Friday 3 January 2014

Tolkien Transactions XLIV

December 2013

First: Happy New Year!

Secondly: Do not forget to join in the Tolkien birthday toast. You do this by having a glass (or cup, goblet, mug or whatever container) of your preferred drink (alcoholic or not as you prefer), and at 9 PM (21:00) local time on Friday, January 3rd (that is, today by Danish time), you stand up, raise the container, say the toast: ‘The Professor!’ and take a sip or swig of the drink.
See also where you can also enter your personal greeting to Tolkien enthusiasts all over the world.

Joe Gilronan – “The Great River”
Joe Gilronan
The Great River

As is probably well-known by everyone reading this, December has seem the release of the second installment of Peter Jackson's film trilogy based on Tolkien's story, The Hobbit. Whatever one's feeling's about it, I dare say it has been ‘expected’ (though I suspect with emotions spanning the whole range from the blackest dread and despair to the most deleriously happy expecations). I am going to ignore the film here — in part because I have no intention of further fuelling the divisive debates among otherwise friendly Tolkien enthusiasts, and partly because I do not really find it terribly interesting to discuss whether Peter Jackson is a blasphemer or a brilliant artist ... or perhaps both.

So, this month all the usual disclaimers — about newness, completeness and relevance (or any other implication of responsibility) — appear even more relevant than usual.

These transactions are posted to the usenet newsgroups rec.arts.books.tolkien,, and alt.books.inklings, and the usenet version can be accessed at &ng=rec.arts.books.tolkien
These transactions are also posted on my blog, Parma-kenta (Enquiry into the books):
and on LotR Fanatics Plaza in the books forum:

This month it has suited my purposes to sort the contents under the following headlines:
1: News
2: Essays and Scholarship
3: Commentary
4: Reviews and Book News
5: Tolkienian Artwork
6: Other Stuff
7: Web Sites
8: The Blog Roll
9: Sources

= = = = News = = = =

William Turvil, Daily Mail, Tuesday, 3 December 2013, ‘His precious: The revolver JRR Tolkien carried with him in the trenches of WWI is going on display for the first time’
Right ... so ... apart from the inappropriateness of the use of ‘precious’ in this context, this story has still received far too much attention, giving the impression that modern journalists do indeed love the arrow for its swiftness and not least the gun for its loudness. Still, there are few interesting biographical details surrounding this.
See also
Liz Bury, The Guardian, Thursday, 12 December 2013, ‘JRR Tolkien's wartime gun goes on display in Manchester’
A more subdued and appropriate account ...

Oxford Mail, Tuesday, 3 December 2013, ‘Tolkien's life to get Hollywood treatment’
One of a huge number of news outlets carrying the news that a film about the life of Tolkien is being planned. While I would agree with Tolkien Society chairman Shaun Gunner that Tolkien ‘is an incredibly intersting person,’ I cannot agree that he would make a good character for a film — films are rather poor as the means of conveying erudition and philosophical depth, and these are what makes Tolkien's life interesting.

Anna Pearson, Tuesday, 10 December 2013, ‘Wasps named after Hobbit characters’
That scientists are often Tolkien fans shows in many ways small and large. The nicknaming of the Homo Floresiensis as ‘The Hobbit’ is a well-known example, and in The Science of Middle-earth Henry Gee lists numerous other examples of Tolkien-inspired scientific names. Had Henry Gee attempted to make an exhaustive list, he would have set himself an impossible task as that list would have to be updated regularly — as is evidenced by this short piece of news about the naming of new-found species of small wasps.

Russ Burlingame, Comic Book, Wednesday, 11 December 2013, ‘J.R.R. Tolkien Gets a Sesame Street Parody in Lord of the Crumbs’
Just for laughs ... but good and hearty laughs :-)
(A Sesame Street parody featuring, of course, the Cookie Monster — how much bigger does it get?)

Andrew, Wednesday, 11 December 2013, ‘Tolkien's Rivendell comes to life with 200,000 LEGO bricks’
Being an ‘exclusive interview with builders Alice Finch & David Frank’ who have done a very nice recreation of Rivendell (though I'm not sure which, if any, visualisation of Rivendell this is based on, but it is definitely not Tolkien's).

AFP, Monday, 16 December 2013, ‘The line between JRR Tolkien's good and evil characters may come down to vitamin D’
All in the spirit of good fun — I suppose that the medical science is solid, though of course this reverses cause and effect within the narrative.

