Wednesday 2 January 2013

Tolkien Transactions XXXII

Tolkien Transactions XXXII
December 2012

Happy New Year!

Don't forget the Birthday Toast on the 3rd of January!
This year Tolkien would have become eleven squared — I've always been fond of the number eleven, so this just seemed significant to me ;-) In more ordinary numbering it will be ten dozen and one years since his birth in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

If you are not a member of a Tolkien society, this might be a good time to become one — see e.g. the websites of the Tolkien Society and the Mythopoeic Society below.

So, 2012 was a great Tolkien year — the seventy-fifth anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit was duly celebrated, we had a fine conference in Loughborough (and many others besides that I unfortunately couldn't attend), and though I haven't heard of anyone finding some curious club papers in Oxford this summer, I suppose it's reasonable enough to expect that it will be some time before the lucky finder will be able to publish an edition of the strange proceedings of the Notion Club ;)

This month has seen a wealth of Tolkien-related articles, doubtlessly due to the premiere of the new Hobbit film. Quite a lot of these are very commendable attempts to bring J.R.R. Tolkien into the light with small interviews of local scholars or other ways of emphasising the importance of Tolkien's work to the public. I shall not be able to give each of these a a full treatment as there are simply too many for that.

Obviously, all the usual disclaimers apply about newness, completeness and relevance (or any other implication of responsibility) :-)

This month it has suited my purposes to sort the contents under the following headlines:
1: An Unexpected Journey
2: News
3: Essays and Scholarship
4: Commentary
5: Reviews and Book News
6: Interviews
7: Tolkienian Artwork
8: Other Stuff
9: Rewarding Discussions
10: In Print
11: Web Sites
12: Sources

= = = = An Unexpected Journey = = = =

So, the most recent film-retelling (there are at least six earlier film and TV adaptations) inspired by a story by Tolkien premiered this month. There are numerous reviews, comments, discussions etc. to choose from, but I will here focus mainly on the comments and reviews by various Tolkienists — a mix of scholars and fans (which I will generally leave uncommented — check for yourself if you want to know what they think ;-) )

I went to see the film myself with my children (aged 13 to 21), and I enjoyed it very much, thank you. A key to that enjoyment was the fact that it is so far removed from Tolkien's story that I can stop caring for it as Tolkien's story. All of the silliness and flippancy of Tolkien's story is gone — there's a bit of slapstick humour in the film, but I don't think that Tolkien's humour is slapstick. Otherwise things are far more mature (I won't say serious — that would require some depth). In some ways the approach of the film would have the potential of improving the story (which I find is one of the weaker Tolkien stories), but Jackson and his fellow screen-play writers are not at all good story-tellers in my opinion, and so their version is merely different — speaking of better or worse doesn't make sense. This is, in short, one of those shallow films that I would watch for the entertainment while it's running, but which are soon forgotten — it is, however, great and enjoyable entertainment.

Robert Rodi, Salon, Sunday, 2 December 2012, ‘'The Hobbit' is not a hipster!’

DB, Monday, 10 December 2012, ‘how long is it?’
Comments on the length of the Hobbit film rather than a review, but they still belong here.

MB, Wednesday, 12 December 2012, "Why "The Hobbit" is more than just the sum of its parts. A film review"

MD, Thursday, 13 December 2012, ‘The First Hobbit Film: Some Thoughts’

Robin Young & Michael Drout, Thursday, 13 December 2012, "New ‘Hobbit’ Movie: More Hollywood Than Tolkien?"
A radio interview with Michael Drout about the film

Andrew O'Hehir, Salon, Thursday, 13 December 2012, ‘'The Hobbit': Middle-earth faces a phantom menace’

DB, Friday, 14 December 2012, ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’

JDR, Friday, 14 December 2012, ‘The HOBBIT movie (first impressions)’

AH, Saturday, 15 December 2012, ‘First Impressions of The Hobbit and Azog Musings!’

Ilverai, Saturday, 15 December 2012, ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Initial Thoughts’
See also later posts (e.g. from the 23rd)

HG, Saturday, 15 December 2012, ‘Hobbitry’

Alan Jacobs, Saturday, 15 December 2012, ‘_The Hobbit_: My Review’

Britta Siemen, ‘TolkienBritta’, Sunday, 16 December 2012, ‘My Review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’

Ligandil, Monday, 17 December 2012, ‘Why I didn't like The Hobbit movie’

Andrew Cunningham, Tuesday, 18 December 2012, ‘A Tolkien nerd's thoughts on _The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey_’

Amy H. Sturgis, Wednesday, 19 December 2012, ‘Some Thoughts on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’

J. Hoberman, Wednesday, 19 December 2012, ‘Tolkien vs. Technology’

JDR, Friday, 21 December 2012, ‘HOBBIT Movie Review (Part I)’
This is the first of a four parts review (the last one not numbered) — use the blogger navigation to read the other parts.

BC, Friday, 21 December 2012, ‘Hobbit movie review’

Gary, Sunday, 23 December 2012, ‘Review: 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'’

Ilverai, Sunday, 23 December 2012, ‘The Hobbit: AUJ, Contemplating Change’
Followed up with more thoughts on the 24th (use the navigation at the blog to read these).

Katy Waldman and Emily Yoffe, Slate, Friday, 14 December 2012, ‘Lord of the Huh?’
This one deserves to be highlighted a bit. Slate sent to members of their staff who were ‘Tolkien virgins’ to see Jackson's The Hobbit. The result is both informative and amusing.

I have been known to express myself rather negatively about Jackson's films, but actually I don't mind the films as such — they are great films, and Jackson and his team have done a good job making it into their own story.

I can choose to like or dislike the films as I see fit (and for whatever reason suits me or no reason at all), and in some cases I dislike them for the disrespect they show to Tolkien and his work; this is my right, but I will also insist that it is not only their right, but their obligation, to make their adaptation into their own independent works of art.

