May has been a good month, but also a very busy month (between a very demanding course at work, family and scouting, there has been next to no time for Tolkien in May). This hopefully also explains the lateness of this issue. But here it is: all that I have found of sufficient interest and relation to Tolkien for me to share it with others from the month of May.
You will find the contents sorted into these groups:
2: Essays and Scholarship
3: Book News
5: Other Stuff
6: Rewarding Discussions
7: In Print
8: Web Sites
So, Michael Tolkien will appear at the Return of the Ring conference, speaking, presumably, about his own work, but hopefully also about his grandfather, the celebration of whose work is cause of the conference.
JDR, Monday, 7 May 2012, ‘THE HOBBIT and QWERTY’
So, one of the stories that have been surfacing about the upcoming Hobbit films has been the objections of a test audience to a test screening — not because of the acting, directing, CGI or anything like that, but because the felt that the resolution (in both time and pixels) was too good: actors didn't look like characters, but like actors wearing make-up and costumes. Here John Rateliff comments on this criticism (like most of us, he hasn't seen the screening, so he cannot know how he'd react to it). Sometimes I think a bit of emotional detachment from the continued Jackson story is a good thing ;-)
JDR, Wednesday, 9 May 2012, ‘Valparaiso Tolkien Conference’
News on a March 2013 Tolkien conference in Valparaiso.
Dawn McCarty and Phil Milford, Bloomberg News, Monday, 21 May 2012, ‘Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Files For Bankruptcy’
Tolkien's US publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co. (or just Houghton Mifflin) is filing for bancruptcy following a decline in the purchase of the school books that make up 90% of their business. This has apparently no influence on the planned Tolkien titles (including a number of titles in relation to the 75th anniversary of The Hobbit and the upcoming Hobbit films).
Hannah Benjamin, Bloomberg News, Saturday, 12 May 2012, ‘Houghton Mifflin Plans $3.1 Billion Debt Reduction, FT Reports’
Mary Childs, Bloomberg News, Wednesday, 30 May 2012, ‘Houghton Mifflin Debt Valued At 55.5 Cents In Swaps Auction’
and also John Rateliff's comments from Monday, 21 May 2012, ‘Houghton Mifflin hits a bump’
David Oberhelman, The Mythopoeic Society, Wednesday, 23 May 2012, ‘Mythopoeic Awards: 2012 Finalists Announced’
What it says, really . . .. I am particularly interested in the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies, and I can see that of the five finalists, Tolkien is the focus of four (Sanford Schwartz' book, C.S. Lewis on the Final Frontier: Science and the Supernatural in the Space Trilogy being the fifth). Having read three of the four Tolkien-related finalists (Tolkien and the Study of His Sources, The Art of the Hobbit and Tolkien and Wales) I fully support their inclusion, and I will push the fourth book, Steve Walker's The Power of Tolkien’s Prose: Middle-earth’s Magical Style, forward on my to-buy list.
JDR, Thursday, 24 May 2012, ‘Another Upcoming Tolkien Conference’
About the plans to create a new ‘Conference on Middle Earth’ [sic] in Massachusetts in 2014.
JDR, Saturday, 26 May 2012, ‘Tolkien in Vermont’
John Rateliff (probably?) going to next year's annual Tolkien conference at the University of Vermont.
This month's articles (nos. 27 through 40) start with a discussion of the Elvish weaknesses of preservationism — leading to an arrest of change — as an example of possessiveness, which is described as ‘In a remote, yet real, Melkorian manner, it is to make the power and light of the Flame Imperishable coextensive with the light of one's own intellect.’ From here the discussion moves on to Sauron's will for domination, and from there to the One Ring, where the metaphysics of invisibility is touched on before moving on to the Manichaeism in Tolkien, which McIntosh sees as the philosophical position propounded by Sauron (and Melkor), but ultimately as rejected by Tolkien. Highly interesting stuff! Notice that part forty is not actually noted as part of the series, but it must be ‘Heidegger and Tolkien on Technology’.
I here link only to the first of the articles:
Part 27, 1 May, ‘Elves: Nostalgic Progressives or “Bad Conservatives”?’
