Another month has passed, and it is yet again time to list all the things that have caught my attention in relation to Tolkien, and which I have found interesting enough to include in this summary. You may disagree with my priorities, or find that the limits of your sympathies are different than mine (probably the limits of your sympathies are much wider than mine), so feel free to add anything in comment that you think ought to have been included (but don't expect the limits of my sympathies to change as a result).
This month it has suited my purposes to sort the contents under the following headlines:
2: Essays and Scholarship
3: Book News
4: Other Stuff
5: Rewarding Discussions
6: In Print
7: Web Sites
Following up on last month's story about English pubs being contacted by the Saul Zaentz Company (SZC) over alleged copyright and trademark infringements, this piece agrees that the settlement is also an implicit agreement that the pub (possibly with more to come) have been infringing on the rights of the SZC. I would have liked to see that claim tested, but with the support the pub has seen, I presume that they have at least been able to consult with a good lawyer before they decided to take the offered license fee of $100.- pro annum.
Ledbury Reporter, Thursday, 12 April 2012, ‘Choir brought Tolkien to life’
Reporting from the ‘West of the Moon’ show by the choir at Somer Park school, which contained a performance of songs by Tolkien, set to music by the school's co-ordinator, David Cowell. The performance reportedly ‘wowed crowds’.
Michael Noer and David M. Ewalt, Forbes, Monday, 23 April 2012, ‘The Forbes Fictional 15’
The richest fictional character according to Forbes? Smaug the dragon!
Eric Lochridge, Rapid City Journal, Friday, 13 April 2012, "Youth troupe gets to the heart of ‘The Hobbit"’
A theatrical production based on The Hobbit and played by the Cherry Street Players, children aged 9 to 17. The journalist has spoken with the director who has read The Hobbit in preparation for putting on the play (I should bloody well think so!) as well as various criticism of Tolkien (which is, of course, less obvious and thus also more interesting).
John O'Groat Journal and Caithness Courier, Saturday, 14 April 2012, ‘Tolkien epic inspires Rivendell garden centre name’
The story of a new garden centre named Rivendell that has opened in Caithness (far northern Scotland) — one wonders whether the esteemed Saul Zaentz Company will be on their backs.
Altaira, Saturday, 14 April 2012, ‘One Man LOTR coming to The Return of the Ring event this Summer’
What the headline says, basically . . .. Charlie Ross will be performing his One Man LotR at the Return of the Ring conference in Loughborough this August.
Unknown, Failblog, Wednesday, 18 April 2012, ‘WIN!: Sauron Cake WIN’
Now, I am most definitely not a fan of the fallacious misrepresentation of Sauron in the New Line Cinema films (the great flaming . . . eye), but this cake, on the other hand, deserves a round of applause: whatever the source (and faults) of the imagery, turning it into a cake is a clear win :-)
James Ward, Thursday, 19 April 2012, ‘'The Hobbit' brought to life on College of the Sequoias stage’
One should probably not be surprised that The Hobbit is being set up in theatres all over the place by school or student troupes that are appearing on stage. Here is one more company who has made their own choices and thus creating their own vision and version of Tolkien's story. This article also has a video attached which allows the reader to get a better impression of what they are trying to achieve with the play.
Deutsches Tolkien Gesellschaft, Monday, 23 April 2012, ‘Tolkien Seminar 2012 — Tolkien's Influence on Fantasy’
Writing this on the thirtieth of April, the DTG seminar will have been held this past weekend, and so the announcement of the seminar is probably irrelevant now, but I hope that some kind of report will be forthcoming, so that we can get an idea of what is going on in this particular branch of Tolkien scholarship.
Another excellent contribution to the Lord of the Rings Fanatics Plaza's (LotR-Plaza) ‘Scholars Forum’ in which Risden argues that the myths about King Arthur in some ways informed Aragorn's character. I admit that I approached this essay with a great deal of scepticism towards its central claim, but reading it, I have to acknowledge not only that it is well-written (which has nothing to with whether the hypothesis is believable or not), but also that there is probably something to it.
