That was quite a month! For some reason the month of January 2012
has been busier than usual, and not just because of the celebration
of the Birthday Toast (see below). Writing this up, I have skipped
some things that would normally have made the list, but that means
that this has been a very good month to be an internet-using Tolkien
= = = = The Birthday Toast = = = =
On the 3rd of January 2012, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien would have
become 120 years old had he lived. The annual birthday toast is a
world-wide event that seemingly just grows and grows each year, and
so also this year. A number of media published stories on and about
the birthday, and here is a collection of these.
First the Tolkien Society 2012 Birthday Toast pages:
James Cartledge, _Birmingham Mail_, "Birthday marks start of big
year for fans of The Lord of the Rings creator JRR Tolkien"
- with a local Birmingham perspective.
Matt Blum, _Wired_, "Celebrate J.R.R. Tolkien's Twelvetieth Birthday
- mentioning also Tolkien's friendship with C.S. Lewis.
Various, "Happy Birthday Professor Tolkien!"
- a birthday thread.
Amy H Sturgis, "A day to celebrate!"
- the personal view.
PC, "Celebrate J.R.R. Tolkien's 120th Birthday today"
- an encouragement.
"Altaira", "Happy Birthday, J.R.R. Tolkien!"
- a networked toast.
Empress Eve, "Celebrate J.R.R. Tolkienâ€™s 120th Birthday With A Toast"
- yet another invitation to join the toast.
David Simmons, "Happy Birthday, JRR Tolkien"
- a copycat . . .
Garfeimao, "In the LA area? Join local fans in toasting Tolkien"
- a clear invitation. Clearly it's too late for this year, but if
you watch the Facebook site you may be in time for the 2013 toast.
Rebecca Job, _Geek Culture Examiner_, "Raise a toast to Tolkien on
his 120th birthday"
- not so geeky as you'd think.
Tom Hawking, _Flavorwire_, "Vintage Tolkien Covers from Around the
On _Flavorwire_ Tom Hawking celebrates Tolkien's birthday by posting
pictures of fifteen covers of Tolkien books, starting with a first
edition of _The Hobbit_ and travelling through Europe, Middle-east
and Asia. The covers range from the familiar to the odd, with some
being quite interesting.
Sam Parker, _Huffington Post_, "Tolkien And Made Up Languages From
At the _Huffington Post_, the Professor is celebrated by another
listing, this one related to his 'secret vice' -- the invention of
languages. The list of invented languates used in fiction starts, of
course, with Tolkien, including an erroneous mix-up of writing
systems and languages . . ..
= = = = Tolkien and the Nobel Prize = = = =
Alison Flood, Thursday, 5 January 2012, "JRR Tolkien's Nobel prize
chances dashed by 'poor prose'"
Newly released material from the Nobel organisations in Stockholm
reveals that C.S. Lewis, whose professorship entitled him to make
nominations, nominated his friend J.R.R. Tolkien for the 1961 Nobel
Prize in Literature for _The Lord of the Rings_. The powerful
committee secratary, Anders Österling, however, cut Tolkien's work,
finding that 'the result is not in any way writing of the highest
quality' ('_resultatet har dock icke i något avseende blivit
diktning av högsta klass_'). The 1961 prize went to Yogoslavian
author Ivo Andric, with Graham Greene and Karen Blixen coming in as
numbers two and three.
This story has been picked up by a number of news-services and
Tolkien bloggers, of which the more interesting include:
Anders Ekström, Tuesday, 3 January 2012, "Greene tvåa på listan
- The Swedish article that started it all.
JDR, Thursday, 5 January 2012, "Tolkien's Nobel"
- John Rateliff blogging about it, and offering some interesing
BBC, Friday, 6 January 2012, "JRR Tolkien snubbed by 1961 Nobel
jury, papers reveal"
David Blackbourn, _Spectator Book Blog_, Friday, 6 January 2012,
"The art of fiction: Tolkien edition"
- With an excerpt from the 1971 interview of Tolkien by Dennis
Gerroult for BBC4.
_The Huffington Post_, Friday, 6 January 2012, "Tolkien Rejected For
Nobel Prize Because Of 'Poor Storytelling'"
- Mentioning also Tolkien's 1972 CBE as 'perhaps the biggest
personal recognition Tolkien ever received.'
PC, Saturday, 7 January 2012, "Why J.R.R. Tolkien was denied the
Nobel Prize in 1961"
- Pieter Collier offers yet another perspective on the story.
