What a fantastic month! It's May, it's full spring, it's Tolkien's
_Beowulf_ and all are happy! Wonderful :-D
These transactions are posted to the usenet newsgroups
rec.arts.books.tolkien, alt.fan.tolkien, and alt.books.inklings, and
the usenet version can be accessed at
These transactions are also posted on my blog, Parma-kenta (Enquiry
into the books): <http://parmarkenta.blogspot.com
>, on the Tolkien
and on LotR Fanatics Plaza in the books forum:
This month it has suited my purposes to sort the contents under the
3: Essays and Scholarship
5: Reviews and Book News
6: Tolkienian Artwork
7: Other Stuff
8: Rewarding Discussions
9: Web Sites
10: The Blog Roll
= = = = Beowulf = = = =
It will surprise no-one that the release of _Beowulf: A Translation
and Commentary_ has got a lot of attention towards the end of this
month, but unlike earlier, I will here focus only on the few pieces
that have provided interesting perspectives for me (whether I agree
I have not yet found the time to sit down and read through Tolkien's
book. I did take it on an excursion, though, going to the historical
site of the kings' mead-halls in Lejre, and there read for my
daughter Tolkien's translation of the approach of Beowulf and his
men to this particular site. A fine afternoon that was (picture
available at my blog ...)
Ethan Gilsdorf, _New York Times_, Sunday, 18 May 2014, "Waving His
Wand at 'Beowulf'"
A preview, really -- one gets the impression that Gilsdorf has not
had an advance copy to read and is reporting on the fuss about the
upcoming release rather than on the book itself.
Katy Waldman, _Slate_, Tuesday, 20 May 2014, "J.R.R. Tolkien's
Beowulf translation finally arrives."
I cannot help but think that the basis of the comparison of
Tolkien's and Heaney's _Beowulf_ translations is fundamentally
flawed. The two translations have completely different purposes,
making them essentially incomparable. Still, the review is certainly
interesting even if one finds the comparison irrelevant.
Jeremy Noel-Tod, _The Telegraph_, Tuesday, 20 May 2014, "Beowulf,
translated by JRR Tolkien, review"
Another review that primarily looks at the translation as intended
as a work of art to attract and captivate a reader, but while I
agree that this perspective is also relevant, I do not think that it
is reasonable to make it the primary perspective since this was
evidently not Tolkien's primary purpose in making the translation.
Jamie Portman, _Montreal Gazette_, Wednesday, 21 May 2014, "Behold!
A new Tolkien work"
Jamie Portman has spoken with HarperCollins' publisher of Tolkien's
_Beowulf_, David Brawn, who offers some other perspectives. At one
point Brawn is cited for saying (about _Sellic Spell_) that "It was
the sort of thing he enjoyed doing - creating something in the form
in which it might have existed had it been written a thousand years
ago." It seems that the ideas first suggested, as far as I know, Tom
Shippey, about Tolkien's work as asterisk-myths and "writing into
the gap" are now accepted as truth (not surprisingly, and I fully
agree with it, by the way).
Tish Wells, _McClatchy DC_, Wednesday, 21 May 2014, "Tolkien's 1926
translation of 'Beowulf' published"
Overall this is a fairly sober review that focuses on the _Beowulf_
translation, as well as on 'Sellic Spell' and the two poems. In
comments on the translation itself, Tish Wells writes that "What
comes through clearly in Tolkien's translation is a reflection of a
time and a culture." This seems in many ways to echo well with the
position of Deborah Higgens in her recent book, _Anglo-Saxon
Community in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings_.
Andy Orchard, Thursday, 22 May 2014, "Beowulf translation 'shows
A 3'23" interview / review by current Rawlinson and Bosworth
Professor at Oxford. A couple of excerpts: "It's excellent. It's
very Tolkienian, I'll put it like that" and "What Tolkien has to say
is fresh and original."
