Sunday, 1 February 2015

Tolkien Transactions LIV

January 2015

All the usual disclaimers apply about newness, completeness and relevance (or any other implication of responsibility) :-)

These transactions are posted on my blog, Parma-kenta (Enquiry into the books) and on the Tolkien Society web-site.

This month it has suited my purposes to sort the contents under the following headlines:
1: The Birthday Toast
2: News
3: Events
4: Essays and Scholarship
5: Commentary
6: Reviews and Book News
7: Interviews
8: Tolkienian Artwork
9: Other Stuff
10:Rewarding Discussions
11: Web Sites
12: The Blog Roll
13: Sources

= = = = Birthday Toast = = = =

In celebration of Tolkien's life and works, his birthday on January 3rd is celebrated each year at 9 PM by toasting “The Professor”. This is what is known as the birthday toast.
This year we celebrated the professor's 123rd birthday – or dozenty-third, or twelfty-third, if you wish.

The Tolkien Society, Saturday, 3 January 2015, ‘Tolkien Birthday Toast 2015
The Tolkien Society's official page for the birthday toast.
Daniel Helen, Saturday, 3 January 2015, ‘Raise a glass to the Professor in honour of his 123rd birthday
Grey Havens Group, ‘To the Professor!
David Bratman, ‘to the Professor
The One Ring.net, ‘It's time for the Tolkien Toast!
James Moffat, Saturday, 3 January 2015, ‘A toast to the Professor ...
John Rateliff, , ‘Happy Tolkien's Birthday!
Erick Mack, Saturday, 3 January 2015, ‘Celebrate J.R.R. Tolkien's twelvety-third birthday with a traditional toast
Brittany Levine, Saturday, 3 January 2015, ‘J.R.R. Tolkien fans toast to 'the professor' on his 123rd birthday

<i>Ulmo Rises<7i> by Jef Murray
Jef Murray
Ulmo Rises

= = = = News = = = =

Judee Cosentino, The Sun Chronicle, Monday, 11 August 2014, ‘Diving into Tolkien's world at Wheaton College
Part of the catching up from my hiatus, a rather nice article about the 2014 MythCon at Wheaton College.

The Tolkien Society, Friday, 16 January 2015, ‘British Library to preserve earliest known Tolkien voice recording from 1929
The news that a recording that Tolkien made for the Linguaphone Conversational Course in English can be found on the British Library web-site as part of the ‘Save Our Sounds’ project. The recording can be heard here.
Also read Marcel Aubron-Bülles, Friday, 16 January 2015, ‘Listen to rare Tolkien recording: At the Tobacconist's – and help the British Library save its audio collection
Marcel Aubron-Bülles provides many details that are not available on the above sites (thanks, Marcel!).

Spark IO, Tuesday, 16 December 2014, ‘WarSting Project Demo!
Just for fun! “true courage is about knowing, not when to take an unencrypted network, but when to spare it ...”

Staffordshire Newsletter, Tuesday, 20 January 2015, ‘Follow in the footsteps of Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien on three new walks at Cannock Chase
The AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beuty) organisation and the local Walsall Ramblers have created three walks in Staffordshire that go through areas Tolkien would have visited when he was stationed in Staffordshire. Also see the event for Tuesday 3rd February.


= = = = Events = = = =

Penkridge Library, Tuesday, 3 February 2015, ‘Staffordshire J.R.R. Tolkien Trail: Great Haywood
For National Libraries Day, Penkridge Library in Staffordshire has arranged a walk guided by local historian David Robbie that will visit places which Tolkien visited and which appear in his early Book of Lost Tales. If anyone comes across a report from this walk (and even more so if it includes photographs) I would be very interested!

Penkridge Library, Tuesday, 3 February 2015, ‘Tolkien's Staffordshire Talk
Following the walk describe above, David Robbie will also give a talk at Penkridge Library on Tolkien's Staffordshire.

The Tolkien Society, Friday, 10 April 2015, ‘AGM and Springmoot 2015
Special guest is the actor and writer Robert Hardy.

Tolkien in Vermont, Friday, 10 April 2015, ‘12th Annual Tolkien in Vermont Conference
For a bit more details, see Anna Smol's post, Tolkien in Vermont 2015.

Northeast Tolkien Society, Saturday, 13 June 2015, ‘New York Tolkien Conference 2015
At Baruch College and with a keynote speech by Janet Brennan Croft.

The Tolkien Society, Thursday, 10 September 2015, ‘Oxonmoot 2015
Oxonmoot ... what else is necessary to say?


= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =

Verlyn Flieger, day, 5 July 2014, ‘Imaginary creatures -- real experience
Verlyn Flieger speaking at TEDxUMD. Verlyn Flieger speaks of one of my favourite characters in The Lord of the Rings, Frodo (Faramir, Aragorn, and Gandalf are other favourites), and of failure as an inevitable aspect of the human experience. Flieger is, as always, brilliant.

