Thursday 13 December 2012

The Science of Middle-earth

A review of Henry Gee's The Science of Middle-earth: Explaining the Science Behind The Greatest Fantasy Epic Ever Told, second edition for Kindle.

I am, by education and general interest, a physicist, and by literary predilection (or idiosyncrasy) a Tolkien enthusiast, so I am naturally sold on a title like The Science of Middle-earth — just how good can the world be to me?

Some years ago, I read Roger Highfield's The Science of Harry Potter in which he uses various magical phenomena as a starting-point for a discussion of how modern science might reproduce the various effects. While the science is certainly interesting, this approach, however, does nothing to illumine the literary work from which it takes it outset. However, having seen a number of Henry Gee's articles in Mallorn, I didn't really worry on that account about Gee's Science of Middle-earth and I wasn't disappointed.

The Science of Middle-earth (2nd, Kindle, edition), starts and ends with science — the role of science in modern society and how we get people interested in studying science, and I was rooting enthusiastically when Gee, in the final chapter, asserts that science is essentially a creative and imaginative endeavour (I usually say that the natural sciences are the most creative pursuits available to man-kind — that Tolkien's creative genius is expressed more clearly in his work in comparative philology than in his story-making, but that my be just my idiosyncratic perspective).

From the general theme of science in modern society, Gee moves to the more particular theme of Tolkien and science. Comparative philology such as Tolkien learned and practised it was a hard science — more so, as Gee points out, than contemporary evolutionary biology, and we should expect a basic sympathy for science in Tolkien's writings, though not necessarily for all applications of science.

The first chapter, ‘Space, Time and Tolkien’, dives into Tolkien's time-travel story, The Notion Club Papers,  looking into the familiarity with contemporary science fiction (or, as it is termed in the story, ‘scientifiction’) that is displayed within the story, and discussing how Tolkien, in his fiction, is dealing with the moral dilemmas of science. This leads naturally into Tolkien's own science, philology, which is discussed in some detail in the second chapter, ‘Inside Language’. It is here that Gee makes the comparison with the development of evolutionary biology in the twentieth century, showing how the sciences dealing with the evolution of species and the evolution of language shows many parallels, but also how philology was the more rigid and methodological of the two sciences until changes in evolutionary biology happening circa 1950-70. In this chapter Gee also addresses the perception of Tolkien's stance as anti-scientific, showing that such a position would be self-contradictory for Tolkien, despite Gandalf's anti-reductionist comment to Saruman (as given in LotR II,2 ‘The Council of Elrond’).

Chapter 3, ‘Linguistic Convergence’ deals with linguistic parallels, both between Primary World languages, between Tolkien's invented languages, and between these two groups, moving from simple comparisons to both reasons and stylistic considerations.

Naming in Tolkien has seen considerable interest over the years, not least in the eight years since the first edition of The Science of Middle-earth was released in 2004, but Gee's elegant way of tying ‘Tolkienymics’, the study of names in Tolkien's works, with biological taxonomy is still refreshingly different, and his list of biological names (maintained by the International Commission of Zoological Nomenclature) that are inspired by literature in general (such as “the fish Bidenichthys beeblebroxi”) and Tolkien in particular (a long, but nonetheless incomplete, list including the weevil Macrostyphlus Gandalf, and the fossil mammal Ankalagon Saurognathus). The anecdotes on the invention of false names are not only amusing, but also highlight the power of a name even in the Primary World. This theme of naming carries over into the following chapter with the naming of the submerged Rockall Plateau in the Atlantic Ocean, which is the result of continental drift.

Reaching chapter 6, ‘Inventing the Orcs’, the reader is met with a change of focus. From discussions of aspects of Tolkien's work (professional or sub-creational) leading to discussions of points of science and back again, we now encounter a discussion of story-internal aspects of Tolkien's sub-created world informed by science. Chapter 6 deals first with the linguistic roots of Tolkien's Orcs, which are nowhere as ambiguous and enigmatic as the story-internal origin and reproduction of the Orcs. Gee uses his extensive  knowledge to inform his discussion of how Orcs ‘in the wild’ (i.e. not under the immediate control of Morgoth or Sauron) might reproduce, considering industrial manufacture, sexual reproduction and parthenogenesis (a kind of virgin-birth where the mother-animal gives birth to a clone of herself).

This is followed up in chapter 7, ‘Armies of Darkness’, with a discussion of how Melkor, and later Sauron, created their vast armies of Orcs. The discussion here of early competitors to Darwin's theory of evolution, especially Larmarckism, is highly illuminating, and Gee's point that Tolkien's approach to evolution is Lamarckian rather than Darwinian is well made. I was, at this point, also strongly reminded by the article, ‘Legend and History Have Met and Fused’, in Tolkien Studies VIII by Philip Irving Mitchell in which Mitchell discusses the rejection of cultural Darwinism by Barfield, Dawson, Chesterton and Tolkien. Tolkien's own philosophical considerations on the nature of the Orcs (in particular as published in Morgoth's Ring) are neatly contextualised by being put in perspective with examples from both Wells' The Island of Dr Moreau and Swift's Gulliver's Travels (particularly the Yahoo's of the fourth voyage).

The discussion of the biology of the Ents in chapter 8, ‘The Last March of the Ents’, and in particular of their encroaching extinction, is also informed by Gee's impressive knowledge of biology. Discussing various reproductive strategies of plants, Gee opens new possibilities without forcing the reader to accept or reject a specific position. In the same way, the discussion of mycorrhizae as a ‘wood-wide web’ opens new possibilities for our understanding of the influence of Old Man Willow on the trees in the Old Forest.

Another of the ‘great debates’ that Shaun Gunner lamented the disappearance of in an article in Amon Hen (see my post Glorfindel(s), I miss you! from August '12) is the discussion of Balrog wings. Gee's approach is typically scientific and after investigating relevant textual passages he discusses the physics and biology of flying creatures. Since he reaches the same conclusion as I do, I can, of course, only applaud a well-made argument :-)

After Balrogs, the dragons are inevitably next in line, and the discussion of how fire-breathing dragons can be imagined by assuming a gland to produce and store diethyl ether is both interesting (as a scientist) and amusing (as good science should be!). The problem about dragons, according to Gee, is not so much their fire-breathing, but rather that they are vertebrates with six limbs (giving the title of this, the tenth chapter, ‘Six Wheels On My Dragon’), but with a bit of scientific imagination, even this can be resolved, and the exhaling of much rarefied ether fumes can explain the hypnotic powers of a dragon (it's not a spell — it's merely a mild anaesthetic).

The optics of vision is in focus for the chapter on ‘The Eyes of Legolas Greenleaf’, which explains physical optics as well as the workings of the eye (and the image-processing capacity of the brain), together with asides on other solutions to the perception of light (with Gee acknowledging that “Elves, though, did not have the multifaceted eyes of moths.”). This discussion ranges through many aspects of the superior eyesight of the Elves, which is possibly why, in the end, I think the explanation is not entirely satisfying.

The discussion ‘Of Mithril’ in chapter 12 gives us an introduction to modern metallurgy with introduction of an array of highly interesting metallic materials, especially alloys and intermetals. Strangely Gee seems to overlook that neither the letters above the West Door of Khazad-dûm nor the rings of Frodo's mail are made of pure mithril, but rather of metals that the Dwarves made of mithril (“the Dwarves could make of it a metal, light and yet harder than tempered steel” — LotR II,4 ‘A Journey in the Dark’), and the Elves used it to make Ithildin. Remembering this might have made the discussion a bit easier, as there doesn't seem to be any metallic material known that has all the properties of mithril and the mithril-derivates.

Continuing the tour of material science, Gee next turns to the materials used for the Palantíri and the Silmarilli — materials found in ‘The Laboratory of Fëanor’. Invoking quantum entanglement as well as exotic properties of lithium niobate and beta carbon nitride gets us a part of the way and the discussions of these topics (as well as explaining Moh's scale of hardness) are interesting in their own right.

Coming from two chapters discussing material science, I was expecting this to continue when I met the title of chapter 14: ‘The Gates of Minas Tirith’. Instead I was met with a truly excellent discussion of the theme of loss in Tolkien's Ardaic writings — spiritual loss, intellectual loss, technological loss, linguistic loss: they all combine in this discussion, which also makes the connection with our modern world and modern science. For me, this chapter alone is well worth the price of the book!

Loss leads seamlessly to death and decay, and a thorough discussion of the process of ageing (senescence) is of course necessary before one can discuss the immortality of Elves and the longevity of the Númenóreans.  In this is also emphasised our loss of our cousins: that it is actually a rather unique situation in the history of humanity that there is only one human species.

The focus of the book is, naturally, on biological science, and this is also evident in the chapter on oliphaunts and giant spider-like creatures (chapter 16, ‘Giant Spiders and Mammoth Oliphaunts’). Interestingly Gee concludes that Tolkien's oliphaunts might just be remotely possible, but the huge creatures in Peter Jackson's films are not, just as the huge spider-like creatures are impossible. Possibilities and impossibilities are also in focus of chapter 18, ‘In the Matter of Roots’ in which Gee discusses the appearance of such plants as tomatoes, potatoes and tobacco in Tolkien's books, though the interesting part is rather his discussion of how Tolkien uses the naming of plants to set a scene more forcefully; something he does particularly in the Shire to create a sense of homeliness for an English reader by mentioning trees familiar in the English fauna, and in Ithilien by listing a more southern fauna (mainly Mediterranean trees, herbs and shrubs).

In the intervening chapter, chapter 17, Gee takes his outset in the author Arthur C. Clarke's claim (known as Clarke's  Third Law) that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic to advance the idea that there is really no such thing as Elvish magic, and that all we see can be explained by an advanced, organic technology. Gee makes many interesting points in his discussion, and though I think his approach is in some ways appropriate, it also fails to explain everything, as well as contradicting some of Tolkien's own explanations.

Even more exotic is the penultimate chapter, in which Gee invokes both string theory and the associated idea of branes in an attempt to explain the One Ring, though he must, in the end, give up the attempt, though, as he says, this is not “reason for despair” because, to a scientist, “the existence of the inexplicable is a challenge, and a reminder that science always has more to achieve.” Well said! And I might add, a call for the scientist be at his most creative.

