Saturday 5 November 2011

Tolkien Transactions XVIII

October 2011

So, October. That's my birthday month, and I treated myself to a couple of new Tolkien books: The Art of the Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Wayne G Hammond and Christina Scull, A Tolkien Tapestry: Pictures to accompany The Lord of the Rings by Cor Blok edited by Pieter Collier, and Parma Eldalamberon XV - 'Si Qente Feanor & Other Elvish Writings_. They have now all arrived, and I'm looking forward to get more acquainted with them (having so far only found time for a brief perousal of each). I've saved a little for Flieger's Green Suns and Faerie: Essays on J. R. R. Tolkien, but that was unavailable when I ordered.

Also, I have finished reading Jason Fisher's book, Tolkien and the Study of his Sources — another very good book overall (though also with a few examples of less excellent scholarship).

Reviews of all will be forthcoming here on Parmar-kenta when I find the time.

But the Tolkien Transactions is (mainly) about the internet and what is going on there that I have found interesting.

= = = = News = = = =

Pat Reynolds, The Return of the Ring, Sunday, 2 October 2011, ‘Special Guest: Jef Murray’
What it says . . .

Pat Reynolds, The Return of the Ring, Sunday, 9 October 2011, ‘Special Guest: Ted Nasmith’
Again, as per the headline.

Rene van Rossenberg, Wednesday, 12 October 2011, ‘25th Anniversary of Tolkien Shop Report’
A brief report from the silver anniversary of the Tolkien Shop: the only (physical) store in the world dedicated entirely to Tolkien. For the shop itself see

= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =

Matthew R. Bardowell, Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, Friday, 1 January 2010, ‘J. R. R. Tolkien's creative ethic and its Finnish analogues’'s+creative+ethic+and+its+Finnish+analogues.-a0218950941
This brilliant source study investigates, as the title suggests, the influence of the Finnish Kalevala on Tolkien's writings, but does so at another level than much other source criticism. Bardowell looks into the thematic content by studying the ethics of creation that underlie the two works and comparing these, he concludes that Tolkien was indeed influenced by the Finnish epic. The beauty of this is that regardless of whether, or how far, you agree with Bardowell, you can probably learn something about Tolkien by reading this article: if nothing else, it can be read as an excellent example of comparative criticism.

AH, Sunday, 2 October 2011, ‘Across the Bridge of Tavrobel’
Andy Higgins has been on a trip to Great and Little Haywood and Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire in search of Tolkien's Tavrobel from The Book of Lost Tales, and he claims to have stood on the ‘Bridge of Tavrobel’ though he is not sure that he really did see Gilfanon's house, the ‘House of the Hundred Chimneys’ when looking at Shugborough Hall.

MM, Monday, 3 October 2011, ‘Why is Middle-earth Segregated in The Hobbit?’
The segregation here seems to refer to the (relative) isolation of the communities that Bilbo and the Dwarves pass through: the Shire, Rivendell, Beorn's house, the Elvenking's halls and Lake Town. Of all these only the last two seem to have some kind of communication, whereas in The Lord of the Rings it is evident that these far-flung pockets of civilisation are all in communication, even if there is no regular post-service outside the Shire.

JF, Sunday, 9 October 2011, ‘The Poros and the Bosphorus’
Jason Fisher proposes a speculative Primary World derivation of the name of the Poros — the river that flows from the Ephel Duath into the Anduin and forms the southern border of Ithilien — by suggesting the Greet word Poros, the last element of Bosphorus. Jason's hypothesis certainly seems possible to me, but it will require stronger evidence to finally convince me (and even stronger evidence to convince me that it was a deliberate choice by Tolkien). The ensuing discussion in the comments to the blog is quite interesting as well, so be sure to read the comments also.

AH, Sunday, 9 October 2011, ‘Be Very Qwiet, I am Hunting Tolkienian Woodwoses’
Andy Higgins is hunting Tolkien's use of woodwoses in his fiction — a very interesting study that includes occurences in the Anglo-Saxon sources that Tolkien worked with.

