Friday 1 July 2011

Tolkien Transactions XIV

June 2011

This has, at least in my perspective, been a quiet month, which has suited me quite well. At a personal level, my work situation is now more sorted out, so that I know what tasks remain for me in Nokia and when I will be fired (end of April 2012). This hopefully means that I, when I come back from holiday in the middle of July, can address the remaining tasks with new energy.

Enough of this private stuff — this is my collection of the most interesting Tolkien-related things from the internet in June 2011. All my usual disclaimers naturally apply as well as any implication of any responsibility on my part ;)

Obviously I am ignoring a lot of stuff here — in particular the stream of news relating to antipodean film project. Though this stream has been steadily growing as the work progresses (or not), I really do not find such news very interesting — I couldn't care less about who is chosen to play some part, nor about what changes Jackson is going to introduce to make the work conform to his own vision of what a film has to contain. I look forward to watching his Hobbit films in the cinema, but I find the perpetual stream of trivia that fills the news rather annoying.

Have a nice summer!

= = = = News = = = =

Ethan Gilsdorf, Wednesday, 1 June 2011, ‘Tolkien hippie stickers resurface’
Ethan Gilsdorf (author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms) evidently attended the 3rd. Conference on Middle-earth (see the March issue) where he got to speak with Ed Meskys, one-time president of the Tolkien Society of America, from whom he got some old The Lord of the Rings stickers that are both terrible and wonderful — I'd hate to see them as illustrations of the book, but viewed like this they have a definite charm (at least for one who is old enough to remember the end of the era that produced them).
There is also a short mention here:
Ethan Gilsdorf,, Monday, 6 June 2011, ‘Groovy Lord of the Rings Stickers Unearthed’

Josh Vogt, _ Examiner_, Thursday, 2 June 2011, ‘The Hobbit fans reenact Tolkien's Battle of Five Armies’
If you wish to experience the Battle of Five Armies in full detail, but are hesitant to expose yourself to the vision of Mr Jackson, this might be the solution — watch out for details on next year's reenactment.
Another article on the same event:
Jan Flemr, abc-cbn, Monday, 6 June 2011, ‘Have at ye! Goblins battle elves in Tolkien reenactment’

Steve Morrison via Discover Magazine, Thursday, 2 June 2011, ‘The nameless things that gnaw the world — found!’
Thanks to Steve for pointing this out in the Tolkien Newsgroups (the link is to the original article rather than to his post). Though possibly not exactly what Tolkien had in mind, imagining these things in 10 feet versions inhabiting the lowest levels of Moria will surely produce the effect he was aiming for.

JF, Thursday, 16 June 2011, ‘Proofing, indexing’
A brief update on the progress on Jason's upcoming book on source criticism in a Tolkien context. As is noted often, including in the comments, a good index is one of the best investments of time for a scholarly book. Tolkien enthusiasts will know how much The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien was enhanced by the expanded index by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull.

Helly, the Fail blog, Friday, 17 June 2011, ‘LOTR FAIL’
Definitely in the humorous end, this shows why one shouldn't always go for the cheapest manufacturer for one's merchandise.

H&S, Thursday, 23 June 2011, ‘Art of The Hobbit Progress’
Another progress report on a piece of upcoming Tolkien scholarship. This time the news is that the outside design for the book has finished, and a nice picture illustrates this blog entry.

= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =

DB, Wednesday, 1 June 2011, ‘Race in Earthsea’
Not really Tolkien, but related to a question that often comes up in a Tolkien connection, and since I was introduced to Ursula Le Quin's Earthsea novels by other Tolkien enthusiasts, I thought this analysis by David Bratman belongs here. It might be interesting to do the same for Tolkien's work, though I suspect that there would be far more references there — the physical characteristics of peoples do have a greater place in Tolkien's world than in Le Guin's.

BC, Saturday, 4 June 2011, ‘TCBS — Inklings — Notion Club’
There has been a lot of focus on the Inklings, who they were and what the social aspect of the club meant to them and their work, but outside of John Garth's Tolkien and the Great War (absolutely brilliant book!) there has been little focus on the TCBS, Tea Club and Barrovian Society. I am sure that there is much more to say about the TCBS as a formative social context for young Ronald Tolkien, in particular on how this group helped shape Tolkien's artistic aspirations and interests, but possibly also on other aspects of his life. Bruce Charlton here suggests one line of research that connects the dots all the way to Tolkien's fictional representation of the Inklings, which is the title of Bruce's blog. The emphasis here is on the last days of the TCBS when they decided that they could change the world, how this decision shaped Tolkien's artistic work, and how this aspect was not a deliberate part of the later real and fictional clubs, nor an aim that was shared by all the members of the real club.

TF, Tuesday, 7 June 2011, ‘Fans and Scholars?’
Spurred by my comments on The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, I take up a debate we had in RABT & AFT some time ago. In particular I comment on the interdependence of the story-external and the story-internal views.

