Saturday 1 October 2011

Tolkien Transactions XVII

Tolkien Transactions XVII September 2011 September has been a rather busy month, both with respect to on-line content relating to J.R.R. Tolkien and his works, but also with respect to my work and other off-line obligations: I've barely had time (in my own eyes) to participate in the many interesting discussions.

= = = = News = = = =

JDR, Friday, 2 September 2011, ‘Farewell, FRODO FRANCHISE’
John Rateliff laments the stop of Kristin Thompson's blog, The Frodo Franchise, which has focused mainly on the Peter Jackson films (the subject of her eponymous book). I haven't had time to look into the past posts, but of course the loss of any intelligent Tolkien-related blog is a loss to be lamented.

PC, Saturday, 3 September 2011, ‘Online course: J.R.R. Tolkien: Myth and Middle-earth in Context starts again in October’
Another deep sigh — I have neither the time nor the money to follow Dmitra Fimi's on-line course, but I would dearly love to do so.

PC, Monday, 5 September 2011, ‘On October 8th the Tolkien Shop in Leiden celebrates its 25th Anniversary’
What it says . . . celebrations ensue :-)

Pat Reynolds, Return of the Ring, Tuesday, 6 September 2011, ‘A Year of Celebrating 'The Hobbit'’
A whole year of celebrations up to the 75th anniversary of the first publication of The Hobbit — and more information on The Return of the Ring conference next year (finally something that does not elicit a sigh on my part, but an expectant smile).

Pat Reynolds, Sunday, 11 September 2011, ‘Special Guest: Colin Duriez’
Well, what it says: Colin Duriez will be one of the special guests at The Return of the Ring.
Sunday, 18 September 2011, ‘Green Dragon’
Another special guest, La Compagnie du Dragon Vert, which is a French group doing what might best be termed secondary historical re-enacting.

BBC News, Saturday, 24 September 2011, ‘Tolkien fans hold annual Oxonmoot in Oxford’
A rather nice little piece about the Oxonmoot.

AH, Sunday, 25 September 2011, ‘On A Sunny Saturday and Monday Morning.....’
A rather more personal and interested piece on the Oxonmoot — and the Charles Williams book that Andy Higgins bought while there.

Nicki Thomas, Edmonton Journal, Monday, 26 September 2011, ‘University of Alberta clubs nothing if not eclectic’
The various clubs and societies devoted to the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien have long played a pivotal part in the advancement of his writings. I even suspect that the ready-made audience of the societies may have helped pave the way for Tolkien studies in the academic world, as the base of organised fans has ensured the financial success of good books about Tolkien. In this piece about the on-campus clubs of the University of Alberta, the Tolkien club, ‘The Last Alliance’ is given a prominent place, and we are told of the embarrasment of the co-founder, Megan Engel, over not being able to speak fluent Elvish (though we are not told whether she means Sindarin or Quenya). Despair not, dear Megan — thou art not alone ;-)

The Orcadian, Thursday, 15 September 2011, ‘Danish frigate arrives at Hatston’
A member of the Tolkien society referred to this piece of news asking ‘Are the Danes trying to take Orkney back?’ You just wait! Once we have dealt with the Swedes for stealing Scania in 1658, we will begin plotting revenge for all that the British have stolen from us — we'll steal every oak tree on the British Isles and then we'll rebuild the navy that Lord Nelson took and once more ravage the coasts of Britain! Or something ;-)

Kelsey Sheridan, Lexington Herald Leader, Thursday, 30 September 2011, ‘Tolkien-themed convention brings Middle Earth to Shaker Village’
A rather nice, in both length and angle, report from the Tolkien-themed convention, ‘There & Back Again’ (even if it is a local paper, I think it's quite good publicity).

= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =

BC, Monday, 19 September 2011, ‘Hierarchy, reverance and worship in Tolkien's work and life’
As you know my education is in physics and computer science, and I am certainly not well read in matters of Roman Catholic thought and practice — only through my interest for Tolkien's work have I begun to read a little here and there as it has become relevant. Thus I had not previously encountered this idea of the hierarchical mediation, but once encountered I can immediately see its relevance for Tolkien's writings. See also my comments directly to the blog.

BC, Wednesday 21 September 2011, ‘Abel Pitt as Adam Fox’
One should of course not trust Google completely, but it does appear that Bruce Charlton is just a few months too late with this identification, which also appears in the essay by Diana Glyer and Josh Long in Tolkien and the Study of his Sources (edited by Jason Fisher).
Rob Sharp, The Independent, Friday, 23 September 2011, ‘Why do adults read children's books? Blame modern life’

Boyd Tonkin, The Independent, Friday, 23 September 2011, ‘This theory could have come from the Soviet era’
Here we have couple of interesting pieces, not in themselves scholarship, but referring to a piece of scholarship that is underway, the study by Dr Louise Joy of the adult appeal of many children's books. I, too, find myself getting irritated over people's theories about what attracts me to certain children's books: usually, even though I don't doubt that it is honestly meant and well-intentioned, it merely reads as so much self-aggrandizing nonsense (not to use a stronger word). One of the things that fascinate me about good children's literature is the ability to take up some of the fundamental questions of the human situation without all the postmodern idiocy (pardon my expression) — and this is also a part of my fascination with Tolkien's more mature work: he dares take on such questions as death and mortality, ways of being good and ways of becoming evil, and he does so in a way that is not quite as simplified as that of the children's books, but still no more complex than he avoids getting lost in the grey slush of real-life complexity.