Patrick Worrall, _4 News_, Thursday, 22 May 2014, "Tolkien's
Beowulf: a 'great gift'"
Even without anything else, this would be worth it just for the
opening: "The long Hwaet! is over" (yes, I like my puns raw and
unpolished) :-) Fortunately for others with a different taste in
puns, there is also other aspects to commend this review --
primarily the discussion of Tolkien's deep understanding of the
culture of the Old English poem: both the culture described in the
poem and the culture in which it was composed.
Joan Acocella, Monday, 26 May 2014, "Slaying Monsters: Tolkien's
(This article is currently dated 2 June, but it first appeared in my
feed on 26 May) This is probably one of the best reviews that I have
seen (along with John Garth's). Not just because Joan Acocella likes
the book, but also because of the attention to, and respect for,
what Tolkien was trying to do with the translation: "And what is won
by the archaism-or just by the willingness to sound strange, as in
the 'feet and hands'-is a rare immediacy."
MD, Monday, 26 May 2014, "J.R.R. Tolkien's Beowulf Translation"
"Some quick thoughts" according to Michael Drout himself, but
clearly of great value to the rest of us. Obviously his praise of
Tolkien's alliterative translation of _Beowulf_ (some 600 lines
according to Drout) leaves us yearning even more for this additional
bit, wondering why it was not included in the present volume.
Kevin Kiernan, Thursday, 29 May 2014, "Publishing Tolkien's Beowulf
translation does him a disservice"
Kiernan's criticism of the decision to publish Tolkien's _Beowulf_
translation has in some ways come to stand as the exponent of this
criticism. Though I, obviously, do not agree with the conclusion, I
have to say that some of the reviews that I have seen makes me more
appreciative of the concerns. Where Kiernan is wrong is, I believe,
in two issues: first of all, Tolkien's criticism of his own work
should always be taken with a grain of salt (and sometimes with a
pound of salt), and the fact that he had his son, Christopher
Tolkien, type out his manuscript translation some fifteen years
after completing the initial version also shows that it was not a
work that he merely put in a drawer and tried to forget. Secondly,
despite the reviews that seem to contradict this, I think that most
readers of this book will be able to discern that Tolkien's purpose
with this translation was different from e.g. Heaney's -- after all,
most of the reviewers seem to grasp this fact quite well.
Michael Alexander, _The Guardian_, Thursday, 29 May 2014, "Beowulf:
A Translation and Commentary review -- JRR Tolkien's long-lost
Another review and commentary by a man who is himself a scholar of
_Beowulf_ (and has published a translation). Alexander is more
appreciative of the work than Kiernan, but he also states that "The
felicities of Tolkien's version will be evident only to readers
familiar with the Anglo-Saxon original." I hope that this is not
true, though perhaps the rest of us will have to work a bit at fully
grasping these felicities.
John Garth, _New Statesman_, Thursday, 29 May 2014, "J R R Tolkien's
Beowulf: one man's passion for the threshold between myth and
Unsurprisingly, Tolkien scholar and biographer John Garth adds new
perspectives on the new book. John Garth's review has a focus on
what this book tells us about Tolkien as a man, and about that
particular _Beowulf_ part of the leaf-mould from which so many
fantastic tales grew.
= = = = News = = = =
The Tolkien Society
The News aggregation on the new Tolkien Society web-site is a great
place to watch -- I am seriously considering to not mention anything
that has appeared there unless I have something extra to say about
Duncan OfJordanstone, Thursday, 1 May 2014, "Concerning Dragons"
An animation master class project that is also a tribute to
Tolkien's work. Beautifully done! In more than one way, I actually
think that this style is more appropriate for Tolkien's work than
what we have otherwise seen.
Mary McCool, Friday, 9 May 2014, "Students on fire with Hobbit
animation raking in 30,000 online views"
Telling the story of the animation above -- and of the reception.
Daniel Helen, Tolkien Society, Wednesday, 7 May 2014, "Omentielva
On the sixth Omentielva conference, which will be held next year,
6-9 August 2015, at the Greisinger Museum in Jenins, Switzerland.
Wulff & Morgenthaler, Thursday, 8 May 2014, "New business partner"
Just for laughs ...
Annalee Newitz, _io9_, Wednesday, 21 May 2014, "Man Attacks Car with
Sword in Attempt to Slay the Dark Lord Morgoth"
Just for laughs ...