What frustrates me, beyond any subjective evaluation of the films as entertainment or works of art, is the repeated claims that Jackson's films should be particularly faithful to Tolkien's work (they are not — and this is, in my opinion, a good thing, even when I end up disliking them for it) or (even worse) that they display a particular understanding of Tolkien's work by one or more of the writers of the screen-play — this latter claim is, frankly, ludicrous (they have allied themselves with people who do understand Tolkien's work such as John Howe, Alan Lee, David Salo, Janet Brennan Croft and others that I can't remember out of my head, but these have evidently had very little influence on the screen-play).

= = = = News = = = =

Max Davidson, The Telegraph, Thursday, 6 December 2012, ‘On the Tolkien trail: Middle-earth? You needn't fly down under to find it’
Bravo! Whatever wonderful sceneries of New Zealand Jackson has managed to include in his various films, this has nothing to do with Tolkien's Middle-earth. A student of Tolkien, interested in Tolkien's world, would do better to visit the English West Midlands and some few other places in western Europe (Lauterbrunnen, for instance). Though there are also many false and unverifiable claims attempting to link various English places with Tolkien, there are also a number of places that we know are related to him and his work, and these places are well worth a visit.

Jake Wallis Simons, The Telegraph, Friday, 7 December 2012, ‘Buying up in Tolkien Country’
In a similar vein — a mix of Tolkien and English real estate.

The Journal, Saturday, 8 December 2012, ‘The Hobbit author JRR Tolkien link to Newcastle found in graveyard’
It is hardly news that Tolkien's aunt Grace lived in Newcastle with her husband, Charles William Mountain, or that Tolkien visited them there. Finding the grave of the Mountains in the Jesmond Old Cemetery is of course nice enough, and of some interest, but the attempt to cast uncle William, the old Mr Mountain, as Saruman seems to be idle speculation.

Banbury Guardian, Tuesday, 11 December 2012, ‘Tolkien display at town museum’
Banbury Museum has an exhibition of Tolkien-related artwork by Ted Nasmith, ‘Journeys into Middle-Earth’. The exhibition lasts until 2nd February and admission is free, so if you're anywhere near there is really no excuse not to go.

Lancashire Evening Post, Friday, 14 December 2012, ‘Tolkien's links to Lancashire’
Aaargh! They don't even try to justify their claims (beyond mentioning one single name that also occurs in Tolkien's books, the Shirebourn). The connection with Stonyhurst where Tolkien stayed a few times in the latter half of the nineteen-forties is well known, but the rest is, as far as I know, speculation.

Carrie Antlfinger, Associated Press, Friday, 14 December 2012, ‘Tolkien class at Wis. university proves popular’
What really confuses me is that this is the first-ever course that has been given at the Marquette about Tolkien . . . how can that be? I like the story of Mr Kirchoff who essentially made a nuisance of himself until the powers that be decided to allow him to take the class — that kind of devotion does deserve to be rewarded ;) You will probably also wish to see the YouTube video about this class:

Ted Johnson, Variety, Friday, 14 December 2012, ‘Is Warner ‘diminishing’ the Tolkien brand or keeping it alive?’
I suppose that my personal answer to the titular question will be no surprise to anyone reading this. Frankly, however, the idea that the Tolkien brand is being kept alive by the atrocities (and not quite so atrocious doings) of Zaentz' Middle-earth Enterprises and their licensees is ludicrous — the brand has been kept nicely alive by the book sales and regardless of any film-related extra sales. The dependency is rather the other way around: Middle-earth Enterprises and their licensees need the books to keep their rights valuable, whereas the books do not need any of their products.

Sky News, Friday 21 December 2012, ‘Churchill And Tolkien Signature Faker Jailed’
A cautionary tale for emerging collectors: make sure that you check the provenance of any signed item because there are probably more fakes for sale than genuine Tolkien signatures, and if you want something really good, you should be able to pay thousands and thousands of pounds.

Ryan Sohmer & Lar Desouza, Least I Could Do comic:
Friday, 21 December 2012, ‘Was Granddad a Blue Wizard?’
and also the following comic:
, Saturday, 22 December 2012, ‘I Tawt I Taw a Gwaihir’
No comments needed, I would say ;-)

PC, Saturday, 29 December 2012, ‘Tolkien fans worldwide unite to celebrate author's birthday on January 3’
About the birthday toast of 2013.

= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =

JM, ‘Tolkien's Metaphysics of the Music’
Just three posts remained in this series, which ends with part 46, in which Jonathan McIntosh summarises his position. The key argument is that the movement in the Ainulindalë from the Music to the Vision (only there in later versions) and finally the actualisation of Eä is, so to speak, a movement from the low to the high, from darkness to light, rather than an example of a ‘Neoplatonic, emanationist story of a gradual, metaphysical decay or demise’.
Now I will try to find the time to read through the whole argument and so get a better sense of the whole than when I have read it as they were published (and occasionally with gaps of several weeks before I could find the time to go through the recent parts). I am still a little sceptical about the use of Tolkien's critique of using dream as a frame for fairy-stories to signify a criticism of dream more generally, but I find the overall argument compelling.

H&S, Sunday, 2 December 2012, ‘Tolkien Notes 2’
Some further comments about new editions of The Lord of the Rings and on various corrigenda. For me the most important issue is always to have the best possible text (i.e. as close as possible to what Tolkien would have wanted), and for this, the corrigenda from Wayne and Christina (though not always found by themselves) is invaluable — thank you!

JF, Monday, 3 December 2012, ‘Reconstructed lexis in Tolkien and Gordon's Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’
Similar in topic and structure to the November posting of reconstructed lexis in Tolkien's Middle English vocabulary, Jason here lists all the reconstructed word-forms that Tolkien includes in his glossary for the edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight that he did together with E.V. Gordon. Of particular interest to me is the lists of Old English (actually Anglian, usually Mercian, Jason notes) and of Old Norse reconstructions.

