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Another Tolkien Article: Lord of Literature

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  • Ted Sherman
    Lord of Literature JRR Tolkien s good-versus-evil theme still resonates, especially now in the face of conflict. By By MARY McNAMARA TIMES STAFF WRITER October
    Message 1 of 16 , Oct 23, 2001
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      Lord of Literature
      JRR Tolkien's good-versus-evil theme still resonates, especially now in the
      face of conflict.
      By By MARY McNAMARA
      TIMES STAFF WRITER

      October 21 2001

      It began, as many things do, in a bar. An Oxford pub, circa 1940, called the
      Eagle and Child, or the Bird and the Baby to the locals. At Tuesday
      luncheons, one table was occupied by an odd assortment of men--a couple of
      middle-aged dons, a writer or two or three--who smoked and drank and read to
      each other from scratched-out, scrawled-down pages. The Inklings they called
      themselves.

      Beery meetings of would-be writers are neither rare nor famously
      productive--it has been said that many fine books have been lost in bars,
      talked into oblivion. But this was not the case at the Bird and the Baby,
      where, through a fug of pipe smoke and stout, JRR Tolkien worked his way
      through the early drafts of "The Lord of the Rings." Begun as a sequel to
      his children's book "The Hobbit," it became instead the ber fantasy, the
      epic tale of another hobbit (a pint-sized humanish creature) who, aided and
      thwarted by men, dwarves, elves and wizards, seeks to destroy the Ring of
      Doom and save Middle-earth from the evil Dark Lord.

      As a group, the Inklings were remarkably prolific--core members included
      Charles Williams and Tolkien's college-mate C.S. Lewis--but no other novel
      produced by anyone in the group, or, some argue, by any other writer of the
      time, has had the impact and influence of "The Lord of the Rings." The
      product of 17 years of writing and a lifetime of scholarship and
      thought--Tolkien was 60 when it was published--the trilogy defined fantasy
      as a genre and left a legacy Homeric in its catalog. From Dungeons and
      Dragons to "Dune," from the computer game Myst and all its knockoffs to the
      "Star Wars" series, the influence of Tolkien's themes, characters and
      devices continues to resonate. Without Tolkien, some believe, there might be
      no Ursula Le Guin, Kurt Vonnegut or even Thomas Pynchon. Without his hero,
      Frodo Baggins, there would probably have been no Harry Potter.

      But more important, "The Lord of the Rings" inflamed the imaginations of
      readers everywhere. Since its publication, 50 million copies of the
      trilogy--and 40 million copies of its precursor, "The Hobbit"--have been
      sold in 35 languages, which puts the Tolkien oeuvre somewhere between the
      Bible, Mao's "Little Red Book" and that boy wizard. (The first four books of
      J.K. Rowling's Potter series together have sold close to 100 million
      copies.)

      Often read by those in their late teens and early 20s, "The Lord of the
      Rings" has a timeliness that appears eternal, the hobbit an unlikely but
      enduring hero. Diminutive and more desirous of comfort and safety than
      adventure and acclaim, hobbits, and Frodo in particular, are Everyman. Frodo
      and his fellow hobbits ground the tale, which wanders through many disparate
      lands and describes numerous fantastic creatures, by giving it protagonists
      with whom most people can identify.

      Readers in the 1950s found in the work's pages support for the
      disenfranchised masses. In the 1960s, it stood as an antiwar manifesto and
      an endorsement of environmentalism. In later decades it has been interpreted
      as a plea for racial tolerance and a condemnation of the Industrial Age.

      Now its epic themes of good versus evil and the importance of individual
      choice resonate powerfully as the world again faces war.

      For many, it is a book like no other, to be read and reread, discussed and
      treasured. A 1996 poll by the elite British bookstore Waterstone's declared
      it "The Book of the Century," and not even "Star Trek" can match the breadth
      and endurance of the Middle-earth subculture. The Tolkien Society is more
      than 30 years old and has branches and spinoff clubs all over the world.
      Dozens of journals and magazines, with names like Mythprint and Mythlore,
      are devoted to Tolkien and the Inklings, and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of
      similar Web sites range from the scholarly to the fanatic.

      "The easy answer is that it's just a very, very good book," said Mike
      Foster, the North American representative of the Tolkien Society. "It is a
      rich and varied work, with themes of friendship, difficult choices,
      temptation, good and evil. And it works on so many levels--a child can
      understand the basic story line, but for the adult reader there is always
      something new, some level that you haven't explored."

      And now, New Line Cinema has bet $300 million that it will be the film, or
      films, of the century. The first installation of Peter Jackson's
      much-anticipated trilogy opens in theaters in December, and for Tolkien
      fans, it's the biggest thing to happen since Christopher Tolkien published
      his father's early drafts in "The History of the Lord of the Rings" in the
      late 1980s.

      All over the world, fans are downloading trailers and going through them
      frame by frame, exchanging thoughts and rumors via the Internet and
      collectively crossing their fingers. A 14-minute trailer has drawn mostly
      positive response, but the official statement from the Tolkien Society is
      simply "wait and see."

      "A lot of us are cringing at the idea of Burger King putting out little
      hobbit toys," says Ted Sherman, a member of the Mythopoeic Society and
      editor of Mythlore, its journal. "Most lovers of Tolkien regard the creation
      so highly, he was such a perfectionist and Middle-earth is so real, they
      don't want to see his works trivialized. But ... we all want to see what
      [Jackson's] interpretation is. But you have to keep in mind, that's all it
      is, one person's interpretation onto film. It isn't the work itself."

