Thursday 13 March 2014

Tolkien Transactions XLVI

February 2014

This issue is already horribly delayed, so I need to finish this and get it out ‘as is’. I have skipped several things that I would normally have commented upon, but given the lateness, I hope this will be acceptable ...

These transactions are posted to the usenet newsgroups rec.arts.books.tolkien,, and alt.books.inklings, and the usenet version can be accessed at
These transactions are also posted on my blog, Parma-kenta (Enquiry into the books):
and on LotR Fanatics Plaza in the books forum:

This month it has suited my purposes to sort the contents under the following headlines:
1: Tolkien Reading Day
2: The Great War
3: Essays and Scholarship
4: Commentary
5: Reviews and Book News
6: Interviews
7: Tolkienian Artwork
8: Other Stuff
9: The Blog Roll
10: Sources
Jef Murray: A Canticle for Elessar
Jef Murray
A Canticle for Elessar

= = = = Tolkien Reading Day = = = =

Tolkien Reading Day, 25th of March, is fast approaching, so I will include this March update from Marcel Aubron-Bülles where he lists a number of the events that are available to Tolkien enthusiasts and casual by-passers alike

MB, Thursday, 6 March 2014, ‘Tolkien Reading 2014 — Event calendar, worldwide’
Find the Tolkien Reading Day event closest to you — and attend it!

= = = = The Great War = = = =

The Great War, or the first world war, began in 1914, a hundred years ago this year. The BBC has set up a web-site a web-site, and will be transmitting programmes and adding material to this web-site throughout the four years from the centenary of the break-out of the war to the centenary of the peace:
You can find much on this site that is of interest also to understanding the general context of English society in this period.

The influence of the Great War on Tolkien's writings has been explored by John Garth in his brilliant book, Tolkien and the Great War, as well as in various essays and papers and recently also on his blog. However, we should expect that this will be explored again (not least when we come to the centenary of the Battle of Somme and, in Tolkienian circles, the centenary of his first Lost Tales), and we can hope that the explorations will add details to the publicly available knowledge of Tolkien in and after his experiences in the trenches in France.

Under this heading, then, I will collect some of the pieces that are bound to appear on this topic.

BBC, Thursday, 20 February 2014, ‘King Edward's School, Birmingham: JRR Tolkien's Schooldays’
A short piece centering on King Edward's School and Tolkien's circle of friends, the Tea Club and Barrovian Society, including a reading of a letter sent to Tolkien by the then headmaster, and father of Tolkien's friend, Rob Gilson, after Tolkien had written condolances upon the death of Rob Gilson in the war.

Andy Richardson, Birmingham Mail, Sunday, 23 February 2014, ‘Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings battle scenes were inspired by WW1 experiences’
Just a few facts, again centered about King Edward's School and the circle of friends there to which Tolkien belonged.

= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =
I don't think you need me to point out the many intriguing headlines on old Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian culture, so I will just point out one that have stuck out more than usual for me:
‘The very first Anglo Saxon toast?’ (12 Feb) — recorded by Geoffrey of Monmouth the idea of drinking to the ruler's health of course echoes in Éomer's joyful greeting when seeing Théoden outside Meduseld, ‘Westu Théoden hál!’ as well as in the Notion Club papers where the king in the Anglo-Saxon story greets the skald saying, ‘Westu hal, Ælfwine’

PC, Tuesday, 11 February 2014, ‘Important letter regarding the publication of The Lord of the Rings on auction’
A letter sent by J.R.R. Tolkien to one Cotton Minchin, parts of a draft of which was used for letter no. 187 in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, has been up for auction. Pieter has transcribed the letter and offers both images and transcription here (allowing the reader to catch any errors themselves, though Pieter has done an excellent job).

JGa, Thursday, 13 February 2014, ‘Sam Gamgee and Tolkien's batmen’
Reflections from John Garth following some comments from the letter discussed above. Anything John Garth writes about Tolkien's early life is definitely always worth reading.

= = = = Commentary = = = =

Fr. Angelo, Monday, 10 February 2014, ‘Is Tolkien's Fantasy Gnostic?’
It appears that an anonymous Catholic priest has argued that Tolkien's fantasy (and particularly The Lord of the Rings) is not Catholic. This, then, is a refutal of that argument by another Catholic (who would, it appears, not particularly agree with Tolkien in his views about the Faith). Though not myself a Catholic and generally very wary of overly Catholic readings of Tolkien, I nonetheless found that there are interesting elements in this measured defence of the Catholicism of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

Alison Flood, The Guardian, Tuesday, 11 February 2014, ‘JRR Tolkien advised by WH Auden to drop romance’
An interesting letter that Tolkien wrote to to Allen & Unwin in 1955 has come up for auction. In this letter Tolkien reports from a letter he had received from W.H. Auden in which the latter urged him to drop the romance between Arwen and Aragorn, based on the galleys that Auden had been able to read before The Return of the King was finalised. Auden, however, appears not to have had access to the ‘Part of the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen’ given in appendix A, without which I think that there is a good chance that I, too, would agree with Auden's assessment.

Fr. Longenecker, Wednesday, 12 February 2014, ‘Was Tolkien an Evangelist?’
Another piece written in reaction to (but not as an explicit response to) the argument against the Catholicism of Tolkien's fantasy.

