Tolkien Transactions XXV
May has been a good month, but also a very busy month (between a
very demanding course at work, family and scouting, there has been
next to no time for Tolkien in May). This hopefully also explains
the lateness of this issue. But here it is: all that I have found
of sufficient interest and relation to Tolkien for me to share it
with others from the month of May.
= = = = News = = = =
Josh Vogt, _Examiner_, Monday, 7 May 2012, "Michael Tolkien
confirmed to appear at the Return of the Ring conference"
So, Michael Tolkien will appear at the Return of the Ring
conference, speaking, presumably, about his own work, but hopefully
also about his grandfather, the celebration of whose work is cause
of the conference.
JDR, Monday, 7 May 2012, "THE HOBBIT and QWERTY"
So, one of the stories that have been surfacing about the upcoming
_Hobbit_ films has been the objections of a test audience to a test
screening -- not because of the acting, directing, CGI or anything
like that, but because the felt that the _resolution_ (in both time
and pixels) was too good: actors didn't look like characters, but
like actors wearing make-up and costumes. Here John Rateliff
comments on this criticism (like most of us, he hasn't seen the
screening, so he cannot know how he'd react to it). Sometimes I
think a bit of emotional detachment from the continued Jackson story
is a good thing ;-)
JDR, Wednesday, 9 May 2012, "Valparaiso Tolkien Conference"
News on a March 2013 Tolkien conference in Valparaiso.
Dawn McCarty and Phil Milford, _Bloomberg News_, Monday, 21 May
2012, "Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Files For Bankruptcy"
Tolkien's US publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co. (or
just Houghton Mifflin) is filing for bancruptcy following a decline
in the purchase of the school books that make up 90% of their
business. This has apparently no influence on the planned Tolkien
titles (including a number of titles in relation to the 75th
anniversary of _The Hobbit_ and the upcoming _Hobbit_ films).
Hannah Benjamin, _Bloomberg News_, Saturday, 12 May 2012, "Houghton
Mifflin Plans $3.1 Billion Debt Reduction, FT Reports"
Mary Childs, _Bloomberg News_, Wednesday, 30 May 2012, "Houghton
Mifflin Debt Valued At 55.5 Cents In Swaps Auction"
and also John Rateliff's comments from Monday, 21 May 2012,
"Houghton Mifflin hits a bump"
David Oberhelman, The Mythopoeic Society, Wednesday, 23 May 2012,
"Mythopoeic Awards: 2012 Finalists Announced"
What it says, really . . .. I am particularly interested in the
Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies, and I can see that
of the five finalists, Tolkien is the focus of four (Sanford
Schwartz' book, _C.S. Lewis on the Final Frontier: Science and the
Supernatural in the Space Trilogy_ being the fifth). Having read
three of the four Tolkien-related finalists (_Tolkien and the Study
of His Sources_, _The Art of the Hobbit_ and _Tolkien and Wales_) I
fully support their inclusion, and I will push the fourth book,
Steve Walker's _The Power of Tolkien's Prose: Middle-earth's Magical
Style_, forward on my to-buy list.
JDR, Thursday, 24 May 2012, "Another Upcoming Tolkien Conference"
About the plans to create a new 'Conference on Middle Earth' [sic]
in Massachusetts in 2014.
JDR, Saturday, 26 May 2012, "Tolkien in Vermont"
John Rateliff (probably?) going to next year's annual Tolkien
conference at the University of Vermont.
= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =
JM, "Tolkien's metaphysics of evil"
This month's articles (nos. 27 through 40) start with a discussion
of the Elvish weaknesses of preservationism -- leading to an arrest
of change -- as an example of possessiveness, which is described as
'In a remote, yet real, Melkorian manner, it is to make the power
and light of the Flame Imperishable coextensive with the light of
one's own intellect.' From here the discussion moves on to Sauron's
will for domination, and from there to the One Ring, where the
metaphysics of invisibility is touched on before moving on to the
Manichaeism in Tolkien, which McIntosh sees as the philosophical
position propounded by Sauron (and Melkor), but ultimately as
rejected by Tolkien. Highly interesting stuff! Notice that part
forty is not actually noted as part of the series, but it must be
'Heidegger and Tolkien on Technology'.