JF, Tuesday, 4 December 2012, ‘Sméagol — what's in a name?’
An analysis of the etymology of the name ‘Sméagol’. In the end Jason disagrees with the etymology that Tolkien gives the name (from O.E. smygel / smúgan — meant to invoke the meaning of ‘burrowing’ and ‘worming in’ that is also apparent in ‘Smaug’), insisting instead that the word ‘Sméagol’ would have to be derived from sméagan, ‘to consider, meditate, examine’, while the words that Tolkien intended would have given a different form, *smugol. This view is contested in a long comment showing that *sméagol could mean what Tolkien says. None of this, of course, changes what Tolkien intended with the word, but it may add an extra dimension to Sméagol, who, while perhaps not particularly reflected (consider / meditate) was nonetheless curious and examining in his approach to the world.

JM, Wednesday, 5 December 2012, ‘Death as Gift in Tolkien and Peter Damian’
The contrast between the Biblical view of death as a punishment for the fall of Man, and the view in Tolkien's legendarium of death as one with Eru's gift of freedom is one that has often been commented upon. Here McIntosh draws a parallel to the work of the medieval theologian Peter Damian, which I think works when we realise that also in Tolkien's legendarium, the main Fall (and thereby the surety that Man would have to exist in Arda Marred) precedes the gift.

JF, Thursday, 6 December 2012, ‘Mystery Tolkien passage, solved!’
One of the advantages of this kind of review collection of articles is that I can sometimes refer to a post that started as an enquiry, a call for help to identify a passage, but which has been resolved before I get to report it here. So with this post, which started with an unidentified quotation attributed to Tolkien in a 1930 linguistic work, and which has since been identified (to the early editions of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Tolkien and Gordon). The story provides, as Jason points out, a cautionary lesson on at least two points: one is the changes between various editions of Tolkien's works (the passage quoted has been removed in later editions), and the other is about ‘sloppy scholarly practice’.

TF, Friday, 7 December 2012, ‘Source Criticism II’
Some thoughts on Tolkienian source criticism inspired by Jason Fisher's book, and in particular by his stated aim of raising the quality of Tolkienian source studies.

NMB, Wednesday, 12 December 2012, ‘The Tolkien Connection’
About the connection between Nancy Marie Brown's love for Tolkien's stories and her interest in Iceland.

Erin Overbey, Friday, 14 December 2012, ‘Auden and Elvish’
About W.H. Auden's early defence of The Lord of the Rings, including notes on early reviews and the story of an evening in the Tolkien Society of America with W.H. Auden in 1966.

BC, Saturday, 15 December 2012, ‘Quality of prose - Lost Road better than early drafts of Lord of the Rings’
I do agree with Charlton's assessment of the quality of prose, but I think it is fully explained by the fact that Tolkien was, with The Lord of the Rings essentially sitting down to write a story that he did not wish to write, and it took some time before it developed into something that he wanted to tell. As for the ambitions it is something that, having inquired Charlton about it, I have to think some more about.

DB, Sunday, 16 December 2012, ‘Christopher Tolkien moans in pain’
David Bratman's comments to some of the passages (particularly the third and second last paragraphs) from the Le Monde interview with Christopher Tolkien. Assuming that Christopher Tolkien's statements are correctly translated, Bratman finds nothing to disagree with.

Lauren Davis, Sunday, 16 December 2012, ‘The Middle Earth Illustrators J.R.R. Tolkien Loved — and the Ones He Abhorred’
An excellent walk-through of some of the illustrations / illustrators of which Tolkien's opinion is known. From Tolkien himself through Baynes, Blok and my Queen to Engels and Remington, with samples of each illustrator's work. Something like this might be worked into an excellent essay or book about Tolkien's taste in book-illustrations.

Michael Adams, Tuesday, 18 December 2012, ‘The Naming of Hobbits’
About the names of hobbits, most of which are not invented, but for which the lingistic connections are. Interesting blog for the Oxford University Press by Michael Adams, author of From Elvish to Klingon.

Thomas Honegger, Wednesday, 19 December 2012, ‘75 reasons: Thomas Honegger’
Thomas Honegger reminds us that The Hobbit is meant for reading out loud, and recommends listening to Rob Inglis' reading while taking in Tolkien's own visualisation of the story as it can be found in The Art of the Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull.

‘Galadhorn’, Thursday, 20 December 2012, ‘The Hobbit (Movie Trilogy): Phrases, Lyrics and Inscriptions In the Languages of Middle-earth’
Making a start at analysing the various non-English pieces of text found in Jackson's Hobbit films. It should be noted that quite a lot of this, in particular when it comes to Khuzdul, the language of the Dwarves, and the Black Speech, the language of Mordor, are new inventions that have nothing to do with Tolkien, but are attempts at educated extensions of his languages. Anyone interested in the problems of this approach should read Carl Hostetter's excellent article, ‘Elvish as She is Spoke’:

JM, Thursday, 20 December 2012, ‘Tolkien's discovery of eucatastrophe as itself a eucatastrophe’
In this, and the following post ‘Anselm's ‘Ontological Argument’ as Eucatastrophe’ (press the link to ‘Next’), McIntosh investigates the idea of discovery as eucatastrophic. In the second of the two posts he speaks of ‘intellectual eucatastrophe’, by which I assume he means the scientific joy in a new discovery, in new cognition: the sudden insight (the suddenness is a requirement for the eucatastrophic). In the first post he investigates Tolkien's own realisation of the importance of eucatastrophe as an example of this kind of scientific eucatastrophe, and in the second this idea is compared to Anselm. While I am no stranger to the wild scientific joy of sudden new cognition, I would say that it is, for me, of another kind than the joy I experience when reading e.g. ‘The Field of Cormallen’.

BC, Saturday, 22 December 2012, ‘Was Tolkien jealous of Charles Williams friendship with Lewis? Certainly NOT’
I quite agree with Charlton that Tolkien was not jealous of Lewis' friendship with Williams, though I think he may still have regretted any Williamsesque influence on Lewis' literary output. In later letters he distances himself from William's literary work, but not from the man: he does not, I think, distance himself from the genuine friendship they enjoyed.

