The tenth issue!
Yeah, I know — ten is not all that many, but still ;-)
It is time for the tenth issue of my summary of Tolkien related ‘goings-on’ on the 'net that fulfill the three strict criteria for being reported here: 1: it has some relevance to Tolkien, 2: I have seen it, and 3: I've decided that it's interesting enough to pass it on here. A slight delay in posting is mostly due to the fact that I accidentally chrashed my laptop in the last week of February — fortunately I had everything backed up and can now work on a nice new laptop.
As always, disclaimers apply about newness, completeness and relevance (or any other implication of responsibility) :-)
= = = = News = = = =
Reuters, Thursday, 3 February 2011, “UK police hold man over Churchill fake signatures”
BBC News, Thursday, 3 February 2011, “Arrest over fake Winston Churchill signatures”
Following nicely in the wake of last month's advice by Pieter Collier is the news that a man has been arrested over fake signatures, including Tolkien's. See also news from the 7th.
AH, Saturday, 5 February 2011, “Middle Earth Comes to the IPAD”
So, now you can download a map-application for the Apple iPad that shows Middle-earth in the First Age. There are a lot of fan-produced maps of Middle-earth available on the internet — some of them in high resolution and far more beautifully made than this, so this is not something that could make me wish for an iPad (or any other tablet computer).
BBC News, Monday, 7 February 2011, “Man bailed over fake Winston Churchill items”
The man whose arrest was reported on the third has been bailed — I just hope that the police is keeping an eye on his activity on E-Bay . . .
The Guardian, Tuesday, 8 February 2011, “Lord of the Rings reworking a hit with fans, but not Tolkien estate”
The story about Kirill Yeskov's The Last Ring-bearer has been heavily discussed in many places. Here it is the coverage in The Guardian, along with a discussion at a Guardian bookblog:
Kate James (Gather,com), Wednesday, 9 February 2011, “Tolkien Professor Middle Earth iTunes Hit” (sic)
Corey Olsen got into the news this month. Not only in the Gather.com article above, but also a live chat on the Washington Post web-site:
Washington Post, Thursday, 10 February 2011, “The ‘Tolkien Professor’: Corey Olsen”
and The Washington Post, Saturday, 12 February 2011, “'Tolkien Professor’ Corey Olsen brings Middle-earth to iTunes via podcasts”
and The Columbus Dispatch, Monday, 21 February 2011, “He techno-teaches Tolkien”
Why this was the month that Olsen hit the news, I don't know, but I think he deserves a lot of credit for his idea and its execution. His own way of putting it is: ‘Instead of spending all my time doing scholarly publishing, which we're told to do — which most people will never read — I basically decided to put myself out to the public.’ One is of course that the academic level of the podcasts is, perhaps, not quite what the college might expect of its tenured professors (Balrog wings . . .), but Olsen has said that he is working on a book on, if I recall correctly, The Hobbit, and I hope this will give him opportunity to go into more depth than what we see in the podcasts.
Eriq Gardner, Friday, 18 February 2011, “JRR Tolkien Estate Threatens Lawsuit Over Book Featuring Tolkien As Character (Exclusive)”
So, the story that the J.R.R. Tolkien Estate has sent a ‘cease-and-desist letter’ to one Stephen Hilliard who has responded with a counter-lawsuit has made a lot of headlines. Unfortunately it is not very clear what exactly the estate is reacting against, but judging by the mythies (Mythopoeic Society members) who have commented on the book, they might will react against having Tolkien's name associated with atrociously bad fiction (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mythsoc/message/21909). In the MythSoc Yahoo group, there has been discussions of the estate's policies (in addition to the above, you can also see http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mythsoc/message/21941). It is my impression that Tolkien scholars, geeks and enthusiasts are generally quite supportive of the J.R.R. Tolkien Estate and the Tolkien Trust (there are those who advocate against copyright in general, but that's another issue), and I don't think they will suffer much such much damage to this esteem over the present row, but it does rather raise the question of the nature of this interdependence: we do need each other, the estate, the scholars and the ‘fan-base’, and so there is a limit to how far either party can go without alienating the others. And of course one has to consider that HarperCollins and Houghton Mifflin also have some influence on what can be published and what not.
