Monday 2 January 2012

Tolkien Transactions XX

December 2011

Happy new year!

On many of the blogs that I follow, the blogger has made some kind of review post in the last week or so (both physics blogs and Tolkien blogs) listing e.g. the best ten posts from 2011. Refraining from that, I will merely report as usual the Tolkien-related odds and ends that I have found in the month of December and found interesting enough to include here.

= = = = News = = = =

Thomas Borchert, M&C, Tuesday, 6 December 2011, ‘Danish Queen Margrethe to mark 40 years on throne’
In connection with her upcoming (in January 2012) 40th anniversary as the ruling Queen of Denmark, H.M. Margrethe II has been interviewed for a new biography. This also deals with her relationship with Tolkien's work, some of which is repeated in this article. A recent survey has shown that the support for the Monarchy in Denmark has now dropped to 77% — still a comfortable majority, which makes us the loyal subjects in Europe.

Graham Young, Friday, 9 December 2011, ‘Trying to find the JRR Tolkien trail around Birmingham’
It seems that having produced a fine leaflet called The Tolkien Trail, the powers that be in the Birmingham tourist business have decided to forget all about it. It seems that the best advice if you wish to do a Tolkien-related trip to Birmingham is to find a local fellow Tolkien enthusiast to guide you . . . oh, and wait until spring.

‘jokergirl’, Monday, 12 December 2011, ‘(no title)’
This marks the beginning of a series of cartoons based on The Silmarillion — freely based . . . ;-)

Gerald Lynch, Tech Digest, Friday, 16 December 2011, ‘LEGO Lord of the Rings sets incoming...My preeeecioussssss...’
Jeff Labrecque, Entertainment Weekly, Saturday, 17 December 2011, ‘LEGO announces deal to reimagine ‘The Hobbit’ universe’
Both stories about about the announcement that Lego will releasing a Middle-earth based series:
This is cruel — ten years ago my kids would have been little enough to play with that, now I don't even have that excuse! Of course Lego will try to reproduce the visual universe of the Jackson films (‘weird flaming vagina eyes’ and all), so it will be the film-makers' universe rather than Tolkien's universe, but there is such a thing as going too far, and this is _Lego_!! I grew up on Lego even before I discovered Tolkien ;-)
. . . We wants preciousss Legossss!

JDR, Tuesday, 20 December 2011, ‘THE HOBBIT trailor’
John Rateliff points out the announcement trailer for The Hobbit film:
Warner Bros., Friday, 23 December 2011, ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Announcement Trailer’
See also
As usual the media are filled with stories about the filming of The Hobbit, and while most film stuff simply fails to interest me, the announcement trailer is different in that this is the first indication we get of what the actual film might be (or at least what the film-makers currently wish us to believe the film will be).
The trailer has of course been duly discussed in various places, and has also made it to the blogs of two of the top-rank Tolkien scholars, John Rateliff and David Bratman:
DB, Wednesday, 21 December 2011, ‘"it's real, and it's coming’ - on you in the wild, in some dark place where there is no help"
David Bratman is, to put it mildly, unimpressed.
JDR, Thursday, 22 December 2011, ‘THE HOBBIT trailer considered’
John D. Rateliff is far more positive in his reception of the trailer. Also notice his comment on David Bratman's livejournal blog.

Shane Richmond, The Telegraph, Thursday, 22 December 2011, ‘Hobbit humour: Google Maps offers Mordor warning’
Somebody's got humour! Get you going to Google maps and ask for directions from ‘The Shire’ to ‘Mordor’ — remember to read the warning. If you want to try it for yourself, then don't read the article since that gives away the surprise.