Alison Milbank, Monday, 24 December 2012, ‘The riddle and the gift: The Hobbit at Christmas’
An interesting take on the economy, and the dragon-sickness, of The Hobbit. There's a couple of paragraphs towards the end that seem forced — as if Milbank was obliged to make a sermon out of what is otherwise an interesting take on an aspect of The Hobbit, but this can be skipped, and the remainder of the article is clever and enlightening.

JM, Wednesday, 26 December 2012, ‘Tolkien's Answer to Anselm on Why the Devil Fell’
A very interesting, and to my knowledge original, perspective on Melkor's fall. The perspective is here through reading Anselm, and in particular his De Casu Diaboli. I am sure that I will not be able to do the argument justice in a few sentences, so I will merely encourage all to read it for themselves. Another question, then, is whether Tolkien knew Anselm — at least for those who are mainly interested in what Tolkien intended rather than what is the best fit to what he wrote (these are by no means always identical).

PC & Andrew Morton, Sunday, 30 December 2012, ‘Andrew Morton takes us to the real Bag End - A Very English Place’
An essay about Jane Neave's farm, Bag End by Andrew Morton based on his research for his book, Tolkien's Bag End. Andrew Morton discusses the history of the real Bag End and puts it into context in the larger Midlands history while suggesting some parallels to Tolkien's work, especially (of course) to his fictional Bag End, to Hobbiton and Bywater and the Baggins family.

Madeline J. Keyser, Sunday, 30 December 2012, ‘Sixteen Philological Books and Notes from the Library of J.R.R. Tolkien’
Madeline Keyser takes a look at the sixteen German works on philology from Tolkien's personal library that are now held at the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives at Texas A&M University. She discusses the books, but in particular Tolkien's notes in the books and what they show about his interests in the topics of the books. Knowing that Tolkien would note (to passages on sound-changes) things like ‘probably wrong’, ‘most unlikely!’ and ‘nonsense!’ is, I must admit, something that I find charming (being able to relate strongly — I remember a mathematical derivation in a textbook at university where my notes read ‘It can be seen by what? Black magic?’ and ‘Voodoo here?’). I hope that more work will be done on these various annotations, notes and comments that Tolkien put in his books, so that we may learn some more both about his thoughts about philology but also about the man that he was.

H&S, Monday, 31 December 2012, ‘Tolkien Notes 3’
New addenda and corrigenda on their website (see below), why they will not be watching Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and some notes and comments about The Art of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

H&S, Monday, 31 December 2012, ‘Addenda and Corrigenda’
New addenda and corrigenda to their books. For the J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide and The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, you can see the addenda and corrigenda by date to see what is new. I cannot see what is new to the Artist and Illustrator except that it must be in the ‘Further Corrigenda and Addenda’ section. For the Companion and Guide the new is additions to the index — mainly additions concerning various composers from Bizet to Weber. In the Reader's Companion there are a few substantial additions regarding Merry's comment that five ponies stand ready, quotation marks in footnotes in appendix A (i.e. notes that are meant to be original to the Red Book) and to the family trees.

= = = = Commentary = = = =

A.N. Wilson, London Evening Standard, Tuesday, 4 December 2012, ‘Tolkien's genius rises above Hobbit film spectacle’
An argument that Tolkien deserves to be honoured in the Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey before his friend, C.S. Lewis. Despite a couple of minor things, the case is excellently made.

Melanie McDonagh, The Spectator, Saturday, 8 December 2012, ‘Don't watch The Hobbit’
A commentary on The Hobbit — and intelligent commentary at that — combined with a call not to watch the film (which I don't necessarily agree with).

Greg Garrison, Alabama, Tuesday, 11 December 2012, ‘Tolkien's Christian faith informs ‘The Hobbit,’ other stories, scholar says’
An interview with professor Jane Chance focusing mainly on the Catholic subtext in Tolkien's work.

NUI Galway Archives, Tuesday, 11 December 2012, ‘The master of Middle Earth and his time in the West’
The James Hardiman Libray at the National University of Ireland in Galway have found some of the records of Tolkien's well-known activities as external examiner in Ireland. Among these are some of the exams that the students had to sit — on the NUI Galway's Facebook page a 2003 MA from the university opines that the 1949 summer first paper in English is the ‘Equivalent of final year paper today.’ See
Also Emer McLysaght, The Journal, Monday, 17 December 2012, ‘Imagine if J.R.R. Tolkien was marking your exam papers?’
Where there are a couple of scans of exams that I haven't found elsewhere.
And Caroline Crawford, Irish Independent, Wednesday, 19 December 2012, ‘Testing times unearthed for ‘Hobbit’ author Tolkien’
And Lorraine O'Hanlon, Galway Independent, Wednesday, 19 December 2012, ‘From Connemara to Mordor’
Which also tries to make the usual claim that the area inspired something in Tolkien's literary work (though claims of having inspired The Lord of the Rings are unlikely if 1949, the earliest year mentioned, was the first year that Tolkien was in Galway).

Danielle Maurer, Slate, Wednesday, 12 December 2012, ‘Why Was J.R.R. Tolkien a Genius?’
An attempt to answer the titular question, focusing on world-building ability, languages, story and prose. Maurer herself says that she doesn't feel that ‘this answer is adequate enough to express how much of a genius I believe Tolkien is’, and though I agree that she is only scratching the surface of that question, I would also say that she does a good job at potting an answer in a few hundred words.

Madison Mathews, Johnson City Press, Wednesday, 12 December 2012, ‘ETSU English professor discusses Tolkien's impact on literature and popular culture’
An interview with one professor Phyllis Thompson who gives a nice bit of commentary on Tolkien's The Hobbit.

