Sunday 7 April 2013

Tolkien Transactions XXXV

March 2013

Finally! I am very sorry that it has taken me this long to finish the March summary, but once more events relating to my off-line life (mainly family, scouting and work) have conspired to keep me exceedingly busy for the past two to three weeks, preventing me from working on these transactions until this weekend (6th-7th April). So, with no further ado, here it is.

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

= = = = Tolkien Reading Day = = = =

The international Tolkien Reading Day falls every year on the (non-adjusted) anniversary of the destruction of the Master Ring in the fires of Mount Doom. This year the topic for the reading day was Tolkien's landscapes. I joined my fellows in Bri, the Copenhagen Tolkien Society, for a reading in a ‘Bog & Ide’ book shop in the large Copenhagen mall, Fields, where I read from chapter six of The Hobbit. Elsewhere, Tolkien Reading Day was celebrated in many other ways:

MB, Monday, 25 March 2013, ‘Tolkien Reading Day’
Marcel does an internet reading day, quoting some of the fantastic landscape descriptions from Tolkien's books and telling more generally about Tolkien Reading Day.

Ilverai, Monday, 25 March 2013, ‘Wishing you a Happy Tolkien Reading Day’
Well, thank you Ilverai, and I hope you had a good one too.

Other coverage:

Garfeimao, Friday, 22 March 2013, ‘Tolkien Reading Day is 10 years old’
Telling (one version of) the history of Tolkien Reading Day.

Sean Kirst, Friday, 22 March 2013, ‘Saturday in Syracuse, books, movies and landscapes: Tolkien Reading Day, 2013’
On the slightly off-time celebration of Tolkien Reading Day in Syracuse, NY on Saturday 23rd.

Stephanie Katz, Bradenton Herald, Sunday, 24 March 2013, ‘Speaking Volumes: Explore the world of J.R.R. Tolkien’
That is, I presume that Tolkien Reading Day is the occasion for this invitation to explore the world and life of Tolkien written by a Manatee County Public Library System staff member.

The Express, Monday, 25 March 2013, ‘Top 10 facts about J.R.R Tolkien’

The Guardian, Monday, 25 March 2013, ‘Tolkien Day: how well do you know the lands of Lord of the Rings?’
A nice quiz focused on this year's theme: Tolkien's landscapes. Need I say that got them all correct (without looking up anything)? :-)

Delaware County News Network, Monday, 25 March 2013, ‘Today is Tolkien Reading Day’

The Chronicle-Journal, Wednesday, 27 March 2013, ‘Day of activities held to celebrate Tolkien’

= = = = Conferences = = = =

JDR, Friday, 1 March 2013, ‘Valparaiso, day one’
Reporting from arrival day at the Tolkien conference in Valparaiso, mostly about meeting up with known faces, but also visiting the exhibition.
See also Tuesday, 5 March 2013, ‘Valparaiso, Day Two’
about the second day at the conference, here with reports on a number of papers (several of which I hope will appear in print) by e.g. Verlyn Flieger (apparently along the same lines as her plenary talk at The Return of the Ring), Judy Ann Ford, David Bratman.
And , Tuesday, 12 March 2013, ‘Valparaiso, Day Three’
about the last day at the conference, on which Rateliff gave his own talk, ‘In the Company of Dwarves: _The Hobbit_'s Influence on _The Silmarillion_’, of which we will hopefully hear more at some later point.

DB, Thursday, 7 March 2013, ‘celebrating The Hobbit in the snow’
David Bratman's report from the Valparaiso conference — praising John Rateliff's talk, and offering some very brief, almost kaleidoscopic, comments on other events of the conference.
See also the following posts, on Friday, 8 March 2013, ‘more posts about music and food’
about the music (two concerts) at the conference — and the food.

JF, Friday, 15 March 2013, ‘The C.S. Lewis and Inklings Society Conference’
Jason Fisher, about a week before the conference, gave the schedule for the conference, which he would attend — having (for the fourth time) won the first price for the best scholar essay.

