Sunday 14 June 2015

Tolkien Transactions LVIII

May 2015

As I have become more involved with Scouting and Guiding (it's the same thing, anyway) both at the national and the international level, my obligations there are keeping me busy. There is no complaint from me because of this – I just wish to mention it to acknowledge that this blog, and my Tolkien writings in general, for me are at a lower priority than my Scouting, and so delays must be expected, as also this month.
All the usual disclaimers apply about newness, completeness and relevance (or any other implication of responsibility) :-)

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: Tolkienian Artwork
7: Other Stuff
8: Rewarding Discussions
9: Web Sites
10: The Blog Roll
11: Sources

The Oath Has Been Awakened
by Jenny Dolfen

= = = = News = = = =

Sarah Wells, Friday, 15 May 2015, ‘Taruithorn's 25th
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Taruithorn, the Oxford Tolkien Society, the society's blog, the Miruvor, has been very active throughout May. Do take a look (see the blog roll below) and find some of the interesting articles. And of course, warm congratulations to Taruithorn, may you find yourselves even stronger for the 50th anniversary.

Daniel Helen, The Tolkien Society, Wednesday, 20 May 2015, ‘Rare first edition presentation copy of The Hobbit to be auctioned
Also see John D. Rateliff, Monday, 25 May 2015, ‘I'm Cited by Sotheby's
The story of a presentation copy of the first edition of The Hobbit being up for sale at Sotheby's.

Simon Sharwood, The Register, Friday, 22 May 2015, ‘ZX Spectrum ‘Hobbit’ revival sparks developer dispute
The dispute is perhaps not particularly interesting to readers of this, but some may remember the old ZX Spectrum game fondly and thus be interested in the news of its revival.

David Oberhelman, Saturday, 30 May 2015, ‘2015 Mythopoeic Awards finalists announced
The field for the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies has two titles focusing on C.S. Lewis and three titles focusing on Tolkien, including Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary. Together with Sellic Spell by J.R.R. Tolkien and edited by Christopher Tolkien. Knowing full well (from experience) that I am entirely unable to foresee the winner, I will eagerly await the announcement of the winners.

= = = = Events = = = =

Past Events
1 - 3 May 2015, Aachen, Germany, ‘Tolkien Seminar’, Deutsche Tolkien Gesellschaft (German Tolkien Society)
Marie-Noëlle Biemer, Monday, 11 May 2015, ‘Tolkien Seminar Tag 1: Eukatastrophische Wünsche
A short report (in German) on the first day of the DTG Tolkien Seminar.

13 May 2015, ‘Tolkien Lecture 2015: Lev Grossman

14 - 17 May 2015, Kalamazoo, Michigan, ‘International Congress on Medieval Studies
Anna Smol, Sunday, 10 May 2015, ‘K'zoo 2015 sessions on Tolkien and medievalisms
John D. Rateliff, Tuesday, 12 May 2015, ‘Off to Kalamazoo!
Emily Monacelli, Thursday, 14 May 2015, ‘Western Michigan University hosts 50th Medieval Congress today through Sunday
John D. Rateliff, Friday, 15 May 2015, ‘Christopher Tolkien Roundtable (The Saga of King Heidreks the Wise), Friday, 15 May 2015, ‘50th International Congress on Medieval Studies – Day 1, Friday, 15 May 2015, ‘50th International Congress on Medieval Studies – Day 2 is serving up a wealth of tweets related to the Kalamazoo Medievalist congress., Monday, 18 May 2015, ‘50th International Congress on Medieval Studies – Day 3, Monday, 18 May 2015, ‘50th International Congress on Medieval Studies – Day 4

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

30 - 31 May 2015, Geldern, Germany, ‘Tolkien Tag 2015’, Deutsche Tolkien Gesellschaft (German Tolkien Society)
Marie-Noëlle Biemer, Wednesday, 6 May 2015, ‘Tolkien Tag 2015 im Dorf des Drachen
RP Online, Saturday, 9 May 2015, ‘Tolkien-Tag: Ringgeister erobern das Gelderland (In German) Ringwraiths conquering Gelderland ...
RP Online, Thursday, 28 May 2015, ‘Tolkien-Tag ist Ponter Logistik-Wunder (In German)
RP Online, Sunday, 31 May 2015, ‘Die Tolkien-Hauptstadt im Dorf Pont (In German)