Throughout The Science of Middle-earth the science is kept at a level where it remains in interesting and engaging dialogue with Tolkien's writings. Specialised scientific vocabulary is always explained, and the language in general is inviting curiosity. The book displays that essential feature of science, the creativity, and some of the explanations are certainly imaginative.

A bit roughly, I have noticed at least four ways in which the scientific content is being used in relation to the Tolkienian analysis:

First and foremost the scientific explanations and the analysis of Tolkien's writings can be in a dialogue: both offering new perspectives on the other without trying to explain each other. This is, for instance, the case in the chapter ‘The Gates of Minas Tirith’ in which discussion of the loss of textual evidence within Tolkien's own field, and the history of human evolution are used to inform the discussion of the theme of loss in Tolkien's writings, which again is allowed to inform our perception of these scientific themes. This is in general the points where the book, in my view, works best.

We also meet cases where the science content is used to open up possibilities for understanding Tolkien's writings such as the discussion of real world extinction of plant species opening up new routes for us to understand the situation of Tolkien's Ents.

Then there are the scientific asides — the tangential discussions that result from an enthusiastic desire to communicate a topic you love. While usually tangential to the topic, these are carried by the obvious enthusiasm for the science. As a scientifically minded reader, I enjoy these, though I also have to admit that they don't much progress the book overall.

Finally there attempts to explain aspects of Tolkien's sub-created world by means of science. When I view these as attempts to showcase the creativity of science, they do work, but as a Tolkienist, I am inclined to take the attempt at explaining perhaps a bit too seriously, and when that happens (as it did e.g. with the explanations for palantíri and the longevity of the Elves), these parts are where the book is, for me, the weakest.

In a short section at the start, we are treated to some of the praise for the first edition of the book. Here we learn that Tom Shippey called it “the most unexpectedly Tolkienian book about Tolkien that [he had] ever come across.” In most ways, I will say that this still holds, eight years after the first edition. Henry Gee displays a solid knowledge not only of science (which is both his education and his job), but also of Tolkien, and a great capacity for explaining both together and in an interesting language.

At times I miss reference to some more obscure writings of Tolkien, such as e.g. the essay ‘Ósanwe-kenta:
“Enquiry into the Communication of Thought”’ which I think is crucial in a discussion of the thought-transferring powers of the palantíri or the letters in which Tolkien makes clear that the difference between the magic of the Elves and the magic of Sauron is more a difference of intention than a difference of kind (except that the Elves did hold it as evil to use necromantic practices and never used these themselves).

Mostly, however, the book makes me want to engage with its arguments, either in the ‘yes, and . . .’ or in the ‘no, but . . .’ mode, but in either case because it inspires my own creative desire to find explanations. For when Henry Gee says that “All science that is enjoyable and worthwhile, rather than routine or directed in pursuit of some unconnected goal, starts when a person of vision looks outwards beyond the wall of what is known and asks the question ‘What If?’” I think he forgets that other question, the question that has inspired my own fantastic quest of science, ‘Why?’

Friday 7 December 2012

Source Criticism II

I found this lying about in my drafts, where it had lain idle for a goodly while, so I went through it, changed a few bits here and there, and here goes.  The approach is perhaps a bit circumlocutory, but please bear with me — it does become relevant :-)

For the past 9 years I have been working with mobile phones — particularly with their wireless performance (the ratio of erroneously received bits to the total number of transmitted bits) in a variety of situations. When I have analysed the performance of two phones, the inevitable question has always been ‘which is best?’ After I have carefully explained how one is better under some circumstances while the other is better in other circumstances, the next question has always been, ‘yes, but which one is best . . . overall?’

But how are we supposed to compare?

Should we compare the very best that one phone is capable of to the very best that another is capable of? Or perhaps we should compare the worst to the worst — for which phone does the largest fraction of test scenarios fail completely? Or should we perhaps compare the bulk of the data? In statistical terms the median[1] or the mode[2]? If we want a definitive answer, we can only compare one set of numbers.

I start with this illustration of a professional problem because it is, to my scientifically conditioned mind, very similar to the problem of saying something about the value of source criticism of Tolkien's work.

Based on the argumentation in Tolkien and the Study of His Sources edited by Jason Fisher, it is my impression that many would wish to dismiss source criticism as a legitimate critical approach because Tolkien himself disliked it, but I have never agreed with this argument: there are many points where I would disagree with Tolkien; in some cases I even appreciate Tolkien's views as an integral part of his sub-creation and despite disagreeing with him, I wouldn't have any adaptation that took a different position on it (this was my main complaint against the New Line Cinema adaptation of The Lord of the Rings). If new technology and new machines appear to make my life easier, I don't really care if it is at the cost of a few trees . . ..

There is, of course, the question of purpose: if we wish to do source studies, it is fair to ask why, and what we would wish to achieve by it. Verlyn Flieger, at the panel debate on source criticism at the Return of the Ring conference in Loughborough this August, suggested that the purpose was to understand the mind of the author (an endeavour I find no less daunting than Kristine Larsen's wish to “improve our individual chances of holding our own, if only for a brief moment, in a lively discussion with the Good Professor in whatever version of the Eagle and Child awaits the Second Born beyond the Walls of the World.”) In the panel, the conclusion was that we should do source criticism in order to better understand the “mental landscape” of the author. As landscapes can be understood in various levels of detail and abstraction (just play around for a bit with Google maps), I have no problem with that definition, and I would agree that it is a worthwhile effort: even if you wish to understand the story-internal origin of the Orkish race, you will need to understand Tolkien's mental landscape, and understanding it ever better can only help us in our pursuits to also achieve a better understanding of his sub-creational work.

The main issue that I have had with source criticism of Tolkien's work has been that so much of it has been so very badly conducted. I have, in my earlier post about source criticism, listed a number of the problems I have encountered in such studies and I will not expand on that here. One thing that Jason Fisher's book has done for me has been to open my eyes also to those few excellent to perfect examples of source studies that are also there while the bulk of the source studies are still poor. I've tried to illustrate this with a figure — the majority of source studies of Tolkien's work lie between the abominable and the tolerable (with most being merely poor), but a small fraction are good, excellent or even better. In the top we have a few studies such as Verlyn Flieger's Splintered Light.

The following paragraph is inserted after first publication in response to Jason's insightful comments below:
I should add that this represents my personal impression of “Tolkien Source Criticism” alone. As Jason Fisher points out in comments below, this is likely to also be true of other approaches, or indeed of all approaches (I do believe I could find other approaches for which I would say that the same picture to be true). This is also based on what is, after all, a limited sample (I have not read all Tolkien source studies) which may of course not be representative, and it is based on my personal ideas and preferences. I have targeted source studies specifically in response to reading Jason Fisher's book in which he sets out to improve on Tolkien source studies, not because I find that this approach shows particular problems compared to other approaches.

Looking at this, the big problem is upon what we should base our evaluation of source studies as a method for Tolkien criticism. Should we base it on the fact that a select few can use this approach for sublime results? I would venture that this is probably the result of the people rather than the method. Similarly I would claim that those conducting the abominable studies would probably do so regardless of the method. On the other hand, why should we judge the method on what the average guy can make of it?

When we realise that the quality of the resulting study will depend at least as much on the scholar and the specific topic as it does on the chosen method, why should we expect to be able to say anything general about the method at all? As in so many situations, the only answer is, ‘It depends!’

Jason Fisher's book, and in particular his own contribution to it, ‘Tolkien and Source Criticism: Remarking and Remaking’, gives a set of rules and sets up a standard that may help shift the distribution towards something less bottom-heavy — wouldn't it be wonderful if the bulk of Tolkien source-studies were good rather than poor? Certainly in Fisher's book itself the skew is the other way around and the bulk of the essays are better than tolerable.

While I shall probably still approach source studies with a certain degree of scepticism (so as to avoid disappointment), I will also do so with the small hope that this one might be one of the excellent studies, knowing that such studies do exist and are possibly not quite as rare as I had previously thought.

Oh! I do hope to have more to say about Fisher's book at a later point — this is not meant to be a review, but rather some further thoughts on my personal perception of source studies as a critical approach to Tolkien's work.

[1] The point where exactly half the results are better and half are worse. Somewhere between ‘Poor’ and ‘Tolerable’ in the figure.

[2] The point where the most results are concentrated — where the function peaks at ‘Poor’ on the figure.

Sunday 2 December 2012

Tolkien Transactions XXXI

November 2012

So, November has gone and as I write this, Denmark has been decorated with a very beautiful white blanket.

In another part of the world, summer has started and the new Hobbit film has already premiered. In due time I will go and watch it with my family, but compared to how much this has dominated the internet news referring to Tolkien (quite often erroneously conflating Jackson fans and Tolkien fans), you will find relatively little in these transactions referrring to the film.

Oh, and have a merry midwinter celebration.

This month it has suited my purposes to sort the contents under the following headlines:
1: News
2: Essays and Scholarship
3: Reviews and Book News
4: Interviews
5: Tolkienian Artwork
6: Other Stuff
7: Rewarding Discussions
8: In Print
9: Web Sites
10: Sources

= = = = News = = = =

Bangkok Post, Monday, 5 November 2012, ‘New Zealand out to mine tourist magic from Hobbit movies’
Let's set one thing straight before continuing: the action of Tolkien's Middle-earth books is centred around the north-western parts of Europe, and though the correspondance is not one-to-one, this is the only area that is truly associated with Tolkien's Middle-earth. That said, there is nothing new in the attempts by New Zealand tourism to cash in on the film locations from Jackson's films, though I can still be a little surprised at the deliberate cynicism of it all.

