groups: 12 days of Christmas (Galadriel gave to me)

There was also an effort in the Harry Potter newsgroups a few years back (as I count these things!) that Igenlode has kindly archived at

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Concerning Hobbits

I really should have known better than to start a blog at a time when I knew I would be dreadfully busy. Not only am I busy at work, but I have promised to write a review of Tolkien Studies vol. VII, and then there's the scouting obligations . . . oh well ;-)

I do expect to find more time to put up something interesting after Christmas, but in the mean-time, certain events have called some attention to Tolkien's description of the Hobbits.

Kunochan, writing at, statest that
Tolkien’s Middle Earth is specifically intended to be Europe in a far distant age of the past. Not like Europe, or analogous to Europe – our Europe. Its Men are the ancestors of today’s Germanic peoples, especially the Anglo-Saxons. That was Tolkien’s brief – to create an Anglo-Saxon mythology to replace the true one that is largely lost.
(‘Of Course Hobbits Have to be White’, 2010-12-10)
And while this is certainly true, it also ignores some key facts about the Hobbits in particular.

Hobbits are, ‘of course, really meant to be a branch of the specifically human race’[1], but they are nonetheless a separate breed from the ‘Big Folk’, and so, what is known to apply to the Big Folk does not necessarily apply to Hobbits as well. The ‘Men’ of the north-west of Middle-earth may well, as Kunochan points out, be ‘the ancestors of today’s Germanic peoples’, but this, quite obviously, does not apply to the Hobbits.

Apart from more or less educated guesses about Tolkien's intention, we are therefore left with what little Tolkien actually wrote about the appearance of the Hobbits. Near the beginning of The Hobbit we learn that
Hobbits have no beards. [...]. They are inclined to be fat in the stomach; they dress in bright colours (chiefly green and yellow); wear no shoes, because their feet grow natural leathery soles and thick warm brown hair like the stuff on their heads (which is curly); have long clever brown fingers, good-natured faces, and laugh deep fruity laughs (especially after dinner, which they have twice a day when they can get it). (The Hobbit ch. 1 ‘An Unexpected Party’)
Apart from information about the peculiarities of Hobbit extremities, there is little of interest here: they have brown hair and brown fingers. There is little more help to find in the sequel
[...] their feet had tough leathery soles and were clad in a thick curling hair, much like the hair of their heads, which was commonly brown. [...]; but they had long and skilful fingers and could make many other useful and comely things. Their faces were as a rule good-natured rather than beautiful, broad, bright-eyed, red-cheeked, with mouths apt to laughter, and to eating and drinking.
(The Lord of the Rings, Prologue, ‘1. Concerning Hobbits’)
The red cheeks is another small hint, but again it is more useful for eliminating possibilities (i.e. no black Hobbits in the Shire). The prologue also tells us that the ‘Harfoots were browner of skin, smaller, and shorter, and they were beardless and bootless’ and that the ‘Fallohides were fairer of skin and also of hair, and they were taller and slimmer than the others’ but without some indications of both the amount of variation and the average, this doesn't really tell us anything. Based on the evidence so far, we can't very well conclude anything much: Hobbits had brown hands, which suggests a brown skin, but were not darker than to be able to have red cheeks, and there were noticeable variations from this depending on breed (Harfoot, Stoor or Fallohide).

Towards the end of The Lord of the Rings we hear about the Year of Plenty (1420 S.R.) that, ‘All the children born or begotten in that year, and there were many, were fair to see and strong, and most of them had a rich golden hair that had before been rare among hobbits.’ (LotR, book VI, ch. 9 ‘The Grey Havens’), which tells us both that golden hair had not been unheard of among Hobbits, but it had been the exception rather than the rule.

So, where does all this leave us? Not very much wiser, I'm afraid.