The Oxford Times, Tuesday, 17 December 2013, ‘Book Tolkien signed is bought by college’
The story of Exeter College, where Tolkien himself studied, buying a book by William Morris which has been signed by Tolkien. If the Oxford Colleges associated with Tolkien start being this eager to demonstrate their links with Tolkien, there may yet be hope for the academic world ;-)

HR, Thursday, 19 December 2013, ‘Saturdays with Smaug’
Right ... so ... no rule without exceptions, and the exception here is Holly Rodgers' tale of how she took her group of Dwarves (or most of them, anyway) to the cinema to watch the latest work by Peter Jackson.

EJ, Sunday, 29 December 2013, ‘An environmentally friendly source of light?’
Just for fun!
It raises, of course, the question of magic as a source of energy — is this the long sought-for _perpetuum mobile_?
Joe Gilronan – “The Fellowship Doors of Durin”
Joe Gilronan
The Fellowship Doors of Durin

= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =
Being a list of articles from with some (though occasionally rather vague) Tolkien-relation ...
‘The Icelandic Althing: Dawn of Parliamentary Democracy’ (4 Dec) — for me anything Norse of course has a Tolkien relation ;-)
‘The Bones in the Soup: The Anglo-Saxon Flavour of Tolkien's _The Hobbit_’ (9 Dec) — An article from Lembas Extra (the journal of Unquendor, the Dutch Tolkien Society) about, as it says, , the Anglo-Saxon inspirations in The Hobbit
‘Doing a PhD in Middle-earth’ (10 Dec) — a rather clever (and humorous) reading of The Hobbit as an allegory of the process of doing a Ph.D.
‘Tolkien's The Hobbit: Bilbo’s Quest for Identity and Maturity’ () — being a bachelor's thesis from the Czech Republic investigating in three chapters ‘Tolkien and Fantasy’, ‘Bilbo's Quest for Identity’ and ‘Aspects of the Popularity’ of Tolkien's book.
‘Theoderic the Great vs. Boethius: Tensions in Italy in the Late 5th and Early 6th Centuries’ (28 Dec) — Boëthius, and particularly the work of his imprisonment, The Consolation of Philosophy, has often been mentioned with respect to Tolkien as a source for certain philosophical aspects of Tolkien's work. Here is a paper giving some additional context to the circumstances in which Boëthius' book came to be.

MT, Wednesday, 4 December 2013, ‘Tolkien at the Moorend Park hotel in 1913’
Morgan Thomsen has uncovered a very interesting little piece of information about Tolkien's movements about the time when he renewed contact with Edith Bratt after he had himself turned 21. This includes where he stayed and the precise dates of his stays, but do read the story for yourself at the Mythoi blog and in the relevant books (mainly The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide by Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond; Tolkien and the Great War by John Garth, and of course Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter).

Dan Lunt / Radagast the Brown, Friday, 6 December 2013, ‘Scientists simulate the climate of Tolkien's Middle Earth’
I am afraid that the serious science of this paper has been overlooked by many commenters, who have merely found it amusing. The serious science is of course in the advances in climate science and computing capabilities — based on Tolkien's maps and a few other bits of information, the climate models have been capable of predicting the climate of Middle-earth. It is, at least for me, impressive that Tolkien has, working solely on some deep intuition, been able to place the Shire such that it would have the climate of the English Midlands (though Leistershire and Lincolnshire that are mentioned here are counted to the East Midlands rather than Tolkien's West Midlands).
See also Adam Vaughan, Friday, 6 December 2013, ‘Tolkien gesture — scientist maps climate of Lord of the Rings’
I'll forgo mentioning further articles on this — searching Google News for ‘Tolkien Middle-earth weather climate Bristol’ will return numerous results, few of which have anything significant to add to the press release from The University of Bristol above.

Simon Cook, Sunday, 8 December 2013, ‘On the Origin of Hobbits: J.R.R. Tolkien's ideas of descent’
In this essay Simon Cook revisits some of the ideas he shared in the essay published in August, but this time round he wishes to address the topic differently, continuing his research, while at the same time wishing to ‘tidy things up’ — even to the point of saying that ‘some of [his] earlier concluding suggestions [...] now seem distinctly dubious.’ In this essay Simon Cook certainly avoids the traps that gave me misgivings in August. He starts by giving a short summary of the evolution of the relations of language/philology and race to the central concept of (national) identity, and then progresses to find parallels between ideas about the otherwise unknown neolithic aborigines of Britain and Tolkien's Hobbits. It will be interesting to see where he will eventually take these emerging ideas.
See also the full essay at

H&S, Tuesday, 31 December 2013, ‘Tolkien and the Tape Recorder’
The fascinating history of Tolkien's relation with tape recorders. Read and enjoy!

