Tuesday 3 July 2012

Tolkien Transactions XXVI

June 2012

Given the huge amount of Tolkien-related stuff that is going on on the internet every month, these Transactions are inevitably going to reflect my personal tastes and prejudices — there is no way that I would be able to even read, much less comment upon, every single Tolkien-related item that I come across.

Much is sorted away based merely on headline and preview, while other things are quickly closed. This e.g. happens to reviews of other authors whose work is compared to Tolkien as well as to most of the rumours concerning the Hobbit films that are being made in New Zealand. I am not much interested in films in any case and so I am utterly indifferent to any discussion of which actor gets to play which part and similar rumours.

Inevitably I will miss something — it would be naïve to think otherwise, and I often discover things soon after posting that ought to have been included, which is why you will occasionally find items listed with dates that lie before the start of the month of the issue in question. I am grateful for any suggestions and pointers that you can come up with, so please post them! As usual I make no claims about newness, exhaustiveness and relevance, but contrary to earlier statements, I actually am proud enough of this to take full responsibility for what I am doing here ;-)

The items have been sorted into the following sections:
 1: Obituary
 2: News
 3: Essays and Scholarship
 4: Reviews and Book News
 5: Other Stuff
 6: Interviews
 7: Rewarding Discussions
 8: In Print
 9: Web Sites
10: Sources

= = = = Obituary = = = =

Another of the most respected on-line experts on Tolkien lore has died.
I never knew David M. Gransby by other name than his user-name, halfir, but i quickly learned to respect his knowledge both on Tolkien and on related matters (halfir was very well read indeed), and his judgement. One rarely learns and grows only by speaking with those who agree with you, and I learned a lot from the few discussions where I happened to not agree fully with halfir — learning for which I will always be grateful.

I am sure that halfir now is perfectly capable of holding his own, as Kristine Larsen suggests, ‘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.’ (‘Sea Birds and Morning Stars’ in Tolkien and the Study of his Sources p. 82). Whether we knew him as halfir or David, his wisdom and his wit will be sorely missed by us who remain within the Circles of Arda.


= = = = News = = = =

Erik Kain, Forbes, Friday, 1 June 2012, ‘On The Jackson-ification Of 'The Lord of the Rings'’
Erik Kain admits to getting ‘a little tired of the Peter Jackson/Warner Bros. version’ of Tolkien's stories — not, I suppose, because they are bad, but rather because it is a ‘shame’ that they are ‘quickly becoming the only way we experience Tolkien’s work.’ I suppose Kain would find himself agreeing with many of the points that Ruth Lacon makes in her essay on the Tolkien Library website (see the Transactions for January 2012 — no. XXI). In this case the immediate cause for this concern is the Lego imagery which is clearly copying the visualization from the Jackson / New Line Cinema films.

Josh Vogt, Examiner.com, Thursday, 7 June 2012, ‘Warner Bros. reveals extent of ‘The Hobbit’ licensing deals’
Well — what it says, basically ;-) A reminder to those of us who labour out of our love for Tolkien's work that this is not what makes the world go round. At some level I am also reminded of Doug Anderson's announcement in April that he has left the editorship of Tolkien Studies — the Mordor business style is not limited to publishing.

Josh Vogt, Examiner.com, Friday, 8 June 2012, ‘LEGO designer videos highlight LEGO: Lord of the Rings sets’
A reference to the new videos that Lego have put on-line about their ‘Lord of the Rings’ series.

Geeks of Doom, Monday, 11 June 2012, ‘Check Out These Beautiful ‘Lord Of The Rings’ Illustrations By Frank Frazetta’
A gallery of illustrations by Frank Frazetta inspired by The Lord of the Rings. I don't think the mail that Éowyn wears in Frazetta's version is very practical, nor that it would have served to hide her gender . . ..

Lynn Maudlin, Mythcon, Sunday, 17 June 2012, ‘Mythcon 43 (Aug 2012): Progress Report 2 Available’
People will, as usual, be gathering for the annual Mythcon, and those planning to attend (and even some of those not) will be pleased to know more about the progress.

