Tolkien Transactions IV

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Troels Forchhammer

Aug 31, 2010, 4:14:02 PM8/31/10
Tolkien Transactions no IV
August 2010

Time for a new issue of my attempt to extract the best (in my highly
subjective estimate) of Tolkien related 'goings-on' on the 'net.

Regardless of how much time I (mis)spend reading blogs and other
stuff, I will never be able to find everything, so please chime in
with interesting stuff that you have found elsewhere!

Nor do I imagine that all of this is new to you, but I hope that
there is at least one or two interesting bits that have escaped
notice for each of you ;-)

= = = = 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 Never

Pieter Collier (PC) - "The Tolkien Library"

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

Corey Olsen (CO), "The Tolkien Professor"

David Bratman (DB), "Calimac"

Larry Swain (LS), "The Ruminate"

_The Festival in the Shire Journal_

_Mythprint_ -- 'The Monthly Bulletin of the Mythopoeic Society'

_Amon Hen_ -- the journal of the Tolkien Society

- and others

= = = = News = = = =

BBC: 30 March 1968, "The views of the author and Oxford's students
on Tolkien's Middle-earth epics."
Talk about old news ;-) This is an interview program first aired in
1968 -- 26 minutes and 32 seconds of delightful Tolkieniana. The
comments by one critic? student? scholar? about a quarter into the
documentary are hilarious when seen today, more than forty years
later, but I know, of course, that he is completely serious.

JF, Tuesday, July 20, 2010, "Medieval Academy books online"
Jason announces the news that the American Medieval Academy has
joined the British Viking Society in making the books available
on-line for all and sundry -- the latter could, for instance, be
Tolkien enthusiasts eager to know more about Tolkien's various
medieval inspirations. I can add that the Viking Society's list
includes Christopher Tolkien's version of _The Saga of King Heiðrek
the Wise_: <> (find it under the
heading 'Other Editions And Translations').

Festival in the Shire Journal, issue no. 8, August 2010
This will soon be the September issue, and then the August issue
will probably be found on the URL
(But until then, the above URL is invalid!)
* Corey Olsen writes about the importance of appendix A -- not
something I think anyone here needs pointing out, but still ;-)
* A review / commentary on _The Lay of Leithian_: “The Lay of
Leithian or the Heroism of the Couple”, unattributed.

JDR, Tuesday, August 10, 2010, "St. Veep"
This is getting a bit round-about, but in a follow-up comment to
Rateliff's blog post, Jason Fisher mentions that this book, where
Tolkien's 'Goblin Feet' was first published, is available on-line
for free at
<>. In other
comments David Bratman explains the meaning of "Home student" as it
appears in the list of authors in this book.

= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =

Michael D.C. Drout, Sunday, April 25, 2010, '"Beowulf: The Monsters
and the Critics" : The Brilliant Essay that Broke Beowulf Studies'
Drout looks into Tolkien's essay on _Beowulf_, going into some
detail both with the state of the field of _Beowulf_ study when
Tolkien was first composing his arguments, with the arguments
themselves and he also sketches the later development of this field.
In brief, Drout argues that though Tolkien wanted students of
_Beowulf_ to look at it as a poem in its own right (and a good poem
at that), he didn't want this to be the _only_ view to be applied,
and that Tolkien also wanted the poem to be seen as documenting a
very scarcely documented part of our history.

Mike Hooker, Friday, June 4, 2010, "The Frisian Smaug"
_De Hobbit_ -- the Frisian translation of _The Hobbit_ (the 75th
language in Wikipedia's list into which that book has been
translated) features a thing which has not been done in any of the
73 preceding languages of translation: the name of Smaug has been
translated. Hooker goes through Tolkien's reasoning when choosing
the name Smaug, and through the reasoning of the translator for
choosing to translate it Smûch. It is interesting because it not
only tells what the philologically aware might glean simply from the
name of the magnificient old worm in English, but Hooker also
discusses what impression both the philologically aware, and the
average person, might get from the name Smûch.