DAA, Friday, 10 June 2011, ‘Roundup: TS8, More Stybiorn news, etc. etc.’
Douglas A. Anderson shares some news on Tolkien Studies vol. 8 (mine arrived on the 22nd), and some other book news. It lands in this section due to the research into blurbs comparing the present book to Tolkien and in particular to The Lord of the Rings. The earliest examples listed in the blog piece and the comments date from 1965 — 1967. Some of the examples listed are hilarious — particularly the attempt to sell a book as ‘an erotic Tolkien’.

BC, Saturday, 11 june 2011, ‘How Tolkien could/ should have published The Silmarillion’
Basically Bruce Charlton is suggesting that Tolkien should have published his disparate material more or less ‘as is’
as a compendium of various modes of writing, varying in finish and completeness and of various fictional provenance — held together by some kind of editorial apparatus.
This approach to Tolkien's legendarium is akin to the discussion by Gergely Nagy in ‘The Great Chain of Reading’ in Tolkien the Medievalist by Jane Chance (ed.), but ultimately I don't think that Tolkien saw things that way — this way of looking at the great collection of material as versions of the same myth is, I believe, alien to Tolkien's own thinking. I strongly believe that he saw each new version as the only valid version (the exception being the period when he was considering both a ‘round world’ and a ‘flat world’ version of the Ainulindalë). The evidence, as I read it, points to Tolkien desiring the tales he wrote to be consistently ‘true’ within his sub-created world, and that the evolution and everchanging versions of the tales represent the changes and evolution in his conception of what was ‘true’ rather than experiments in different narrative perspectives, different forms, etc.

Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall, and Edmund Weiner, Thursday, 16 June 2011, ‘The Revision of Ruel-bone in the OED’
From the authors of The Ring of Words comes a contribution to the LotR Plaza's Scholars' forum that investigates the newest revision of the word ‘ruel-bone’ in the OED and of course its Tolkien connections.

= = = = 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, Thursday, 2 June 2011, ‘The Art of The Hobbit by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull’
A piece by Pieter Collier on the upcoming book by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull, The Art of The Hobbit.

TF, Thursday, 2 June 2011, ‘The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún’
Not a review as such, but a few thoughts and comments upon finishing The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún — in particular I comment on some of the desires that fuelled Tolkien's effort.

JDR, Friday, 3 June 2011, ‘As Catholic As The Day Is Long’
A review of a TV documentary by Joseph Pearce on Tolkien as a Catholic author (originally made for a Catholic station). While commending the biographical details, I think the position of the review is best summed in the statements that
By overstating his case, Pearce has weakened it. I think it's one of those times when, having picked up a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.
Though this is certainly not unheard of in other lines of academic criticism of Tolkien's work, it has always struck me as being particularly annoying when the perspective is a religion that is shared between Tolkien and the critic (or by some other author and the scholar / critic) — it seems to me that there is a tendency to not only see the whole world as made of nails, but to also start preaching the singular value of hammers . . .
Rateliff has a particularly well-worded comment, saying that
Tolkien was a complex man. To seize upon one aspect of his life — his medievalism, his faith, his love of trees, his language-creation, his status as a writer of fantasy or a survivor of the Great War or a mid-century writer, his compulsion to write even without hope of publication, his belonging to the Inklings or being a friend of Lewis's — and insist it's the only one that's important is to seriously distort the picture.
Well said! Thank you!

H&S, Tuesday, 7 June 2011, ‘Go, Little Book’
A bit of news from Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull on their upcoming book, The Art of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. They have finished work on the book, and give a sample from the introduction. HarperCollins has very conveniently set the (tentative) publication date to my 45th birthday — guess what's on the wish list ;-)

Larry Swain, Mythprint, Monday, 13 June 2011, ‘Languages, Myths and History’
This review originally appeared in Mythprint 48:3 (#344) in March 2011.
A reviewof the book Languages, Myths and History: An Introduction to the Linguistic and Literary Background of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Fiction by Elizabeth Solopova. All in all a positive review ending with a recommendation of the book ‘even for the experienced Tolkien fan and scholar.’

JDR, Thursday, 16 June 2011, ‘The Return of the Emu’
In Danish, when trying to warn that appearances can be deceptive, we advise people not to judge the hound by the hairs (‘sku ikke hunden på hårene’), while in English people are warned not to judge the book by its cover. When, however, the cover is all that is currently available, a reviewer may see how much can be learned and deduced from the cover. Such is the exercise that John Rateliff here engages in with the cover of the book J. R. R. Tolkien, a biography by Alexandra and John Wallner aimed for young children (the reading level is given as ‘Ages 4 — 8’). Though certainly entertaining, I think Rateliff is perhaps taking his analysis one or two steps further than the current evidence can really support, though I would certainly not be surprised to find that he is correct. Also interesting is the comment by David Bratman about Tolkien's birthplace.