Further items about this story includes:
Scott Edelman, 18 Feb, “Tolkien estate tries to kill novel starring fictionalized Tolkien”
Rebekah Denn, 21 Feb, “J.R.R. Tolkien as fictional character – fair use or a step too far?”
Bridget Freeland, Tuesday, 22 February 2011, “Novelist Sues Tolkien's Estate Over Book Featuring ‘Hobbit’ Author”
Wellinghall, Friday, 25 February 2011, “The Tolkien Estate”
Dalya Alberge, Saturday, 26 February 2011, “JRR Tolkien novel Mirkwood in legal battle with author's estate”
DB, Monday, 28 February 2011, “paddling against the meme tide”
David Bratman addresses some of the negative mention that the Tolkien Estate has had in this month (see e.g. above) on their pursuing their copyrights and trademark rights. He also corrects many of the stories referred to above, explaining that ‘what the estate has demanded cessation of is not the use of Tolkien's name but the commercial appropriation of his name in publicizing and selling the book, a publicity rights issue.’
See also: Cory Doctorow, Friday, 25 February 2011, “UPDATED: Tolkien estate censors badge that contains the word ‘Tolkien'”
In which the lawyers for the Tolkien Estate explains that the button was taken down by the on-line seller of its own accord.
JDR, Monday, 28 February 2011, “WHERE THE SHADOWS LIE . . .”
Rateliff has heard of yet another book featuring Tolkien as a fictional character, and wonders if this means that ‘we're on the cusp of a flood of Tolkien-as-character/it's-all-real/modern-day Middle-earth fiction’ and ending by expressing his hopes that this is not so, ‘I sure hope not.’ (In the commentary David Bratman adds information suggesting that ‘Tolkien is not a character, but a reference’ in this book.)
Bruce Hopkins, RadioLive, New Zealand, “Mike Foster US Tolkien Society”
A radio interview in two parts with Mike Foster, head of the US Tolkien Society.
= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =
BC, Wednesday, 2 February 2011, “The pride of Feanor”
Some perceptive comments on the portrayal of pride in Tolkien's work with primary reference to Fëanor. I agree entirely when Charlton asserts that ‘For Tolkien, there is no creative achievement so great that it cannot be undone and reversed by pride.’ I could have wished that Charlton had added some comments relating to Tolkien's ideas about sub-creation, in particular as expressed in the poem Mythopoeia:
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not dethroned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned,
his world-dominion by creative act:
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with elves and goblins, though we dared to build
gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sow the seed of dragons, 'twas our right
(used or misused). The right has not decayed.
We make still by the law in which we're made.
BC, Sunday, 6 February 2011, “JRR Tolkien's theology of The Fall and Resurrection”
This blog entry starts off with another quotation from the ‘Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth’ from Morgoth's Ring — here from Tolkien's commentary concerning Finrod's presumptions and inferences regarding in particular the natures of Eru, of Elves and of Men. Charlton adds some commentary and explication, emphasizing the importance of this text for understanding Tolkien's later conception of his legendarium, but even if I agree with what he says, I still can't quite suppress a ‘yes, and what more?’ reaction.
TF, Wednesday, 9 February 2011, “‘The Lord of the Rings’ as a transitionary work”
A bit presumptuous, perhaps, to put myself here, but still . . .
I argue that the years from Tolkien began writing ‘the New Hobbit’ in 1937 until it was published as The Lord of the Rings in 1954 represent just as much a period of transition in Tolkien's views on his legendarium as any other period of equal length since 1917. I also argue that this transition is visible in The Lord of the Rings and that it therefore makes sense in some ways to treat the book as a transitionary work.
BC, Sunday, 13 February 2011, “Depth in Tolkien”
There is nothing controversial to the basic idea that a great part of the attraction of The Lord of the Rings is due to a feeling of ‘depth’, nor to the idea that this depth is, in part, achieved by the text conveying a sense of a vast backcloth of story, legend and myth. Charlton recounts this, and refers to Tolkien's concern that ‘going there’ would ‘destroy the magic’, concluding that going there did destroy the magic: that the published Silmarillion was an error and that only the vast variety of the History of Middle-earth material as long as, in Charlton's words, ‘we take the stance that these are fragmentary and distorted Annals of lost real history.’
