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Re: [mythsoc] Another Tolkien Article: Lord of Literature

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  • 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 1 of 16 , Oct 25, 2001
      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 2 of 16 , Oct 25, 2001
        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 3 of 16 , Oct 25, 2001
          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 4 of 16 , Oct 26, 2001
            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 5 of 16 , Oct 26, 2001
              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 6 of 16 , Oct 26, 2001
                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 7 of 16 , Oct 26, 2001
                  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 8 of 16 , Oct 26, 2001
                    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 9 of 16 , Oct 26, 2001
                      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 10 of 16 , Oct 27, 2001
                        >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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