John A. Murray, Washington Examiner, Thursday, 22 December 2011, ‘A Tolkien take on Occupying Christmas’
While recognizing each reader's freedom to see whatever applicability of Tolkien's works that they wish to, I cordially dislike any attempt to monopolize the right to applicability such as we might see when an environmentalist movement tries to picture Tolkien as an environmentalist in the modern sense, or when fascist groups tries to reinvent The Lord of the Rings as a fascist manifesto, and also when Christian readers tries to make it a Christian allegory. This piece stops just short of this, but stays, in my opinion, on the right side of the line, though the choice of applicability in the end becomes a little too stretched for my comfort (it almost makes Aragorn a type of Christ, which I think is a mistake). Still, this short article is not without interesting points.

Sam McGregor, thisisoxfordshire, Friday, 23 December 2011, ‘Tolkien letters return to rightful home’
The story of the belated return of a couple of letters sent to Deddington Library after a loan to the Oxfordshire County Council's museum service in 2000.
See also
Josephine Bond, The Oxford Student, Wednesday, 28 December 2011, ‘Long lost Tolkien letters returned to Oxfordshire library’
The letters themselves can be read from here, ‘Deddington Library, opened by Tolkien in 1956, under threat from OC’
A PDF document reproducing the letters in pictures and transcription. Thanks to Geordie on the LotR Fanatics Plaza for pointing out this document.

PC, Saturday, 24 December 2011, ‘A museum in Switzerland completely dedicated to J.R.R. Tolkien’
In Switzerland they are building a Tolkien museum. The exhibition will feature rare books (a number with dedications by Tolkien), original artwork by many artists, and sculptures and installations based, as far as I can see, on Peter Jackson's Middle-earth universe. This is definitely something I'll keep in mind if I am ever, after the opening, in Switzerland (I doubt that I will ever have the opportunity to go there just for this).

= = = = Essays, Scholarship and Criticism = = = =

MM, ‘Toruwa’, Friday, 2 December 2011, ‘A Discussion of Law in Middle-earth’
Michael posts an old thread from dating from 1996 on the subject of law in Middle-earth. Interesting stuff still.

Adam Godnik, The New Yorker, Monday, 5 December 2011, ‘The Dragon's Egg’
This also appeared in last month's listing as it actually appeared on-line in November despite it's December date. Adam Godnik has previously (see last month) listed The Lord of the Rings among his three most favourite books, but here he seems to repeat many of the usual criticisms (imperceptive criticisms, in my view) that are usually levied against Tolkien's book, while still acknowledging its power to captivate the readers.

DB, , Monday, 5 December 2011, ‘Tolkien reconstructed’
David Bratman responds to (or, perhaps more accurately, rebuts) Godnik's article with his usual clarity and attention to detail.

Alyssa Rosenberg, Thinkprogress, Tuesday, 6 December 2011, ‘Tolkien, White, Meyers, Paolini, and Why A Song of Ice and Fire Is So Popular’
Another post in response to Godnik's article, though this one hardly touches on Tolkien at all, but is more in agreement with some of the points that Godnik makes.

JC, Wednesday, 7 December 2011, ‘Old Norse Haiku 2’
An example of Jackson Crawford's work in Old Norse. Follow links to the first haiku and from there to an explanation of some of the effects from the old skaldic poetry that are used in the haikus.
MM, Thursday, 8 December 2011, ‘Q: What Is the Munby Letter?’
A succinct and lucid explanation of what the Munby letter is — a letter sent to a Mrs Munby in October 1963 and famous in particular for mentioning female Orcs.

Sue Bridgewater, Saturday, 10 December 2011, ‘Upon the World Tree: Death, transformation and return in The Lord of the Rings, The Dream of the Rood, and Havamal.’
A comparative study of certain narrative elements in the three texts listed in the subtitle, with sections investigating fall/death, dislocation (temporal and spatial) and elevation / transformation / return. This is another posting in the series of essays by Tolkien scholars in the Scholars' Forum on The Lord of the Rings Fanatics Plaza.

MM, Wednesday, 21 December 2011, ‘The Quests of Middle-earth’
In this essay Michael Martinez gives an overview of Tolkien's use of the quest-story in his Middle-earth fiction with some further comments about the use of the quest outside Tolkien's writings, including role playing games.