Henry Gee, Tuesday, July 13, 2010, Ents and Sources
Gee takes us through three possible sources of inspiration for the
Ents: the Green Knight from the story with Gawain, some otherworldly
'Plant Men' in Olaf Stapledon's _Star Maker_, and a passage from
Mark 8-24 -- curiously omitting the mystic origin of the word 'Ent'
(he mentions it is an OE word for 'giant', but that's all) and only
briefly mentioning Tolkien's dissatisfaction with Shakespeare's
handling of Birnam Wood coming to Dunsinane. While all the three
examples that Gee mentions are perfectly believable as being among
the sources of inspirations for Tolkien's Ents, I think the best
part of his essay comes at the end, when he cautions about this kind
of source-criticism, conclcuding that
Had Tolkien never written a line, we would probably never
have had cause to discuss Gawain, Stapledon and St Mark in
the same context. But once we have made the connection,
whether or not each is spurious, we cannot help but read
these sources as if through the eyes of Tolkien -- whether
Tolkien read them or not.
Well said!
And I can't help but ask, if one of more of these sources are 'true'
-- i.e. they are truly among the experiences that inspired Tolkien's
Ents -- what do they, individually or in combination, tell us about
the Ents that we couldn't learn from Tolkien's own words: in what
way does it increase our appreciation of Tolkien's work?

Tom Shippey, Saturday, July 24, 2010 "Tolkien's Two Views of
It is always interesting and worth reading when Shippey writes about
Tolkienian subjects. In this case Shippey continues the discussion
that Drout started about the legacy of Tolkien's seminal lecture and
essay on _Beowulf_ criticism, '_Beowulf_ - the Monsters and the
Critics'. Shippey focuses on a couple of aspects of this legacy,
and one of Shippey's points is that Tolkien used every rhetorical
trick available to him including at times overstating his position
-- but that he was so successful that people believed the
overstatements. This, according to Shippey, has led, for instance,
to the opinion that _Beowulf_ is useless as a historical document,
which was not what Tolkien actually believed himself.

JDR, Monday, July 26, 2010, "The Darkness Beneath (More Nightmares
for the Tolkien Children?)"
John Rateliff comments on horror-like elements in some of Tolkien's
works, including works for children (hence the part of the headline
about 'More Nightmares for the Tolkien Children'). It's an
interesting observation, and though I don't think there's 'meat'
enough on the subject to warrant a full paper on the topic, it is
definitely something that ought to be brought up in some hopefully
forthcoming study of Tolkien as a children's author.

JDR, Friday, July 30, 2010, "THE LOST EXPLORERS"
Based on the information in Garth's _Tolkien and the Great War_ that
Tolkien had given a copy of Alexander Macdonald's _The Lost
Explorers_ to the library at King Edward's School in 1912, Rateliff
got hold of the the book when opportunity presented itself, and has
now read it. First of all, he didn't enjoy the experience. I find,
however, that the assumption that Tolkien had enjoyed the book to be
interesting. Can we safely assume that Tolkien had enjoyed the book
because he gave it to the library? The library had been the location
of the first meetings of what would become the Tea Club and later
also the Barrovian Society, and it is naturaly to assume that
Tolkien would harbour warm feelings for his old school library, but
I am nonetheless not convinced that this is a safe inference to

JF, Monday, August 9, 2010, "Tookish musings"
Jason does a little source-criticism on the family name of the
thains of the Shire: 'Tûk' in the original Shire dialect of Westron,
according to Tolkien himself in the appendices. It is fun, of
course, to learn that there was a British etymologist in the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries called Horne Tooke, but I remain
unconvinced because of mainly two points that are not addressed.
First, there is in any kind of source criticism an underlying
assumption that everything must have an identifiable source, which I
find highly unlikely. Secondly I don't think the 'link' is firm
enough simply because Horne Tooke dealt with etymology, which is
also an aspect of philology. If it could be shown that knowledge
about Horne Tooke could inform our understanding of either the Took
family (particularly in _The Hobbit_) and / or of individual Tooks
(primarily, of course, Peregrin Took, son of Paladin), then it would
be another matter. Not only would such a discussion lend credence to
the original idea that Tolkien came upon the name from the early
etymologist, but it would also help our appreciation of the book.

