Monday 22 February 2016

“The Shadow Man” and “Noel” – the longer story ...

On Tuesday 16 February 2016 the on-line Tolkien community was hit by news published by the Oxford Mail that ‘Undiscovered J R R Tolkien poems found in 1936 school magazine’1. This obviously caused quite a stir – and in more knowledgeable Tolkien experts perhaps a bit of frustration.

Let us get one thing straight from the start: though many of us had obviously forgotten, we did know all about this since June 2013, when Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull wrote about the two poems in their  Tolkien Notes 82 from 16 June 2013, and the poem The Shadow Man is both published and discussed in their 2014 edition of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil3.

With that in mind, a reasonable question might be, “What has actually been discovered here?”

The answer to that is “merely the school's own copy of The Annual  from Our Lady's School in Abingdon.”  As David Bratman succinctly puts it, “So that’s where our copy was hiding!”4

In actual fact, the finding of the school's copy of The Annual is the result of a long process, and the article in The Catholic Herald5 is to be highly commended for getting the facts fairly straight.

Tolkien scholars, and not least bibliographic scholars such as Douglas A. Anderson and Wayne G. Hammond, have been searching for early publications of Tolkien's poetry based on various hints, Humphrey Carpenter, for instance, had kept notes of hints of unknown (to him) appearances of Tolkien's work, which he showed to other Tolkien scholars.

Among Tolkien's papers is a table of contents for a proposed collection of his poems (probably The Adventures of Tom Bombadil – but I am not certain of that.   Douglas A. Anderson explains that it was for “an entirely different collection”10 [Added 2016-02-25]). In this table, Tolkien had marked the published ones with little annotations, which led to the finding of the poem  Firiel published in 1934 in The Chronicle of the Convents of the Sacred Heart (Volume IV). John D. Rateliff found a copy of this chronicle by the simple method of visiting the convent during a trip to England in 1981, where he followed up on information from Douglas A. Anderson.6

See particularly Douglas A. Anderson's blog post, Some Tolkienian updates: "lost" poems and secret vices10, for more about the hunt for these unknown, in 1980, appearances of Tolkien poetry.

The poem Shadow-Bride  appeared on this list marked “pub. Abingd. Chron.” Doug Anderson reports that “For years we could find nothing of that title.” John Rateliff searched for it also during his 1981 trip, and even called up “the elderly former editor of a local newspaper from that era”6. In their  J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: Reader's Guide, Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond write that “a version of Shadow-Bride seems to have been printed already in the 1920s, in a periodical possibly entitled Abingdon Chronicle, about which nothing more is known.”7

That nothing more was known about an Abingdon Chronicle is no longer a surprise ... 

As Wayne Hammond & Christina Scull report in their  Tolkien Notes 68 from April 2013, they had been referred to the digital archives of the Roman Catholic magazine  The Tablet  in relation to another issue, and having found this, they searched it for other references to Tolkien, and there found that the mysterious  Abingdon Chronicle  (“Abingd. Chron.”) might be  The Abingdon Annual  published by Our Lady's School in Abingdon ...

See  ‘New Books and Music’ in The Tablet, 15 February 1936, p.12

From there the story is explained in  Tolkien Notes 8  (16 June 2013) from the perspective of Wayne Hammond and in  The Catholic Herald  from the perspective of the school principal, Stephen Oliver.

Wayne Hammond found the school and contacted them. He explained the issue and asked if they had the issue in question in their archives. The school could, at that time, not locate their own copy, but Our Lady's School in Abingdon was, at the time, a well-known convent school run by the Sisters of Mercy, and the principal referred Hammond to the London archives of that institute.

They had the specific issue in their archives and helped Hammond with copies etc. leading to the announcement, in June 2013, of not only the finding of the earlier publication of  Shadow-Bride under the name of  The Shadow Man , but also the discovery of a Tolkien poem that had hitherto not been known to the Tolkien scholars of our day2

This also led to the inclusion of The Shadow Man in the discussion of Shadow-Bride in their 2014 extended edition of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil3.

Back in Abingdon, I suspect that the principal, Stephen Oliver, was a bit regretful that he had not been able to locate the school's own copy, as he proclaims to be “a great Tolkien fan and was thrilled to discover the connection with the school”5. One can only guess at his excitement when the school did locate their copy, which appears to have been in May 2015.

At least, on 21 May 2015, Our Lady's School in Abingdon announced on their web-site that they had a connection to Tolkien and they put the text of the two poems on-line in a news story, explaining that
the archives of our school contain a school annual dated 1936, which has two gems from J R R Tolkien. [...] Tolkien had connections with OLA School (as we are now called) and two poems, namely ‘Noel’ and ‘The Shadow Man’ were published in the 1936 annual.
This story has been withdrawn from the website between 8 February and 17 February 2016 (a cached copy from 8 February was previously available on Google, but this can no longer be found).

