Thursday 2 February 2012

Tolkien Transactions XXI

January 2012

That was quite a month! For some reason the month of January 2012 has been busier than usual, and not just because of the celebration of the Birthday Toast (see below). Writing this up, I have skipped some things that would normally have made the list, but that means that this has been a very good month to be an internet-using Tolkien enthusiast!

= = = = The Birthday Toast = = = =

On the 3rd of January 2012, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien would have become 120 years old had he lived. The annual birthday toast is a world-wide event that seemingly just grows and grows each year, and so also this year. A number of media published stories on and about the birthday, and here is a collection of these.

First the Tolkien Society 2012 Birthday Toast pages:

James Cartledge, Birmingham Mail, ‘Birthday marks start of big year for fans of The Lord of the Rings creator JRR Tolkien’
- with a local Birmingham perspective.

Matt Blum, Wired, ‘Celebrate J.R.R. Tolkien's Twelvetieth Birthday Today!’
- mentioning also Tolkien's friendship with C.S. Lewis.

Various, ‘Happy Birthday Professor Tolkien!’
- a birthday thread.

Amy H Sturgis, ‘A day to celebrate!’
- the personal view.

PC, ‘Celebrate J.R.R. Tolkien's 120th Birthday today’
- an encouragement.

‘Altaira’, ‘Happy Birthday, J.R.R. Tolkien!’
- a networked toast.

Empress Eve, ‘Celebrate J.R.R. Tolkien’s 120th Birthday With A Toast’
- yet another invitation to join the toast.

David Simmons, ‘Happy Birthday, JRR Tolkien’
- a copycat . . .

Garfeimao, ‘In the LA area? Join local fans in toasting Tolkien’
- a clear invitation. Clearly it's too late for this year, but if you watch the Facebook site you may be in time for the 2013 toast.

Rebecca Job, Geek Culture Examiner, ‘Raise a toast to Tolkien on his 120th birthday’
- not so geeky as you'd think.

Tom Hawking, Flavorwire, ‘Vintage Tolkien Covers from Around the World’
On Flavorwire Tom Hawking celebrates Tolkien's birthday by posting pictures of fifteen covers of Tolkien books, starting with a first edition of The Hobbit and travelling through Europe, Middle-east and Asia. The covers range from the familiar to the odd, with some being quite interesting.

Sam Parker, Huffington Post, ‘Tolkien And Made Up Languages From Fiction’
At the Huffington Post, the Professor is celebrated by another listing, this one related to his ‘secret vice’ — the invention of languages. The list of invented languages used in fiction starts, of course, with Tolkien, including an erroneous mix-up of writing systems and languages . . ..

= = = = Tolkien and the Nobel Prize = = = =

Alison Flood, Thursday, 5 January 2012, ‘JRR Tolkien's Nobel prize chances dashed by 'poor prose'’
Newly released material from the Nobel organisations in Stockholm reveals that C.S. Lewis, whose professorship entitled him to make nominations, nominated his friend J.R.R. Tolkien for the 1961 Nobel Prize in Literature for The Lord of the Rings. The powerful committee secretary, Anders Österling, however, cut Tolkien's work, finding that ‘the result is not in any way writing of the highest quality’ (‘_resultatet har dock icke i något avseende blivit diktning av högsta klass_’). The 1961 prize went to Yogoslavian author Ivo Andric, with Graham Greene and Karen Blixen coming in as numbers two and three.

This story has been picked up by a number of news-services and Tolkien bloggers, of which the more interesting include:

Anders Ekström, Tuesday, 3 January 2012, ‘Greene tvåa på listan 1961’
- The Swedish article that started it all.

JDR, Thursday, 5 January 2012, ‘Tolkien's Nobel’
- John Rateliff blogging about it, and offering some interesting perspectives.

BBC, Friday, 6 January 2012, ‘JRR Tolkien snubbed by 1961 Nobel jury, papers reveal’

David Blackbourn, Spectator Book Blog, Friday, 6 January 2012, ‘The art of fiction: Tolkien edition’
- With an excerpt from the 1971 interview of Tolkien by Dennis Gerroult for BBC4.

The Huffington Post, Friday, 6 January 2012, ‘Tolkien Rejected For Nobel Prize Because Of 'Poor Storytelling'’
- Mentioning also Tolkien's 1972 CBE as ‘perhaps the biggest personal recognition Tolkien ever received.’