      No one is more aware of this than Jackson himself. He has said repeatedly
      that anyone expecting to see a scene-by-scene replay of the work is going to
      be very disappointed. A film is, by its very nature, different from a book.

      "We have tried to honor as many aspects of the work as we could," he said.
      "We all hold the book in complete reverence, and I really believe that shows
      in the film."

      Sherman and other fans hope the movie will draw even more readers to
      Tolkien. Already, annual sales have almost tripled, and Houghton-Mifflin is
      releasing several new editions of the trilogy, as well as a single volume.

      Tolkien wrote "Rings" as a single, continuous novel, but it was published as
      a trilogy because of the postwar paper shortage--"The Fellowship of the
      Ring" debuted in 1954, followed by "The Two Towers" in 1955 and "The Return
      of the King" in 1956.

      The books follow the adventures of a group made up of hobbits, elves,
      dwarves, men and a wizard as they attempt to destroy a magical ring with
      which the nefarious Sauron, a force of true evil, would enslave
      Middle-earth. At the end of the first book, the fellowship divides and as
      many as five storylines proceed as alliances are forged, secondary villains
      battled, and many are rescued from the brink of corruption and despair.
      Although victory is at last achieved in the final volume, it comes with a
      price--many of those who fought to save the world now must leave it, as the
      age of magic gives way to the age of man.

      Simple Themes of Friendship and Resolve

      A noted medievalist and philologist, Tolkien illuminated his work with a
      variety of languages, many based on Old English and Celtic, and the
      strongest and most enduring elements of archetype and myth. There is magic,
      good and bad, in Middle-earth, trolls and dragons, wizards and wicked
      goblin-like Orcs, trees that talk and mirrors that show the future. But
      there are also the simple themes of friendship, endurance and resolve.

      Critical reaction to the work upon its release was united only in its
      passion. While in the New York Times W.H. Auden compared it to Milton's
      "Paradise Lost," the Nation's Edmund Wilson called it "balderdash" and
      "juvenile trash."

      When a bootlegged paperback version was released in the United States in the
      early '60s, antiwar protestors gloried in the premise that such a thing as a
      ring of supreme power could only corrupt and enslave, and so should be
      destroyed. Soon, other participants of alternative culture were sporting
      T-shirts and bumper stickers proclaiming "Frodo Lives" and "I Brake for
      Hobbits."

      Tolkien was baffled by the predilections of such an audience--near the end
      of his life he was often awakened at 3 in the morning by some American
      calling to ask the significance of some bit of dialogue, some passing
      character. The literati shivered at the thought of such fans and pointed to
      them as proof that "Rings" was not serious literature.

      When Waterstone's handed "Rings" the book-of-the-century title, Germaine
      Greer took to the chain's own magazine to declare that "ever since I arrived
      at Cambridge as a student in 1964 and encountered a tribe of full-grown
      women wearing puffed sleeves, clutching teddies and babbling excitedly about
      the doings of hobbits, it has been my nightmare that Tolkien would turn out
      to be the most influential writer of the 20th century. The bad dream has
      been realized."

      That attitude both typifies many academic opinions of the work and explains
      the zeal of those who don't share it.

      "I have taught Shakespeare; I have taught Milton and Chaucer; I am a
      discerning reader and scholar, and this is a serious work," says Jane
      Chance, an associate professor of English literature at Rice University in
      Houston. "If you define canon as a multilevel work, one which has a depth
      you never exhaust when you teach it, then this is a canonical work."

      Over the years, Tolkien scholarship has become more, albeit not completely,
      accepted on college campuses; "Rings" is on hundreds of university-approved
      "recommended reading" lists, and a handful of American universities offer
      accredited courses on "The Lord of the Rings" alone. Chance, who did not
      read the book until she was well into her 20s, has been teaching "Rings" in
      seminars and as part of literature overviews for more than 15 years. But it
      wasn't until 1997 that she was able to list a fully accredited class in the
      work. In a department in which the average class size is nine, she said, her
      "Rings" class drew 83.

      "This is a quest story, but also an anti-quest," she said. "Frodo is a
      little guy who is called upon to do heroic work against enormous evil. It
      speaks to us because we're all little guys, we're all hobbits. We imagine
      that we're just doing these little jobs, and then suddenly we're tapped to
      fight these enormous dark powers. And how Frodo wins is not the normal power
      definition, not by some superhero power or might or even magic. Step by
      step, Frodo learns to be a hero."

      Over the years, she has seen her students change. They are less inclined
      than their 1960s counterparts, she says, to equate Sauron with the U.S.
      government or read his enslavement of Middle-earth denizens as the draft.
      Instead, they are more interested in watching the individual choices the
      characters make, how they eschew temptation or face what is often a
      grindingly miserable journey.

      Chance's reading of the work also has changed. Where she used to stress the
      actions and choices that allow Frodo to transcend fear and become a hero,
      she now also stresses the help he has in doing so, and from whom he receives
      it.

      "I have taught it several ways, but lately I see it as a multicultural
      work," she said. "As Frodo moves along, he encounters different species and
      needs to embrace them, to create an international world." In the book, she
      added, there are many examples of age-old prejudices being set aside for the
      common good--among the fellowship, an elf and a dwarf, traditional enemies,
      form an unlikely friendship.

