Tolkien Transactions (long)
- December 2012
Happy New Year!
Don't forget the Birthday Toast on the 3rd of January!
This year Tolkien would have become eleven squared -- I've always
been fond of the number eleven, so this just seemed significant to
me ;-) In more ordinary numbering it will be ten dozen and one
years since his birth in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
If you are not a member of a Tolkien society, this might be a good
time to become one -- see e.g. the websites of the Tolkien Society
and the Mythopoeic Society below.
So, 2012 was a great Tolkien year -- the seventy-fifth anniversary
of the publication of _The Hobbit_ was duly celebrated, we had a
fine conference in Loughborough (and many others besides that I
unfortunately couldn't attend), and though I haven't heard of anyone
finding some curious club papers in Oxford this summer, I suppose
it's reasonable enough to expect that it will be some time before
the lucky finder will be able to publish an edition of the strange
proceedings of the Notion Club ;)
This month has seen a wealth of Tolkien-related articles,
doubtlessly due to the premiere of the new _Hobbit_ film. Quite a
lot of these are very commendable attempts to bring J.R.R. Tolkien
into the light with small interviews of local scholars or other ways
of emphasising the importance of Tolkien's work to the public. I
shall not be able to give each of these a a full treatment as there
are simply too many for that.
Obviously, all the usual disclaimers apply about newness,
completeness and relevance (or any other implication of
This month it has suited my purposes to sort the contents under the
1: An Unexpected Journey
3: Essays and Scholarship
5: Reviews and Book News
7: Tolkienian Artwork
8: Other Stuff
9: Rewarding Discussions
10: In Print
11: Web Sites
= = = = An Unexpected Journey = = = =
So, the most recent film-retelling (there are at least six earlier
film and TV adaptations) inspired by a story by Tolkien premiered
this month. There are numerous reviews, comments, discussions etc.
to choose from, but I will here focus mainly on the comments and
reviews by various Tolkienists -- a mix of scholars and fans (which
I will generally leave uncommented -- check for yourself if you want
to know what they think ;-) )
I went to see the film myself with my children (aged 13 to 21), and
I enjoyed it very much, thank you. A key to that enjoyment was the
fact that it is so far removed from Tolkien's story that I can stop
caring for it as Tolkien's story. All of the silliness and flippancy
of Tolkien's story is gone -- there's a bit of slapstick humour in
the film, but I don't think that Tolkien's humour is slapstick.
Otherwise things are far more mature (I won't say serious -- that
would require some depth). In some ways the approach of the film
would have the potential of improving the story (which I find is one
of the weaker Tolkien stories), but Jackson and his fellow
screen-play writers are not at all good story-tellers in my opinion,
and so their version is merely different -- speaking of better or
worse doesn't make sense. This is, in short, one of those shallow
films that I would watch for the entertainment while it's running,
but which are soon forgotten -- it is, however, great and enjoyable
Robert Rodi, _Salon_, Sunday, 2 December 2012, "'The Hobbit' is not
DB, Monday, 10 December 2012, "how long is it?"
Comments on the length of the Hobbit film rather than a review, but
they still belong here.
MB, Wednesday, 12 December 2012, "Why "The Hobbit"? is more than
just the sum of its parts. A film review"
MD, Thursday, 13 December 2012, "The First Hobbit Film: Some
Robin Young & Michael Drout, Thursday, 13 December 2012, "New
"Hobbit" Movie: More Hollywood Than Tolkien?"
A radio interview with Michael Drout about the film
Andrew O'Hehir, _Salon_, Thursday, 13 December 2012, "'The Hobbit':
Middle-earth faces a phantom menace"
DB, Friday, 14 December 2012, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
JDR, Friday, 14 December 2012, "The HOBBIT movie (first
AH, Saturday, 15 December 2012, "First Impressions of The Hobbit and
Ilverai, Saturday, 15 December 2012, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected
Journey, Initial Thoughts"
See also later posts (e.g. from the 23rd)
HG, Saturday, 15 December 2012, "Hobbitry"
Alan Jacobs, Saturday, 15 December 2012, "_The Hobbit_: My Review"
Britta Siemen, "TolkienBritta", Sunday, 16 December 2012, "My Review
of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
Ligandil, Monday, 17 December 2012, "Why I didn't like The Hobbit
Andrew Cunningham, Tuesday, 18 December 2012, "A Tolkien nerd's
thoughts on _The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey_"
Amy H. Sturgis, Wednesday, 19 December 2012, "Some Thoughts on The
Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
J. Hoberman, Wednesday, 19 December 2012, "Tolkien vs. Technology"
JDR, Friday, 21 December 2012, "HOBBIT Movie Review (Part I)"
This is the first of a four parts review (the last one not numbered)
-- use the blogger navigation to read the other parts.
BC, Friday, 21 December 2012, "Hobbit movie review"
Gary, Sunday, 23 December 2012, "Review: 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected
Ilverai, Sunday, 23 December 2012, "The Hobbit: AUJ, Contemplating
Followed up with more thoughts on the 24th (use the navigation at
the blog to read these).
Katy Waldman and Emily Yoffe, _Slate_, Friday, 14 December 2012,
"Lord of the Huh?"
This one deserves to be highlighted a bit. Slate sent to members of
their staff who were 'Tolkien virgins' to see Jackson's _The
Hobbit_. The result is both informative and amusing.
I have been known to express myself rather negatively about
Jackson's films, but actually I don't mind the films as such -- they
are great films, and Jackson and his team have done a good job
making it into their own story.
I can choose to like or dislike the films as I see fit (and for
whatever reason suits me or no reason at all), and in some cases I
dislike them for the disrespect they show to Tolkien and his work;
this is my right, but I will also insist that it is not only their
right, but their obligation, to make their adaptation into their own
independent works of art.