Mike Foster, Monday, 27 June 2011, ‘Tolkien Studies VII’
This review originally appeared in Mythprint 48:3 (#344) in March 2011.
The nature of Tolkien Studies is such that a review is as much a resume as a review, but by various hints, I can easily see that Mike Foster has a higher opinion of some of the essays than I have (my review has appeared in Mallorn #51), but that is the nature of any collection. However, we obviously do agree on the praise of Flieger's transcription and commentary on Tolkien's Kalevala work and of Garth's paper on Tolkien's relationship with Robert Q. Gilson and his family — work which Garth follow up upon in volume 8.

= = = = Other Stuff = = = =

JDR, Wednesday, 1 June 2011, ‘Lewis Loved Being Read To . . .’
A confluence of various bits makes John Rateliff suggest that Lewis had problems reading Tolkien's handwriting, and that this is the explanation for some known statements from Lewis and Tolkien. It is not without problems, as Rateliff himself acknowledges, and will require more in the way of evidence, but it's nonetheless an interesting idea.

BC, Thursday, 2 June 2011, ‘The Question of Pengolod - Superb Numenorean Fanfiction’
As regular readers of this will know, I have grown very fond of Bruce Charlton's blog. Though I don't necessarily agree with everything he says, I generally find his bloggings interesting and thought-provoking: even when I don't agree Bruce Charlton's pieces usually help me understand my own reading of Tolkien's work better, and that is surely worth a lot.
Therefore, though I am personally not interested in fanfiction at all (which may also help explain some of the negative aspects of my evaluation of the various adaptations of Tolkien's work), I cannot help but feel that a fan-fiction story that Bruce Charlton praises certainly deserves to be known more widely.

BC, Sunday, 12 June 2011, ‘Is reward more dangerous than punishment?’
For lack of a better description, I will categorize this as showcasing how some of Tolkien's comments re. Númenor can be applied to the modern world . . .. It touches on the applicability of Middle-earth to the world we know, and though I don't particularly agree with the sentiments described, I wonder if, and how far, Tolkien might have agreed.

JDR, Wednesday, 15 June 2011, ‘Getting Very Near the End’
The sad story that the British author, Sir Terry Pratchett, is very close to succumbing finally to his Alzheimer's disease. Despite, or perhaps precisely because, writing books that are very different from Tolkien's, I have always been very fond of Pratchett's books, in particular his Disworld novels. The loss of his lively and witty imagination will be felt.

JDR, Thursday, 16 June 2011, ‘Pratchett's Homage to Tolkien’
Following up on the above, John Rateliff has posted a quotation from Pratchett showing the author's awareness of his debt to Tolkien.

= = = = Rewarding Discussions = = = =

‘Owen Barfield’ (mythsoc Yahoo group)
A very interesting discussion on the Mythopoeic Society list at Yahoo Groups focusing on Owen Barfield and particularly on how to interpret the relationship between Barfield's work and Tolkien's (i.e. not the relationship between the two men per se). The advice to go read Poetic Diction is probably sound, but my understanding, based on the comments I've read, is that it is not a very accessible work — perhaps one day when the kids have moved out and I have tons of time ;-)

= = = = Web Sites = = = =

The Tolkien Usenet Groups' Web-site Project
The AFT/RABT web-site project includes a full overview of the Chapter of the Week discussions as well as collections of links.

The Tolkien Society
The UK-based Tolkien Society. The Tolkien Society publishes the bulletin Amon Hen and the journal Mallorn and organises various events, of which e.g. the annual seminar focusing on some aspect of Tolkien's work, the annual Oxonmoot as well as less frequent events such as the one-week ‘The Return of the Ring’ conference taking place in Loughborough in 2012.

The Mythopoeic Society
The Mythopoeic Society is based in the US and focuses on the works of the Inklings in general and Williams, Lewis and Tolkien in particular. At some point it merged with the Tolkien Society of America and is often seen as a sister-organisation of the Tolkien Society. The Mythopoeic Society publishes the bulletin Mythprint and the journal Mythlore where the contents generally has a more academic/scholarly stamp than in Mallorn but on the other hand includes more non-Tolkienian articles. There is also the Mythic Circle that contains ‘original short fiction, poetry, and artwork’ celebrating the work of Tolkien, Lewis and Williams. The society also has its own publishing house, the Mythopoeic Press, which publishes books promoting the society's interests. The Mythopoeic Society also hosts events such as the annual Mythcon.

= = = = 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

1 comment:

  1. Troels, are you aware of the Tolkien blog aggregator at ? It doesn't seem to include your blog, or some of the others on your sources list; but does aggregate a number of them as well as a number of others (e.g. Michael Martinez's blog).


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