Joshua Engel, Huff Post: Books, Thursday, 13 December 2012, ‘What Revisions Did Tolkien Make To_ The Hobbit_ To Bring It in Line with_ The Lord of the Rings_?’
The answer focuses on ‘Riddles in the Dark’ — I think some of the other changes might also have been worth mentioning, and perhaps particularly Tolkien's aborted attempt to change Bilbo's story from an adventure to a quest.

Karla Klein Albertson, The Commercial Appeal, Thursday, 13 December 2012, ‘Tolkien's ageless book opens door to Hobbit universe’
At The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Albertson decided to ask librarians about Tolkien's story rather than asking university professors. This gives another perspective as librarians Corey Bauer and Michelle Hostetter focus more on the individual reader's experience when reading the book.

Daniel P. Finney, Shreveport Times, Thursday, 13 December 2012, ‘New generations continue to enjoy Tolkien's stories’
‘'The Hobbit' is one of those books that for the people who really love it, they want to pass it along to other people,’ said Alice Meyer, owner of Beaverdale Books in Des Moines. ‘The movies generate interest but it’s also a classic that keeps getting revived.’ Exactly! ;-)

Sarah Bryan Miller, STL Today, Friday, 14 December 2012, ‘Where ‘The Hobbit’ began: A Tolkien primer’
Apparently the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch's resident Tolkien expert is their regular classical music critic. Not that there's anything wrong about that — she isn't the only one to mix these two.

Alister & Paine, Friday, 14 December 2012, ‘The Tolkien Bookshelf’
In yet another approach to bringing the books to the attention of the public in the ramp-up to the film, here is an interview with David Miller of ‘The Tolkien Bookshelf’.

Jack Brammer, Thursday, 27 December 2012, ‘Does ‘The Hobbit’ have a Kentucky connection?’
This article tries to revive the spurious claim by Davenport that the Hobbit names came from Kentucky. The redeeming aspect of this article is that the journalist at least has interviewed David Bratman who has investigated Davenport's claims in detail and has rejected them.

Karl Hand, Friday, 28 December 2012, ‘Hobbits of the World Unite! (A revolutionary reads Tolkien)’
Well . . . What can I say? First of all I fail to understand why anyone would deny themselves a good story because of the political views of the author, but that at least is fortunately not the agenda of this author. His deliberately allegorical misreading of Tolkien is comical, though I resent this kind of effort that seems to be begging the question by coming up with the conclusion before making the analysis.

Bob Fischbach, Sunday, 30 December 2012, ‘Hobbit: Did Tolkien intend Christian themes?’
The discussion of the Catholic influence on Tolkien's literary work is still going as strong as ever. It appears, however, that the discussion has somewhat moved: when there was earlier a legitimate discussion of whether Tolkien's Catholic faith influenced his writings at all, the discussion today seems rather to be the degree to which it influenced his writings, with some Christian commenters appearing to believe that there were no other significant influences (which is even more ludicrous a position than claiming that there is no influence at all from his faith). One problem here is also the evolution of Tolkien's writings — I disagree that providence is a major theme in The Hobbit until the end: for the most of the adventure everything is portrayed according to a pagan, e.g. an Old Norse, concept of ‘luck’ as a innate trait, a possession. Only towards the very end is this changed with hints at providence that changes the interpretation of the earlier parts, but I do not believe that the earlier parts were written with this in mind.

Laura Henry, Sunday, 30 December 2012, ‘J.R.R. Tolkien went on literary ‘Journey’ of his own’
A short piece that introduces some of the literary ancestors and descendants of Tolkien's works.

George Rasley, Monday, 31 December 2012, ‘The Hobbit's Conservative Message’
The logic appears to be that Peter Jackson's /The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey/ is very popular right now, and therefore a certain kind of political ‘debaters’ come out in force to try and show how the film and/or the book support their particular world-view (see many of the posts in this section, and also the item under ‘Other Stuff’ for December 12th). A link to this post actually sparked an interesting (and completely non-political) discussion in the Tolkien Society Facebook group.

David Platt, End of December 2012, ‘Why Do Precious Leftists Loathe Tolkien's Shire?’
And yet another political reading, walking into the affray with the assertion that the critics continue to denounce Tolkien's work because they are leftists (rather than following Tom Shippey's claim that they are, by the nature of their studies, incapable of understanding Tolkien's kind if literature). I know of quite a lot of left-leaning people who find great joy in Tolkien, knowing full well that they do not share his political views, but not letting such petty concerns stand in the way of their enjoyment of a great story.

= = = = Reviews and Book News = = = =

‘Poppy’, The Guardian, Sunday, 2 December 2012, ‘Bilbo's Last Song by JRR Tolkien, illustrated by Pauline Baynes - review’
Poppy's son, JJ, is three, and together they have been reading Bilbo's Last Song in the edition illustrated by Pauline Baynes — and they have enjoyed it.
See also Angela Youngman, Monday, 3 December 2012, ‘Bilbo's Last Song — Book Review’

BC, Tuesday, 4 December 2012, ‘My Amazon reviw of Sauron Defeated - Volume 9 of The History of Middle Earth, edited by Christopher Tolkien’
By necessity a short review (it is an Amazon review) of Sauron Defeated. I very much agree with Charlton's highlight of the LotR epilogue (I can see why some might find it a bit too sentimental, but I love it), The Notion Club Papers and The Drowning of Anadûnê.

JDR, Tuesday, 4 December 2012, ‘The New Arrivals’
The new (book) arrivals at the Rateliff household are:
Light: C. S. Lewis's First and Final Short Story by Charlie Starr
Bilbo's Journey: Discovering the Hidden Meaning of The Hobbit by Joseph Pearce
and Tolkien And Welsh: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien's Use of Welsh in His Legendarium by Mark T. Hooker
The short notes here, as well as comments elsewhere, makes me suspect a certain amount of confirmation bias in the two Tolkien-related volumes; Pearce's strong bias for Catholic-only readings of Tolkien is well known, whereas Hooker, according to the reports I've seen, is generally on much firmer ground.