What frustrates me, beyond any subjective evaluation of the films as
entertainment or works of art, is the repeated claims that Jackson's
films should be particularly faithful to Tolkien's work (they are
not -- and this is, in my opinion, a good thing, even when I end up
disliking them for it) or (even worse) that they display a
particular understanding of Tolkien's work by one or more of the
writers of the screen-play -- this latter claim is, frankly,
ludicrous (they have allied themselves with people who do understand
Tolkien's work such as John Howe, Alan Lee, David Salo, Janet
Brennan Croft and others that I can't remember out of my head, but
these have evidently had very little influence on the screen-play).
= = = = News = = = =
Max Davidson, _The Telegraph_, Thursday, 6 December 2012, "On the
Tolkien trail: Middle-earth? You needn't fly down under to find it"
Bravo! Whatever wonderful sceneries of New Zealand Jackson has
managed to include in his various films, this has _nothing_ to do
with Tolkien's Middle-earth. A student of Tolkien, interested in
Tolkien's world, would do better to visit the English West Midlands
and some few other places in western Europe (Lauterbrunnen, for
instance). Though there are also many false and unverifiable claims
attempting to link various English places with Tolkien, there are
also a number of places that we know are related to him and his
work, and these places are well worth a visit.
Jake Wallis Simons, _The Telegraph_, Friday, 7 December 2012,
"Buying up in Tolkien Country"
In a similar vein -- a mix of Tolkien and English real estate.
_The Journal_, Saturday, 8 December 2012, "The Hobbit author JRR
Tolkien link to Newcastle found in graveyard"
It is hardly news that Tolkien's aunt Grace lived in Newcastle with
her husband, Charles William Mountain, or that Tolkien visited them
there. Finding the grave of the Mountains in the Jesmond Old
Cemetery is of course nice enough, and of some interest, but the
attempt to cast uncle William, the old Mr Mountain, as Saruman seems
to be idle speculation.
_Banbury Guardian_, Tuesday, 11 December 2012, "Tolkien display at
Banbury Museum has an exhibition of Tolkien-related artwork by Ted
Nasmith, "Journeys into Middle-Earth". The exhibition lasts until
2nd February and admission is free, so if you're anywhere near there
is really no excuse not to go.
_Lancashire Evening Post_, Friday, 14 December 2012, "Tolkien's
links to Lancashire"
Aaargh! They don't even try to justify their claims (beyond
mentioning one single name that also occurs in Tolkien's books, the
_Shirebourn_). The connection with Stonyhurst where Tolkien stayed a
few times in the latter half of the nineteen-forties is well known,
but the rest is, as far as I know, speculation.
Carrie Antlfinger, _Associated Press_, Friday, 14 December 2012,
"Tolkien class at Wis. university proves popular"
What really confuses me is that this is the first-ever course that
has been given at the Marquette about Tolkien . . . how can that be?
I like the story of Mr Kirchoff who essentially made a nuisance of
himself until the powers that be decided to allow him to take the
class -- that kind of devotion does deserve to be rewarded ;) You
will probably also wish to see the YouTube video about this class:
Ted Johnson, _Variety_, Friday, 14 December 2012, "Is Warner
'diminishing' the Tolkien brand or keeping it alive?"
I suppose that my personal answer to the titular question will be no
surprise to anyone reading this. Frankly, however, the idea that the
Tolkien brand is being kept alive by the atrocities (and not quite
so atrocious doings) of Zaentz' Middle-earth Enterprises and their
licensees is ludicrous -- the brand has been kept nicely alive by
the book sales and regardless of any film-related extra sales. The
dependency is rather the other way around: Middle-earth Enterprises
and their licensees _need_ the books to keep their rights valuable,
whereas the books do not need any of their products.
Sky News, Friday 21 December 2012, "Churchill And Tolkien Signature
A cautionary tale for emerging collectors: make sure that you check
the provenance of any signed item because there are probably more
fakes for sale than genuine Tolkien signatures, and if you want
something really good, you should be able to pay thousands and
thousands of pounds.
Ryan Sohmer & Lar Desouza, _Least I Could Do_ comic:
Friday, 21 December 2012, "Was Granddad a Blue Wizard?"
and also the following comic:
, Saturday, 22 December 2012, "I Tawt I Taw a Gwaihir"
No comments needed, I would say ;-)
PC, Saturday, 29 December 2012, "Tolkien fans worldwide unite to
celebrate author's birthday on January 3"
About the birthday toast of 2013.
= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =
JM, "Tolkien's Metaphysics of the Music"
Just three posts remained in this series, which ends with part 46,
in which Jonathan McIntosh summarises his position. The key argument
is that the movement in the _Ainulindalë_ from the Music to the
Vision (only there in later versions) and finally the actualisation
of Eä is, so to speak, a movement from the low to the high, from
darkness to light, rather than an example of a "Neoplatonic,
emanationist story of a gradual, metaphysical decay or demise".
Now I will try to find the time to read through the whole argument
and so get a better sense of the whole than when I have read it as
they were published (and occasionally with gaps of several weeks
before I could find the time to go through the recent parts). I am
still a little sceptical about the use of Tolkien's critique of
using dream as a frame for fairy-stories to signify a criticism of
dream more generally, but I find the overall argument compelling.
H&S, Sunday, 2 December 2012, "Tolkien Notes 2"
Some further comments about new editions of _The Lord of the Rings_
and on various corrigenda. For me the most important issue is always
to have the best possible text (i.e. as close as possible to what
Tolkien would have wanted), and for this, the corrigenda from Wayne
and Christina (though not always found by themselves) is invaluable
-- thank you!
JF, Monday, 3 December 2012, "Reconstructed lexis in Tolkien and
Gordon's Sir Gawain and the Green Knight"
Similar in topic and structure to the November posting of
reconstructed lexis in Tolkien's Middle English vocabulary, Jason
here lists all the reconstructed word-forms that Tolkien includes in
his glossary for the edition of _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_
that he did together with E.V. Gordon. Of particular interest to me
is the lists of Old English (actually Anglian, usually Mercian,
Jason notes) and of Old Norse reconstructions.