Edith Crowe, MythCon, Monday, 26 September 2011, ‘MythCon 43: Call For Papers’
Though I won't be attending, I hope that some good and strong scholarship will come out also of next year's MythCon for us to enjoy in print later.

Jannet Brennan Croft, Mythlore, Wednesday, 28 September 2011, ‘Mythlore 115/116: Table of Contents Announced’
At least a couple of Tolkien-related papers that look very promising.

= = = = Taum's Aphorisms = = = =

John Rateliff continues posting Taum Santoski's ‘Aphorisms Towards a Poetics of Fantasy’.
No. 13, Sunday, 4 September 2011:
No. 14, Monday, 5 September 2011:
No. 15, Tuesday, 6 September 2011:
No. 16, Wednesday, 7 September 2011:
No. 17, Friday, 9 September 2011:
No. 18, Monday, 12 September 2011:
No. 19, Saturday, 24 September 2011:

JDR, Friday, 2 September 2011, ‘Taum's Aphorisms, parts VII to XII’

Rateliff admits to understanding this second half-dozen of the aphorisms even less than he did the first. Still, I find his thoughts valuable for setting a direction for my own attempt to understand the aphorisms.
TF, Tuesday, 27 September 2011, ‘Taum Santoski's Aphorisms 1 through 6’
Building on Rateliff's comments, and on the various comments to the aphorism posts, I try to share some of my own thoughts on the aphorisms - mostly in the hope that it may attract comments that will help me understand them better.

= = = = Book News = = = =

JF, Wednesday, 7 September 2011, ‘Read a free excerpt from my book’
Jason announces that you can freely read an excerpt of his book, Tolkien and the Study of his Sources, at the publisher's web-site.

AH, Sunday, 18 September 2011, ‘Wotan Has Returned!!!! Autumn Postings Shall Commence’
Andy Higgins has read Arne Zettersten's book on Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien's Double Worlds and Creative Process and found it highly recommendable. My internal bying committee has still not decided on the question of whether to buy this book in English or in the Swedish original, Min vän Ronald och hans världar (My friend Ronald and his worlds).

PC, Sunday, 18 September 2011, ‘Tolkien, le façonnement d'un monde - volume 1, Botany and Astronomy’
Since I don't speak, read or understand any French I have little use of this book, though I would have preferred it to be otherwise . . . but perhaps some of you may be able to enjoy the French essays and share the good points with the rest of us.

PC, Monday, 26 September 2011, ‘Tolkien and the Peril of War by Robert S. Blackham’
From what I have heard, this book appears to be mainly the illustrations for John Garth's Tolkien and the Great War — nothing, or next to nothing, new in the text, but many images, both new and rare, to accompany the words. I suppose that this book will be a true treasure trove for people whose imagination is triggered by images more than by words (I am not trying to be supercilious here, it just so happens that my own empathy and identification is triggered more strongly by words). Still, I also do love a good picture, so this book may at some point reach my book-shelf also (depending on the reviews).

Henry Gee, Wednesday, 28 September 2011, ‘Conversations With My Agent About E-Books’
Henry Gee, editor of the Tolkien Society's journal, Mallorn and senior editor for Nature, promises a new edition of his book, The Science of Middle-earth out as e-book in time for a projected December 2012 release of the first Hobbit film by Jackson.

= = = = Other Stuff = = = =

JH, Thursday, 1 September 2011, ‘Tolkien Month, Day One — My Introduction to J.R.R. Tolkien’
Josh Hangarne (JH) of The World's Strongest Librarian had dedicated his blog to talking Tolkien, Tolkien month. He starts out by telling of his introduction to Tolkien through an illustrated edition of The Hobbit. I am sure that most of us will recognize some parts of his experience — he seems to me to have encountered that enchanted state where the successful sub-creator induces Secondary Belief. Since I have failed to find an easily overviewed list of the Tolkien-related blog entries, I will provide one such below.

JH, Saturday, 3 September 2011, ‘On Fairy Stories — An Essay by Tolkien’
From a very brief background on The Hobbit to _On Fairy-Stories_? Well, I love to see Tolkien's essay get some more publicity, and getting more people to know it, or at least about it, is in my opinion a good thing, though the PDF version that Josh Hangarne links to may not, as Pieter Collier points out, be entirely legal (it appears to be put up by West Chester University as a service to their students — whether that is legal, and whether it is legal for non-students to access it is beyond me to tell).