Damien Gayle, Daily Mail, Wednesday, 7 November 2012, ‘The Sauron dinosaur: Palaeontologists name beast after Tolkien's demonic creation after it is identified from just its eye-socket’
Aargh! The worst thing is that the poor paleeontologists probably think they are honouring Tolkien this way. The irony is of course two-fold: first of all Tolkien firmly (and convincingly) rejected any connection between the Sindarin ‘saur-’ element in Sauron and the Greek saura (Letters no. 297), and secondly the ‘Eye of Sauron’ is a metaphor — Sauron was physically embodied in a humanoid form during the War of the Ring. Now, however, I just wonder how long it will be before we hear that Saul Zaentz Company tries to prevent palaeontologist Andrea Cau from giving any talk containing ‘Sauron’ or ‘Sauroniops’ . . .

Matia Burnett, Publishers Weekly, Thursday, 8 November 2012, ‘Movie Alert: 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'’
Despite the titular reference to the upcoming Jackson film, this article also gives an overview of other related items, including some of Houghton Mifflin's Tolkien-related portfolio.

Helen O'Hara, Empire, Tuesday, 13 November 2012, ‘Listen To The Complete Hobbit Soundtrack’
This is essentially what it says — a chance to listen to the full 1 hour 45 minutes soundtrack of the upcoming The Hobbit film — having listened I am neither particularly impressed nor particularly disappointed.

JV, Wednesday, 14 November 2012, ‘Prince Charles gets a birthday tour of 'The Hobbit'’
It would seem that Prince Charles had a good birthday visiting the studios of The Hobbit films, including an oath of fealty from Dori (I wonder if either has any idea what such an oath would actually mean in Middle-earth). But good to read that the prince had a good day.

Nathan Vickers, Ozarks First, Wednesday, 14 November 2012, ‘Tolkien Series is Front and Center at Springfield Libraries This Fall’
The story about the Tolkien Festival 2012 in the Greene County Libraries this autumn. It is good to see Tolkien's work getting attention, and I have always found that libraries are at least semi-magic places.

Greg Garrison, Thursday, 15 November 2012, ‘Samford University opens exhibit honoring ‘Hobbit’ author Tolkien 40 years after his death’
So, the Samford University Library has an exhibition about Tolkien commemorating the 40th anniversary of his death next September — well, if you're in Birmingham you might want to go and see it as it's open to the public. Birmingham, Alabama, that is ;) I do hope, though, that the exhibition itself is less focused on Jackson than the article and more on Tolkien himself, but who knows — I suppose the library knows their audience better than I.

Nick Clark, The Independent, Monday, 19 November 2012, ‘Peta to picket The Hobbit premiere after whistleblower reveals ‘preventable’ deaths and ‘needless suffering’ of animals on set’
About the PETA allegations that animals were hurt due to their being involved in the Hobbit film — allegations that the producers (i.e. Jackson et Al.) reject — or at least put in a very different light (depending on which newsstory you read). This is one of two Tolkien-related stories that have received quite a lot of attention this month (try searching Google News for ‘PETA Hobbit Jackson’ . . .).
See also Nick Perry, Associated Press, Tuesday, 20 November 2012, ‘Wranglers say ‘Hobbit’ animals died on unsafe farm’
and BBC, Tuesday, 20 November 2012, ‘The Hobbit producers deny animal mistreatment claims’
and finally Tim Kenneally and Brent Lang, Reuters, Chicago Tribune, Wednesday, 21 November 2012, ‘"The Hobbit’ animal-death story: new line, Warner Bros. back Peter Jackson",0,2459255.story
And finally, Reg Little, Oxford Times, Thursday, 29 November 2012, ‘'Don't sully the image of Tolkien's work'’
In which members of the Tolkien Society express their opinion of the conflict. There are, of course, many, many more stories about this, but I think these will give the whole picture.

Dominic Patten, Deadline, Monday, 19 November 2012, ‘Warner Bros Sued For $80M By J.R.R Tolkien Estate & Publisher’
This is the other big story, and curiously it broke at just about the same time as the story above. The Tolkien Estate and Harper Collins Publishers have sued Warner Bros. and the Saul Zaentz Company (SZC) over their use of digital rights, which the Estate and Harper Collins claim are not included in the original contract in which Tolkien sold the rights to films and related merchandise based on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The triggering factor appears to have been particularly outrageous on-line slot machines and similar games, which have caused some outrage in the on-line Tolkien fan community, but the lawsuit also mentions (e.g. §57) other examples of the SZC having "slowly and consistently,
begun to expand its trademark program to encroach upon areas of merchandise exploitation reserved to the plaintiffs" (pardon my legalese). I have long advocated that the grotesque attempts by the SZC to extend their claims beyond reason would need to be curtailed, and if this is what it takes, then I'll welcome it: I will certainly be rooting for the Estate in this (and if their winning will mean that I have to purchase a set of CDs in order to play The Lord of the Rings On-line (LOTRO), I am sure that I will survive that as well).
See also Matthew Belloni, _Hollywood Reporter, Monday, 19 November 2012, ‘Tolkien Estate Sues Warner Bros. Over ‘Lord of the Rings’ Slot Machines (Exclusive)’
And Allison Flood, The Guardian, Tuesday, 20 November 2012, ‘Tolkien estate sues Hobbit producers over video and gambling games’
As well as Erik Wecks, Wired, Wednesday, 21 November 2012, ‘The Tolkien Estate Sues to Protect Their Precious’
The latter including a sober analysis from a fan perspective (sober, of course, because I mostly agree . . . ;-) )
You might also wish to see John Rateliff's comments, Friday, 23 November 2012, ‘Pushback (Tolkien Lawsuit)’

_Santa Clarita Valley Signal, Monday, 26 November 2012, ‘City libraries embrace 'The Hobbit'’
Libraries all over are taking advantage of the films to host events about the book.

Elena Cresci, Wednesday, 28 November 2012, ‘Farnham artist's Tolkien and Narnia work on display’
About an exhibition of artwork by Pauline Baynes in Farnham running from December 1st to January 12th. If you're in town and has time, I am sure that we are many who would appreciate a report and a list of the works that are on display.

= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =

JM, ‘Tolkien's Metaphysics of the Music’
November started with a discussion of the role of the Vision (parts 27 and 28), with McIntosh arguing the superiority of the Vision (despite its incompleteness). In part 29 he looks into the theodicy of the Music, and in part 30 he returns to the superiority of the Vision, which he argues can be seen in the conversation of Eru and Ulmo about water, and the superiority of the Vision is investigated further in part 31. Part 32 appears to have been lost, but in parts 33 through 36, McIntosh argues that there is a movement from the focus on Eru and themselves in the Ainur's performance of the Music to an awakening interest in, and love for, the idea of ‘the other’ that is introduced in the Vision and of course realized in the actual Creation. This love — or desire — for the other is likened to ‘pure’ natural science through the character of Tom Bombadil (part 34), and is placed on a ‘trajectory from intelligible potency to existing actuality’ (part 35) before the desire for the actuality of the other is itself taken up in part 36. In parts 37 through 42 McIntosh makes a side-track into a discussion of dream vs. reality that is based on Tolkien's comments in ‘On Fairy-stories’ about the use of dream as the framing device for a story. Despite some interesting comments about contrasts between the saints Augustine and Acquinas, I am not convinced that Tolkien's comments in OFS are relevant in the context they are given here. In part 43 McIntosh summarizes his arguments up to that point.

Various (The Tolkienist), October 2012, ‘75 reasons why you should read “The Hobbit” before watching the films’
This month Doug Anderson (Oct. 5th) argues that any work of literature that is worth making into a film is generally also worth reading before watching the film. Dimitra Fimi (12th) reminds us of the light-heartedness of The Hobbit, which is also reflected in the mishmash of influences on the book: we should read this story because of its uniqueness in Tolkien's Ardarin writings, a uniqueness that is very unlikely to be translated to the film-version. Michael Drout (23rd) writes about the meeting, the clash, and the interactions of the heroic and bourgeois worlds in The Hobbit — about Tolkien's excellent balancing where each ‘world’ becomes wiser and enriched by their contact.

Michael Cheang, Sunday, 4 November 2012, ‘Taste the original first’
Another article arguing that people should read the book before watching the film(s), Michael Cheang urges his readers to read the book before watching the film, because he thinks The Hobbit ‘truly deserves to be seen through your own imagination so that you can form your own idea and impression of the characters and rich details before the movie does it for you.’

Robert Rodi, Monday, 5 November 2012, ‘Geek love: How a fantasy hater fell in love with J.R.R. Tolkien’
Author Robert Rodi has looked inside himself and found that his love for Tolkien's books is rooted in a fascination with the Englishness of Tolkien's world. Rodi claims that all Americans are ‘a little bit English’ and that they all have ‘a corresponding desire — even a need — to nourish that part of ourselves.’ His claim is of course that Tolkien is capable of satisfying that need. Unfortunately this doesn't tell us anything about why The Lord of the Rings is so popular in many other places around the world, some of which have no reason to love the English.

H&S, Tuesday, 6 November 2012, ‘The ‘Father Christmas’ Letters’
An overview of the publication history of the Father Christmas Letters by Christina Scull, with comments relating to the quality of the pictures in various editions, the transcribed texts, and the number of letters & pictures. Fully living up to the quality we have come to expect of Hammond & Scull research.

JDR, Thursday, 8 November 2012, ‘Glimpses of Helen Buckhurst’
A tracing of a few glimpses of Helen Buckhurst, Priscilla Tolkien's godmother and recipient of presentation copies of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Along the way there is also some interesting glimpses of Tolkien's relations to the women's colleges in Oxford.

BC, Friday, 9 November 2012, ‘What is the point of the tale of Turin Turambar?’
I cannot follow Charlton in this religious allegory reading of the tale of Túrin Turambar. First of all the real ‘origin’ of the Túrin story is not in the Book of Lost Tales, but in Tolkien's retelling of the Kullervo story from the Kalevala where there is no such offer of hope at the end, and secondly I think this denies Tolkien's admiration for the idea of fighting evil without hope that he found in the Nordic myths and legends.

Il, Saturday, 10 November 2012, ‘Eucatastrophe, Discatastrophe and the destruction of the Ring’
While I cannot agree entirely with this analysis of eucatastrophe and dyscatastrophe in The Lord of the Rings, Ilverai nonetheless makes some intersting points along the way. The pattern of minor turns, either up or down, has been noted before, but warrants repeating, but the very explicitly Christian reading of eucatastrophe is, in my understanding, a misunderstanding of how Tolkien used this concept.