PC, Saturday, 7 January 2012, ‘Why J.R.R. Tolkien was denied the Nobel Prize in 1961’
- Pieter Collier offers yet another perspective on the story.

JDR, Saturday, 7 January 2012, ‘Tolkien's Style (Nobel, con't)’
Some additional comments from John Rateliff relating specifically to criticism of Tolkien's prose.

MD, Sunday, 8 January 2012, ‘Tolkien and the Nobel Prize’
Michael Drout discusses what seems effectively to be the incommensurability of the modernist aesthetic to that of the aesthetic of the medieval tradition that Tolkien was linking to. Very interesting stuff. Also, be sure to read the comments that contain some additional developments that are very recommendable.

TF, Tuesday, 10 January 2012, ‘Not as Black as They're Painted?’
I add what is, perhaps, the shape of another piece of the puzzle (although the picture on the shape needs to be filled in), by saying a little about the context of the comment in the protocol of the Nobel Committee in the Swedish Academy.

DAA, Thursday, 19 January 2012, ‘2011 and Some Nobel Thoughts’
Douglas Anderson adds some further pieces, having spoken with a Swedish translator, and also speculating whether the Academy members read Tolkien's work in the original (not their native language, and a language in which Swedes born prior to the Second World War would in general be less proficient than later generations) or in the infamous translation by Åke Ohlmark.

= = = = News = = = =

Lydia Aisenberg, The Jerusalem Post, (undated), ‘Their Precious’
The story of how one Hebrew translation of The Hobbit came about in an Egyptian prison for prisoners of war some forty years ago . . .

MD, Friday, 6 January 2012, ‘A Return to Blogging (?)’
Michael Drout promises — or hopes, or threatens — a return to more regular updates to his blog, Wormtalk and Slugspeak. We can only hope!

Middle-earth Radio Special, Saturday, 7 January 2012, ‘Tom Shippey's Library’
A forty-minutes interview with Tom Shippey including a virtual tour of some of the items in the Shippey library and the story of the first time Shippey spoke at a Tolkien-related event, and Tolkien's secretary asked for a copy of his talk to give to Tolkien.

Jasbir Authi, Birmingham Mail, Tuesday, 10 January 2012, ‘Pictures: Plan to breathe new life into Sarehole Mill’
The story of planned repairs and maintenance to the sluices and mill pond at Sarehole Mill — with some nice photographs, both old and modern. Even if the mill could end up producing hydroelectric power for Sarehole homes, I think it is nice to think that the mill, a part of the inspiration for the Shire, is being preserved.

JDR, Tuesday, 10 January 2012, ‘The Lost HOBBIT cartoon (1966)’
About the appearance on YouTube of a 1966, 12 minutes long, animated adaptation of The Hobbit. Follow the links in the blog to see the actual film and read about its history.

Nick, Monday, 16 January 2012, ‘Mythgard Students Create WikiMoot’
This wiki is mainly relevant for those who study or work at the Mythgard Institute, but some of the information is quite relevant for others as well. Apart from the lists of reading materials for the various courses, the page for free research resources is interesting:

JDR, Monday, 23 January 2012, ‘Tolkien Among the All-Time Best Sellers?’
Of the six works that have sold more than 100 million copies, Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings rank numbers 4 and 3 respectively . . .. Not bad! (Tolkien is the only author with two works on the list.)

Greg Stohr, Businessweek, Monday, 23 January 2012, ‘Copyrights on Foreign Works Upheld by U.S. Supreme Court’
I am not sure which of Tolkien's works are included in this case, but evidently some are (possibly the first edition of The Hobbit that has it's 75 anniversary this autumn), and consequently the case has a Tolkien interest.

JDR, Tuesday, 24 January 2012, ‘Tolkien Among the E-Books’
Some interesting comments on the sales of Tolkien's works as E-books.

Failblog, Tuesday, 24 January 2012, ‘SOPA via LOTR’
Not just for fun . . .. The humorous reference to Hobbits and Sauron show something that is also commented upon in a more serious context elsewhere: the pervasive popularity of Tolkien's work can be seen by such references in pop-culture and elsewhere such as naming an extinct humanoid race ‘Hobbits’ or putting Tolkien's failure to win the Nobel Prize in the headline before other names.