JDR, Saturday, 7 January 2012, "Tolkien's Style (Nobel, con't)"
Some additional comments from John Rateliff relating specifically to
criticism of Tolkien's prose.
MD, Sunday, 8 January 2012, "Tolkien and the Nobel Prize"
Michael Drout discusses what seems effectively to be the
incommensurability of the modernist aesthetic to that of the
aesthethic of the medieval tradition that Tolkien was linking to.
Very interesting stuff. Also, be sure to read the comments that
contain some additional developments that are very recommendable.
TF, Tuesday, 10 January 2012, "Not as Black as They're Painted?"
I add what is, perhaps, the shape of another piece of the puzzle
(although the picture on the shape needs to be filled in), by saying
a little about the context of the comment in the protocol of the
Nobel Committee in the Swedish Academy.
DAA, Thursday, 19 January 2012, "2011 and Some Nobel Thoughts"
Douglas Anderson adds some further pieces, having spoken with a
Swedish translator, and also speculating whether the Academy members
read Tolkien's work in the original (not their native language, and
a language in which Swedes born prior to the Second World War would
in general be less proficient than later generations) or in the
infamous translation by Åke Ohlmark.
= = = = News = = = =
Lydia Aisenberg, _The Jerusalem Post_ (undated), "Their Precious"
The story of how one Hebrew translation of _The Hobbit_ came about
in an Egyptian prison for prisoners of war some forty years ago . .
MD, Friday, 6 January 2012, "A Return to Blogging (?)"
Michael Drout promises -- or hopes, or threatens -- a return to more
regular updates to his blog, _Wormtalk and Slugspeak_. We can only
Middle-earth Radio Special, Saturday, 7 January 2012, "Tom Shippey's
A forty-minutes interview with Tom Shippey including a virtual tour
of some of the items in the Shippey library and the story of the
first time Shippey spoke at a Tolkien-related event, and Tolkien's
secretary asked for a copy of his talk to give to Tolkien.
Jasbir Authi, _Birmingham Mail_, Tuesday, 10 January 2012,
"Pictures: Plan to breathe new life into Sarehole Mill"
The story of planned repairs and maintenance to the sluices and mill
pond at Sarehole Mill -- with some nice photographs, both old and
modern. Even if the mill could end up producing hydroelectric power
for Sarehole homes, I think it is nice to think that the mill, a
part of the inspiration for the Shire, is being preserved.
JDR, Tuesday, 10 January 2012, "The Lost HOBBIT cartoon (1966)"
About the appearance on YouTube of a 1966, 12 minutes long, animated
adaptation of _The Hobbit_. Follow the links in the blog to see the
actual film and read about its history.
Nick, Monday, 16 January 2012, "Mythgard Students Create WikiMoot"
This wiki is mainly relevant for those who study or work at the
Mythgard Institute, but some of the information is quite relevant
for others as well. Apart from the lists of reading materials for
the various courses, the page for free research resources is
JDR, Monday, 23 January 2012, "Tolkien Among the All-Time Best
Of the six works that have sold more than 100 million copies,
Tolkien's _The Hobbit_ and _The Lord of the Rings_ rank numbers 4
and 3 respectively . . .. Not bad! (Tolkien is the only author with
two works on the list.)
Greg Stohr, _Businessweek_, Monday, 23 January 2012, "Copyrights on
Foreign Works Upheld by U.S. Supreme Court"
I am not sure which of Tolkien's works are included in this case,
but evidently some are (possibly the first edition of _The Hobbit_
that has it's 75 anniversary this autumn), and consequently the case
has a Tolkien interest.
JDR, Tuesday, 24 January 2012, "Tolkien Among the E-Books"
Some interesting comments on the sales of Tolkien's works as
Failblog, Tuesday, 24 January 2012, "SOPA via LOTR"
Not just for fun . . .. The humorous reference to Hobbits and Sauron
show something that is also commented upon in a more serious context
elsewhere: the pervasive popularity of Tolkien's work can be seen by
such references in pop-culture and elsewhere such as naming an
extinct humanoid race "Hobbits" or putting Tolkien's failure to win
the Nobel Prize in the headline before other names.
