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Re: [mythsoc] Tales Before Tolkien

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  • Stolzi
    HI, Marcie! Diamond Proudbrook
    Message 1 of 18 , Nov 28, 2005
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      HI, Marcie!

      Diamond Proudbrook
    • David Bratman
      ... I m glad you liked that story: I pushed for its inclusion. It s one of my favorite wry Dunsany stories, and we know (as the editorial headnote explains)
      Message 2 of 18 , Nov 28, 2005
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        At 01:20 PM 11/28/2005 -0800, Marcie wrote:
        >Newbie here would like to second Mike's recommendation of "Tales Before
        >Tolkien" (Ed. Doug Anderson). I especially love the delightful "Chu-Bu and
        >Sheemish" by Lord Dunsany.

        I'm glad you liked that story: I pushed for its inclusion. It's one of my
        favorite wry Dunsany stories, and we know (as the editorial headnote
        explains) that Tolkien read and remembered it.

        What astonished me about the book was how many stories that I didn't know
        are awesomely similar to Tolkien in feel and tone, exactly the qualities
        that imitative post-Tolkien fantasy conspicuously lacks. I'd point in
        particular to "The Far Islands" by John Buchan (whose similarity to "The
        Lost Road" or "Smith of Wootton Major" is almost creepy), "The Elf Trap" by
        Francis Stevens, and "The Woman of the Wood" by A. Merritt (a far better
        writer, at least in this story, than his reputation would have it).

        David Bratman
      • Mike Foster
        The best student in my spring JRRT class, Catherine M. Barnett, did a very good critique of _Tales Before Tolkien_. With the generosity typical of many
        Message 3 of 18 , Nov 29, 2005
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          The best student in my spring JRRT class, Catherine M. Barnett, did a
          very good critique of _Tales Before Tolkien_. With the generosity
          typical of many Tolkien scholars, at my request, Doug shared a list of
          the stories that Tolkien certainly read, likely read, maybe read. This
          informed the paper quite well.

          For some reason, writing the above sparked my recall of George Sayer's
          recollection of visiting Tolkien and finding the Professor on the floor
          playing with his grandchildren, saying "I'm Thomas the Tank Engine.
          Puff, puff, puff."

          Completing the trifecta, Paul McCartney's holograph lyric of "I Want to
          Hold Your Hand" in the British Library is written on a Thomas the Tank
          Engine tablet page.

          Cheers,
          Mike

          David Bratman wrote:

          >At 01:20 PM 11/28/2005 -0800, Marcie wrote:
          >
          >
          >>Newbie here would like to second Mike's recommendation of "Tales Before
          >>Tolkien" (Ed. Doug Anderson). I especially love the delightful "Chu-Bu and
          >>Sheemish" by Lord Dunsany.
          >>
          >>
          >
          >I'm glad you liked that story: I pushed for its inclusion. It's one of my
          >favorite wry Dunsany stories, and we know (as the editorial headnote
          >explains) that Tolkien read and remembered it.
          >
          >What astonished me about the book was how many stories that I didn't know
          >are awesomely similar to Tolkien in feel and tone, exactly the qualities
          >that imitative post-Tolkien fantasy conspicuously lacks. I'd point in
          >particular to "The Far Islands" by John Buchan (whose similarity to "The
          >Lost Road" or "Smith of Wootton Major" is almost creepy), "The Elf Trap" by
          >Francis Stevens, and "The Woman of the Wood" by A. Merritt (a far better
          >writer, at least in this story, than his reputation would have it).
          >
          >David Bratman
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
          >Yahoo! Groups Links
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Marcie Geffner
          Hello back to you, and thanks for being the first person (I think) to tell me about MythSoc, though it took me ages to finally join the listserv. Your Narnia
          Message 4 of 18 , Nov 29, 2005
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            Hello back to you, and thanks for being the first person (I think) to tell
            me about MythSoc, though it took me ages to finally join the listserv. Your
            Narnia cartoon brought a smile to my day!
            mg


            _____

            From: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com [mailto:mythsoc@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of
            Stolzi
            Sent: Monday, November 28, 2005 6:56 PM
            To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Tales Before Tolkien

            HI, Marcie!

