(fwd) Tolkien Transactions XLIV
- On Fri, 03 Jan 2014 02:32:57 +0100, in alt.books.inklings Troels Forchhammer
First: Happy New Year!
Secondly: Do not forget to join in the Tolkien birthday toast. You
do this by having a glass (or cup, goblet, mug or whatever
container) of your preferred drink (alcoholic or not as you prefer),
and at 9 PM (21:00) local time on Friday, January 3rd (that is,
today by Danish time), you stand up, raise the container, say the
toast: "The Professor!" and take a sip or swig of the drink.
See also <http://tolkiensociety.org/toast/2014/> where you can also
enter your personal greeting to Tolkien enthusiasts all over the
As is probably well-known by everyone reading this, December has
seem the release of the second installment of Peter Jackson's film
trilogy based on Tolkien's story, _The Hobbit_. Whatever one's
feeling's about it, I dare say it has been 'expected' (though I
suspect with emotions spanning the whole range from the blackest
dread and despair to the most deleriously happy expecations). I am
going to ignore the film here -- in part because I have no intention
of further fuelling the divisive debates among otherwise friendly
Tolkien enthusiasts, and partly because I do not really find it
terribly interesting to discuss whether Peter Jackson is a
blasphemer or a brilliant artist ... or perhaps both.
So, this month all the usual disclaimers -- about newness,
completeness and relevance (or any other implication of
responsibility) -- appear even more relevant than usual.
These transactions are posted to the usenet newsgroups
rec.arts.books.tolkien, alt.fan.tolkien, and alt.books.inklings, and
the usenet version can be accessed at
These transactions are also posted on my blog, Parma-kenta (Enquiry
into the books): <http://parmarkenta.blogspot.com>
and on LotR Fanatics Plaza in the books forum:
This month it has suited my purposes to sort the contents under the
2: Essays and Scholarship
4: Reviews and Book News
5: Tolkienian Artwork
6: Other Stuff
7: Web Sites
8: The Blog Roll
= = = = News = = = =
William Turvil, _Daily Mail_, Tuesday, 3 December 2013, "His
precious: The revolver JRR Tolkien carried with him in the trenches
of WWI is going on display for the first time"
Right ... so ... apart from the inappropriateness of the use of
"precious" in this context, this story has still received far too
much attention, giving the impression that modern journalists do
indeed love the arrow for its swiftness and not least the gun for
its loudness. Still, there are few interesting biographical details
Liz Bury, _The Guardian_, Thursday, 12 December 2013, "JRR Tolkien's
wartime gun goes on display in Manchester"
A more subdued and appropriate account ...
_Oxford Mail_, Tuesday, 3 December 2013, "Tolkien's life to get
One of a huge number of news outlets carrying the news that a film
about the life of Tolkien is being planned. While I would agree with
Tolkien Society chairman Shaun Gunner that Tolkien "is an incredibly
intersting person," I cannot agree that he would make a good
character for a film -- films are rather poor as the means of
conveying erudition and philosophical depth, and these are what
makes Tolkien's life interesting.
Anna Pearson, Tuesday, 10 December 2013, "Wasps named after Hobbit
That scientists are often Tolkien fans shows in many ways small and
large. The nicknaming of the Homo Floresiensis as "The Hobbit" is a
well-known example, and in _The Science of Middle-earth_ Henry Gee
lists numerous other examples of Tolkien-inspired scientific names.
Had Henry Gee attempted to make an exhaustive list, he would have
set himself an impossible task as that list would have to be updated
regularly -- as is evidenced by this short piece of news about the
naming of new-found species of small wasps.
Russ Burlingame, _Comic Book_, Wednesday, 11 December 2013, "J.R.R.
Tolkien Gets a Sesame Street Parody in Lord of the Crumbs"
Just for laughs ... but good and hearty laughs :-)
(A Sesame Street parody featuring, of course, the Cookie Monster --
how much bigger does it get?)
Andrew, Wednesday, 11 December 2013, "Tolkien's Rivendell comes to
life with 200,000 LEGO bricks"
Being an "exclusive interview with builders Alice Finch & David
Frank" who have done a very nice recreation of Rivendell (though I'm
not sure which, if any, visualisation of Rivendell this is based on,
but it is definitely not Tolkien's).