= = = = Commentary = = = =

John Garth, Wednesday, 20 November 2013, ‘John Garth on Pauline Baynes’
The title says it, I think :) Personally I have not yet found the key that will unlock for me the fascination of Pauline Baynes' illustrations, but looking at them, I can at least feel that such a key must exist ... But whether you have already found your own key to Baynes' work or you, like me, is still searching, this loving introduction by John Garth to this famous illustrator of Tolkien and others is well worth reading.

Philip Hoare, The Guardian, Monday 9 December 2013, ‘From Smaug to the Clangers: a brief history of dragons’
An intelligent recapitulation of dragon lore — I just wish that he had found room also for Fafnír, for as Tolkien said, ‘the world that contained even the imagination of Fáfnir was richer and more beautiful, at whatever cost of peril.’ (from the essay ‘On Fairy-stories’).

Charles McNair, Tuesday, 10 December 2013, ‘The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien: There and back again, again’
One of these articles that are well-meant, and which gets almost all its facts correct. Tolkien, for instance, says in ‘On Fairy-stories’ that he didn't particularly like fairy-stories as a child; after his mother's death, he and his brother Hilary didn't pass into the care of relatives, but into the care of Fr. Francis of the Birmingham Oratory, he held a position at the University of Leeds between the short stint at the New English Dictionary and the position as Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University (in which position he was, a year after his appointment, made a fellow of Pembroke). I could continue, but I suppose this suffices to show that one has to be careful about trusting information in such articles no matter how well-meant and how favourably they describe Tolkien's work.

Dawn Duncan Harrell, Friday, 13 December 2013, ‘Jackson v. Tolkien v. Miéville’
An interesting commentary on Tolkien, taking at its focusing lens the commentary by China Miéville on Jackson and Tolkien.

JDR, Monday, 16 December 2013, ‘Stephen King, Tolkien Fan’
About finding Tolkien references in Stephen King's Joyland ...

Michelle Nijhuis, Wednesday, 18 December 2013, ‘One Weird Old Trick to Undermine the Patriarchy’
Excellent! All the more power to the child (oh, and I don't really mind undermining the patriarchy a bit). It was also good to see that one Peter Walker in comment #14 has pointed out that in the Shire names ending -o were actually feminine and that ‘Bilbo’ is an Anglicization of ‘Bilba’ — I wonder if the original author of this piece has read that particular gem of information :)

Ed Power, Sunday, 22 December 2013, ‘Sorry, J.R.R. Tolkien is not the father of fantasy’
I am sure that most would agree that ‘father of fantasy’ is rather an exaggeration — even Tolkien acknowledges modern(-ish) fantastic fiction preceding his own (McDonald, Morris, Lang, Dunsany, Haggard, Buchan, etc.), but Power's attempt to belittle Tolkien's role in the popularity of fantasy today is even more wrong from the other side, just as his repetition of the old tired criticisms of Tolkien as ‘morally simplistic’ etc. is itself even more simplistic. Make sure to also read the commentary:
Fredrick Martin, Sunday, 29 December 2013, ‘Confronted with complex questions in a fantasy world’
‘when I need to figure out the hard times, Sam Gamgee and Frodo offer more wisdom than Power understands.’ Brilliant!

Il, Saturday, 28 December 2013, ‘Did anyone call an Eagle?’
About Tolkien's use of the Eagles, with some speculation on how to fill some of the gaps in our knowledge.

Teesdale Mercury, Tuesday, 31 December 2013, ‘Did the Hobbit come from Teesdale’
Not so much about Tolkien, actually — more about Alslabie Denham, the author of the Denham Tracts where the word ‘hobbit’ first appears in print. Still, the Denham Tracts are an important piece of the linguistic puzzle surrounding that famous first line of Tolkien's children's book.

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

PC, Thursday, 5 December 2013, ‘Tolkien: the Forest and the City’
The proceedings of the homonymous conference held last year in September, this has papers from speakers such as Flieger, Shippey, Drout, Honegger, Milbank, Fimi and others. I haven't had time to read it myself, but I look forward to getting into it.