In any case, the finally did find  their own  copy of the 1936  Annual  while ‘preparing’ (something probably entailing either checking the archives or a bit of cleaning up) for an event for old pupils of the school, presumably in spring 2015, but on Monday this broke in the  Oxford Mail1 ... and we had our story ...

As to why a couple of Tolkien poems would appear in the annual of a Roman Catholic school in Oxfordshire, Tolkien is known to have lent support to Roman Catholic causes, and he would surely have been inclined to help a school run by the Sisters of Mercy.

Tolkien had been visited by Mother Mary Michael of the Sisters of Mercy in Hull when he was hospitalised after being sent home from the Battle of the Somme, and she became one of the godparents of Tolkien's son, Michael Hilary Reuel Tolkien, who was born on 22 October 19209.

Besides the friendship with Mother Mary Michael, the Tolkiens were a part of the Catholic community in Oxford, and it is likely that some of their Catholic friends knew, had attended, or had children who attended, the school, so there are likely numerous possibilities for facilitating contact, if such was at all necessary.

  1. Herring, Naomi. ‘Undiscovered J R R Tolkien poems found in 1936 school magazine’ in The Oxford Mail, 2016-02-15), URL:
  2. Hammond, Wayne and Scull, Christina. Tolkien Notes 8, 2013-06-16, URL: (see ‘A New Tolkien Poem’)
  3. Tolkien, J.R.R. edited by Hammond, Wayne and Scull, Christina. The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2014
  4. Bratman, David. ‘So that’s where our copy was hiding!’ on The Tolkien Society blogs, 2016-02-17, URL:
  5. Staff. ‘Two ‘lost’ Tolkien poems found at school in Abingdon’, in The Catholic Herald, 2016-02-16, URL:
  6. Rateliff, John D. The Shadow Man, 2016-02-20, URL:
  7. Scull, Christina and Hammond, Wayne. The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: Reader's Guide, London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006. p. 884
  8. Hammond, Wayne and Scull, Christina. Tolkien Notes 6, 2013-04-19, URL: (see ‘Addenda and Corrigenda’)
  9. Scull, Christina and Hammond, Wayne. The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: Chronology, London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006. p. 114
  10. Douglas A. Anderson. Some Tolkienian updates: "lost" poems and secret vices, 2016-02-24. URL: (added on 2016-02-25)

For further reference, is here a list of known (to me as of today) on-line outlets carrying the story (including some of the above) :

General News Media:

Naomi Herring. ‘Undiscovered J R R Tolkien poems found in 1936 school magazine’, Oxford Mail, 2016-02-15 URL:

Alison Flood. ‘Unseen JRR Tolkien poems found in school magazine’, The Guardian 2016-02-16, URL:
And a correction from The Guardian regretting their printing of copyrighted material without permission, 2016-01-21. URL:

‘JRR Tolkien poems found in Abingdon school annual’, BBC Oxford, 2016-02-16 URL:

Staff. ‘Two ‘lost’ Tolkien poems found at school in Abingdon’, The Catholic Herald, 2016-02-16:

Roslyn Sulcas. ‘Two Poems by J.R.R. Tolkien Found in School Publication in England’, ‘Artsbeat’ blog for The New York Times, 2016-02-16. URL:

PTI. ‘Unseen JRR Tolkien poems found in 1936 UK school magazine’, The Hindu, 2016-02-16. URL:

Huw Fullerton. ‘New work by Lord of the Rings writer JRR Tolkien discovered’, Radio Times, 2016-02-17. URL:

Simon Keegan. ‘Lost Lord of the Rings character discovered in old Tolkien poems in school magazine’, The Mirror, 2016-02-16. URL: (This article should be read for its humorous fantasy – do not confuse it with factual information!)

Staff. ‘Tolkien's unseen poems’, BBC World Service, 2016-02-17 (video, 4 mins). URL:

Niall Alexander. ‘There and Back Again, Again: New Tolkien Poems Found in Old Annual’,, 2016-02-17. URL:

J.E. Reich. ‘Two Unknown J.R.R. Tolkien Poems Have Been Discovered In A Forgotten Magazine’, Tech Times, 2016-02-17. URL:

Emily Gaudette. ‘Attention Fantasy-Starved Fans, We've Got New Tolkien Poems’,, 2016-02-17. URL:

Laura Rebello. ‘Previously unseen JRR Tolkien poems discovered in 1936 school magazine’, International Business Times, 2016-02-17. URL:

Sophie Grubb. ‘Undiscovered poems by JRR Tolkien unearthed 1936 magazine at Our Lady’s Abingdon’, The Herald (Abingdon, Didcot, Wallingford, Wantage and Oxfordshire), 2016-02-16. URL:

Rachel Cruz. ‘JRR Tolkien Unknown Poems Discovered In School Paper’, Headlines & Global News, 2016-02-18. URL:

Jessica Maria MacFarlane. ‘79-Year-Old J.R.R. Tolkien Poems Discovered in Oxfordshire’. The Nerdist, 2016-02-17. URL:

Amy Wilcockson. ‘JRR Tolkien Poems Found!’, Impact, 2016-02-22. URL:

Staff. ‘Swindon law firm give expert help on Tolkien verse’, Swindon Advertiser, 2016-02-24. URL:

Loughlan Campbell. ‘Lost Tolkien poems found in Abingdon’, Oxfordshre Guardian, 2016-02-18. URL:

Scholarly Commentary

Matt Pickles, Dr Stuart Lee, ‘Do newly-discovered Tolkien poems show Oxford's earliest outreach activity?’, Oxford University Arts Blog, 2016-02-17. URL:

Dimitra Fimi. ‘Good Morning, Wales’, BBC Radio Wales (interview). 2016-02-18. URL:

Dimitra Fimi. ‘Tolkien’s “new” poems: “The Shadow-Man” and “Noel”’, her blog, 2016-02-18. URL:

John D. Rateliff. ‘The Shadow Man’, his blog, 2016-02-20. URL:

Douglas A. Anderson. ‘Some Tolkienian updates: "lost" poems and secret vices’, his blog, 2016-02-24. URL:

Tolkien-specific media

Daniel Helen. ‘Rare Tolkien poems uncovered in Oxfordshire school journal’, The Tolkien Society, 2016-02-16. URL:

David Bratman. ‘So that’s where our copy was hiding!’, The Tolkien Society blog, 2016-02-17. URL:

Several. ‘Tolkien Poems’, Mythopoeic Society Yahoo Group,  2016-02-16 onwards. URL:

Wednesday 3 February 2016

Tolkien Transactions LXVI

January 2016

Another busy month ...
I have said often enough that the two primary criteria for something to make it to these transactions is 1) that I actually see it, and 2) that I find it interesting or relevant or otherwise worthy enough to spend time on sharing it with you.
I am sure that many things that would meet the second criterion never makes the first, but the reverse is also true: I see a lot of stuff that fails to meet the second criterion – this month including, among other things, spurious and foolish claims about that chimney and folly in Birmingham, the possible auditioning of an acclaimed musician (however much I like his music) in connection with the Jackson films (the Beatles' bid for a The Lord of the Rings film is more interesting in a Tolkienian context), and what appears to be violations of the copyrights of the Tolkien Estate. You will find no trace of any of these below.
With that disclaimer, I hope you will nonetheless find at least some thing that is new, interesting, enjoyable or otherwise makes reading this worth your time. All the usual disclaimers of course also 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: The Birthday Toast
2: News
3: Events
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: The Blog Roll
14: Sources

The Birthday Toast

A simple list of articles and links without commentary ...

The Professor!

Bilbo and the Red Book
by Jay Johnstone
Can you find the 15 hints to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in this beautiful picture?
Staff, WTOP, Saturday, 2 January 2016, ‘J.R.R. Tolkien fans to toast ‘The Professor’ on his 124th birthday

Alice Greenleaf, Middle-earth News, Sunday, 3 January 2016, ‘Join Tolkien Fans for the International Birthday Toast to the Professor!

Emily Asher-Perrin,, Sunday, 3 January 2016, ‘J. R. R. Tolkien Went into the West, but Gave Us Middle-earth

John D. Rateliff, Sunday, 4 January 2016, ‘Happy Tolkien's Birthday

Tomás Hijo, Sunday, 3 January 2016, ‘Remastering the old 'Moria taxi troll'. My way to celebrate!

‘Altaira’,, Sunday, 3 January 2016, ‘Happy Birthday, J.R.R. Tolkien!

Kirsten Silven, Inquisitr, Sunday, 3 January 2016, ‘Happy 124th Birthday, J.R.R. Tolkien!

Laura Hampton, The Hevelin Collection, Monday, 4 January 2016, ‘Happy belated birthday to J. R. R. Tolkien

Arathi M, The Hindu, Tuesday, 5 January 2016, ‘The magic of Tolkien


Fell and Fey
An image of Fëanor by Jenny Dolfen
Remember to also check out the version with gold leaf!
Daniel Helen, The Tolkien Society, Wednesday, 7 January 2016, ‘Mythgard Academy class on The Shaping of Middle-earth
On the free-access Mythgard Academy class on The Shaping of Middle-earth (fourth volume in The History of Middle-earth), taught by Corey Olsen., Sunday, 11 January 2016, ‘10 Free Medieval Studies Online Courses you can take in 2016
While we are on the topic of free (or nearly ...) on-line courses available for Tolkien enthusiasts in 2016, here is a list from of such courses on Medieval topics

Kerry Ashdown, Saturday, 16 January 2016, ‘New exhibition set to explore Lord of the Rings creator J R R Tolkien's time in Staffordshire
See also Daniel Helen, The Tolkien Society, Thursday, 28 January 2016, ‘Touring Tolkien exhibition coming to Staffordshire due to lottery funding
and also the events section.

Shaun Gunner, The Tolkien Society, Saturday, 16 January 2016, ‘New stink bug named after Tolkien dragon
On the naming of Tamolia ancalagon after Tolkien's famous dragon. Tamolia ancalagon is a Tessarotomid bug from New Guinea, which has been recently named by the Systematic Entomology Laboratory at North Dakota State University. See last month's transactions for the original article from Entomology Today.