Tom Holland, Friday, 30 March 2012, ‘The fall of the Roman empire and the rise of Islam’
Seeing the effects of the fall of the Roman empire in subsequent history (e.g. the rise of Islam) and in art, and so coming, in the penultimate paragraph, to Tolkien. If you want to read only the parts that relate to Tolkien, you should read the last four paragraphs, but the whole piece is well worth a read (being largely ignorant of the subject matter, I can offer no opinion on the quality of the historical scholarship displayed in the article).
JM, Sunday, 1 April 2012, ‘Under Grace that Will Do Good’
Part 2 of a series of posts with the common sub-title of ‘Tolkien’s theology of forgiveness’. Jonathan McIntosh continues his investigation into Tolkien's ideas on offence vs. pain based on Tolkien's letter to C.S. Lewis.
BC, Sunday, 1 April 2012, ‘Why doesn't Eru just eradicate the evil of Middle Earth?’
Bruce Charlton here asserts that the answer to the titular question is that such an eradication would destroy all of Arda due to the marring by Melkor. However, as I understand Tolkien it is rather the other way around: the marring is possible because Eru will not merely eradicate the evil.
JM, Monday, 2 April 2012, ‘Rational vs. Radical Evil’
The twelfth of McIntosh' series on ‘Tolkien's Metaphysics of Evil’ in which McIntosh further discusses Tolkien's works in relation to Augustine, Kierkegaard and others.
Part 13: 4th of April, ‘“That will settle the Manichees!”: Thomas’s doctrine of evil in context’ (more about St. Thomas' position)
Part 14: 6th of April, ‘“Every Creature Must Have Some Weakness”: Tolkien’s Hierarchy of Evil’ (beginning the more specific analysis of Tolkien as writing in a Thomistic tradition)
Part 15: 8th of April, ‘From Creation to Annihilation: the beginning and end of evil’ (expanding on the previous post, McIntosh here discusses some details of particularly Morgoth's evil nature)
Part 16: 10th of April, ‘“To Bring into Being Things of His Own”: The Primal Sin of Satan and Melkor’ (a further investigation into the nature of Morgoth's evil)
Part 17: 11th of April, ‘“Thoughts of his own unlike those of his brethren”: Melkor’s Second Fall’ (this discusses Melkor's sub-creative Fall in the Music of the Ainur and generally ‘the “evil” of defective sub-creation’)
Part 18: 13th of April, ‘Tolkien and the problem of God’s causality with respect to evil’ (raising the question of why Eru / God allows evil, and promising us an investigation of St. Thomas' answer, which McIntosh believes also to be Tolkien's)
Part 19: 15th of April, ‘Divine “unshatterable” action and human “shatterable” activations’ (investigating how evil can be caused without God being in any way a cause)
Part 20: 17th of April, ‘Evil and a greater good’ (arguing that St Thomas believed that evil exists that greater good may come in the end)
Part 21: 19th of April, ‘Could God have willed that there be no evil while still leaving the human will to be free?’ (dealing with a scholar contending the claim of the previous post)
Part 22: 21th of April, ‘“Evil labours with vast powers and perpetual success—in vain”’ (Tolkien's version of ‘evil exists for the greater good’)
Part 23: 23th of April, ‘Evil and “Preservation”: The Fainéance of the Valar’ (discussing the faults of possessiveness and preservation in the Valar)
Part 24: 25th of April, ‘Elvish Preservationism: The Correspondence of Sub-creative Intellect and Will’ (discussing the particular weakness of the Elves, ‘preservationism’, and how it arises from their ‘greater correspondence between will and intellect’ — the greater strength of their fëar over their hröar)
Part 25: 27th of April, ‘Material Elves Living in a Material World’ (on the effect of being incarnate in a hröa of matter of Arda Marred who is using as the medium for your artistic sub-creation the matter of Arda Marred)
Part 26: 29th of April, ‘Elvish Escapism’ (the Elves as a mirror of the reader's possible desire to ‘escape’ into the story, or other, similar, stories)