MB, Saturday, 23 March 2013, ‘Why Easter is your chance to meet some dwarves, Radagast, Jay Johnstone, LotRProject and the Tolkienist — at HobbitCon!’
HobbitCon sounds like a good place to spend Easter ... (though perhaps a little too much emphasis on Jackson's world for my tastes).

= = = = News = = = =

Exeter College, March 2013, ‘Exeter's Library - Tolkien's creative space’
While the story is really about securing money for a refurbishment of Exeter College's library, they link it to Tolkien. While the story of the Finnish grammar is correct, the claim that Tolkien ‘began to invent both a language and a world for it to describe’ in the library of Exeter College is clearly wrong — that part came later.

Scott Thil, Morphizm, Monday, 4 March 2013, ‘Bilbo the Billionaire: A Short History of J.R.R. Tolkien's Greed Wars’
A rather thorough commentary (and walk-through) of the legal battles surrounding Tolkien's legacy. I just wish that Mr. Thil (and many other commenters) would understand that the Tolkien Estate and Tolkien Trust are not concerned with the money at all — if they wanted more money, they could get them in the heaps by clever licensing deals for e.g. the stories of Túrin Turambar and Beren & Lúthien, but they don't.

Ben Child, The Guardian, Thursday, 14 March 2013, ‘Hobbit gambling rights: Warner Bros countersues JRR Tolkien estate’
One of the Tolkien-related news-stories this month has been the countersuit filed by Warner and the Saul Zaentz Company (SZC) against the Tolkien Estate and HarperCollins. I, for one, am perfectly willing to testify in court how the licensing practices by Warner and SZC have caused me emotional distress — and I wouldn't be lying. As it is, however, I suppose that the best I can do is to merely cheer the Estate and their publishers and hope they will be able to curb the rights that the SZC and accomplishes are trying to assert. The point that some reporters seem to miss is that the Estate gives tosh about the money — their concern is to protect Tolkien's name from the sullying (if they wanted more money, they could easily license parts of The Silmarillion to e.g. Peter Jackson ...).
See also the following:
Daisy Bowie-Sell, The Telegraph, Friday, 15 March 2013, ‘Warner Bros file counter law suit in Tolkien Trust's battle to stop Hobbit appearing on slot machines’
Mr. Holznagel, Thursday, 28 March 2013, ‘J.R.R. Tolkien is Spinning in His Grave (and Coming Up 7-7-7)’
Eriq Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter, Friday, 29 March 2013, ‘Tolkien Estate Challenges Warner Bros.' ‘Patently Absurd’ 'Hobbit' Countersuit’

Henley Standard, Monday, 18 March 2013, ‘Bishop delivers first Tolkien lecture’
‘The Bishop of Portsmouth delivered the first J.R.R. Tolkien Memorial Lecture at the Oratory School in Woodcote.’ Well, of course the Birmingham Oratory School will have to have a Tolkien Memorial Lecture — but at least they are on solid grounds here. From the death of his mother, Tolkien's guardian was Father Francis, one of the Oratory priests, at at an earlier point Tolkien had even gone to the Oratory School (before going back to King Edward's School). This, however, was of course prior to Tolkien going up to Oxford in 1911 — quite a bit earlier than the dates mentioned here.

MB, Wednesday, 20 March 2013, ‘Now even the Pope is a Tolkien fan?’
About a message written by the new Pope, then Cardinal Bergoglio, in 2008, and touching also on other famous Tolkien fans (and some Jackson fans). In the comments is my best attempt at providing a translation of the paragraph that mentions Tolkien.