PC, Friday, 6 December 2013, ‘The Real Middle-earth, Discovering the Origin of The Lord of the Rings’
So, now we are to believe that Abyssinia is an important source to _The Lord of the Rings_? I suppose that one shouldn't reject ideas before at least investigating them, but starting with random phonetic and/or spelling similarities is a good way to get me in my most sceptical mode. “It is hard to express the disgust [Tolkien] must have felt at the old, pre-philological habit of snatching at coincidental similarities” writes Tolkien scholar par excellance, Tom Shippey, in his contribution to Jason Fisher's collection Tolkien and the Study of His Sources: Critical Essays, and in Pieter Collier's very favourable review, “snatching at coincidental similarities” seems to be precisely where Mr Muhling starts of. For myself, I think I will wait to see what reviews this book gets elsewhere — though it is off to a bad start, the final scholarship can, of course, be excellent.

Ethan Gilsdorf, Boston Globe, Wednesday, 11 December 2013, ‘'The Making of Middle-earth' by Christopher Snyder’
A review of Snyder's book. Gilsdorf (I find that I am always more inclined to listen to the voice of someone who can spell ‘Middle-earth’ correctly) says that the book ‘as a beginner’s guide, ‘The Making of Middle-earth’ adds an important voice to the growing body of Tolkien scholarship for laypeople.’ With the very accessible scholarly works of Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull; Tom Shippey; John Garth and others at our fingertips, I am, however, not sure that what we need is a beginner's guide to Tolkien.

Oloris Publishing, Friday, 20 December 2013, ‘Pre-order Dr. Deborah Higgens' 'Anglo-Saxon Community In J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings'’
On the date of the destruction of the Master Ring, Oloris Publishing will release Anglo-Saxon Community in J.R.R. Tolkien's ‘The Lord of the Rings' about Anglo-Saxon culture and it's 'reinvention’ in Rohan.

H&S, Monday, 30 December 2013, ‘The Tolkien Collector 33’
Issue no. 33 of The Tolkien Collector has been posted — back issues can be bought from Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond's web-site:

= = = = Tolkienian Artwork = = = =

Various, December 2013, ‘Flavor of the Month’
The flavour of the month in the fan art on John Howe's website has been dragons. The link is to a picture of someone fishing out the black arrow many years after Smaug's death, but there are a number of other Tolkien-inspired pictures, and of course dragons are always in some way Tolkien-related ;-)
Jef Murray – “A Canticle for Elessar” (study)
Jef Murray
A Canticle for Elessar (study)

Mark Dery, Thursday, 5 December 2013, ‘Original Ballantine book cover concept art for J.R.R Tolkien's Lord of the Rings on eBay’
While I suppose it may be debated whether Barbara Remington's cover art for the original Ballantine PB editions of The Lord of the Rings can really count as Tolkienian artwork (I seem to remember that she had not had time to even read the books when doing the covers), there is really no denying that it is in many ways iconic. Click the link in the bottom for the E-bay auction with a letter from Betty Ballantine telling some of the story of this piece of book-cover-art.

JGi, Saturday, 7 December 2013, ‘Congratulations Artist Joe Gilronan for winning first place in the juried art contest (Landscape Paintings.)’
A very nice landscape picture from Joe Gilronan -- congratulations!

Alyse, Thursday, 19 December 2013, ‘'Out of the Shire': Wonderful Art Show Tribute to Tolkien's Middle-earth’
A brief report from the art show ‘out of the Shire’ (in the Nucleus gallery in Alhambra, California) featuring art in tribute to Tolkien by more than 30 artists. Evidently not all of it is a direct artistic interpretation of Tolkien's work, but is still somehow related.

= = = = Other Stuff = = = =

Matt Lebovic, Times of Israel, Wednesday, 11 December 2013, ‘Are Tolkien's dwarves an allegory for the Jews?’
What a load of tosh! I don't know which so-called ‘Tolkien scholars’ Mr Lebovic refers to, but they are certainly not reputable Tolkien scholars. I speculated whether to include this item at all since I will not be able to provide a refutation of all that is wrong (I would recommend people to start out by reading up on the dwarfs of the Old Norse legends and myths and attribute anything possible to that source for a start), but sometimes it is better to acknowledge the existing while crying to the world, ‘Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!’ I just hope that this is one of those instances.