            Diamond Proudbrook


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          • Bonnie Callahan
            Welcome to the list, Marcie! Sorry i missed you at LosCon Your fellow TFer, Prunella
            Message 5 of 18 , Nov 29, 2005
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              Welcome to the list, Marcie!

              Sorry i missed you at LosCon

              Your fellow TFer, Prunella

              mgeff@... wrote:

              > Greetings:
              > Newbie here would like to second Mike's recommendation of "Tales Before
              > Tolkien" (Ed. Doug Anderson). I especially love the delightful "Chu-Bu and
              > Sheemish" by Lord Dunsany.
              > -- Marcie
              >
              > -----Original Message-----
              > From: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com [mailto:mythsoc@yahoogroups.com]On Behalf Of
              > Mike Foster
              > Sent: Sunday, November 27, 2005 6:16 PM
              > To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com; Barnett, Catherine R
              > Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Companion to Narnia & Lewis Book Question
              >
              > _Tales Before Tolkien_ is boggling good. My best student in the 2005
              > spring term of that Tolkien class I once taught did a great appreciation
              > and critical review [hi, Catherine!] of it that, I hope, Mythprint will
              > publish.
              >
              > Foster
              >
              > Hugh Davis wrote:
              >
              > >
              > >
              > >
              > >>From: David Bratman <dbratman@...>
              > >>
              > >>
              > >
              > >
              > >
              > >>You are probably thinking of _Reading the Classics with C.S. Lewis_,
              > edited
              > >>by Thomas L. Martin (Baker Academic, 2000). It's a collection of essays
              > by
              > >>scholars each discussing the books Lewis read in a particular field and
              > >>what he thought of them.
              > >>
              > >>The closest Tolkien equivalent is probably _Tales Before Tolkien_ edited
              > by
              > >>Douglas A. Anderson (Del Rey, 2003), an anthology of fantasy short stories
              > >>predating The Hobbit. Some of these Tolkien read, and may have been
              > >>influenced by; the editor's notes explain which.
              > >>
              > >>
              > >>
              > >Right on both (although I did think the Tolkien volume was farther back
              > than
              > >that). Thank you, David.
              > >
              > >Hugh
              > >
              > >
              > >
              > >
              > >
              > >The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
              > >Yahoo! Groups Links
              > >
              > >
              > >
              > >
              > >
              > >
              > >
              > >
              > >
              > >
              >
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              >
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              >
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            • Marcie Geffner
              The L.A. TImes naturally runs a lot of articles about Hollywood. There’s no new information in this one about the man who owns the film rights to the Narnia
              Message 6 of 18 , Dec 5, 2005
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                The L.A. TImes naturally runs a lot of articles about Hollywood. There�s no
                new information in this one about the man who owns the film rights to the
                Narnia series, but here it is if anyone is interested in the background:
                -- Marcie

                In 'Narnia,' Tycoon Seeks Blockbuster With a Message
                By Claudia Eller, Times Staff Writer

                After coming up dry on such costly movie flops as "Around the World in 80
                Days" and "Sahara," Hollywood's highest-rolling wildcatter is looking for
                his first gusher.

                And once again, Philip Anschutz is risking big.
                The Denver-based multibillionaire, who made a fortune in oil, natural gas,
                railroads, telecommunications and real estate, has spent $90 million � half
                the film's $180-million budget � to produce the screen adaptation of the
                children's classic "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the
                Wardrobe."

                But whether the movie, which opens Friday, will produce the lucrative
                family-oriented franchise that Anschutz hopes for depends on how skillfully
                he and his partners at Walt Disney Co. have tapped the well.

                Anschutz's independent production company, Walden Media, and Disney, which
                cofinanced the film, are banking on religious moviegoers and secular fans
                alike to make "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" � adapted from the
                beloved book by British theologian and literary scholar C.S. Lewis � a giant
                hit.

                Such a windfall would give the 65-year-old Anschutz, whose vast assets
                include Staples Center, the Los Angeles Kings hockey team, the San Francisco
                Examiner and Regal Entertainment Group, the world's largest operator of
                movie theaters, something he needs more than money: credibility as a savvy
                investor in the movie business.