H&S, Tuesday, 15 February 2011, “New Addenda & Corrigenda”
As the title says, Wayne and Christina have posted some corrections and additions on their website. This time there are new addenda and corrigenda to The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion and The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide on top of which they have made a new page of supplemental bibliography related to the addenda and corrigenda to their Reader's Companion.
Anke Eissman, Wednesday, 16 February 2011, “Illustrating Tolkien”
A nice and personal account from Anke Eissman on her experiences with Tolkien illustrations.
Leo Grin, Saturday, 19 February 2011, “Sanity and Sanctity: The Ennobling Fantasy of J.R.R. Tolkien Part 1”
Leo Grin, Monday, 28 February 2011, “The Order of Grace: The Ennobling Fantasy of J.R.R. Tolkien, Part 2”
This is one of these pieces that are hard to categorize. On one hand there is little original to find here, but on the other hand this essay (or article or whatever we are to call it) is clearly of higher quality than so much else we see on the 'net — with respect to the fact-checking, depth as well as general readability. If you would like to read an introduction to Tolkien criticism that is more accessible than e.g. Shippey's books and at the same time gets their facts right, this is a good choice. I will just add that Tolkien's work speaks to other than just ‘conservatives’ (much less American conservatives), and I don't think that Tolkien's work can be taken as supportive of any of the normal political movements: the ‘enlightened anarchy’ of the Shire is possibly the closest we get to Tolkien's ideals.
BC, Saturday, 26 February 2011, “Legolas, Gimli and the key passage of Lord of the Rings”
Taking his outset in the conversation between Legolas and Gimli on their way to the Houses of Healing to visit Merry (and Pippin) which Charlton calls a ‘key passage’, he discusses his own changing perceptions of this passage, mentioning particularly his shift of perception due to his reading of the Athrabeth.
AH, Sunday, 27 February 2011, “Richard Wagner and J.R.R. Tolkien - The Long Defeat, The Final Battle, and Glimpses of Victory”
My own lack of sympathy for Wagner's work obviously makes me very wary towards Andy's on-going project of finding parallels between Wagner and Tolkien. Still, I do read with interest and an open mind (or try to), and I found Andy's explanation of Wagner going through many versions of the end of his Ring-cycle quite interesting, also to see how Wagner responded to various currents in his age. In the end, however, I do lack some kind of indication of what this means — it is, in my opinion, not enough to point at a parallel (we can always quibble about just how far the parallels / similarities go), I wish also to have some indication of how this could or should affect my appreciation of Tolkien's and / or Wagner's work (or at the very least an indication that it could have such an effect).
= = = = Reviews = = = =
Perhaps this section would be more appropriately called ‘Book Announcements’, but some of all these books that we see announced must at some point be reviewed as well ;-)
PC, Wednesday, 2 February 2011, “_The Ring and the Cross_: Christianity in the Writings of J.R.R. Tolkien by Paul E. Kerry”
An upcoming book with the sub-title ‘Christianity and the _Lord of the Rings_’. It will be interesting to see the reviews — the list of contributors does look somewhat comforting for someone (such as myself) who could fear that such a book would be merely an excuse for the contributors to preach their own faith (as has been the case with some books on Harry Potter and Christianity).
JDR, Tuesday, 8 February 2011, “Forthcoming Publication: PICTURING TOLKIEN”
This collections of essays offers, according to the publisher (McFarland) ‘a positive consensus of director Peter Jackson’s spectacularly successful adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy’. I quite like the title of Verlyn Flieger's contribution: ‘Sometimes One Word is Worth a Thousand Pictures’, though I'm curious about how it fits into this ‘positive consensus’ mentioned above. Rateliff's own contributions, ‘Two Kinds of Absence: Elision & Exclusion in Peter Jackson's _The Lord of the Rings_’, investigates the claim that scenes left out of the films nevertheless did take place in the film universe (I can come up with a few key scenes that could not possibly have occurred).
JDR, Wednesday, 9 February 2011, “The New Arrival: another book about Tolkien”
John Rateliff has received his copy of Middle-earth and Beyond: Essays on the World of J. R. R. Tolkien edited Kathleen Dubs and Janka Kascakova and shares the list of contents. Unfortunately it ‘doesn't immediately bump its way to the top of [his] reading list’ so there is no actual review other than this.