Nuala McCann, Thursday, 21 March 2013, ‘Did Gollum get his name from a cave in the Irish Burren?’
The answer, quite clearly, is NO! Tolkien did not visit Ireland until 1949 after finishing The Lord of the Rings (in draft), and then only as an Extern Examiner for the National University (leaving him little time to go sight-seeing). It was not until the fifties that Tolkien went there on holiday and had time for sight-seeing. Being based solely on the old, pre-philological habit of grasping at vague similarites (which would have infuriated Tolkien), these spurious claims need to be rejected forcefully.
See also Irish Independent, Wednesday, 20 March 2013, ‘How the Burren inspired Tolkien's 'Misty Mountains'’
Given the dates involved, the suggestion in this headline is of course even more absurd.
Also see Aoife Finneran, The Irish Sun, Sunday, 24 March 2013, ‘Riddle Earth! Is Burren inspiration for land of the hobbits?’
No riddle — just NO! The sad thing is that it is so incredibly easy for an unscroupled person to make such foolish claims, and they have a way of sticking in popular memory despite all that more conscientious Tolkienists put in of work to refute the claims.

Selin Ildokuz, Sunday, 24 March 2013, ‘South Orange Middle School Club Delves Into Tolkien's World’
It is enheartening to hear about this kind of school activities — here about the Middle Earth Club at South Orange Middle School who are celebrating Middle-earth with various activities.

Justin Page, Monday, 25 March 2013, ‘LEGO Smaug, Inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien's 'The Hobbit'’
Amazing Lego dragon!

Unknown, Friday, 29 March 2013, ‘I Wager Movie’
Just for fun! Though, is any of the First Age stuff actually in the Jackson/New Line films?

= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =

Paul Vigor, Saturday, 2 March 2013, ‘Walking Through Wilderland: An English archaeological landscape investigation’
This latest post in the Tolkienist's series ‘75 reasons why you should read ‘The Hobbit’ before watching the films’ (if you were not convinced by the compelling argument Peter Jackson gave us in December) sends us walking through the real heartland of Middle-earth: the English Midlands — or the ancient kingdoms of Hwicce and Mercia. Vigor argues convincingly that the land itself, and in particular the land as experienced through walking it is an important ‘source’ to Tolkien's work.

Paul Greatrix, Friday, 15 March 2013, ‘Hobbit talk’
A copy of the oration given by Professor E. J. W. Barrington when Tolkien was awarded the degree of Doctor of Letters honoris causa by the University of Nottingham in 1970. It is quite a lovely oration and it shows that Barrington had actually read Tolkien's works.

MT, Sunday, 17 March 2013, ‘Vinyar Tengwar 50 Index & Some Notes’
Morgan Thomsen has now indexed also the latest issue of Vinyar Tengwar (see also elsewhere). His Tolkien Index is becoming a valuable resource that I can highly recommend!

Ruth Lacon, Wednesday, 20 March 2013, ‘On The Fall of Arthur: Pre-Publication Speculation By a Longtime Student’
In this interesting article, Ruth Lacon sets out a number of her and her husband, Alex Lewis', ideas and theories about Tolkien's soon-to-be-published alliterative poem, The Fall of Arthur. Long time students of both Tolkien and Arthuriana, their guesses are certainly very much worth listening to (though possibly their combined interests adds a confirmation bias). At the Return of the Ring, Alex Lewis said that one should view any influence of Arthurian legend on Tolkien's work through the lens of his Fall of Arthur, just as we should view the influence of the Völsungasaga through The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún and the influence of the Kalevala through his retelling of that. This, I think, is at the heart of Lewis & Lacon's interest in The Fall of Arthur and informs the guesses put forth in this article.

= = = = Commentary = = = =

HR, day, March 2013, Teaching Tolkien — March 2013
This month Holly Rodgers and her 13 ELLs have read their way through the first six chapters of The Lord of the Rings (and seen the first hour of the homonymous film by Peter Jackson). I continue to be impressed by the young readers and their teacher — both by their perceptiveness and their persistence. I very much enjoy reading both the children's comments and Ms. Rodgers' explanations of her teaching approach — two of my own children are avid readers (and fantasy fans — who would have guessed it), but the other two do not read quite so much, and I could have wished for teachers who were better at getting them to explore the joy of reading: Holly Rodgers appears to be a teacher who does this.