Greg Harvey, Undated, "Concerning the Nature of Hobbits
in Tolkien's Middle-earth"
This 'for dummies' description of Hobbits doesn't really contain
anything that is new to long-time Tolkien fans - and I don't suppose
that it is intended to. There is a few mistakes made in the article.
For instance Harvey claims that 'distantly related to humans' which
is of course nonsense: Hobbits _are_ humans, just of a diminutive
kind. The 'us' of whom the Hobbits are relatives is not 'the human
race', but rather the 'Big People' as they would say in Bree. More
serious, however (at least IMO), is the claim that hobbit
diminutiveness is a sign just of 'a lack of towering ambition and
desire'. The one place that I recall in which Tolkien discusses this
is in a footnote to the famous letter to Milton Waldman from late
1951 (_Letters_ #131) where he says that
They are made _small_ (little more than half human stature,
but dwindling as the years pass) partly to exhibit the
pettiness of man, plain unimaginative parochial man -
[...], and mostly to show up, in creatures of very small
physical power, the amazing and unexpected heroism of
ordinary men 'at a pinch'.
Harvey does get the latter part right, but I think it is an error to
romanticize the Hobbits so much as to ignore the less admirable
aspects of their character: the pettiness and 'unimaginative
parochial' insularity and their myopic outlook that is willing to
judge everything by the scale of their own lack of experience and

Romauld I. Lakowski, “Finduilas, Túrin, and the Incest Motif”,
_Mythprint_ vol. 47 no. 8, August 2010, whole no. 337
It must be said from the start that I tend to become extremely wary
once someone tries to invoke any kind of ‘system’ in their analysis
of Tolkien's works -- whether Freudian analysis, the actantial
model, or, as in this case, Jungian analytical psychology. In this
case the last two thirds of the article is taken up by a fairly
straight-forward retelling of the Túrin story (mostly basing itself
on the version in _The Children of Húrin_) and the first third
invokes some ideas without really trying to build on these ideas in
the subsequent text. Why speak of ‘the Dragon’ as representing ‘the
negative, devouring aspects of the Archetypal Mother and the
incestuous desire of the Hero to return to the womb even though that
would mean his death’ without trying to tie this to the Túrin story?
I cannot guess what Lakowski is trying to achive with this article,
which seems to lead nowhere.

JF, Tuesday, August 24, 2010, "A new Tolkien reference - well,
almost new"
How much contact was there between Tolkien and one R.G. Collingwood?
That they did meet and discuss some matters of language is known,
but did they discuss folklore (which Collingwood was working and
lecturing on in the 1930s)? A blog entry with follow-up information
from Dimitra Fimi, Wayne & Christina, 'Ardamir' (Johan Olin) and
This is one of the situations where I find that I, with my different
approach to the study of Tolkien's work, have different priorities
from the 'lit' people. I can allow myself to be interested in the
details of Tolkien's life only insofar as they may tell me something
about his work, and in this case I can understand the interest and
the potential for learning something about Tolkien's work, but until
that connection (if it exists) is uncovered, I can lean back and
ignore this ;-)

JF, Friday, August 27, 2010, "They "saw loose the leaves of the
book" - but who?"
Jason's got hold of volume 6 of _Essays and Studies_ from 1953, that
issue of the periodical of the English Association in which
Tolkien's 'The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth, Beorhthelm's Son' was first
published. While Tolkien's work has been republished several times
and is now easily obtainable, the original context in this case
proves to add something -- at least a note on the contributor that
states that Tolkien was *in 1953*! 'well known' for 'his verse
translation of The Pearl.' This translation was not published until
more than twenty years later (1975), so Jason reasonably wonders
about this note and the fame of Tolkien's translation in 1953, and
Wayne and Christina once more chimes in with additional

= = = = Reviews = = = =

JF, Tuesday, August 3, 2010, "In the new volume of Tolkien Studies"
This is the first information about _Tolkien Studies_ vol. 7 that
goes beyond the table of contents, mentioning, for instance, some of
the things said in David Bratman's regular 'Year's Worth in Tolkien
Studies' column -- this time for 2007.

