Tolkien Transactions XI

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Troels Forchhammer

Apr 4, 2011, 1:54:43 PM4/4/11
Tolkien Transactions XI
March 2011


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.
Anything appearing in the _Tolkien Transactions_ is under strict
quality assurance to ascertain that it complies with the three
strict selection criteria, which are:
1: I have seen it
2: It has some kind of Tolkien connection (at least in my mind)
3: I have deemed that it is interesting enough to share

Regardless of how much time I (mis)spend reading blogs and other
stuff, I will never be able to find everything (that's criterion
number 1), so please chime in with interesting stuff that you have
found elsewhere that you find ought to comply with criteria 2 and 3.
Nor do I imagine that all of this is new to you, so the usual
disclaimers apply about newness, completeness and relevance (or any
other implication of responsibility) :-)

= = = = News = = = =

Rob Sharp (_The Independent_), Friday, 4 March 2011, "Rescued from
the bonfire, the lost work of C S Lewis"
It may be telling of my general interest in the other Inklings that
I had no idea (I resisted the pun here) that there was a supposedly
lost translation of the Aeneid by C.S. Lewis -- that is, not until
finding that it has been found :) The story of how this work nearly
ended in cinders is at once tragic and thought-provoking: after such
a story I am inclined to be even more grateful to Christopher
Tolkien's great work to preserve his father's literary legacy.

JF, Friday, 4 March 2011, "Lewis's Lost Aeneid"
Jason Fisher takes up the thread with Lewis' Aeneid translation,
providing additional details and ending by expressing his hope that
'it opens the door a little wider to let Tolkien's unpublished
_Beowulf_ translations come through in the near future as well.' All
I can say to that is an enthusiastic 'Amen!'

Morgan et Al., Sunday, 6 March 2011, "'Introduction to Elder Edda'
by Tolkien?"
A small lesson on wariness when finding seemingly Tolkien-related
items on-line. This one is fortunately rather primitively done, but
others are not. The Tolkien Collector's Guide is a good place to ask
about for advice if you find something that sounds dodgy -- or too
good to be true.

PhysOrg, Friday, 11 March 2011, "The Eye of Sauron"
Cosmic powers!
Here is an image of the Eye of Sauron that manages what Jackson's
did not (to me): to appear as an ominous presence, incorporeal, a
mental projection, a symbol of power.

JDR, Thursday, 24 March 2011, "THE HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT, second
There will be a second edition of Rateliff's _The History of the
Hobbit_. In that connection, Rateliff issues a call for errata:

JDR, Friday, 25 March 2011, "The New Arrival: Arne Zetterstein"
I can't decide if it is only because I am envious that I don't have
the books, but sometimes I do wish that bloggers would refrain from
merely posting that now they have received (or ordered, even) a new
book and wait until they have actually read it. A solid review would
be far more useful. I do think that I'll need to get hold of this --
in Danish, of course ;)

Andrea Shea (_wbur_), Friday, 25 March 2011, "Middle-Earth
Conference Revived After 40 Years" (sic)
There have been some reports on this, the third 'Conference on
Middle-earth' which follows a mere forty years after the second, and
arranged by the same person, Howard Finder, now 72 years old and
diagnosed with prostrate cancer.
There is more on this conference on its web-site,
<> and a more in-depth article that preceded
the conference here:
Geoff Edgers (_Boston Globe_), Thursday, 24 March 2011, "At Westford
conference, a fellowship of Tolkien fans"

JF, Thursday, 31 March 2011, "Conference schedule for CSLIS 14"
Even if you are a Tolkien enthusiast with little sympathy for the
work of his friend, C.S. Lewis, there is likely to be something of
value for you at the conference of the C.S. Lewis and Inklings
Society (CSLIS), which was held this weekend. In an ideal world I'd
have the time and the money to go to every conference I'd like, and
this would be one of them. Now I'll just wait for reports to filter

Janet Brennan Croft, Thursday, 31 March 2011, "Mythlore 113/114
Table of Contents"
This issue of _Mythlore_ also promises to be a great read for
Tolkien enthusiasts. Essays include investigations of _The Battle of
Maldon_, _Pearl_ and _Purgatorio_ as inspirations for Tolkien, an
essay on Tolkien and Wagner (a subject where Wagner-lovers are prone
to exaggerate the similarities wildly, and Wagner-haters are prone
to emphatically reject even obvious similarities), and one on Túrin
and Aragorn's different approaches to fate from Janet Brennan
Croft's own hand. On the MythSoc list she has also announced that
this issue was sent to the printer on the last day of March.

= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =

David Levary, Jean-Pierre Eckmann, Elisha Moses, and Tsvi Tlusty,
Friday, 11 March 2011, "Self reference in word definitions"
This paper deals with an analysis of a dictionary using network
graphs with directed links. The authors investigate only nouns, and
link from a word to those words that occur in its definition. This
creates a graph that has some interesting characteristics. In
particular they found that there was a 'core' of 6310 that appear
somewhere down the definition chain for nearly all the words in the
dictionary. Within this core, they found that it could be decomposed
into a number of strongly related components in which there are
circular definitions of five or fewer steps. These components were
further investigated.
The manner in which we were able to reach the core suggests
the somewhat counterintuitive idea that all words are
conceptually interconnected. ('The Decomposition' p. 3)
Their finding that the graph can be decomposed into a number of
strongly connected components that are semantically strongly
related, and which are (on average) introduced in English about the
same time suggests to me that these semantic components are close to
what Barfield was thinking of - one component, one original,
un-splintered, semantic concept. That this appears to be the same
for words introduced in Old English and the scientific words
introduced in the last couple of centuries suggests either than
Barfield was wrong in his idea about some primordial language in
which these conceptual clusters were contained in one word, or that
this primordial language lies so far back in the history of language
that the thousand years or so covered in this study is insufficient
to show any temporal variation. Finally, from the conclusion:
While the central concept of the loop cannot be directly
communicated, we propose that the juxtaposition of the
partially defifined elements within the loop allows the
receiver to infer the common link among the words, thereby
completing the definition of all words in the loop. Such a
system is consistent with our finding that words within a
loop tend to enter the lexicon at the same time and, if
correct, suggests that definitional loops are not simply a
mathematical artifact of dictionaries, but rather a key
mechanism underlying language evolution. ('Conclusions'
p. 5-6)

Simone Pompei, Vittorio Loreto, Francesca Tria, Monday, 21 March
2011, "On the accuracy of language trees"
It is well-known that Tolkien was a philologist, and that philology
is basically a scientific approach to historical lingustics,
particularly to the evolution of langauages and the relations
between them. This article takes the 'science' part a step (or more)
further than I think Tolkien would have imagined, using
'state-of-the-art _distance-based_ methods for phylogeny
reconstruction using worldwide linguistic databases' the authors
strive to contribute to the field of historical lingustics, the aim
of which they state is 'inferring the most likely language
phylogenetic tree starting from information concerning the
evolutionary relatedness of languages.' Combining staticstics and
lingustics -- how could it be better? ;-)

Daniela Schiller and David Carmel (_Scientific American_), Tuesday,
22 March 2011, "How Free Is Your Will?"
Over the past few years, the topic of free will and fate has been
very popular in Tolkien circles, being the focus of the Tolkien
Society Seminar in 2008, papers by Verlyn Flieger and Carl Hostetter
in _Tolkien Studies_ vol. VI (2009) and by Thomas Fornet-Posse in
vol. VII (2010), of essays in various issues of _Mythlore_ and of
countless discussions on the internet. Thus I thought it would be
interesting to include an article on some contemporary neurosurgical
research that bears on this issue.