AFP, Monday, 16 December 2013, "The line between JRR Tolkien's good
and evil characters may come down to vitamin D"
All in the spirit of good fun -- I suppose that the medical science
is solid, though of course this reverses cause and effect within the
_The Oxford Times_, Tuesday, 17 December 2013, "Book Tolkien signed
is bought by college"
The story of Exeter College, where Tolkien himself studied, buying a
book by William Morris which has been signed by Tolkien. If the
Oxford Colleges associated with Tolkien start being this eager to
demonstrate their links with Tolkien, there may yet be hope for the
academic world ;-)
HR, Thursday, 19 December 2013, "Saturdays with Smaug"
Right ... so ... no rule without exceptions, and the exception here
is Holly Rodgers' tale of how she took her group of Dwarves (or most
of them, anyway) to the cinema to watch the latest work by Peter
EJ, Sunday, 29 December 2013, "An environmentally friendly source of light?"
Just for fun!
It raises, of course, the question of magic as a source of energy --
is this the long sought-for _perpetuum mobile_?
= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =
Being a list of articles from Medievalist.net with some (though
occasionally rather vague) Tolkien-relation ...
"The Icelandic Althing: Dawn of Parliamentary Democracy" (4 Dec) --
for me anything Norse of course has a Tolkien relation ;-)
"The Bones in the Soup: The Anglo-Saxon Flavour of Tolkien's _The
Hobbit_" (9 Dec) -- An article from _Lembas Extra_ (the journal of
Unquendor, the Dutch Tolkien Society) about, as it says, the
Anglo-Saxon inspirations in _The Hobbit_
"Doing a PhD in Middle-earth" (10 Dec) -- a rather clever (and
humorous) reading of _The Hobbit_ as an allegory of the process of
doing a Ph.D.
"Tolkien's The Hobbit: Bilbo's Quest for Identity and Maturity" ()
-- being a bachelor's thesis from the Czech Republic investigating
in three chapters "Tolkien and Fantasy", "Bilbo's Quest for
Identity" and "Aspects of the Popularity" of Tolkien's book.
"Theoderic the Great vs. Boethius: Tensions in Italy in the Late 5th
and Early 6th Centuries" (28 Dec) -- Boëthius, and particularly the
work of his imprisonment, _The Consolation of Philosophy_, has often
been mentioned with respect to Tolkien as a source for certain
philosophical aspects of Tolkien's work. Here is a paper giving some
additional context to the circumstances in which Boëthius' book came
MT, Wednesday, 4 December 2013, "Tolkien at the Moorend Park hotel
Morgan Thomsen has uncovered a very interesting little piece of
information about Tolkien's movements about the time when he renewed
contact with Edith Bratt after he had himself turned 21. This
includes where he stayed and the precise dates of his stays, but do
read the story for yourself at the Mythoi blog and in the relevant
books (mainly _The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide_ by Christina
Scull and Wayne Hammond; _Tolkien and the Great War_ by John Garth,
and of course _Tolkien: A Biography_ by Humphrey Carpenter).
Dan Lunt / Radagast the Brown, Friday, 6 December 2013, "Scientists
simulate the climate of Tolkien's Middle Earth"
I am afraid that the serious science of this paper has been
overlooked by many commenters, who have merely found it amusing. The
serious science is of course in the advances in climate science and
computing capabilities -- based on Tolkien's maps and a few other
bits of information, the climate models have been capable of
predicting the climate of Middle-earth. It is, at least for me,
impressive that Tolkien has, working solely on some deep intuition,
been able to place the Shire such that it would have the climate of
the English Midlands (though Leistershire and Lincolnshire that are
mentioned here are counted to the East Midlands rather than
Tolkien's West Midlands).
See also Adam Vaughan, Friday, 6 December 2013, "Tolkien gesture --
scientist maps climate of Lord of the Rings"
I'll forgo mentioning further articles on this -- searching Google
News for "Tolkien Middle-earth weather climate Bristol" will return
numerous results, few of which have anything significant to add to
the press release from The University of Bristol above.