But that is precisely where the educated guesses take over. Culturally the Hobbits represent the rural population of the English West-Midlands about the time of the Silver Jubilee (of Queen Victoria), but the people of Dale represents culturally the Nordic countries of the sagas, and yet their prime representative, Bard the Bowman, had black hair. The irony here is that I do agree that Hobbits, apart from size and certain peculiarities about feet, hand and ears in particular, really are intended, by Tolkien, to be also physically similar to that stock of good rural Englishmen that they also represent culturally, but I think we need to acknowledge that this is just that, an educated guess, even if we do have a very high degree of confidence about it.

Praetereo censeo that it is no more problematic to have a Pakistani-looking Hobbit than to have a bearded dúnadan — while the latter actually contradicts Tolkien's explicit statements, both are, in my opinion, irrelevant deviations (I think there are things that are far more critical: the loss of an underlying spirituality in the New Line Cinema adaptations of The Lord of the Rings was, to me, far more grievous, but that is not a discussion that I have any intention of embarking on here and now).

[1] Humphrey Carpenter (ed), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, footnote to letter #131 to Milton Waldman, late 1951?

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Tolkien Transactions VII

Tolkien Transactions VII
November 2010

The time has come for a new issue of my attempt to extract the best or most interesting (in my highly subjective estimate) of Tolkien-related events this past month. This month I have ignored a lot of things that haven't really caught my interest, including a legion of reports and ‘news-items’ about the current project to do a cinematic adaptation of The Hobbit. Still, as usual, please chime in with interesting stuff that you have found elsewhere!

All the usual disclaimers apply about newness, completeness and relevance — and in particular about any implication of responsibility :-)

 = = = = Sources  = = = =

John D. Rateliff (JDR) — “Sacnoth's Scriptorium”

Jason Fisher (JF) — “Lingwë — Musings of a Fish”

Michael Drout (MD) — “Wormtalk and Slugspeak”

Wayne G. Hammond & Christina Scull (H&S) — “Too Many Books and Never Enough”

Pieter Collier (PC) — “The Tolkien Library”

Douglas A. Anderson (DAA) et Al. — “Wormwoodiana”

Corey Olsen (CO), “The Tolkien Professor”

David Bratman (DB), “Calimac”

Larry Swain (LS), “The Ruminate”

‘Wellinghall’, “Musings of an Aging Fan”

Various, ‘The Northeast Tolkien Society’ (NETS), “Heren Istarion”

Bruce Charlton (BC), “Tolkien's The Notion Club Papers”

Andrew Higgins (AH), “Wotan's Musings”

Various, The Mythopoeic Society

Mythprint — ‘The Monthly Bulletin of the Mythopoeic Society’

Amon Hen — the Bulletin of the Tolkien Society

- and others

 = = = = News = = = =

Josh Tyler, November 30, 2010, “Riddles In The Dark: 4 Big Story Problems Peter Jackson Must Solve To Make The Hobbit”
Tiny URL =
This is the only piece of news related to the Jackson films that I am going to put in this month's issue of Tolkien Transactions — the rest, while some of it has been amusing, has failed on to be either interesting or essential. Josh Tyler obviously knows his Hobbit well enough to write intelligently about it (even if he overestimates the distance between the Lonely Mountain and Lake Town just a bit: the actual distance was some 40 - 50 miles), and he discusses four major problems that any adaptation will face.

PC, Tuesday, November 30, 2010, “Interview with Dr. Alison Milbank author of Chesterton and Tolkien as Theologians”
Tiny URL =
Actually this was posted on October 22 2007, but Pieter called attention to it again on November 30 this year, and I found it interesting enough to include here. As the title suggests, Pieter has interviewed the author of Chesterton and Tolkien as Theologians: The Fantasy of the Real, Dr. Alison Milbank. As with so many other academics, she appears to really come to life when the interview falls on her academic pursuits including the topic of her book. Of course one shouldn't buy a book based on what the author has to say about it, but based on this interview, it is certainly a book that I will look for more information about — I hope to find some detailed reviews because this sounds quite promising.