The fifteen posts in the series this month have taken us far into Jonathan McIntosh' own, Thomistic, analysis of the nature of evil in Tolkien's sub-created Secondary World, investigating aspects such as Tolkien's (postulated) hierarchical model of Evil, various layers of this hierarchy, and the causes of Evil. The posts in this series are nearly all to be found in the category ‘Metaphysics of Faërie’:
acrackedmoon, Tuesday, 3 April 2012, ‘Lord of Neckbeards — Tolkien rape/suicide/pedestal watch’
This reading of Tolkien's presentation of women is so biased that I find it impossible to call it scholarship, but on the other hand it is also good to sometimes have a bit of provocation. While I agree to a large extent with the neutral reading of Tolkien's texts, I also find some of the conclusions drasn here from that reading to be, frankly, ludicrous. This, however, doesn't change the fact that Tolkien's view of women was, even for his own time, not just old-fashioned, but archaic (with a healthy dose of romanticism added to the archaism). There are reasons for this in Tolkien's personal history, I agree, but that still doesn't change the facts. For a more balanced take on Tolkien's rape narratives, I heartily recommend Lynn Whitaker's paper in Mythlore 111/112, ‘Corrupting beauty: rape narrative in _The Silmarillion_’:
JM, Tuesday, 3 April 2012, ‘"You Read Too Much’: Tolkien to Lewis on the Critic vs. the Writer"
The third part of McIntosh' analysis of Tolkien's theology of forgiveness looks into Tolkien's views on literary criticism (and the critic) vs. writing (and the author), which Tolkien, according to this letter, saw as working against each other in a man.
Miryam Librán-Moreno, Saturday, 14 April 2012, ‘The Father's Star. Some echoes from Virgil's _Aeneid_ in _The Lord of the Rings_’
A very well-written and well-argued essay in the Scholars Forum series at the LotR-Plaza by Tolkien scholar Miryam Librán-Moreno, who sees some echoes from Virgil in particular in the image of the Elendilmir and generally in the character of Aragorn. Ultimately I cannot walk the full nine yards with her, but I still recommend this essay warmly: it is well-written and presents the evidence in a clear way that gives the reader a good overview and, I feel, a good basis for evaluating the strength of the evidence and thus agreeing or disagreeing with Librán-Moreno.
JDR, Wednesday, 18 April 2012, ‘T. H. White, Inkling’
John Rateliff has found a letter from C.S. Lewis to T.H. White in which Lewis, among other things, invited White to attend a meeting of the Inklings. Rateliff speculates a bit about the possibilities in such a meeting (which probably never took place), ending with the idea that White and Tolkien ‘wd have had plenty to talk about.’
JM, Sunday, 22 April 2012, ‘Feänor, Tolkien's (Dantean) Ulysses’
A comparison of Feänor with Ulysses (Odysseus) as he is portrayed in Dante's Divina Commedia that seems based mainly on a comparison of Feänor's speech to the Noldor in Tirion in which he urges them to leave for Middle-earth with Ulysses' speech to his crew in which he convinced them to sail on west and south. I have never read Dante, so I might be completely wrong, but based on McIntosh' presentation, it seems to me that one important difference is that Feänor believed strongly in his own words, whereas Dante's Ulysses (to me) appears not to have been entirely sincere with his men.
Michael Noer, Forbes, Monday, 23 April 2012, ‘How Much is a Dragon Worth, Revisited’
Perhaps a more fun that actual scholarship, but the explanation of how Michael Noer of Forbes reached the staggering figure of $62 billion for Smaug's riches is both fun and actually interesting.
JDR, Monday, 23 April 2012, ‘The Impossibility of Writing Fantasy in 1937’
By a twisting road, John Rateliff reaches a statement from 1937 about the impossibility of writing fantasy at that time — the year when Tolkien had The Hobbit published and when he sat down to start out on The Lord of the Rings. Make sure also to read David Bratman's comment.