Simon Cook, Sunday, 8 December 2013, "On the Origin of Hobbits:
J.R.R. Tolkien's ideas of descent"
In this essay Simon Cook revisits some of the ideas he shared in the
essay published in August, but this time round he wishes to address
the topic differently, continuing his research, while at the same
time wishing to "tidy things up" -- even to the point of saying that
"some of [his] earlier concluding suggestions [...] now seem
distinctly dubious." In this essay Simon Cook certainly avoids the
traps that gave me misgivings in August. He starts by giving a short
summary of the evolution of the relations of language/philology and
race to the central concept of (national) identity, and then
progresses to find parallels between ideas about the otherwise
unknown neolithic aborigines of Britain and Tolkien's Hobbits. It
will be interesting to see where he will eventually take these
See also the full essay at
H&S, Tuesday, 31 December 2013, "Tolkien and the Tape Recorder"
The fascinating history of Tolkien's relation with tape recorders.
Read and enjoy!
= = = = Commentary = = = =
John Garth, Wednesday, 20 November 2013, "John Garth on Pauline
The title says it, I think :) Personally I have not yet found the
key that will unlock for me the fascination of Pauline Baynes'
illustrations, but looking at them, I can at least feel that such a
key must exist ... But whether you have already found your own key
to Baynes' work or you, like me, is still searching, this loving
introduction by John Garth to this famous illustrator of Tolkien and
others is well worth reading.
Philip Hoare, _The Guardian_, Monday 9 December 2013, "From Smaug to
the Clangers: a brief history of dragons"
An intelligent recapitulation of dragon lore -- I just wish that he
had found room also for Fafnír, for as Tolkien said, "the world that
contained even the imagination of Fáfnir was richer and more
beautiful, at whatever cost of peril." (from the essay "On
Charles McNair, Tuesday, 10 December 2013, "The Hobbit by J.R.R.
Tolkien: There and back again, again"
One of these articles that are well-meant, and which gets almost all
its facts correct. Tolkien, for instance, says in 'On Fairy-stories'
that he didn't particularly like fairy-stories as a child; after his
mother's death, he and his brother Hilary didn't pass into the care
of relatives, but into the care of Fr. Francis of the Birmingham
Oratory, he held a position at the University of Leeds between the
short stint at the New English Dictionary and the position as
Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University
(in which position he was, a year after his appointment, made a
fellow of Pembroke). I could continue, but I suppose this suffices
to show that one has to be careful about trusting information in
such articles no matter how well-meant and how favourably they
describe Tolkien's work.
Dawn Duncan Harrell, Friday, 13 December 2013, "Jackson v. Tolkien
An interesting commentary on Tolkien, taking at its focusing lens
the commentary by China Miéville on Jackson and Tolkien.
JDR, Monday, 16 December 2013, "Stephen King, Tolkien Fan"
About finding Tolkien references in Stephen King's _Joyland_ ...
Michelle Nijhuis, Wednesday, 18 December 2013, "One Weird Old Trick
to Undermine the Patriarchy"
Excellent! All the more power to the child (oh, and I don't really
mind undermining the patriarchy a bit). It was also good to see that
one Peter Walker in comment #14 has pointed out that in the Shire
names ending -o were actually feminine and that "Bilbo" is an
Anglicization of "Bilba" -- I wonder if the original author of this
piece has read that particular gem of information :)
Ed Power, Sunday, 22 December 2013, "Sorry, J.R.R. Tolkien is not
the father of fantasy"
I am sure that most would agree that "father of fantasy" is rather
an exaggeration -- even Tolkien acknowledges modern(-ish) fantastic
fiction preceding his own (McDonald, Morris, Lang, Dunsany, Haggard,
Buchan, etc.), but Power's attempt to belittle Tolkien's role in the
popularity of fantasy today is even more wrong from the other side,
just as his repetition of the old tired criticisms of Tolkien as
'morally simplistic' etc. is itself even more simplistic. Make sure
to also read the commentary:
Fredrick Martin, Sunday, 29 December 2013, "Confronted with complex
questions in a fantasy world"
"when I need to figure out the hard times, Sam Gamgee and Frodo
offer more wisdom than Power understands." Brilliant!
Il, Saturday, 28 December 2013, "Did anyone call an Eagle?"
About Tolkien's use of the Eagles, with some speculation on how to
fill some of the gaps in our knowledge.
_Teesdale Mercury_, Tuesday, 31 December 2013, "Did the Hobbit come
Not so much about Tolkien, actually -- more about Alslabie Denham,
the author of the _Denham Tracts_ where the word "hobbit" first
appears in print. Still, the _Denham Tracts_ are an important piece
of the linguistic puzzle surrounding that famous first line of
Tolkien's children's book.