      As she sees it, this theme also explains the active involvement many fans
      seek through gatherings and scholarship. What brings such people together,
      she said, is a desire to save Tolkien from literary pigeonholing. "It's a
      desire to be heroic. Don't forget, the first book is about a fellowship and
      none of the actions, not even at the end, happen to only one individual. One
      of the book's biggest draws is the idea that you're not alone in this
      bewildering universe."

      A Trail Through an Alternative Universe

      Like Chance, Foster, who is an English professor at the University of
      Southern Illinois, didn't read "Rings" all the way through until he was in
      his 20s. And when he did, "I literally didn't eat or sleep," he said. "I was
      late for appointments. I was completely lost in it."

      He remembered that Tolkien had sold his papers to Marquette University for
      the princely sum of $2,000 shortly after the book was published. Soon,
      Foster was making trips back to his alma mater to read through the
      then-uncataloged collection. Since then, the drafts and letters have been
      organized and, when combined with others found by Tolkien's son, form a
      fascinating and painstaking paper trail through the creation of an alternate
      universe.

      Originally, "Rings" was to be a sequel to "The Hobbit," the author's wildly
      successful adaptation of a tale he used to tell his four children.

      "[C.S.] Lewis urged him to write it down," said Foster. "When you think of
      what came out of those gatherings ... Lewis transformed children's fiction
      and Tolkien adult fiction. It is hard to imagine a more significant creative
      friendship in the 20th century."

      Yet, he added, the Inklings were a sedate group, and John Ronald Reuel
      Tolkien the very model of a perfectly ordinary British academic. At 27, he
      married Edith Bratt, a woman he had courted since he was 16, and stayed
      married to her until her death in 1971. Just after their marriage, he was
      sent to the Western Front and served in the Somme offensive, where he became
      seriously ill. After the war, he became an associate professor at Leeds
      University and, eventually, an Oxford don, whose critical essay on Beowulf
      is still considered one of the best.

      When the public and his editor demanded more hobbit tales, Tolkien complied,
      beginning the book again and again and again before it became clear that
      what he wanted to write, what indeed he was writing, was no child's book but
      an epic saga. He continued to work on it after its publication, making
      revisions in subsequent editions and writing what he considered his
      masterwork, "The Silmarillion," a dense creation myth that describes the
      forces and characters leading to the action in "Rings."

      It was this comprehensiveness that made Tolkien both turning point and
      benchmark within the fantasy genre. He is the author who, according to the
      Encyclopedia of Fantasy, "gave final definitive legitimacy to the use of an
      internally coherent and autonomous land of faerie as a venue for the play of
      the human imagination." Previously, fantasy writers had to diminish their
      alternative worlds by connecting them in some way to the "real" world, or,
      even worse, explaining them away as a dream or a hallucination. After
      Tolkien, there were no limits save those imposed by the genre itself--that
      the worlds must remain consistent within their own logic.

      The term "fairy story," although unapologetically embraced by Tolkien and
      his followers, is one of the first pejoratives lobbed by those who, like
      Greer, do not consider "Rings" to be real literature. Wizards, dragons,
      elves and magic rings are often the stuff of children's stories, but many,
      including Tolkien, argue that there was a very good reason for this.

      Fantasy, he wrote in an essay titled "On Fairy Stories," should offer the
      reader escape, yes, but also, and more important, recovery and consolation.
      Many fantasy tales are about salvation and heroism in a world gone very
      wrong, where large forces do battle but the individual makes the difference.
      These criteria, said Tom Shippey, author of "J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the
      Century," challenged the tenets of modern literature that focused instead on
      realism, private relationships and individual journeys.

      "I call it the novel of genteel adultery," said Shippey, a former Oxford don
      who now holds the Walter J. Ong Chair of Humanities at St. Louis University
      in Missouri. "The characters are elaborate and sensitive; there was not the
      emphasis on plot. Very Bloomsbury, Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster. But then
      during the mid-20th century, it turned out that people were concerned with
      public matters, specifically warfare. It didn't much matter if you're
      sensitive or what your marriage is like if you're being herded into a
      concentration camp. Try to figure out what the Bloomsbury group thought
      about war, and the answer is 'nothing."'

      Tolkien, he said, and other authors who saw combat--George Orwell, William
      Golding, Vonnegut--found themselves criticized because they tried to find
      new ways to deal with large issues. Tolkien in particular, Shippey said, has
      been derided for "having a positive attitude. Irony, after all, is
      canonical."

      But the fans of the genre, and the book, tend to be anything but simpletons.
      The poll that anointed the work book of the century was conducted among
      readers who are classified as "serial readers." (The second most popular
      author listed was Orwell.) Many who devote themselves to the study of
      Tolkien's languages and characters are scholars in their own right--Shippey,
      like his subject, is a well-known medievalist and, in fact, held the same
      positions at the University of Leeds and Oxford that Tolkien did. "The work
      is 1,000 pages long," Shippey said. "It is not for the faint of heart."

      Nor was it written as such. Much of it is a reaction to the author's
      horrifying experience in the trenches of World War I, and to his general
      despair that the idyllic England of his youth was disappearing into the maw
      of the post-Industrial Age. To some, Tolkien's obvious belief that there are
      clearly demarcated forces of good and evil, and that even the least
      formidable among us may have the most important task, seem less than modern.
      To others, these are the very notions that will make the work just as
      resonant in this century as it was in the last.

