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12215Re: [mythsoc] Tolkien, Jonah, and Job

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  • Larry Swain
    Jun 3, 2004

      Thanks very much for writing and taking time from toher things.

      > Since writing the _Bibliography_ I've seen the letters written to Tolkien
      > by the General Editor of _The Jerusalem Bible_, Alexander Jones, preserved
      > in the Tolkien Papers at the Bodleian. Jones first wrote to Tolkien in
      > January 1957, asking him to contribute to the Bible project, on the
      > strength of _The Lord of the Rings_ with which Jones was very impressed. He
      > hoped that Tolkien would translate several books of the Old Testament, but
      > held out Jonah (only three pages in the finished printed Bible) if Tolkien
      > was pressed for time. Tolkien quickly sent a sample translation from
      > Isaiah, and then a draft translation of Jonah. After that he was indeed too
      > pressed for time to do much more. He did, however, discuss points of
      > translation with Jones, including what to do about archaisms (a potentially
      > very interesting subject, especially in relation to his comments on
      > archaisms in _The Lord of the Rings_; unfortunately, copies of Tolkien's
      > letters to Jones are not at the Bodleian), and Jones solicited Tolkien's
      > opinions on a first draft of most of the Book of Job. Tolkien passed a
      > final revision of Jonah only in 1961.

      Just for the sake of clarity, what we are talking about here is a translation from French, not a translation from Hebrew that Tolkien did for the portion of Isaiah and Jonah. That's the impression I devloped and have in my notes. I'll be in the Bodleian later this summer and can check again. Same thing with the draft...Jones was soliciting Tolkien's opinion on the English of the translation, not its accuracy from the original language. Please do correct me if your impression is different.

      > Jones wrote in his foreword to _The Jerusalem Bible_: "In the case of a few
      > books the initial draft was made from the French and was then compared word
      > for word with the Hebrew or Aramaic by the General Editor and amended where
      > necessary to ensure complete conformity with the ancient text. For the much
      > greater part, the initial drafts were made from the Hebrew or Greek and
      > simultaneously compared with the French when questions of variant reading
      > or interpretation arose." That the work was never simply a translation from
      > the French was made clear to Tolkien by Jones in an early letter: reference
      > by the General Editor to Hebrew and Greek was always a given.

      I can only imagine that this is in reaction to my statements that initially the project translated from French and later switched gears and translated from Hebrew and Greek with an eye on the French. In the end I don't see much difference. Some books in their initial drafts were translated from French as I said. That these initial drafts were then compared to the Hebrew and Greek has no bearing on whether Tolkien translated Jonah from Hebrew or not.

      Thanks again!

      Larry Swain
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