MM, Monday, 12 November 2012, ‘The Sauron Strategies: Footsteps Into Failure’
In this essay Michael Martinez goes through Sauron's strategies in the Second Age in some depth, showing how Sauron was trying to adapt to changing circumstances.

NMB, Wednesday, 14 November 2012, ‘Seven Norse Myths We Wouldn't Have Without Snorri’
Basically Nancy Marie Brown claims that the reason we wouldn't have these myths is not just because Snorri's Edda is the only surviving source for them, but that Snorri invented some or all of them to fill gaps in the then current knowledge of actual Old Norse mythology. Old Snorri practicing mythopoeisis and his myths then later becoming taken up in the modern mythopoetic work of J.R.R. Tolkien — what a fascinating thought!

NMB, Wednesday, 21 November 2012, ‘Seven Norse Myths We Wouldn't Have Without Snorri: Part II’
About Odin, Snorri's Odin, who might be more a figure of Snorri's invention (or perhaps ‘happy interpolation’ would be a kinder way to put it) than of Snorri's sources. Other known sources are, in any case, very brief on the matter of Odin — only in Snorri's Edda and Heimskringla do we find any substantial information. I do wonder what Tolkien would have thought of Nancy Marie Brown's ideas, though I actually suspect that he would have been sympathetic: his own attempt to interpolate and straighten up the Völsungasaga at least suggests as much to me.

JDR, Saturday, 24 November 2012, ‘Tolkien Sings’
Discussion of newly published recordings of Tolkien reading and singing from The Hobbit — including a link to Tolkien singing the ‘Chip the glasses and crack the plates’ song from the first chapter. Rateliff also discusses the dating of these recordings and what they may mean to his book, The History of The Hobbit. (See also the post listed under books for November 19th)

NMB, Wednesday, 28 November 2012, ‘Saga Sites’
About Iceland, the sites from the sagas that can still be visited, and not least how Snorri Sturlason came to receive a good education.

Jonathan Jones, The Guardian, Thursday 29 November 2012, ‘Why Tolkien was a fine modern artist’
Jones takes a look at Tolkien's illustrations for his own stories, which were mainly for The Hobbit, and judges the Hobbit pictures to be ‘beautiful works of art’ that are ‘subtle, even abstract’, and he finds Tolkien a ‘a fine modern artist’. While I do agree that Tolkien's better pieces are very good, I would also have to admit that his range is rather limited by his lack of technical skill in some areas (notably in drawing people).

JF, Friday, 30 November 2012, ‘Reconstructed lexis in Tolkien's Middle English Vocabulary’
Having himself missed such a list, Jason Fisher has compiled, and kindly published, a list of the reconstructed words (the ‘asterisk-words’) that Tolkien made (i.e. that are Tolkien's reconstructions) for his Middle English Vocabulary, which was originally made to accompany Kenneth Sisam's collection of Middle English poetry, Fourteenth Century Verse and Prose. The list comprises asterisk forms in Old English (West Saxon), Old Kentish, Middle English, Old French and Old Norse.

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

Abingdon Press, Thursday, 1 November 2012, ‘About the Book and Author’
The praise in this piece is so thick that it's hard to take it seriously — I doubt that even Devin Brown himself would have written something so one-sided. I am still debating with myself whether I should buy this book or not, and this piece doesn't help me one bit. The only reason for including it is to point it out as an example of an entirely unhelpful review.

Charles Runnells, Thursday, 1 November 2012, ‘North Naples conference motivates Christian artists’
This review is a bit more useful in giving an idea of what Devin Brown's book, The Christian World of The Hobbit intends to be, but it still doesn't say whether it actually achieves it. Clearly Brown attempts to strike a balance — emphasize the role of Tolkien's faith in his fiction without turning the book into a sermon as some Christian critics have done, and I look forward to some real reviews to see if he has managed to find that balance.

Il, Saturday 3 November 2012, ‘In Review: The Lays of Beleriand’
Ilverai looks at The Lays of Beleriand. He finds that the Lay of Leithian in rhyming couplets a ‘joy to read’, but was not terribly impressed by the alliterative Lay of the Children of Húrin — curiously my experience is the exact opposite: for me Tolkien's poetry in general is not terribly exciting (and I occasionally have to drag my way by brute force of will through his long narrative poems in rhyming couplets), but his alliterative poetry is stirring and captivating — here Tolkien is the Master!

Gret Garrett, Monday, 5 November 2012, "Meaning and Imagination: A Review of ‘The Christian World of the Hobbit"’
This appears to be the first review by someone who has actually read the book.
See also
Ellen Painter Dollar, Monday, 12 November 2012, ‘What Hobbits Have Taught Me About God's Providence’
These reviews suffer from the problem that the reviewers want to agree with the author (and perhaps even wanted him to go further), which make for poor reviews that deal very little with what the book actually is and nothing about what the book should be.

BC, Tuesday, 6 November 2012, ‘Roverandom Reviewed’
Thank you to Bruce Charlton for a review of Tolkien's Roverandom. Charlton finds Roverandom's ‘warmth of wit’ 'utterly charming', and he is especially fond of the light it sheds on the ‘good and loving father’ aspect of Tolkien's personality.

Jennie Ramstad, Wednesday, 7 November 2012, ‘Corey Olsen gets introspective with Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit’
A quite short commentary on Corey Olsen's book, Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Jennie Ramstad writes that Olsen, ‘[s]omewhat painstakingly’ writes about the progress of each character, and admits that she found herself ‘gettting lost’ in the book's wealth of information '[d]espite [her] familiarity with the story] and recommends reading Olsen's book along with Tolkien's work.

Brian Sibley, Thursday, 8 November 2012, ‘Bag End Bookshelf’
Comments on the Latin Hobbit, Hobbitus Ille, and on Colin Duriez' new Tolkien biography, J R R Tolkien: The Making of a Legend, which Sibley recommends warmly (also in the blurb he wrote for it and which he quotes in the blog).

JDR, Sunday, 11 November 2012, ‘The New Arrivals (three more books)’
John Rateliff usually give a short description of new books as they arrive and after he has skimmed through them to see what is in there, and though I could wish for an occasional more detailed review to follow, I am grateful for these short notes. The Christian World of The Hobbit by Devin Brown is described as looking to be ‘one of the better books of its kind’ and that its ‘basic premise seems to be that Tolkien's Xianity was sublimated into the world.’ This at least sounds promising. The Hobbit and Philosophy: For when you've lost your dwarves, your wizard, and your way (edited by Gregory Bassham and Eric Bronson) gets, as Rateliff says, ‘the award for 'best subtitle'’, but though a sense of humour sounds very promising, I'll be waiting for other reviews before this gets on my wish-list. The last of Rateliff's new arrivals is Brian Sibley's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Official movie guide - in Rateliff's words, ‘If you're not interested in the movies, might consider giving it a pass.’ Thank you — I'll definitely watch the film, but I think I'll give books about it a pass.

Charlotte Williams, The Bookseller, Monday, 12 November 2012, ‘HoZ acquires life of 'Aragorn'’
Surely in the realm of short items, this tells of a non-fiction book about king Oswald of Northumbria, whom is claimed to be ‘the real-life inspiration for J R R Tolkien's Aragorn.’ Perhaps a bit of research in that direction will not be entirely wasted.

Matt Forbeck, Wired, Thursday, 15 November 2012, ‘Bilbo's Last Song, Revised’
In praise of this thin book, re-issued this October with the illustrations by Pauline Baynes.
See also J.R.R. Tolkien, Salon, Thursday, 15 November 2012, ‘Bilbo's Last Song’
where the text of the poem is reproduced in full.

JDR, Saturday, 17 November 2012, ‘The Hobbit EMPIRE’
About the Hobbit-film-celebrating issue of Empire magazine. Apparently they have also found a picture of J.R.R. Tolkien that wasn't known even to Rateliff. They also seem to spend enough pages on Tolkien and his story to at least inform the general public. I'm not surprised, really, that Shippey is proving very quotable — this also shines through in his lecturing style.

John Williford, The Miami Herald, Sunday, 18 November 2012, ‘Tolkien's ‘Hobbit’ has everlasting power’
John Williford has been talking with Corey Olsen and with Wayne and Christina about The Hobbit and their own books on the subject prior to their visis at the Miami Book Fair.

JDR, Monday, 19 November 2012, ‘Listening to THE HOBBIT’
A list of audio versions (audio-books, audio adaptations, audio dramatisations etc.) of The Hobbit with some comments on each — so far the only additions to Rateliff's list has been some additional recordings of J.R.R. Tolkien reading passages from the book. Hence, if you like listening to your books, this is a very good starting place for The Hobbit. (See also the post listed under essays for November 24th)

Il, Saturday, 24 November 2012, ‘In Review: Splintered Light’
We cannot get too many appreciative reviews of Verlyn Flieger's books out there! Overall this is an excellent review, though I have to say that I do not agree with ‘Ilverai’ about Frodo's defeat in the Sammath Naur: the eucatastrophe is there withheld to make way for a muted dyscatastrophe with the eucatastrophe following in the next chapter, ‘The Field of Cormallen’.

3 News, Tuesday, 27 November 2012, ‘Tolkien-inspired recipes include Hobbit pork pies’
Health Dill, a food blogger working in cooperation with Corey Olsen, wishes to write a cookbook featuring Tolkien-related recipes with commentary by Corey Olsen. Some of the recipes have already been published on Dill's food blog, The book project has been tentatively titled Medium Rare and Back Again and they are crowdsourcing the money needed to develop the remaining recipes and write the book:

Mark Walker, Huffington Post, Tuesday, 27 November 2012, ‘Translating ‘The Hobbit’ Into Latin’
A passage (or a pastiche of more than one passage — I don't really know) from Mark Walker's introduction to his Latin translation of The Hobbit, Hobbitus Ille. In this passage Walker speaks of the reasons for wanting to do a Latin translation, and some of the challenges that faced him as a Latinist in this endeavour.