JDR, Tuesday, August 24, 2010, "The New Arrival: Pug-Ugly"
A review of the new official Tolkien calendar (for 2011) from
HarperCollins and the Estate. The 2011 calendar is illustrated by
Cor Blok, and Rateliff doesn't much like his illustrations. There's
an interesting dicussion in the follow-ups about the qualities of
illustrations. I am not going to enter into that discussion myself
-- for one thing I am not very visually minded in that sense (I'm
visual enough when it comes to the printed word, but that's another
thing altogether) and for another I realize that there is very
little argument about personal taste (and I know nothing about the
technical issues of the craftsmanship). For what it is worth, my own
opinion tends to lean in the same direction as Rateliff when it
comes to Blok's illustrations of Tolkien.

Joel Beers, Thursday, August 26, 2010, "'The Hobbit' Rings True"
A rather positive review of a theatrical adapation of _The Hobbit_.
What can I say? I just wish I was in a position to go to the
Maverick Theatre and watch it for myself ;-)

JDR, Friday, August 27, 2010, "Tolkien Documentary IV: Tolkien in
Oxford [1968]"
This is a review of the BBC documentary listed above under 'news'.
While I found this documentary 'delightful' this is not Rateliff's
opinion -- possibly because his perspective is different (I agree
with his criticism, but I still enjoy the documentary immensely). I
think a part of its attraction to me is also as a period document,
but I am fortunately not obliged to defend my opinions :-)

David Emerson, “Bradford Lee Eden, ed. _Middle-earth Minstrel_”
_Mythprint_ vol. 47 no. 8, August 2010, whole no. 337
Emerson finds this collection, subtitled _Essays on Music in
Tolkien_, to be a mixed lot that could have benefitted from stricter
selection criteria (finding that ‘this collection seems to lack an
overall cohesiveness’) and he also says that ‘more stringent editing
seems to have been called for.’ The book itself has arrived on my
shelf also during this month, but I have not yet have time time read
it, and when I do, I will try and write up a review for AFT & RABT.

At the eve of September, _Mythlore_ issue 109/110, volume 28, number
3/4 (spring/summer 2010) comes in the mail. I have only have time
for a quick look at the index, but it seems that there are a number
of articles of interest to a Tolkien-loving audience. Marie Nelson
has an essay titled “J.R.R. Tolkien's "Leaf by Niggle": An Allegory
of Transformation”. Helios de Rosario Martínez writes about “_Fairy_
and _Eleves_ in Tolkien and Traditional Literature”, Rebecca
Brackmann's essay is titled “"Dwarves are Not Heroes": Antisemitism
and the Dwarves in J.R.R. Tolkien's Writing” (I am rather curious to
hear what this is about -- the whole idea of reading anything Jewish
into Tolkien's Dwarves {apart from their linguistic situation} is,
to me, highly doubtful). The last three articles are also Tolkien
related, “Totemic Reflexes in Tolkien's Middle-earth” (Yvette
Kisor), “The Voice of Saruman: Wizards and Rhetoric in _The Two
Towers_” (Jay Ruud) and “The Shire Quest: The ‘Scouring of the
Shire’ as the Narrative Thematic Focus of _The Lord of the Rings”
(David M. Waito). This leaves four articles that are not immediately
recognizable as dealing with Tolkien, and of course it doesn't even
begin to mention the reviews, which are another treasure trove for
those of us on tight Tolkien-related budgets ;-)

= = = = Conference Season = = = =

I have found surprisingly little on-line from the Festival in the
Shire, which took place from the 13th through the 15th of August.
They do say that there is going to be a lot of stuff about the
festival in the September issue of the journal. However, just
looking at the list of known names among the speakers in the
conference track makes me wish I had been able to go: Verlyn
Flieger, Tom Shippey, Douglas Anderson, Dimitra Fimi, John Garth,
Colin Duriez, Corey Olsen, Colin Manlowe, Alex Lewis and others . .
. <deep sigh>. I just hope that the program will be as exiting when
I get to go to ‘The Return of the Ring’ in two years' time.
There is a report up by one of the exhibitors at the
but she also went to some of the talks at the conference track,
though unfortunately she doesn't say much about what the talks were

= = = = Other Stuff = = = =

Fred Hutchison, January 5, 2004, "Tolkien, Islam, & Manicheism"
This is, admittedly, digging out old stuff :-) The topic -- apart
from references to Islam -- is, however, one that has previously
been brought up here, and so I was quite interested to find an
article about this on-line: the reality was, unfortunately, a
disappointment to put it mildly. The author evidently doesn't
understand Tolkien's work very well and, from a Tolkien perspective,
the only redeeming point about it is that the reference to Tolkien
is reasonably brief before the author embarks on an attempt to prove
something about Islam and Manichaeism. I found myself unable to
finish the last two sections.