EJ, Wednesday, 21 May 2014, "Re-read the Hobbit today and found a
passage I had forgot about ...
Another "just for laughs" ...
Noble Smith, Thursday, 22 May 2014, "J.R.R. Tolkien Reveals TRUE
Meaning Of 'The Lord Of The Rings' In Unearthed Audio Recording"
Much has been made of the upcoming publication of this audio
recording of Tolkien from his 1958 trip to Rotterdam. It IS exciting
and interesting, but I wish that we could have been spared the hype
of this "true meaning" idiotic nonsense. Either this true meaning is
the same as Rossenberg reported in his paper for the Centenary
Conference (thanks to Janet Brennan Croft for drawing my attention
to this) (i.e. "nothing at all"), or we have Tolkien purporting two
different versions on the same evening of the "true meaning" of his
work. The latter should, of course, not surprise anyone -- Tolkien
was never consistent in his analysis of his own work, and there is
no reason to put one version above any other. Still, I nonetheless
look forward to being able to hear this recording, but not because I
believe I'll learn anyting new about the "true meaning of _The Lord
of the Rings_".
For more examples of inane media hype, see also:
Sarah Fox, Friday, 23 May 2014, "J.R.R. Tolkien's lost speech
regarding the One Ring, the series and the future has been found,
and awaits release"
Rob Bricken, Saturday, 25 May 2014, "JRR Tolkien Explains Lord Of
The Rings In Legendary Recording"
= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =
A few highlights:
"Approaches to paganism and uses of the pre-Christian past in
Geoffrey of Monmouth and Snorri Sturluson" (5 May) -- I trust that
the relation of the topic in the headline to the _Beowulf_ poet, and
perhaps particularly Tolkien's discussion of the _Beowulf_ poet, is
not lost on my readers.
"J.R.R. Tolkien's Beowulf published today" (22 May) -- not so much a
review, but a collection of a few reactions, mostly from
"Edward I and the Appropriation of Arthurian Legend" (26 May) -- As
it says in the abstract, this follows in a tradition of " increasing
interest in the appropriation of folklore by political leaders
[that] has led scholars to investigate potential instances where
this may have occurred in the past."
"The King in Disguise: An International Popular Tale in Two Old
Icelandic Adaptations" (27 May) -- An essay which "is intended as a
contribution to the current reassessment of the relationship of Old
Icelandic saga literature to the European mainstream and of the ways
of literary tradition in dealing with oral sources."
AS, Sunday, 4 May 2014, "Tolkien Studies at PCA 2014, part one"
AS, Tuesday, 6 May 2014, "Tolkien Studies at PCA 2014, part two"
Report on the Tolkien tracks at the April conference by the Popular
Culture Association / American Culture Association. Anna Smol's
report highlights two particular sessions, a round-table on the
state of scholarship on Tolkien and another round-table (in which
Anna Smol participated herself) on the Tolkien collection at the
Marquette University Archives.
AH, Friday, 16 May 2014, "Travels on the Oloremalle -- Kalamazoo
Andy Higgins was at Kalamazoo this year, and has written a report --
so much there that I wish I could have heard, and now want to see in
AS, Wednesday, 21 May 2014, "Kalamazoo blogs and videos"
I haven't been through all these to check which ones report on the
Tolkien sessions, but there's a long list here, and even if not
Tolkien, most of these reports etc. will surely be interesting.
= = = = Commentary = = = =
Lynn Forest-Hill, _Southfarthing Mathom_, Saturday, 10 May 2014,
"First Meeting in May"
The Southampton Tolkien Reading Group is currently reading and
discussing _Unfinished Tales_ and in May they have discussed the
_Narn i H�n H�rin_ -- follow these blogs to find valuable insights
into this work.
See also Saturday, 24 May 2014, "Last Meeting in May"
Jonathan Witt, Monday, 12 May 2014, "Tolkien, Hobbits, Hippies and
A very interesting commentary on Tolkien and the idea of the just
war. This certainly manages to make me interested in the book
Jonathan Witt is writing with Jay Richards.