Laura Beth Payne, The Murfreesboro Post, Thursday, 6 December 2012, ‘Tolkien creates fairy tales for all ages’
A praise of Tolkien's Letters From Father Christmas — all I can add is that if you do not have this book yet, you now have eleven months to remedy that situation.

JF, Monday, 10 December 2012, ‘Deep discount on my book!’
Though the deep discount offer has now passed, I would still recommend buying Jason Fisher's book, Tolkien and the Study of His Sources, to anyone interested in the attempt to study the mental landscape in which Tolkien's mythology and other stories grew.

TF, Thursday, 13 December 2012, ‘The Science of Middle-earth’
My review of Henry Gee's The Science of Middle-earth. The short version: I like it very much, despite, or in some cases perhaps because of, not agreeing with Gee about all his analyses. In some cases, I think there is a bit of fannish delight about the analysis: a scientific exploration of possibilities rather than a careful analysis of what Tolkien might actually have intended, but the basic curiosity that drives Gee's work is one that I can very much relate to — ‘why?’ and ‘what if?’.

Henry Gee, The Guardian, Thursday, 20 December 2012, ‘Hobbits and hypotheses’
Henry Gee writes about the inspiration for and genesis of his book, The Science of Middle-earth and about some of the questions that he ponders in the book.

H&S, Wednesday, 19 December 2012, ‘A Critical Companion to Tolkien’
A detailed commentary and review of Jay Ruud's Critical Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work. Their opinion of this guide is mixed, though in some part coloured by their own preferences (I was, however, outraged to see that ‘an entry for Orlando Bloom, for instance, is given equal weight to one for Edith Bratt’), but I think very highly of Wayne and Christina's opinion on matters Tolkien.

JDR, Tuesday, 25 December 2012, ‘More New Arrivals’
On the arrival of the following Tolkien books:
Mark Atherton, There And Back Again: JRR Tolkien and the Origins of the Hobbit
Lynette Porter, The Hobbits: The Many Lives of Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Merry And Pippin
Paddy Kempshall, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey — The World of Hobbits
William McKay, Tolkien Trivia: A Middle-Earth Miscellany
and a couple of other titles that are not in some way Tolkien-related. The comments are so far kept very short. Mark Atherton's book looks promising (which is about all I can say as well, despite having had it for a while now), and it is the only one that is directly about Tolkien's work, the others being all film tie-ins.

JDR, Thursday, 27 December 2012, ‘Trivia, but Possibly not Trivial’
This can hardly be called a review, and deserves rather to be called a warning. John Rateliff tears William McKay's Tolkien Trivia: A Middle-Earth Miscellany to pieces for being wrong far too often. In short: stay far away from McKay's book!

= = = = Interviews = = = =

‘The Leonard Lopate Show’, WNYC, Tuesday, 4 December 2012, ‘Exploring The Hobbit’
An interview with Corey Olsen about Tolkien and Tolkien's work in general and The Hobbit in particular. Well worth listening to!

Worldcrunch, Wednesday, 5 December 2012, "My Father's ‘Eviscerated’ Work"
A translation of Christopher Tolkien's interview with Le Monde this summer. Some of the same objections have been raised against this translation as against the earlier, unauthorized, translation (now taken down) that the English version puts C.J.R. Tolkien in a more negative light than the original French.

Colleen Walsh, Harvard Gazette, Monday, 10 December 2012, ‘The ongoing allure of Tolkien’
An interview with Stephen Mitchell, Harvard professor of Scandinavian folklore, about Tolkien in general and The Hobbit in particular. I'd love to hear Mitchell speak about Scandinavian folklore, and I know well that he may have had little say of what bits were used in this interview article, but I am not terribly impressed with the Tolkien-contents of this interview.

Tom O'Loughlin, Thursday, 13 December 2012, ‘Why Study J.R.R. Tolkien?’
A great interview with Alison Milbank on how and why it can be beneficial to study Tolkien from the perspective of a theologian. Milbank's approach is very interesting, starting with the necessity to consider metaphysics when writing a fantasy story (or fairy-story) — you need an ontology, consistency, an ethic etc. and so the theologians tool box becomes very useful, just as the study of the works of a complex author like Tolkien becomes a good way for the theologian to practice their tools.

Colleen Shalby, PBS, Friday, 14 December 2012, ‘The World of Tolkien's Hobbit’
An interview with Jason Fisher ‘about Tolkien's ability to bridge mythology and language, and his constant revisions’. Considering how short one gets to answer a question that could probably deserve a book-length answer, I think Jason did very well indeed.

Natalie Bochenski, Brisbane Times, Monday, 17 December 2012, ‘Old Hobbit dies hard for Tolkien fan’
An interview with Fortinbras Proudfoot, a.k.a. Peter Kenny, an Australian Tolkien collector and fan par excellance . . . and a really nice guy ;-)

Matt Patterson, , Thursday, 20 December 2012, ‘Tolkien expert at University of Oklahoma reflects on films, books’
An interview with Janet Brennan Croft, Tolkien scholar and editor of Mythlore, about Tolkien and academic study of Tolkien and about the Tolkien films by Peter Jackson, in the most recent of which she is credited as ‘Tolkien scholar’. Do read it — though it is short Janet has some interesting things to say.

= = = = Tolkienian Artwork = = = =

Various, December 2012, ‘2012.12 - The Hobbit’
A selection of Hobbit-related fan-art by various artists posted on John Howe's web-site. There's a number of rather good illustrations / pictures here!

John Howe, December 2012, ‘The Hobbit’
Some of John Howe's own pictures — mostly concept art for the Jackson Hobbit film (I don't think he reveals anything from the films that are yet to be released).

Amy H. Sturgis, Saturday, 1 December 2012, ‘Five Favorite Bilbo Baggins-Centric Songs’
A collection of five pieces of music focusing on Bilbo. Four of these are music set to Tolkien's poems (one, though, an Italian translation). In most cases I disagree with her choices, preferring The Tolkien Ensemble's versions of both Song of Eärendil and Bilbo's Song (‘I Sit Beside the Fire and Think’), but Howard Shore's film-related version of The Old Walking Song (‘The Road Goes Ever On and On’) (in the list, Sturgis has linked to the Tolkien Ensemble's version of Bilbo's Song instead of The Old Walking Song).