H&S, Tuesday, 27 December 2011, ‘Oxford Cadets’
Spurred by comments in an on-line forum, Wayne and Christina here write about the scheme by which cadets in the British armed forces were given six month courses at Oxford during the Second World War — a scheme wherein Tolkien was involved in creating a curriculum for Navy cadets.

H&S, Wednesday, 28 December 2011, ‘More Addenda and Corrigenda’
Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull have added new addenda and corrigenda to several of their books on their website, and on the blog they add a new picture of some of their Tolkien collection.
The addenda and corrigenda for The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide and The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion can be viewed by date, which makes it much easier to see the new entries. Without intending to slight the very helpful additions and corrections to the index of the Companion and Guide or the clarification in the copyright notice, I found the new additions and corrections to the Reader's Companion to be more interesting. In particular the matter regarding the pronunciation of ‘ain't’ on pp. 78 and 383.

= = = = Book News = = = =

J.W. Braun, Thursday, 1 December 2011, ‘Book Review: Arda Reconstructed: The Creation of the Published Silmarillion by Douglas Charles Kane’
A YouTube review is a quite interesting idea for many things, but with the actual review taking up only two minutes of the 5:36 video this format lacks the depth that a scholarly book such as Doug Kane's deserve. Still, it is excellent when viewed merely as a personal recommendation.

JDR, Friday, 2 December 2011, ‘The New Arrival: DECONSTRUCTING TOLKIEN (McFaddon)’
Rateliff has received a curious volume titled Deconstructing Tolkien by one Edward J. McFadden III (on erroneously attributed to a Tom Piccirilli who wrote only the short introduction). I guess it's not a book that rockets on to my wish- or reading-list . . ..

DAA, Sunday, 4 December 2011, ‘Tolkien: As If’
Douglas Anderson has read the Tolkien chapter in Michael Saler's As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary Prehistory of Virtual Reality, and recommends this as a ‘fascinating look at Tolkien from the outside looking in (i.e., culturally and historically).’

Paula Forbes, Eater, Tuesday, 6 December 2011, ‘Lord of the Rings Scholar to Write Hobbit Cookbook’
PC, Tuesday, 6 December 2011, ‘A Hobbit's Cookbook: Eleventy-one Sweets, Snacks, and Savories Inspired by Middle-earth’
There are loads of various Tolkien tie-ins on the market, and now it seems that a cook-book will be joining the lot. This cook-book is written by Astrid Tuttle Winegar, who has also written the 2008 M.A. thesis Why does "Frodo live?" (it is, by all appearances, this that warrants the description as ‘Tolkien scholar’ in the article).

PC, Thursday, 8 December 2011, ‘The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit Audiobook Collection’
A small article about the re-release of the BBC audiobook collection of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

JF, Thursday, 15 December 2011, ‘New reviews of past work’
Any author is naturally interested in how his work is received (I'd be out there searching and reading as well if were me), and it's a nice service to his readers (actual and/or potential) to make us aware of the reviews. As usual the reviews are mostly positive — not that Jason shies of posting a negative review, it is just the nature of his work.

PC, Thursday, 29 December 2011, ‘Tolkien and Welsh, A Collection of Articles on J.R.R. Tolkien's Use of Welsh’
This upcoming book by Mark T. Hooker promises to fill the gaps in Carl Phelpstead's Tolkien and Wales (presumably the linguistic gaps). One of the gaps that I felt in Phelpstead's book (excellent though it is — se my review here under August 2011) was precisely regarding the exact nature of the relationship between Sindarin and Welsh, and Hooker's book seems to address that particular question. I just hope that it will be accessible also for a layman such as myself.

= = = = Interviews = = = =

MM, Monday, 19 December 2011, ‘An Interview With Jason Fisher’
My respect for Jason should be pretty obvious from the many references I have listed to his blog and his work in general. This interview has given Jason a chance to speak at a little greater length about his interests, including how they arose and evolved, and about his own scholarly work on Tolkien.

