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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
      HI, Marcie!

      Diamond Proudbrook
    • 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 2 of 18 , Nov 29, 2005
        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 3 of 18 , Nov 29, 2005
          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 4 of 18 , Nov 29, 2005
            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 5 of 18 , Dec 5, 2005
              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 6 of 18 , Dec 5, 2005
                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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