MM, Wednesday, 14 May 2014, "A Blog of Lost Talo"
There are some good thoughts here that rhyme well with what scholars
are saying elsewhere about Tolkien's ability to immerse himself in
medieval (and particularly in Anglo-Saxon) thought. When we remember
what Tolkien himself says about the importance of languge in the
thoughts and tales of a culture, it is not surprising that he would
easily slip into the idiom, vocabulary and structure of the thinking
he was trying to portray (as also indicated by the draft letter
Martinez quotes from in length).
BC, Wednesday, 21 May 2014, "Why modern man is like the orcs"
Some thoughts on the matter of Orkish redemption, and more
specifically, on Orkish repentance. Charlton posits that the Orcs
were not immanently incapable of repentance, but that the lack of
repentance was a simple fact of history. Since there is no reference
to which Orcs Charlton is considering (that is, from what period of
Tolkien's conceptualisation), it is difficult to comment precisely.
Tolkien's various comments in various texts related to the second
phase of the later Quenta Silmarillion (roughly 1958-62 if I take a
very broad view including certain letters) make it clear that
Tolkien, at that point, did consider Orcs to be incapable of
repentance by their innate nature, and of course the whole question
is void for the Orcs as he saw them until some point in the
mid-forties. All in all, I think the solution is attractive, but
that Tolkien's writings suggest that Tolkien took a different route.
I do hope that Charlton himself sees the irony of his claim that
people that he disagrees with politically are (almost) like Orcs in
MB, Monday, 26 May 2014, "Tolkien quote: For not all tears are an
By Marcel Aubron-B�lles on quoting Tolkien on the 'net -- yes
please! Thank you, Marcel.
= = = = Reviews and Book News = = = =
The Tolkien Library
It is, as far as I can find, unfortunately not possible to get a
sorting of new posts for a specific month on Pieter Collier's
Tolkien Library site, but May 2014 has some interesting posts about
the 2015 Tolkien calendar (featuring art by Mary Fairburn), a
Tolkien art book, and the release of Tolkien's _Beowulf_, and the
upcoming 60th anniversary edition. Also a couple of articles by
other authors (by James Lopez and Simon J. Cook).
Tolkienseminariet, Monday, 12 May 2014, "13 mars 2014"
The Swedish Tolkienseminariet continues the series of highly
worthwhile reviews of new Tolkien literature -- a must read for
anyone capable of reading Swedish!
DA, Saturday, 24 May 2014, "Lo! Beowulf and Other Topics"
On the Tolkien _Beowulf_, the new on-line _Journal of Tolkien
Research_ (also see my transactions for March 2014) and on the
paperback release of _Tolkien on Fairy-stories_.
H&S, Wednesday, 28 May 2014, "Tom Bombadil Cover"
The cover for their upcoming edition of _The adventures of Tom
Miss elfgirl 11, Wednesday, 28 May 2014, "The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien -- review"
A short review in _The Guardian's_ children's review section, where
children post reviews for other children.
= = = = Tolkienian Artwork = = = =
JGi, Tuesday, 1 April 2014, "New work: Farewell to Rivendell (The
Passing of the Elves)."
As noted in my last issue, I seemed to have missed some things due
to a feature in my RSS reader. This wonderful picture of Elves
leaving Rivendell (for the Grey Havens and Tol Eresse�, surely) was
among those I missed, but I now try to make amends.
JGi, Friday, 9 May 2014, "Farewell To Bagshot Row"
A small piece depicting a scene from, I suppose, Three is Company
(it cannot be from The Grey Havens as it would then have to be New
Row instead of Bagshot Row)
JGi, Saturday, 10 May 2014, "This Week in Middle-earth features one
of my works"
The work in question being a very nice picture of Rivendell with the
Last Homely House.
JGi, Tuesday, 13 May 2014, "Disturber Of The Peace"
Gandalf arriving in The Shire.