JF, Thursday, 10 February 2011, “More new books — and an excerpt”
Jason is discussing three new books here. One is the recent Middle-earth and Beyond mentioned above to which Jason has himself contributed an essay which is available in the preview pages to which there is a link from the blog entry. The others are announcements of the collection The Ring and the Cross: Christianity in the Writings of J.R.R. Tolkien (ed. Paul E. Kerry), and the other is the Picturing Tolkien collection also announced by John Rateliff above.
JDR, Thursday, 10 February 2011, “Fairleigh-Dickinson”
Continuing the announcements is here John Rateliff's announcement (with comments) of the first of Paul Kerry's (ed.) two-volume collection on Christianity in Tolkien's writings. John Rateliff offers a few more comments on the contents, which in his descripion sound promising. One of the weaknesses, IMO, of many books that focus on the religious aspect of an author's writings is that it often becomes more a vessel for the critic to preach their own beliefs than an objective, scholarly investigation of the actual writings of the author. However, by the descriptions that I have seen, the two volumes edited by Paul Kerry promise to achieve that scholarly investigation.
JDR, Friday, 11 February 2011, “Forthcoming publication: SHE AND TOLKIEN Revisited”
One more book announcement from John Rateliff. One is the book edited by Jason Fisher that was mentioned on Jason's blog last month, The Bones of the Ox, now apparently tentatively titled Tolkien & The Study of his Sources: Critical Essays, for which Rateliff provides essentially the same list of contents as Jason (except that Jason lists Shippey's piece as the introduction). Rateliff's own contribution, ‘_She_ & Tolkien, Revisited’, is the paper he gave at the 2010 Mythcon, and a reworking of the first piece he wrote (for Mythlore) back in 1981.
JF, Wednesday, 23 February 2011, “Verlyn Flieger’s forthcoming collection”
Here Jason announces a book that will make it instantly to the top of my wish-list. A collection of essays by Verlyn Flieger on matters Tolkien. Wow!
See also JDR, Saturday, 26 February 2011, “Verlyn's Book”
and Verlyn Flieger's own web-site http://www.mythus.com/greensuns.html
JF, Friday, 25 February 2011, “Details on Light Beyond All Shadow”
Here we get the list of contents for Light Beyond All Shadow: Religious Experience in Tolkien's Work, the companion volume to The Ring and the Cross, the second of the two books containing essays on christianity edited by Paul Kerry and Sandra Miesel and published by Fairleigh-Dickinson.
Bill Peschel, Sunday, 27 February 2011, “Author David C. Downing takes a novel approach to lives of Lewis, Tolkien”
In part a review and in part reporting an interview with Downing. Apparently Downing's book has caused some strong reactions in some quarters — I suppose that it is not entirely undesirable for an author to evoke strong emotions, even if it means getting negative reactions that are ‘more intensely hostile than [he is] used to getting for [his] interpretative books.’
= = = = Other Stuff = = = =
BC, Wednesday, 2 February 2011, “The elven ‘argument from desire'”
Mostly a quotation of what Tolkien has to say about desire in the Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth (Morgoth's Ring) with some brief comments added.
H&S, Friday, 4 February 2011, “Books in 2010”
Wayne and Christina discussing the ‘only’ 242 volumes that was added to their collection in 2010 is inevitably Tolkien-related — and of course I find that I relate quite well to that love of books that I detect (or believe that I detect . . .) whenever Wayne and Christina write about their books.
JF, Friday, 11 February 2011, “Friday Diversion”
A nice little diversion game here. Jason posted a list names, and asked what they have in common (to the exclusion of other, more well-known, names from the same source). I admit I didn't get it until it was pointed out (there's a couple of confusing elements there — let me just say that it is about these specific names rather than the things they name). Can you guess without looking at the answer in the comments?
AH, Sunday, 13 February 2011, “J.R.R. Tolkien, The Rivals and Mrs Malaprop”
A nice and personal retelling of the story of Tolkien playing Mrs Malaprop in a production of Sheridan's The Rivals at King William's School in Birmingham along with others of the TCBS followed by a call for Tolkienian malapropisms.