I here link only to the first of the articles:
Part 27, 1 May, 'Elves: Nostalgic Progressives or "Bad
BC, Thursday, 3 May 2012, "The unrepentant orcs"
Charlton here comes from Shippeys comments about Orcs as an image of
evil to the idea that what seems to distinguish the Orcs from the
other Children of Ilúavatar is the ability for repentance which the
Orcs appear to lack. The ensuing discussion is also quite
interesting though it is at times not entirely clear which concept
of Orcs is being discussed.
JM, Saturday, 5 May 2012, "A Theology of the Possible"
The first of another series of posts on Jonathan McIntosh' 'The
Flame Imperishable' blog. In this case the aim is not so much a
discussion of Tolkien, but rather a discussion with the express aim
of trying to 'formulate a more expressly sub-creative and
Trinitarian theology of divine power (omnipotence)' and the link is
that Tolkien's writings on art and sub-creation informs the
discussion. The six parts published this month lays the ground,
including summarizing some important points in McIntosh' sources (or
referring to earlier blog posts that summarize aspects of the
discussion), mainly James Ross, _God, Creator of Kinds and
Possibilities_, the summary and discussion of whom take up most of
SH, Sunday, 6 May 2012, "Orthodox Christianity and fantasy
Steve Hayes refers to Orthodox Christian bloggers discussing whether
Orthodox Christians ought to read fantasy. I am reminded of
Strider's comment in /LotR/: 'If simple folk are free from care and
fear, simple they will be, and we must be secret to keep them so.'
This represents a position that I cannot agree with: if the only way
to keep people 'in place' is to keep them ignorant, then you are
using your authority to censor their knowledge as a means of
dominating them, and this, in my eyes, can /never/ be good. I would
instead teach them to recognize the temptation of evil: sometimes it
is a difficult lesson to learn (as Boromir would come to realize),
but it is to me far preferable to any kind of domination through
H&S, Sunday, 6 May 2012, "May 2012 Addenda and Corrigenda"
Announcing publication of further addenda and corrigenda on their
BC, Saturday, 12 May 2012, "Tolkien, philology and theology"
Some perspectives on some of Tolkien's aims with his legendarium,
claiming that Tolkien strove to achieve a unity of the West
Midlands, England and Christianity. I am not sure that I can go the
full nine yards with Bruce Charlton in this: I certainly think that
he would need to look into the evolution of the legendarium as I am
not sure that the unity that he lists is not an articificial
construction bringing together aspects from various times of
Tolkien's work. Still, it is an interesting perspective, and I think
the basic idea of Tolkien striving to achieve a united whole of
apparently unconnected ideas is correct -- I just suspect that the
set of ideas changed as his mythology evolved.
JM, Thursday, 24 May 2012, "'Day Shall Come Again!': The Book of
Samuel in 'The Silmarillion'"
A comparative study of passages from _The Silmarillion_ with the
biblical Book of Samuel. It has been many years since I read any of
the Book of Samuel, so I have only McIntosh' explanations to go by,
but while some of the links seem rather tenuous, there is, I think,
enough substance to the idea to warrant also a more detailed study.
McIntosh avoids implying that the biblical book was a source for the
investigated passages of Tolkien's Silmarillion (it is, I think,
part of the nature of the comparative study that the language
inevitably will hint at a causal connection even where this is not
the intention of the author), which I think is wise: with Tolkien
there is so often numerous possible sources even to a little detail,
and choosing among them becomes too often a matter of what the
critic _wants_ to be true rather than what actually influenced
Tolkien the strongest (if any).
JDR, Monday, 28 May 2012, "Edmund Wilson: wrong about everything"
I admit that there is something deeply satisfying about taking
Edmund 'Oo, Those Awful Orcs!' Wilson to task for his insistence on
reviewing fantastic fiction despite his inability to sympathise with
it. Rateliff shows that a number of other authors of fantastic
fiction received scathing comments by Wilson: Dunsany, Mencken,
Lovecraft and others, with Cabell as the only possible exception.