= = = = Interviews = = = =

Andrew Hough, The Telegraph, Sunday, 18 November 2012, ‘Simon Tolkien: JRR Tolkien's grandson admits Lord of the Rings trauma’
A sober description of some of the problems of being the grandchild of a famous author when you're just trying to be yourself.
See also Daily Mail, Monday, 19 November 2012, ‘The Tolkien ‘curse’: Author's grandson claims Lord of the Rings films were 'like a juggernaut that tore my family apart'’

Joanna Moorhead, The Guardian, Saturday, 24 November 2012, ‘'Being Tolkien's grandson blocked my writing ...'’
Another interview with Simon Tolkien, this one going into more details about his grandfather, the effect on his own desires to write, about the family and the immense pressure created by Jackson's films.

= = = = Tolkienian Artwork = = = =

JD, Tuesday, 6 November 2012, ‘Beren and Lúthien diptych’
One of the few (if not actually the first) pictures of Lúthien or Arwen that manages to convey to me a sense of a greater-than-life beauty. Dolfen manages (in my inexpert opinion) to strike that delicate balance between being too indistinct to convey anything beyond ‘young female’ and being too distinct so that the beholder cannot impose on Lúthien her or his own idea of perfect beauty. Beren, while shabbily clothed, appears to have found a good barber after his months in the wild (one who has left him fashionably stubbled) — but perhaps I should not complain too loudly lest I am accused of envy ;-)

JJK Movies , Monday, 12 November 2012, ‘Lord of the Rings Re-enacted by Ponies’
I suppose we might question the application of the word ‘art’ here, but I found this video (12 min. 13 secs.) quite hilarious. The video itself is an adaptation of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, but in many ways I am more comfortable with this work than I was with Jackson's original — not, I suspect, because of what Jackson didn't get right (in terms of closeness to Tolkien's story), but rather because the things that he did get right set too high expectations for the rest; expectations that were woefully unfulfilled.

JG, Friday, 16 November 2012, ‘Weathertop (Amon Sul/r Hill of Wind).’
A very nice picture of the approach to Weathertop featuring the four Hobbit travellers, Bill the Pony and Strider — and another figure among the trees?

Broadway World, Tuesday, 27 November 2012, ‘Oglio Records Releases ‘In Elven Lands - The Fellowship,’ THE HOBBIT’
The story about the release of an album that, judging by the titles, is inspired rather explicitly by _The Lord of the Rings, it would seem that they just added ‘THE HOBBIT’ to this in order to do something for their Google searchability. I also wonder if they have received permission from the Tolkien Estate to use Tolkien's texts for some of their songs.

JG, Thursday, 29 November 2012, ‘Bilbo's adventure (late for an appointment).’
A painting of Bilbo rushing to get to The Green Dragon at eleven o'clock — precisely!

= = = = Other Stuff = = = =

MD, Sunday, 11 November 2012, ‘A Successful Scholarly Sojourn’
Michael Drout tells of how he spent a week this summer taking a group of ‘students’ travelers through some of the locations of Anglo-Saxon England, turning their holiday into a learning experience. This way of spending a holiday sounds absolutely fantastic, but I'm afraid that I will have little success convincing the family to join next year's Scholarly Sojourn, ‘Imagining Middle-earth: A Journey Through Tolkien’s England’ with professor Drout — also because school will have started in Denmark at that time.

JDR, Friday, 16 November 2012, ‘Tolkien Day at Trout Lake’
What better way to spend a holiday than talking Tolkien with good friends? Incidentally, adding something to The History of The Hobbit about Tolkien's sources for The Hobbit probably wouldn't be a bad idea.

MD, Friday, 16 November 2012, ‘Fun with Lexomics (and you can have some, too)’
I've always been fascinated by Michael Drout's Lexomics project, wanting to know also how it relates to other kinds of stylometric analysis — I want text and formulas, and they give me video ;-) Still, the project is highly interesting.

Robert Rodi, Salon, Sunday, 18 November 2012, ‘Are Hobbits' feet hot?’
A humorous (I sincerely hope!) attempt to apply, in the end, som Freudian analysis to Hobbit feet. It's a nice joke . . . I think.

JD, Monday, 19 November 2012, ‘Hobbit Feest’
A report on the Dutch Hobbit Feest convention. Jenny Dolfen had a good time and even ended up in the local newspaper.

H&S, Sunday, 25 November 2012, ‘Up in the Air: Milwaukee and Miami’
Christina and Wayne write about their journeys to speak about Tolkien's Middle-earth art at the Marquette and his Hobbit art at the Miami Book Fair. Along the way Christina writes that she utilized the time at the Marquette to look at The Lord of the Rings chronologies for a future paper, while Wayne researched ‘various queries [they] had received since [their] last visit to Marquette in 2009.’

JDR, Wednesday, 28 November 2012, ‘Tolkien and Westminster’
Following the announcement (not reported here) that C.S. Lewis will be be honoured with a memorial at the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey, John Rateliff here speculates about the chances that Tolkien might be similarly honoured.

= = = = Rewarding Discussions = = = =

‘Notion Club, Night 69’
The discussions of the Notion Club Papers are certainly worth to look at. Here discussion of Night 69.

‘Christianity and Tolkien’
How to assess the importance and influence of Tolkien's Catholic faith on his writings is an old discussion that will likely never be fully resolved. In this thread the more extreme positions are absent, but many of the relevant arguments are nonetheless included.

‘Tolkien Studies 9’
Following publication, this thread now also features a discussion of Doug Kane's article on ‘Law and Arda’.

‘Tolkien's Prose’
A new promising thread on Tolkien's prose style — the thread still has to really take off, so here's a chance to be in on it from the outset . . .

= = = = In Print = = = =

Beyond Bree November 2012
This month's Beyond Bree features short pieces by Geoff Davies on the age of the One Ring and by Nancy Martsch on the poor survival chances of ponies in The Lord of the Rings. Also there are reviews / comments on the 2013 calendars (Nancy Martsch, Beyond Bree Calendar and Jef Murray Middle-earth Calendar; David Cofield, Tolkien Calendar), Mararet Hiley's book, The Loss and the Silence is reviewed by Ryder W. Miller, the J.R.R. Tolkien: The True Lord of the Rings comic by McCarthy, Lent, and Chichón is reviewed by David Cofield who also reviews the enhanced e-book edition of The Hobbit, and Nancy Martsch also reviews Aiglos special issue no. 2. Additionally there is a further report from The Return of the Ring as well as several smaller pieces and the customary columns.

Amon Hen no. 238, November 2012
In the backward-looking part of the latest issue of Amon Hen we find reports from Oxonmoot 2012 (Carella Ridley and a thank you note from Helen Armstrong [chair]), the unveiling of the Tolkien Blue Plaque in Leeds (Ian Spittlehouse), Discworld Convention 2012 (Jessica Yates), the celebration of the 75th anniversary of The Hobbit at the British Library (Jessica Yates and Chris Kreuzer together) as well as the minutes from a committee meeting and the regular news-columns. Other articles are looking forward such as a discussion of ideas for the future of Oxonmoot and the invitation for the AGM & dinner in April. Michael Cunningham reviews Mark T. Hooker's Tolkien and Welsh and Lyn Wilshire reviews Suzette Field's A Curious Invitation. Anne Marie Gazzalo has written a piece on ‘The Spiritual Kinship of Frodo and Sméagol’, which is at places quite interesting, though I think there is also a hint of the regrettable tendency to turn Tolkien's work into a sermon.

= = = = Web Sites = = = =

Joe Gilranon, ‘The Lord of the Rings Blog (Joe Gilronan Tolkien Art)’
Another artist making pictures inspired by Tolkien's Arda and its history.

‘Ilverai’ (Il). ‘Wandering Paths’
A blog by Grey Havens Group member ‘Ilverai’ on Tolkienian matters.

‘Greisinger Museum’
The Facebook page for the Greisinger Museum, home of the Greisinger Middle-earth Collection. I do think I'll have to take a trip some day that takes me to Switzerland . . .

= = = = 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’

Andrew Wells (AW), ‘Musings of an Aging Fan’

Various, ‘The Northeast Tolkien Society’ (NETS), ‘Heren Istarion’

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

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

Andrew Higgins (AH), ‘Wotan's Musings’

Various, The Mythopoeic Society

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

Jonathan S. McIntosh (JM), ‘The Flame Imperishable’

Morgan Thomsen (MT), ‘Mythoi’

Steuard Jensen (SJ), ‘Strings, Rings, and Other Things’

Tom Simon (TS), ‘The Superversive’

Nancy Marie Brown (NMB), ‘God of Wednesday’

John Howe (JH)

Jenny Dolfen (JD)

Joe Gilranon (JG)

Josh Vogt (JV), ‘Tolkien Examiner’

‘Ilverai’ (Il). ‘Wandering Paths’

David Simmons (DS), ‘Aiya Ilúvatar’

Michael Martinez (MM), ‘Tolkien Studies Blog’

Michael Martinez (MM), ‘Middle-earth’

Troels Forchhammer (TF), ‘Parma-kenta’

Mythprint — ‘The Monthly Bulletin of the Mythopoeic Society’

Amon Hen — the Bulletin of the Tolkien Society

Beyond Bree — the newsletter of the Tolkien Special Interest Group of the Americal Mensa

- and others

Friday 2 November 2012

Tolkien Transactions XXX

October 2012

Ai! laurië lantar lassi súrinen

The leaves do fall golden (and gardners are busy raking and collecting them) and the bones of the trees are gradually coming out from behind the golden foliage. Driving to work this month has (when it hasn't been raining) been a breathtaking experience, coming through the woods of northern Zealand.

In the LotR Plaza we've been collecting the leaves of uncounted years in discussions of The Notion Club Papers now that all of the story (except for the editing of the papers) lies behind us (the story-internal frame being the discovery of the club records ‘after the Summer Examinations of 2012 on top of one of the sacks off waste paper in the basement of the Examination Schools at Oxford.’ We are still not through (having only just started on part 2), so come and join us.

