Tolkien Transactions VIII
All the usual disclaimers apply about newness, completeness and relevance (or any other 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
Troels Forchhammer (TF), “Parmar-kenta”
Mythprint — ‘The Monthly Bulletin of the Mythopoeic Society’
Amon Hen — the Bulletin of the Tolkien Society
- and others
= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =
BC, Thursday, 9 December 2010, “Tolkien and the ‘good German’ — The Lost Road fragment”
This is one of those things where I can't quite decide what to say. Did Tolkien consciously intend this correspondence, or is it rather along the lines of the One Ring in LotR, about which Tolkien said
You can make the Ring into an allegory of our own time, if
you like: an allegory of the inevitable fate that waits for
all attempts to defeat evil power by power. But that is
only because all power magical or mechanical does always so
(Letters #109 to Stanley Unwin, July 1947)
Would Tolkien say something similar about the attempt to read into his writings about Númenor under the rule of Sauron (de facto if not de jure) an allegory of Germany under the rule of Hitler? I am tempted to believe that he would say roughly the same, though he might agree that it was further towards the fore of his mind in the latter half of the 1930s because of the Nazi regime in Germany.
AH, Tuesday, 21 December 2010, “Richard Wagner and J.R.R Tolkien The Forgers of their Rings”
It should, I believe, be fairly easy to demonstrate that Tolkien could not have been entirely unaffected by Wagner's Ring — it is well known that he read Der Ring des Niebelungen in 1934, and it seems unlikely that he would be completely unaffected by that. It is, however, a quite different matter to suggest that the Master Ring in The Lord of the Rings is just an adaptation of Wagner's Ring of the Niebelungs. The former claim can, as I suggested, be argued convincingly while the other can be dismissed also with relative ease, but between these is a scale of possible levels of inspiration that we can, as far as I am aware, not resolve with the available evidence. I would, however, be more comfortable with this whole discussion if it would not contain so many repetitions of logical fallacies (variations of post hoc ergo propter hoc) or insults (imply that Tolkien would have been unable to independently arrive at the Ruling Ring). It is most likely that Tolkien did get the general idea of an omnipotent ring from Wagner, but it is also possible that he didn't.
H&S, Friday, 24 December 2010, “Christmas Addenda”
Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond announce their posting further addenda and corrigenda to several of their books on Tolkien. The addenda and corrigenda itself can be found on their web-site at <mysite.verizon.net/wghammond/addenda.html>
A word of gratitude is in its place for the great work Wayne and Christina are doing — not least for continuing to update their published work with new information.
= = = = Reviews = = = =
The Mythopoeic Society regularly releases reviews on the internet some time after their appearance in Mythprint or Mythlore. In December, we have seen the release on the internet of the following Tolkien-related reviews:
Tolkien, Race and Cultural History: From Fairies to Hobbits by Dimitra Fimi; reviewed by Mark T. Hooker
Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien's World by Verlyn Flieger; reviewed by Douglas C. Kane
Fastitocalon: Studies in Fantasticism Ancient to Modern: Immortals and the Undead edited by Thomas Honegger and Fanfan Chen; reviewed by Janet Brennan Croft
Black & White Ogre Country: The Lost Tales of Hilary Tolkien by Hilary Tolkien, edited by Angela Gardner; reviewed by David Oberhelman
= = = = In Print = = = =
December has been a good month for reception of the printed material from the British Tolkien Society and the Mythopoeic Society: In addition to the monthly bulletins, Amon Hen and Mythlore, I have received Mallorn issue 50 and Mythlore issue 111/112. Unfortunately I have yet to find the time to read Mythlore, so a commentary on that will have to wait.
Vol. 47 No. 12 December 2010 Whole No. 341
Not much about Tolkien in this month's edition of Mythprint — but of course there is lot in the latest Mythlore. However, though S. Dorman is speaking explicitly of Lewis in his article, ‘Fictionalizing Lewis’, the points made can with ease be transferred to Tolkien, who has also been a subject of fictionalizations in recent years. In the article Dorman reaches the conclusion that it is perhaps all-right (‘ethical’) for an author to fictionalize ‘a person made by God in primary creation’, ‘if his or her craft is good enough to coordinate the elements of story inclusive of such characterization.’ However, Dorman also hastens to assert that ‘there is no license to defame, distort, or otherwise abuse a real person.’ I wonder if the recent fictionalizations of Tolkien can live up to the high standard Dorman sets — and whether they should rather not have been, if they don't?
This semi-centesimal issue is certainly a worthy tribute to the journal and the society. The 52 pages are packed with stuff reflecting the wealth of interests found in the Tolkien Society: Paintings and drawings based on Tolkien's work, poetry fan-fiction, commentary and more scholarly articles fill the journal. I admit that not all of these categories suit my own interests, but the quality of those that do suit my interests is a reliable guide, then everything in this issue of Mallorn is of very high quality indeed.
A few highlights:
The editorial is provided by Marcel Bülles who writes about the future of Tolkien ‘fandom’ in ‘Envisaging the Future’ Marcel makes two bold proposals, both of which I think ought to be carried through: paid employees to deal with the day-to-day business of the Society (freeing voluntary resources to more rewarding tasks), and Arda*Con 2020, the world-convention of Tolkien societies ….