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

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

6 - 9 July 2015, Leeds, ‘International Medieval Congress 2015

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

31 July - 3 August 2015, Colorado Springs, Colorado, ‘ MythCon 46’, Mythopoeic Society

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

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

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

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

5 - 7 December 2015, ‘Italian Ringers Con 2015

= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =

Simon Cook, Sunday, 3 May 2015, ‘On the shores of the shoreless sea
In this essay Simon Cook takes a look at connections involving the shoreless / sundering sea between Tolkien's legendarium and ancient northern myths and legends. In this essay Cook focuses on the ideas of arriving from and departure across the Sea, particularly of rulers, but also of the vistas of what may lie beyond the Sea. Old English and Danish myths and legends are vowen together in Beowulf and in Tolkien's Middle-earth writings, from the early Book of Lost Tales through The Notion Club Papers and The Lord of the Rings. The essay form suits Cook's explorations eminently – it doesn't pretend to be exhaustive or the final word on the matter, but explores a particular potential connection, trying to follow that particular stream back to see where it leads (and, if possible, to its spring), ignoring other streams that contribute to the creek, but without dismissing their existence., Thursday, 7 May 2015, ‘12th-century copy of Consolation of Philosophy was written in Scotland, scholar finds
Boëthius' Consolation of Philosophy is often mentioned in connection with Tolkien as one of the possible sources for some of the philosophical ideas unpinning Tolkien's work (or at least as a, to modern readers, fairly accessible medieval representative of these ideas), and so the provenance of early copies of Boëthius from the British Isles is also interesting in a Tolkienian context., Thursday, 7 May 2015, ‘Scandinavian trade “triggered” the Viking Age, researchers find
Well ... just because! ;-)

by Jenny Dolfen
Holly Ordway, Sunday, 17 May 2015, ‘Tolkien, Morris, and the Dead Marshes: An Unrecognized Connection
When reading this, there is, to some extent, a sense of seeing someone re-invent the wheel and then cry out Eureka!. Professor Ordway is, to a large extent, battling some very aged wind-mills when she claims that Tolkien's modern sources are largely unrecognised, or in her discovery of Morris' influence on Tolkien. However, though there is nothing new about the connection between the Dead Marshes and Morris' “ Huns and Romans, as in The House of the Wolfings or The Roots of the Mountains.” (Letters no. 226), I cannot recall seeing this particular connection analysed to the extend that Ordway does, and does interestingly, here.
So, all in all, a more detailed and thorough study than previously seen of a very much recognised connection.

Robert Busek,, Tuesday, 19 May 2015, ‘Defenders of the Faith: Augustine, Aquinas, and the Evolution of Medieval Just War Theory
Unfortunately I haven't had time to read through this paper myself, but both St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas are often mentioned among Tolkien's philosophical inspirations, and I cannot help but wonder how this paper will line up with e.g. Faramir's wonderful speech about not loving “the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory.” (LotR, book IV, ch. 5).

John Garth, Monday, 25 May 2015, ‘A friend of Tolkien's TCBS tells a neglected truth of war
Possibly a bit tangential to the normal topics of these transactions, but the story of George Henry Bonner does, as John Garth implies in the title, tell another bit of the story of the Great War and what it did to that generation of young men to which Tolkien also belonged. The tragedy did not end in 1918.

= = = = Commentary = = = =

Lynn Forest-Hill, Southfarthing Mathom, Saturday, 2 May 2015, ‘Our only meeting in April
The Southampton Tolkien Reading Group has now reached book II of The Lord of the Rings and used a whole meeting (with everyone present) to discuss the first chapter, ‘Many Meetings’.
A few points caught my attention. Gandalf's concern about the situation in the barrow, which he appears to take more seriously than the attack at Weathertop, is puzzling, indeed. A discussion about the differences in the sitations with the Master Ring in Tom Bombadil's house and Rivendell appears to have focused on place rather than people, which made me curious. Also there are some bits that appear, at least to me, to assign a greater sense of agency to the Master Ring than I feel is entirely justified, though Tolkien has managed to make this inanimate object appear almost as an independent character in the story, reflecting the personification that the actual characters apply to it.

Philip and Carol Zaleski, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Friday, 8 May 2015, ‘Oxford's Influential Inklings
It seems that writers of books about the inklings have begun to write lengthy articles based on their books as part of the promotion of the book. So the Zaleskis here produce a lengthy article based on their new book about the inklings, The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams. Most intelligent commentary on both article and book can be found in the Mythsoc e-mail list on Yahoo groups (see under discussions)
See also: Sarah Seltzer, Monday, 11 May 2015, ‘Fathers of Fantasy: Celebrating J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis' Friendiversary,
Bruce Charlton, Thursday, 14 May 2015, ‘Review of The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski (2015)
Elizabeth Hand, Los Angeles Times, Friday, 29 May 2015, ‘Review: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and 'The Fellowship' of fantasy writers