Alison Flood, The Guardian, Thursday, 26 January 2012, ‘JRR Tolkien's Middle-earth gets a complete genealogy’
Sometimes it can be a bit surprising what makes the headlines of the news websites. This genealogical picture (not complete, of course, be still very thorough) has seen quite a few corrections and changes since it first came under public scrutiny, but though it is now a much better product, I will nonetheless say that I think the idea of a single genealogy is flawed from the outset. As many will know, I warmly advocate viewing Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium as an evolving vision in constant change. The idea behind this genealogy seems to me to adhere to the fannish idea of a single ‘canon’ — a single, static vision of Tolkien's sub-creation that is in some ways more true than any other; that idea is, in my view, a false representation of what Tolkien actually achieved (regardless of whether he tried to do something else — something that is more debatable).

Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, Monday, 30 January 2012, "First Look: ‘Lord of the Rings’ Lego Toyline "
As reported many places around the interweb, Lego have released some photos of some of the figures from their upcoming The Lord of the Rings product line. This is Lego, but the imagery is nonetheless heavily influenced by the New Line Cinema films — a pity, I think, that they didn't attempt to find a more independent visual expression, but I suppose it is inevitable, as they will also be wanting to cater to those who only know the story from those films.

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

JDR, Sunday, 8 January 2012, ‘Tolkien's Application for War’
The National Archives have put some of Tolkien's service records from the Great War on-line here:

The National Archives, ‘Officer's service record: J R R Tolkien’
This also includes Tolkien's trench fever service record and the letter he sent from Great Haywood to report for ‘further orders’: ‘I have the honour to be, / Sir, / Your obedient servant. / JRR Tolkien / 2/lt.’

Ruth Lacon, Saturday, 14 January 2012, ‘To Illustrate or Not to Illustrate? That is the Question...’
Wow! Excellent essay by Ruth Lacon on the question of illustrating Tolkien's texts. I agree (perhaps not in every detail) with most of what she has to say on the subject, but I think that, in the last part, ‘the lady doth protest too much, methinks’ — accusing Tolkien of approaching iconoclasm ignores, in my opinion, the fundamental divide Tolkien made between creation and sub-creation.

H&S, Sunday, 15 January 2012, ‘G.B. Smith: An Inventory’
A list of the personal effects of G.B. Smith recorded some days after his death. On why this is actually interesting, I will refer you to Wayne and Christina who say it much better than I could hope to.

MD, Friday, 20 January 2012, ‘Tolkien Aloud’
Inspired by reading Tolkien out loud to his kids, Michael Drout discusses the qualities that make The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings so easy to read out loud, making some very interesting observations in the process.

Michael Saler, Huffington Post, Tuesday, 24 January 2012, ‘Explaining Imaginary Worlds: Why ‘Lord Of The Rings’ Is Addictive’
Michael Saler, author of As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary Prehistory of Virtual Reality, gives a historian's perspective on the additive quality of imaginary worlds with special focus on the worlds of Arthur Conan Doyle and J.R.R. Tolkien. While I don't think that Saler can offer the whole answer (and I don't know that he would claim so himself), I do think that he offers an interesting analysis and a solid argument for having at least a part of the answer.
Tom Shippey has reviewed Saler's book in the Wall Street Journal:

JF, Friday, 27 January 2012, ‘Another Gandalf who signed himself with a G.’
In a pleasant mix of philology and history-lesson, Jason Fisher looks at the medieval canonist, Magister Gandulphus who also at times signed with just a 'G'.

The Telegraph, Monday, 30 January 2012, ‘JRR Tolkien's grumpy holiday letter sells for £1,700’
I don't think the letter is ‘grumpy’ though it does show some of Tolkien's old-age concern for Edith's and his own health. But £1700?? I am not paying that much for a letter by Tolkien, but I am nonetheless interested in knowing about them :-)

= = = = Book News = = = =

H&S, Tuesday, 3 january 2012, ‘The Tolkien Collector 32’
Information for Tolkien collectors: issue 32 of Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull's The Tolkien Collector is now out.

Harley J. Sims, Mythlore, Friday, 13 January 2012, ‘Review: The Ring and the Cross’
The discussion of the role of Christianity (and particularly Roman Catholicism) in Tolkien's writings is to the more serious Tolkien criticism not unlike the discussions about Balrog wings to many fans. Sims finds that The Ring and the Cross, edited by Paul E. Kerry, is a good input in this discussion, not least because it brings the two sides into dialogue. The review, with it's very brief summary of the contents of the book, is actually worth reading in itself even if you cannot or will not read the book.