Lisa Hutchinson, Evening Chronicle, Friday, November 26, 2010, “JRR Tolkien inspired by family in Newcastle”
Tiny URL =
This is the story about Tolkien's aunt, Grace Mountain (née Tolkien) whose grave has been discovered during a clearing-up in the Newcastle graveyard where she lies with her husband. The existence of Aunt Grace in Newcastle is no surprise to any reader of Carpenter's biography or of Hammond and Scull's Companion and Guide: ‘During school holidays Ronald and Hilary often stay with other relatives. Among these are two of their father's sisters (see *Tolkien family), Aunt Grace who lives in Newcastle with her husband William Mountain and their children Kenneth and Dorothy, and Aunt Mabel who lives at Abbotsford 69 Wake Green Road, Mosely, Birmingham with her husband, Tom Mitton and their children.’ vol I, Chronology, 1904, p.10.  The further claims in the article of very specific inspirations taken from these visits to the Mountain family are, however, not very convincing. Wellinghall comments, ‘Someone please tell me this is a spoof’

JDR, Tuesday, November 23, 2010, “Salmon Rushdie on Tolkien (et al)”
Tiny URL =
Comments on an article in Wall Street Journal by Salman Rushdie ‘on five fantasy authors who appeal equally to young readers and also adults.’ Rushdie includes Tolkien along with Carroll, Barrie, Pullman and Haddon (since John Rateliff admits to the same, I am unashamed to admit that I don't know Haddon). Rateliff also includes a link to Rushdie's article if you wish to see the original.

Various, November 2010, “Cancelled — Wheelbarrows at Dawn: Memories of Hilary Tolkien”
Tiny URL =
This relates to the cancellation by the publisher, ADC Publications, of the book Wheelbarrows at Dawn by Angela Gardner and Neil Holford. The announcement by the publisher contained the following, ‘Despite many revisions and changes made at the insistence of The Tolkien Estate it appears that The Tolkien Estate will seek to take court action to prevent the release of this book regardless.’ and the Estate has responded (e.g. through Wayne and Christina), saying that ‘it had no issue with the publication of the book providing the material in question — affecting only 20 pages out of a total of some 300 — was removed.’ According to one of the authors (posting under the name of Déagol), the issue was related to the copyright value of Tolkien's letters, which seems such a sad issue to be allowed to stop the project.

DB, Saturday, November 6, 2010, “Glen GoodKnight”
David Bratman's obituary for Glen GoodKnight, the founder of the Mythopoeic Society.  There are more obituary blogs linked from Bratman's blog and more can be found elsewhere including e.g. the Los Angeles Times:
URL =,0,496766.story
Tiny URL =
GoodKnight is also remembered in issue 340 of Mythlore (Vol. 47 No. 11) which is a special issue dedicated entirely to his memory.

MD, Sunday, October 31, 2010, “Frivolous But Fun Piece in the Washington Post”
Tiny URL =
Michael Drout tells about the genesis of the piece below, and argues the points he makes there.

MD, Sunday, October 31, 2010, “Dept. of What If: Would hobbits go on strike?”
Tiny URL =
A brief piece, called by its author ‘frivolous, but fun’, on various labour aspects of Middle-earth. I suppose that some of it may be due to some specific references to the USA labour market, and the rest may be due to my lack of humour, but I'm afraid the fun goes over my head — cheap laughs or not. Actually I find Drout's explanation of this piece from his blog (see above) more amusing than the piece itself :-)

 = = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =

AH, Saturday, 20 November 2010, “Tolkien Myth in Context Unit Seven Discussion Question”
Tiny URL =
Andrew is back at his blog with a long piece about his love for Tolkienian linguistics and how it has developed. Andrew mentions Carl Hostetter's paper ‘Elvish as She is Spoke’ (originally appearing in _ The Lord of the Rings 1954–2004: Scholarship in Honor of Richard E. Blackwelder_ edited by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull) as pivotal for his own interest in Tolkien linguistics, and he ends by sketching the direction he hopes that Tolkien lingustics will move in.