      "I remember at a Tolkien conference watching a Polish woman reach out to
      shake [daughter] Priscilla Tolkien's hand," said Foster. "This was in the
      dark days before Communism fell, and she said, 'You have no idea what your
      father's books have meant to us. They kept us believing that the Orcs would
      not always win.'

      "'The Lord of the Rings' is the story of a long and difficult battle against
      great evil, taken on by the humblest," he added.

      "If that doesn't have any meaning now, I don't know when it would."
      For information about reprinting this article, go to
      http://www.lats.com/rights/register.htm


      ------------------------------
      Dr. Theodore J. Sherman, Editor
      Mythlore: A Journal of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and
      Mythopoeic Literature
      Associate Professor of English
      Box X041, Middle Tennessee State University
      Murfreesboro, TN 37132
      615 898-5836 Office
      615 898-5098 FAX
      tsherman@... Office
      tedsherman@... Home
    • Stolzi@aol.com
      In a message dated 10/23/2001 6:32:07 PM Central Daylight Time, ... I will comment that despite the pub location, this is probably not a =beer fantasy=, alas,
      Message 2 of 16 , Oct 23, 2001
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        In a message dated 10/23/2001 6:32:07 PM Central Daylight Time,
        tedsherman@... writes:

        > it became instead the ber fantasy

        I will comment that despite the pub location, this is probably not a =beer
        fantasy=, alas, but "The Uber Fantasy," with a umlaut on the U, the fancy
        character having been dropped out in copying to ASCII.

        Mary S
      • Margaret Dean
        ... Thanks, that was puzzling me. In general I liked the article, but had to cringe at some of the historical inaccuracies. AFAIK, though the Inklings did
        Message 3 of 16 , Oct 24, 2001
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          Stolzi@... wrote:
          >
          > In a message dated 10/23/2001 6:32:07 PM Central Daylight Time,
          > tedsherman@... writes:
          >
          > > it became instead the ber fantasy
          >
          > I will comment that despite the pub location, this is probably not a =beer
          > fantasy=, alas, but "The Uber Fantasy," with a umlaut on the U, the fancy
          > character having been dropped out in copying to ASCII.

          Thanks, that was puzzling me.

          In general I liked the article, but had to cringe at some of the
          historical inaccuracies. AFAIK, though the Inklings did meet for
          drink and conversation at the Bird & Baby, the actual readings of
          works in progress took place in C.S. Lewis's rooms, not the pub.


          --Margaret Dean
          <margdean@...>
        • Ted Sherman
          I m not sure about the uber fantasy hypothesis, for it doesn t make a lot of sense. The over or super fantasy?? I think ur would have been better in
          Message 4 of 16 , Oct 24, 2001
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            I'm not sure about the "uber" fantasy hypothesis, for it doesn't make a lot
            of sense. The "over" or "super" fantasy?? I think "ur" would have been
            better in the sense of "first" or "proto," though even that wouldn't quite
            work what with the Hobbit and all the 19th century fantastic works (not to
            mention much earlier ones [Spenser, John Mandeville's Travels, Swift,
            etc.]).

            Ted
            ------------------------------
            Dr. Theodore J. Sherman, Editor
            Mythlore: A Journal of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and
            Mythopoeic Literature
            Associate Professor of English
            Box X041, Middle Tennessee State University
            Murfreesboro, TN 37132
            615 898-5836 Office
            615 898-5098 FAX
            tsherman@... Office
            tedsherman@... Home

            ----- Original Message -----
            From: "Margaret Dean" <margdean@...>
            To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 7:08 AM
            Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Another Tolkien Article: Lord of Literature


            > Stolzi@... wrote:
            > >
            > > In a message dated 10/23/2001 6:32:07 PM Central Daylight Time,
            > > tedsherman@... writes:
            > >
            > > > it became instead the ber fantasy
            > >
            > > I will comment that despite the pub location, this is probably not a
            =beer
            > > fantasy=, alas, but "The Uber Fantasy," with a umlaut on the U, the
            fancy
            > > character having been dropped out in copying to ASCII.
            >
            > Thanks, that was puzzling me.
            >
            > In general I liked the article, but had to cringe at some of the
            > historical inaccuracies. AFAIK, though the Inklings did meet for
            > drink and conversation at the Bird & Baby, the actual readings of
            > works in progress took place in C.S. Lewis's rooms, not the pub.
            >
            >
            > --Margaret Dean
            > <margdean@...>
            >
            > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
            >
            > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
            >
            >
            >
          • Stolzi@aol.com
            In a message dated 10/24/2001 10:04:52 AM Central Daylight Time, ... Well, but the letters ber were there. Probably the writer wrote Uber, =meaning= Ur.
            Message 5 of 16 , Oct 24, 2001
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              In a message dated 10/24/2001 10:04:52 AM Central Daylight Time,
              tedsherman@... writes:

              > I'm not sure about the "uber" fantasy hypothesis, for it doesn't make a lot
              > of sense. The "over" or "super" fantasy?? I think "ur" would have been
              > better in the sense of "first" or "proto,"

              Well, but the letters "ber" were there. Probably the writer wrote Uber,
              =meaning= Ur.

              The way to find out is to go back and look at the text if it still exists on
              the Web.

              Or are you holding out for "beer fantasy" ? :)

              Mary S
            • Ted Sherman
              The online version reads ber fantasy. The umlauted u might have been dropped off. I ll write the writer and ask and report back. Ted ... Dr. Theodore J.
              Message 6 of 16 , Oct 24, 2001
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                The online version reads "ber fantasy." The umlauted u might have been
                dropped off. I'll write the writer and ask and report back.

