Monday 5 December 2011

Tolkien Transactions XIX

November 2011

November has been scouting month: with three weekends to plan, prepare, execute and evaluate since the last issue of my transactions, I have had preciously little time for reading up on Tolkien matters, and no time to participate in on-line discussions — alas!

= = = = News = = = =

Failblog, Tuesday, 1 November 2011, ‘WIN: If by my life or death I can protect you, I will. You have my Ford!’
Just for fun . . . :)

Pat Reynolds, The Return of the Ring , Sunday, 6 November 2011, ‘The Adventures of Tom Bombadil’
A notification that 2012 will see the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, and a call for attendees of The Return of the Ring to be inspired by this fact to submit papers based on one or more of these poems.

H&S, Wednesday, 9 November 2011, ‘Geek Out!’
Christina and Wayne write that they have been interviewed (by e-mail) for a blog appearing on the CNN blog Geek Out!, and they post here their full answers to the questions they were asked.

Anika Chin, CNN Geek Out!, Wednesday, 9 November 2011, ‘2012, the year of the Hobbit’
The blog post that Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond mention in their own blog post listed above. The blog post focuses on their new book, The Art of the Hobbit and the reception of new posthumous Tolkien material in the ‘fan’ community in particular.

Pat Reynolds, The Return of the Ring, Sunday, 13 November 2011, ‘Mr Bliss’
At ‘The Return of the Ring’ we'll also be celebrating the 30th anniversary of Mr. Bliss

Beth Staples, Kennebec Journal, Monday, 21 November 2011, ‘Play inside Hobbit Hole’
Mostly in the group of curiosities, this is a piece about a man who builds and sells hobbit-hole-inspired wooden huts.

Zoe Chamberlain, Sunday Mercury, Wednesday, 23 November 2011, ‘Nostalgia: Tolkien's Birmingham’
While little of what is in this article will be news to anyone familiar with Carpenter's Biography or Garth's book on Tolkien's early life and much less to anyone familiar with Maggie Burns' work on Tolkien's relationship with Birmingham, it is nonetheless nice to see a reasonably accurate article on this subject in a general news-outlet.

Journal Pioneer, Thursday, 24 November 2011, ‘Lord of the Rings presented in symphony’
The Dutch composer Johan de Meij’s Symphony No. 1, ‘The Lord of the Rings’, will be performed in Charlottetown, Nove Scotia, on December 1st. by the UPEI Wind Symphony, under the direction of Dr. Karem J. Simon. Does anyone know this symphony (incidentally it is available on Spotify which has become available in Denmark now)? Or what about any reviews? I hope that the Journal Pioneer will be so kind as to provide a review after the concert, but it would be great to hear from others as well.

Craig Fraser, West Edmonton Local, Saturday, 26 November 2011, ‘Last Alliance spends evening in Rivendell, talk with 'Tolkien Professor'’
It sounds as though the ‘Last Alliance’ student group of the University of Alberta in Edmonton had a tremendous day.

Adam Godnik, Barnes and Noble, Monday, 28 November 2011, ‘The author and critic on the impossible choice of reading favorites.’
Author and critic, Adam Godnik, lists The Lord of the Rings among his three most favourite books, but the poor man seems to be rather ashamed of it. Is he so thoroughly brain-washed with the ideas of what Shippey calls the ‘literati’ that he doesn't dare trust his own tastes?
David Bratman responds to Godnik's article on his blog, here:

= = = = Essays, Scholarship and Criticism = = = =

David B. Hart, First Things, Friday, 12 November 2010, ‘Anarcho-Monarchism’
David B. Hart is, as far as I know, not known as a Tolkien scholar (he is a theologian), and it is perhaps not surprising that a piece on Tolkien's political views — in particular one connecting them to contemporary politics — come from outside the realm of established Tolkien scholars. Whether one agrees or disagrees (the quotations are correct, but the interpretation of them may not be) it is an interesting piece regardless.