BC, Saturday, 20 November 2010, “How similar are Dolbear & ‘Humphrey’ Havard? John Havard's opinion”
Tiny URL =
Charlton's Notion Club Papers (NCP) blog continues to be an interesting source of knowledge, ideas and theories about the NCP — regardless of whether you agree on the individual hypotheses suggested. Charlton appears to be fascinated by the idea that the members of the fictional club were modelled on members of Tolkien's real club, the Inklings. Charlton has, accordingly, been in contact with a son of one of the Inklings, John Havard, son of Robert ‘Humphrey’ Havard, and this seems to put a limit to how far the inspiration / modelling goes.

JF, Tuesday, November 16, 2010, “Bagshot in Tolkien and Rowling”
Tiny URL =
One of the things that have always fascinated me about Tolkien's writings is his obvious love of words. From the Hobbit's ‘Confusticate and bebother these dwarves!’ over the list of royal names of Rohan all with a meaning in the ‘king’, ‘ruler’, ‘leader’ category, to — well, to wherever it may lead us. Jason investigates the word Bagshot that appears in both Tolkien (Bagshot Row just below Bag End) and Rowling (Bathilda Bagshot, magical historian and friend of the Dumbledores). The further comments contributing details about the etymology — or rather the theories about the etymology — of ‘Bagshot’ are also very interesting.

JF, Monday, November 15, 2010, “Some Contributions to Middle-earth Lexicography: Hapax Legomena in The Lord of the Rings”
Tiny URL =
Jason looks into 9 rare words in The Lord of the Rings — 8 of them appearing just once (thus being, as Jason tells us, Hapax Legomena), and one of them twice (a Dis Legomena). Four of these words stem from Germanic sources and the remaining five illustrate, according to Jason, Tolkien's Christianity ‘absorbed into the story and the symbolism’ of LotR. If you haven't read this yet, then go read it!
Jason has announced also announced this on his blog:
JF, Tuesday, November 30, 2010, “A new essay”

BC, Monday, 8 November 2010, “Another Ramer-Tolkien parallel identified — The Land of Pohja painting”
Tiny URL =
The underlying theory here is, of course, that the character Ramer in Tolkien's The Notion Club Papers (NCP) is a representation of the author himself in some way (this is, I think, associated to the further idea that the Notion Club is modelled on the Inklings to the extent that individual characters are modelled on individual Inklings). That the Ramer dialogue that Charlton quotes refers to the same image that is pictured in The Land of Pohja is, I would say, quite certain.

BC, Friday, 5 November 2010, “The Notion Club Papers as Tolkien's self-therapy”
Tiny URL =
In this blog-post, Charlton takes his outset in his idea, presented in October, that Tolkien suffered from a nervous break-down about the time when he wrote The Notion Club Papers (NCP). He then argues that, for Tolkien to have insisted on writing the NCP at such a time, when he was also extremely busy, the writing itself must have been therapeutic for Tolkien, and Charlton then goes on to look at which elements of the NCP that might have had this therapeutic effect for Tolkien.

BC, Friday, 5 November 2010, “The Notion Club Papers are Tolkien's Charles Williams novel”
Tiny URL =
As the title says, this posting introduces the idea that The Notion Club Papers (NCP) is inspired by or for some other reason resembles Charles Williams' work. Charlton notes that the NCP ‘are structured like a C.W. novel — a novel about how the supernatural and mythical breaks through into normal everyday life.’ He goes on to discuss some of the surrounding aspects of the NCP, but in the end I must admit that I remain unconvinced. I am, however, admittedly influenced by Tolkien's own statement in e.g. Letters no 159 that ‘I do not think we influenced one another at all!’ Quite possibly this idea is better evaluated by someone less prejudiced.

JF, Tuesday, November 2, 2010, “The jaws of Carcharoth”
Tiny URL =
Perhaps primarily interesting to those with an interest in Tolkien's invented languages and not least the process of their genesis. Jason Fisher discusses the multiple etymologies for ‘the mightiest wolf that would ever walk the world’, Carcharoth as it is called in the published version of The Silmarillion, or Karkaras as the name is in The Book of Lost Tales.