This month it has suited my purposes to sort the contents under the following headlines:
1: News
2: The Fall of Arthur
3: Essays and Scholarship
4: Reviews and Book News
5: Interviews
6: Tolkienian Artwork
7: Other Stuff
8: Rewarding Discussions
9: In Print
10: Web Sites
11: Sources

= = = = News = = = =

Ian Spittlehouse, Monday, 1 October 2012, ‘The plaque is here!’
From a Tolkien-interested perspective, this month began with the unveiling of the Blue Plaque in Leeds. Sponsored by the Tolkien Society, and very much thanks to the efforts of Ian Spittlehouse, the Plaque was unveiled in Leeds on the first of the month — thank you, Ian! This blog entry also includes links to various articles about the Plaque (none of which I will link to below)., Monday, 1 October 2012, ‘Tolkien Society to unveil Blue Plaque in Leeds to J.R.R. Tolkien’
With the upcoming Hobbit films, it is probably no surprise that the Blue Plaque unveiling was mentioned in this on-line film-magazine.

Kyle Wells, Victoria News, Wednesday, 10 October 2012, ‘Inmates find purpose in the world of Tolkien’
This story of inmates setting up Tolkien's The Hobbit as a play, setting it visually in a contemporary world (I wonder whether they nonetheless do swords and bows?) oddly moves me: I think it's the idea of the freedom of the mind combined with Tolkien's strong message (in The Lord of the Rings) about ‘the supreme value and efficacy of Pity and forgiveness of injury’ (Letters no. 191).

Matt Tota, Milton Daily News, Saturday, 13 October 2012, ‘Franklin students to tackle Tolkien’
The story of the ‘readathon’ at Horace Mann Middle School in Franklin, which invites all students to read The Hobbit, promising a field trip to watch the first film as the reward for getting through the book in time (and answering some questions about it). I like to read about how Tolkien's works are taken up in education, though I'm a bit surprised that a teacher opines that the students ‘will have to challenge themselves to get through the thick tale’ unless the time each student is set is much shorter than the six to eight weeks time frame mentioned in the article (recall the children around ten years getting through the Potter books in a matter of days rather than weeks — and though The Hobbit may be more challenging in a page-by-page comparison, there is so much fewer pages).

JV, Sunday, 14 October 2012, ‘LEGO reveals upcoming ‘The Hobbit’ sets at NY Comic-Con’
As is the case with their The Lord of the Rings line of sets, the Lego Hobbit sets are not based on Tolkien's story, but on the Jackson films. In that light it might be interesting to see that there are Elves appearing in the set with the Mirkwood spiders, but no Hobbit — see below for a link to Tom Shippey's comments on Bilbo's heroic progress.
See also

JDR, Monday, 15 October 2012, ‘Middle-earth Coinage’
About the story that New Zealand is issuing Hobbit-related coins that will be legal tender in the country. It boggles my mind too — not the least because New Zealand is about as far away as you can come on Earth from Tolkien's Middle-earth (at least if you want a major land-mass and not just the way of the whales).

JV, Thursday, 18 October 2012, ‘Tolkien lawyers threaten ‘Age of the Hobbits’ film with legal action’
So, here it seems we might get the trial-case with respect to the use of ‘Hobbit’ for various purposes. Lawyers for the Saul Zaentz Company (SZC) and their licensees are threatening legal action against a studio planning to release a low-budget film about a race of small early hominids called ‘Age of the Hobbits.’ I have no interest in the film as such, but I do hope they'll fight out this case and win it to curb the excessive zeal of the SZC lawyers.
See also JV, Thursday, 18 October 2012, ‘Tolkien lawyers threaten ‘Age of the Hobbits’ film with legal action’

Gordon Rayner, The Telegraph, Monday, 22 October 2012, ‘Tolkien fan Prince Charles to meet Peter Jackson in The Hobbit film studios on New Zealand visit’
I think the headline says all I could say.

Nathan Yau, Flowing Data, Wednesday, 24 October 2012, ‘Lord of the Rings visualized’
Emil Johanssen's LotR Project statistics have been getting some attention even from high-end data visualization bloggers such as Flowing Data.
See also
Ami Sedghi, The Guardian Data Blog, Wednesday, 24 October 2012, ‘Demographics of the Lord of the Rings - graphic’
The focus is on what is probably the two best of Emil's graphs: one is the lifespan of the rulers of the Númenóreans and their descendants, and one is the gender distribution by race.

JV, Tuesday, 30 October 2012, ‘Saul Zaentz Company forbids use of ‘hobbit’ in lecture on primitive humanoids’
Dr. Brent Alloway from the Victoria University in Wellington wanted to give an open lecture titled ‘The Other Hobbit’ about the other Hobbit: the hominid elsewhere named the homo floresiensis after the its place of discovery, but the SZC put their foot down (possibly due to their current legal issue with a film called ‘The Age of the Hobbits’). In other media (not quoted below), Dr. Alloway's misunderstanding that the rejection was issued by the Tolkien Estate has been repeated uncritically, possibly damaging the reputation of the Tolkien Estate.
See also Alison Flood, The Guardian, Tuesday, 30 October 2012, ‘Hobbit banned as title of lecture on prehistoric 'hobbit'’

Huffington Post, Wednesday, 31 October 2012, ‘Air New Zealand Launches Hobbit-Themed Safety Video’
Heh-heh! This is actually quite funny :-)

= = = = The Fall of Arthur = = = =

Since the rumours in July, the internet has been remarkably silent on the topic of the publication of Tolkien's alliterative poem, The Fall of Arthur. With official confirmation leading the way, the news have certainly picked up this month. Below you will find both a few selected links that each adds something to our knowledge about this book, and then a series of links that are included (in an abbreviated form) only to show how widespread the press-coverage of this has been (and the links included here is of course merely a small excerpt).

Harper Collins: ‘The Fall of Arthur’
The description from Harper Collins of The Fall of Arthur

PC, Sunday, 7 October 2012, ‘New Tolkien book by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fall of Arthur, will be released in May 2013’
Being out early with his announcement, Pieter mainly adds some context and tells us that ‘Christopher Tolkien has been unable to establish exactly when the poem was written.’

JV, Monday, 8 October 2012, ‘Unpublished Tolkien work confirmed to be released next year’
Josh Vogt buffs up all the unknowns with some of the little that is known by quoting from the published letters and Carpenter's official biography about The Fall of Arthur.

Alison Flood, The Guardian, Tuesday, 9 October 2012, ‘'New' JRR Tolkien epic due out next year’
As usual Alison Flood from The Guardian seems to have a better grasp of Tolkienian matters than most journalist. In this article Christopher Tolkien and John Garth are quoted alongside the Harper Collins editing director, Chris Smith. We are also treated to the first nine lines of the poem that add themselves to the few lines quoted elsewhere (e.g. in Humphrey Carpenter's Biography).

After Alison Flood's article in The Guardian, most news services seem to have been content to repeat from the HarperCollins press release and web-site and from The Guardian article. However, as time has progressed, some people have tried to say something more about it, notably some of the Tolkienists, but also others:

LotR Plaza, ‘Fall of Arthur’
The discussion thread on the LotR Plaza is still an excellent source of knowledge, including discussion of the medieval sources for Tolkien's poem.

JDR, Wednesday, 10 October 2012, ‘THE FALL OF ARTHUR’
John Rateliff is mainly satisfied with collecting what is known about Tolkien's book.

John Lundberg, Huffington Post, Sunday, 14 October 2012, ‘Tolkien's Take on the Arthurian Legends’
John Lundberg wants to educate his readers about alliterative verses (though this is unlikely to be necessary to most Tolkienists, and certainly unnecessary for anyone familiar with The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún). There is, of course, much more to alliterative poetry, but I will be particularly interested to see if Tolkien again sticks to the stricter forms of alliteration found in Old English and Old Norse poetry (Skaldic poetry), or if he will, in The Fall of Arthur be content to use the looser forms developed in Middle English during the alliterative revival of late medieval times (the alliterative Morte Arthure and Layamon's Brut come naturally to mind).

DB, Monday, 15 October 2012, ‘The Fall of Arthur’
In addition to summarizing and commenting on the news itself, David Bratman comments on the place of The Fall of Arthur in earlier Tolkien scholarship.

7 October
_The Australian, ‘The rise of JRR Tolkien's fallen Arthur’
The One, ‘New Tolkien work to be released next May!’

8 October
Oxford Mail, ‘Unseen work by Tolkien to be published’
The Bookseller, ‘HC to release previously unpublished Tolkien poem’
The Oxford Times, ‘Unseen work by Tolkien to be published’
WTOP, ‘Unpublished Tolkien book to be released in 2013’
Flavorwire, ‘J.R.R. Tolkien’s King Arthur Poem to See Publication in 2013’
ActuaLitté (French), ‘La Chute d'Arthur, poème inédit de Tolkien pour 2013’
Tempi (Italian), ‘La scoperta de “La caduta di Artù” e l’inesauribile sperimentalismo di Tolkien’
La Stampa (Italian), ‘Un poema inedito di Tolkien scoperto negli archivi di Oxford’
Iran Book News Agency, ‘HC to release previously unpublished Tolkien poem’

9 October
Huffington Post, ‘New Tolkien Book: J.R.R.'s Epic Poem Out Next Year’
La Razon (Spanish), ‘Un poema inédito de Tolkien inspirado en el Rey Arturo se publicará en mayo’

10 October
Galleycat, ‘J.R.R. Tolkien’s Previously Unpublished ‘The Fall of Arthur’ Coming Next Year’
Huffington Post UK, ‘New JRR Tolkien Book Announced: 'The Fall Of Arthur'’
Kultura (Croatian), ‘Dosad neobjavljeni Tolkien uskoro na policama’
Helsingin Sanomat (Finnish), ‘Tolkienilta uusi kirja ensi vuonna’
Svenska Dagbladet (Swedish), ‘Bortglömd Tolkien-bok ges ut’
ShortNews (German), ‘"The Fall of Arthur’: Unbekanntes J.R.R. Tolkien-Buch erscheint nächstes Jahr"
Sveriges Television (Swedish), ‘Bortglömd Tolkienbok ser dagens ljus 2013’