                Ted
                ------------------------------
                Dr. Theodore J. Sherman, Editor
                Mythlore: A Journal of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and
                Mythopoeic Literature
                Associate Professor of English
                Box X041, Middle Tennessee State University
                Murfreesboro, TN 37132
                615 898-5836 Office
                615 898-5098 FAX
                tsherman@... Office
                tedsherman@... Home

                ----- Original Message -----
                From: <Stolzi@...>
                To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
                Sent: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 11:38 AM
                Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Another Tolkien Article: Lord of Literature


                > In a message dated 10/24/2001 10:04:52 AM Central Daylight Time,
                > tedsherman@... writes:
                >
                > > I'm not sure about the "uber" fantasy hypothesis, for it doesn't make a
                lot
                > > of sense. The "over" or "super" fantasy?? I think "ur" would have been
                > > better in the sense of "first" or "proto,"
                >
                > Well, but the letters "ber" were there. Probably the writer wrote Uber,
                > =meaning= Ur.
                >
                > The way to find out is to go back and look at the text if it still exists
                on
                > the Web.
                >
                > Or are you holding out for "beer fantasy" ? :)
                >
                > Mary S
                >
                >
                > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
                >
                > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
                >
                >
                >
              • WendellWag@aol.com
                This is a rather typical sloppy newspaper article. ... No, they read their works to each other in Lewis s rooms. They just talked generally when they met in
                Message 7 of 16 , Oct 25, 2001
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                  This is a rather typical sloppy newspaper article.

                  > It began, as many things do, in a bar. An Oxford pub, circa 1940, called the
                  > Eagle and Child, or the Bird and the Baby to the locals. At Tuesday
                  > luncheons, one table was occupied by an odd assortment of men--a couple of
                  > middle-aged dons, a writer or two or three--who smoked and drank and read to
                  > each other from scratched-out, scrawled-down pages. The Inklings they called
                  > themselves.
                  >

                  No, they read their works to each other in Lewis's rooms. They just talked
                  generally when they met in the Eagle and the Child. In some sense, _The Lord
                  of the Rings_ began long before 1940. It began in the 1910's as Tolkien
                  began creating the myths that came together in _The Silmarillion_.


                  > As a group, the Inklings were remarkably prolific--core members included
                  > Charles Williams and Tolkien's college-mate C.S. Lewis--but no other novel
                  > produced by anyone in the group, or, some argue, by any other writer of the
                  > time, has had the impact and influence of "The Lord of the Rings." The
                  > product of 17 years of writing and a lifetime of scholarship and
                  > thought--Tolkien was 60 when it was published--the trilogy defined fantasy
                  > as a genre and left a legacy Homeric in its catalog. From Dungeons and
                  > Dragons to "Dune," from the computer game Myst and all its knockoffs to the
                  > "Star Wars" series, the influence of Tolkien's themes, characters and
                  > devices continues to resonate. Without Tolkien, some believe, there might be
                  > no Ursula Le Guin, Kurt Vonnegut or even Thomas Pynchon. Without his hero,
                  > Frodo Baggins, there would probably have been no Harry Potter.
                  >

                  Tolkien was 62 when it was published. (If it was the product of 17 years of
                  writing, it began in 1937, not 1940.) Vonnegut? Pynchon? How were they
                  influenced by Tolkien? For that matter, how was _Dune_ influenced by Tolkien?

                  > But more important, "The Lord of the Rings" inflamed the imaginations of
                  > readers everywhere. Since its publication, 50 million copies of the
                  > trilogy--and 40 million copies of its precursor, "The Hobbit"--have been
                  > sold in 35 languages, which puts the Tolkien oeuvre somewhere between the
                  > Bible, Mao's "Little Red Book" and that boy wizard. (The first four books of
                  > J.K. Rowling's Potter series together have sold close to 100 million
                  > copies.)
                  >

                  The Bible has sold more than 2 billion copies in the 20th century alone.
                  _The Little Red Book_ was well into the upper 100 millions. Tolkien isn't in
                  that league.

                  > Tolkien wrote "Rings" as a single, continuous novel, but it was published as
                  > a trilogy because of the postwar paper shortage--"The Fellowship of the
                  > Ring" debuted in 1954, followed by "The Two Towers" in 1955 and "The Return
                  > of the King" in 1956.
                  >

                  Is this true? Was it the paper shortage that caused it to be published as a
                  trilogy?

                  > Tolkien was baffled by the predilections of such an audience of his life he
                  > was often awakened at 3 in the morning by some American calling to ask the
                  > significance of some bit of dialogue, some passing character. The literati
                  > shivered at the thought of such fans and pointed to them as proof that
                  > "Rings" was not serious literature.
                  >

                  Was Tolkien awakened more than once by a fan who had gotten his phone number?
                  I know that Tolkien said this happened once, but did it happen multiple
                  times?

                  > When Waterstone's handed "Rings" the book-of-the-century title, Germaine
                  > Greer took to the chain's own magazine to declare that "ever since I arrived
                  > at Cambridge as a student in 1964 and encountered a tribe of full-grown
                  > women wearing puffed sleeves, clutching teddies and babbling excitedly about
                  > the doings of hobbits, it has been my nightmare that Tolkien would turn out
                  > to be the most influential writer of the 20th century. The bad dream has
                  > been realized."
                  >

                  "Clutching teddies [teddy bears, I guess]"? Did that ever happen?