David Oberhelman, The Mythopoeic Society, Monday, 7 November 2011, ‘Mythopoeic Awards: Call for Nominations’
Perhaps not scholarship in itself, but awards for, among other things, scholarship in Inklings studies. What work deserves an award in Inklings Studies?

Mythlore, Monday, 7 November 2011, ‘Mythlore 115/116 Available’
Hopefully by the time I publish these transactions, this issue of Mythlore will have wound its way to my address. The announcement also includes links to the contents of issue 115/116 and to a downloadable supplement to the index, this supplement covering issues 101/102 through 115/116.

BC, Tuesday, 8 November 2011, ‘What did Charles Williams bring to The Inklings?’
I'll admit up front to being out of my depth here — I am not much of a student of Plato, and I am completely unfamiliar with the work of Charles Williams. However, given Tolkien's comments in his letters about Charles Williams' work (and his resentment of the perceived influence of Williams on Lewis' work), I think there is a heavy burden of argumentation to lift in order to make the case for Tolkien to adapt an idea from Williams.

MM, Wednesday, 16 November 2011, ‘Who was Narvi, the Maker of the Doors of Durin?’
Interesting piece with some background on the Norse name, Narvi. I am not sure that one can infer from the seeming import of the name in Old Norse myths to the fame of Tolkien's Dwarven craftsman, but I do agree that Narvi of Khazad-dûm must have been the best skilled craftsman (in stone-work) at the time the doors were made, and probably of very great skill if we believe the note that Celebrimbor befriended him especially.

JF, Wednesday, 16 November 2011, ‘Beware the Neekerbreekers’
On the possible roots of the Neekerbreekers of the Midgewater Marshes — apart, of course, from the possibility that Tolkien had actually experienced something of the kind: for my own part I remember a particularly mosquito-plagued trek through some marshes on our way to Kebnekaise in Swedish Lapland — I'm willing swear that some of the mosquitos were the size of small sparrows. Otherwise I am, of course, predisposed towards the second part: making the Neekerbreekers related to our ‘Nøkke’ is just too good to dismiss ;-)

DAA, Monday, 21 November 2011, ‘Dale Nelson's Summation on Tolkien in pre-1970 blurbs’
Dale Nelson has sent a summation of his research into the question of pre-1970 blurbs that mention Tolkien, and Douglas Anderson adds some comments, including a 1955 comment by Basil Davenport on Naomi Mitchison's blurb for The Fellowship of the Ring calling it ‘super science-fiction.’

DAA, Tuesday, 22 November 2011, ‘Tolkien and the Newman Association’
Tolkien was a member of the ‘Newman Society’ — a society of Catholic professors and other graduates of British universities named for the founder of the Birmingham Oratory, John Henry Newman, and Tolkien co-signed, as Honorary Vice President, a letter in 1949 registering protest over the the arrest of the Cardinal Primate of Hungary by the Hungarian government.

CO, Wednesday, 23 November 2011, ‘Bilbo Builds His Resume 2’
After nearly two years, Professor Olsen is back with new episodes in his series of podcasts on The Hobbit. This one covers chapters 9 and 10 (‘Barrels out of Bound’ and ‘A Warm Welcome’).

JF, Monday, 28 November 2011, ‘Tolkien's translation conceit — new evidence?’
Having discovered some interesting inscriptions on some of the Hobbit artwork published in Hammond & Scull's new book, The Art of the Hobbit, Jason goes on to analyse this, and has, I think, two main threads of investigation / discussion going on in this very interesting blog post.
- That Tolkien's translation conceit originated far earlier than
might otherwise be thought — i.e. that is was a part of _The
Hobbit_ before this book was published.
- The wording of the moon letters from Thrór's map in Old Norse
Not being a linguist (not even in the ancient forms of my native tongue), I am afraid that there is little I can do with respect to the latter, but with respect the former Lingwë seems to me to be on solid ground with his claim that Tolkien was using this conceit already prior to the publication of The Hobbit. This, in my opinion, would be quite natural for him, and it ties in well also with Rateliff's claims that The Hobbit originally was more closely tied up with The Silmarillion (more closely, at least, than Tolkien's later comments might lead us to believe).