Sohmer and Lar, Sunday, 17 June 2012, ‘Least I Could Do’
Just for laughs: on the child-rearing effects of the all-seeing eye . . . :-)

John Kovalic, Dork Tower, Monday, 18 June 2012, ‘Novel Game’
John Kovalic has created a series of comics that portray the evolution of The Lord of the Rings as the result of the Inklings playing a table-top role-playing game. The idea is, I think, amusing enough to warrant mention here, but I can't help but believe that it would have been more funny if the author knew (considerably) more about the history of the writing of the book (‘Blimey, Ronald, old man! You can't have us roll up that same group again — I simply won't play that silly Hobbit ranger, ‘Trotter’ , any more!’ "Well, Jack, in that case . . . we do need a ranger, but why don't you try to roll up a Man . . . we can call him ‘Strider’ instead . . .'). Of course, in that case the humour might be lost on the majority of the audience (on the other hand — who reads a comic called ‘Dork Tower’ if not people who know about Trotter, the Hobbit ranger?). And do read the following posts to ‘Dork Tower’ since these are also about the Inklings role-playing game.

Kirsten Acuna, Business Insider, Friday, 22 June 2012, ‘Um, An IMDB User Actually Thought ‘Lord of the Rings’ Ripped Off 'Harry Potter'’
I am sure that most of you have seen this story in one variant or another. Surely this must be a troll — and one that is just on the edge between clever and too stupid, but I can't imagine anyone actually being that . . . uninformed while still having the urge to communicate on the subject.

= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =

JDR, Friday, 1 June 1 2012, ‘Final Thoughts re. Wilson’
I am just a little wary of my own reaction to these posts by John Rateliff as I suspect that there might be just a bit of spite involved in my amusement, but I can't help being both interested and amused . . . ;-)

JM, Friday, 1 June 2012, ‘Tolkien's Metaphysics of Evil’
Part 41, ‘Hegel, Marx, and Sauron's Ring’
In his series on Tolkien's Metaphysics of Evil, Jonathan McIntosh this month takes us futher along the road of his thoughts on Tolkien's ponerology. In the first posts McIntosh is still dwelling on the idea of the desire for domination (as the fourth sage in Tolkien's ‘lowerarchy of evil’), discussing the dependency of the master upon the slave — or upon his Machine: a theme that is easily extended to a discussion of Sauron's dependency upon the Master Ring and further to the concept of Morgoth's Ring. From there he moves on to what he consideres the fifth and final stage of evil which is the will to annihilation. From Melkor's nihilism (see e.g. Morgoth's Ring) this moves on to claim that only God (Eru) can truly annihilate anything, and to discuss suicide as an expression of this nihilistic desire — by committing suicide you do annihilate the whole world from your own perspective. The last posts in the ‘Metaphysics of Faërie’ section this month are not marked as being part of this series, but I suspect this is a mere oversight — they certainly follow on nicely from the discussions. The final posts that I suspect belong to the ‘Metaphysics of Evil’ series deal with Ungoliant and her ‘unlight’ which, in particular with the general (albeit not universal) identification of darkness with evil, would seem to imply a Manichaean kind of evil force — hopefully McIntosh will discuss this subject further in July.
Category ‘Metaphysics of Faërie’:

BC, Saturday, 2 June 2012, "Charles Williams - ‘phenomenally religious"’
This month Bruce Charlton writes mostly about Charles Williams, whose vision he seems to attach much import to. Personally my only interest in Williams is in his relation to Tolkien (who, despite their being very good friends, apparently didn't like William's work very much), and so I am unable to comment much on the contents of these posts, though I found them interesting to read.

JM, Monday, 11 June 2012, ‘Saruman the Gollum’
A series of three posts (so far) dealing with Saruman and his fall from grace — his ‘Gollumification’. I can see the point, but I am not ultimately convinced of McIntosh's initial claim, which can be summarized in the final sentence of the first post: ‘Saruman is sounding like a learned Gollum.’ The idea that is developed in the third post, however, seems far more convincing. The basic idea is to see a number of the interactions with Saruman as ‘an encounter or conflict between a hierarchically lower yet more virtuous being and a higher yet morally compromised being’, which compares very well to a passage from Milton's Paradise Lost.