BC, Thursday, 3 May 2012, ‘The unrepentant orcs’
Charlton here comes from Shippeys comments about Orcs as an image of evil to the idea that what seems to distinguish the Orcs from the other Children of Ilúavatar is the ability for repentance which the Orcs appear to lack. The ensuing discussion is also quite interesting though it is at times not entirely clear which concept of Orcs is being discussed.
JM, Saturday, 5 May 2012, ‘A Theology of the Possible’
The first of another series of posts on Jonathan McIntosh' ‘The Flame Imperishable’ blog. In this case the aim is not so much a discussion of Tolkien, but rather a discussion with the express aim of trying to ‘formulate a more expressly sub-creative and Trinitarian theology of divine power (omnipotence)’ and the link is that Tolkien's writings on art and sub-creation informs the discussion. The six parts published this month lays the ground, including summarizing some important points in McIntosh' sources (or referring to earlier blog posts that summarize aspects of the discussion), mainly James Ross, God, Creator of Kinds and Possibilities, the summary and discussion of whom take up most of the posts.
SH, Sunday, 6 May 2012, ‘Orthodox Christianity and fantasy literature’
Steve Hayes refers to Orthodox Christian bloggers discussing whether Orthodox Christians ought to read fantasy. I am reminded of Strider's comment in /LotR/: ‘If simple folk are free from care and fear, simple they will be, and we must be secret to keep them so.’ This represents a position that I cannot agree with: if the only way to keep people ‘in place’ is to keep them ignorant, then you are using your authority to censor their knowledge as a means of dominating them, and this, in my eyes, can /never/ be good. I would instead teach them to recognize the temptation of evil: sometimes it is a difficult lesson to learn (as Boromir would come to realize), but it is to me far preferable to any kind of domination through censorship.
H&S, Sunday, 6 May 2012, ‘May 2012 Addenda and Corrigenda’
Announcing publication of further addenda and corrigenda on their website.
BC, Saturday, 12 May 2012, ‘Tolkien, philology and theology’
Some perspectives on some of Tolkien's aims with his legendarium, claiming that Tolkien strove to achieve a unity of the West Midlands, England and Christianity. I am not sure that I can go the full nine yards with Bruce Charlton in this: I certainly think that he would need to look into the evolution of the legendarium as I am not sure that the unity that he lists is not an articificial construction bringing together aspects from various times of Tolkien's work. Still, it is an interesting perspective, and I think the basic idea of Tolkien striving to achieve a united whole of apparently unconnected ideas is correct — I just suspect that the set of ideas changed as his mythology evolved.
JM, Thursday, 24 May 2012, ‘'Day Shall Come Again!': The Book of Samuel in 'The Silmarillion'’
A comparative study of passages from The Silmarillion with the biblical Book of Samuel. It has been many years since I read any of the Book of Samuel, so I have only McIntosh' explanations to go by, but while some of the links seem rather tenuous, there is, I think, enough substance to the idea to warrant also a more detailed study. McIntosh avoids implying that the biblical book was a source for the investigated passages of Tolkien's Silmarillion (it is, I think, part of the nature of the comparative study that the language inevitably will hint at a causal connection even where this is not the intention of the author), which I think is wise: with Tolkien there is so often numerous possible sources even to a little detail, and choosing among them becomes too often a matter of what the critic wants to be true rather than what actually influenced Tolkien the strongest (if any).
JDR, Monday, 28 May 2012, ‘Edmund Wilson: wrong about everything’
I admit that there is something deeply satisfying about taking Edmund ‘Oo, Those Awful Orcs!’ Wilson to task for his insistence on reviewing fantastic fiction despite his inability to sympathise with it. Rateliff shows that a number of other authors of fantastic fiction received scathing comments by Wilson: Dunsany, Mencken, Lovecraft and others, with Cabell as the only possible exception.
JDR, Tuesday, 29 May 2012, ‘Tolkien and Cabell’
Following the previous item listing Cabell as a possible exception to Edmund Wilson's apparently universal dislike of anything fantastic, Rateliff here discusses what is know about Tolkien's opinion of Cabell.
BC, Tuesday, 29 May 2012, ‘Which Inklings are the Notion Club Principals? And who is missing?’