MM, Tuesday, 29 November 2011, ‘Is There a Source for the Tale of the Two Trees?’
Very interesting. If you are already familiar with The Silmarillion and the history of the Two Trees, then you might want to read the first paragraph and then move on to read just the last four paragraphs. I don't remember hearing, before this, about the Persian folklore/myth about the two Trees of the Sun and Moon.

Adam Godnik, The New Yorker, Tuesday, 29 December 2011, ‘The Dragon's Egg’
Adam Godnik has previously (see above) listed The Lord of the Rings among his three most favourite books, but here he seems to repeat many of the usual criticisms (imperceptive criticisms, in my view) that are usually levied against Tolkien's book, while still acknowledging its power to captivate the readers.

= = = = Book News = = = =

AH, Mythprint, Tuesday, 1 November 2011, ‘J.R.R. Tolkien's Double Worlds and Creative Process’
‘This review originally appeared in Mythprint 48:8 (#349) in August 2011.’
Andrew Higgins gives Arne Zettersten's book a warm review. Attempting to summarize a summary, Andrew gives me the impression of a warm biography from a colleague of Tolkien's whose focus is mainly on Tolkien's professional side, but who has inevitably also experienced the author. Zettersten's book is approaching the top of my wish list, though I am still undecided whether to buy it in English or in the Swedish original, Min vän Ronald och hans världar.

JDR, Wednesday, 2 November 2011, ‘The New Arrival: A TOLKIEN TAPESTRY’
Given Rateliff's well-known (at least to those who follow his blog) dislike of Blok's art, the review of Pieter Collier's book seems to me very fair. Rateliff repeats the adage that ‘In the end there truly is no arguing about taste,’ but I am not sure that this is entirely true: certainly the reviews of the 2011 Tolkien Calendar by Ruth Lacon (in Amon Hen #228 and on the Tolkien Library web-site) have helped me appreciate Blok's art better.

PC, Sunday, 6 November 2011, ‘The 2012 Beyond Bree Calendar is now available’
What it says, basically. The calendar is illustrated by different people (eleven are mentioned ‘plus more’ so presumably each month has a new illustrator).

H&S, Sunday, 6 November 2011, ‘_Art of The Hobbit_ Published’
The other news about the release of Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull's The Art of the Hobbit belongs to last month's Transactions, but short as it may be, this entry by Wayne and Christina also provides a charming, albeit all to brief, glimpse into the mind of the author or editor who has just released their work to the scrutiny of the public. With authors so well known for their devotion to verifiable fact and the rooting out of mistakes and imprecision, it must of course have been frustrating to see the many . . . shall we call them ‘artistic liberties’ . . . taken by some of the journalists reporting on their book.

JDR, Monday, 7 November 2011, ‘THE HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT, second edition’
John Rateliff takes a look at the second edition of his History of the Hobbit, noting what has been changed (and what hasn't) and asserting that the weight (it's a one-volume edition) is only 1.29 kg . . . :-) I am having an extended internal debate whether the 32 pages of new material is enough to warrant buying the new edition — which is mainly a question of what other Tolkien-related book it will push out of my limited buying list.

Carina, ‘Carina's Craftblog’, Thursday, 10 November 2011, ‘The Art of The Hobbit’
High praise for, and some photos of, Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull's The Art of the Hobbit.

JDR, Saturday, 12 November 2011, ‘The New Arrivals: ART OF THE HOBBIT and MR. BLISS’
Not very much about The Art of the Hobbit this time, and more about the new edition of Mr. Bliss that was released in September. Rateliff praises the layout and calls the story a ‘minor but amusing little bit of Tolkien’ though he also admits to never having ‘really warmed to _Mr. Bliss_’.