BC, Monday, 14 February 2011, “Death in Tolkien”
Being mainly a rather bald and brief summary of Tolkien's views on death, and particularly human death (counterposed with Elvish death), I have chosen to put this post here. Perhaps it should rather be put as a lemma to the later discussion of “Legolas, Gimli and the key passage of _The Lord of the Rings_” to which I believe this post leads up both in result and in the intention of the author.
JF, Friday, 18 February 2011, “Books versus “books””
Following on from a discussion in the Mythopoeic Society Yahoo group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mythsoc/message/21840), Jason discusses why he dislikes E-books (at least as it is usually set up), though of course he uses electronic texts for searching etc. The ensuing discussion is also worth reading (I learned quite a lot from reading this).
= = = = Rewarding Discussions = = = =
RABT: “Did Tolkien read Cooper?”
Not a long thread, but interesting nonetheless. And of it diverges quickly into something else entirely — it's usenet ;-)
LotR Plaza: “The Order of Things”
Originating in a simple question regarding the relations between the various orders of created beings in Tolkien's sub-creation, this evolved into discussing also the multiplying of entities (or, if you will, the positing of plurality) when discussing story-internal questions.
= = = = Web Sites = = = =
I will try to present a couple of sites every month — if I've found a new site (of any kind) that I have found interesting, then I will add that, and then I'll throw in some oldies to keep things rolling ;-)
“Thoughts from Eryn Lasgallen” (sic)
-- ‘A Tolkien reference guide’
The first site is a blog that I have only recently discovered, but which has been going since 2008. In essence a series reviewing a number of Tolkien-related websites (these have been running since December 2008), and thus a great opportunity to discover new Tolkien-related sites. It has also been the inspiration for me to create this section of my Tolkien Transactions, but since my interests are not entirely co-inciding with those of Lynn-Marie Gildersleeve who runs the Thoughts from Eryn Lasgallen blog, I thought I'd do my own reviews.
“The Tolkien Meta-FAQ”
Though I've chosen to give L.M. Gildersleeve's blog the right of first place as both the direct inspiration for this section and for being the most recent addition to my bookmarks, it is clear that any list of Tolkien-related sites that takes its origin from the Tolkien newsgroups must start by mentioning Steuard's site of FAQs and essays. I will emphasize the Tolkien Meta-FAQ itself: a single point of entry to at least five different FAQs on Tolkien's writings, and of course the essays section, http://tolkien.slimy.com/essays/, housing learned essays by Steuard Jensen (e.g. What is Tom Bombadil and Tolkien's Parish) and Conrad Dunkerson (including the series The Truth About Balrogs). All in all this is a must-have bookmark.
The Heimskringla is, in their own words, ‘an online collection of Old Norse source material: Primarily the Eddas, the Icelandic sagas and scaldic poetry. In addition to this the collection consists of background material and other related texts.’ This is a wonderful collection of texts in the Old Norse languages, though the majority of the site is only available in the Norse languages (Old Norse and modern Icelandic, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish and Faroese) the original texts in Old Norse are here available for any Tolkien scholar to see. One example is the Völuspá, http://www.heimskringla.no/wiki/V%C3%B6lusp%C3%A1 where stanzas 10 through 16 contains the list of Dwarf-names where Tolkien found most of the names for Durin's folk.
= = = = 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), “Calimac”
Larry Swain (LS), “The Ruminate”
‘Wellinghall’, “Musings of an Aging Fan”
Various, ‘The Northeast Tolkien Society’ (NETS), “Heren Istarion”
Bruce Charlton (BC), “Tolkien's The Notion Club Papers”
Andrew Higgins (AH), “Wotan's Musings”
Various, The Mythopoeic Society
Troels Forchhammer (TF), “Parmar-kenta”
Mythprint — ‘The Monthly Bulletin of the Mythopoeic Society’
Amon Hen — the Bulletin of the Tolkien Society
- and others
Valid e-mail is
Please put [AFT], [RABT] or ‘Tolkien’ in subject.
And he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left
the path of wisdom.
- Gandalf, /The Fellowship of the Ring/ (J.R.R. Tolkien)
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