JM, Thursday, 26 April 2012, "Tolkien's "Divine Comedy": Purgatory as Faërie-land"
I suppose that it is quite common for those of us who study Tolkien's work to see resonances with that work in other works that we read: it is natural in later fantasy fiction because Tolkien has so strongly influenced that genre, and it is also natural in earlier works because Tolkien's work, even despite a large extent of original invention, did not arise in a vacuum, but draws from the great Pot of Tales. McIntosh is re-reading Dante's Divine Comedy and is commenting on some of these resonances, though he keeps it as a comparitive comment rather than claim a source (that may, of course, follow, but will require a much stronger apparatus of evidence than is normal in a blog post). In this post he compares the purgatory of the Divine Comedy to the set-up in Tolkien's earliest legendarium writings.
JDR, Thursday, 26 April 2012, ‘Tolkien and Waugh’
On the contentious subject of English authors' reactions to the totalitarian regimes arising in Europe in the 1930s. In this case the most interesting to a Tolkien enthusiast is the comparison to (and comments upon) Tolkien's views on Hitler and Franco respectively.
MT, Monday, 30 April 2012, ‘Prof. Tolkien's Whimsical Talk’
The ‘Whimsical Talk’ is one that Tolkien gave at the opening of the Deddington Library on 14 December 1956. Morgan Thomsen recaps the general circumstances, and has transcribed the parts pertaining to Tolkien from the original report in the Banbury Advertiser.
Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond announce that their book, The Art of the Hobbit will be released in an American edition by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt this coming 18 September.
Josh Vogt, Examiner, Friday, 6 April 2012, ‘J.R.R. Tolkien biography released through limited-edition comic’
On the issue, exclusively in brick-and-mortar comic book stores, of a comic-book biography of J.R.R. Tolkien. On one hand, I admit to being very intrigued by the idea, but I am doubtful whether this is going to reveal any new information though it may, of course, present some clever new perspectives.
David Bentley, Sunday, 15 April 2012, ‘Special edition comic book for JRR Tolkien, plus Middle-earth weekend at Birmingham's Sarehole Mill’
Where you will also find announcement of a Middle-earth weekend at Sarehole Mill on 19-20 May.
AW, Sunday, 8 April 2012, ‘Hand-bound Silmarillion’
Andrew Wells has posted some links to a story of an exceptionally beautiful binding of The Silmarillion . . . deep sigh!
Janet Brennan-Croft, Tuesday, 10 April 2012, ‘Mythlore 117/118 Table of Contents’
The table of contents are announced for issue 117/118 of Mythlore. Based on the table of contents alone there are at least three Tolkien-related contributions to this issue (in addition to some reviews): Steven Brett Carter writes about ‘Faramir and the Heroic Ideal of the Twentieth Century: Or, How Aragorn Died at the Somme’, while Alexander M. Bruce takes a look at ‘The Fall of Gondor and the Fall of Troy: Tolkien and Book II of The Aeneid’, and another medievalist topic, ‘The Myths of the Author: Tolkien and the Medieval Origins of the Word Hobbit’ is covered by Michael Livingston.
Laura Mell, HarperFiction, Friday, 13 April 2012, ‘HarperCollinsPublishers To Publish Official Tie-ins To The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey And The Hobbit: There And Back Again Films’
‘HarperCollinsPublishers has acquired exclusive worldwide publishing rights from Warner Bros. Consumer Products for tie-in books to the two highly anticipated films The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again, directed by Peter Jackson and productions of New Line Cinema and MGM.’
I suppose this relates to the ‘the making of the films’ kind of books, as HarperCollins are already the publishers of Tolkien's books, and don't need to agree with other than the JRR Tolkien Estate to continue that (I suppose they'll need to agree with the films' copyright holders to produce an edition of The Hobbit that has images from the films as their illustrations, but that's another issue).
DAA, Sunday, 22 April 2012, ‘Publishing Mordor-style’
The sad news that Douglas Anderson is leaving the Tolkien Studies journal due to a financial disagreement with the publisher. Not that he wanted to get paid for his work — he merely had the audacity to ask for reimbursement of his expenses as review-editor for purchasing review copies and mailing them to reviewers . . ..