BC, Tuesday, 11 October 2011, ‘From Hobbit-sequel to Lord of the Rings - the role of The Notion Club Papers’
Bruce Charlton here argues that the Lewis / Tolkien agreement that led to the space trilogy for Lewis and to the Lost Road and the Notion Club Papers_ for Tolkien was, for both authors a turning point that led their mythopoeia in new directions. The further claim that The Lord of the Rings would never have become other than a new Hobbit — a book of the same style as The Hobbit — without the impetus from The Lost Road and The Notion Club Papers and that Tolkien's evolving Silmarillion mythology had less to do with the ‘growing up’ of the Hobbit sequel seems to me to require extraordinary evidence.

Lynn Forest-Hill, Wednesday, 19 October 2011, ‘Tolkien and Bevis: romancing the foundation of myth’
Another excellent contribution to the ‘Scholars’ Forum' series at The Lord of the Rings Fanatics Plaza website, Forest-Hill discusses the role of medieval romances in general as inspiration for Tolkien, and that of Bevis of Hampton in particular.

MM, Wednesday, 19 October 2011, ‘Were There Two Thrains in the Original Hobbit or Just One Thrain?’
A discussion that has, at times, been conducted with some heat, Martinez here ends on the conclusion that ‘J.R.R. Tolkien accidentally created two Thrains in the first edition of The Hobbit and he had to both acknowledge this error and fix it in the next edition’. This seems to me a fair representation of my understanding also — I might have wished to stress the inadvertent nature of the accident, but that's mere dressing. Another way to have fixed the error could of course have been to remove the superfluous Thrain, but I think that Tolkien was more apt to invent a story that made the error not an error but an oversight: ‘Ooops, did I forget to tell you more about that other Thrain (whom I had no idea existed)? Sorry about that, but here goes:’ ;-)

= = = = Book News = = = =

Damien Bador, Mythprint, Tuesday, 4 October 2011, ‘Tolkien and Wales’
‘This review originally appeared in Mythprint 48:7 (#348) in July 2011.’
Damien Bador finds Phelpstead's book sligtly more academic in style than I did, but he, too, is generally positive about Tolkien and Wales.

JDR, Friday, 14 October 2011, ‘New Tolkien Calendar’
John Rateliff still doesn't like Cor Blok's art, but nonetheless has bought the 2012 Tolkien Calendar in which it features.

JDR, Sunday, 16 October 2011, ‘The New Arrival: Ruud's Companion’
John Rateliff reviews Jay Rudd's Critical Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work ending ‘So, my initial impression: an impressive achievement, but to be used with some caution.’ At $75 it may be a little too expensive for most amateur enthusiasts such as myself: in particular with comments such as this (also John Rateliff's comment that the commentary on The Hobbit that follows the plot summary ‘is a bit eccentric’).

Benedicte Page, The Bookseller, Monday, 17 October 2011, ‘HarperCollins pre-empts Hobbit anniversary’
The big story is of course the publishing of The Art of the Hobbit edited Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull that contains many previously unpublished sketches and illustrations that Tolkien made for The Hobbit, but this is accompanied by the release of a single-volume revised edition of John Rateliff's The History of the Hobbit, a pocket-sized Hobbit and a 75th-anniversary boxed-set edition of The Hobbit along with The Lord of the Rings. All of this is to start the celebrations of the 75th anniversary of The Hobbit next year.
The news are taken up in several other news-outlets, a few of which are :
PC, Wednesday, 19 October 2011, ‘HarperCollins pre-empts The Hobbit anniversary’
The Tolkien Library story.
Paul Bignell, The Independent, Sunday, 23 October 2011, ‘Lost Hobbit images get first showing’
This article contains a number of . . . shall we just say ‘dramatic exaggerations’ and leave it at that :-)
Alison Flood, The Guardian, Monday, 24 October 2011, ‘Tolkien's Hobbit drawings published to mark 75th anniversary’
Associated with this article from The Guardian is also a gallery of some of the pictures from the new book.
This is just a small sampling of the many articles on the beginning of the celebrations of next year's anniversary, most of them focusing on The Art of the Hobbit: congratulations to Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond for their achievement — the book is a delight (so far I have only had time to skim the book and enjoy the pictures).

AH, Sunday, 23 October 2011, ‘From Dragons and Swords to Motor Cars and Gaffers’
Andy Higgins makes me want to read _Mr Bliss_! His investigation into Tolkien's use of ‘Gaffer Gamgee’ draws on published letters (nos. 76 and 257 being the primarily relevant, but also nos. 144 and 184), but it is mainly his enthusiasm about the story itself that I find contagious (my immune system being particularly weak against that kind of contagion).

