Tolkien Transactions II

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Troels Forchhammer

May 29, 2010, 4:39:36 PM5/29/10
I've gone a bit beyond the usual 'collected from around the 'net'
concept in this issue -- the arrival of Mallorn #49 seemed to me to
warrant more than a brief mention.

= = = = Sources = = = =

John D. Rateliff (JDR) - "Sacnoth's Scriptorium"

Jason Fisher (JF) - "Lingw� - Musings of a Fish"

Michael Drout (MD) - "Wormtalk and Slugspeak"

Wayne G. Hammond & Christina Scull (H&S) - "Too Many Books and Never

Pieter Collier (PC) - "The Tolkien Library"

Douglas A. Anderson (DAA) et Al. - "Wormwoodiana"

Corey Olsen (CO), "The Tolkien Professor"

= = = = News = = = =

There is a new journal for fantasy enthusiasts: _Fastitocalon_.
Though published in Germany, the language is Engliah (evidently
targeting a larger market than the German-speaking).

(DAA) Tuesday, May 11, 2010: "A New Journal: Fastitocalon"
Douglas Anderson points out the existence of _Fastitocalon_. He has
a note in the journal on 'Biographical notes on forgotten authors of
fantastic literature', and he also points out that 'Tolkienists will
be pleased to note the contribution to this issue by Amy
Amendt-Raduege, "Better Off Dead: The Lesson of the Ringwraiths".'

Mallorn, the Journal of the Tolkien Society, has arrived in the 2010
spring issue (issue 49). This issue contains a number of interesting
articles which I will list in their appropriate sections, but in
addition to what I find interesting, there is alse articles and
reviews on fan art as well as the fan art itself. Actually, some of
the pictures are quite good, but while I can garner enough interest
in pictures and music to look at them and listen to it, I cannot
find enough interest to do the same for fiction, poetry or drama
(incl. films) -- it doesn't really matter to me who is doing the
adaptation (Jackson's effort is, to me, no different in _kind_ than
any other piece of fan-fiction or fan-drama).

= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =

CO: Friday, May 14, 2010: "Tolkien Chat 3: On Tragedy and Sorrow"
A podcast of a chat between Corey Olsen (a.k.a. 'The Tolkien
Professor') and a student, Elizabeth Bateman, who has written the
thesis _"Not all tears are an evil:" Tolkien's Theory of Beautiful
Tragedy in 'The Silmarillion' and 'The Lord of the Rings'_. Ms
Bateman has kindly provided her thesis when I asked for it and I
have currently read about a third of it and enjoyed it.

CO: Friday, May 21, 2010: "Tolkien Chat 4: On Metafiction and
Described by Prof. Olsen as 'A chat with Professor Michael Drout,
editor of Tolkien Studies, about Tolkien's metafiction and the study
of philology.'

JDR: Sunday, May 23, 2010: "Errata: 28 Days"
John Rateliff gives some errata for his _History of the Hobbit_ --
in this case on the length of synodical month (29.5306 days -- not
the 28 days that Tolkien used).

JDR: Thursday, May 27, 2010 "Two Thoughts from Kalamazoo"
I don't really know where to put this, but certainly Kalamazoo can
come under the heading of 'Scholarship'. Rateliff here relates two
comments on Tolkien made outside the formal presentations, but which
have spurred some speculation for Rateliff. Some day this may result
in full-blown scholarship in some form, and I'd like to see that.

JDR: Monday, May 24, 2010: "The New Publication: Editorial for Mallorn"
John D. Rateliff, "How do we know what we know", Mallorn #49
Rateliff has been invited to write the editorial for this issue of
Mallorn, and he celebrates this by writing about the scholarly
knowledge about Tolkien. The focus of the example is on the dating
of each of Tolkien's writings, but the topic of the article is on
the knowledge in the broad sense. The article is definitely not
uninteresting, but I must also say that I felt that he was, to a
certain degree, stating the obvious such as when he explains that at
'other times we are faced with a puzzle in which the evidence is
contradictory: one witness is mistaken, some of our "facts" are
wrong -- but which ones? How to resolve the impasse when two sources
with equal authority disagree?' -- and then he doesn't touch on how
to assess the 'authority' of our sources. Still, the article is,
overall, very good, and the point that 'it can be argued that we're
living in the Golden Age of Tolkien Studies' is well made.

Maggie Burns: "'An unlettered peasant boy' of 'sordid character' --
Shakespeare, Suffield and Tolkien", Mallorn #49 Maggie Burns
discusses the context of the description in Carpenter's biography of
Tolkien's participation in a debate in the King Edward School's
Debating Society where he is reporting as attacking Shakespeare
aggressively. Burns points out that the basis, the report in the
_School Chronicle_, was a case when 'Tolkien the editor included a
report by Tolkien the debating secretary on speeches made by Tolkien
and his friends.' Another interesting point is the story of
Tolkien's grandfather, John Suffield's, involvement in the same
debate some 23 years previously. Though I think a couple of the
conclusions are stretching things a bit (e.g. the claim that the
Took family is based on the Suffields), I found Burns quite
persuasive and knowledgeable in the main thrust of the article, and
all in all I think it is a fine article which I quite enjoyed.