HG, Sunday, 15 December 2013, ‘Crossover Fanfic’
I have always enjoyed the suggestion that Tom Bombadil is a Time Lord — possibly even the Doctor himself — of the numerous attempts to pigeonhole Tom Bombadil, this one manages to be both funny and oddly apt, though, of course, completely off the mark :-)

= = = = Web Sites = = = =

‘The Real LotR’
A new blog (see under sources).

= = = = The Blog Roll = = = =

These are blogs you really should be following yourself if you're interested in Tolkien ...
Jef Murray – “A Country Smial”
Jef Murray
A Country Smial
Contents from these blogs will only be reported here if there is something that I find particularly interesting, or posts that fit with a monthly theme, but I will here note the number of Tolkien-related posts in the month covered by these transactions (while the number of posts with a vaguer relation — e.g. by being about other Inklings — are given in parentheses).

Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond (S&H), ‘Too Many Books and Never Enough’
The two Tolkien-related posts by Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond in December 2013 have been referred to above.

Jason Fisher (JF) — ‘Lingwë — Musings of a Fish’
Jason Fisher has posted a review of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and a notice about commenting on his blog. Given the normal level of Tolkien-content on Lingwë, I'd say that these two are equally Tolkien-related ;-)

Pieter Collier (PC), ‘The Tolkien Library’
8 directly, and 9 indirectly Tolkien-related posts in December 2013. The directly related include, in addition to the articles cited above, suggestions for Christmas presents for Tolkienists, new high-quality editions of Unfinished Tales and The Fall of Arthur, the sale of a copy of the New Testament (Westminster Version) owned and commented by Tolkien, and the selling of prints of Cor Blok art.

Douglas A. Anderson (DAA), ‘Tolkien and Fantasy’
No posts in December 2013

John D. Rateliff (JDR) — ‘Sacnoth's Scriptorium’
In December 2013, John Rateliff has posted a couple of Tolkien-related items (one about one of Tolkien's desks, and the other about Tolkien references in a Stephen King), a couple of posts about Lewis, one about the rumours of an upcoming Tolkien biopic and some four or five posts about the latest work of Peter Jackson.

Marcel Aubron-Bülles (MB), ‘The Tolkienist’
Five posts relating to Peter Jackson's latest from The Tolkienist in December 2013.

David Bratman (DB), ‘Kalimac’
and the old home:
An obituary for Colin Wilson (author of a “breezy” Tolkien essay titled ‘Tree by Tolkien’) and a review of Peter Jackson's latest are the most Tolkien-related posts from David Bratman in December 2013

Jenny Dolfen (JD), ‘Jenny's Sketchbook’
No Tolkien-related posts in December 2013, but Jenny Dolfen has pursued her interest in Hannibal with a couple of posts with very nice new work.

Holly Rodgers (HR), ‘Teaching Tolkien’
See above for the only post in December 2013

Anna Smol (AS), ‘A Single Leaf’
No posts in December 2013

Various, The Mythopoeic Society
No posts in December 2013

Morgan Thomsen (MT), ‘Mythoi’
1 very interesting Tolkien-related posts in December 2013 (see above)

Emil Johansson (EJ), ‘LotR Project Blog’
One Tolkien-related joke (see above) and a review of the latest Peter Jackson work in December 2013

Michael Martinez (MM), ‘Middle-earth’
8 Tolkien-related posts in December 2013 and two related to the latest from Peter Jackson.

Bruce Charlton (BC), ‘Tolkien's The Notion Club Papers’
Nothing directly related to Tolkien, but a review of the latest work by Peter Jackson (they seem to be quite the vogue), another post about Charles Williams, and a post about a fan-fiction based on the Notion Club Papers.

= = = = Sources = = = =

New sources in December 2013:
‘The Real LotR’
A new Tolkien-related blog. The first post (‘Who is the Real LOTR?’) sets out the agenda for The Real LotR — an attempt ‘to bring back authentic dialogue and discussion to [Tolkien's] work.’ Here, from a blog dedicated to the ‘Enquiry into the Books’ I wish The Real LotR all the best in that endeavour!

For older sources, see


  1. "A review of Peter Jackson's latest is the closest thing to a Tolkien-related post from David Bratman in December 2013."

    Didn't my obituary for Colin Wilson count?

  2. I am very sorry! I both forgot and overlooked that when doing the summary – I have amended the post. Thank your for the reminder!


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