                It could also give Disney something it lacks � a sure-fire movie series on a
                par with the "Harry Potter" or "Lord of the Rings" franchises, which have
                reaped billions for rival studios. Anschutz, a religious Christian who has
                vowed to make wholesome entertainment that doesn't rely on sex, foul
                language or violence to sell tickets, controls the rights to all seven books
                in the Narnia series.

                But first, the companies must pull off a delicate balancing act, luring
                religious moviegoers to the allegorical film without turning off mainstream
                audiences.

                "It's a balance to try to market to the widest possible audience," said
                Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook. "We're trying to cast the widest net we
                can."

                To that end, Disney is spending mightily � an estimated $120 million to
                market and distribute the PG-rated film worldwide on more than 8,000
                screens.

                Although the studio hopes to attract the same churchgoers who helped make
                Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" a box-office juggernaut in 2004,
                Cook said less than 5% of the film's marketing budget was earmarked to reach
                that group.

                Disney has hired some of the same marketing outfits that drummed up
                grass-roots support for Gibson's film through church-based outreach
                programs, study guides and other means, but "none of the marketing plays up
                the biblical aspects of the story," Cook said.

                Brent Plate, assistant professor of religion at Texas Christian University
                in Fort Worth, said Disney was smart to take a two-pronged sales approach.

                "It's a fine line to walk because you don't want to alienate anyone," said
                Plate, who believes that the Narnia saga is "in no way a 'Passion' for
                kids," as some evangelical groups have labeled the film.

                In Lewis' books, which have sold more than 95 million copies worldwide,
                there are many religious references, though to most children, they're hard
                to spot. For example, Aslan the lion, a benevolent character who is
                sacrificed and resurrected, is widely seen to represent Christ.

                But many, including Lewis himself, have said the mythologies in "Narnia" are
                open to various interpretations, and the story is more about universal
                themes of good versus evil, betrayal, sacrifice and forgiveness than about
                God.

                In the film version of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," devoted fans
                will recognize the four young British siblings who are transported through a
                magic wardrobe to Narnia, a parallel universe inhabited by talking animals,
                satyrs, dwarfs and an evil witch. The children discover their inner strength
                when they lead the forces of good in a battle to save Narnia.

                Though there is plenty of spirited swordplay to satisfy audiences that like
                action-adventure movies, the film is true to the book's spiritual themes.
                The children, for example, are referred to as the sons and daughters of Adam
                and Eve.

                "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," in other words, has all the elements
                � loyalty, family, redemption � that Anschutz prizes most. Those who work
                with him say that for the press-shy entrepreneur, "Narnia" represents the
                perfect melding of his dual missions: to make big money while subtly
                promoting a moral agenda.

                "It is a true combination of two motives," said David Weil, chief executive
                of Anschutz Film Group, which owns Walden Media and its sister firm, Bristol
                Bay Productions.

                Anschutz declined to comment for this article, but remarks he made last year
                at a Florida college speak volumes about what motivated him to become a
                Hollywood player.

                After years of complaining about the content of movies, Anschutz told the
                students, "I decided to stop cursing the darkness � and instead do something
                about it by getting into the film business."

                That decision, he joked, prompted his wife to question his sanity.

                "Phil, this is one of the nuttier things you've ever done," he recalled her
                saying before warning him to keep his day job.

                But as crazy as it seemed, Anschutz said, he believed there was money to be
                made in family films. "My reasons for getting into the entertainment
                business weren't entirely selfless," he told the students. "Hollywood as an
                industry can at times be insular and doesn't understand the market very
                well. I saw an opportunity in that fact."

                His mission, as he saw it, was to "figure out a way to make goods and
                products that people actually want to buy."

                So far, his track record has been spotty.

                "More of our films lost money than made money," acknowledged Weil, who was
                Anschutz's attorney before being named head of the billionaire's film
                company last year.

                Anschutz's successes include the acclaimed films "Holes," "Because of
                Winn-Dixie" and "Ray," which won Jamie Foxx a best actor Oscar for his
                portrayal of the legendary Ray Charles. The $40-million film, which Anschutz
                personally bankrolled, is his biggest box office hit to date with $75
                million in U.S. ticket sales.