Tony DiTerlizzi (_Los Angeles Times_), Friday, 25 March 2011, "'The
Hobbit' illustrated by Maurice Sendak? The 1960s masterpiece that
could have been"
Based on the idea that unearthing pieces of the publishing (or in
this case, almost-publishing) history of Tolkien's works is also an
interesting contribution to Tolkien scholarship. This piece retells
one side of the story of an abandoned attempt to get illustrator
Maurice Sendak to illustrate an edition of _The Hobbit_. Here we get
Sendak's version filtered through an interviewer in 2004 who has
retold it to DiTerlizzi. Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull tell the
story slightly differently e.g. in the LotR-Fanatics Plaza:
See also
JDR, Monday, 28 March 2011, "Sendak's HOBBIT"
In which Rateliff summarizes and comments upon the above.

AH, Sunday, 27 March 2011, "Turambar and the Foaloke - Etymological
Andy Higgins dives into the possible origins of three names found in
a non-erased pencil version underlying a page of Tolkien's early
'Turambar and the Foalokë' story. As with Jason Fisher's zestful
play with the word-webs surrounding the spiders of Mirkwood, my
fascination of words tends to lower my defences -- it doesn't matter
if Andy is 'right' in the sense of actually inferring connections
that existed between words in Tolkien's mind (whether conscious or
not) -- the playing with the words is for me rewarding in and of

"Trotter", Wednesday, 30 March 2011, "Invented Worlds of J.R.R.
Perhaps this is rather 'olds', but since I hadn't seen this before,
it was news to me ;) Trotter gives a link to a pdf-version of a
booklet that is associated with the exhibition 'The Invented Worlds
of J.R.R. Tolkien: Drawings and Original Manuscripts from the
Marquette University Collection' which was held at the Haggerty
Museum of Art in the end of 2004 and start of 2005. The booklet
reproduces a number of Tolkien items from the collections of the
Marquette, and also includes Zettersten's essay, 'The AB Language

"Trotter", Wednesday, 30 March 2011, "Tom Shippey Lecture 23rd March
2011 Cardiff"
Links to the first two parts of a recording of the lecture Tom
Shippey gave on 23rd March in Cardiff with the title 'Writing into
the Gap: Tolkien's The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun'. I fully share
Trotter's hope that UWIC will eventually get the whole lecture
on-line. For updates you might follow the YouTube channel associated
with Dmitra Fimi's courses at UWIC:

= = = = Reviews = = = =
Perhaps this section would be more appropriately called 'Book
Announcements', but some of all these books that we see announced
must at some point be reviewed as well ;-)

DB, Thursday, 3 March 2011, "walleyed criticism"
This is not an example of damning with faint praise -- Bratman calls
it a 'calimac Demolition Special', and goes on to point out
inconsistencies in the book. The name of the book or the author is
not revealed, but clearly others do know -- one comment claims this
'possibly the worst -- and certainly the worst written -- piece of
Inklings criticism' the commenter has ever seen. The greates value
of reviews, in my opinion, is that they help us prioritize the books
we'd like to get, or, in this case, not get.

Emily A. Moniz, _Mythlore_ 111/112, Thursday, 3 February 2011,
"Middle-earth Minstrel"
The _Mythlore_ review of Bradford Lee Eden's (ed.) book,
_Middle-earth Minstrel_ has now appeared on-line. Moniz is quite
positive, and I look forward to finding the time to take this book
down from my shelf.

PC, Tuesday, 8 March 2011, "A Tolkien Tapestry: Pictures to
accompany The Lord of the Rings"
Pieter Collier of the Tolkien Library site has made a book on Cor
Blok's illustrations of Tolkien's work. I am myself not very
visually minded, preferring the printed word to an illustration, and
as such I am, as Tolkien described himself, a 'man of limited
sympathies (but well aware of it)' and the work of Cor Blok lies
'almost completely outside them' as Charles Williams' work did of
Tolkien's. However, I suspect that if Pieter's book accompanies
Blok's pictures with some attempt to analyse and criticize them as
narrative figurative art, then this might help bring them inside my

JDR, Thursday, 10 March 2011, "Hillard's MIRKWOOD (spoilers)"
John Rateliff has managed to get through Hillard's book, and doesn't
recommend it. Rateliff also offers another theory for why the Estate
may have issued a cease-and-desist order against this book (see also
the section on news in the February issue of the _Transactions_ for
more on the legal issue) -- and no, it is not just because it is a
very bad book, which it apparently is.