While Marcel Bülles tried to envisage the future, Charles E. Noad tells of the early days of the Tolkien Society from the earliest groupings of Tolkien fans about 1960 over the first informal start of the Tolkien Society in 1969, the ‘formal beginning of the society’ on 15 January 1972 and on to the resignation from the board of Mrs Vera Chapman — better known in the society as Belladona (Took) — in 1976, which, to Charles Noad at least, marks the end of the ‘early years’.
In other contributions Maggie Burns writes about Tolkien and Birmingham (clearly the childhood in the Birmingham area had a profound influence on Tolkien, but I can't help my scepticism from asserting itself forcefully when I see claims of unattested 1:1 correspondences between fiction and real life, such as those implied for Perrot's Folly), Simon Barrow on fantasy literature (a minor grievance here is that he appears to equate quality with popularity) and Chad Chisholm looks into Gandalf's skills at rhetoric. Mike Foster has interviewed Tolkien's grandson, Simon, about both his grandfather, but mainly about his own careers as solicitor, barrister and writer of crime fiction.
Amon Hen 226
The high point, for me, in this issue of Amon Hen was Charles Noad's article on another Collingwood—Tolkien connnection found in a new (1992) edition of Collingwood's The New Leviathan, or Man, Society, Civilization and Barbarism. David Derr's inquiry into the nature of Gandalf was also interesting; in particular the recommendation that ‘the reader visit William Loos’ web page’ (though the reference unfortunately is to the mirror at <www.faqs.org>), whereas I was more sceptical of the attempt, in the second part of the article, ‘to draw a parallel between Tolkien's character Gandalf [...] and the person of Jesus of Nazareth, and I strongly disagree with the conclusion that Tolkien ‘through the power given to the fictitious character of Gandalf’ demonstrates (whether apparently or not) ‘the parallel power that was wielded in the real person of Jesus of Nazareth’ — this is, in my opinion, almost as bad as ‘five wizards=five senses’.
Another thing I wish to emphasize is the advert for ‘Return of the Ring’ in Loughborough August 2012: <www.returnofthering.org/> (I have booked — what about you?)
= = = = Other Stuff = = = =
JDR, Friday, 10 December 10 2010, “Build Yr Own Dodo”
As John Rateliff puts it, ‘You just knew that someone devoted to minutia like this was probably a Tolkien fan’ and Adam Savage (of Mythbusters fame) proves it by showing, briefly, a map of Middle-earth that he drew himself. The talk itself is about something else, and the map appears only for a couple of seconds (2:48 - 2:50), but the whole thing is interesting enough in itself, even without the Middle-earth map (it is difficult to gauge the size, but unless his writing is very small, the map is quite large).
If you are uninterested in Rateliff's description and just want to see the clip, it can be found here: <www.ted.com/talks/adam_savage_s_obsessions.html>
AH, Saturday, 11 December 2010, “Tolkien Studies for 2011”
Andrew Higgins announces that he will be back more regularly in 2011, ‘exploring several areas of Tolkien Scholarship’, and then he goes on to provide a more in-depth description of the contents of issue #19 of Parma Eldalamberon.
H&S, Sunday, 12 December 2010, “Fifteen Years”
I normally don't include the more personal blog entries in these collections, but Christina Scull's look back at the fifteen years since she moved to the US with Wayne Hammond not only has a charm deserving advocacy, but also has a certain amount of Tolkien-interest embedded such as a list of some of the work that Wayne and Christina have done during these years, including links to podcasts about Roverandom in particular and Tolkien in general.
JF, Wednesday, 15 December 15 2010, “Word of the Day: Fart”
We do agree, I trust, that anything to do with Old English (Anglo-Saxon) etymology is on-topic in a Tolkien context? :-) Even so, this has to be said to be on the light side …. Apparently someone had the audacity to address Jason as ‘an old fart’ on the occasion of his fortieth birthday. Now I am left wondering if modern Danish ‘prut’ derives from Old Norse freta (I doubt it — this is more likely the now archaic ‘fjært’) or French péter or something entirely different … (the Dictionary of the Danish Language marks it as onomatopoeic, though it also refers to similar onomatopoeic words in French and Low German).
AH, Monday, 20 December 2010, “I've discovered the works of Edward Plunkett The 18th Baron of Dunsany”
Not directly related to Tolkien, but it is worth recalling that Dunsany is mentioned as one of Tolkien's sources.
BC, Sunday, 26 December 2010, “My hopes for The Notion Club Papers — separate cover publication”
A dream …
Bruce Charlton presents his dream that one day, the Notion Club material, including the Lost Road and presumably also the Fall of Númenor, will be published in a single volume. I actually like the idea of ordering the History of Middle-earth material topically instead of chronologically, though I am not sure that this is the best way to do it (though I think Charlton is possibly right that the Lost Road / Notion Club material might be able to sell in such a format).
Truth in science can be defined as the working hypothesis
best suited to open the way to the next better one.
- Konrad Lorenz