Sunday 1 March 2015

Tolkien Transactions LV

February 2015

First, heartfelt congratulations to Dr Andrew Higgins upon receiving his Ph.D. for his thesis, The Genesis of Tolkien's Mythology. Eglerio! A laita se!

February appears to have been a fairly quiet month – either that, or I have been too busy to notice most of what I would otherwise have seen (which is also entirely likely). In any case it has suited me fine, as I would otherwise have found it difficult to create this write-up in time. This of course means that I need to stress the usual disclaimer about completeness even more – the ones about newness and relevance obviously still applying as well :-)

These transactions are posted on my blog, Parma-kenta (Enquiry into the books) and on the Tolkien Society web-site.

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

= = = = News = = = =

Alison Flood, The Guardian, Thursday, 26 February 2015, ‘JRR Tolkien falls off children's most popular books list
It is perhaps telling of Tolkien's status, that it is his dropping off the list that makes the headline. I am not sure that this is a problem, actually – without knowing the quality of many of the books that have made the list, The Hobbit is, in my opinion, not a particularly good children's book (read Astrid Lindgren if you want good children's books!), and Tolkien's other works for children (Roverandom, Mr Bliss, Letters from Father Christmas, etc.) are not well known.
However, see also Daniel Helen, Saturday, 28 February 2015, ‘Tolkien's works fall in list of most popular children's books
in which Daniel Helen goes a bit deeper into the numbers and find Tolkien: e.g. with The Lord of the Rings in sixth place for the 9 - 11 years old.

‘The Voyage of Eärendil’ by Joe Gilronan
Joe Gilronan
The Voyage of Eärendil

= = = = Events = = = =

Anna Smol, Wednesday, 4 February 2015, ‘Tolkien conference season 2015
As a very handy service to those seeing out Tolkien conferences. Most are in the US, but there's a few in England as well, and the Deutsches Tolkien Gesellschaft's conference in Aachen in May. I haven't yet given up entirely on getting to Oxonmoot this year. Anna Smol lists a couple of conferences without a specific Tolkien track / area that I have decided to omit from the list below.

24 January - 22 March 2015, Milan, Italy, ‘The Magic of the Ring
An art exhibition in Milan.

Andy Orchard, 2 March 2015, Pembroke College, Oxford, ‘Tolkien and Beowulf: a match made in Pembroke

John Garth, 3 March 2015, Hudson Library & Historical Society, ‘Tolkien & the Great War

M. Lee Alexander, 11 March 2015, Turku, Finland, ‘Tolkien and Finland

Michael Drout, 23 March 2015, Mythgard Institute, on-line, ‘Lexomic Analysis of Beowulf and J.R.R. Tolkien's Scholarship on the Poem: A Confluence.

25 March 2015, World wide, ‘Tolkien Reading Day
Please do get your tales and reports about the Tolkien Reading Day 2015 on-line before the end of March and send me a note stating this :-)
John Garth, 25 March 2015, Sam Houston State University, ‘J.R.R. Tolkien and the Great War

1 - 4 April 2015, New Orleans, Louisiana, ‘Popular Culture/American Culture Association National Conference
With a Tolkien track organised by Robin Reid.

The Tolkien Society, 10 - 12 April 2015, Norfolk Arms Hotel, Arundel, ‘AGM and Springmoot 2015

10 - 12 April, Burlington, Vermont, ‘Tolkien in Vermont: Medieval Verse Narratives

Tom Shippey, 15 April 2015, Arizona State University, Tempe, ‘Politics in Tolkien: What We Can Learn From Hobbits

Deutsche Tolkien Gesellschaft, 1 - 3 May 2015, ‘Tolkien Seminar 2015: On Fairy-stories

14 - 17 May 2015, Kalamazoo, Michigan, ‘International Congress on Medieval Studies

24 - 27 May 2015, Koszalin University of Technology, Poland, ‘Medieval Fantasy Symposium 2015

Northeast Tolkien Society, 13 June 2015, Baruch College, New York, ‘New York City Tolkien Conference

The Tolkien Society, 4 July 2015, Leeds, ‘Tolkien Society Seminar 2015
Theme: ‘One Hundred Years of Middle-earth’

6 - 9 July 2015, Leeds, ‘International Medieval Congress 2015
See particularly Dimitra Fimi, Sunday, 8 February 2015, ‘Tolkien, Fantasy and Medievalism at IMC Leeds 2015

17 - 19 July 2015, Spokane, Washington, USA, ‘Tolkienmoot 2015

Mythopoeic Society, 31 July - 3 August 2015, Colorado Springs, Colorado, ‘MythCon 46
See also John D. Rateliff, Wednesday, 11 February 2015, ‘Scholar Guest of Honor, Mythcon 2015
And Monday, 16 February 2015, ‘Mythcon 46 updated Call for Papers