= = = = Reviews and Book News = = = =
PC, Thursday, 5 December 2013, "Tolkien: the Forest and the City"
The proceedings of the homonymous conference held last year in
September, this has papers from speakers such as Flieger, Shippey,
Drout, Honegger, Milbank, Fimi and others. I haven't had time to
read it myself, but I look forward to getting into it.
PC, Friday, 6 December 2013, "The Real Middle-earth, Discovering the
Origin of The Lord of the Rings"
So, now we are to believe that Abyssinia is an important source to
_The Lord of the Rings_? I suppose that one shouldn't reject ideas
before at least investigating them, but starting with random
phonetic and/or spelling similarities is a good way to get me in my
most sceptical mode. "It is hard to express the disgust [Tolkien]
must have felt at the old, pre-philological habit of snatching at
coincidental similarities" writes Tolkien scholar par excellance,
Tom Shippey, in his contribution to Jason Fisher's collection
_Tolkien and the Study of His Sources: Critical Essays_, and in
Pieter Collier's very favourable review, "snatching at coincidental
similarities" seems to be precisely where Mr Muhling starts of. For
myself, I think I will wait to see what reviews this book gets
elsewhere -- though it is off to a bad start, the final scholarship
can, of course, be excellent.
Ethan Gilsdorf, _Boston Globe_, Wednesday, 11 December 2013, "'The
Making of Middle-earth' by Christopher Snyder"
A review of Snyder's book. Gilsdorf (I find that I am always more
inclined to listen to the voice of someone who can spell
"Middle-earth" correctly) says that the book "as a beginner's guide,
'The Making of Middle-earth' adds an important voice to the growing
body of Tolkien scholarship for laypeople." With the very accessible
scholarly works of Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull; Tom Shippey;
John Garth and others at our fingertips, I am, however, not sure
that what we need is a beginner's guide to Tolkien.
Oloris Publishing, Friday, 20 December 2013, "Pre-order Dr. Deborah
Higgens' 'Anglo-Saxon Community In J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord Of The
On the date of the destruction of the Master Ring, Oloris Publishing
will release _Anglo-Saxon Community in J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Lord of
the Rings'_ about Anglo-Saxon culture and it's 'reinvention' in
H&S, Monday, 30 December 2013, "The Tolkien Collector 33"
Issue no. 33 of _The Tolkien Collector_ has been posted -- back
issues can be bought from Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond's
= = = = Tolkienian Artwork = = = =
Mark Dery, Thursday, 5 December 2013, "Original Ballantine book
cover concept art for J.R.R Tolkien's Lord of the Rings on eBay"
While I suppose it may be debated whether Barbara Remington's cover
art for the original Ballantine PB editions of _The Lord of the
Rings_ can really count as Tolkienian artwork (I seem to remember
that she had not had time to even read the books when doing the
covers), there is really no denying that it is in many ways iconic.
Click the link in the bottom for the E-bay auction with a letter
from Betty Ballantine telling some of the story of this piece of
Alyse, Thursday, 19 December 2013, "'Out of the Shire'?: Wonderful
Art Show Tribute to Tolkien's Middle-earth"
A brief report from the art show "out of the Shire" (in the Nucleus
gallery in Alhambra, California) featuring art in tribute to Tolkien
by more than 30 artists. Evidently not all of it is a direct
artistic interpretation of Tolkien's work, but is still somehow
= = = = Other Stuff = = = =
Matt Lebovic, _Times of Israel_, Wednesday, 11 December 2013, "Are
Tolkien's dwarves an allegory for the Jews?"
What a load of tosh! I don't know which so-called "Tolkien scholars"
Mr Lebovic refers to, but they are certainly not reputable Tolkien
scholars. I speculated whether to include this item at all since I
will not be able to provide a refutation of all that is wrong (I
would recommend people to start out by reading up on the dwarfs of
the Old Norse legends and myths and attribute anything possible to
that source for a start), but sometimes it is better to acknowledge
the existing while crying to the world, "Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!" I
just hope that this is one of those instances.