                  > He remembered that Tolkien had sold his papers to Marquette University for
                  > the princely sum of $2,000 shortly after the book was published. Soon,
                  > Foster was making trips back to his alma mater to read through the
                  > then-uncataloged collection. Since then, the drafts and letters have been
                  > organized and, when combined with others found by Tolkien's son, form a
                  > fascinating and painstaking paper trail through the creation of an alternate
                  > universe.
                  >

                  I can't look this up right now, but wasn't it 1,250 pounds that Tolkien was
                  paid for the manuscripts, which would have been equal to $5,000 at that time?

                  Wendell Wagner


                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • Wayne G. Hammond
                  ... It does have quite a few errors. ... And in Tolkien s. ... published as ... No -- nor is _The Lord of the Rings_ a trilogy, but a single work often
                  Message 8 of 16 , Oct 25, 2001
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                    Wendell wrote:

                    >This is a rather typical sloppy newspaper article.

                    It does have quite a few errors.

                    >No, they read their works to each other in Lewis's rooms.

                    And in Tolkien's.

                    >> Tolkien wrote "Rings" as a single, continuous novel, but it was
                    published as
                    >> a trilogy because of the postwar paper shortage--"The Fellowship of the
                    >> Ring" debuted in 1954, followed by "The Two Towers" in 1955 and "The Return
                    >> of the King" in 1956.
                    >
                    >Is this true? Was it the paper shortage that caused it to be published as a
                    >trilogy?

                    No -- nor is _The Lord of the Rings_ a trilogy, but a single work often
                    published in three volumes. It was initially divided into three to spread
                    the cost to readers, and to minimize the risk to the publisher. If the
                    first volume hadn't sold well enough, Allen & Unwin would have reduced the
                    print run of the second, and so forth.

                    >Was Tolkien awakened more than once by a fan who had gotten his phone
                    number?
                    >I know that Tolkien said this happened once, but did it happen multiple
                    >times?

                    There's no evidence for multiple occurrences that I can recall. I think
                    that this sort of thing has been blown out of proportion.

                    Wayne Hammond
                  • David S. Bratman
                    ... I agree. What makes it less harmful, if not less excusable, than the similarly sloppy articles of the 1960s is that, due to the intervening years of
                    Message 9 of 16 , Oct 25, 2001
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                      At 08:38 AM 10/25/2001 , Wendell Wagner wrote:

                      >This is a rather typical sloppy newspaper article.

                      I agree. What makes it less harmful, if not less excusable, than the
                      similarly sloppy articles of the 1960s is that, due to the intervening
                      years of scholarship, it's a lot easier for readers to learn the actual
                      facts. It also has some nice quotes from its interviewees.

                      >No, they read their works to each other in Lewis's rooms. They just talked
                      >generally when they met in the Eagle and the Child.

                      And they weren't meeting as a group in the Eagle and Child as early as
                      1940. Tolkien and Lewis had been meeting in pubs as early as the mid
                      1920s, occasionally with friends, and sometimes handing over manuscripts to
                      each other there (but rarely reading them aloud), and this was long before
                      the reading meetings in Lewis's rooms started, probably in the mid 1930s;
                      but that's not what the writer has in mind.

                      >Tolkien was 62 when it was published. (If it was the product of 17 years of
                      >writing, it began in 1937, not 1940.)

                      That's not the only age it gets wrong - the date information on Tolkien's
                      marriage is also incorrect. Tolkien did begin writing LOTR in 1937, and
                      actually completed it in 1948 - some revision followed, but most of the
                      remaining interval until 1954 was devoted to the difficulty of getting it
                      published.

                      >Is this true? Was it the paper shortage that caused it to be published as a
                      >trilogy?

                      It is not true. The decision to publish it in three volumes (not "as a
                      trilogy", as the article has it) was Rayner Unwin's, and was a sales and
                      costs decision, not one of supplies availability. Primarily, Unwin thought
                      it unwise to sell a book by a little-known author at the high price a
                      single-volume edition would demand. A Part One could be priced much lower,
                      and its readers could then purchase its successors with a much better
                      notion of what they were paying for (as well as being caught up in
                      eagerness to know what happened next). Secondarily, there was the costs
                      efficiency of being able to set the size of first-printing runs of parts
                      two and three based on the sales figures of part one: if the book had
                      flopped, the publisher would have lost much less money.

                      >Was Tolkien awakened more than once by a fan who had gotten his phone number?
                      > I know that Tolkien said this happened once, but did it happen multiple
                      >times?

                      Not as far as I know.

                      >> When Waterstone's handed "Rings" the book-of-the-century title, Germaine
                      >> Greer took to the chain's own magazine to declare that "ever since I arrived
                      >> at Cambridge as a student in 1964 and encountered a tribe of full-grown
                      >> women wearing puffed sleeves, clutching teddies and babbling excitedly about
                      >> the doings of hobbits, it has been my nightmare that Tolkien would turn out
                      >> to be the most influential writer of the 20th century. The bad dream has
                      >> been realized."
                      >
                      >"Clutching teddies [teddy bears, I guess]"? Did that ever happen?

                      Far more likely that Greer is referring to a type of women's
                      undergarment/nightgown which is called a teddy or teddie in the UK.