Daniel Helen, The Tolkien Society, Wednesday, 20 January 2016, ‘Earliest reference to “elf” manuscript digitised
On the digitisation and making available on-line of the earliest manuscript known to include a reference to elfs (or elves). Elves were evil … -ish (albeit not uniformly so), according to the Anglo-Saxons (and, probably, the Old Norse). Click on through to the article by the British Library, which investigates the appearance of these creatures in Anglo-Saxon manuscripts in more depth.


Info on upcoming events (as of 1 February)
17 February – 13 April 2016, Newberry Library, Chigago, Illinois, ‘The Hobbit: J.R.R. Tolkien's Mythic Sources’, The Newberry Library Continuing Education Classes, Wednesdays 17:45 – 19:45, taught by Dr. Karl E.H. Seigfried.

Man of Gondor
Beregond by Jenny Dolfen
20 February 2016, Woodstock Town Hall, Oxfordshire, ‘Tolkien: Author of the Millenium?’, Woodstock Literature Society – A talk by Dr. Stuart Lee

20 February 2016 & more, Rome, Italy, ‘The Medieval Ages Through Tolkien's Eyes’, Accademia Medioevo and Associazione Italiana Studi Tolkieniani

5 March 2016, Pembroke College, Cambridge, UK, ‘Minas Tirith Smial Annual Dinner’, Minas Tirith, the Cambridge Tolkien Society

7 March – 24 April 2016, Museum of Cannock Chase, ‘J.R.R. Tolkien in Staffordshire’, The Haywood Society

22 - 25 March 2016, Seattle, WA, USA, ‘PCA/ACA National Conference, PCA/ACA

24 March 2016, Oslo, Norway, ‘ArtheCon 2016’, Arthedain

25 March 2016, Worldwide, ‘Tolkien Reading Day, The Tolkien Society – the 2016 theme is “Life, Death, and Immortality”.

8–10 April 2016, The Middletons Hotel, York, ‘Springmoot and AGM 2016’, The Tolkien Society

8–9 April 2016, University of Vermont, USA, ‘Tolkien in Vermont 2016’, Tolkien Club of University of Vermont
Anna Smol, Monday, 19 October 2015, ‘CFP: Tolkien in Vermont 2016

6–8 May 2016, University of Jena, ‘Tolkien Conference 2016’, Deutsche Tolkiengesellschaft and Walking Tree Publishers. The 2016 theme is ‘Tolkien's Philosophy of Language’

12–15 May 2016, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, , ‘51st International Congress on Medieval Studies (K'zoo '16)’, The Medieval Institute at Western Michigan University
Anna Smol, Saturday, 23 January 2016, ‘Tolkien & medievalism at K'zoo 2016: sneak peek

28 May 2016, East Yorkshire, ‘Tolkien Tour: East Yorkshire’, The Tolkien Society

2–5 June 2016, Taylor University, Indiana, ‘C.S. Lewis & Friends Colloquium 2016’, Center for the Study of C.S. Lewis & Friends

17–19 June 2016, Leiden | Den Haag, ‘Lustrum 2016: Unlocking Tolkien, Unquendor – The Dutch Tolkien Society

3 July 2016, Hilton Hotel, Leeds, ‘The Tolkien Society Seminar 2016’, The Tolkien Society
This year's theme will be ‘Life, Death, and Immortality’ in the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien. See also Daniel Helen, The Tolkien Society, Tuesday, 19 January 2016, ‘Call for Papers: Tolkien Society Seminar 2016

4–7 July 2016, Leeds University, ‘International Medieval Congress’, Institute for Medieval Studies

16 July 2016, Baruch College, New York City, ‘New York Tolkien Conference

18–20 July 2016, University of Bamberg, Bavaria, Germany, ‘International Conference on Medievalism – 2016: Tradition or Myth’, International Society for the Study of Medievalism &ndash: I am not sure if there will be anything specifically Tolkienian at this conference, but looking at the theme of the 2016 conference, I would very much expect that Tolkien will be mentioned ... more than once.

5–8 August 2016, San Antonio, Texas, US, ‘MythCon 47’, The Mythopoeic Society. The 2016 theme is ‘Faces of Mythology: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern’

September? 2016, Oxford, ‘Oxonmoot 2016’, The Tolkien Society — an Oxonmoot will be held ...

For much of the above, I am deeply grateful to Anna Smol for her Sunday, 31 January 2016 post, ‘Tolkien conference season 2016’ – Thank you!