JF, Wednesday, 18 January 2012, ‘Celebrating Tolkien's 120th birthday’
The French Tolkien Society, Tolkiendil, will be publishing a special issue of their publication, L’Arc et le Heaume, in celebration of Tolkien's 120th birthday. A collection of essays that look very promising, I am once more chagrined by my lack of linguistic abilities, but I am hopeful that they will be able to fulfil their dream of publishing the English essays on-line after the publication in French. I suspect that Jason will publish any news, and if so, I will certainly follow :)

JF, Friday, 20 January 2012, ‘My book now available for Kindle’
Tolkien and the Study of his Sources is now also available for Kindle. See more below.

Mike Foster, Mythlore, Friday, 27 January 2012, ‘Tolkien and the Study of His Sources’
This review originally appeared in Mythlore 115/116.
Mike Foster seems, overall, to be quite satisfied with Jason Fisher's collection, though the review is mostly a summary of the various contributions. To that I can add my own recommendation that the collection as a whole is well worth reading despite some two or three weak contributions.

Holly Ordway, Mythprint, Tuesday, 31 January 2012, ‘Arda Reconstructed’
Douglas Kane's work has been criticised heavily from some quarters of the Tolkien community (see e.g. on his web-site referenced below under ‘Websites’), and Holly Ordway's review seems to balance quite well between the more extreme viewpoints.

= = = = Interviews = = = =

PC, Monday, 9 January 2012, ‘Interview with Sam Roads about The One Ring Facebook Game’
Péter Kristóf Makai's paper in Tolkien Studies 7, ‘Faërian Cyberdrama: When Fantasy becomes Virtual Reality’ introduced the idea of using the theoretical models that have evolved around modern virtual game-worlds to understand some of the attraction of Tolkien's Secondary World, and now Pieter Collier goes a step further with this interview with a designer of a game based on Tolkien's world. One could certainly argue that there are other games that might be relevant to hear about, Lord of the Rings On-line comes readily to mind, but this is, I think, a good place to start.

Justin Hall, Monday, 16 January 2012, ‘Interview with Pieter Collier’
Having himself interviewed several people for his Tolkien Library web-site, Pieter Collier is now interviewed for this blog

Laura Parker, Gamespot, Monday, 30 January 2012, ‘Creating the World of Amalur: An Interview With R.A. Salvatore’
An interesting interview with R.A. Salvatore. I can't really agree with him, though, that the fantasy genre has matured since Tolkien — at least, not unless you define the genre to exclude Tolkien's work. This doesn't mean that I think it hasn't improved in any respect — I do think that the genre in general has improved on some aspect since then, but overall I don't think it is more mature nor better than what Tolkien wrote. While I am very fond of much of Salvatore's work, I think his work is, overall, more adolescent than Tolkien's. (I can be fond of adolescent literature if I want to!)

= = = = Other Stuff = = = =

‘km_515’, Sunday, 20 February 2011, ‘Oldest and Fatherless: The Terrible Secret of Tom Bombadil’
I am not sure exactly how seriously this is meant, but it is at any rate an interesting take on Bombadil — without attempting to engage in the discussion about Tom's ‘true nature’ within Middle-earth, but merely looking at what we ‘know’ about Tom and pointing out the inconsistencies in that knowledge.

PC, Sunday, 1 January 2012, ‘Celebrating Cor Blok - A Tolkien Tapestry: Pictures to accompany The Lord of the Rings’
It is hardly news that the 2012 Tolkien Calendar once more features art by Cor Blok, nor is it new that Pieter Collier has edited the book A Tolkien Tapestry featuring text and pictures by Cor Blok. Between the lines this article speaks of the devotion to Tolkien and to Cor Blok's art — and of the dedication that made him track down all the pieces by Blok and obtain high-quality scans of them all: ‘I embarked on one more mission and collecting once again took up another meaning’ Pieter tells. Here is also an interesting 12 minutes interview with Cor Blok, where he speaks, among other things, of Tolkien's view on an illustrated edition of The Lord of the Rings.