BC, Monday, 5 September 2011, ‘Tolkien and Women - a word’
Charlton, in my opinion, has here a valid point about how we judge Tolkien's ethical position, and in particular about being careful to read what he says without cutting corners. It is, obviously, still possible to disagree with Tolkien (I often do so myself), but it is important to understand exactly where this disagreement arises, and to understand Tolkien's position.

BC, Saturday, 10 September 2011, ‘Humphrey Carpenter and Tolkien’
I have never been much of a student of the Inklings as a group, nor of any of the other individual members than Tolkien, and so I have never read Carpenter's book on the Inklings, but the strength of this attack(?) surprises me. Speaking solely about the Tolkien biography, I agree that Carpenter does not seem to be at every point sympathetic to Tolkien's very personal ideas about ethics and aesthetics, but I don't get the impression that he is disloyal to his subject — I rather appreciate that he he lets it shine through that he disagrees, since that allows us to take that into consideration, whereas if the author would seem to agree with Tolkien about everything, I might (depending, of course, on the circumstances) suspect that the author was rather turning Tolkien into his own mouthpiece rather than the other way around. Carpenter, in my opinion, does a good job at portraying a person whose sole claim to greatness is in the works of his mind — and I think it is only right that he leaves the interpretation of that greatness (and of any intention or project associated with Tolkien's art) to others.

JDR, Monday, 12 September 2011, ‘Steig Larsson and Tolkien’
Rateliff has found a couple of Tolkien references from Stieg Larsson's Män som hatar kvinnor (Men who hate women — English title The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). P.S. It's a little amusing that Rateliff does the e-i inversion in Stieg Larsson's name, but not in Tolkien's ;-)

BC, Monday, 26 September 2011, ‘A note on Hobbit government’
I am not sure that I agree with Charlton on the details of what is described as the idea rule of a nation in Tolkien's work: the Númenórean set-up appears to me rather to put the King, in terms of worship, first among equals and speaker on the behalf of the people rather than the King representing Eru to the people. I will need some time, which unfortunately I don't have at the present, to get my thoughts together, but it seems to me that Tolkien made much of the difference between governing and ruling, and that this difference is essential to understand his views on the rule of the people.

= = = = Tolkien-related entries on ‘The World's Strongest Librarian’ = = = =

These are the blog-entries of the ‘Tolkien Month’ at the blog ‘The World's Strongest Librarian’. Some of them are excellent while others are less so, but for the sake of completeness, I list all the posts.

JH, Friday, 2 September 2011, ‘Some Very Brief Background on What Led to Bilbo The Hobbit’

JH, Wednesday, 7 September 2011, ‘Writing and Publishing The Hobbit’

JH, Friday, 9 September 2011, ‘Reading Too Much Into The Hobbit? Themes, Symbolism, Characters, and Academics’

JH, Monday, 12 September 2011, ‘Juvenile Trash! Two Critics That Hated The Lord of the Rings and One Other Essay Worth Reading’

JH, Tuesday, 13 September 2011, ‘How To Invent A Language — Tolkien and Philology’

JH, Wednesday, 14 September 2011, ‘Some Names From The Lord of the Rings That Tolkien Wisely Changed’

JH, Monday, 19 September 2011, ‘Who Is the Hero of The Lord of The Rings?’

JH, Tuesday, 20 September 2011, ‘Does Faddism Make It Harder to Take Something Seriously?’

JH, Thursday, 22 September 2011, ‘The Lord of The Rings — Book Vs. The Movies?’

JH, Monday, 26 September 2011, ‘Tips For Reading The Silmarillion?’

JH, Tuesday, 27 September 2011, ‘Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics’

JH, Wednesday, 28 September 2011, ‘The End of Tolkien Month…’

= = = = Rewarding Discussions = = = =

These are a few of the discussions that I would have loved to have more time to contribute to . . .

Linguistic Archaisms

Elrond remaining in Rivendell

Was Narsil bronze?

Proof that Sauron was Bombadil's "Dark Lord"?

= = = = Web Sites = = = =

Is Tolkien Actually Any Good?
This is an interesting piece of criticism that apparently fails to answer its own question, though it seems to me more a matter of the author being unwilling to fully acknowledge the quality inherent (IMO) in his experiences. I find it curious that he relates some of the ‘self-evident’ truths of literary criticism — e.g. that the use of clichés is bad (I've never understood why this is necessarily and immanently bad) — without questioning those, but questions whether his own desire to immerse himself in Middle-earth is indicative of good writing.

Colin Duriez
The web-place of Colin Duriez, an excellent Tolkien scholar.

= = = = 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), ‘Kalimac’
and the old home:
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
Henry Gee (HG) ‘cromercrox’, ‘The End of the Pier Show’
David Simmons (DS), ‘Aiya Ilúvatar’
Troels Forchhammer (TF), ‘Parmar-kenta’
Mythprint — ‘The Monthly Bulletin of the Mythopoeic Society’
Amon Hen — the Bulletin of the Tolkien Society
- and others