JF, Tuesday, 4 December 2012, "Sméagol -- what's in a name?"
An analysis of the etymology of the name 'Sméagol'. In the end Jason
disagrees with the etymology that Tolkien gives the name (from O.E.
_smygel_ / _smúgan_ -- meant to invoke the meaning of 'burrowing'
and 'worming in' that is also apparent in 'Smaug'), insisting
instead that the word 'Sméagol' would have to be derived from
_sméagan_, "to consider, meditate, examine", while the words that
Tolkien intended would have given a different form, _*smugol_. This
view is contested in a long comment showing that _*sméagol_ could
mean what Tolkien says. None of this, of course, changes what
Tolkien intended with the word, but it may add an extra dimension to
Sméagol, who, while perhaps not particularly reflected (consider /
meditate) was nonetheless curious and examining in his approach to
JM, Wednesday, 5 December 2012, "Death as Gift in Tolkien and Peter
The contrast between the Biblical view of death as a punishment for
the fall of Man, and the view in Tolkien's legendarium of death as
one with Eru's gift of freedom is one that has often been commented
upon. Here McIntosh draws a parallel to the work of the medieval
theologian Peter Damian, which I think works when we realise that
also in Tolkien's legendarium, the main Fall (and thereby the surety
that Man would have to exist in Arda Marred) precedes the gift.
JF, Thursday, 6 December 2012, "Mystery Tolkien passage, solved!"
One of the advantages of this kind of review collection of articles
is that I can sometimes refer to a post that started as an enquiry,
a call for help to identify a passage, but which has been resolved
before I get to report it here. So with this post, which started
with an unidentified quotation attributed to Tolkien in a 1930
linguistic work, and which has since been identified (to the early
editions of _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_ by Tolkien and
Gordon). The story provides, as Jason points out, a cautionary
lesson on at least two points: one is the changes between various
editions of Tolkien's works (the passage quoted has been removed in
later editions), and the other is about "sloppy scholarly
TF, Friday, 7 December 2012, "Source Criticism II"
Some thoughts on Tolkienian source criticism inspired by Jason
Fisher's book, and in particular by his stated aim of raising the
quality of Tolkienian source studies.
NMB, Wednesday, 12 December 2012, "The Tolkien Connection"
About the connection between Nancy Marie Brown's love for Tolkien's
stories and her interest in Iceland.
Erin Overbey, Friday, 14 December 2012, "Auden and Elvish"
About W.H. Auden's early defence of _The Lord of the Rings_,
including notes on early reviews and the story of an evening in the
Tolkien Society of America with W.H. Auden in 1966.
BC, Saturday, 15 December 2012, "Quality of prose - Lost Road better
than early drafts of Lord of the Rings"
I do agree with Charlton's assessment of the quality of prose, but I
think it is fully explained by the fact that Tolkien was, with _The
Lord of the Rings_ essentially sitting down to write a story that he
did not wish to write, and it took some time before it developed
into something that he wanted to tell. As for the ambitions it is
something that, having inquired Charlton about it, I have to think
some more about.
DB, Sunday, 16 December 2012, "Christopher Tolkien moans in pain"
David Bratman's comments to some of the passages (particularly the
third and second last paragraphs) from the _Le Monde_ interview with
Christopher Tolkien. Assuming that Christopher Tolkien's statements
are correctly translated, Bratman finds nothing to disagree with.
Lauren Davis, Sunday, 16 December 2012, "The Middle Earth
Illustrators J.R.R. Tolkien Loved -- and the Ones He Abhorred"
An excellent walk-through of some of the illustrations /
illustrators of which Tolkien's opinion is known. From Tolkien
himself through Baynes, Blok and my Queen to Engels and Remington,
with samples of each illustrator's work. Something like this might
be worked into an excellent essay or book about Tolkien's taste in
Michael Adams, Tuesday, 18 December 2012, "The Naming of Hobbits"
About the names of hobbits, most of which are not invented, but for
which the lingistic connections are. Interesting blog for the Oxford
University Press by Michael Adams, author of _From Elvish to
Thomas Honegger, Wednesday, 19 December 2012, "75 reasons: Thomas
Thomas Honegger reminds us that _The Hobbit_ is meant for reading
out loud, and recommends listening to Rob Inglis' reading while
taking in Tolkien's own visualisation of the story as it can be
found in _The Art of the Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien_ by Wayne Hammond
and Christina Scull.
"Galadhorn", Thursday, 20 December 2012, "The Hobbit (Movie
Trilogy): Phrases, Lyrics and Inscriptions In the Languages of
Making a start at analysing the various non-English pieces of text
found in Jackson's _Hobbit_ films. It should be noted that quite a
lot of this, in particular when it comes to Khuzdul, the language of
the Dwarves, and the Black Speech, the language of Mordor, are new
inventions that have nothing to do with Tolkien, but are attempts at
educated extensions of his languages. Anyone interested in the
problems of this approach should read Carl Hostetter's excellent
article, "Elvish as She is Spoke":
JM, Thursday, 20 December 2012, "Tolkien's discovery of
eucatastrophe as itself a eucatastrophe"
In this, and the following post "Anselm's 'Ontological Argument' as
Eucatastrophe" (press the link to "Next"), McIntosh investigates the
idea of discovery as eucatastrophic. In the second of the two posts
he speaks of 'intellectual eucatastrophe', by which I assume he
means the scientific joy in a new discovery, in new cognition: the
sudden insight (the suddenness is a requirement for the
eucatastrophic). In the first post he investigates Tolkien's own
realisation of the importance of eucatastrophe as an example of this
kind of scientific eucatastrophe, and in the second this idea is
compared to Anselm. While I am no stranger to the wild scientific
joy of sudden new cognition, I would say that it is, for me, of
another kind than the joy I experience when reading e.g. 'The Field
BC, Saturday, 22 December 2012, "Was Tolkien jealous of Charles
Williams friendship with Lewis? Certainly NOT"
I quite agree with Charlton that Tolkien was not jealous of Lewis'
friendship with Williams, though I think he may still have regretted
any Williamsesque influence on Lewis' literary output. In later
letters he distances himself from William's literary work, but not
from the man: he does not, I think, distance himself from the
genuine friendship they enjoyed.