Brian Sibley, Wednesday, 5 December 2012, ‘An Artist's Imagination’
About Pauline Baynes and the current exhibition of her work at the Museum at Farnham.

JD, Sunday, 9 December 2012, ‘The Drawing of the Sword — Evolution’
The scene: Fëanor drawing his sword on his half-brother Fingolfin in Tirion. Here we see a series of attempts to capture this scene, and a fantastic artistic evolution from 1994 to 2012. I quite like the latest line-art, but I hope the coloured version will keep the background suitably subdued so that the image doesn't become too cluttered (filling out the ‘rather a lot of nothing in the middle’ from the 1994 attempt with too much ‘something’).

= = = = Other Stuff = = = =

JDR, Monday, 3 December 2012, ‘Me, at Marquette’
A report of John Rateliff's visit to the Marquette where he gave one of the library's Hobbit-related talks (another was given by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull), but where he also found time for other things.

Amanda Yesilbas and Charlie Jane Anders, IO9, Friday, 7 December 2012, ‘The 10 Most Unlikely Things That Were Influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien’
From contemporary art to science fiction, a list of ten things (or topics) inspired by Tolkien. Mostly for the fun of it.

Keith Stewart, Wednesday, 12 December 2012, ‘Tolkien in the tar sands’
Don't get me wrong: I agree entirely with Stewart about the ignorant short-sightedness of current energy politics when they ignore the significant man-wrought changes to our climate, but my agreement is scientific, it has nothing to do with my tastes in literature (well, besides the fact that I like to read about science, of course), and while I think it is quite likely that Tolkien would compare the Canadian tar sands to Mordor (there are some indicative comments about ‘the lunatic destruction of the physical lands which Americans inhabit’ in Letters), I don't think that this is proper argumentation: Tolkien's protests were aestethic and ethical, not scientific, and thus this becomes a fallacious appeal to authority. I include it here as an example of the attempts to use Tolkien to promote all kinds of agendas, some of which Tolkien would probably agree with, some of which he definitely would not, but all of which are fallacious — they constitute appeals to Tolkien's fame, and not proper arguments. I actually like this particular example because I agree so very much with the cause, but at the same time find the abuse of Tolkien's name highly disagreeable.

JM, Saturday, 15 December 2012, ‘Dialogue as Sub-Creation and Revelation in Anselm and Tolkien’
The Tolkien connection is, despite the appearance of his name in the title, partly parenthetical and partly the promise of things to come. The investigation of the power of dialogue for the exploration of a topic is, however, interesting, and one which effectiveness I can certainly attest to by personal experience.

Jen Lavery, Scotsman, Saturday 15 December 2012, ‘City academic's tennis win let Tolkien dream up Hobbit’
Angus McIntosh was a student of Tolkien's at Oxford (McIntosh graduated in 1934, and presumably would have started in Oxford about 1930), and later Tolkien and McIntosh remained friends — so much that Tolkien visited McIntosh in Edinburgh in July 1973, less than two months before Tolkien's death.
The history of the tennis match is no-where attested, but of course possible: Tolkien is known to have played tennis while he studied at Oxford, and though I cannot say how likely it would be that a professor would be playing against a first-year student (for it to have any effect on the evolution of The Hobbit it would have to have been in McIntosh' first year), the idea cannot be wholly rejected. The story of the influence on Tolkien's literary work is, however, entirely spurious — or, assuming it came from McIntosh, a bit of a joke on his part that someone took too seriously. I have refrained from posting other iterations of this story since they add nothing of worth.

MD, Monday, 17 December 2012, ‘New Audio Course on the Vikings’
This has nothing to do with Tolkien, really, except by being posted by Tolkien scholar Michael Drout, but vikings are interesting, and Norse (viking) culture was of course one of the important sources for Tolkien.

Nicolas Bonnal, Monday, 17 December 2012, ‘Tolkien, the Hobbit and the medieval revolution’
Part 2: ‘Tolkien and the Illuminati: The dark side of LOTR’ (20 Dec.)
Part 3: ‘Tolkien and the hobbit against the New World Order’ (21 Dec.)
A curious set of ramblings that seem at places to be clinging to reality only with the tip of their fingers. I am not entirely sure what the point of these articles is except, perhaps, to attempt to connect Tolkien to some obscure politico-religious-mystical agenda. Some of the incoherence may, of course, be due to an imperfect translation to English, but I find myself unable to believe that this is the full explanation. In some ways this is funny — just don't take it too seriously.

AW, Thursday, 20 December 2012, ‘Tolkien slept here’
More of links of the ‘Tolkien slept here’ kind that are linking Tolkien with this or that particular place — sometimes with some justification (but in those cases usually with wildly exaggerated claims of influencing his Middle-earth stories).
See also Friday, 21 December 2012, ‘Tolkien slept here’

Andrew Sullivan, Wednesday, 26 December 2012, ‘A Hobbit By Any Other Name’
The Daily Beast is probably one of the most widely read blogs on the internet, so seeing Tolkienists Jason Fisher, Michael Adams and Emil Johansson get mentioned there is very nice indeed! Congratulations to all three!

JF, Wednesday, 26 December 2012, ‘Flirtations with minor celebrity’
A day in the spotlight ;-) Jason Fisher is pointing us to the PBS interview (see ‘Interviews’ for the 14th) and the mention on the Daily Beast. Congratulations and well done!

Il, Friday, 28 December 2012, ‘Reading The Hobbit: An Unexpected Party or An Invitation to Faerie’
The first of a series of posts following the reading of each chapter of The Hobbit — see also the following posts on chapters 2 through 4 (at the time of writing). These are not profound insights or well-researched scholarship, but the kind of everyday observations that we can all have when re-reading Tolkien's children's book.

