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22418Short Review of Carl Phelpstead's Tolkien and Wales

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  • Andrew Higgins
    May 31, 2011
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      I just finished Carl Phelpstead's Tolkien and Wales - Language, Literature and Cultural Identity and did a short review for Good Reads....as you will see I enjoyed this work very much!!  


      Recently there has been a wellspring of books around Tolkien scholarship that have opened up new areas of exploration into the life and works of J.R.R Tolkien. Scholars like Dimitra Fimi, John Garth and Arne Zettensten (to name just three) have taken up the mantle from such legends as Tom Shippey and Verlyn Flieger to explore the legendarium from new perspectives especially now that we have much more of Tolkien's narrative and linguistic materials. I would count this book in this category. Indeed Phelpstead builds upon the landmark work done by Dr Fimi in Tolkien Race and Cultural History to explore Tolkien's use of Celtic tradion and language in the development of the legendarium. There are some really intriguing (albeit too short) chapters on Tolken's thoughts on linguistic aesthetics and his use of the Welsh language system to develop one branch of the languages on the legendarium (Goldogrin, Noldorian and ultimately Sindarin).

      It wad interesting that Carl states that the best secondary source book for Tolkienian linguistics is Jim Allan's seminal Introduction to Elvish especially to analyze the types of Celtic sound shifts Tolkien made to Common Eldarin to develop the Sindarin branch of the language system.  I agree and use this work a lot although with all the additional materials we have now on Tolkien's language systems it would be interesting and very helpful to update this seminal sourcebook. 

       I was very intrigued by his chapter on Breton influences and Tolkien's work with the editor of The Welsh Review Gwyn Jones who published Tolkien's "The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun" and was going to publish A yet to be seen by work by Tolkien SELLIC SPELL which is said to be a prose tale about the folktale background to Beowulf (this like Tolkien's The Passing of Arthur is yet to be seen). 

      I did have a bit of a chuckle when reading the notes around the language chapter and Phelpstead referring to another Carl - Carl Hostetter - as "the doyen of Tolkenian linguistics" Carl if you are reading this I have always thought of you more as a grand master!!! 

      Phelpstead includes a very useful list of the Welsh related Books Tolkien owned which are now in Oxford either at the Bodleian or English Faculty Libraries. 

      This is an important work of Tolkien scholarship which I highly recommend.

      Sent from the IPAD of Andrew Higgins asthiggins@...  asthiggins on Twitter 
      And at his blog Wotan's Musings http://wotanselvishmusings.blogspot.com/

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