JM, Wednesday, 13 June 2012, "Sub-creation and Augustine's ‘seminal reasons"’
Expanding on John Houghton's work in the article ‘Augustine in the Cottage of Lost Play’ in Tolkien the Medievalist (edited by Jane Chance), this post looks into the parallels between what Augustine calls ‘seminal reasons’ and Tolkien calls ‘sub-creation’.

JM, Tuesday, 18 June 2012, ‘One greater than Beowulf: Aragorn and Tolkien's marginalization of the monstrous’
Some thoughts on Aragorn and Beowulf as rulers and as fighters of monsters.

MM, Thursday, 21 June 2012, ‘Did Pauline Baynes Choose the Location of Dorwinion?’
On the placement of Dorwinion on the 1969 Pauline Baynes map, which ‘it must be presumed’ was ‘communicated to her by’ J.R.R. Tolkien along with other places and names.

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

JDR, Tuesday, 5 June 2012, ‘The New Arrivals’
This time we are told about a string of new Tolkien-related arrivals at the Rateliff residence: a second edition copy of Drout's Beowulf and the Critics, Amon Hen no. 235 along with Mallorn no. 53 and an unnamed book (presumably the advance copy of Corey Olsen's book on The Hobbit which Rateliff discusses in a later post).

PC, Thursday, 8 June 2012, ‘The Hobbit is coming as are the film tie-in publications’
Some news from the Tolkien Library about the planned publication of film tie-in products from Harper Collins and Houghton Mifflin.

Mark T. Hooker, Mythprint, Tuesday, 12 June 2012, ‘Hobbit Place-names’
A review of Hobbit Place-names: A Linguistic Excursion through the Shire by Rainer Nagel (originally appearing in Mythprint 49:3 (#356) in March 2012). Mark Hooker is quite pleased with Nagel's book, which investigates the place-names of The Shire in both the English original and the German translations.

PC, Friday, 15 June 2012, ‘What Would Bilbo Do? The Unofficial Hobbit Handbook’
About an upcoming handbook written by ‘The Shire Collective’, who proudly proclaim on the front cover of the book that ‘Everything I Need to Know about Life I learned from Tolkien’.

David Oberhelm, Mythlore, Friday, 15 June 2012, ‘Good Dragons are Rare’
The fact that this book, edited by Fanfan Chen and Thomas Honegger, collects essays in English, and German as well as in French does seem rather daunting, and Oberhelm also observes a ‘lack of a cohesive structure’ which certainly will not help someone likely to get lost in the several languages. Still, it would seem that there are some gems in this volume for the selective (or dedicated) reader.

JDR, Sunday, 24 June 2012, ‘Advance Reading Copy’
Rateliff has, probably not really surprisingly, been sent an advance reading copy of Corey Olsen's forthcoming book, Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, and speaks highly of it, though he doesn't reveal much about the actual contents (except with regards to the chapter on the riddle game, which has been read out earlier this year).

= = = = Interviews = = = =

MM, Friday, 15 June 2012, ‘An Interview With John Garth’
Michael Martinez' interviews with Tolkien scholars are usually highly interesting, and his interview with John Garth is no exception to that. The focus is, very naturally given the focus of Garth's own Tolkien research, on Tolkien's experiences in the First World-war and other very early experiences.

Colin Duriez, Saturday, 30 June 2012, ‘A lifetime’s study of J. R. R. Tolkien: An interview with Jane Chance’
A lengthy interview with Tolkien scholar Jane Chance conducted by another Tolkien scholar, Colin Duriez. There are many interesting points to ponder in this interview (and indeed several of them are taken up in the associated comments thread)

= = = = Other Stuff = = = =

H&S, Saturday, 2 June 2012, ‘Well, We're Back’
After a trip to England, Christina and Wayne are blogging again. Among the news this time is the information that their Art of the Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien has been nominated for the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies (see also the announcement last month from the Mythopoeic Society, and their appearing at Tolkien-related events this autumn. Among the other items from June are accounts of various trips, including the trip to England in May, that are quite charming.