The Two Captains
by Jenny Dolfen
Michael Martinez, Tuesday, 19 May 2015, ‘Please Stand Here, Mister Tolkien, While We Take a Few Measurements
This is one of the – over the past few years quite rare – instances where I have to say that I mostly disagree with Martinez.
First of all, I think his understanding of scientists' approach to Tolkien's work is, at least, insufficient – scientists are analysing Tolkien's work from a lot of different perspectives and for a number of reasons. In many cases, the scientist is more concerned with helping the reader to understand their science than they are with understanding Tolkien (see for instance Henry Gee's excellent The Science of Middle-earth), in some cases the primary concern is a type of source study, where Tolkien's understanding of the Primary World is seen as a source, and many other concerns are also seen, but I doubt that the desire for Middle-earth to be real a factor for many scientists – if for any at all.
Secondly, I firmly agree with Verlyn Flieger when she states that “for a major fantasy [The Lord of the Rings] has suprisingly few actual fantastic elements in it” (for a more thorough understanding, read Flieger's essay ‘Fantasy and Reality: J.R.R. Tolkien's World and the Fairy-Story Essay’ in Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien), and with the realisation that in Tolkien's work the fantastic element is actually quite exceptional, I have to reject one of the basic assumptions in Martinez' post.
Finally, speaking as a physicist, I tend to disagree with Martinez' exposition about the relation between science and the spiritual (incl. the divine). The divine is inherently outside the scope of science and thus any idea of scientifically testing the divine inherently nonsensical from a scientific viewpoint (this, obviously, has nothing to do with testing much of the nonsense that is proposed that is within the scope of science, but trying to argue based on the divine, which is outside – such can generally be summarily dismissed).

Evan Puschak, ‘the Nerd Writer’, Thursday, 21 May 2015, ‘The Perils of Worldbuilding
I could wish that I had the time for a sustained critique of Mr Puschak's points here. Not that I entirely disagree with everything he says, but I feel that he also misses a lot of important points about stories and story-telling that are pertinent to the points he tries to make. But read and watch this for yourself and instead of merely fully rejecting or fully accepting each claim, you might spend a few seconds considering the circumstances in which the claim is true and false respectively.

Thomas Van, Thursday, 21 May 2015, ‘Was Lewis “basically Catholic”?
A short piece referring to a 2007 article from Mythlore, that addresses Lewis' relation with Catholicism by way of his friendship and differences with Tolkien. Published on a Catholic web-site (

John D. Rateliff, Friday, 22 May 2015, ‘Tolkien and E. M. Forster
Reactions and further thoughts on Jason Fisher's April post about Tolkien and the Nobel prize.

Dylan Leavitt, Monday, 25 May 2015, ‘Tolkien's Middle Earth Travels to the Midwest
About a letter sent by Tolkien to William B. Ready at the Marquette in 1957, including a transcript of the letter.
See also John D. Rateliff, Tuesday, 26 May 2015, ‘The Ready Letter

Tosin Thompson, Thursday, 28 May 2015, ‘From Aragorn's blood pressure to Gollum's vitamin D levels: the science of The Lord of the Rings
Though I find expressions such as ‘infatuated and besotted’ a rather offensive way to describe the enchantment of Tolkien's work (and other expressions have that same slightly mocking air), the list of serious applications of scientific models to Tolkien's sub-creation is intriguing. The climate scientist, professor Dan Lunt, points out that ’The serious point to the study was that it showed that climate models are not just statistical models tuned to observations, but are based on fundamental physics and thus can be applied to any planet, real or imagined.’ The same can be said for the other pieces of research: the point is to take the models, that are based on fundamental science, and show that they can be applied broadly to the human experience.

Laura Miller, Sunday, 31 May 2015, ‘Love “Game of Thrones?” Thank “unfashionable” Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, who went against the grain and conquered pop culture
Starting with the sub-title, “It wasn't Christianity that gave a pack of old fogeys like the Inklings the power to rule the world”, it is quite clear that the agenda is a criticism of the narrow perspective of Christian analyses of the Inklings; most recently, and the seeming trigger for this article, the book by the Zaleskis. I might put things differently – attempting a more balanced approach – but overall I think it is important to provide a corrective to the large number of critical analyses that offer a specifically Christian reading of Tolkien.

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

David Bratman, Tuesday, 5 May 2015, ‘buried in bibliography
Working on the bibliography for the next Tolkien Studies, covering 2013, Bratman has a few reflections both on what is covered, but also what is not covered by the journal's annual bibliography listing. I think I might be able to identify some work published only on the internet, that would probably be worth including in a more comprehensive bibliography. I am less certain about non-English ... as I see it, there is a limit to how much you can do with Tolkien scholarship in other languages, because, among other things, you need to be able to work with Tolkien's own critical vocabulary, even if you do not adopt it as your own – trying to translate this vocabulary of complex concepts and ideas simply do not work well enough for the detailed understanding needed for scholarship at the level of the forefront of modern Tolkien studies.

John D. Rateliff, Saturday, 16 May 2015, ‘Verlyn Flieger Festschrift (A Call for Papers)

David Bratman, Thursday, 21 May 2015, ‘Tolkien Studies 12: an announcement
Announcing a change in format (from hardcover to softcover) the contents of Tolkien Studies 12 ... even more ‘Oooohhhhh!!!’