Alison Milbank, Monday, 24 December 2012, "The riddle and the gift:
The Hobbit at Christmas"
An interesting take on the economy, and the dragon-sickness, of _The
Hobbit_. There's a couple of paragraphs towards the end that seem
forced -- as if Milbank was obliged to make a sermon out of what is
otherwise an interesting take on an aspect of _The Hobbit_, but this
can be skipped, and the remainder of the article is clever and
JM, Wednesday, 26 December 2012, "Tolkien's Answer to Anselm on Why
the Devil Fell"
A very interesting, and to my knowledge original, perspective on
Melkor's fall. The perspective is here through reading Anselm, and
in particular his _De Casu Diaboli_. I am sure that I will not be
able to do the argument justice in a few sentences, so I will merely
encourage all to read it for themselves. Another question, then, is
whether Tolkien knew Anselm -- at least for those who are mainly
interested in what Tolkien intended rather than what is the best fit
to what he wrote (these are by no means always identical).
PC & Andrew Morton, Sunday, 30 December 2012, "Andrew Morton takes
us to the real Bag End - A Very English Place"
An essay about Jane Neave's farm, _Bag End_ by Andrew Morton based
on his research for his book, _Tolkien's Bag End_. Andrew Morton
discusses the history of the real Bag End and puts it into context
in the larger Midlands history while suggesting some parallels to
Tolkien's work, especially (of course) to his fictional Bag End, to
Hobbiton and Bywater and the Baggins family.
Madeline J. Keyser, Sunday, 30 December 2012, "Sixteen Philological
Books and Notes from the Library of J.R.R. Tolkien"
Madeline Keyser takes a look at the sixteen German works on
philology from Tolkien's personal library that are now held at the
Cushing Memorial Library and Archives at Texas A&M University. She
discusses the books, but in particular Tolkien's notes in the books
and what they show about his interests in the topics of the books.
Knowing that Tolkien would note (to passages on sound-changes)
things like "probably wrong", "most unlikely!" and "nonsense!" is, I
must admit, something that I find charming (being able to relate
strongly -- I remember a mathematical derivation in a textbook at
university where my notes read "It can be seen by what? Black
magic?" and "Voodoo here?"). I hope that more work will be done on
these various annotations, notes and comments that Tolkien put in
his books, so that we may learn some more both about his thoughts
about philology but also about the man that he was.
H&S, Monday, 31 December 2012, "Tolkien Notes 3"
New addenda and corrigenda on their website (see below), why they
will not be watching Peter Jackson's _The Hobbit: An Unexpected
Journey_ and some notes and comments about _The Art of The Hobbit by
H&S, Monday, 31 December 2012, "Addenda and Corrigenda"
New addenda and corrigenda to their books. For the _J.R.R. Tolkien
Companion and Guide_ and _The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's
Companion_, you can see the addenda and corrigenda by date to see
what is new. I cannot see what is new to the _Artist and
Illustrator_ except that it must be in the 'Further Corrigenda and
Addenda' section. For the _Companion and Guide_ the new is additions
to the index -- mainly additions concerning various composers from
Bizet to Weber. In the _Reader's Companion_ there are a few
substantial additions regarding Merry's comment that five ponies
stand ready, quotation marks in footnotes in appendix A (i.e. notes
that are meant to be original to the Red Book) and to the family
= = = = Commentary = = = =
A.N. Wilson, _London Evening Standard_, Tuesday, 4 December 2012,
"Tolkien's genius rises above Hobbit film spectacle"
An argument that Tolkien deserves to be honoured in the Poets'
Corner in Westminster Abbey before his friend, C.S. Lewis. Despite a
couple of minor things, the case is excellently made.
Melanie McDonagh, _The Spectator_, Saturday, 8 December 2012, "Don't
watch The Hobbit"
A commentary on _The Hobbit_ -- and intelligent commentary at that
-- combined with a call not to watch the film (which I don't
necessarily agree with).
Greg Garrison, _Alabama_, Tuesday, 11 December 2012, "Tolkien's
Christian faith informs 'The Hobbit,' other stories, scholar says"
An interview with professor Jane Chance focusing mainly on the
Catholic subtext in Tolkien's work.
NUI Galway Archives, Tuesday, 11 December 2012, "The master of
Middle Earth and his time in the West"
The James Hardiman Libray at the National University of Ireland in
Galway have found some of the records of Tolkien's well-known
activities as external examiner in Ireland. Among these are some of
the exams that the students had to sit -- on the NUI Galway's
Facebook page a 2003 MA from the university opines that the 1949
summer first paper in English is the "Equivalent of final year paper
Also Emer McLysaght, _The Journal_, Monday, 17 December 2012,
"Imagine if J.R.R. Tolkien was marking your exam papers?"
Where there are a couple of scans of exams that I haven't found
And Caroline Crawford, _Irish Independent_, Wednesday, 19 December
2012, "Testing times unearthed for 'Hobbit' author Tolkien"
And Lorraine O'Hanlon, _Galway Independent_, Wednesday, 19 December
2012, "From Connemara to Mordor"
Which also tries to make the usual claim that the area inspired
something in Tolkien's literary work (though claims of having
inspired _The Lord of the Rings_ are unlikely if 1949, the earliest
year mentioned, was the first year that Tolkien was in Galway).
Danielle Maurer, _Slate_, Wednesday, 12 December 2012, "Why Was
J.R.R. Tolkien a Genius?"
An attempt to answer the titular question, focusing on
world-building ability, languages, story and prose. Maurer herself
says that she doesn't feel that "this answer is adequate enough to
express how much of a genius I believe Tolkien is", and though I
agree that she is only scratching the surface of that question, I
would also say that she does a good job at potting an answer in a
few hundred words.