Kristine Larsen, "The Words of H�rin and Morgoth: microcosm,
macrocosm and the later legendarium", Mallorn #49
This article suffers, in my opinion, severely from a lack of
purpose. While it is clear that the focus is the development of
Melkor / Morgoth's role in the mythology, with special focus on the
post-LotR development, I simply can't figure out what it is she
wants us to take away from her article. One of the areas that Larsen
goes into details with is the relative status of Melkor and Manw�
and how this developed, but here she fails to convince me that she
is on to something more than quoting Tolkien: Tolkien uses a number
of different nouns to describe the relative positions of these two
Valar such might, majesty, power, stature etc. and while these are
closely interlinked, I don't think they are entirely synonymous. For
instance, while Melkor clearly became the mightiest and the most
powerful of the Valar (and even more so in the later, 'Myths
Transformed' writings) it is not clear that he was also the greatest
in stature or majesty, and he was certainly not the greatest in
wisdom or in understanding of Eru's will. In the end, I found
nothing new in this article except, perhaps, in selection of
material and in focus, and the article is marred by a lack of
purpose that makes it difficult to take anything away from it.

Alan Tierney, "Balrogs: being and becoming", Mallorn #49
With this article, in the author's words, he intends to 'attempt to
show that thismutability is central to Tolkien's idea of the Balrog,
and that the Balrog was very much a multivalent creation that
embodied many of the central themes of Tolkien's work'. He does
attempt, and though he fails to convince me entirely of all of his
points, the article is nevertheless well written and an excellent
survey of the role of the Balrog. It doesn't cover the same ground
as Conrad's old 'The Truth about Balrogs' essays[1] (which aren't
cited), but rather it tries out some new angles.

[1] <>

= = = = Reviews = = = =

JDR: Monday, May 10, 2010: "Tolkien Documentary (II)"
Another review of a Tolkien DVD Documentary -- this one no better
than the first. My summary of John's review of _J.R.R. Tolkien and
The Birth of The Lord of the Rings_ from 2004 is "stay clear" (John
is rather more polite about it, but I don't really have the audience
and authority that he has, so I can be more direct).

JF: Saturday, May 15, 2010: "Read (some of) Middle-earth Minstrel
Hardly a review as such, but more of an announcement of a new
book of Tolkien Criticism with a musical theme: _Middle-earth
Minstrel: Essays on Music in Tolkien_ edited by Brad Eden. Jason has
an essay in the book himself, and there are some review-ish comments
on that essay in the comments to the post.

JDR: Tuesday, May 18, 2010: "The New Arrival: Norwenglish"
John Rateliff reviews the book _Tolkien's Lord of the Rings the
Hidden Message Discovered_ by Nicholas Carlson . . . unfavourably to
put it mildly ;-) I love Rateliff's 'parting shot':
So, overall I'd have to say this is the most inept and
incompetent publication I've ever seen. Even mimeographed
fanzines with clip art show more professionalism and
coherence. Worth checking out only if you are a fan of Wm
McGonagall, Amanda McKittrick Ros, and other writers of
that distinctive stamp. Maybe I shd take it to Mythcon to
see if anyone wants to do a round-robin reading from it.
Actually I seriously considered buying the book after reading
Rateliff's review -- to read on days when I am badly in need of
something to laugh about ;-)

Tom Shippey, "A question of source", Mallorn #49
Shippey reviews a book by Alex Lewis and Elizabeth Currie called
_The Epic Realm of Tolkien: Part One -- Beren and L�thien_, but
unlike Rateliff's review above, Shippey doesn't manage to make me
wish to buy the book; not even for the fun of it. The review chides
the authors for making multiple errors of scholarship, most
significantly for trying to force extremely unlikely connections
upon Tolkien's story. He sums up his review by saying that 'In this
book some possibilities, even probabilities, are drowned by a
clamour of stridently argued but evidently doubtlful cases.' Not a
book that is making my wish-list.

= = = = Other Stuff = = = =

JDR: Wednesday, May 26, 2010: "A Spacious and Desirable
Rateliff points to the page below, which features a number of photos
and descriptions of a college project in which the author, one
Maddie Chambers, has made an impressive 'doll's house' of Bag End.
Take a look -- I would dearly love to get a chance to see this
replica for real (and perhaps get permission to touch it -- just a

Troels Forchhammer <troelsfo(a)>
Valid e-mail is <troelsfo(a)>
Please put [AFT], [RABT] or 'Tolkien' in subject.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable
from magic.
- Arthur C. Clarke, /Profiles of The Future/, 1961
(Also known as 'Clarke's third law')

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