11 October
Hindustan Times, ‘Tolkien's poem to be out in 2013’
Le HuffPost (French), ‘Un poème de J.R.R. Tolkien sur le Roi Arthur bientôt publié’
Bagnet (Russian), ‘??’
Deutsche Tolkien Gesellschaft (German), ‘Neuer Tolkien: The Fall of Arthur’ (German), ‘Neues Tolkien-Buch erscheint 2013’
Hypervocal, ‘Mordor d'Arthur’

12 October (Belgian), ‘Alweer nieuw oud werk van J.R.R. Tolkien’ (Spanish), ‘Un poema inédito de Tolkien verá la luz en 2013’
IGN, ‘"New’ Tolkien Epic Hitting the Shelves"

14 October
My Boox (French), ‘"The Fall of Arthur’ : une œuvre inédite de Tolkien à paraître en mai 2013"

16 October
Sarah Sloat, ‘Speakeasy’, The Wall Street Journal, ‘J.R.R. Tolkien Moves From Middle-Earth to Camelot’

= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =

Various (The Tolkienist), October 2012, ‘75 reasons why you should read “The Hobbit” before watching the films’
Marcel Aubron-Bülles has continued the series of people answering the question of why one should read The Hobbit — certainly before watching any of Peter Jackson's films, and preferably long ago ;-) This month we have contributions from Chris Seeman (October 2nd), who has the interesting point that while the book is not a prequel to The Lord of the Rings, Jackson's films will be prequels. Tom Shippey (October 12th) writes about Bilbo's heroic progress, and goes on to contrast Bilbo's heroic mode with that of Bard and Thorin — thoroughly good Shippey stuff! Colin Duriez (October 20) speaks of the opening line, saying that ‘the imaginative engagement of these brief words which cast a spell that keeps the reader engaged.’ He further asserts that ‘[a] word like ‘hobbit’ can be worth a thousand pictures.’ This recalls to me Tolkien's words in ‘On Fairy-stories’ about the power of literature, unillustrated, to invoke our personal images: one word is indeed often worth millions of pictures. On October 23rd Guglielmo Spirito speaks about the actual book as the basis, the frame and back of the mirror with the adaptation(s) as the mirror image (no matter how good, no mirror is completely perfect), and Jonathan Fruoco (October 24th) speaks about the beauty of Tolkien's opening sentence and of the opportunity to actually yourself perform the story inside your head while reading it.

JM, ‘Tolkien's Metaphysics of the Music’
Parts 22 through 26 published in October take us into more depth about the act of Creation and God as Creator in both St. Thomas and Tolkien's Ainulindalë before moving on to an attempt to ‘understand more precisely the metaphysical significance of the musical imagery of Tolkien's creation-myth.’ (Part 25).

TS, Tuesday, 2 October 2012, ‘Frodo’s Vaunt’
An essay on Tolkien's use of the ‘vaunt’ (the, often boastful and excessive, promise that must be kept) in The Lord of the Rings. Simon manages to deal with this subject without even touching on that most fateful of all the vaunts in Tolkien's legendarium, the Oath of Fëanor. His analysis is nonetheless very interesting and illuminating.

JDR, Thursday, 11 October 2012, ‘Tolkien's Webley’
About J.R.R. Tolkien's revolver from the Great War, which can be seen at the Imperial War Museum's website. Also notice John Garth's comments about this item and how he believes it has come to the museum. In addition to the link provided by Rateliff, you can see, also in high resolution, the gun here:

MB, Thursday, 11 October 2012, ‘"The Lord of the Gaps’: How Tolkien’s mastery of a literary technique would make ten Hobbit films possible — and they still wouldn’t be enough"
Marcel, you need to work on the length of your titles and ensuing URLs ;)
Regardless of how you may apply this to the idea of film adaptations of Tolkien's works, the discussion of Tolkien's mastery of the literary technique of the gap, the untold story, is interesting. Notice also that Tolkien doesn't necessarily rely on there actually being a tale to tell (known to himself): examples from The Lord of the Rings are the cats of Queen Beruthiel (about which he much later did write something) and Merry and Pippin's last years in Rohan and Gondor, and from the Silmarillion we could mention e.g. ‘the Narsilion, the Song of the Sun and Moon.’

TS, Thursday, 11 October 2012, ‘The Rhetoric of Middle-earth’
An analysis of Tolkien's prose style. Tom Simon takes the so-called ‘New Criticism’ to task for not being able to see literature as a story that has to be experienced as a story, and then proceeds to analyse Tolkien's prose, including his many different ‘voices’, in light of exactly what it does for the story and for the reader's ability to experience the story, to be caught up in the ‘Faërian Drama’, Secondary Belief. Needless to say, I very much agree with Simon's criticism of the various ‘New Criticism’ approaches to a book.
See also comments from John C. Wright, Thursday, 11 October 2012, ‘Superversive on Tolkienian Diction’

JM, Friday, 12 October 2012, ‘Salt Lake City vs. Treebeard's Eyes: Tolkien and Descartes on Tradition’
The first of two posts contrasting aspects of Descartes' ideas with Tolkien's ideas. Here it is Descartes' love for the ordered and rational planning vs. Tolkien's apparent preference for a more organic growth. In the second of these posts (from the 13th — just click ‘next’), McIntosh discusses their different approaches to the relation of desires to reality and realism.

Ivona Elenton, The Grey Havens Group, Monday, 15 October 2012, ‘At the Harbor of the Grey Havens, I clung on to the Pier for dear Life (Or The Art of not Letting Go)’
Musings on the concept of letting go of The Lord of the Rings, in particular in relation to a particularly immersive reading such as the Grey Havens Group has been through, and with a charming story of Ivona's childhood problems with letting go.

University of Leeds, Tuesday, 16 October 2012, ‘Tolkien: 'Sales are not very great'’
The letter that Tolkien wrote to Arthur Ransome and which is kept at the Univeristy of Leeds. For pictures of the two pages of the letter see
Tolkien wrote to Arthur Ransome about The Hobbit that ‘sales are not very great’ and expressing doubt about the possibility of a reprint on December 15th 1937 — less than two months after the publication of The Hobbit. I don't know what exactly Tolkien was imagining, but on December 17th, two days later, C.A. Furth of Allen & Unwin wrote to Tolkien about the reprint that was being ‘rushed through to meet demand in the Christmas trade’ (Hammond & Scull, Chronology, p. 209), so the sales can't have been all that bad. Possibly Tolkien was merely trying to be downplay his success a bit to the older author whose work he and his children admired.

Charles Jeanes, The Rossland Telegraph, Wednesday, 17 October 2012, ‘Frodo lives: Middle Earth, Evil, and the decline of religion in the West.’
This essay is not so much an analysis of Tolkien, but rather an analysis of the cultural landscape (in the late sixties) where Charles Jeanes encountered Tolkien, and about how they made Tolkien's work apply to their own situation. Jeanes seems to me to focus on the work's applicability to himself and the people with whom he discovered Tolkien's work and world.

JM, Tuesday, 23 October 2012, ‘Embodied Immortality in Tolkien and Anselm’
The last of three posts that investigate parallels between Tolkien's Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth (in Morgoth's Ring) and works of medieval Christian philosophical works such as the Cur Deus Homo by Alselm of Canterbury and the works of Peter Damian.

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

Noble Smith, Huffington Post, Wednesday, 10 October 2012, ‘13 Life Lessons From 'The Hobbit'’
I am sorry to say that this piece, to me, is only interesting for being wrong in so many ways :-( The whole concept of trying to teach life-lessons based on Tolkien's books may at first seem attractive, but it would, in my opinion, require a wholly different approach than this, which seems only suited to line the author's pockets with as little work (including mental activity) as at all possible. Do NOT buy his _Wisdom of the Shire_!

JDR, Tuesday, 9 October 2012, ‘The New Arrivals’
A few comments on the book The Unofficial Hobbit Handbook: Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned From Tolkien by ‘The Shire Collective’. Looking at the available preview in Google Books, it seems light-hearted; more meant for fun than for anything serious, but a bit of humour is never comes amiss (unfortunately the advice that Rateliff refers to on ‘how to tell a Good Wizard from a Bad Wizard’ isn't part of the Google preview).

Jason Boog, Galleycat, Thursday, 11 October 2012, ‘Lord of the Rings Trilogy Unabridged Audiobook is 54 Hours Long’
Recorded Books is doing an unabridged audiobook of The Lord of the Rings (to be distributed by Audible), which will contain some 54 hours of listening. I wonder what ‘unabridged’ means in this context — I could imagine some of the appendices being able to work, but the family trees might be rather difficult to present in an audio book . . .
See also Jenny Che, Thursday, 11 October 2012, ‘'Lord of the Rings' and ‘Hobbit’ now available as unabridged audiobooks’
And Laura Miller, Salon, Thursday, 18 October 2012, ‘"The Hobbit’ uncut, at last"
Which discusses the availability (‘finally’) of Rob Inglis' reading of The Hobbit in the USA.

H&S, Tuesday, 16 October 2012, ‘Tolkien Notes 1’
‘This is the first in a continuing series of brief notes on Tolkien matters, that is, when the subject doesn’t call for a longer post all to itself, or when we don’t have a lot to say about it.’ In this first collection of notes Wayne and Christina comments on descriptions of their latest Tolkien book, The Art of the Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, on their appearance at giving talks and at book fairs, and on a couple of new Tolkien-related publications with pictures by Jemima Catlin (an illustrated Hobbit and the 2014 Tolkien Calendar).

Janet Brennan Croft, Mythopoeic Society, Sunday, 21 October 2012, ‘Mythlore 119/120: Table of Contents Announced’
Only one contribution this time that is obviously about Tolkien, Sue Bridgwater's ‘The Steward, The King, and the Queen: Fealty and Love in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and in _Sir Orfeo_’ which I look very much forward to. Other items that I find particularly promising is about ‘Yggdrasil and the Stave Church’ by G. Ronald Murphy, and a couple of pieces about Lord Dunsany. And then there are the list of reviews, which will probably make their way to the Mythopoeic Society website over the coming months, and in most cases be mentioned here when they do.