JDR, Tuesday, 24 April 2012, ‘A Parting of the Ways’
In which John Rateliff comments on these news.
David Bratman, Mythprint, Wednesday, 25 April 2012, ‘Screwtape On Stage’
‘[This review originally appeared in Mythprint 49:2 (#355) in February 2012.]’
From Bratman's review, this sounds like a very interesting take on how Lewis' book can be translated — or adapted — to the stage.
Yorkshire Post, Monday, 30 April 2012, ‘Tolkien Tour proves East Yorkshire can be Hobbit forming’
Phil Mathison has written a book, Tolkien in East Yorkshire 1917 - 1918: An Illustrated Tour, which ‘guides fans round “The Tolkien Triangle” of East Yorkshire’.
A report by experimental physicist working on the ATLAS collaboration, Pauline Gagnon, on the discovery on ‘the remotest place on Earth’ of the new particle, the foolion. Surely this is the particle that gives wings to fools, allowing them to obey Gandalf's order to fly . . .
JDR, Friday, 6 April 2012, ‘LeoCon (TOLKIEN IN TEXAS)’
The story (also related last month by Jason Fisher) that Rateliff appeared, together with Jason Fisher and Doug Anderson, at the LeoCon in Texas on the 14th of April.
H&S, Saturday, 7 April 2012, ‘Farewell to Borders’
A kind of obituary for Borders — perhaps not quite a eulogy, but still mostly fond memories. My own Houghton-Mifflin hardcover LotR (with the large fold-out maps) was bought in a Borders bookshop along with about as many other books as my flight weight-allowance would allow the first time I was sent abroad on a business trip.
Scott S Smith, Investor's Business Daily, Friday, 13 April 2012, ‘J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord Of The Novels’
A combined biography of Tolkien and history of The Lord of the Rings. The author does get many details wrong (despite quoting both Carpenter's biography and Shippey's Author of the Century), but starting on the second page, it turns more into a list of comments by various scholars about the reception of Tolkien's work, and there are some interesting comments in that part.
Thomas Morwinsky, Tuesday, 10 April 2012, ‘Other Minds, Issue 13 published’
Though the focus of the Other Minds magazine is specifically role-playing in Tolkien's sub-created Secondary World, the various issues often contain interesting story-internal analyses and discussions of various points. This issue also contains an overview of all the articles in the thirteen issues so far.
John DiBartolo, The Examiner, Tuesday, 17 April 2012, ‘Chi Rho in LOTRO: Tolkien's Foundation of Faith’
The artist and designers behind the massively multi-player on-line role-playing game (MMORPG) The Lord of the Rings On-line (LOTRO) have included the ancient Christian symbol ‘Chi-rho’ in the game. This is, I think, quite appropriate and an example of how Tolkien's statement about ‘the religious element’ being ‘absorbed into the story and the symbolism’ can be interpreted in a visual manner appropriate to a computer game. This works when pointed out discreetly, but it is, for me, destroyed when turned (as, I am sorry to say, here) into precisely the kind of preaching that Tolkien wanted to avoid.
DB, Thursday, 19 April 2012, ‘who are we?’
An introduction, such as it is, to the Mythopoeic Society and Mythcon, and why it is OK that the appeal of either may not be within the range of sympathies for all fantasy fans.
JDR, Sunday, 22 April 2012, ‘Illustrating the Hobbit’
Taking his outset in having seen Doug Anderson's presentation of Hobbit art, Rateliff speculates on which artists would make great illustrations for The Hobbit.
JM, Tuesday, 24 April 2012, ‘Minas Tirith and Dante's Mnt. Purgatory’
On visual representations . . .
‘why not talk about the three?’
‘at the moment of truth ....’ (Why Sauron sent the Ringwraiths toward Sammath Naur instead of going himself)
‘did just touching the chain confuse the Ringwraith in Woody End?’
‘The Hobbit - On the Doorstep 1 (HRT 11)’
In discussion of this chapter relating to the dating of Durin's Day user ‘Lord of the Rings’ adds some very interesting facts, with reference to Pliny, about the seasons as they were reckoned in Roman calendars.