                      Strangely enough, there is a documented case of a British college student
                      who really did walk around carrying a teddy bear, but not at Cambridge in
                      the 1960s. This was John Betjeman, who was at Oxford in the 1920s (where
                      he was tutored by C.S. Lewis to the satisfaction of neither). It was a
                      deliberate affectation by Betjeman, in an age of many cutesy student
                      affectations, to which Lewis's bluff/hearty air was partly a reaction.

                      David Bratman
                    • WendellWag@aol.com
                      In response to my asking about Germaine Greer speaking of full-grown women . . . clutching teddies : In a message dated 10/25/01 12:28:48 PM Eastern Daylight
                      Message 10 of 16 , Oct 26, 2001
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                        In response to my asking about Germaine Greer speaking of "full-grown women .
                        . . clutching teddies":

                        In a message dated 10/25/01 12:28:48 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
                        dbratman@... writes:


                        > Far more likely that Greer is referring to a type of women's
                        > undergarment/nightgown which is called a teddy or teddie in the UK.
                        >

                        I considered that, but it doesn't really make any more sense than the teddy
                        bear meaning for the word. I just did a search on Google for the phrases
                        "clutching teddies" and "clutch teddies" and "clutching a teddy" and "clutch
                        a teddy," and all the results (other than the ones quoting Greer) are clearly
                        about children holding teddy bears. I thought about all the senses of the
                        word "teddy" that I found in the OED. (It can also mean "Teddy boy," one of
                        a group of English young men in the 1950's who dressed in a old-fashioned but
                        snazzy way.) None of the possible meanings of the word make much sense in
                        this context. Is Germaine Greer insane? Was it really true that in England
                        in 1964 the main fans of Tolkien were infantile-acting college women?

                        Wendell Wagner


                        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                      • Matthew Winslow
                        ... Or is this just simply a misquote and we re making too much of it? I mean, look, we already had ber for uber , and we ve noted that there are factual
                        Message 11 of 16 , Oct 26, 2001
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                          WendellWag@... [WendellWag@...] wrote:
                          > I considered that, but it doesn't really make any more sense than the teddy
                          > bear meaning for the word. I just did a search on Google for the phrases
                          > "clutching teddies" and "clutch teddies" and "clutching a teddy" and "clutch
                          > a teddy," and all the results (other than the ones quoting Greer) are clearly
                          > about children holding teddy bears. I thought about all the senses of the
                          > word "teddy" that I found in the OED. (It can also mean "Teddy boy," one of
                          > a group of English young men in the 1950's who dressed in a old-fashioned but
                          > snazzy way.) None of the possible meanings of the word make much sense in
                          > this context. Is Germaine Greer insane? Was it really true that in England
                          > in 1964 the main fans of Tolkien were infantile-acting college women?

                          Or is this just simply a misquote and we're making too much of it? I mean,
                          look, we already had 'ber' for 'uber', and we've noted that there are factual
                          mistakes in the article, so I think it's probably just a misquote. I'm
                          guessing Greer meant something along the lines of 'wearing a teddy' and was
                          mis-heard, or the author of this article mistranscribed, or something.

                          And why, I must ask myself, am I worrying about all this? <g>

                          --
                          Matthew Winslow mwinslow@... http://x-real.firinn.org/
                          "No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's
                          draft."
                          --H.G. Wells
                          Currently reading: Why Things Bite Back by Edward Tenner
                        • David S. Bratman
                          ... I ve done a proximity quotation search on the online OED (which I have access to) and found nothing, even under other words, using this phrase at all. So
                          Message 12 of 16 , Oct 26, 2001
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                            At 08:45 AM 10/26/2001 , Wendell Wagner wrote:

                            >I just did a search on Google for the phrases
                            >"clutching teddies" and "clutch teddies" and "clutching a teddy" and "clutch
                            >a teddy," and all the results (other than the ones quoting Greer) are clearly
                            >about children holding teddy bears.

                            I've done a proximity quotation search on the online OED (which I have
                            access to) and found nothing, even under other words, using this phrase at
                            all. So perhaps you're right, though the absence of something on a web
                            engine is the weakest of proofs that it doesn't exist.

                            >None of the possible meanings of the word make much sense in
                            >this context. Is Germaine Greer insane? Was it really true that in England
                            >in 1964 the main fans of Tolkien were infantile-acting college women?

                            Much as it would be pleasant to dismiss her as insane, I don't think that's
                            an adequate response.

                            First, Greer never says that these were the _main_ fans of Tolkien. They
                            were undoubtably the ones she found in her women's college in Cambridge.
                            (Note: Greer had received her undergraduate degree in her native Australia,
                            and came to Cambridge at age 25 to get a doctorate in English.) Whatever
                            type of teddies these women were clutching - I bet there were only one or
                            two of them - they were probably wandering the corridors of the college on
                            their way to the bathroom down the hall, not walking out on the streets a
                            la John Betjeman.

                            Her original article appeared in a magazine not accessible to me, and it
                            doesn't appear to be on the web, but I've been collecting quotes from it
                            from Lexis/Nexis and web searches. Here's some excerpts, then:

                            "As a 57-year-old lifelong teacher of English, I might be expected to
                            regard this particular list of books of the century with dismay. I do. ...
                            [One thing about the list is certain:] that it has not been compiled by
                            pundits. Indeed the list seems to have been compiled in defiance of the
                            intellectual establishment. Out of ninety-five winners of the Nobel Prize
                            for Literature, only six mean anything to this reading public, who likewise
                            respect only five Pulitzer Prize winners and only four of the twenty-eight
                            authors who have received the Booker Prize. ... Apparently the late 20th
                            century reader has a penchant for any kind of fantasy, infantile, macabre,
                            sadistic, pornographic, pseudo-scientific, supernatural or tortuous." She
                            imagines when "like-minded folk foregather to put together their
                            alternative list of 100 much better books of the century and argue the case
                            for books their children have never even heard of."