6 - 9 August 2015, The Greisinger Museum, Jenins, Switzerland, ‘Omentielva Enquea

Hungarian Tolkien Society, 3 - 4 September 2015, Budapest, Hungary, ‘5th International Tolkien Conference in Hungary

5 - 6 September 2015, Sarehole, Birmingham, ‘Middle Earth Festival 2015
Formerly known as ‘Middle-earth Weekend’

The Tolkien Society, 10 - 13 September 2015, St Antony's College, Oxford, ‘Oxonmoot 2015

5 - 7 December 2015, ‘Italian Ringers Con 2015

= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =

Chris Bateman, International Journal of Play, Thursday, 15 May 2014, ‘What are we playing with? Role-taking, role-play, and story-play with Tolkien's legendarium
One of the wonderful things about other people knowing about one's interest in Tolkienian matters is that they'll forward things they think I would like to see – and often they are exactly right.
Somehow I cannot imagine Tolkien, author of You & Me – and the Cottage of Lost Play, as being opposed to his work (and its various derivatives) being used to aid an argument drawing the lines between the imaginative engagement involved in the Secondary Belief of the adult reader and the play of child.
“Now consider the case of a teenage geek watching the movie of The fellowship of the ring with a copy of the alphabetical reference encyclopaedia The Tolkien companion (Tyler & Reilly, 1976) and the atlas The journeys of Frodo (Strachey, 1981) at hand.” [...] “If this seems a contrived example, consider that the teenage geek could achieve much the same effect by watching the movie and using a smartphone to access equivalent information from internet resources. For that matter, many Tolkien geeks will have in memory a significant volume of the information that is present in such reference resources” ... well, I really have no idea what he's referring to ;-)

‘Glorfindel’s return to Rivendell’ by Jenny Dolfen
Jenny Dolfen
Glorfindel’s return to Rivendell
John D. Rateliff, Monday, 2 February 2015, ‘A New Idea About Madlener
As Douglas Anderson has noted in his Annotated Hobbit, the story in Carpenter's biography about Tolkien buying the post card with Josef Madlener's picture, Der Berggeist, on his 1911 trip cannot be true, because the picture wasn't painted until much later. But when was it produced as a post card? And did Tolkien really see this picture anywhere before creating his Gandalf character? This is the topic of this blog post by John Rateliff, which is followed by an interesting discussion. Overall it seems to me that David Bratman has the right of it – regardless of when the post card was produced, it seems more likely that Tolkien misremembered than that he saw this picture anywhere before inventing his Gandalf character.

Joseph Pearce, Monday, 2 February 2015, ‘Tolkien, Trees, and Tradition
Early on in this article, Joseph Pearce says about the ents that “They were in Middle-Earth long before the Elves.” As I suspect most of my readers will see, this is wrong (at least he does remember the hyphen in Middle-earth even if he does capitalise the second part), but it is a minor point – just a bridging quotation that is never used, so why bother? This question is discussed in Dorothy Sayer's Gaudy Night:
‘The only ethical principle which has made science possible is that the truth shall be told all the time. If we do not penalize false statements made in error, we open up the way for false statements by intention. And a false statement of fact, made deliberately, is the most serious crime a scientist can commit.’
Sayers, Dorothy L. (2012-07-31). Gaudy Night (Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery Book 12) (p. 373). Open Road Media. Kindle Edition.
In Sayer's book this is extended to apply to all scholarly pursuits, and this focus on the methods of the scholarly pursuits of knowledge is one of the things I do like about this book (Tolkien, famously, did not like it, though he had liked the preceding Peter Wimsey novels). Needless to say, I do agree with this, and as Joseph Pearce, regardless of the particular context, wishes to be seen as a scholar of Tolkien, I think such errors are indeed problematic.
As for the remainder of the article, it has little to do with Tolkien, and is more about Joseph Pearce's views about tradition. This is not necessarily uninteresting, but if you seek insights into Tolkien, it is poor fare.

Jonathan S. McIntosh, Tuesday, 3 February 2015, ‘The Means Justify the Ends: Ilúvatar's Reverse Pragmatism
This is a very interesting discussion that takes as its starting point the small story about Aulë's creation of the Dwarves. It is, perhaps, a bit surprising that McIntosh doesn't bring into the discussion Ilúvatar's earlier admonition of Melkor – the one with “no theme may be played that has not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite” – which seems to me to play on the same themes as McIntosh' discussion here. Had it not been for such other references, I think it could be argued that McIntosh takes the text about Aulë and the Dwarves a little too serious, but as there are other ideas that seem to resonate well with this idea, it becomes more difficult to dismiss it.
See also the short note from the following day relating to this discussion, Aulë as the anti-Prometheus
Anna Smol, Friday, 6 February 2015, ‘Talks on Tolkien: Reflecting on Ruins with Michael Drout
In her Talks on Tolkien series, Anna Smol has reached Michael Drout's excellent lecture on ‘How to Read J.R.R.Tolkien’, which she juxtaposes with the Old English poem The Ruin. I wish I had something intelligent to add to that, but I can only add my encouragement to go watch this – all of it!