H&S, Sunday, 13 November 2011, ‘Harper Insider’
Perhaps mainly interesting for the completist collector, Wayne and Christina note that ‘the Harper Insider article includes the first publication [...] of the verso of the picture Death of Smaug.’

JDR, Sunday, 13 November 2011, ‘THE ART OF THE HOBBIT’
So, Rateliff got round to writing about his second new arrival, Hammond and Scull's The Art of the Hobbit, which he praises highly., Tuesday, 22 November 2011, ‘'The Hobbit' Released for First Time on Enhanced Ebook’
What it says . . .

JDR, Friday, 25 November 2011, ‘My Newest Publication: Volume 258’
One of John Rateliff's old essays, ‘A Kind of Elvish Craft: Tolkien as Literary Craftsman’, which was previously published in Tolkien Studies vol. 6 (2009) has now been published in volume 258 of Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. The occasion being that this volume includes a section on the Inklings collecting a number of essays on Inklings subjects. I find it somewhat odd that in the list of suggested readings, Tolkien is represented with his ‘Middle English Vocabulary’ but not with ‘On Fairy-Stories’, ‘Beowulf and the Critics’ or other of his professional work.

JDR, Monday, 28 November 2011, ‘The New Arrivals’
John Rateliff comments briefly on two new books — and on a third book that he didn't receive. One is War of the Fantasy Worlds by Martha C. Sammon, which sounds promising, and the other is Oliver Loo's A Tolkien English Glossary. Rateliff's comments about this book being more helpful to readers to whom English is a second language obviously hit a nerve, and I wondered if perhaps Mr Loo was not himself a native speaker, but I haven't found any biographical information on Mr Loo even at the website associated with the glossary.

= = = = Interviews = = = =

MM, Friday, 4 November 2011, ‘An Interview with Michael D.C. Drout’
Another interesting interview, this time with Michael Drout, who says, for instance, that Gergely Nagy's essay, ‘The Lost Subject of Middle-earth’, from Tolkien Studies vol. 3 is, in Drout's mind, probably the best article in the Tolkien Studies series so far.

MM, Friday, 11 November 2011, ‘Christopher Tolkien, the Silmarillion, and the Machine’
Thanks to Michael Martinez for pointing out these YouTube video clips of interviews with Christopher Tolkien

MM, Friday, 18 November 2011, ‘An Interview with Douglas Charles Kane’
An interview with Doug Kane, author of Arda Reconstructed. This long interview obviously focuses on The Silmarillion and Doug Kane's own work on it. Instead of trying to summarize all of this interview in a few sentences, I will merely give my strong recommendation to read it for yourself.

Urulókë, The Tolkien Collector's Guide, Monday, 21 November 2011, ‘An Interview with Elwë at Telperion Books - new Tolkien bookstore launch’
An interview with Steve, a.k.a. Elwë, about his new on-line bookstore, Telperion Books, and on his career as a Tolkien collector.

= = = = Other Stuff = = = =

MM, Monday, 7 November 2011, ‘Was Beorn in the Hobbit a Were-bear?’
One of the good qualities for me about many of Michael's blog posts is that I find them thought-provoking. Not so much because I disagree, but because I often find that I think there is more to say about the subject. Such is also the case here, where I should have loved to come all the way around the wearg (criminal / outlaw) that got somehow transformed in Nordic languages to vargr meaning wolf, and also the use of Werwolf as a proper name, the origin of the Greek word (Anglicized in lycanthropy) as, probably, a name for a disease and pelt-wearing viking warriors (Berserkir and Úlfhéðnar). So thanks to Michael for setting in motion a long train of thought.

MM, Wednesday, 9 November 2011, ‘The Captains Crazy of Middle-earth’
An example of Michael Martinez when he is, in my humble opinion, at his best. In this case an investigation of the strategic blunders of the Elves and Men, and in the Noldor, in the Wars of Beleriand in the last years of the First Age.