Once again Bruce Charlton speculates about the character-to-person correspondances of the members of the Notion Club and the Inklings. The speculative identifications are not in all cases identical to the the identifications in Glyer and Long's contribution in Jason Fisher's Tolkien and the Study of his Sources, ‘Biography as Source: Niggles and Notions’, but that only makes things more interesting :-)
JDR, Thursday, 31 May 2012, ‘Well, This is a Weird Twist’
Another follow-up on the matter of Edmund Wilson — this time in relation to Tolkien. And yes, this is indeed a weird twist: Wilson apparently links a liking of, in his opinion juvenile trash, The Lord of the Rings with homosexuality. Weird indeed.
A Tolkien writing fairy-stories, even if they are addressed specifically towards children, is, I think, interesting, though one is tempted to paraphrase Boromir: ‘if the hand that wields [the pen] has inherited not [a name] only . . .’
Kieran O'Mahony, Cork Independent, Thursday, 3 May 2012, ‘The Hobbit as Gaeilge’
The Hobbit being published ‘fully translated into Irish’ for the first time. In this case ‘fully translated’ apparently also means translating (or perhaps just transliterating?) some of the names of the characters — I do wonder what would be in the ‘spirit’ of Tolkien's guide to translators of _The Lord of the Rings_?
JDR, Saturday, 5 May 2012, ‘The One-Man LORD OF THE RINGS’
A review of Charlie Ross' one-man performance based on the New Line Cinema The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. I have to say that I agree whole-heartedly with David Bratman's comment: there is no way that including Tom Bombadil would have improved the films.
Harley J. Sims, Mythprint, Tuesday, 8 May 2012, ‘Snowblind Studios' _‘The Lord of the Rings’: War in the North_’
An interesting and clear-minded review of a game based on Tolkien's world. I am particularly intrigued by the implications of comments relating to viewing games more seriously as an interpretative art form.
Benjamin Peters, BLOGCRITICS.ORG, Wednesday, 9 May 2012, ‘Book Review: The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community by Diana Pavlac Glyer’
A fairly positive review of Diana Glyer's 2007 book (which won the 2008 Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies).
PC, Sunday, 13 May 2012, ‘A Tolkien Tapestry: Pictures to accompany The Lord of the Rings is a 2012 Locus Award Finalist’
The book A Tolkien Tapestry: Pictures to accompany The Lord of the Rings by Cor Blok (edited by Pieter Collier) is one of five finalists for the 2012 Locus Award in the Art Books category. Congratulations to Blok and Collier!
BC, Thursday, 17 May 2012, ‘The audio-book Lord of the Rings, read by Rob Inglis’
The first of two audio-book reviews this month by Bruce Charlton who gives Rob Inglis' performance 8 out of 10.
Emily E. Auger, Mythlore, Tuesday, 22 May 2012, ‘Picturing Tolkien’
The Mytholore (issue 117/118) review of Picturing Tolkien: Essays on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Film Trilogy edited by Janice M. Bogstad and Philip E. Kaveny. The overall tone seems positive, while the review is also remarkably uncommitted — the most direct opinion given is that it is a ‘worthwhile study’ for those ‘most dedicated to Tolkien in the original’ (making me wonder about those only committed to Tolkien in the original . . .?)
PC, Tuesday, 29 May 2012, "Tolkien Calendar 2013 will be illustrated by John Howe and Alan Lee "
After two years with Cor Blok, I am sure that many collectors will be relieved to see that the official 2013 Tolkien Calendar (issued by HarperCollins) will feature artwork by John Howe and Alan Lee. Personally I would advocate diversity, and I think a Hobbit-themed calendar would have benefitted from featuring artwork that was by people not in any way involved with the upcoming films — to provide a much-needed counter-point to the inevitable pervasiveness of the films' imagery. In some ways I'd have preferred to see a Hobbit-themed calendar by Cor Blok, but even more one by other artists — Lacon, Murray, Nasmith, Eißmann and others who could have offered new imagery that would be different from both the films and Blok (not that there is necessarily anything wrong with Blok's art, but because I agree with Lacon that it's important to offer different visual perspectives).
Zenestex, Geeks of Doom, Tuesday, 29 May 2012, ‘Comic Review: Orbit #8: JRR Tolkien: The True Lord of the Rings’
A review of the comic-book biography of Tolkien that has been mentioned previously (issue XXIV for April 2012). The comic gets an almost enthusiastic review by someone who describes himself as ‘not at all a fan of Tolkien's writing’ while still respecting Tolkien's contributions to literature.