= = = = Interviews = = = =

MM, Friday, 14 October 2011, ‘Interviews With The Scholars’
Michael Martinez here introduces his commendable new series of e-mail interviews with known Tolkien scholars.

MM, Friday, 14 October 2011, ‘An Interview with Janet Brennan Croft’
A very interesting interview ranging in topics from the personal (first encounter with Tolkien) over reflections on the state of Tolkien scholarship today to the interpretative.

MM, Friday, 21 October 2011, ‘An Interview with John Rateliff’
An excellent interview that, naturally, focuses on The Hobbit along with the two editions of John Rateliff's book.

MM, Friday, 28 October 2011, ‘An Interview with Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull’
The interview with Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull is far-ranging and highly interesting. It obviously touches on the newest book from their hand, The Art of the Hobbit as well as the earlier J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist & Illustrator and a number of the other books, essays, papers and not least falsifications that they have contributed to the study of Tolkien.

= = = = Other Stuff = = = =

Byron Jennings, Friday, 2 September 2011, ‘Is that a fact?’
What I found particularly interesting in a Tolkien context about this blog (that has a completely different focus) is the description attributed to Carl Weiman about the different views of novices and experts. While the terms are, of course, debatable when applied to a wholly different field of study, I think there is a useful reminder in the distinction between those who seek ‘a catalogue of facts’ and those who ‘sees patterns, relationships and organization but has no catalogue of true statements.’ I argue that these views do exist also in Tolkien studies and that they are to some extent incommensurate (though I think also that it is a more gradual transition and only the end-points, which very few occupy, are truly incommensurate), and that it often useful in a discussion to realize what is the starting point, the perspective, of the other participants.

MM, Wednesday, 21 September 2011, ‘The Much Bemusing Bloggery of Online Tolkien Scholarli’
Martinez shares a list of various blogs and websites that he considers ‘people who, in [his] opinion, have something credible and interesting to say about J.R.R. Tolkien, Middle-earth, or some of his linguistic or other classical interests.’ There was a few blogs and sites there that I didn't have on my lists (thanks, Michael!), and though many of these seems to only occasionally have something to say that will appear here, some of them will doubtlessly eventually make the list of sources below (I follow many more blogs and sites than those listed: the listed ones are only those that I refer to regularly in this collection).

MM, Wednesday, 5 October 2011, ‘Did J.R.R. Tolkien Invent Orcs?’
I've been interested in the Orcs lately, and was interested to read Michael Martinez' take on this question. I would add that it does, of course, depend somewhat on what you mean by ‘invent’ and that The Hobbit wasn't the first time Tolkien mentioned Orcs. The Orcs of The Lord of the Rings derive elements from both the MacDonaldesque goblins of The Hobbit and the demonic Orcs of the Silmarillion.

BC, Saturday, 29 October 2011, ‘Native language?’
Charlton comments on the idea of native language as described in Tolkien's Notion Club Papers. See also the rewarding discussion about the strong sense of place below.

Jonathan McCalmont, Boomtron, Sunday, 30 October 2011, ‘DC: The New Frontier . . . Stripp'd’
Out of the depth of a review of two new DC comic books rise this passage:
In contrast, the world of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings supports the escapist fantasies of millions of adults because though Tolkien’s world is a world where magic exists and good triumphs over evil, Tolkien also infused his world with more ‘realistic’ thematic concerns such as the cost that the good must pay in order to rid themselves of evil. The departure of the elves and the scouring of the Shire echo with the losses of the Second World War and so make Middle Earth seem that much more real. By keeping one foot in the real world, Tolkien ensured his creation remained relevant to modern audiences in a way that Cinderella simply is not. Thus Tolkien’s work demonstrates the balancing act that modern myths must perform: Make a story simplistic and you make it irrelevant but make a story realistic and you run the risk that it will no longer provide a means of escape.
The review has more to say about escapism, and I find it interesting though I do not agree with the view that ‘the popularity of escapist media derives from a deep-seated need to immerse ourselves in a world that makes sense to us’ (I believe the popularity derives from them being a natural and rational — perhaps even necessary — means of making the Primary World make sense to us).