Essays and Scholarship

Simon J. Cook, Sunday, 10 January 2016, ‘Tolkien's magic
In this post, Simon Cook investigates Tolkien's use of ‘spell’ and how Tolkien seems to emphasize the power of words, even ordinary words by thoroughly non-magical people, to hold power over other people. In both The Lord of the Rings and in other writings (not least On Fairy-stories) Tolkien sets up a complex of words such as spell, enchantment, songs of power, words of power, and magic that circles the central concept of the power of the word over the minds and imaginations of the listeners and readers. It seems to me that Tolkien, in Arda, sets up a world in which this power is not fundamentally different from the power Tolkien believed that words have in the real world, but in which this power is more obvious, and in which some creatures may have the ability to enhance that power with a bit of their own innate power. See also the follow-up on this post, Wednesday, 13 January 2016, ‘Tolkien's magic II; or, what hobbits have that elves don't
Here I think that Cook sets up some interesting distinctions between Elves and Humans (Men and Hobbits) in Tolkien's legendarium. I suspect that I would think that his distinctions do not quite hold, but I would be very interested to see these ideas elaborated and contextualised also with the different relations of Elves and Men to the Music (Eru willed that Men “should have a virtue to shape their life amid the powers and chances of the world, beyond the Music of the Ainur, which is as fate to all things else;”).
The last (so far) of the posts pursuing the this theme of spells, enchantment and fantasy, Thursday, 14 January 2016, ‘Who is Gandalf?
Here I am afraid that Cook loses me. Not in the build-up, but in the conclusion. I would agree (and I think it is a fairly trivial conclusion) that Gandalf often acts as Tolkien's mouthpiece in The Lord of the Rings, but there is, in my opinion, a long way from there to the claim that “Gandalf is Tolkien's fantasy.” That said, the discussion is very interesting and even where I am not convinced, I find that there is something worth considering and reflecting upon.

by Jenny Dolfen
Sara Graça da Silva and Jamshid J. Tehrani, Wednesday, 20 January 2016, ‘Comparative phylogenetic analyses uncover the ancient roots of Indo-European folktales
“we show that these oral traditions probably originated long before the emergence of the literary record, and find evidence that one tale (‘The Smith and the Devil’) can be traced back to the Bronze Age.”
I wonder what Tolkien would have thought of this? I am sure he would have been intrigued, but what else? I suspect that he would also want to emphasise the importance of the differences – of “all that gives [each story] particular force or individual life”. I imagine that he would at the same time be enthusiastic about the results and the new knowledge, but at the same time wish to stress the limitations and the need to use these exiting new tools with care … but that is, admittedly, merely what I imagine; very speculative.
The story has also been in the news:
Chris Samoray, Science News, Tuesday, 19 January 2016, ‘No fairy tale: Origins of some famous stories go back thousands of years
BBC, Wednesday, 20 January 2016, ‘Fairy tale origins thousands of years old, researchers say
Alison Flood, The Guardian, Wednesday, 20 January 2016, ‘Fairytales much older than previously thought, say researchers
Ed Yong, The Atlantic, Wednesday, 20 January 2016, ‘The Fairy Tales That Predate Christianity

Thomas Honegger, Tuesday, 26 January 2016, ‘J.R.R. Tolkien's Academic Writings
A chapter published in A Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Stuart Lee on Tolkien's academic writings. Honegger opens with a discussion of the status of Tolkien's academic writings (including various unpublished writings) with special focus on their status within Tolkien scholarship. Honegger then groups Tolkien's writings in ‘Tolkien on Words’, ‘Tolkien on Language’, and ‘Tolkien on Literature’, giving an overview and offering a commentary discussing the direction of Tolkien's thoughts on the topic, with the section on Tolkien's writings about literature being far the longest. The chapter ends with a list of Tolkien's academic writings (ordered chronologically by publication) and, of course, a bibliography (which is also worth exploring). All in all an excellent chapter. (Login necessary.)

Bradley J. Birzer, The Catholic World Report, Thursday, 28 January 2016, ‘The Story of Kullervo and the origins of Tolkien's legendarium
Tolkien's engagement with The Kalevala in general and The Story of Kullervo in particular is the thread to which Bradley Birzer continuously returns in this article on the origins of Tolkien's legendarium (the plural form is appropriate here, as it is not a question of a single well-spring). The article is excellent as far as it goes despite an error or two (Tolkien's legendarium is indeed ‘nationalist’, albeit not in the negative sense this word often gets, but in the sense of being permeated with his deep and abiding love for his country, the West Midlands). Also note the comments where John Garth links to his own piece from The Guardian about the genesis of Tolkien's legendarium. In commentary elsewhere John Garth also mentions his article in Tolkien Studies XI (2014), ‘“The road from adaptation to invention”: How Tolkien Came to the Brink of Middle-earth in 1914’ and his talk at the Tolkien Symposium at Merton College in November 2014, ‘100 years on, how Tolkien came to the brink of Middle-earth


Thomas J. West III, Saturday, 2 January 2016, ‘Reading “The Lord of the Rings”: “A Journey in the Dark” and “The Bridge of Khazadûm”
West starts this month with the Moria chapters, and gets all the way through book 3, ending his postings with Gandalf and Pippin riding away from the Gap of Rohan.