PC, Wednesday, 30 May 2012, ‘HarperCollins Releases Hobbit Movie Cover Edition’
As Pieter notes, ‘it had to happen’ — there is simply too much money to be made on tie-in products for HarperCollins to ignore it. Fortunately I have all the copies of The Hobbit that I need: The Annotated Hobbit, The History of the Hobbit and Art of the Hobbit so I won't have any need for this product.
Devin Brown claims to balance the two extreme positions of Tolkien scholarship on Tolkien's Christian influences: neither ignoring them nor seeing Christian influences everywhere. Brown says that Tolkien's works are ‘in their essence, at their core, Christian works, but only at their core, not on the surface.’ Brown also thinks that his own Christian faith is part of his qualifications for writing this book, while I have occasionally wondered if being Christian did not disqualify a scholar from writing on the Christian elements of Tolkien's work. This interview is, however, quite encouraging as Devin Brown seems to have been very much aware of the danger of turning Tolkien's works into a sermon, which neither the author nor most readers would enjoy.
So, the idea is that a research team has asked a lot of Americans the question ‘Which of these fantasy worlds would you most like to visit?’ and given them the options of Hogwarts, Alice's Wonderland, Neverland, Narnia, Middle-earth or ‘None, Don't Know’. The age and religious affiliation of the respondents has been registered, and in the research blog of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate you can see the more detailed results. I think it is interesting that those with no religious affiliation are the most likely to answer Middle-earth, followed by Catholics and evangelicals the least likely to choose Tolkien's sub-created Secondary World. It is perhaps also interesting that Catholics are the least likely to answer ‘None, Don't Know’. The research blog can be found below.
BC, Tuesday, 8 May 2012, ‘The centrality of co-inherence to salvation - Charles Williams as prophet’
This is the first of a couple of postings that Bruce Charlton has made this month about Charles Williams and co-inherence. As I haven't read any Williams myself, I cannot comment on the quality of the interpretative / critical approach, but I did find them interesting (albeit not enough to push Williams forward on my to-read list). Irrespective of anything else (including religious affiliations), I like the basic idea being propounded here.
The other post about the issue is
BC, TUESDAY, 15 MAY 2012, ‘Charles Williams regrettable tendency to regard co-inherence as therapeutic 'magic'’
Roger Colby, Tuesday, 8 May 2012, ‘Tolkien's 10 Tips for Creating Epic Heroes’
Tolkien's writings — particularly his letters — are extracted for ten pieces of advice on the creation of epic heroes. The most surprising bit is in the first piece of advice, where Colby reads Tolkien's use of ‘the chief hero’ (in letter #131 to Milton Waldman) as refence to Aragorn rather than to Sam as is usually assumed (the reference to ‘chief hero’ is found in Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull's extended index to the letters under their listing of references to Sam Gamgee and they repeat this interpretation in The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion). I can even see how this might be the case, but I am hesitant to suggest that Wayne and Christina got it all wrong. See also the earlier ‘Tolkien's Ten Tips for Writers’ (linked at the top of the post).
MT, Thursday, 17 May 2012, ‘Vinyar Tengwar 39 Index’
Announcing the addition to the Tolkien Index of Vinyar Tengwar #39 which includes ‘_Ósanwe-kenta_’ and ‘From Quendi and Eldar, Appendix D’.
BC, Friday, 18 May 2012, ‘Corruption in Tolkien's Legendarium’
Bruce Charlton remarks on the fact that in Tolkien's writings the greatest are almost always corrupt, making Gandalf, Aragorn, Galadriel and Elrond even more special.
JDR, Sunday, 20 May 2012, ‘Tolkien Unbound’
A nice report from the lighter side of Kalamazoo — including links to videos from a performance from Friday evening's ‘Tolkien Unbound’ event.