                But any profits he may have seen from those films were offset by untold
                losses from such expensive misses as last year's $110-million remake of
                "Around the World in 80 Days," which grossed just $24 million domestically.

                Anschutz's only other attempt to create a franchise, this year's
                $130-million action adventure "Sahara," the first film from a series of
                Clive Cussler novels, not only was a box office disappointment but also
                prompted an ugly legal brawl. Cussler sued Anschutz, who had optioned all 18
                of the novelist's books, alleging his creative rights were violated.
                Anschutz countersued, saying the author breached their agreement by
                bad-mouthing the movie before its release, among other things.

                No settlement talks are underway in the case, which is scheduled for trial
                in May. No other movies based on Cussler's novels are planned.

                Those who know Anschutz well say his experience in the oil business, where
                it's common to drill 20 to 30 holes before striking crude, has made him a
                patient investor. He's considered a contrarian, meaning he likes to operate
                counter to conventional wisdom.

                For example, in 2000 and 2001, when the exhibition business was reeling from
                an overbuilding spree, Anschutz bought three troubled theater circuits at
                bargain prices. He then merged the trio of companies � creating the world's
                largest theater chain � and took them public as Regal Entertainment Group.

                "It's been a good investment for Phil," said Mike Campbell, CEO of Regal,
                whose 550 theaters boast more than 6,500 screens in 40 states. Campbell
                estimates that in any given year, Regal generates about 20%, and sometimes
                more, of the total U.S. box office receipts.

                Since the company went public in 2002, Campbell said, Anschutz hasn't sold a
                single share: "I think that reflects his confidence in the business and his
                long-term investment strategy."

                But Anschutz's faith in his own intuition has also led him astray. Anschutz,
                who owns five professional soccer teams, invested $20 million in a World
                Cup-themed movie, "The Game of Their Lives," that grossed a measly $375,474.

                Still, Anschutz has told colleagues that he remains committed to the
                creative side of the movie business. He likes moviemaking not just for its
                entertainment value but also for what Weil calls its ability to "educate,
                inspire and promote literacy." (Most of Walden's movies are based on popular
                books, and Anschutz insists that the marketing of those films include
                educational programs that encourage children to read).

                In that vein, Walden is launching a book imprint in partnership with a major
                publisher. Anschutz is also considering expanding his film company into such
                areas as television production and video games.

                "Let's put it this way: We signed a 10-year lease on our building," said
                Cary Granat, CEO of Walden, whose posh new headquarters in a Century City
                high-rise boasts a 20-seat, state-of-the-art screening room.

                "We're building Walden into a trusted family brand," Granat said. "And Phil
                is committed to the slate we have."

                Among its upcoming projects, most of which are budgeted at less than $30
                million, is an $85-million adaptation of E.B. White's pig-and-spider
                classic, "Charlotte's Web," which Walden co-financed with Paramount
                Pictures. It is scheduled for release in June.

                Walden and Disney are already tentatively planning a "Narnia" sequel, based
                on Lewis' "Prince Caspian." If the first film is a hit, its director Andrew
                Adamson and producer Mark Johnson stand ready to go into production next
                fall on "Caspian," to be released during the 2007 holiday season.

                On an even grander scale, Granat and Weil said they were considering
                launching an endeavor that would compete with the major studios: a movie
                distribution operation that would enable the company to market and release
                its own movies.

                "Phil Anschutz is known to be an opportunist," Weil said.

                As Anschutz told the students in Florida, he knows he has something to
                prove.

                "Nothing communicates with the people who make real decisions in Hollywood,"
                he said, "like spending your own money and showing that you can make
                profitable films."

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              • Hugh Davis
                It appears I will be able to teach a semester independent study on CS Lewis next semester (I teach at an independent high school), and I would love to hear
                Message 7 of 18 , Dec 5, 2005
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                  It appears I will be able to teach a semester independent study on CS Lewis
                  next semester (I teach at an independent high school), and I would love to
                  hear from list members who have taught courses on CS Lewis (and the rest of
                  the Inklings) about what you feel *must* be included and any other
                  recommendations you can make.

                  Thank you,

                  Hugh Davis
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