Alison Flood, _The Guardian_, Thursday, 26 January 2012, "JRR
Tolkien's Middle-earth gets a complete genealogy"
Sometimes it can be a bit suprising what makes the headlines of the
news websites. This genealogical picture (not complete, of course,
be still very thorough) has seen quite a few corrections and changes
since it first came under public scrutiny, but though it is now a
much better product, I will nonetheless say that I think the idea of
a single genealogy is flawed from the outset. As many will know, I
warmly advocate viewing Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium as an
evolving vision in constant change. The idea behind this genealogy
seems to me to adhere to the fannish idea of a single 'canon' - a
single, static vision of Tolkien's sub-creation that is in some ways
more true than any other; that idea is, in my view, a false
representation of what Tolkien actually achieved (regardless of
whether he _tried_ to do something else -- something that is more
Borys Kit, _The Hollywood Reporter_, Monday, 30 January 2012, "First
Look: 'Lord of the Rings' Lego Toyline"
As reported many places around the interweb, Lego have released some
photos of some of the figures from their upcoming _The Lord of the
Rings_ product line. This _is_ Lego, but the imagery is nonetheless
heavily influenced by the New Line Cinema films -- a pity, I think,
that they didn't attempt to find a more independent visual
expression, but I suppose it is inevitable, as they will also be
wanting to cater to those who only know the story from those films.
= = = = Essays, Scholarship and Criticism = = = =
JDR, Sunday, 8 January 2012, "Tolkien's Application for War"
The National Archives have put some of Tolkien's service records
from the Great War on-line here:
_The National Archives_, "Officer's service record: J R R Tolkien"
This also includes Tolkien's trench fever service record and the
letter he sent from Great Haywood to report for "further orders": "I
have the honour to be, / Sir, / Your obedient servant. / JRR Tolkien
Ruth Lacon, Saturday, 14 January 2012, "To Illustrate or Not to
Illustrate? That is the Question..."
Wow! Excellent essay by Ruth Lacon on the question of illustrating
Tolkien's texts. I agree (perhaps not in every detail) with most of
what she has to say on the subject, but I think that, in the last
part, "the lady doth protest too much, methinks" -- accusing Tolkien
of approaching iconoclasm ignores, in my opinion, the fundamental
divide Tolkien made between creation and sub-creation.
H&S, Sunday, 15 January 2012, "G.B. Smith: An Inventory"
A list of the personal effects of G.B. Smith recorded some days
after his death. On why this is actually interesting, I will refer
you to Wayne and Christina who say it much better than I could hope
MD, Friday, 20 January 2012, "Tolkien Aloud"
Inspired by reading Tolkien out loud to his kids, Michael Drout
discusses the qualities that make _The Hobbit_ and _The Lord of the
Rings_ so easy to read out loud, making some very interesting
observations in the process.
Michael Saler, _Huffington Post_, Tuesday, 24 January 2012,
"Explaining Imaginary Worlds: Why 'Lord Of The Rings' Is Addictive"
Michael Saler, author of _As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary
Prehistory of Virtual Reality_, gives a historian's perspective on
the additive quality of imaginary worlds with special focus on the
worlds of Arthur Conan Doyle and J.R.R. Tolkien. While I don't
think that Saler can offer the whole answer (and I don't know that
he would claim so himself), I do think that he offers an interesting
analysis and a solid argument for having at least a part of the
JF, Friday, 27 January 2012, "Another Gandalf who signed himself
with a G."
In a pleasant mix of philology and history-lesson, Jason Fisher
looks at the medieval canonist, Magister Gandulphus who also at
times signed with just a 'G'.
_The Telegraph_, Monday, 30 January 2012, "JRR Tolkien's grumpy
holiday letter sells for £1,700"
I don't think the letter is 'grumpy' though it does show some of
Tolkien's old-age concern for Edith's and his own health. But
£1700?? I am _not_ paying that much for a letter by Tolkien, but I
am nonetheless interested in knowing about them :-)
= = = = Book News = = = =
H&S, Tuesday, 3 january 2012, "The Tolkien Collector 32"
Information for Tolkien collectors: issue 32 of Wayne Hammond and
Christina Scull's _The Tolkien Collector_ is now out.
Harley J. Sims, _Mythlore_, Friday, 13 January 2012, "Review: The
Ring and the Cross"
The discussion of the role of Christianity (and particularly Roman
Catholicism) in Tolkien's writings is to the more serious Tolkien
criticism not unlike the discussions about Balrog wings to many
fans. Sims finds that _The Ring and the Cross_, edited by Paul E.
Kerry, is a good input in this discussion, not least because it
brings the two sides into dialogue. The review, with it's very brief
summary of the contents of the book, is actually worth reading in
itself even if you cannot or will not read the book.