C.M. Rubin, Huffington Post, Thursday, 22 December 2011, ‘How Will We Read? The Book Makers’
An interesting interview with David ‘Skip’ Prichard, the President and CEO of Ingram Content Group. Prichard mentions the enhanced E-book edition of The Hobbit that HarperCollins have published in connection with the 75th anniversary (me wants! and also a reader . . .), but that is not the main point of interest in this interview. What interests me the most is to read about Prichard's views on the future of the publishing industry and the book, where he has some very interesting comments (did you, for instance, know that illegal photocopying is still the greatest method of book piracy?). One thing that I am left wondering about is smaller languages such as e.g. my own Danish; Danish authors and publishers have been extremely slow at adopting the e-book, and I am left wondering if there is a significant difference depending on the size of the language — 10,000 copies sold of a book in Danish is mind-staggering huge.

= = = = Other Stuff = = = =

David Brin, Thursday, 1 December 2011, ‘Pining for Feudalism as an Antidote for Modernity’
Provoked by an essay by fellow author John C. Wright, David Brin sings the praise of modernity, while criticizing the medieval romanticism of e.g. Tolkien (though respectfully so in the case of Tolkien). While I do agree with Brin that the general state of life for humanity is better today than it was in the European Dark Ages, I don't think much of his arguments, which tend to show a bit too much sarcasm and where he frequently make the error of presuming post hoc ergo propter hoc. The question of modernity vs. (romanticizing and nostalgic) medievalism is of course always relevant when reading Tolkien, and while Brin's piece is interesting, it is, I think, ultimately not a good advocacy for modernism.

JDR, Friday, 2 December 2011, ‘Reprehensible Behavior . . .’
The starting point for this post is the extreme pricing demanded for some out-of-print books — in this case a book that Rateliff ‘considered a second-tier book on Tolkien.’

BC, Friday, 2 December 2011, ‘Pauline Baynes - my most-loved illustrator?’
Illustrations, and thus also illustrators, have always been an important aspect of the experiencing of Tolkien's writings. Opinions on illustrators are varied and often it is difficult, in particular for those of us who have no education in such matters, to express with any great precision what precisely it is that attracts you to one Tolkien illustrator and what puts you off another. Bruce Charlton clearly has a preference for Pauline Baynes and here tries to put this into words.

AH, Sunday, 4 December 2011, ‘Tolkien Work Current and Future and Some Linguistic Archaeology’
A bit rambling, perhaps, but Andy Higgins has many Tolkienian irons in the fire and wishes to share something about as many of them as possible :-) Congratulations to Andy for getting into the Ph.D. programme at the University of Wales.

Jonathan Sale, The Independent, Friday, 9 December 2011, ‘From Elvish to Klingon: Exploring Invented Languages, By Michael Adams’
Michael Adams has written a book on invented languages, including, obviously, Tolkien's. According to the article Mr Adams has dug out a thousand invented languages, and I don't think the Quendian languages and Klingon in any represents the extremes of that list . . ..

JC, Sunday, 11 December 2011, ‘Hani in the Carbonite’
Nothing to do with Tolkien, actually (Old Norse being the only common point of reference), but I simply had to share this dróttkvætt stanza to Han Solo — oops, sorry — to Hólmgongu-Hani.

BC, Saturday, 24 December 2011, ‘Living in myth’
From Tolkien's Númenóreans to the citizens of Byzantium to modern man ‘living within the Christian myth.’ Here I think Bruce Charlton is discussing applicability of Tolkien rather than analysis, but it nonetheless feels a natural extension of the movement based in analysis (in particular of The Notion Club Papers but also other work by Tolkien and other Inklings) and extrapolation where analysis could go no further.