Madison Mathews, _Johnson City Press_, Wednesday, 12 December 2012,
"ETSU English professor discusses Tolkien's impact on literature and
An interview with one professor Phyllis Thompson who gives a nice
bit of commentary on Tolkien's _The Hobbit_.
Joshua Engel, _Huff Post: Books_, Thursday, 13 December 2012, "What
Revisions Did Tolkien Make To_ The Hobbit_ To Bring It in Line with_
The Lord of the Rings_?"
The answer focuses on 'Riddles in the Dark' -- I think some of the
other changes might also have been worth mentioning, and perhaps
particularly Tolkien's aborted attempt to change Bilbo's story from
an adventure to a quest.
Karla Klein Albertson, _The Commercial Appeal_, Thursday, 13
December 2012, "Tolkien's ageless book opens door to Hobbit
At _The Commercial Appeal_ in Memphis, Albertson decided to ask
librarians about Tolkien's story rather than asking university
professors. This gives another perspective as librarians Corey Bauer
and Michelle Hostetter focus more on the individual reader's
experience when reading the book.
Daniel P. Finney, _Shreveport Times_, Thursday, 13 December 2012,
"New generations continue to enjoy Tolkien's stories"
"'The Hobbit' is one of those books that for the people who really
love it, they want to pass it along to other people," said Alice
Meyer, owner of Beaverdale Books in Des Moines. "The movies generate
interest but it's also a classic that keeps getting revived."
Sarah Bryan Miller, _STL Today_, Friday, 14 December 2012, "Where
'The Hobbit' began: A Tolkien primer"
Apparently the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch's resident Tolkien expert
is their regular classical music critic. Not that there's anything
wrong about that -- she isn't the only one to mix these two.
_Alister & Paine_, Friday, 14 December 2012, "The Tolkien Bookshelf"
In yet another approach to bringing the books to the attention of
the public in the ramp-up to the film, here is an interview with
David Miller of "The Tolkien Bookshelf".
Jack Brammer, Thursday, 27 December 2012, "Does 'The Hobbit' have a
This article tries to revive the spurious claim by Davenport that
the Hobbit names came from Kentucky. The redeeming aspect of this
article is that the journalist at least has interviewed David
Bratman who has investigated Davenport's claims in detail and has
Karl Hand, Friday, 28 December 2012, "Hobbits of the World Unite! (A
revolutionary reads Tolkien)"
Well . . . What can I say? First of all I fail to understand why
anyone would deny themselves a good story because of the political
views of the author, but that at least is fortunately not the agenda
of this author. His deliberately allegorical misreading of Tolkien
is comical, though I resent this kind of effort that seems to be
begging the question by coming up with the conclusion before making
Bob Fischbach, Sunday, 30 December 2012, "Hobbit: Did Tolkien intend
The discussion of the Catholic influence on Tolkien's literary work
is still going as strong as ever. It appears, however, that the
discussion has somewhat moved: when there was earlier a legitimate
discussion of whether Tolkien's Catholic faith influenced his
writings at all, the discussion today seems rather to be the degree
to which it influenced his writings, with some Christian commenters
appearing to believe that there were no other significant influences
(which is even more ludicrous a position than claiming that there is
no influence at all from his faith). One problem here is also the
evolution of Tolkien's writings -- I disagree that providence is a
major theme in _The Hobbit_ until the end: for the most of the
adventure everything is portrayed according to a pagan, e.g. an Old
Norse, concept of 'luck' as a innate trait, a possession. Only
towards the very end is this changed with hints at providence that
changes the interpretation of the earlier parts, but I do not
believe that the earlier parts were written with this in mind.
Laura Henry, Sunday, 30 December 2012, "J.R.R. Tolkien went on
literary 'Journey' of his own"
A short piece that introduces some of the literary ancestors and
descendants of Tolkien's works.
George Rasley, Monday, 31 December 2012, "The Hobbit's Conservative
The logic appears to be that Peter Jackson's /The Hobbit: An
Unexpected Journey/ is very popular right now, and therefore a
certain kind of political 'debaters' come out in force to try and
show how the film and/or the book support their particular
world-view (see many of the posts in this section, and also the item
under "Other Stuff" for December 12th). A link to this post actually
sparked an interesting (and completely non-political) discussion in
the Tolkien Society Facebook group.
David Platt, End of December 2012, "Why Do Precious Leftists Loathe
And yet another political reading, walking into the affray with the
assertion that the critics continue to denounce Tolkien's work
because they are leftists (rather than following Tom Shippey's claim
that they are, by the nature of their studies, incapable of
understanding Tolkien's kind if literature). I know of quite a lot
of left-leaning people who find great joy in Tolkien, knowing full
well that they do not share his political views, but not letting
such petty concerns stand in the way of their enjoyment of a great
= = = = Reviews and Book News = = = =
"Poppy", _The Guardian_, Sunday, 2 December 2012, "Bilbo's Last Song
by JRR Tolkien, illustrated by Pauline Baynes - review"
Poppy's son, JJ, is three, and together they have been reading
_Bilbo's Last Song_ in the edition illustrated by Pauline Baynes --
and they have enjoyed it.
See also Angela Youngman, Monday, 3 December 2012, "Bilbo's Last
Song -- Book Review"
BC, Tuesday, 4 December 2012, "My Amazon reviw of Sauron Defeated -
Volume 9 of The History of Middle Earth, edited by Christopher
By necessity a short review (it is an Amazon review) of _Sauron
Defeated_. I very much agree with Charlton's highlight of the LotR
epilogue (I can see why some might find it a bit too sentimental,
but I love it), _The Notion Club Papers_ and _The Drowning of
JDR, Tuesday, 4 December 2012, "The New Arrivals"
The new (book) arrivals at the Rateliff household are:
_Light: C. S. Lewis's First and Final Short Story_ by Charlie Starr
_Bilbo's Journey: Discovering the Hidden Meaning of The Hobbit_ by
and _Tolkien And Welsh: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien's Use of Welsh in
His Legendarium_ by Mark T. Hooker
The short notes here, as well as comments elsewhere, makes me
suspect a certain amount of confirmation bias in the two
Tolkien-related volumes; Pearce's strong bias for Catholic-only
readings of Tolkien is well known, whereas Hooker, according to the
reports I've seen, is generally on much firmer ground.