JF, Wednesday, 18 January 2012, "Celebrating Tolkien's 120th
The French Tolkien Society, Tolkiendil, will be publishing a special
issue of their publication, _L'Arc et le Heaume_, in celebration of
Tolkien's 120th birthday. A collection of essays that look very
promising, I am once more chagrined by my lack of linguistic
abilities, but I am hopeful that they will be able to fulfil their
dream of publishing the English essays on-line after the publication
in French. I suspect that Jason will publish any news, and if so, I
will certainly follow :)
JF, Friday, 20 January 2012, "My book now available for Kindle"
_Tolkien and the Study of his Sources_ is now also available for
Kindle. See more below.
Mike Foster, _Mythlore_, Friday, 27 January 2012, "Tolkien and the
Study of His Sources"
This review originally appeared in _Mythlore_ 115/116.
Mike Foster seems, overall, to be quite satisfied with Jason
Fisher's collection, though the review is mostly a summary of the
various contributions. To that I can add my own recommendation that
the collection as a whole is well worth reading despite some two or
three weak contributions.
Holly Ordway, _Mythprint_, Tuesday, 31 January 2012, "Arda
Douglas Kane's work has been criticised heavily from some quarters
of the Tolkien community (see e.g. on his web-site referenced below
under "Websites"), and Holly Ordway's review seems to balance quite
well between the more extreme viewpoints.
= = = = Interviews = = = =
PC, Monday, 9 January 2012, "Interview with Sam Roads about The One
Ring Facebook Game"
Péter Kristóf Makai's paper in _Tolkien Studies 7_, 'Faërian
Cyberdrama: When Fantasy becomes Virtual Reality' introduced the
idea of using the theoretical models that have evolved around modern
virtual game-worlds to understand some of the attraction of
Tolkien's Secondary World, and now Pieter Collier goes a step
further with this interview with a designer of a game based on
Tolkien's world. One could certainly argue that there are other
games that might be relevant to hear about, _Lord of the Rings
On-line_ comes readily to mind, but this is, I think, a good place
Justin Hall, Monday, 16 January 2012, "Interview with Pieter Collier"
Having himself interviewed several people for his Tolkien Library
web-site, Pieter Collier is now interviewed for this blog
Laura Parker, _Gamespot_, Monday, 30 January 2012, "Creating the
World of Amalur: An Interview With R.A. Salvatore"
An interesting inteview with R.A. Salvatore. I can't really agree
with him, though, that the fantasy genre has matured since Tolkien
-- at least, not unless you define the genre to exclude Tolkien's
work. This doesn't mean that I think it hasn't improved in any
respect -- I do think that the genre in general has improved on some
aspect since then, but overall I don't think it is more mature nor
better than what Tolkien wrote. While I am very fond of much of
Salvatore's work, I think his work is, overall, more adolescent than
Tolkien's. (I can be fond of adolescent literature if I want to!)
= = = = Other Stuff = = = =
'km_515', Sunday, 20 February 2011, "Oldest and Fatherless: The
Terrible Secret of Tom Bombadil"
I am not sure exactly how seriously this is meant, but it is at any
rate an interesting take on Bombadil -- without attempting to engage
in the discussion about Tom's 'true nature' within Middle-earth, but
merely looking at what we 'know' about Tom and pointing out the
inconsistencies in that knowledge.
PC, Sunday, 1 January 2012, "Celebrating Cor Blok - A Tolkien
Tapestry: Pictures to accompany The Lord of the Rings"
It is hardly news that the 2012 Tolkien Calendar once more features
art by Cor Blok, nor is it new that Pieter Collier has edited the
book _A Tolkien Tapestry_ featuring text and pictures by Cor Blok.
Between the lines this article speaks of the devotion to Tolkien and
to Cor Blok's art -- and of the dedication that made him track down
all the pieces by Blok and obtain high-quality scans of them all: "I
embarked on one more mission and collecting once again took up
another meaning" Pieter tells. Here is also an interesting 12
minutes interview with Cor Blok, where he speaks, among other
things, of Tolkien's view on an illustrated edition of _The Lord of
Tom Shippey, _Swallows & Daggers_, Saturday, 7 January 2012, "The
Spurred by comments in a review unrelated to Tolkien, Shippey here
comments on the ending of _The Lord of the Rings_ in general and
Sam's "Well, I'm back" in particular.
Wellinghall, Thursday, 19 January 2012, "Tolkien slept here"
From an article about fictional places with a real-world connection
. . .. I think more could be said that included also other places
than the Birmingham area.
H&S, Sunday, 22 January 2012, "Filling Up the Corners"
Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull have been posting a series of
posts on their Tolkien collection and their collecting activities.