TF, Saturday, 12 March 2011, "Mythlore issue 111/112"
A review of the seven Tolkien-related essays in the autumn 2010
issue of _Mythlore_. Most of the essays are excellent and all of
them contain something worth reading, though the density of the
'worth reading' stuff does vary somewhat :-)

JDR, Wednesday, 9 March 2011, "THE HOBBIT (Children's Play)"
A review of a children's play based on _The Hobbit_. Rateliff
doesn't say if it is the case for himself, but I like to think that
I'd be inclined to hold a children's play to a less exacting
standard than a Hollywood production. Rateliff certainly seems to
have enjoyed himself.

Brian Warmoth, Thursday, 24 March 2011, "Sam Bosma's 'Hobbit'
Illustrations Are Nothing Short of Awesome [Art]"
Praise for Sam Bosma's _Hobbit_ illustrations. I might not go quite
as far in my praise of Sam Bosma's illustrations in general, but I
do think they are very good, and my appreciation of his _Hobbit_
illustrations is of course coloured by my knowledge of this work,
and my familiarity with the author's own illustrations of his story.
However, even though I think that some of the illustrations don't
work for the story, I still find that there is generally something
interesting in the illustration as a commont to Tolkien's story
(more than as an illustration of it). A good example of this is his

= = = = Other Stuff = = = =

Leo Grin, _Big Hollywood_, Saturday, 5 March 2011, "Eucatastrophe:
The Ennobling Fantasy of J.R.R. Tolkien Part 3"
In this third installment Leo Grin works his way to to Tolkien's
concept of _Eucatastrophe_, ending up concluding that 'Eucatastrophe
is revealed truth on a biblical scale'. As earlier the treatment is
perceptive and essentially correct, and the conservatism of the
web-site is not intrusive. Leo Grin's series is still a good choice
for an introduction to Tolkien criticism.
Leo Grin, Saturday, 12 March 2011, "Bored with the Good: The
Ennobling Fantasy of J.R.R. Tolkien Part 4"
Leo Grin continues his series aimed at an American Christians and
political conservatives. This time the political agenda shines
through far more clearly than in the previous installments, which
detracts considerably from the quality. Skip this if you're likely
to get upset over fools trying to twist Tolkien's work to support
their own political agenda --something I generally find utterly
foolish regardless of what that political agenda might be. There
might be an interesting discussion in what Tolkien's actual
political views were -- and perhaps even to what extent his views on
the ideal society can at all be called political.

BC, Sunday, 6 March 2011, "Do orcs deserve mercy?"
Well, do they? Prior to _The Lord of the Rings_ (and, in my opinion,
far into the writing of _LotR_) Orcs were actually demonic: spawned
in subterranean slime and with hearts of stone. At some point while
writing _LotR_, Tolkien appears to have had a change of mind (one of
many) and decided that Orcs were corrupted Children of Ilúvatar.
This would later be the cause of much speculation as evidenced in
the texts in 'Myths Transformed' (part five of _Morgoth's Ring_).
But what if they were still demons? Would that solve the ethical
problems without logical inconsistencies?

DB, Monday, 21 March 2011, "a classification of Tolkien scholars"
Heh! Heh! ;-)

= = = = Rewarding Discussions = = = =

JDR, Wednesday, 23 March 2011, "Harold Bloom disses Tolkien --
The interesting point here is not so much that Harold Bloom dislikes
Tolkien: that is neither new or controversial, and he is of course
perfectly entitled to his prejudices (and I am certain that he is
completely indifferent to my disagreement with one or more of them).
The interesting part is the ensuing discussion in the comments. This
ranges from discussing the concept of "canon" (as in Bloom's book
_The Western Canon_) and longevity as an important aspect in that,
to a discussion on the weight of new and old in academic curricula.
Quite interesting even for a physicist.