BC, Sunday, 3 March 2013, ‘Why is it important to recognize that Tolkien was not exactly a niggler?’
Well, what can I say — Tom Shippey has expressed agreement with my position, what higher honour? The praise of the praiseworthy is indeed above all reward! I still do not agree with Charlton's assessment of Tolkien's personality — by all accounts Tolkien spent much more than his allotted hours on his work, taking the time from other projects that were dear to his heart such as his mythology.

Karl E.H. Seigfried, Wednesday, 6 March 2013, ‘Tolkien's Heathen Feminist, Part Two’
The second part of an article, with the first part appearing in February. Here we are taken by the route of the portrayal of Brynhild (Brünhilde) in the Völsungasaga and in the Niebelungenlied and back to Éowyn, who is, again, ‘Tolkien's heathen feminist’.

DS, Saturday, 9 March 2013, ‘The serendipity of error’
On the second-person pronominal forms in ‘Salonian Neo-Khuzdul’. Salo's blog on the new languages that have developed inspired by Tolkien's languages can at times become rather technical, but this one isn't too bad and it also has an excellent explanation of the differences between the use of the formal and the familiar second person singular pronouns (thou and ye in older English) which is retained in many other modern languagues (German, Spanish, Danish, ...)

DB, Thursday, 14 March 2013, ‘authors getting away with it’
Bratman expands upon a comment he made at the Valparaiso conference about the actual beginning of The Hobbit, ‘By some curious chance one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, ...’, which occurs only after a long exposition (which starts with the famous hole in the ground sentence). Bratman had noted that authors would not today get away with starting a book with a long exposition before getting the plot actually going, and here he explains what he meant by that comment. I think Bratman is right when he says that the narrative style in many modern books is heavily influenced by the narrative style of cinema blockbusters — and I, for one, deplore this (and, frankly, I don't find that this narrative choice works very well on film, either — it's OK for light and quickly forgotten entertainment, but it doesn't work if you want your story to be more than that, regardless of the medium).

BC, Monday, 18 March 2013, ‘Mapping the Notion Club onto the Inklings — a parodic melange featuring in-jokes and running jokes’
Personally I don't believe that the game of matching up members of the Inklings to members of the Notion Club is particularly relevant to the understanding of this story — I am more inclined to think that focusing too much on those parts of the origin of the story that are a parody of the Inklings may get in the way of seeing the fiction for what it is. However, it can be a funny game, and I know of no-one who is better at playing it than Bruce Charlton.

MM, Tuesday, 19 March 2013, ‘Why Did Tolkien Leave Out the Second Prophecy of Mandos?’
The Second Prophecy of Mandos refers to a text that has Mandos foresee a final battle at which Melkor would again enter Arda only to be killed by Túrin and his black sword. Michael Martinez traces the history of this interesting idea throughout the evolution of Tolkien's mythology from The Book of Lost Tales to his latest writings.

Gabriel Smy, Friday, 22 March 2013, ‘Tautology, or how to write better than Tolkien’
It has often been commented how Tolkien breaks many — if not most — of the ‘rules’ and ‘conventions’ that are so liberally applied to modern fiction, and here was have another one: Tolkien often repeats himself in other words — i.e. he uses tautological constructions ;-) What I fail to grasp is how such a marked stylistic choice by a hugely popular author can be slighted as an error? Who sets up these ‘rules’ for good writing? And how come that they fail to realize that truly great writing becomes so by knowing when to break the rules and then doing so liberally?

Doug TenNapel, Sunday, 24 March 2013, ‘Tolkien on Women and Salvation’
There are some interesting ideas and thoughts to be found here, but unfortunately also some errors that mars the piece somewhat. I do wonder to what extend this is inspired also by the androgyny often found in visualisations of Tolkien's Elves — not least in the Jackson films that Mr. TenNapel is clearly basing parts of his information on.