JDR, Tuesday, 29 May 2012, "Tolkien and Cabell"
Following the previous item listing Cabell as a possible exception
to Edmund Wilson's apparently universal dislike of anything
fantastic, Rateliff here discusses what is know about Tolkien's
opinion of Cabell.
BC, Tuesday, 29 May 2012, "Which Inklings are the Notion Club
Principals? And who is missing?"
Once again Bruce Charlton speculates about the character-to-person
correspondances of the members of the Notion Club and the Inklings.
The speculative identifications are not in all cases identical to
the the identifications in Glyer and Long's contribution in Jason
Fisher's _Tolkien and the Study of his Sources_, 'Biography as
Source: Niggles and Notions', but that only makes things more
JDR, Thursday, 31 May 2012, "Well, This is a Weird Twist"
Another follow-up on the matter of Edmund Wilson -- this time in
relation to Tolkien. And yes, this is indeed a weird twist: Wilson
apparently links a liking of, in his opinion juvenile trash, _The
Lord of the Rings_ with homosexuality. Weird indeed.
= = = = Reviews and Book News = = = =
PC, Tuesday, 1 May 2012, "Fairy Tales, Children's Stories and
A Tolkien writing fairy-stories, even if they are addressed
specifically towards children, is, I think, interesting, though one
is tempted to paraphrase Boromir: 'if the hand that wields [the pen]
has inherited not [a name] only . . .'
Kieran O'Mahony, _Cork Independent_, Thursday, 3 May 2012, "The
Hobbit as Gaeilge"
_The Hobbit_ being published 'fully translated into Irish' for the
first time. In this case 'fully translated' apparently also means
translating (or perhaps just transliterating?) some of the names of
the characters -- I do wonder what would be in the 'spirit' of
Tolkien's guide to translators of _The Lord of the Rings_?
JDR, Saturday, 5 May 2012, "The One-Man LORD OF THE RINGS"
A review of Charlie Ross' one-man performance based on the New Line
Cinema _The Lord of the Rings_ film trilogy. I have to say that I
agree whole-heartedly with David Bratman's comment: there is no way
that including Tom Bombadil would have improved the films.
Harley J. Sims, _Mythprint_, Tuesday, 8 May 2012, "Snowblind
Studios' _'The Lord of the Rings': War in the North_"
An interesting and clear-minded review of a game based on Tolkien's
world. I am particularly intrigued by the implications of comments
relating to viewing games more seriously as an interpretative art
Benjamin Peters, _BLOGCRITICS.ORG_, Wednesday, 9 May 2012, "Book
Review: The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as
Writers in Community by Diana Pavlac Glyer"
A fairly positive review of Diana Glyer's 2007 book (which won the
2008 Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies).
PC, Sunday, 13 May 2012, "A Tolkien Tapestry: Pictures to accompany
The Lord of the Rings is a 2012 Locus Award Finalist"
The book _A Tolkien Tapestry: Pictures to accompany The Lord of the
Rings_ by Cor Blok (edited by Pieter Collier) is one of five
finalists for the 2012 Locus Award in the Art Books category.
Congratulations to Blok and Collier!
BC, Thursday, 17 May 2012, "The audio-book Lord of the Rings, read
by Rob Inglis"
The first of two audio-book reviews this month by Bruce Charlton who
gives Rob Inglis' performance 8 out of 10.
Emily E. Auger, _Mythlore_, Tuesday, 22 May 2012, "Picturing
The _Mytholore_ (issue 117/118) review of _Picturing Tolkien:
Essays on Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings Film Trilogy_ edited
by Janice M. Bogstad and Philip E. Kaveny. The overall tone seems
positive, while the review is also remarkably uncommitted -- the
most direct opinion given is that it is a 'worthwhile study' for
those 'most dedicated to Tolkien in the original' (making me wonder
about those _only_ committed to Tolkien in the original . . .?)
PC, Tuesday, 29 May 2012, "Tolkien Calendar 2013 will be illustrated
by John Howe and Alan Lee"
After two years with Cor Blok, I am sure that many collectors will
be relieved to see that the official 2013 Tolkien Calendar (issued
by HarperCollins) will feature artwork by John Howe and Alan Lee.