= = = = In Print = = = =

_Amon Hen_ no. 228, March 2011

"Along the Road"
A progress report from the Return of the Ring: the great Tolkien
Society conference next year in Loughborough. Among other news they
announce three special guests that are confirmed, Ted Nasmith, Jef
Murray and Corey Olsen. Much as I delight in the artwork of Nasmith
and Murray, and enjoy Olsen's podcasts (I am looking very much
forward to meeting him), I hope that we'll have the pleasure of even
more of the recognized Tolkien scholars.

David Doerr, "Regarding the Importance of the Date March 25th in
J.R.R. Tolkien's Literature"
A fine little overview of the date of the Annunciation, its use in
Tolkien's work and its various real-world references. We know that
Tolkien chose this date deliberately and carefully, and so one might
suspect a bit of typological intention on Tolkien's part.

Mark Bednarowski, "Plight of the Dwarves"
An overview history of the history of Durin's folk in the Third Age
until Thorin's company set out one morning in the 2941st year of the
Third Age. It's a good little overview that Bednarowski has put
together, and I have only a couple of very minor quibs: it is very
nearly certain that the Seven were not originally 'made for the
Dwarves' regardless of whether Durin was given the first of them
directly by the Mirdain as believed by the Dwarves themselves (and
by me); it is possible that the Ring had some influence on Thrór's
decision to wander out alone with only Nár as his companion, but in
that case it must have been an _indirect_ influence since the
Dwarves were not dominated by their Rings; and finally I could have
wished that Bednarowski had commented on the remarkable oversight on
Gandalf's part when he relates how '[n]early a century will pass
before Gandalf will realize the full significance of what he
obtained from a pitiful old Dwarf locked in the pits of Dol Guldur'
when he has already explained how Gandalf had been searching for
Thrain in Moria just five years prior to finding him in Dol Guldur.

Michel Bouchard, "Studying Tolkien . . . in Quebec!"
A very nice story from a student who defied custom and braved
mockery to do his Master 's thesis on Tolkien -- studying 'the lives
of Frodo, Sam and Gollum using Silvio Fanti's work on
micropsychoanalysis to help [him] understand the power of the One
Ring over the mind if its bearers.' If Bouchard's thesis can be
written in a style similar to this piece, there is no doubt that he
could successfully publish it (beyond the one copy that is now
sitting in the university library).

Ruth Lacon, "The 2011 Tolkien Calendar"
Kudos and accolades for this excellent review, which balances nicely
between respect for the artist and his vision and criticism when he
doesn't achieve it. As Lacon puts it, 'once an artist gets one full
Tolkien calendar, we often see more of their work, so learning how
to judge Cor Block's art now may well be useful in future.' Given
that she must have been writing this prior to Pieter Collier's
announcement of his book on Cor Blok's art, I find that statement
remarkably foresighted. She does go on to introduce the reader to
just that -- accepting Blok's stylistic choice from the outset, she
criticises each month's picture on its own merits. I particularly
love the first two sentences of the comments for July: 'It might
seem very odd to criticise Cor Blok on grounds of artistic timidity,
but this one I feel driven to. If you're going to deny Renaissance
realistic perspective, don't shilly-shally -- go the whole way.'
Anyone having problems extending their sympathies to encompass Cor
Blok's work (which includes myself) should read Ruth Lacon's review,
not to have their prejudices confirmed, but to have them challenged
in an intelligent manner.

_Mythprint_ vol. 48 no. 3, March 2011, Whole no. 344

Berni Phillips Bratman, "Pardon Me, Is That an E-Reader You Have?"
Berni Bratman has been trying an e-reader herself and has been
gathering responses from other 'mythies' who also use various
e-readers, all of which experiences she has gathered into this
article on e-readers. Personally I am still holding out -- not
because I don't want to use an e-reader, but because I want the
e-books I buy to be available on my phone and my PC as well as on a
dedicated reader. I suspect that when the market mature we will see
a consolidation of one or two formats (I'm old enough to remember
the old Betamax vs. Video-disc vs. VHS competition for the early
video market), and at that point I think it will be easier to have
support for the same format on all devices.