Laura Beth Payne, _The Murfreesboro Post_, Thursday, 6 December
2012, "Tolkien creates fairy tales for all ages"
A praise of Tolkien's _Letters From Father Christmas_ -- all I can
add is that if you do not have this book yet, you now have eleven
months to remedy that situation.
JF, Monday, 10 December 2012, "Deep discount on my book!"
Though the deep discount offer has now passed, I would still
recommend buying Jason Fisher's book, _Tolkien and the Study of His
Sources_, to anyone interested in the attempt to study the mental
landscape in which Tolkien's mythology and other stories grew.
TF, Thursday, 13 December 2012, "The Science of Middle-earth"
My review of Henry Gee's _The Science of Middle-earth_. The short
version: I like it very much, despite, or in some cases perhaps
because of, not agreeing with Gee about all his analyses. In some
cases, I think there is a bit of fannish delight about the analysis:
a scientific exploration of possibilities rather than a careful
analysis of what Tolkien might actually have intended, but the basic
curiosity that drives Gee's work is one that I can very much relate
to -- "why?" and "what if?".
Henry Gee, _The Guardian_, Thursday, 20 December 2012, "Hobbits and
Henry Gee writes about the inspiration for and genesis of his book,
_The Science of Middle-earth_ and about some of the questions that
he ponders in the book.
H&S, Wednesday, 19 December 2012, "A Critical Companion to Tolkien"
A detailed commentary and review of Jay Ruud's _Critical Companion
to J.R.R. Tolkien: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work_. Their
opinion of this guide is mixed, though in some part coloured by
their own preferences (I was, however, outraged to see that "an
entry for Orlando Bloom, for instance, is given equal weight to one
for Edith Bratt"), but I think very highly of Wayne and Christina's
opinion on matters Tolkien.
JDR, Tuesday, 25 December 2012, "More New Arrivals"
On the arrival of the following Tolkien books:
Mark Atherton, _There And Back Again: JRR Tolkien and the Origins of
Lynette Porter, _The Hobbits: The Many Lives of Bilbo, Frodo, Sam,
Merry And Pippin_
Paddy Kempshall, _The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey -- The World of
William McKay, _Tolkien Trivia: A Middle-Earth Miscellany_
and a couple of other titles that are not in some way
Tolkien-related. The comments are so far kept very short. Mark
Atherton's book looks promising (which is about all I can say as
well, despite having had it for a while now), and it is the only one
that is directly about Tolkien's work, the others being all film
JDR, Thursday, 27 December 2012, "Trivia, but Possibly not Trivial"
This can hardly be called a review, and deserves rather to be called
a warning. John Rateliff tears William McKay's _Tolkien Trivia: A
Middle-Earth Miscellany_ to pieces for being wrong far too often. In
short: stay far away from McKay's book!
= = = = Interviews = = = =
'The Leonard Lopate Show', WNYC, Tuesday, 4 December 2012,
"Exploring The Hobbit"
An interview with Corey Olsen about Tolkien and Tolkien's work in
general and _The Hobbit_ in particular. Well worth listening to!
_Worldcrunch_, Wednesday, 5 December 2012, "My Father's
A translation of Christopher Tolkien's interview with _Le Monde_
this summer. Some of the same objections have been raised against
this translation as against the earlier, unauthorized, translation
(now taken down) that the English version puts C.J.R. Tolkien in a
more negative light than the original French.
Colleen Walsh, _Harvard Gazette_, Monday, 10 December 2012, "The
ongoing allure of Tolkien"
An interview with Stephen Mitchell, Harvard professor of
Scandinavian folklore, about Tolkien in general and _The Hobbit_ in
particular. I'd love to hear Mitchell speak about Scandinavian
folklore, and I know well that he may have had little say of what
bits were used in this interview article, but I am not terribly
impressed with the Tolkien-contents of this interview.
Tom O'Loughlin, Thursday, 13 December 2012, "Why Study J.R.R.
A great interview with Alison Milbank on how and why it can be
beneficial to study Tolkien from the perspective of a theologian.
Milbank's approach is very interesting, starting with the necessity
to consider metaphysics when writing a fantasy story (or
fairy-story) -- you need an ontology, consistency, an ethic etc. and
so the theologians tool box becomes very useful, just as the study
of the works of a complex author like Tolkien becomes a good way for
the theologian to practice their tools.
Colleen Shalby, _PBS_, Friday, 14 December 2012, "The World of
An interview with Jason Fisher "about Tolkien's ability to bridge
mythology and language, and his constant revisions". Considering how
short one gets to answer a question that could probably deserve a
book-length answer, I think Jason did very well indeed.
Natalie Bochenski, _Brisbane Times_, Monday, 17 December 2012, "Old
Hobbit dies hard for Tolkien fan"
An interview with Fortinbras Proudfoot, a.k.a. Peter Kenny, an
Australian Tolkien collector and fan par excellance . . . and a
really nice guy ;-)
Matt Patterson, , Thursday, 20 December 2012, "Tolkien expert at
University of Oklahoma reflects on films, books"
An interview with Janet Brennan Croft, Tolkien scholar and editor of
_Mythlore_, about Tolkien and academic study of Tolkien and about
the Tolkien films by Peter Jackson, in the most recent of which she
is credited as "Tolkien scholar". Do read it -- though it is short
Janet has some interesting things to say.
= = = = Tolkienian Artwork = = = =
Various, December 2012, "2012.12 - The Hobbit"
A selection of Hobbit-related fan-art by various artists posted on
John Howe's web-site. There's a number of rather good illustrations
/ pictures here!