If you haven't yet, I'll encourage you to hurry over and support
Jenny Dolfen's brilliant 'Darkness over Cannae' project that is
doing a pre-order/fundraiser at Indiegogo:
= = = = Other Stuff = = = =
MB, Wednesday, 7 May 2014, "Call for Papers: 'World made of heroes'�
at University of Porto, Portugal"
A call for papers for this converence to take place in November in
Porto in celebration of the the 60th anniversary of LotR.
Daniel Helen, Tolkien Society, Friday, 30 May 2014, "Staffordshire
Three walks through Staffordshire with a focus on places linked to
Tolkien, who lived in Staffordshire with Edith when Tolkien was
stationed in England during the Great War.
The first walk goes from Penkridge Library over Gypsy Green to
Brocton Camp on Thursday, 3rd of July.
A walk of Cannock Chase starting out from Brocton Coppice on
Thursday, 18th September.
The last walk goes from Brocton Coppice to Great Haywood with a tour
of Great Haywood on Tuesday, 7th October.
Daniel Helen, Tolkien Society, Friday, 30 May 2014, "Tolkien
Announcing a presentation by Tolkien linguistics scholar, Arden R.
Smith of the Elvish Linguistc Fellowship. The presentation will take
place on Tuesday, 24th June, in San Francisco, and if anyone is in
the area to hear it and write about it, I'd be grateful.
EJ, Saturday, 31 May 2014, "How far and for how many days Frodo
travelled in each book"
The idea is brilliant, but I have to admit that I find it somewhat
odd to stop the whole thing at the end of chapter 3 of book VI and
forget about the substantial travelling done in the last six
chapters. I know that Fonstad only includes pathway tables for that
part in her _Atlas of Tolkien's Middle-earth_, but it is not
particularly difficult to estimate the last bits, particularly since
Fonstad does include a map of "The Road Home" giving her best
estimate of the route that was taken.
= = = = Rewarding Discussions = = = =
The Thread (TM)
The URL is, unfortunately, not going to help you unless you are a
member of the Tolkien Society Facebook Group. The Thread is, as one
poster described it, a collection of highly concentrated whimsy. As
of writing (9 June) the Thread is up to 4721 comments -- it's good
fun, and though the posting frequency is decreasing, I do not doubt
that we'll hit the 5000 mark before too long.
MB, Monday, 14 April 2014, "A History of "The One Thread up" until
But you should in any case be able to enjoy the summary that Marcel
did. Of course it only covers the first 2533 posts of the Thread,
but it gives a good impression of what the Thread is.
= = = = Web Sites = = = =
The Tolkien Society
I know I mentioned it a couple of months ago also, but the Tolkien
Society has a new web-site with the same high-quality contents as
before, and with addition of blogs, news etc. The news, blogs etc.
have been taking off a bit more slowly than the main site, but this
has now become a very valuable resource, that I hope can continue
(being depending on voluntary work, there is always the risk of
other things taking priority). Make sure to check the news
regularly (or subscribe to them) and if you haven't already, I
recommend you to join our fellowship:
= = = = The Blog Roll = = = =
These are blogs you really should be following yourself if you're
interested in Tolkien ...
I've just reduced the list to those who have posted in May (whether
Tolkien-related or not), without giving details on posts not
Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond (S&H), "Too Many Books and
Pieter Collier (PC), "The Tolkien Library"
Douglas A. Anderson (DAA), "Tolkien and Fantasy"
John D. Rateliff (JDR) -- "Sacnoth's Scriptorium"
Marcel Aubron-B�lles (MB), "The Tolkienist"
David Bratman (DB), "Kalimac"
Anna Smol (AS), "A Single Leaf"
Various, The Mythopoeic Society
The Tolkien Society (TS)
Southfarthing Mathom (
Emil Johansson (EJ), "LotR Project Blog"
Michael Martinez (MM), "Middle-earth"
Bruce Charlton (BC), "Tolkien's The Notion Club Papers"
= = = = Sources = = = =
No new sources in May 2014
For older sources, see
Valid e-mail is <troelsfo(a)gmail.com
Please put [AFT], [RABT] or 'Tolkien' in subject.
It is useless to meet revenge with revenge: it will heal
- Frodo Baggins, /The Return of the King/ (J.R.R. Tolkien)