Larry Swain, "Elizabeth Solopova. _Languages, Myths and Histo-ry: An
Introduction to the Linguistic and Literary Background of J.R.R.
Tolkien's Fiction_"
Larry reviews this book written particularly for 'the under-graduate
literature course in Tolkien', commenting on strengths (particularly
the treatment of Gothic and Finnish influences on Tolkien's work)
and weaknesses (particularly the lacking treatment of Tolkien's work
in Middle English and of Greek and Latin influences), and ends by
recommending this book 'even for the experienced Tolkien fan and

Travis Buchanan, "Gospel Echoes in Fantastic Fiction"
In this two-part essay (the first part was printed in the previous
issue of _Mythlore_, whole no. 343), Travis Buchanan investigates
Tolkien's description of the components of Fairy-stories, fantasy,
recovery, escape and consolation. Having started (in part 1) by
asking into the reasons for the popularity of fantasy fiction,
Buchanan concludes (in part 2) that this 'engrossing and enduring
appeal' can, in part, be understood through the lens of Tolkien's
discussion, as an echo of the Gospels: 'through the fantastic,
subcreative worlds of a Tolkien or a Lewis, even a J.K. Rowling or a
Stephenie Meyer, primary truth may not only be tasted, but the voice
of Ultimate Truth Himself overheard, even if only in echo.'
Personally I would have preferred to see an attempt to relate this
'engrossing and enduring appeal' of the fairy-story to Tolkien's
discussion without having to resort either to being only valid for
Christians (are the fairy-stories of other, non-christian, cultures
fundamentally different in kind or popularity?) or to a mystical
influence (non-Christians perceiving a Truth that is revealed only
in the Christian Gospels). But more on this later, I think.

= = = = Web Sites = = = =
I will try to present a couple of sites every month -- if I've found
a new site (of any kind, but with a Tolkien connection) that I have
found interesting, then I will add that, and then I'll throw in some
oldies to keep things rolling ;-)

_The FAQ of the Rings_
First one more of the sites related to the Tolkien newsgroups: Stan
Brown's _FAQ of the Rings_, which I have used nearly as much as I
have Steuard's more general FAQ. For questions regarding the Rings
of Power, I know of no better on-line resource. Overall the AFT /
RABT FAQs should be commended also for providing thorough references
to Tolkien's work -- something which all too many, even of the most
popular encyclopedic sites, sadly fails to do.

_The Lord of the Rings Fanatics Plaza_
The LotR Plaza offers many interesting discussions for Tolkien
lovers. Having but recently discovered this forum, I can attest to
the kindness of the welcome. As so many other web-boards, this one
doesn't really offer threading beyond what has been, by old-time
usenet regulars, been called the 'toilet-roll' model. On the other
hand, the options for formatting the text (using tables, font
changes, font colours, indenting, italicization etc.) are much
greater than on usenet, which allows for some other possibilities.
In the end, I think that formatting is at most half the story -- the
most important thing is the posters, and at the LotR Plaza you will
find many very knowledgeable posters contributing in a warm and
welcoming atmosphere.

_Slam Blogsma_
Sam Bosma's blog. Inspired by the review referred to above, I sought
out some more of Sam Bosma's work and stumbled across his blog where
he has posted about his work on _The Hobbit_. Whether or no you
actually like his final illustrations, his dicussions of their
genesis are, I think, interesting in and of themselves.

= = = = 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 Enough"

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"

'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

Troels Forchhammer (TF), "Parmar-kenta"

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

_Amon Hen_ -- the Bulletin of the Tolkien Society

- and others

You can find the earlier editions at the _Tolkien Transactions_ page
at Parmar-kenta:

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

And he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left
the path of wisdom.
- Gandalf, /The Fellowship of the Ring/ (J.R.R. Tolkien)

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