 = = = = Reviews = = = =

DB, “The Fantastic Horizon”
Though not particularly about Tolkien, and even less about other Inklings, Bratman nevertheless feels that this book, The Fantastic Horizon: Essays and Reviews by Darrell Schweitzer should be of interest for Inklings scholars and fans. As Bratman starts out by saying, the fantasy field ‘needs a polemicist’, and after mentioning Tom Shippey and Lin Carter, he claims that ‘The best polemicist in the field today may well be Darrell Schweitzer.’ I'm not sure that my book budget will allow me to include this, but it is likely that I will end up ordering it from the library one day.

DAA, Sunday, November 14, 2010, “Weird Words”
Review of Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon by Dan Clore. This is apperently — hopefully — the first of a series of weird words collected by the author. This review reprints the full entry for the word nodens (of Tolkien relevance). This work would seem a treasure trove for anyone who, like Lord Peter Wimsey, finds it so easy to get drunk on words that they are seldom perfectly sober.

Anthony Burdge, Friday, November 12, 2010, “The Lonely Mountain Band: Beyond the Western Seas”
Tiny URL =
Anthony Burdge (with comments from Jessica Burke and Namiko Hitosubashi) is enthusiastic about the album Beyond the Western Seas by The Lonely Mountain Band, saying that he and Jessica ‘I count it as important as Ted Nasmith’s Hidden Door, The Fellowship’s In Elven Lands, and Brocelïande’s Starlit Jewel.’ I hope the Lonely Mountain Band knows how to value praise from the praiseworthy.

Anthony & Jessica, Thursday, November 11, 2010, “Looking for the King: An Inklings Novel”
Tiny URL =
Not so much a review, I suppose, but Anothony and Jessica here post “the official press release, book trailer, and information on the author David C. Downing.” I would be very interested to hear from other people who have read the book, to hear their opinion.

PC, Friday, November 5, 2010, “Review: Looking for the King”
Tiny URL =
Pieter Collier gives a very positive review of David C. Downing's Looking for the King: An Inklings Novel. Pieter is positive enough to make me seriously consider buying this book myself.

 = = = = Other Stuff = = = =

I seem to have forgotten to renew my membership of the Mythopoeic Society in time to receive the latest issue of Mythlore — I have remedied the situation at once, but it will of course be a while before I receive the journal.

Troels Forchhammer
And he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left he path of wisdom.
 — Gandalf, /The Fellowship of the Ring/ (J.R.R. Tolkien)

Thursday 25 November 2010


Parmar-kenta, enquiry into (the) books. From Quenya parma, book (pl. parmar) and Q kenta (or centa), enquiry, communication essay.


You are now reading the parmar-kenta, my blog on the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien and related matters. But wait, ‘Yet another Tolkien blog?’ you might ask, and all I can say is, yes, yet another Tolkien blog, but this one is mine!  ;-)

Why you should read it, you ask? Well, certainly not because the author has any particular claim to worthiness or fame … or even notoriety … I hope. You should read this if it catches your interest (which is, of course, rather difficult with this first post), and I will promise to post irregularly on a number of topics that have some relation to Tolkien and his writings. As the title suggests, the focus here is on that which has been written: the parmar.

I will most likely be referring quite a lot to the ‘Tolkien newsgroups’, by which I mean the usenet groups, usually known just as ‘AFT’, and rec.arts.books.tolkien, ‘RABT’ (if you don't have a dedicated usenet client set up, you might want to use the Google Groups interfaces: Google Groups: AFT and Google Groups: RABT. Google Groups unfortunately only carries posts back to 1992 and 1993 respectively, but AFT is older than that.

Every month (approximately) I have made a summary of the Tolkien-related stuff (mainly on the internet) that I have found and have found most interesting. This summary, which I in my presumptuosness have called Tolkien Transactions, has been posted to the Tolkien newsgroups, and the latest issue has kindly also been posted by Larry Swain on his blog, The Ruminate, here. I expect that I will also post these here — usually within a week of the turn of the month (but no promises, mind!).

In any case, if you plan to read what I may have to say, then the best thing to do is to subscribe using one of the many tools that are provided such as RSS feeds etc.

This is about as much as I have to say for an introduction.