Joel W. Hawbaker, Sci-Fi-Fantasy Network, Sunday, 3 January 2016, ‘The Catholic And The Convert – Part 4
In the last two instalments of this multi-part essay, Hawbaker discusses the notion og Good in Lewis and Tolkien, and of the endings of their best-known stories (The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia). I cannot put my finger on my issues with these discussions in a few sentences, but they appear to me strangely unsatisfactory. From oddly chosen citations (possibly in an attempt to pick other citations than those usually used), over a lack of breadth – a focus that becomes not only narrow, but myopic, and other aspects, my overall impression is that these discussions tell us more about Joel W. Hawbaker than they do about Lewis and Tolkien.

Lynn Forest-Hill, Southfarthing Mathom, Saturday, 9 January 2016, ‘First meeting in 2016
In this and the following post, we may follow the Southampton Tolkien Reading Group through chapters 6–8 of book 3 of The Lord of the Rings. As always the discussions are interesting and occasionally re-awakens one's appreciation for Tolkien's genius, as in calling attention to the last lines of chapter 6, ‘The King of the Golden Hall’ … “Wow!” indeed!

Ben, Sunday, 10 January 2016, ‘Tolkien and Hope
In this post Ben launches a triple criticism related to Tolkien's essay On Fairy-stories: of Tolkien for mixing up his personal faith with his scholarship, on Tolkien scholars for over-emphasising the concept of eucatastrophe, and on Tolkien scholars for relying too heavily on Tolkien's own critical apparatus.
Ben is certainly not the first to offer critique of Tolkien's essay, as Flieger and Anderson point out in their introduction to the extended edition of the essay, both Carpenter and Shippey have gone before, and though the direction of the critique differs, I think there is a common thread of mistaking the nature of the lecture-cum-essay. Tolkien is, as Flieger and Anderson point out, “not making a single argument, nor is he trying to prove a thesis,” to which I would add that nor is he trying to present the results of scholarly research. “Rather, he is offering a wide-ranging overview,” – an overview of a highly personal nature, that, with its many an varied points, seeks to assert that Fairy-stories are indeed a literary genre worthy of being read by adults simply for the enjoyment of reading them. As for Tolkien's concept of eucatastrophe, I can accept that Tolkien thought it linked to the Christian evangelium, but I would assert that I don't have to agree with his analysis to benefit from his invention, nor of his discussion of ‘consolation’.
The second critique is probably epitomized by the claim that “Only a kind of fiat by consensus of Christian scholars has produced this reliance on an essentially Christian interpretive reading with ‘eucatastrophe’ a the center.” While I would agree that such scholars do exist, I think that Ben exaggerates their impact on scholarship on Tolkien, which is generally far more balanced than he allows.
The final complaint also seems to me to miss the mark by a wide margin simply by exaggerating a problem beyond recognition. The final paragraph reads,
“Tolkien scholars need to engage with ‘On Faery Stories’ more critically and with greater rigor. They should not be afraid to point out where Tolkien’s own beliefs are implicated with his scholarship, and why that might cause interpretive problems. Most of all, they should get over ‘eucatastrophe’ and they should stop fetishising Tolkien's own interpretive apparatus. Think up your own theories.”
So, essentially, Ben is asking Tolkien scholars to do exactly what they're doing, unless he wants them to completely ignore Tolkien's own critical vocabulary and thoughts, which would be a complete and dramatic mistake. No-one ‘fetishises’ Tolkien's critical apparatus, but they use it and engage with it in, quite often, new and intriguing ways to come up with their own theories.
Had Ben presented this as as addressing some (preferably named) minority fringe-sections of Tolkien scholarship with little impact on the broad thrust of Tolkien research, I would have been more sympathetic to his ideas (though I would say that there are other problems in Tolkien scholarship that deserve more attention – see elsewhere over the past few months), but presented as an complaint over the broad thrust of Tolkien scholarship, I would say that it is very wide off the mark.

Summer Thranduil
by Jenny Dolfen
Alina H, Sci-Fi-Fantasy Network, Tuesday, 26 January 2016, ‘Women In Tolkien's Works
I tend to have a very ambivalent attitude to most of the contributions to the discussion about Tolkien's portrayal of women in his books. On one hand, any kind of ‘Tolkien was misogynist’ is not just foolish, but also easily proved wrong. That, however, doesn't mean that there are no problems and nothing relevant to discuss or even critique in the way Tolkien incorporates women in his works, and contributions simply listing strong women in his works tend to be as oblivious of the facts as those that accuse him of being misogynist.
The present article by Alina H does go beyond this, but the subtitle shows, in my opinion, why I would find this article unsatisfactory: ‘Debunking the Misleading Ideas about Women in J.R.R. Tolkien's Works’. This article does not seek to enlighting us about the titular topic; it merely seeks to refute the misconception of Tolkien as a misogynist, which is, frankly, far too easy and too uninteresting to really be worth doing.
It seems to me that Tolkien's female characters are generally either idealised or caricatured. The middle-section that should be occupied by a variety of more realistic types is very sparsely populated, whereas there are far more such realistic male characters. This is a feeling, I know, and I cannot really prove that this skew is worse than the overall gender skew in Tolkien's books, but it could be interesting to look into. I would argue, however, that among the very powerful, we will find more women than we would expect based on the overall gender distribution. Also, I haven't come across studies of how the gender skew affects different readers – in many ways, obviously, but I would hope we could say something intelligent about general trends.
Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J. R. R. Tolkien (Mythopoeic Press. 2015, edited by Janet Brennan Croft and Leslie Donovan) goes a long way to address the issue in a better way than we have otherwise seen, but this, too, has a tendency towards the defensive in a way that usually fails to engage with any more complex problems.