JDR, Wednesday, 13 June 2012, ‘In Praise of (Other People's) Basements’
An old friend has gifted John Rateliff a number of calendars including a number of old Tolkien calendars . . . three cheers for that kind of old friends!

LS, Thursday, 14 June 2012, ‘Kalamazoo 2012’
Larry Swain's report from Kalamazoo — officially known as the ‘International Congress on Medieval Studies’. Larry went to his first-ever Tolkien session (insert appropriate comment here) and then only sort-of half-reports on it (please, we want to _know_!), but Merlin DeTardo was reading a source-study paper on Sigurd and Gudrún. Otherwise it seems an enjoyable affair as, it is my impression, usual.

= = = = Rewarding Discussions = = = =

LotR Plaza: ‘Tom B: Peeling the Onion (Collegium 1)’
To commemorate halfir, here is a link to a very thorough investigation of Tom Bombadil that is mainly carried out by halfir, but in discourse with other posters.

‘Tragic figures’
An interesting discussion of tragic figures in Tolkien. Somewhat marked by a lack of common understanding of what constitutes a ‘tragic figure’, but that just makes for some equally interesting side-discussions.

‘Tolkien's 'chief hero'’
Inspired by a blog-post in May, this thread includes Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull's explanation of why they were so sure that Tolkien's use of ‘chief hero’ refers to Sam.

‘The Narrator's Voice’
A discussion of the narrator's voice in The Hobbit — probably the one narrative element in all his published works that Tolkien expressed the greatest regret for. What is good about it, and what is bad? Does it make a difference whether something is meant to be ironic?

= = = = In Print = = = =

Beyond Bree June 2012
The June issue of Beyond Bree features a long article by Anne Marie Gazzola titled ‘One Lucky Hobbit: The Spiritual Journey of Bilbo Baggins’ dealing with Bilbo's great luck in The Hobbit. Other notable articles include the seventh (and last — at least for now) part of Dale Nelson's series ‘Days of the Craze’, this time dealing with the reaction of one Bill Meyers to Tolkien's work. Mark T. Hooker has a very interesting comment to the change in editorship of Tolkien Studies in which he looks at alternatives to the traditional academic publishing. On top of these there are the usual collection of smaller articles, letters, comments, news and reviews. Really, if you have not yet taken out a subscription, you should do so soon.

= = = = Web Sites = = = =

Tolkien Letter
Now there is one lucky man ;-)
On how he received (part of) a letter by J.R.R. Tolkien and what is in it.

Tolkien manuscript page
Manuscript page from the chapter ‘The Stairs of Cirith Ungol’ with a picture of Cirith Ungol showing the entrance to Shelob's lair and the the pass and tower beyond.

= = = = 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’

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’

John Howe (JH)

David Simmons (DS), ‘Aiya Ilúvatar’

Michael Martinez (MM), ‘Tolkien Studies Blog’

Michael Martinez (MM), ‘Middle-earth’

Troels Forchhammer (TF), ‘Parmar-kenta’

Mythprint — ‘The Monthly Bulletin of the Mythopoeic Society’

Amon Hen — the Bulletin of the Tolkien Society

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

- and others


  1. Troels, in the "Who is Bombadil?" material there is a reference to King Bonehig.

    Who is that?

    PS: More "Days of the Craze" entries will be coming to Beyond Bree.

    1. Good to hear that there will be more "Days of the Craze" :-) Having been born in the latter half of the sixties, I am too young to remember those days myself (except for vague memories of suburban roads), but I find the history interesting.

      Unfortunately I have no idea who "King Bonehig" might be. With a little luck it might be one of the items that come from Charles Noad's essay in Leaves from the Tree (which I don't have myself) that halfir refers to, but apart from that I have no idea - the internet is proving to be strangely unhelpful on that one.


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