John Howe, Monday, 21 May 2012, ‘Pipe-smoking Dwarf’
A somewhat more traditional rendering of a Dwarf than what we saw in the trailer for the Hobbit film. Except for the spoon, that is — nice detail though! :-)
Beyond Bree, May 2012
This issue of BB includes a favourable review of The Art of the Hobbit by Nancy Martsch followed by an article on ‘Tolkien's Art’ by the same hand in which she discusses Tolkien's skills and education in drawing and painting, summarising by describing Tolkien as ‘an amateur artist with talent and some technical skill, though his skills were mostly in design and landscape drawing. He certainly had some informal training. He repeated ideas in his writing and his drawing. He was very fond of patterns and designs.’ Nancy Martsch also provides an article on the wearing of armour, and Dale Nelson continues his tale of the ‘Days of the Craze’ with some notes on the Ace Books affair. Mark Hooker writes on sesquipedalia in two rounds (and a warm ‘thank you’ to Mark for teaching me that wonderful word!). As usual BB is rounded off with various news, letters and announcements — oh, and two poems by Matthew Anish.
This issue of Mythprint contains a number of reviews of various works of fantastic fiction, none of which is directly related to the topic of this listing.
Amon Hen 235
The bulletin of the Tolkien Society is, as always, filled with many bits and pieces about the life of the society, including the inevitable calls for volunteers (if you have aspirations to become the editor of a Tolkien-related journal, the TS is seeking for a new editor for Mallorn), and in this issue the report from the Annual Grand Meeting, at which was, among other things, decided to go back to only one issue of Mallorn per year. It would seem that one will have to produce even better stuff to get published in Mallorn, then.
Of the more generally interesting bits we find a letter from David Doerr in which he defends his position in his AH 233 article, ‘The Brightest Stars of George Allen & Unwin Ltd.’ which has been questioned by Allan Turner in a letter in AH 234. Becky Hitchin reviews Jason Fisher's (ed) Tolkien and the Study of His Sources (since the sorry excuse for a review in AH 233 it is good to see a proper review), Michael Cunningham gives a good (and long) review of Michael Saler's book As If: Mordern Enchantment and the Literary Prehistory of Virtual Reality, and Lynn Forest-Hill writes about ‘The Hobbit and Bevois Valley’.
Having been sent in April, my copy of Mythlore 117/118 turned up in a pile of unaddressed mail (local papers, shop catalogues etc.) near the end of May. Unfortunately I haven't yet had time to dive into the articles, but I particularly look forward to Michael Livingston's linguistic survey of the origins of the words hobbit and Baggins.
In the current issue of Mallorn we find a good article by Colin Duriez on ‘What made Tolkien tick and why was he called 'Reuel'? The importance of Tolkien biography’ in which he does discuss the questions he poses, including defending the importance of doing Tolkien biography despite Tolkien's outspoken distate for the use of biography in literary criticism. Kristine Larsen, who also provides the editorial, writes on ‘disembodied time travel in Tolkien, Stapledon and _Lost_’ while Virginia Luling compares ‘time travel in Tolkien and E. Nesbit’. I provide an overview of the business with Tolkien and the 1961 Nobel Prize, and I have also reviewed the eigth volume of Tolkien Studies. Other reviews include Janet Brennan Croft's positive review of Jason Fisher's book, Tolkien and the Study of His Sources, a review of the book of Cor Blok's art (A Tolkien Tapestry) by Daniel Howick who praises the book itself while being more mixed in his reaction to the art. Then there's a review by Becky Hitchin of Robert S. Blackham's Tolkien and the Peril of War which seems to offer more in terms of visualising the scenes of the first world war (e.g. by using old postcards) than it has to offer in terms of new information about Tolkien and his role in the Great War.
Their web-site contains a wealth of fine information. Here I will merely list a few of the pages that I find myself referring to again and again.
First there's their listing of the contents of the History of Middle-earth series:
Notice that while this lists the contents by volume, there are other lists that give the contents chronologically (by year of writing) and by content type.
Åke Bertenstam's chronological bibliography of the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien is another gem that can be found on Forodrim's site:
The list stops at 2003, leaving out any material published since then in The Children of Húrin, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, Tolkien Studies, Vinyar Tengwar and Parma Eldelamberon (and probably elsewhere as well).
Finally a nice page on ‘Astronomical objects above Middle-earth’:
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
++?????++ Out of Cheese Error. Redo From Start.
- /Interesting Times/ (Terry Pratchett)