                            Further snipes on Tolkien: he ignores "the great struggles of the twentieth
                            century ... politics, war, the black movement, and sexual revolution ...
                            flight from reality is their dominating characteristic." (Good lord, now
                            we KNOW she hasn't read LOTR.)

                            Snipes on other entries:

                            "Delia Smith [popular British cooking writer] writes for people who don´t
                            cook much, are unacquainted with classic cuisine and fundamentally
                            uninterested in cooking."

                            Proust is includes, but he "is a ring-in, at least in the sense that his
                            'book' has been nominated by people who have never read it but wouldn´t
                            want to seem philistine."

                            I hardly need to reply to any of this, since most of these quotes come from
                            articles dissecting it better than I could.

                            David Bratman
                          • Stolzi@aol.com
                            In a message dated 10/26/2001 12:12:52 PM Central Daylight Time, ... There certainly are, or were, many college students in the US who were quite fond of
                            Message 13 of 16 , Oct 26, 2001
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                              In a message dated 10/26/2001 12:12:52 PM Central Daylight Time,
                              dbratman@... writes:

                              > type of teddies these women were clutching

                              There certainly are, or were, many college students in the US who were quite
                              fond of stuffed animals to decorate their dorm rooms, though I can't give you
                              the exact time period (maybe still today, I dunno). And why would they
                              clutch =underwear=? No, I vote for bears.

                              One had thought of women students in the UK as being much stronger-minded,
                              along Dorothy Sayers lines, but one could always be wrong.

                              On another line entirely: I cd not communicate online Friday, being on a
                              trip, but picked up the USAToday newspaper for that day at breakfast to find
                              a very interesting article on the various UK locations for filming used in
                              the HARRY POTTER movie. If you can still get your hands on it, take a look.

                              The article was otherwise good but made a startling statement about the
                              Bodleian Library containing "a copy of every book ever printed." Surely this
                              cannot be true?

                              Mary S
                            • WendellWag@aol.com
                              In a message dated 10/26/01 11:55:06 PM Eastern Daylight Time, Stolzi@aol.com ... The Library of Congress contains 24,000,000 books and yet does not contain
                              Message 14 of 16 , Oct 26, 2001
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                                In a message dated 10/26/01 11:55:06 PM Eastern Daylight Time, Stolzi@...
                                writes:


                                > The article was otherwise good but made a startling statement about the
                                > Bodleian Library containing "a copy of every book ever printed." Surely
                                > this
                                > cannot be true?
                                >

                                The Library of Congress contains 24,000,000 books and yet does not contain
                                every book ever written. I can't find out how many books are in the
                                Bodleian, but it's less than are in the British Library in London, which is
                                the largest library in the U.K. and only has 15,000,000 books. So it's not
                                anywhere close to being true.

                                Wendell Wagner


                                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                              • Juliet Blosser
                                ... Four years ago, I roomed in dorms with plenty of women who kept teddy bears. They didn t necessarily run around campus with them, but certainly several
                                Message 15 of 16 , Oct 26, 2001
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                                  On Fri, Oct 26, 2001 at 11:54:08PM -0400, Stolzi@... wrote:
                                  > In a message dated 10/26/2001 12:12:52 PM Central Daylight Time,
                                  > dbratman@... writes:
                                  >
                                  > > type of teddies these women were clutching
                                  >
                                  > There certainly are, or were, many college students in the US who were quite
                                  > fond of stuffed animals to decorate their dorm rooms, though I can't give you
                                  > the exact time period (maybe still today, I dunno). And why would they
                                  > clutch =underwear=? No, I vote for bears.
                                  >
                                  Four years ago, I roomed in dorms with plenty of women who kept teddy bears.
                                  They didn't necessarily run around campus with them, but certainly several
                                  slept with them. I vote with Mary.
                                • David S. Bratman
                                  ... A perusal of Sayers s Gaudy Night would show that even she did not consider strong-mindedness to be a universal trait of female college students.
                                  Message 16 of 16 , Oct 27, 2001
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                                    >At 08:54 PM 10/26/2001 , Mary S. wrote:

                                    >One had thought of women students in the UK as being much stronger-minded,
                                    >along Dorothy Sayers lines, but one could always be wrong.

                                    A perusal of Sayers's "Gaudy Night" would show that even she did not
                                    consider strong-mindedness to be a universal trait of female college
                                    students. Remember, Greer wasn't saying that teddy-clutching hobbitomanes
                                    were universal either.

                                    >The article was otherwise good but made a startling statement about the
                                    >Bodleian Library containing "a copy of every book ever printed." Surely
                                    this
                                    >cannot be true?

                                    The grain of truth in this absurdity is that the Bodleian is, I believe, a
                                    copyright deposit library, a standing it has held for centuries. Every
                                    book published in the UK is supposed to have a copy sent there. That
                                    doesn't mean this always happens, nor that the Bodleian is obliged to keep
                                    them all.

                                    David Bratman
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