BC, Sunday, 25 December 2011, ‘The year's work in Inkling's/ Notion Club studies’
Charlton is mainly looking back at his blogs this year and at the same time warmly recommends Verlyn Flieger's Interrupted Music — a recommendation that I will warmly support. The

Fred Clark, Thursday, 28 December 2011, ‘Peter Jackson's ‘Kuduk’ trailer and the book of Jonah’
A brief opinion on the narrative conceit of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings . . .. The main argument (LotR has a traditional omniscient narrator) relies on treating some passages as more representative than other passages, but there is no indication of why that this should be done in that way, which gives the impression of circular reasoning — or good old-fashioned confirmation bias.

= = = = Rewarding Discussions = = = =

LotR Plaza: ‘Hobbits and Mythologies’
Yup, that's my own thread ;) The subject is two-fold — in part a discussion of the details of how the Silmarillion mythology got connected to the story of The Hobbit, and in part an opinion-piece on the 1960 Hobbit (which I seem to consider more favourably than most others).
LotR Plaza: ‘Ring Bearers: Possessing or Possessed’
A thread that discusses the kind and level of agency that should be attributed to the Master Ring. It was made for domination, but could it dominate its bearer on its own?
The questions considered here are, in my view, closely connected to the following thread:
LotR Plaza: ‘Gollum's Fall: Chance or Divine Intervention’

= = = = Web Sites = = = =

Tattúínárdøla saga
‘Jackson Crawford's blog about (and sometimes in) Old Norse.’
A blog, as it says, about and occasionally in Old Norse by Jackson Crawford who teaches Old Norse and Norwegian languages as UCLA. This also includes a YouTube video titled ‘What did Old Norse sound like?’

Michael Tolkien - Lectures on J.R.R. Tolkien
Three lectures on J.R.R. Tolkien by his grandson, Michael Tolkien.

= = = = 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’

Michael Martinez (MM), ‘Tolkien Studies Blog’

Michael Martinez (MM), ‘Middle-earth’

Jackson Crawford (JC), ‘Tattúínárdøla saga’

Troels Forchhammer (TF), ‘Parmar-kenta’

Mythprint — ‘The Monthly Bulletin of the Mythopoeic Society’

Amon Hen — the Bulletin of the Tolkien Society

- and others

Troels Forchhammer

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human
stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
- Albert Einstein


  1. Hi, Troels. Once again, let me thank you for the service you are doing with these ‘Tolkien Transactions’ posts! I thought I would offer a comment about Mark Hooker’s forthcoming Tolkien and Welsh, since I read all of the constituent essays in draft and sent feedback to Mark on most of them, and I have now read an early galley of the book as a whole.

    I think you will find that Mark’s book does fill some of the gaps in Carl Phelpstead’s book. Though Carl’s book is excellent and valuable, as you say, it does take a pretty high-altitude view, and it is still, when you consider all of what might be said, pretty short — less than half the length of Mark’s. (Not that I mean to equate quality with length.)

    Mark’s book should be pretty accessible to most readers as well. He does get into some of the particulars of Welsh (and Sindarin) phonology — especially on the matter of mutation, a prominent feature of both languages — but Mark writes primarily for the lay person. Also, where Carl’s book presents a broad survey of the forest as a whole, Mark’s book is down at the level of the trees within it, even single leaves, grappling with individual words and names. If you are familiar with his previous books, it is much like those, but with the driving thread being the influence of Welsh on Tolkien’s nomenclature and storytelling.

    Do give it a read when it’s published. I’d value your opinion, and I’m sure Mark would as well. I think Mark’s book and Carl’s complement each other and could be profitably read together.

  2. Hi Jason, Thanks a lot for the information and the kind words.

    The details of Welsh and Sindarin phonology was one of the gaps that I, too, felt in Phelpstead's book (I also mention this in my review), though overall I was very fond of his Tolkien and Wales. Phelpstead also mentions the mutations, but I felt that there must be more to the claim that the phonology of Sindarin is based on Welsh.

    You've certainly managed to bump Mark's book up on my 2012 Tolkien wish list ;-)


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