Personally I would advocate diversity, and I think a Hobbit-themed
calendar would have benefitted from featuring artwork that was by
people _not_ in any way involved with the upcoming films -- to
provide a much-needed counter-point to the inevitable pervasiveness
of the films' imagery. In some ways I'd have preferred to see a
Hobbit-themed calendar by Cor Blok, but even more one by other
artists -- Lacon, Murray, Nasmith, Eißmann and others who could have
offered new imagery that would be different from both the films and
Blok (not that there is necessarily anything wrong with Blok's art,
but because I agree with Lacon that it's important to offer
different visual perspectives).
Zenestex, _Geeks of Doom_, Tuesday, 29 May 2012, "Comic Review:
Orbit #8: JRR Tolkien: The True Lord of the Rings"
A review of the comic-book biography of Tolkien that has been
mentioned previously (issue XXIV for April 2012). The comic gets an
almost enthusiastic review by someone who describes himself as 'not
at all a fan of Tolkien's writing' while still respecting Tolkien's
contributions to literature.
PC, Wednesday, 30 May 2012, "HarperCollins Releases Hobbit Movie
As Pieter notes, 'it had to happen' -- there is simply too much
money to be made on tie-in products for HarperCollins to ignore it.
Fortunately I have all the copies of _The Hobbit_ that I need: _The
Annotated Hobbit_, _The History of the Hobbit_ and _Art of the
Hobbit_ so I won't have any need for this product.
= = = = Interviews = = = =
PC, Monday, 28 May 2012, "Interview with Devin Brown on his book The
Christian World of The Hobbit"
Devin Brown claims to balance the two extreme positions of Tolkien
scholarship on Tolkien's Christian influences: neither ignoring them
nor seeing Christian influences everywhere. Brown says that
Tolkien's works are 'in their essence, at their core, Christian
works, but only at their core, not on the surface.' Brown also
thinks that his own Christian faith is part of his qualifications
for writing this book, while I have occasionally wondered if being
Christian did not disqualify a scholar from writing on the Christian
elements of Tolkien's work. This interview is, however, quite
encouraging as Devin Brown seems to have been very much aware of the
danger of turning Tolkien's works into a sermon, which neither the
author nor most readers would enjoy.
= = = = Other Stuff = = = =
Kate Shellnutt, Tuesday, 1 May 2012, "Hogwarts, Narnia, Neverland:
What does your faith say about fantasy?"
So, the idea is that a research team has asked a lot of Americans
the question 'Which of these fantasy worlds would you most like to
visit?' and given them the options of Hogwarts, Alice's Wonderland,
Neverland, Narnia, Middle-earth or 'None, Don't Know'. The age and
religious affiliation of the respondents has been registered, and in
the research blog of the Center for Applied Research in the
Apostolate you can see the more detailed results. I think it is
interesting that those with no religious affiliation are the most
likely to answer Middle-earth, followed by Catholics and
evangelicals the least likely to choose Tolkien's sub-created
Secondary World. It is perhaps also interesting that Catholics are
the _least_ likely to answer 'None, Don't Know'. The research blog
can be found below.
BC, Tuesday, 8 May 2012, "The centrality of co-inherence to
salvation - Charles Williams as prophet"
This is the first of a couple of postings that Bruce Charlton has
made this month about Charles Williams and co-inherence. As I
haven't read any Williams myself, I cannot comment on the quality of
the interpretative / critical approach, but I did find them
interesting (albeit not enough to push Williams forward on my
to-read list). Irrespective of anything else (including religious
affiliations), I like the basic idea being propounded here.