‘The Hobbit - Inside Information (HRT 12)’
An interesting discussion of this chapter in The Hobbit
‘The Only Power?’
Starting from a discussion of whom Gandalf refers to in I,2 as ‘only one Power in this world that knows all about the Rings and their effects’, this turns into an interesting discussion of Sauron's own ‘addiction’ (to use Shippey's metaphor) to the Master Ring.
‘Interesting Quote from Tolkien’
Discussing the intended meaning of Tolkien's statement that ‘The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.’ (Letters no. 142 to Robert Murray, 2 December 1953)
"Gothic, ‘Bagme Bloma,’ and ‘lindos"’
On the meaning of lindos in Tolkien's Gothic poem, Bagme Bloma — with some interesting philological information (even for those of us who don't understand a word of Gothic).
This issue of Beyond Bree has an interesting article by Mark Hooker on ‘Matrilineal Hobbits’ investigating matrilineal patterns (based on matrilineal patterns in Welsh mythology) in the otherwise patrilinear Hobbit society. Mark Hooker also reviews Hobbit Place-names: A Linguistic Excursion through the Shire by Rainer Nagel, which he finds excellent. Dale Nelson has two pieces about the early Tolkien ‘fandom’, investigating early receptions of The Lord of the Rings (‘Days of the Craze No.5: The Two Trees’) and one about other references to Tolkien's works in the sixties and early seventies. Brad Eden calls for responses to a survey on women enjoying Tolkien's work for a presentation he is sponsoring for Kalamazoo 2012. See
Nancy Martsch, the editor of Beyond Bree reviews Lembas Extra 2011 from the Dutch Tolkien Society, Unquendor, which she finds ‘an interesting and thought-provoking issue’. As usual the journal carries numerous letters as well as a list of Tolkien events and other smaller items.
Andrew Dickson, Wednesday, 25 April 2007, ‘The Pagan Tolkien’
As a reaction against some overly Christian readings of Tolkien, this suffers from going too far in the opposite direction: it is simply not correct to claim that Tolkien's ‘attempts to recreate the pre-Christian myths of England seem to be entirely separate from [Tolkien's Catholic] faith.’ I come across both views, and it is a testament to Tolkien's versatile applicability that you can have people inveterately and savagely defending both extremes, but personally I think that my appreciation and understanding of Tolkien's work flourishes best with a position somewhere in-between.
Jeremy Pryor, Saturday, 2 August 2008, ‘Gandalf the Grey — Tolkien's Apostolic Archetype’
This could have been one of the posts that Andrew Dickson reacted against in the piece above, had this not appeared more than a year later than Dickson's. The apostolic resonances in Gandalf may very well be right, but leaving out all the other resonances — notably Tolkien describing Gandalf as an ‘Odinic wanderer’ — creates what is, in my opinion, a skewed presentation of Gandalf.
The Chronological Tolkien Page
Another ‘oldie’ that deserves to be mentioned from time to time — if nothing else, then for the sheer amount of work that has gone into creating the elaborate tables behind the paragraph-by-paragraph chronology of the primary Middle-earth books (The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and The Children of Húrin).
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’
Andrew Wells (AW), ‘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’
Jonathan S. McIntosh (JM), ‘The Flame Imperishable’
Morgan Thomsen (MT), ‘Mythoi’
John Howe (JH)
David Simmons (DS), ‘Aiya Ilúvatar’
Michael Martinez (MM), ‘Tolkien Studies Blog’
Michael Martinez (MM), ‘Middle-earth’
Troels Forchhammer (TF), ‘Parmar-kenta’
Mythprint — ‘The Monthly Bulletin of the Mythopoeic Society’
Amon Hen — the Bulletin of the Tolkien Society
Beyond Bree — the newsletter of the Tolkien Special Interest Group of the Americal Mensa
- and others
One who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters.
- Aragorn ‘Strider’, /Two Towers/ (J.R.R. Tolkien)