John Howe, December 2012, "The Hobbit"
Some of John Howe's own pictures -- mostly concept art for the
Jackson Hobbit film (I don't think he reveals anything from the
films that are yet to be released).
Amy H. Sturgis, Saturday, 1 December 2012, "Five Favorite Bilbo
A collection of five pieces of music focusing on Bilbo. Four of
these are music set to Tolkien's poems (one, though, an Italian
translation). In most cases I disagree with her choices, preferring
The Tolkien Ensemble's versions of both _Song of Eärendil_ and
_Bilbo's Song_ ("I Sit Beside the Fire and Think"), but Howard
Shore's film-related version of _The Old Walking Song_ ("The Road
Goes Ever On and On") (in the list, Sturgis has linked to the
Tolkien Ensemble's version of _Bilbo's Song_ instead of _The Old
Brian Sibley, Wednesday, 5 December 2012, "An Artist's Imagination"
About Pauline Baynes and the current exhibition of her work at the
Museum at Farnham.
JD, Sunday, 9 December 2012, "The Drawing of the Sword --
The scene: Fëanor drawing his sword on his half-brother Fingolfin in
Tirion. Here we see a series of attempts to capture this scene, and
a fantastic artistic evolution from 1994 to 2012. I quite like the
latest line-art, but I hope the coloured version will keep the
background suitably subdued so that the image doesn't become too
cluttered (filling out the "rather a lot of nothing in the middle"
from the 1994 attempt with too much 'something').
= = = = Other Stuff = = = =
JDR, Monday, 3 December 2012, "Me, at Marquette"
A report of John Rateliff's visit to the Marquette where he gave one
of the library's Hobbit-related talks (another was given by Wayne
Hammond and Christina Scull), but where he also found time for other
Amanda Yesilbas and Charlie Jane Anders, IO9, Friday, 7 December
2012, "The 10 Most Unlikely Things That Were Influenced by J.R.R.
From contemporary art to science fiction, a list of ten things (or
topics) inspired by Tolkien. Mostly for the fun of it.
Keith Stewart, Wednesday, 12 December 2012, "Tolkien in the tar
Don't get me wrong: I agree entirely with Stewart about the ignorant
short-sightedness of current energy politics when they ignore the
significant man-wrought changes to our climate, but my agreement is
scientific, it has nothing to do with my tastes in literature (well,
besides the fact that I like to read about science, of course), and
while I think it is quite likely that Tolkien would compare the
Canadian tar sands to Mordor (there are some indicative comments
about "the lunatic destruction of the physical lands which Americans
inhabit" in _Letters_), I don't think that this is proper
argumentation: Tolkien's protests were aestethic and ethical, not
scientific, and thus this becomes a fallacious appeal to authority.
I include it here as an example of the attempts to use Tolkien to
promote all kinds of agendas, some of which Tolkien would probably
agree with, some of which he definitely would not, but all of which
are fallacious -- they constitute appeals to Tolkien's fame, and not
proper arguments. I actually like this particular example because I
agree so very much with the cause, but at the same time find the
abuse of Tolkien's name highly disagreeable.
JM, Saturday, 15 December 2012, "Dialogue as Sub-Creation and
Revelation in Anselm and Tolkien"
The Tolkien connection is, despite the appearance of his name in the
title, partly parenthetical and partly the promise of things to
come. The investigation of the power of dialogue for the exploration
of a topic is, however, interesting, and one which effectiveness I
can certainly attest to by personal experience.
Jen Lavery, _Scotsman_, Saturday 15 December 2012, "City academic's
tennis win let Tolkien dream up Hobbit"
Angus McIntosh was a student of Tolkien's at Oxford (McIntosh
graduated in 1934, and presumably would have started in Oxford about
1930), and later Tolkien and McIntosh remained friends -- so much
that Tolkien visited McIntosh in Edinburgh in July 1973, less than
two months before Tolkien's death.
The history of the tennis match is no-where attested, but of course
possible: Tolkien is known to have played tennis while he studied at
Oxford, and though I cannot say how likely it would be that a
professor would be playing against a first-year student (for it to
have any effect on the evolution of _The Hobbit_ it would have to
have been in McIntosh' first year), the idea cannot be wholly
rejected. The story of the influence on Tolkien's literary work is,
however, entirely spurious -- or, assuming it came from McIntosh, a
bit of a joke on his part that someone took too seriously. I have
refrained from posting other iterations of this story since they add
nothing of worth.
MD, Monday, 17 December 2012, "New Audio Course on the Vikings"
This has nothing to do with Tolkien, really, except by being posted
by Tolkien scholar Michael Drout, but vikings are interesting, and
Norse (viking) culture was of course one of the important sources
Nicolas Bonnal, Monday, 17 December 2012, "Tolkien, the Hobbit and
the medieval revolution"
Part 2: "Tolkien and the Illuminati: The dark side of LOTR"
Part 3: "Tolkien and the hobbit against the New World Order"
A curious set of ramblings that seem at places to be clinging to
reality only with the tip of their fingers. I am not entirely sure
what the point of these articles is except, perhaps, to attempt to
connect Tolkien to some obscure politico-religious-mystical agenda.
Some of the incoherence may, of course, be due to an imperfect
translation to English, but I find myself unable to believe that
this is the full explanation. In some ways this is funny -- just
don't take it too seriously.
AW, Thursday, 20 December 2012, "Tolkien slept here"
More of links of the "Tolkien slept here" kind that are linking
Tolkien with this or that particular place -- sometimes with some
justification (but in those cases usually with wildly exaggerated
claims of influencing his Middle-earth stories).
See also Friday, 21 December 2012, "Tolkien slept here"
Andrew Sullivan, Wednesday, 26 December 2012, "A Hobbit By Any Other
The Daily Beast is probably one of the most widely read blogs on the
internet, so seeing Tolkienists Jason Fisher, Michael Adams and Emil
Johansson get mentioned there is very nice indeed! Congratulations
to all three!