The other post about the issue is
BC, TUESDAY, 15 MAY 2012, "Charles Williams regrettable tendency to
regard co-inherence as therapeutic 'magic'"
Roger Colby, Tuesday, 8 May 2012, "Tolkien's 10 Tips for Creating
Tolkien's writings -- particularly his letters -- are extracted for
ten pieces of advice on the creation of epic heroes. The most
surprising bit is in the first piece of advice, where Colby reads
Tolkien's use of 'the chief hero' (in letter #131 to Milton Waldman)
as refence to _Aragorn_ rather than to Sam as is usually assumed
(the reference to 'chief hero' is found in Wayne Hammond and
Christina Scull's extended index to the letters under their listing
of references to Sam Gamgee and they repeat this interpretation in
_The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion_). I can even see how
this _might_ be the case, but I am hesitant to suggest that Wayne
and Christina got it all wrong. See also the earlier 'Tolkien's Ten
Tips for Writers' (linked at the top of the post).
MT, Thursday, 17 May 2012, "Vinyar Tengwar 39 Index"
Announcing the addition to the Tolkien Index of _Vinyar Tengwar_ #39
which includes '_Ósanwe-kenta_' and 'From _Quendi and Eldar_,
BC, Friday, 18 May 2012, "Corruption in Tolkien's Legendarium"
Bruce Charlton remarks on the fact that in Tolkien's writings the
greatest are almost always corrupt, making Gandalf, Aragorn,
Galadriel and Elrond even more special.
JDR, Sunday, 20 May 2012, "Tolkien Unbound"
A nice report from the lighter side of Kalamazoo -- including links
to videos from a performance from Friday evening's 'Tolkien Unbound'
John Howe, Monday, 21 May 2012, "Pipe-smoking Dwarf"
A somewhat more traditional rendering of a Dwarf than what we saw in
the trailer for the _Hobbit_ film. Except for the spoon, that is --
nice detail though! :-)
= = = = Rewarding Discussions = = = =
For the better part of May I have been keeping very busy with a
course at work, and so I have not been following the discussions
closely enough to pick out a few to stand out.
= = = = In Print = = = =
This has been a good month!
_Beyond Bree_, May 2012
This issue of BB includes a favourable review of _The Art of the
Hobbit_ by Nancy Martsch followed by an article on 'Tolkien's Art'
by the same hand in which she discusses Tolkien's skills and
education in drawing and painting, summarising by describing Tolkien
as 'an amateur artist with talent and some technical skill, though
his skills were mostly in design and landscape drawing. He certainly
had some informal training. He repeated ideas in his writing and his
drawing. He was very fond of patterns and designs.' Nancy Martsch
also provides an article on the wearing of armour, and Dale Nelson
continues his tale of the 'Days of the Craze' with some notes on the
Ace Books affair. Mark Hooker writes on sesquipedalia in two rounds
(and a warm 'thank you' to Mark for teaching me that wonderful
word!). As usual BB is rounded off with various news, letters and
announcements -- oh, and two poems by Matthew Anish.
This issue of _Mythprint_ contains a number of reviews of various
works of fantastic fiction, none of which is directly related to the
topic of this listing.
_Amon Hen_ 235
The bulletin of the Tolkien Society is, as always, filled with many
bits and pieces about the life of the society, including the
inevitable calls for volunteers (if you have aspirations to become
the editor of a Tolkien-related journal, the TS is seeking for a new
editor for _Mallorn_), and in this issue the report from the Annual
Grand Meeting, at which was, among other things, decided to go back
to only one issue of _Mallorn_ per year. It would seem that one will
have to produce even better stuff to get published in _Mallorn_,
Of the more generally interesting bits we find a letter from David
Doerr in which he defends his position in his AH 233 article, 'The
Brightest Stars of George Allen & Unwin Ltd.' which has been
questioned by Allan Turner in a letter in AH 234. Becky Hitchin
reviews Jason Fisher's (ed) _Tolkien and the Study of His Sources_
(since the sorry excuse for a review in AH 233 it is good to see a
proper review), Michael Cunningham gives a good (and long) review of
Michael Saler's book _As If: Mordern Enchantment and the Literary
Prehistory of Virtual Reality_, and Lynn Forest-Hill writes about
'The Hobbit and Bevois Valley'.