Matthew Wright, Sunday, 30 October 2011, ‘Why Tolkien wouldn't be published today — and what that means for writers now’
While the blog post is interesting enough, there are, I think, two things that the author doesn't quite get right. The first thing is in the premise of the title — Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings was extremely unlikely to be published also in the fifties, and while we might discuss degrees of ‘extremely unlikely’ I think the reasons that are listed are wrong: these things would also have prevented publishing in 1954 — if there is a smaller probability today of an author such as Tolkien to get published, this is, I believe, more due to changes in the company structure in the publishing industry: it is, I deem, more likely to find the kind of willingness to accept a loss in order to publish a prestige book in smaller, family-owned publishing houses than in the huge companies of today. The other thing that Wright, in my view, doesn't get quite right is the popularity of The Lord of the Rings prior to the release of the paperback editions. LotR was actually selling extremely well for its price and availability, and the main reason for the sales numbers to soar in the mid-sixties was, I believe, the dramatic changes in price and availability that associated the release of the Ace and Ballantine paperback editions.

= = = = Rewarding Discussions = = = =

LotR Plaza: ‘A Strong Sense of 'Place'’
This thread investigates the strong sense of place in Tolkien's writings. This includes specific places, but it also takes off where Carl Phelpstead left in his investigation of Tolkien's general ideas of regional identity in Tolkien and Wales.

RABT & AFT: ‘Elrond remaining in Rivendell’
This discussion has, as discussions in RABT & AFT are wont, wandered down every possible by-road and side alley, including discussions of the the One Ring, what Sauron knew and guessed about Aragorn (prior to Aragorn joining the Company of the Ring) and the early history of particularly the Three. Good stuff!

= = = = In Print = = = =

I was pleased to find, in Mythprint issue 351, a small piece by Mark T. Hooker on ‘The Name Bolger.’ Though I often find it difficult to believe that Tolkien was actually conscious of all that is suggested, I always like these word-games very much. In this case the Hobbit name Bolger is tied to the Anglo Saxon bælg which is again related to Latin bulga. This immediately attracted my attention as bælg is in contemporary use in Danish where it is used for pods (e.g. pea pods) and all such are called bælgfrugter (bælg fruits, pod fruits), and from the word for the bellows, blæsebælg (blowing bælg). It is also used for a sword scabbard, though this is considered archaic and is these days only used in poetry or deliberately archaisms. It would be a fine play on this to have, in the Danish translation, Fredegar, as he collapses on the doorstep of a house in the beginning of chapter 11 of The Lord of the Rings, gasp as a bellows.

= = = = Web Sites = = = =

Tolkien Studies Blog, Michael Martinez
Sometimes you wonder how it could be that you had missed something — that is very much the case for me with Michael Martinez's blog on his (which is, as far as I know, not affiliated with the scholarly journal in any way). Let that, then, be amended!

Middle-earth Blog, Michael Martinez
Martinez runs a Tolkien-related blog also on the Xenite site. He is far too prolific for me to go through all the posts, and many of them are addressed mainly at Tolkien students that are not familiar with The History of Middle-earth, Tolkien's letters and other stuff. Still, many of the posts do contain rather interesting bits of information, and I can only recommend looking them over. In these transactions, however, I will focus on those of his posts that seem to me the most interesting.

Tolkien Index
According to one of the creators, ‘Tolkien Index is nothing more (or less) than a page index of names for publications by J.R.R. Tolkien lacking an index (with a focus on Parma Eldalamberon and Vinyar Tengwar).’ Currently the index covers PE 17 and 19, VT 6, 26, 45, 46 along with some things from Quettar #13 and #14. Trusting that the authors will continue the work, this promises to be a very valuable index resource.

= = = = 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’

‘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

Henry Gee (HG) ‘cromercrox’, ‘The End of the Pier Show’

David Simmons (DS), ‘Aiya Ilúvatar’

Michael Martinez (MM), ‘Tolkien Studies Blog’

Michael Martinez (MM), ‘Middle-earth’

Troels Forchhammer (TF), ‘Parmar-kenta’

Mythprint — ‘The Monthly Bulletin of the Mythopoeic Society’

Amon Hen — the Bulletin of the Tolkien Society

- and others

Troels Forchhammer
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