JF, Wednesday, 26 December 2012, "Flirtations with minor celebrity"
A day in the spotlight ;-) Jason Fisher is pointing us to the PBS
interview (see "Interviews" for the 14th) and the mention on the
Daily Beast. Congratulations and well done!
Il, Friday, 28 December 2012, "Reading The Hobbit: An Unexpected
Party or An Invitation to Faerie"
The first of a series of posts following the reading of each chapter
of _The Hobbit_ -- see also the following posts on chapters 2
through 4 (at the time of writing). These are not profound insights
or well-researched scholarship, but the kind of everyday
observations that we can all have when re-reading Tolkien's
Tan Shiow Chin, _The Star_, Sunday, 30 December 2012, "Health
lessons from JRR Tolkien's hobbits"
This amusing piece takes five well-known Hobbit-habits and look at
them from a health-perspective -- while the health advice is, of
course, quite independent of Tolkien, I rather like the idea. The
habits scrutinised are "Seven meals a day", "Being social", "Bright
clothes", "Smoking pipe weed", and "No shoes".
= = = = Rewarding Discussions = = = =
It would seem that quite a lot of the debating energy this month has
gone into discussing Peter Jackson's latest film, _The Hobbit: An
Unexpected Journey_. However, I have found that while such
discussions can occasionally be interesting, they are rarely
Welsh and Tolkien's languages
Starting with a request for references on the influence of Welsh on
Tolkien's work (and particularly his invented languages) that was
thoroughly fulfilled, another interesting discussion ensued about
the pronunciation of Welsh.
Troll Names - Tom
On how Tolkien might have explained that he had named a troll Tom --
if, that is, he had ever come round to explaining that bit :)
Who Fostered Elrond and Elros?
A discussion of the roles of Maedhros and Maglor in the final events
in the Quenta Silmarillion -- fostering Elrond and Elros,
forswearing the Oath and enticing the other to steal the Silmarils.
Tolkien changed his opinion on which of the two last Fëanorians did
what (just as he changed the spelling of Maedhros' name a number of
Thread: English is a Scandinavian Language
Not about Tolkien himself, but about the topic of his research:
Germanic philology. This thread looks at, and explains for
lay-people, some of the reactions to last month's titular claim by
Norwegian linguist Jan Terje Faarlund.
Entwives crossing Anduin
Trying to make sense of the vague hints to the history of the Ents
in _The Lord of the Rings_ and the short story of the genesis of the
Ents (in the chapter 'Of Aulë and Yavanna' in the published
_Silmarillion_). This is a more difficult task than it might at
first seem, and so far no really satisfying solution has been
Introduction of Boromir
When Elrond introduces Boromir at the Council of Elrond, he only
describes him as 'a man from the south' which seems to withold
information. How this can be interpreted has been the focus of this
thread, which gets around textual history and medieval courtesy and
= = = = In Print = = = =
_Beyond Bree_, December 2012
This issue starts with a number of comments on the old 1977 Rankin /
Bass animated _Hobbit_ TV-special. The opinions vary greatly from
praise of the artwork (for its own sake, not for its value as
illustrations of _Tolkien's_ story), over fond reminisces, critical
commentary and other reactions from Daniel Smith, Grey Wizard, Tim
Kirk, Janet Brennan Croft, Gary Hunnewell and Scott Warner. Mark
Hooker continues his inquiry 'Would a "Hobbit" by Any Other Name be
as Frightening' with an investigation of the Middle English _hobet_
and of Old Hob. Anne Marie Gazzalo continues a discussion of 'grace'
in a letter (I hope this discussion will continue -- it is
interesting). Some various news about Jackson's _Hobbit_ film
follows, including some of the legal repercussions and descriptions
of film tie-in books (as Daniel Smith notes, "published with the
permission, but not the approval, of the Tolkien Estate"). A section
of other _Hobbit_-themed books follows, of which only _The Hobbit
and Philosophy_ catches my attention. The usual columns for
publications, letters, and various short notes round of this issue
of _Beyond Bree_.
_Mythprint_ vol.49 no.11, November 2012, whole no. 364
Call for nominations and committee volunteers for the 2013
Mythopoeic Awards and a progress report for Mythcon 44 (to be held
July 12 - 15) are the news from the Mythopoeic Society. In addition
to these, this issue of _Mythprint_ boasts an enticing report from
the Tolkien in Vermont conference by Gerry Blair (the problem with
all these conference reports is that I inevitably wish that I had
the time and money to go conference-hunting all over the world), and
three non-Tolkienian reviews (Robert E. Howard _The Conquering Sword
of Conan_; Ruth Berman _Bradamant's Quest_; and Evangeline Walton
_Above Ker-Is and Other Stories_).
= = = = Web Sites = = = =
Really, if you are not already a member of a Tolkien society, you
should consider it. Here are a few to start with . . .
The Tolkien Society (UK)
A recognised UK charity with the purpose to educate people about
Tolkien and his work, but also revelling in just being a meeting
place for all kinds of people who are interested in Tolkien.
The Mythopoeic Society (US)
The Tolkien Society of America merged into the Mythopoeic Society at
some point. The focus is on the Inklings and in particular Tolkien,
Lewis and Williams, but in the broader view all mythopoiec fiction,
and scholarship into that fiction, is welcome.
Both of these have regular journals and bulletins with interesting
Formally the Copenhagen Tolkien Society, but actually the only
Tolkien Society in Denmark.
Germany: Deutsche Tolkien Gesellschaft e.V.
The German Tolkien Society.
I don't read French, so I am not entirely sure of the status of
Tolkiendil, but I see on their web-site that they have a list of
Tolkien societies in France.
The Netherlands: Unquendor
The Dutch Tolkien Society
For many more see the links page on the page for the Tolkien
= = = = Sources = = = =
John D. Rateliff (JDR) -- "Sacnoth's Scriptorium"
Jason Fisher (JF) -- "Lingwë -- Musings of a Fish"
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