HG, Sunday, 15 December 2013, "Crossover Fanfic"
I have always enjoyed the suggestion that Tom Bombadil is a Time
Lord -- possibly even the Doctor himself -- of the numerous attempts
to pigeonhole Tom Bombadil, this one manages to be both funny and
oddly apt, though, of course, completely off the mark :-)
= = = = Web Sites = = = =
"The Real LotR"
A new blog (see under sources).
= = = = The Blog Roll = = = =
These are blogs you really should be following yourself if you're
interested in Tolkien ...
Contents from these blogs will only be reported here if there is
something that I find particularly interesting, or posts that fit
with a monthly theme, but I will here note the number of
Tolkien-related posts in the month covered by these transactions
(while the number of posts with a vaguer relation -- e.g. by being
about other Inklings -- are generally given in parentheses).
Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond (S&H), "Too Many Books and
The two Tolkien-related posts by Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond
in December 2013 have been referred to above.
Jason Fisher (JF) -- "Lingwë -- Musings of a Fish"
Jason Fisher has posted a review of Peter Jackson's _The Hobbit: The
Desolation of Smaug_ and a notice about commenting on his blog.
Given the normal level of Tolkien-content on Lingwë, I'd say that
these two are equally Tolkien-related ;-)
Pieter Collier (PC), "The Tolkien Library"
8 directly, and 9 indirectly Tolkien-related posts in December 2013.
The directly related include, in addition to the articles cited
above, suggestions for Christmas presents for Tolkienists, new
high-quality editions of _Unfinished Tales_ and _The Fall of
Arthur_, the sale of a copy of the New Testament (Westminster
Version) owned and commented by Tolkien, and the selling of prints
of Cor Blok art.
Douglas A. Anderson (DAA), "Tolkien and Fantasy"
No posts in December 2013
John D. Rateliff (JDR) -- "Sacnoth's Scriptorium"
In December 2013, John Rateliff has posted a couple of
Tolkien-related items (one about one of Tolkien's desks, and the
other about Tolkien references in a Stephen King), a couple of posts
about Lewis, one about the rumours of an upcoming Tolkien biopic and
some four or five posts about the latest work of Peter Jackson.
Marcel Aubron-Bülles (MB), "The Tolkienist"
Five posts relating to Peter Jackson's latest from The Tolkienist in
David Bratman (DB), "Kalimac"
and the old home:
A review of Peter Jackson's latest is the closest thing to a
Tolkien-related post from David Bratman in December 2013
Jenny Dolfen (JD), "Jenny's Sketchbook"
No Tolkien-related posts in December 2013, but Jenny Dolfen has
pursued her interest in Hannibal with a couple of posts with very
nice new work.
Holly Rodgers (HR), "Teaching Tolkien"
See above for the only post in December 2013
Anna Smol (AS), "A Single Leaf"
No posts in December 2013
Various, The Mythopoeic Society
No posts in December 2013
Morgan Thomsen (MT), "Mythoi"
1 very interesting Tolkien-related posts in December 2013 (see
Emil Johansson (EJ), "LotR Project Blog"
One Tolkien-related joke (see above) and a review of the latest
Peter Jackson work in December 2013
Michael Martinez (MM), "Middle-earth"
8 Tolkien-related posts in December 2013 and two related to the
latest from Peter Jackson.
Bruce Charlton (BC), "Tolkien's The Notion Club Papers"
Nothing directly related to Tolkien, but a review of the latest work
by Peter Jackson (they seem to be quite the vogue), another post
about Charles Williams, and a post about a fan-fiction based on the
Notion Club Papers.
= = = = Sources = = = =
New sources in December 2013:
"The Real LotR"
A new Tolkien-related blog. The first post ("Who is the Real LOTR?")
sets out the agenda for _The Real LotR_ -- an attempt "to bring back
authentic dialogue and discussion to [Tolkien's] work." Here, from a
blog dedicated to the "Enquiry into the Books" I wish _The Real
LotR_ all the best in that endeavour!
For older sources, see
Valid e-mail is <troelsfo(a)gmail.com>
Please put [AFT], [RABT] or 'Tolkien' in subject.
Then suddenly the foresight of his kindred came to him, and
he said: "But lo! Master Elrond, the years of your abiding
run short at last, and the choice must soon be laid on your
children, to part either with you or with Middle-earth.
- Aragorn, /The Lord of the Rings/ (J.R.R. Tolkien)