H&S, Tuesday, 26 March 2013, ‘Tolkien Notes 5’
On Roverandom (new edition including Hammond & Scull's comments to be released), possible inspirations for Weathertop and/or the Hill, and new addenda and corrigenda.

MM, Wednesday, 27 March 2013, ‘How Closely Do Tolkien's Dwarves Resemble the Dvergar of Norse Mythology?’
Though I think more can (and already has been) said on this subject, I think Martinez' discussion here is quite interesting. His reference to the ‘circular relationship between Middle-earth’s creatures and mythology’ builds on Tom Shippey's ideas about Tolkien's mythology as an asterisk-mythology for the later English folklore.

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

JDR, Sunday, 17 March 2013, ‘The New Arrival (VT.50)’
Review of number 50 of Vinyar Tengwar, the journal of the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship. Number 50 contains a presentation and thorough analysis of the ‘Túrin wrapper’ — a wrapper used to hold some texts relating to the Narn i-Chîn Húrin, but upon which Tolkien had made some notes in Sindarin. As Rateliff notes, the analysis is ‘a tough read for any non-linguist’, but on the other hand any serious Tolkienist must necessarily make her- or himself enough of a linguist to get through works like this.

BC, Saturday, 16 March 2013, ‘The best book which, otherwise than my recommending it, you would be unlikely to buy’
Though I don't know how ‘unlikely’ any Tolkienist (of the critical / literary bend) would be to buy a book of essays by Tom Shippey, I fully agree with Charlton that the collection, Roots and Branches is highly recommendable.

Kacy Faulconer, Friday, 22 March 2013, ‘Book Report: Tolkien and CS Lewis — The Gift of Friendship’
Kacy Faulconer is quite fond of Colin Duriez' book, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship, and she admits that this biography of a friendship brought tears to her eyes,though she calls the two authors ‘pretentious elitists’ and is slightly disappointed at their friendship, wishing that they ‘were a bit more chummy, loyal, and devoted to each other.’
See also Faulconer's summary of her review, Sunday, 24 March 2013, ‘What JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis Taught Me About Friendship’

Juanito, Monday, 25 March 2013, ‘A biography of Fr. Francis is published.’
On the publication of La Conexion Española de J.R.R. Tolkien by José Manuel Ferrández Bru. The book is mainly a biography of Fr. Francis, the guardian of the two Tolkien boys, Hilary and Ronald, after the death of their mother.
For more see the author's web-page:
Also see JDR, Saturday, 30 March 2013, ‘New Biography of Father Francis’
I am seriously considering to buy this book as a chance to brush up on my very rusty Spanish.

= = = = Interviews = = = =

MB, Wednesday, 6 March 2013, ‘Mythopoeic Society & Social Media: Interview with Eleanor Farrell.’
Interview with Eleanor Farrell, newly apointed ‘Social Media Butterfly’ of the Mythopoeic Society.

= = = = Tolkienian Artwork = = = =

Christina Scull, Saturday, 2 March 2013, ‘The Art of Paul Raymond Gregory’
About the art-book, Beyond Time and Place: The Art of Paul Raymond Gregory, which features a Tolkien section with 49 pictures by Paul Raymond Gregory and with comments by Alex Lewis. Scull comments on both the pictures themselves and on Lewis' comments to them.
and Sunday, 31 March 2013, ‘Radagast Is Not Jar-Jar’

Oloris Publishing, Thursday, 28 March 2013, ‘Enter worlds of fantasy, myth and legend in a new title to be released this summer by Oloris Publishing: Songs of Sorrow and Hope — The Art of Jenny Dolfen’
A book of artwork by Jenny Dolfen is being published by Oloris Publishing ... and I'm buying ;-)

= = = = Other Stuff = = = =

EJ, Tuesday, 12 March 2012, ‘Character mentions in the Hobbit’
Have you been dreaming of having a poster with some kind of statistics from Tolkien's works hanging on your wall? Well, now is perhaps the chance — a number of the analyses up on Emil Johansson's LotRProject site are now available as posters.