Tom Shippey, Swallows & Daggers, Saturday, 7 January 2012, ‘The Wrong Sow’
Spurred by comments in a review unrelated to Tolkien, Shippey here comments on the ending of The Lord of the Rings in general and Sam's ‘Well, I'm back’ in particular.

Wellinghall, Thursday, 19 January 2012, ‘Tolkien slept here’
From an article about fictional places with a real-world connection . . .. I think more could be said that included also other places than the Birmingham area.

H&S, Sunday, 22 January 2012, ‘Filling Up the Corners’
Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull have been posting a series of posts on their Tolkien collection and their collecting activities. These are written in their usual engaging style, and though one may have to suppress a pang of something approaching envy, they are also very interesting :-) In this post, Christina writes about their work towards finding some of the items that miss in their collection.

Luke Bailey, Alligator, Wednesday, 25 January 2012, ‘Shire from Lord of the Rings an ideal economic model’
Hobbitonomics? Much as I love Tolkien's works, I don't think the societies they portray (even if just those portrayed in a very positive light) present a viable alternative to the modern technological world. Still, it is interesting to see that serious economists can be inspired in their theory-formation by Tolkien's works.

H&S, Sunday, 29 January 2012, ‘Of Bookshops Past, Part One’
Wayne Hammond writes about the memories of bookshops visited in childhood and youth . . . ah, I remember visiting second-hand bookshops in Copenhagen with my friends three decades ago, searching for science-fiction and fantasy . . . the smell in these places, and the joy of discovering yet another set of shelves hidden behind a hitherto undiscovered corner . . .

H&S, Tuesday, 31 January 2012, ‘Of Bookshops Past, Part Two’
Part two of Wayne's reminisces about bookshops visited in childhood and youth . . .

= = = = Rewarding Discussions = = = =

LotR Plaza: ‘The Hobbit - An Unexpected Party (HRT 1)’
A Chapter-of-the-week read-through of The Hobbit that starts with this thread. In this thread there is also a discussion of Tolkien's claim that his ‘Matter of Middle-earth’ was ‘primarily linguistic in inspiration’.
Ch 2:
Ch 3:
Ch 4:
The opening post for chapter 3 is written by me.

Mythsoc list: ‘Types, Stereotypes and Archetypes.’
A quite interesting thread dealing with the differences between stereotypes and archetypes . . . and other kinds of types in the intelligent manner that is typical (sorry, but I couldn't resist that one) of the Mythsoc list.

= = = = Web Sites = = = =

The Compleat Gyde to Tolkien Calendars
If there is a question about Tolkien calendars that has been nagging you, this is the place to start looking for an answer. I wouldn't be able to boil down a review of this site to a single sentence, but I can manage it in a single word: Wow!

Meditations on Middle-earth Exerpt: Rhythmic Patterning in The Lord of the Rings
An essay by Ursula K. LeGuin.

The Hall of Fire
A website that, among it's prominent members, count Douglas Kane under his ‘Voronwë the Faithful’ internet pseudonym. Also includes a forum dedicated to Kane's book, Arda Reconstructed,
where you will, among other things, be able to find a thread in which Kane discusses the book with Carl Hostetter, who quotes Christopher Tolkien's comments about the early drafts that Kane sent him.

The Catholic Imagination of JRR Tolkien
An excellent collection of links to articles, essays, papers etc. on Tolkien and Catholicism (for in introduction to the controversy regarding this question, see the review of The Ring and the Cross linked in the Book News section)

The Hobbit in Czech and Slovak: A Comparison
A thorough comparison of the Czech and Slovak translations of The Hobbit . . . seeing something like this makes me wonder how much effort it would take to do the same for the Swedish, Norwegian (both), and Danish translations . . .. Probably too much for me to take on for some years to come.

The Hobbit in Russian
Not the entire story, of course, but probably the pages carrying illustrations. In Russian, or so I am told, the word normally used doesn't distinguish between feet and legs, and nobody had, apparently told the illustrator, Mikhail Belomlinsky, that it was only Hobbit feet that were furry . . .

Catalogue of papers of (Arthur) Owen Barfield
A catalogue of the papers of Owen Barfield that are at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

= = = = 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’

Jackson Crawford (JC), ‘Tattúínárdøla saga’

Troels Forchhammer (TF), ‘Parmar-kenta’

Mythprint — ‘The Monthly Bulletin of the Mythopoeic Society’

Amon Hen — the Bulletin of the Tolkien Society

- and others