Sandra, Monday, August 16th, 2010, "Tolkien, the Father of Modern
Did you know that it can be seen from his hand-writing that Tolkien
was such a creative person? Neither did I. I suppose it's a relief
for a graphologist to know the result when starting the analysis ;-)
What'll be next? An astrology site publishing a horoscope for
someone born on the evening of 3 January 1892 in Bloemfontein
showing that this person is likely to be very interesting in and
skilled at languages and to have an artistic temper? Sorry! I meant
to include this as a bit of a laugh, but then I start ranting ;-)
It _is_ a bit of a laugh, but at the same time it also does raise my
ire. It is possible -- perhaps even likely -- that Sandra is a
perfectly honest Tolkien fan and graphologist who simply doesn't
realize that she is begging the question, I don't know.

Kendall Wild, _The Rutland Herald_, Wednesday, August 18, 2010,
"Parallel worlds in Tolkein and Dumas"
This is another piece that I cannot in earnest place anywhere other
than in the 'other stuff' category. The point of the article is to
point out parallels between Tolkien's _The Lord of the Rings_ and
Dumas' _The Count of Monte Christo_. Wild ends by noting that
It might be said that the parallels of action and inflexion
that have been outlined above are really only coincidental,
but you have to admit that there are an awful lot of them.
This makes me suspect that the piece _may_ just be an attempt at
humour, for the parallels that are outlined are, in most cases,
extremely vague and not worthy of being pointed out (we are dealing
with parallels along the lines of 'both Frodo and the Count has a
mission, a quest'). If intended humorously I would have to say that
it succeeds almost too much in its appearance of earnestness -- a
slightly stronger hint that humour was intended would allow the
perceptive reader to enjoy it better. If humour is not the
intention, it is nevertheless there, unintentionally.

Guy Deutscher, Thursday, August 26, 2010, "Does Your Language Shape
How You Think?"
Rather more serious than the other entries in this section, but not
directly related to Tolkien. However, just reading the headline, I
was strongly reminded of my impression of Tolkien's belief about the
strong ties between language, people and land -- and I wondered what
Tolkien would have said? I'd like to believe that he would have been
able to Whorf's simplistic position, but on the other hand, I also
believe that he would agree to a certain extent that your language
does shape the way you think -- just look at the ideas he express in
_Ósanwe-kenta_ about hos language can be a _barrier_ to the more
direct mode of communication by thought, and how _ósanwe_ can help
achieve an understanding that is both faster and more complete than
what is possible with langauge.

'Wellinghall', Saturday, August 28th, 2010, "Tolkien slept here; and
Tolkien illustrations"
An interesting way to create a blog entry -- a few quotations with
links to the source, but next to no commentary, and yet there is a
clear line of progression and an overarching idea. As for the
'Tolkien slept here' kind of links, I am reminded of the story of
the (tyrant) Swedish king fleeing from the (brave) Danish army (that
had liberated his subjects -- of course <GG>): just about every
single farm along the route that has stood long enough to make the
claim at least remotely credible will tell you that the king slept
there during his flight. All I can say is that he had spent all that
time sleeping, it would reflect very badly on the contemporary
Danish army that they didn't catch up with him ;-) Oh -- and the
last four of the links are actually worth visiting (even if there's
a couple of claims that are perhaps a bit overstated . . .
hypotheses stated as facts).

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

Behold! we are not bound for ever to the circles of the
world, and beyond them is more than memory, Farewell!
- Aragorn, /The Lord of the Rings/ (J.R.R. Tolkien)

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