Kelley M. Wickham-Crowley, Journal of Tolkien Research, Friday, 22 May 2015, ‘J.R.R. Tolkien: the Forest and the City (2013), edited by Helen Conrad-O'Briain and Gerard Hynes
A thorough and excellent review of this volume, applauding the diversity of voices in the collection, while pointing out some of the weaknesses.

Andrew Higgins, Tuesday, 26 May 2015, ‘Tolkien's Poetry (2013), edited by Julian Eilmann and Allan Turner
Andrew Higgins reviews the 2013 Cormarë volume on Tolkien's poetry. Quite possibly merely a result of differing interests and tastes, but Higgins' descriptions of the essays that make up this collection made me reconsider whether I would buy it or not, putting it back on the list of ‘let me try it from the library first’ books. But that, too, is one of the reasons for reviews, and quite possibly to be more grateful for than an enthused review that makes you want to rush out and buy the book.

Eleanor Simmons, Thursday, 28 May 2015, ‘Raymond Edwards' "Tolkien" – A Review
A review of the 2014 biography, Tolkien, by Raymond Edwards. While I appreciate the comparison to Carpenter, I lack an analysis of what this biography has to add to what is already available from e.g. John Garth and from Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond (and an evaluation of how reliable such additional material appears ...)

Douglas A. Anderson, Sunday, 31 May 2015, ‘The Journal of Tolkien Research
Announcing the reviews that have appeared in the journal (see above), and promising that he expects “to have enough for new ones to appear weekly through most of June.” ... ‘Oooohhhhh!!!’ again :-)

= = = = Tolkienian Artwork = = = =

Graeme Skinner, Tuesday, 5 May 2015, ‘Going Underground
The tube map of Moria ...

Joe Gilronan, Tuesday, 5 May 2015, ‘Rivendell. The Last Homely House

Jenny Dolfen, Wednesday, 27 May 2015, ‘The Two Captains
Beleg and Túrin.

The Drawing of the Sword
by Jenny Dolfen

= = = = Other Stuff = = = =

Steve McKenna, Monday, 11 May 2015, ‘Fact and fantasy on Tolkien trail
A quite nice article about Tolkien's relationship to Birmingham. Overall a very good article, though the usual tower-myth does get aired (with the ‘the possible inspiration’ qualifier, which seems to be journalist-speak for ‘there's absolutely nothing to support this, but people like to believe it anyway’).

Joe Bartram, Sunday, 24 May 2015, ‘A Tolkien Calendar: Part 1
First part of a series offering a detailed analysis of the calendars of Tolkien's Middle-earth.

= = = = Rewarding Discussions = = = =

Mythsoc, Yahoo group, ‘Article in The Chronicle of Higher Education and a new book about the Inklings
Undoubtedly the most knowledgeable and intelligent discussion that I have seen anywhere of the article and book by the Zaleskis.

= = = = Web Sites = = = =

The Tolkien Estate
I repeat the link to the Tolkien Estate web-site, which saw the launch of a major re-design last month, which is now being commented and reviewed by various Tolkienists.
John D. Rateliff, Monday, 4 May 2015, ‘Tolkien Estate Website
John D. Rateliff, Tuesday, 5 May 2015, ‘And The Answer Is: Oysters Served With Lemon
Christina Scull & Wayne G. Hammond, Wednesday, 6 May 2015, ‘Tolkien Estate Website Revised
John D. Rateliff, Thursday, 7 May 2015, ‘Tolkien Estate's New Website (quick guide)

Tolkien Main Page – Library of Birmingham Discover Tolkien from the Library of Birmingham. Gallery, videos, and other material relating Tolkien's early life in Birmingham.

= = = = 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 May 2015

The Last Homely House
by Joe Gilronan
Douglas A. Anderson, ‘Tolkien and Fantasy
Archive of posts from May 2015

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

John Garth, ‘John Garth
Archive of posts from May 2015

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

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

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

Various, The Mythopoeic Society
Archive of posts from May 2015

Various (Bradford Eden, ed.)Journal of Tolkien Research (JTR)
Archive of contributions for the on-going volume 1, issue 1

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

Simon Cook, Ye Machine
Archive of posts from May 2015

Southfarthing Mathom
Archive of posts from May 2015

Taruithorn, the Oxford Tolkien Society, ‘
Archive of posts from May 2015

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

Pieter Collier, ‘The Tolkien Library
See the front page for a list of recent posts.

Ben, ‘A clearer thinking oasis
Archive of posts from May 2015

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

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

= = = = Sources = = = =

New sources in May 2015
Taruithorn, the Oxford Tolkien Society, ‘

Ben, ‘A clearer thinking oasis

For older sources, see