Mythgard Institute, Friday, 6 February 2015, ‘The Book of Lost Tales, Part II
A series of Mythgard Academy classes focusing on “Tolkien’s first attempt to develop and integrate his great tales,” and on ‘the radical shift in Tolkien’s thought that began to take place around the time when he abandoned the Lost Tales”. These classes are tuition-free and publicly available.

Dimitra Fimi, Saturday, 14 February 2015, ‘A little Elvish love story in The Lord of the Rings
A fresh look at the love story of Nimrodel and Amrod of Lothlórien, and some educated guesses at possible sources. Timed, of course, for Valentine's Day, this charming piece is nonetheless also interesting and based in solid scholarship.

Anna Smol, Sunday, 15 February 2015, ‘Talks on Tolkien: Janet Brennan Croft talks about Tolkien's views on war
A recording of Janet Brennan Croft from Oklahoma State University. Part of a series on marking the centenary of the Great War, the talk focuses on Tolkien's war-time experiences, but also branches out to his experiences in the Second World War. I hadn't seen this before, so thanks a lot to Anna Smol for sharing it! The talk about Tolkien is juxtaposed with excerpts from an interview with George R.R. Martin, whose war was the Vietnam war, which he didn't fight in.

Anna Smol, Friday, 20 February 2015, ‘Talks on Tolkien: John Garth and Tolkien's Great War
Having watched the video with John Garth from the 2014 Oxonmoot, I recommend also watching the interview with John Garth that was made at that Oxonmoot as well as the video made for King Edward's School.

Jon S. Mackley, Saturday, 28 February 2015, ‘The Anglo Saxons and their gods (still) among us
This paper presents itself as “fourth in a series of independent papers that considers England’s lost mythology” ... need I say more?

= = = = Commentary = = = =

David Bratman, Tuesday, 17 February 2015, ‘Tolkien and Quisling
On why Tolkien (probably) was not the first writer to use the word ‘quisling’ in English as a term for a kind of traitor against one's country. The opposite (i.e. that Tolkien was indeed the first to do so, specifically in his lecture On Fairy-stories) has apparently been claimed somewhere (Bratman politely abstains from naming names), but it is so unlikely that it deserves to ignored.

Shaun Gunner, Sunday, 22 February 2015, ‘Middle-earth will return to our screens again
Apparently the statement contained in the headline could be regarded as debateable, though, to me, it appears closer to a truism than to a debateable statement. Even books that have been adapted i such extremely iconic films such as e.g. The Wizard of Oz have produced again, and regardless of what one might otherwise think of Bakshi's, Rankin & Bass', Jackson's and other's efforts, none of them have the quality of being definitive (in the way that Brian Sibley's radio play has, so far, proven the definite adaptation of its form). The amount of dissatisfaction with all of these adaptations of The Lord of the Rings among readers of Tolkien, while obviously far from universal, is enough to highlight that there is more to be done about adapting Tolkien's epic romance as live-action film. That, obviously, does not have to mean that I am looking forward to this, but in some ways, I think that there is, for those of us who love and study Tolkien's life and work, an argument to be made for this being a case of ‘the more the merrier’ – the more adaptations, the more the Tolkien's books will stand out.

Christina Scull, Friday, 27 February 2015, ‘I Didn't Know What I Was Getting Into
A charming mix of personal reminiscing about an early devotion to Tolkien, and commentary on Bakewell and Sibley's radio play adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. I cannot decide which aspect is best – do read it for yourself and I hope you will be as charmed as I was.

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

John D. Rateliff, Sunday, 1 February 2015, ‘The New Arrivals (nine books)
Some brief comments on ten new books related to Tolkien (if one counts the e-book single by Simon J. Cook). A couple of these books are parodies, which is not really something I have managed to develop a taste for (apart from that which arises in conversations in various fora and is funny in the situation). I am pleased to see Rateliff sharing my sceptic approach to The Hobbit Party, which seems to me to belong in the category of oddball or strongly projection biased books that Rateliff occasionally reads (he acknowledes the “seeking out and reading a series of oddball books on Tolkien” himself, and these tend to often display a very strong projection bias to some favourite, usually crackpot, idea of the author's – lumping The Hobbit Party with these, however, is exclusively my own judgement based on what I have read about it, including what I have read by its authors).