Tan Shiow Chin, The Star, Sunday, 30 December 2012, ‘Health lessons from JRR Tolkien's hobbits’
This amusing piece takes five well-known Hobbit-habits and look at them from a health-perspective — while the health advice is, of course, quite independent of Tolkien, I rather like the idea. The habits scrutinised are ‘Seven meals a day’, ‘Being social’, ‘Bright clothes’, ‘Smoking pipe weed’, and ‘No shoes’.

= = = = Rewarding Discussions = = = =

It would seem that quite a lot of the debating energy this month has gone into discussing Peter Jackson's latest film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. However, I have found that while such discussions can occasionally be interesting, they are rarely rewarding.

Welsh and Tolkien's languages
Starting with a request for references on the influence of Welsh on Tolkien's work (and particularly his invented languages) that was thoroughly fulfilled, another interesting discussion ensued about the pronunciation of Welsh.

Troll Names - Tom
On how Tolkien might have explained that he had named a troll Tom — if, that is, he had ever come round to explaining that bit :)

Who Fostered Elrond and Elros?
A discussion of the roles of Maedhros and Maglor in the final events in the Quenta Silmarillion — fostering Elrond and Elros, forswearing the Oath and enticing the other to steal the Silmarils. Tolkien changed his opinion on which of the two last Fëanorians did what (just as he changed the spelling of Maedhros' name a number of times).

Thread: English is a Scandinavian Language
Not about Tolkien himself, but about the topic of his research: Germanic philology. This thread looks at, and explains for lay-people, some of the reactions to last month's titular claim by Norwegian linguist Jan Terje Faarlund.

Entwives crossing Anduin
Trying to make sense of the vague hints to the history of the Ents in The Lord of the Rings and the short story of the genesis of the Ents (in the chapter ‘Of Aulë and Yavanna’ in the published Silmarillion). This is a more difficult task than it might at first seem, and so far no really satisfying solution has been found.

Introduction of Boromir
When Elrond introduces Boromir at the Council of Elrond, he only describes him as ‘a man from the south’ which seems to withold information. How this can be interpreted has been the focus of this thread, which gets around textual history and medieval courtesy and beyond.

= = = = In Print = = = =

Beyond Bree, December 2012
This issue starts with a number of comments on the old 1977 Rankin / Bass animated Hobbit TV-special. The opinions vary greatly from praise of the artwork (for its own sake, not for its value as illustrations of Tolkien's story), over fond reminisces, critical commentary and other reactions from Daniel Smith, Grey Wizard, Tim Kirk, Janet Brennan Croft, Gary Hunnewell and Scott Warner. Mark Hooker continues his inquiry ‘Would a ‘Hobbit’ by Any Other Name be as Frightening’ with an investigation of the Middle English hobet and of Old Hob. Anne Marie Gazzalo continues a discussion of ‘grace’ in a letter (I hope this discussion will continue — it is interesting). Some various news about Jackson's Hobbit film follows, including some of the legal repercussions and descriptions of film tie-in books (as Daniel Smith notes, ‘published with the permission, but not the approval, of the Tolkien Estate’). A section of other _Hobbit_-themed books follows, of which only The Hobbit and Philosophy catches my attention. The usual columns for publications, letters, and various short notes round of this issue of Beyond Bree.

Mythprint vol.49 no.11, November 2012, whole no. 364
Call for nominations and committee volunteers for the 2013 Mythopoeic Awards and a progress report for Mythcon 44 (to be held July 12 - 15) are the news from the Mythopoeic Society. In addition to these, this issue of Mythprint boasts an enticing report from the Tolkien in Vermont conference by Gerry Blair (the problem with all these conference reports is that I inevitably wish that I had the time and money to go conference-hunting all over the world), and three non-Tolkienian reviews (Robert E. Howard The Conquering Sword of Conan; Ruth Berman Bradamant's Quest; and Evangeline Walton Above Ker-Is and Other Stories).

= = = = Web Sites = = = =

Really, if you are not already a member of a Tolkien society, you should consider it. Here are a few to start with . . .


The Tolkien Society (UK)
A recognised UK charity with the purpose to educate people about Tolkien and his work, but also revelling in just being a meeting place for all kinds of people who are interested in Tolkien.

The Mythopoeic Society (US)
The Tolkien Society of America merged into the Mythopoeic Society at some point. The focus is on the Inklings and in particular Tolkien, Lewis and Williams, but in the broader view all mythopoiec fiction, and scholarship into that fiction, is welcome.

Both of these have regular journals and bulletins with interesting news.

Denmark: Bri
Formally the Copenhagen Tolkien Society, but actually the only Tolkien Society in Denmark.

Germany: Deutsche Tolkien Gesellschaft e.V.
The German Tolkien Society.

France: Tolkiendil
I don't read French, so I am not entirely sure of the status of Tolkiendil, but I see on their web-site that they have a list of Tolkien societies in France.

The Netherlands: Unquendor
The Dutch Tolkien Society

For many more see the links page on the page for the Tolkien Society:

= = = = 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’

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’

Marcel R. Aubron-Bülles (MB), ‘The Tolkienist’

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’

Steuard Jensen (SJ), ‘Strings, Rings, and Other Things’

Tom Simon (TS), ‘The Superversive’

Nancy Marie Brown (NMB), ‘God of Wednesday’

John Howe (JH)

Jenny Dolfen (JD)

Joe Gilranon (JG)

Josh Vogt (JV), ‘Tolkien Examiner’

‘Ilverai’ (Il). ‘Wandering Paths’

David Simmons (DS), ‘Aiya Ilúvatar’

Michael Martinez (MM), ‘Tolkien Studies Blog’

Michael Martinez (MM), ‘Middle-earth’

Troels Forchhammer (TF), ‘Parma-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

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    Just thought you might be interested in my site:

    It's an edition of the Lay of Leithian (with commentary). Thanks for having such a great site!


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