These are written in their usual engaging style, and though one may
have to suppress a pang of something approaching envy, they are also
very interesting :-) In this post, Christina writes about their
work towards finding some of the items that miss in their
Luke Bailey, _Alligator_, Wednesday, 25 January 2012, "Shire from
Lord of the Rings an ideal economic model"
Hobbitonomics? Much as I love Tolkien's works, I don't think the
societies they portray (even if just those portrayed in a very
positve light) present a viable alternative to the modern
technological world. Still, it is interesting to see that serious
economists can be inspired in their theory-formation by Tolkien's
H&S, Sunday, 29 January 2012, "Of Bookshops Past, Part One"
Wayne Hammond writes about the memories of bookshops visited in
childhood and youth . . . ah, I remember visiting second-hand
bookshops in Copenhagen with my friends three decades ago, searching
for science-fiction and fantasy . . . the smell in these places, and
the joy of discovering yet another set of shelves hidden behind a
hitherto undiscovered corner . . .
H&S, Tuesday, 31 January 2012, "Of Bookshops Past, Part Two"
Part two of Wayne's reminisces about bookshops visited in childhood
and youth . . .
= = = = Rewarding Discussions = = = =
LotR Plaza: "The Hobbit - An Unexpected Party (HRT 1)"
A Chapter-of-the-week read-through of _The Hobbit_ that starts with
this thread. In this thread there is also a discussion of Tolkien's
claim that his 'Matter of Middle-earth' was 'primarily linguistic in
Ch 2: <http://220.127.116.11/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=243221
Ch 3: <http://18.104.22.168/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=243275
Ch 4: <http://22.214.171.124/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=243307
The opening post for chapter 3 is written by me.
Mythsoc list: "Types, Stereotypes and Archetypes."
A quite interesting thread dealing with the differences between
stereotypes and archetypes . . . and other kinds of types in the
intelligent manner that is typical (sorry, but I couldn't resist
that one) of the Mythsoc list.
= = = = Web Sites = = = =
The Compleat Gyde to Tolkien Calendars
If there is a question about Tolkien calendars that has been nagging
you, this is the place to start looking for an answer. I wouldn't be
able to boil down a review of this site to a single sentence, but I
can manage it in a single word: Wow!
Meditations on Middle-earth Exerpt: Rhythmic Patterning in The Lord
of the Rings
An essay by Ursula K. LeGuin.
The Hall of Fire
A website that, among it's prominent members, count Douglas Kane
under his 'Voronwë the Faithful' internet pseudonym. Also includes a
forum dedicated to Kane's book, _Arda Reconstructed_,
where you will, among other things, be able to find a thread in
which Kane discusses the book with Carl Hostetter, who quotes
Christopher Tolkien's comments about the early drafts that Kane sent
The Catholic Imagination of JRR Tolkien
An excellent collection of links to articles, essays, papers etc. on
Tolkien and Catholicism (for in introduction to the controversy
regarding this question, see the review of _The Ring and the Cross_
linked in the Book News section)
The Hobbit in Czech and Slovak: A Comparison
A thorough comparison of the Czech and Slovak translations of _The
Hobbit_ . . . seeing something like this makes me wonder how much
effort it would take to do the same for the Swedish, Norwegian
(both), and Danish translations . . .. Probably too much for me to
take on for some years to come.
_The Hobbit_ in Russian
Not the entire story, of course, but probably the pages carrying
illustrations. In Russian, or so I am told, the word normally used
doesn't distinguish between feet and legs, and nobody had,
apparently told the illustrator, Mikhail Belomlinsky, that it was
only Hobbit _feet_ that were furry . . .
Catalogue of papers of (Arthur) Owen Barfield
A catalogue of the papers of Owen Barfield that are at the Bodleian
Library in Oxford.
= = = = 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"
'Wellinghall', "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"
David Simmons (DS), "Aiya Ilúvatar"
Michael Martinez (MM), "Tolkien Studies Blog"
Michael Martinez (MM), "Middle-earth"
Jackson Crawford (JC), "Tattúínárdøla saga"
Troels Forchhammer (TF), "Parmar-kenta"
_Mythprint_ -- 'The Monthly Bulletin of the Mythopoeic Society'
_Amon Hen_ -- the Bulletin of the Tolkien Society
- and others
Troels Forchhammer <troelsfo(a)googlewave.com
Valid e-mail is <troelsfo(a)gmail.com
Please put [AFT], [RABT] or 'Tolkien' in subject.
It is the theory which decides what can be observed.
- Albert Einstein (1879-1955)