JF, Monday, 22 October 2012, ‘How to review books’
Jason Fisher has put down his thoughts on what a good book review should be: what its purpose is and how various aspects of the review should be weighted (roughly). I read a lot of book reviews, and have even written a few myself, which may account for my finding this discussion very interesting (where others might find it gets at least one meta-level too far from anyting about Tolkien). Still, if you find that you rely on reviews for guiding your use of your money, I think you will find Jason's thoughts interesting.

BC, Monday, 29 October 2012, ‘My Amazon reviw of the 1968 BBC radio dramatisation of The Hobbit’
Bruce Charlton liked this dramatisation, giving it 4 out of 5 stars despite some minor quibbles.

= = = = Interviews = = = =

Mitch Teich, ‘Lake Effect’, NPR Milwaukee, Tuesday, 2 October 2012, ‘A Bit of Middle Earth in Downtown Milwaukee’
A long interview with John Rateliff on how Tolkien's manuscripts and papers relating to The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, Farmer Giles of Ham and Mr Bliss came to Marquette University Library and about Tolkien's work and Tolkien studies more generally. Well worth listening to.

JDR, Wednesday, 3 October 2012, ‘I'm On NPR’
John Rateliff's own comments on the interview, including a couple of corrections of his own statements.

‘All Things Considered’, NPR , Sunday, 21 October 2012, ‘A Reminder To Tolkien Fans Of Their First Love’
Interview with Corey Olsen, ‘The Tolkien Professor’, for NPR programme ‘All Things Considered’ about The Hobbit — for many of us indeed where we found our ‘first love’ for J.R.R. Tolkien's works and worlds. The interview is a good 6½ minutes, which sometimes seems to be close to an age in the electronic media of our times. Well said, Corey!

Leonie Harris, ‘Saturday Breakfast’ ABC Perth, Saturday, 27 October 2012, ‘The Tolkien Professor, Corey Olsen’
Another interview with Corey Olsen about The Hobbit, this one is more than 16 minutes and covers a lot of different aspects of the story making it well worth listening to.

= = = = Tolkienian Artwork = = = =

JD, Wednesday, 3 October 2012, ‘Maedhros searching for the sons of Dior’
Another of Jenny Dolfen's First Age Elven motives — Maedhros, one-handed like Beren, holding up a lamp and looking for Elros and Elrond during the Fëanorian attack on Doriath.

JD, Saturday, 20 October 2012, ‘Beren and Lúthien – lineart’

= = = = Other Stuff = = = =

Kelly House, The Oregonian, Monday, 1 October 2012, ‘Lunchtime Laugh: Bilbo Baggins, from ‘The Hobbit,’ gets a Twitter account’
If we ignore for the moment the errors (even those in the headline), the idea of tweeting the events of The Lord of the Rings is quite amusing. It appears that the story has started, this time round, on June 30th with Gandalf meeting Ragast on the road (apparently events before this and after the marriage of Arwen and Aragorn exactly a year later are ignored to pack the tweeting of a story into a year and a day).

Joe Carter, Wednesday, 10 October 2012, ‘The Most Beautiful Phrase in English?’
What is it with ‘cellar door’ that makes it a contender to the title of 'the most beautiful phrase in English'? This blog post doesn't attempt to answer that, but refers to a February 2012 article in The New York Times that investigates the history of this idea in a little more depth.

AW, Sunday, 14 October 2012, ‘Some Tolkien links for you’
A collection of links to various Tolkien-related stories that Andrew Wells has found for us. Do check them out!

Alex Cranz, Monday, 15 October 2012, ‘Incontrovertible Proof JRR Tolkien Could Not Write Women’
Given that 23% of Tolkien's characters were female, the headline is of course a bit of an exaggeration, but I think that it is correct that something made Tolkien write significantly less women than men, and that there is more to this than merely a similar skew in his legendary sources (these should only to a very small degree affect the description of the Shire). Investigating this reluctance is, I would say, a reasonable line of research.

BBC, Tuesday, 16 October 2012, ‘JRR Tolkien letter reveals poor sales of The Hobbit’
See also the article from the University of Leeds mentioned above. In the light of the planned reprint (of which Tolkien was adviced at the latest in a letter dated 17th December from C.A. Furth at Allen & Unwin) ‘Poor sales’ is definitely a bit of journalistic license (which appears to give no smaller margins for invention than artistic license).

Deirdre Donahue, USA Today, Wednesday, 17 October 2012, ‘10 reasons we still love J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Hobbit'’
A curious mix of well-researched points and groan-inducing prejudiced idiocies this article took me through new reflections, quiet smiles, laughter and the afore-mentioned groans of exasperation. Well worth reading for the sheer range of my emotional responses ;-)

Eddie Makuch, Gamespot, Wednesday, 17 October 2012, ‘The Troublesome Task of Translating Tolkien's Tome’
About the task of translating Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings into a Lego game — though of course that is not what they did, rather they translated Jackson's film trilogy into a game, which is not quite the same thing (some would likely hold that it is a vastly different thing).

MB, Saturday, 20 October 2012, ‘Starting today: Presenting Tolkiendili from all over the world’
An introduction to a new series of posts at The Tolkienist in which Marcel will let Tolkien societies from around the world describe themselves.

MB, Saturday, 20 October 2012, ‘Tolkien fandom in Lithuania and Tolkien Lietuva’
A history of Tolkien fandom and societies in Lithuania and a description of the current Lithuanian Tolkien Society, Tolkien Lietuva Draugija. Doing both hikes and summer camps, they seem in many ways to combine elements of two of my most cherished spare time activities (though of course there's more to Scouting than camping and hiking).

Nathan Yau, FlowingData, Wednesday, 24 October 2012, ‘Lord of the Rings visualized’
Emil Johansson's Lord of the Rings Project is mentioned on FlowingData in their Statistical Visualization blogging category. I rather like the graph shown here — it visualizes the actual life-span of kings and rulers of Númenórë and the Dúnedain kingdoms in exile, and the underlying assumption is of course that the life-span of the ordinary people followed the same overall trends.

PC, Monday, 29 October 2012, ‘The Friendship of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien’
A nice and short article to intrude the topic of the friendship between Lewis and Tolkien along with references to a couple of books on the Inklings.

H&S, Tuesday, 30 October 2012, ‘Boston Book Festival’
A description of their trip to the Boston Book Festival, where they were on a panel about The Hobbit with Corey Olsen, moderated by Ethan Gilsdorf.

= = = = Rewarding Discussions = = = =

‘The Notion Club Papers read-through’
Introduction and nights 54 through 60 (part 1):
Night 61 (part 1):
Nights 62-66 (part 2):
Quite entertaining and clever discussions of the Notion Club Papers

Rohir, or rochir appears both in the Sindarin/Gondorian name for the Riders, the Rohirrim, and in the name of one of Elrond's sons, Elrohir. The word, its pronunciation and spellings is discussed in this learned thread.

‘Chunks of Poetry in The Silmarillion’
Comments and discussion based on an article by Carl Phelpstead and the observation that there is very little actual poetry in The Silmarillion when compared to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

‘What do you not like about Tolkien's works?’
A nicely provocative question, don't you think? The last part of the thread (as of the end of October) ends up discussing Tolkien's treatment of Éowyn and the general underrepresentation of women.

= = = = In Print = = = =

Beyond Bree October 2012
Geoff Davies has guest-edited this humour-issue, titled It's Beyond Me in which Mark Hooker contributes a clever story about the ‘discovery’ of a Tolkienian hobbit pastiche of an inscription on an old Roman bridge, Geoff Davies himself offers a list of Tolkienian spoonerisms while Dale Nelson stands in staunch defence of Tolkien's early poem Goblin Feet, lamenting the self-important Elvish ‘warriors’ and ‘ladies’ of Tolkien's later writings. From the Gondor Herald Crier we get Scott Warner's obituary for Fangorn the Ent, and Bernard Roessler has kindly translated a 1968 letter from the Elf ‘Logo’ to his friend, Dorion, in which is revealed the plans to cover up for Tilion and the dragons when Men would land on Isil. In the science section we also find a learned exposition of the Ranger formula: E = m c^2. A collection of riddles, doodles, verses, faux letters and a non-advertisement for the 2013 Beyond Bree Calendar make up the rest of the bulletin — except for the only non-humorous bit (though it is far from being the only serious part): the last half page is given to the usual list of news and notes.

= = = = Web Sites = = = =

The Guardian, ‘JRR Tolkien’
A catalogue of articles from The Guardian about JRR Tolkien and his work going back to 1991 (though only two items are before 1999 when stories related to the Peter Jackson films began to appear).

Tom Simons, ‘The Superversive’
A blog by author Tom Simons

Tolkien Inspiration, ‘The Ring Verse ... in 56 Languages’
From Albanian to Valencian, the Ring-verse around the world. Obviously I cannot understand them all, but I am not very happy with the Danish translation, which I think has changed the meaning more than was necessary.

= = = = 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’

Andrew Wells (AW), ‘Musings of an Aging Fan’

Various, ‘The Northeast Tolkien Society’ (NETS), ‘Heren Istarion’

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

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

Andrew Higgins (AH), ‘Wotan's Musings’

Various, The Mythopoeic Society

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

Jonathan S. McIntosh (JM), ‘The Flame Imperishable’

Morgan Thomsen (MT), ‘Mythoi’

Steuard Jensen (SJ), ‘Strings, Rings, and Other Things’

Tom Simon (TS), ‘The Superversive’

John Howe (JH)

Jenny Dolfen (JD)

Nancy Marie Brown (NMB), ‘God of Wednesday’

Josh Vogt (JV), ‘Tolkien Examiner’

David Simmons (DS), ‘Aiya Ilúvatar’

Michael Martinez (MM), ‘Tolkien Studies Blog’

Michael Martinez (MM), ‘Middle-earth’

Troels Forchhammer (TF), ‘Parma-kenta’

Mythprint — ‘The Monthly Bulletin of the Mythopoeic Society’

Amon Hen — the Bulletin of the Tolkien Society

Beyond Bree — the newsletter of the Tolkien Special Interest Group of the Americal Mensa

- and others