AW, Thursday, 21 March 2013, ‘Tolkien slept here’
This time Tolkien ‘slept’ in the Irish Burren . . . or, rather, he didn't.

JDR, Friday, 22 March 2013, ‘Thoughts on viewing the HOBBIT dvd’
Sometimes I think that John Rateliff and I are in completely incommensurable paradigms with respect to how to assess (and access) the Jackson films. It is not that I disagree with the basic facts, but I see them in a wholly different way than he does. This is not to disparage Rateliff's views on the films, but I think it is more fair if I refrain from commenting further.
See also his posts Saturday, 23 March 2013, ‘Guardians of Middle-earth (computer game)’

= = = = Rewarding Discussions = = = =

‘What did Sauron think Aragorn thought he was doing?’
As predicted last month, this thread has proven to be very interesting indeed.

= = = = In Print = = = =

Beyond Bree, March 2013
Of particular interest in this issue of Beyond Bree, I found a more or less speculative article, ‘Patriach: The Old Took’, by David Cofield, and Dainis Bisenieks' (even more speculative) ‘Rivendell Considered as a Hostel’. Lars Walker writes about ‘A Speculation on the Origins of the Character Gollum’ (based on an article in the Bulletin of the New York CS Lewis Society), and Mark Hooker asks ‘Would a ‘Hobbit’ by Any Other Name be as Godlike’ in which Lord Dunsany is mentioned with Hobith, one of ‘the gods of the hearth’ in The Gods of Pegana. The death of Dinah Hazell, winner of a 2012 Beyond Bree Award, is marked by an obituary by Ruth McLauchlan. Mark Hooker also contributes an article on thrush stones and the diet of thrushes in ‘When the Thrush Knocks’, and reports on an upcoming, privately published, book by one Steve Ponty about further ties between Tolkien and Wales. The issue is rounded off by a list of ‘Tolkien at Kalamazoo’ events as well as the usual letters, columns, and lists.

Amon Hen no.239, January 2013
Though the issue for January, it did not arrive here in Denmark until March. In addition to the normal columns (the editorial, Lynn Forest-Hill's ‘Hall of Fire’, Ian Spittlehouse's ‘All Brân’ and Christopher Kreuzer's ‘Christopher's Clippings’), I was is in this issue interested to read an obituary for Maggie Burns (by Vivienne Wilkes), a report on the restoration work on Sarehole Mill (by Bob Blackham), a report from an event of the Bolgeri Smial (in Milan, Italy), an article on ‘Tolkien and Copyright’ by Jim Allen, and reviews of Elizabeth Stephen's Hobbit to Hero: The Making of Tolkien's King (by Murray Smith), and Beyond Time and Place: The Art of Paul Raymond Gregory (by Ruth Lacon).

= = = = Web Sites = = = =

Paul Raymond Gregory: Gallery
A gallery of Paul Raymond Gregory's Tolkien-inspired pictures.

José Manuel Ferrández Bru
The web-site of the pre-eminent scholar on Father Francis morgan and through him Tolkien's connections to Spain. I high-light it here again due to the publication of Señor Ferrández Bru's book, La Conexion Española de J.R.R. Tolkien: El Tío "Curro"

Tolkien Index
Also Morgan Thomsen's Tolkien Index deserves to be brought out again and knowledge of it circulated more widely. Morgan Thomsen has now indexed many issues of Vinyar Tengwar, Parma Eldalamberon, and Qettar, the three main journals on Tolkienian linguistics.

= = = = Sources = = = =



  1. Many thanks, Troels, for your kind words and for the link to Tolkien Index! A small clarification: the index is limited to Tolkien's texts and related editorial comments. Therefore I will only be indexing such issues which include formerly unpublished writings by Tolkien.

    1. Thank you for the clarification, Morgan. The Index is becoming a great resource, and I think that many more people ought to know about it.


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