Having been sent in April, my copy of _Mythlore_ 117/118 turned up
in a pile of unaddressed mail (local papers, shop catalogues etc.)
near the end of May. Unfortunately I haven't yet had time to dive
into the articles, but I particularly look forward to Michael
Livingston's linguistic survey of the origins of the words _hobbit_
In the current issue of _Mallorn_ we find a good article by Colin
Duriez on 'What made Tolkien tick and why was he called 'Reuel'? The
importance of Tolkien biography' in which he does discuss the
questions he poses, including defending the importance of doing
Tolkien biography despite Tolkien's outspoken distate for the use of
biography in literary criticism. Kristine Larsen, who also provides
the editorial, writes on 'disembodied time travel in Tolkien,
Stapledon and _Lost_' while Virginia Luling compares 'time travel in
Tolkien and E. Nesbit'. I provide an overview of the business with
Tolkien and the 1961 Nobel Prize, and I have also reviewed the eigth
volume of _Tolkien Studies_. Other reviews include Janet Brennan
Croft's positive review of Jason Fisher's book, _Tolkien and the
Study of His Sources_, a review of the book of Cor Blok's art (_A
Tolkien Tapestry_) by Daniel Howick who praises the book itself
while being more mixed in his reaction to the art. Then there's a
review by Becky Hitchin of Robert S. Blackham's _Tolkien and the
Peril of War_ which seems to offer more in terms of visualising the
scenes of the first world war (e.g. by using old postcards) than it
has to offer in terms of new information about Tolkien and his role
in the Great War.
= = = = Web Sites = = = =
Do you know Forodrim, the Tolkien Society in Stockholm, Sweden?
Their web-site contains a wealth of fine information. Here I will
merely list a few of the pages that I find myself referring to again
First there's their listing of the contents of the _History of
Notice that while this lists the contents by volume, there are other
lists that give the contents chronologically (by year of writing)
and by content type.
Åke Bertenstam's chronological bibliography of the writings of
J.R.R. Tolkien is another gem that can be found on Forodrim's site:
The list stops at 2003, leaving out any material published since
then in _The Children of Húrin_, _The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún_,
_Tolkien Studies_, _Vinyar Tengwar_ and _Parma Eldelamberon_ (and
probably elsewhere as well).
Finally a nice page on 'Astronomical objects above Middle-earth':
= = = = Sources = = = =
John D. Rateliff (JDR) -- "Sacnoth's Scriptorium"
Jason Fisher (JF) -- "Lingwë -- Musings of a Fish"
Michael Drout (MD) -- "Wormtalk and Slugspeak"
Wayne G. Hammond & Christina Scull (H&S) -- "Too Many Books and
Pieter Collier (PC) -- "The Tolkien Library"
Douglas A. Anderson (DAA) et Al. -- "Wormwoodiana"
Corey Olsen (CO), "The Tolkien Professor"
David Bratman (DB), "Kalimac"
and the old home:
Larry Swain (LS), "The Ruminate"
Andrew Wells (AW), "Musings of an Aging Fan"
Various, 'The Northeast Tolkien Society' (NETS), "Heren Istarion"
Bruce Charlton (BC), "Tolkien's The Notion Club Papers"
Andrew Higgins (AH), "Wotan's Musings"
Various, The Mythopoeic Society
Henry Gee (HG) 'cromercrox', "The End of the Pier Show"
Jonathan S. McIntosh (JM), "The Flame Imperishable"
Morgan Thomsen (MT), "Mythoi"
John Howe (JH)
David Simmons (DS), "Aiya Ilúvatar"
Michael Martinez (MM), "Tolkien Studies Blog"
Michael Martinez (MM), "Middle-earth"
Troels Forchhammer (TF), "Parmar-kenta"
_Mythprint_ -- 'The Monthly Bulletin of the Mythopoeic Society'
_Amon Hen_ -- the Bulletin of the Tolkien Society
_Beyond Bree_ -- the newsletter of the Tolkien Special Interest
Group of the Americal Mensa
- and others
Valid e-mail is <troelsfo(a)gmail.com
Please put [AFT], [RABT] or 'Tolkien' in subject.
++?????++ Out of Cheese Error. Redo From Start.
- /Interesting Times/ (Terry Pratchett)