Kendall Wild, Wednesday, 19 February 2014, ‘The curse of the ring’
The foolish Roman ring theory again ... :-( I do very much wish that we could lay this idea to the grave — at least until such a time that there can actually be produced any shred of evidence that would support it. The evidence that is available very strongly suggests that Tolkien never went to the dig site of Collingwood's excavation (he is not on the list of visitors) and there is not a shred of evidence that he ever knew of the ‘Senicianus’ ring, which is not mentioned in the report for which he contributed a philological discussion of the name ‘nodens’. That something is ‘not impossible’ is a very far cry from saying that it is likely — it is, in actual fact, not impossible that the London metropolitan area will tomorrow spontaneously jump a metre into the air by a process known as quantum tunnelling, but it is, admittedly, extremely unlikely. Based on the current actual evidence (as opposed to speculation) this theory appears only marginally less unlikely.

Karl Seigfried, Thursday, 20 February 2014, ‘TOLKIEN ARCHIVES FIELD TRIP, Part One’
An interesting tale about a field trip to the Marquette with his students. Also see part 2 (linked from part one).

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

HG, Wednesday, 12 February 2014, ‘Science of Middle-Earth: New Paperback Edition’
What it says, really. The second edition of Gee's The Science of Middle-earth, hitherto only published as e-book, will now also become available in paperback. My review of the book is available on my blog:

JF, Friday, 14 February 2014, ‘A Brief History of The Hobbit’
Announcing an abbreviated edition of Rateliff's History of the Hobbit ...
See also JDR, Friday, 28 February 2014, ‘A brief history of 'The Hobbit'’
Where John Rateliff tells about this upcoming book.

JGa, Monday, 17 February 2014, ‘The Tolkien brothers in Bumble Dell’
John Garth's review of Black and White Ogre Country by Hilary Tolkien, little brother of JRRT, reproduced on the occasion of 120 anniverary of Hilary Tolkien's birth. Garth's appreciation of the hints of a lost world that lie hidden in the reminisces of Hilary Tolkien is evident, and having tried myself to relate to my own children the sense of growing up in a world before the internet where homes without television sets were not uncommon, I, too, can appreciate that sense of a long lost world that lies in these ‘Lost Tales of Hilary Tolkien’.

AS, Monday, 17 February 2014, ‘The Tolkien Encyclopedia & Reader's Diary: A Look Back’
Occasioned by the release of ‘The Tolkien Encyclopedia’ in a paperback edition, Anna Smol takes a look back on contributing to the encyclopedia itself, and on the high-quality reader's diary that is an indispensable additional resource when using the encyclopedia.

= = = = Interviews = = = =

Susan Cahill, Talking Books, Newstalk, Monday, 17 February 2014, ‘Conjuring fantastical worlds’
Ronan Breathnach, Saturday, 15 February 2014, ‘Hobbits and high fantasy’
Starting about 21'50" is an interview with Helen Conrad-O'Briain, Gerard Hynes and Darryl Jones who have edited (Conrad-O'Briain and Hynes) and contributor (Jones) to the book J.R.R. Tolkien: the Forest and the City, presenting the papers from the homonymous conference in Dublin in the autumn of 2012. Well worth the roughly 20+ minutes with many astute observations.

= = = = Tolkienian Artwork = = = =

Joe Gilronan: Evening in the Shire
Joe Gilronan
Evening in the Shire
JGi, Friday, 7 February 2014, ‘The House Of Tom Bombadil’
Four hobbits approaching the house where Tom stands waiting ...

JGi, Sunday, 9 February 2014, ‘Evening In The Shire.’

Jef Murray, Wednesday, 26 February 2014, ‘The Arkenstone’
Bilbo presenting the Arkenstone to Bard and the Elvenking.

Jef Murray, Wednesday, 26 February 2014, ‘A Canticle for Elessar’
A beautiful painting — I suppose of Arwen in Lothlórien haunted by the memory of her dead husband, Elessar.

= = = = Other Stuff = = = =

MB, Tuesday, 25 February 2014, ‘Update your blogroll to include some great Tolkienists’
A select list of Tolkien blogs that I am both humbled and extremely proud that my own Parma-kenta has been deemed worthy to be included in.

= = = = The Blog Roll = = = =

These are blogs you really should be following yourself if you're interested in Tolkien ...
Contents from these blogs will only be reported here if there is something that I find particularly interesting, or posts that fit with a monthly theme. This month I have (due to the lateness of my posting) decided to skip the usual summaries — try reading also the other posts: you are almost guaranteed to find something interesting there.

Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond (S&H), ‘Too Many Books and Never Enough’

Jason Fisher (JF) — ‘Lingwë — Musings of a Fish’

Pieter Collier (PC), ‘The Tolkien Library’

Douglas A. Anderson (DAA), ‘Tolkien and Fantasy’

John D. Rateliff (JDR) — ‘Sacnoth's Scriptorium’

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

David Bratman (DB), ‘Kalimac’
and the old home:

John Garth (JGa), ‘John Garth’

Jenny Dolfen (JD), ‘Jenny's Sketchbook’

Holly Rodgers (HR), ‘Teaching Tolkien’

Anna Smol (AS), ‘A Single Leaf’

Various, The Mythopoeic Society

Morgan Thomsen (MT), ‘Mythoi’

Emil Johansson (EJ), ‘LotR Project Blog’

Michael Martinez (MM), ‘Middle-earth’

Bruce Charlton (BC), ‘Tolkien's The Notion Club Papers’

= = = = Sources = = = =

No new sources in February 2014

For older sources, see