John D. Rateliff, Thursday, 28 January 2016, ‘Timothy Leary on Tolkien
A voice from the past … from a 1966 issue of Diplomat magazine, dedicated to Tolkien. “A bit odd”, Rateliff calls it … a bit? :)

Reviews and Book News

Thomas Honegger, Sunday, 3 January 2016, ‘Review of Ralph C. Wood (ed.). 2015. Tolkien among the Moderns.
Honegger, in this review for Hither Shore vol. 12 (forthcoming) echoes the complaints by other commenters that the collection lacks focus, has a, mildly put, ‘unusual’ interpretation of modern, and the individual contributors generally appear unaware of preceding Tolkien scholarship on their chosen topics. Though there may be individual chapters that I would wish to pursue for their treatment of topics I am interested in, I doubt that I shall be spending money on this volume. (Login necessary.)

Thomas Honegger, Sunday, 3 January 2016, ‘A Reviewer's Complaint
A timely (if not overdue) complaint – or rant – against the sloppy errors too often seen in academic publications: a lack of bibliographical research, orthographic errors, erroneous statements of fact, etc. I might have wanted to add a couple of points where I agree with Schürer's critique, but well said, indeed! While some of this may be the result of academic publishers cutting editing services, the authors are at least responsible for doing proper bibliographical research and investigating their facts.
Two very minor quibs of mine are entirely unrelated to the topic. The ReasarchGate URL is (where Honegger makes it a ”.org”), and where Honegger finds Fornet-Ponse's response in Tolkien Studies VII (2010) to be ‘informed’, I found it sadly based on a misreading of Tolkien's Ainulindalé. (Login necessary.)
See also Douglas A. Anderson's response, Monday, 4 January 2016, The State of the Field in Tolkien Scholarship
In which Anderson agrees with Honegger, and offers some additional remarks, including an example of a person, Adam Roberts, whose attempts at scholarship, according to Anderson (I have not read it myself) falls far short of the mark, but still gets published.

David Maddock, Mythgard Institute, Tuesday, 5 January 2016, ‘Book Review: The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings
This review appears considerably more positive about the Zaleski book than those of other reviewers, including established Tolkien experts such as Wayne Hammond.

Jeffrey R. Hawboldt, Thursday, 7 January 2016, ‘The History of Middle-earth
A list of short descriptions of the books of the History of Middle-earth series. Summarising all volumes of the series in a paragraph apiece will inevitably leave something out, and Hawboldt's brief listings of contents fail to convey the value of these books. Of course, he admits from the outset that he has “felt that The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales have provided [him] with satisfactory information to quench any thirsts [he] may have.” This, however, ignores the true value of this series: that of adding another dimension to our understanding of Tolkien's legendarium, showing that the idea of a ‘canon’ that is so often trotted out in on-line discussions, is, at best, highly misleading.

Douglas A. Anderson, Saturday, 9 January 2016, ‘Tales Before Tolkien hardcover special for January 2016
Doug Anderson has found a cache of copies of his 2003 anthology, Tales Before Tolkien, that he are now selling at a very attractive price (though shipping to continental Europe does add a bit ...).

Sue Bridgwater, Sunday, 10 January 2016, ‘Review of 'The peace of Frodo; on the origins of an English Mythology' by Simon J. Cook
A short review by Sue Bridgwater of Simon Cook's article, ‘The Peace of Frodo’ in Tolkien Studies 12, which Sue ”enjoyed and admired [...] so much that I wanted to 'get something out there' as soon as possible”. For my own initial reactions, see last month's transactions, though I believe both Sue Bridgwater and I hope to published more in-depth and considered responses to Simon Cook's work. (Login necessary.)

Thomas Honegger, Wednesday, 20 January 2016, ‘Review of Edward L. Risden. 2015. Tolkien's Intellectual Landscape
Honegger provides a nuanced and very readable review of Risden's book. Overall, Honegger finds the book ‘worth reading’ and the primary problem that he identifies is that the book doesn't seem to have a well-defined target audience. (Login necessary.)


Myla Malinalda, Middle-earth News, Friday, 8 January 2016, ‘Songs of Sorrow and Hope: An Interview with Jenny Dolfen
Mostly about Jenny Dolfen's new art-book, Songs of Sorrow and Hope, but of course also including other Dolfenian topics. As will be well-known to regular readers, I am very fond of Jenny and her work, so my current plan is to find a way to get myself a copy signed by the artist herself, so a review here may have to wait a bit.