Katy Steinmetz, Time Entertainment, Wednesday, 16 November 2011, ‘Elvish, Klingon and Esperanto — Why Do We Love To Invent Languages?’
An interview with Michael Adams who has edited the book Elvish to Klingon: Exploring Invented Languages investigating some of the questions regarding invented languages. The comments are a bit amusing, actually — apparently a number of the Esperanto speakers do not like to be lumped with the students of Klingon or Sindarin.

H&S, Saturday, 19 November 2011, ‘A Working Library, Part One’
Christina Scull has written this first part on the Tolkien library of herself and Wayne Hammond — on how they have collected the items in their Tolkien collection and how it is organized. To any serious student of Tolkien's work, this is stuff of which dreams is made ;-)

H&S, Monday, 21 November 2011, ‘A Working Library, Part Two’
In this second part of her article on their ‘working library’ on Tolkien and related issues, Christina Scull writes about their books on these related issues. One begins to understand the work and dedication that has led to Christina and Wayne being recognized as pre-eminent Tolkien scholars and probably the top scholars in Tolkien facts.

Jon Michaud, The New Yorker, Tuesday, 29 November 2011, ‘Tolkien: Tedious or Tremendous?’
In comment to Adam Godnik's critical article (see above), Jon Michaud takes a look at the history of Tolkien reviews and criticism in The New Yorker.

= = = = Rewarding Discussions = = = =

LotR Plaza: ‘A Strong Sense of 'Place'’
I have mentioned this thread before, but it has continued with new perspectives on the subject. Well worth reading!

LotR Plaza: ‘A one-man twentieth century alliterative revival’
A revival of an earlier thread — very interesting to read, and with some expert information on Germanic alliterative poetry.

LotR Plaza: ‘Kill count’
From humble beginnings, this thread moves on to offer some interesting perspectives.

= = = = In Print = = = =

Mythprint Vol.48 no.10, whole no.351
From a purely Tolkien perspective, the highlight of this issue of Mythprint was a short piece by Mark T. Hooker on ‘The Name Bolger’, which is another of these little word-studies that I so love. In this case I was interested to find that the Danish ‘bælg’ (these days only used in the compound ‘blæsebælg’ - a bellows (lit. a ‘blow-bag’), but it can also be found in archaic contexts as a word for a sword scabbard) is cognate with the proud hobbit name.

Amon Hen 232
Highlights this time are a short piece by Maggie Burns on Tolkien's uncle Roland Suffield, and the new column, ‘Christopher's Clippings’ (neat alliteration there!) which takes over from ‘Jessica's Corner’ in listing media and literary references to Tolkien.

Mallorn issue 52
From a very self-centred perspective, the important fact of this issue of Mallorn is of course my review of Phelpstead's Tolkien and Wales. However, of actual interest I found Nancy Martsch's editorial, ‘Consider the Context’, in which she carefully advices us to always consider the context in which Tolkien wrote or said something, and that ‘Tolkien's words aren't the Gospel. Tolkien wasn't a prophet.’ Well said! There are other articles that look promising, but as I haven't had a chance to read them all, any commentary on my part will have to wait.

Mythlore 115/116
This is another arrival that I haven't had time to look at yet beyond scanning the list of contents. There are at least three essays that look very promising, and I'm looking forward to finding the time to read this Mythlore (hopefully some time between Christmas and New Year).

= = = = Web Sites = = = =

Telperion Books
A new on-line book-shop focusing on Tolkien books and collectibles, but also with items by other authors.

Michael Tolkien
Whether or not one likes Michael Tolkien's writings as, I should say, preciously little to do with whether one likes his grandfather's. He is, however, J.R.R. Tolkien's grandson, and on his website are some essays with personal memories of his grandfather.

Oxford University Podcasts
Numerous podcasts and podcast series from the University of Oxford. Among these several of interest to a Tolkien student — e.g. the ‘Tolkien at Oxford’ series:

= = = = 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

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