John D. Rateliff, Monday, 9 February 2015, ‘PERILOUS & FAIR (New Arrival/New Publication)
The list of contents for the new volume on Tolkien and women, Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J. R. R. Tolkien, edited by Janet Brennan Croft and Leslie A. Donovan. Being rather busy lately, I haven't got around to buying this one yet, but I am looking very much forward to the reviews, and it is already high on my wish list.

Daniel Helen, Thursday, 26 February 2015, ‘Pocket edition of Smith of Wootton Major published
This is the extended version edited by Verlyn Flieger and containing Tolkien's charming and wonderful essay about Smith of Wootton Major and the nature of Faëry in general. If you don't have the original edition of this work, make sure to get this one!

= = = = Interviews = = = =

Jo Fahy, Swissinfo, Thursday, 5 February 2015, ‘How John Howe turns Tolkien's words into film
Possibly the headline is just a bit of an exaggeration – I seem to remember hearing that there were other people involved as well. But John Howe's quiet and humble nature manages to escape through the filter of the interviewer, making for an interesting interview whenever John Howe's words are quoted verbatim.

= = = = Tolkienian Artwork = = = =

Graeme Skinner, Tuesday, 3 February 2015, ‘The Troll That Sat Alone
February's theme at John Howe's web-site has been trolls, and Grame led the Tolkien-related trolls with a pen-and-ink illustration of the troll of Sam's song.

‘The Elvenking’ by Jenny Dolfen
Jenny Dolfen
The Elvenking
Graeme Skinner, Saturday, 7 February 2015, ‘More of that troll
And here is the above troll done up nicely with paint.

Jenny Dolfen, Saturday, 14 February 2015, ‘Glorfindel's return to Rivendell
Jenny Dolfen is back in Middle-earth!! Hooray! Though I do love her Darkness Over Cannae, I also do find Jenny's Middle-earth paintings more enchanting.

Jenny Dolfen, Wednesday, 18 February 2015, ‘The Elvenking
“In a great hall with pillars hewn out of the living stone sat the Elvenking on a chair of carven wood. On his head was a crown of berries and red leaves, for the autumn was come again.” The Hobbit, chapter IX ‘Barrels Out of Bound’

= = = = Other Stuff = = = =

Jeroen Bakker, Monday, 2 February 2015, ‘Part 1: Music from Middle-earth
And Part 2
Jeroen Bakker takes the reader on a tour on through the world of music inspired by Tolkien's work. Bakker clearly knows his subject very well (though I would personally put all authorised works that set music to Tolkien's own words in the same category of ‘Music from within the legendarium’ – but then I am not so terribly impressed with most of Donald Swann's compositions for The Road Goes Ever On) and gives a good indication of the scope of music that has been associated with Tolkien (both in terms of genre and ... shall we say, actual engagement with Tolkien's work).

= = = = Web Sites = = = =

Marion E. Wade Center, Audio and Video on Tolkien
A collection of audio and video of talks on Tolkienian topics.

Kristine Larsen, The (Nearly) Discarded Image: Tolkien’s Later Tinkerings with His Medieval Cosmology
The text to Kristine Larsen's paper for the 49th International Congress on Medieval Studies – Kalamazoo 2014. Unfortunately it seems that the linked PowerPoint is not available.

‘The Shire: Frodo And Sam Making Plans’ by Joe Gilronan
Joe Gilronan
The Shire: Frodo And Sam Making Plans

= = = = The Blog Roll = = = =

These are blogs you really should be following yourself if you're interested in Tolkien ...
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. However, you will find below links to monthly archives of posts for months where the blog has featured interesting posts with at least some Tolkien connection. In some cases you may find a headline for a post, if I wish to recommend it particularly.

Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond, ‘Too Many Books and Never Enough
Archive of posts from February 2015

John D. Rateliff -- ‘Sacnoth's Scriptorium
Archive of posts from February 2015

Jonathan S. McIntosh, ‘The Flame Imperishable
Archive of posts from February 2015

Marcel Aubron-Bülles, ‘The Tolkienist
Archive of posts from February 2015

David Bratman, ‘Kalimac's Journal
Archive of posts from February 2015

Jenny Dolfen, ‘Jenny's Sketchbook
Archive of posts from February 2015

Anna Smol, ‘A Single Leaf
Archive of posts from February 2015

Various, The Mythopoeic Society
Recent news from the Mythopoeic Society

Various, The Tolkien Society (TS)
Archive of posts from February 2015

Southfarthing Mathom
Archive of posts from February 2015. The Southfarthings are still working their way through The Lord of the Rings with many interesting and thought-provoking comments along the way.

Michael Martinez, ‘Middle-earth
Archive of posts from February 2015

Grey Havens Group, ‘The Grey Havens Group
Archive of posts from February 2015

Bruce Charlton, ‘Tolkien's The Notion Club Papers
Archive of posts from February 2015

= = = = Sources = = = =

New sources in February 2015

For older sources, see

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