Tolkienian Artwork

Tomás Hijo, Saturday, 2 January 2016, ‘Remastering an old work

Tomás Hijo, Saturday, 9 January 2016, ‘Remastering finished!

Graeme Skinner, Sunday, 10 January 2016, ‘The Light of Eärendil's Star
Responding to the theme of the month at John Howe's web-site, Fiat Lux
Graeme Skinner, Sunday, 10 January 2016, ‘Lighting the Beacon

‘Dragonlady’, Friday, 22 January 2016, ‘The Star
Varda Elentári – another response to the Fiat Lux theme of the month at John Howe's web-site.

Four Seasons
... of the Elvenking in pictures by Jenny Dolfen
Jenny Dolfen, Saturday, 30 January 2016, ‘Fell and Fey
Jenny is back with the Féanorians – this time Féanor himself.

Other Stuff

Karl E. H. Seigfried, Monday, 18 January 2016, ‘Silmarillion Shoebox Dioramas
Karl Seigfried has been teaching open classes on Tolkienian topics at Chicago's Newberry Library. In autmun semester (Sep. through Dec), the topic was The Silmarillion, and in this post, Seigfried describes the topics they covered and shares some of the students' products in the form of shoebox dioramas. I am not sure who the target audience really is for a class series like this, so in order to better appreciate the information he does share, I would have loved to have a bit of extra information about the context., Sunday, 31 January 2016, ‘Sir Gawain Gets an 80s Reboot: The Sword of the Valiant Movie Review
About the 1984 cinematic retelling of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the film The Sword of the Valiant, featuring Miles O'Keefe as Gawain and Sean Connery as the Green Knight …. I am not sure if the proper word is ‘interesting’, or ‘curious’, or perhaps a third choice, or a suitable combination :)

Rewarding Discussions

LotR Plaza: ‘Recognition and Estrangement in Tolkien
Taking its outset in a comment by China Mieville about books providing either recognition or estrangement. Despite some interesting and intriguing comments, I still hope that we will find time to develop the discussion further as I think that there is more to be said on this topic.

LotR Plaza:, , ‘Saruman Ring-maker
Not a new discussion, by any means, but a chance to revisit the question of the ring that Saruman wore and his claim of being a ‘Ring-maker’.

LotR Plaza:, , ‘The Oath
About the Fëanorian Oath and why it was so terrible. This discussion also (at least in my mind) links with Simon Cook's posts about spells, the power of words, and words of power in Tolkien's sub-creation.

In Print

Mythprint 375
This issue with a nice cover image featuring Finduilas by Ebe Kastein. Shannyn Jordan has sent the article, ‘Tolkien, Lewis, and the Postmodern as Evil’, which has some very interesting discussions of the moral relativity of postmodernism and examples of moral relativity in the works of the two titular Inklings. Ultimately, however, the discussion remains a tantalising hint at what might be. Otherwise there is a review by Ryder W. Miller of Baptism by Fire: The Birth of the Modern British Fantastic in World War I, edited by Janet Brennan Croft and published by Mythopoeic Press.

Beyond Bree, January 2016
The high points this month are Joel Cornah's paper, The Tardis in Middle-earth: Tolkien's world is bigger on the inside, which he presented at last year's Oxonmoot (drawing various parallels between the Doctor Who TV series and Tolkien's legendarium, mainly The Lord of the Rings), and the nineteenth of Dale Nelson's brilliant series, Days of the Craze, ‘Gordon College Hosts Tolkien Expert Kilby for 1968 Humanities Conference’ about Clyde S. Kilby and the 1968 conference at Gordon College.

Web Sites

The Center for the Study of C.S. Lewis and Friends
The center is at Taylor University in Indiana and “seeks to facilitate and encourage the reading and study of C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Charles Williams, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Owen Barfield” – why Tolkien isn't on that list is beyond me, but perhaps the founder of the center just didn't like Tolkien.

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.

Douglas A. Anderson, ‘Tolkien and Fantasy
Archive of posts from January 2016

John D. Rateliff -- ‘Sacnoth's Scriptorium
Archive of posts from January 2016

David Bratman, ‘Kalimac's Journal
Archive of posts from January 2016

Jenny Dolfen, ‘Jenny's Sketchbook
Archive of posts from January 2016

Anna Smol, ‘A Single Leaf
Archive of posts from January 2016

Various, The Tolkien Society (TS)
Archive of posts from January 2016

Simon Cook, Ye Machine
Archive of posts from January 2016

Southfarthing Mathom
Archive of posts from January 2016

Michael Martinez, ‘Middle-earth
Archive of posts from January 2016

Ben, ‘A clearer thinking oasis
Archive of posts from January 2016

Bruce Charlton, ‘Tolkien's The Notion Club Papers
Archive of posts from January 2016

Various, ‘Middle-earth News
Archive of posts from January 2016


No new sources in January 2016

For older sources, see