Christina Fawcett, Saturday, 3 January 2015, ‘J.R.R. Tolkien and the morality of monstrosity
A 2014 Ph.D. dissertation from the University of Glasgow. I have only had time to skim the introduction and read the table of contents, but it does look promising ...

Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, Sunday, 4 January 2015, ‘ Reader's Companion Addenda & Corrigenda
Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull have worked on the addenda and corrigenda to their books, and have updated the pages for their The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion for the original version as well as for the two revised editions. As always, I am very grateful to the two scholars for their great work and diligence.

Jonathan S. McIntosh, Tuesday, 6 January 2015, ‘Tolkien, Servant of the Secret Fire
Sometimes a new insight need not be more than connecting the dots in a new way. That is certainly what Jonathan McIntosh does here (at least in a way that is new for me), when he connects Tolkien's description of the TCBS as having “been granted some spark of fire” with Gandalf's self-identification as a “servant of the Secret Fire”. McIntosh unfolds some interesting perspectives on this way of connecting the dots.
See also the follow-up: Wednesday, 7 January 2015, ‘“Lord of the Rings” as Narya, the Ring of Fire
In which McIntosh relates the discussion to the powers of Narya, the Ring of Fire, on the hand of Gandalf, and to Gandalf's mission.

<i>Elanor & the Ent</i> by Jef Murray
Jef Murray
Elanor & the Ent
Sandra Alvarez, Tuesday, 6 January 2015, ‘Trolls in the Middle Ages
An article on the many conceptions of trolls that were bandied about in the Middle Ages. We know that Tolkien was interested in the Icelandic trolls, and Rateliff suggests that his sources, insofar as he had any specific sources, would include eddic trolls, but it as also been suggested that he asked for stories about trolls from the Icelandic au pairs.

Carl Hostetter, Saturday, 10 January 2015, ‘A Glossary of Elvish Terms in Fragments on Elvish Reincarnation
What it says, really. The ‘Fragments on Elvish Reincarnation is published in J.R.R. Tolkien, l’éffigie des Elfes. I hope that the text will soon be made available to the world-wide Tolkien community in an English publication.

Jonathan S. McIntosh, Saturday, 10 January 2015, ‘Making Things To Be What They are: Aristotle, Stoicism, and Tolkien
When I started reading this, I did not quite see where Aristotle and the Stoics might lead us, but it became clear eventually. The discussion of the relations between the objective reality of the thing, the sensing of the thing and the perception of the thing is quite interesting. Coming to this from the perspective of a modern scientist, I need to be careful of projection bias (as a physicist, for instance, my definitions of sound and smoke, obviously, make the Aristotelian and the Stoic views rather nonsensical), but it seems to me that McIntosh is creating a distinction here that I am not sure that Tolkien would agree with. As Tolkien writes in ‘On Fairy-stories’, “The incarnate mind, the tongue, and the tale are in our world coeval”, and I think that Tolkien would protest that our perception of the thing cannot be distinguished from our naming of the thing and our story-telling about the thing. To be fair, this may be what McIntosh is hinting at, and I merely fail to understand him fully.
On a somewhat related note, I was struck (probably because, being behind on my Tolkienian reading, I read these two articles within a few days) by some of the ideas expressed by Jordan Gaines Lewis in her article Friday, 30 January 2015, ‘How storytelling improves science
and particularly in the TED talk video she links to, in which she discusses our perception of the passage of time – a topic that is, of course, highly relevant in a Tolkienian context (Flieger's A Question of Time anyone?).

Pritha Kundu, Sunday, 18 January 2015, ‘The Anglo-Saxon War-Culture and The Lord of the Rings: Legacy and Reappraisal
An article from War, Literature & the Arts vol. 26 (2014) discussing The Lord of the Rings as war-literature engaging with the Anglo-Saxon war-culture.

Jane Beal, Journal of Tolkien Reasearch, Friday, 23 January 2015, ‘ Orphic Powers in J.R.R. Tolkien's Legend of Beren and Lúthien
The first article from the on-line open-access Journal of Tolkien Research. I

Simon Cook, Friday, 23 January 2015, ‘Changing faces of Britain's natives
Related, doubtlessly, to his research into the imaginative origins of Tolkien's Hobbits, this article about the (pre-Briton)natives of Britain discusses literary echoes of especially John Rhys' ideas about the pre-Briton population. I remain sceptical about the relative weight that Cook attaches to this source, but I am convinced that he is right that John Rhys' ideas constitute one of the sources for Tolkien's concept of the Hobbits.

Anna Smol, Sunday, 25 January 2015, ‘New winter series: Talks on Tolkien
There are a number of great Tolkien talks available on the web as video or sometimes as just audio. Collecting some of these as a winter series, offering some context and discussion is a brilliant idea, so start by watching this excellent talk by Verlyn Flieger and reflect on the two descriptions of Tolkien's portrayal of good and evil in The Lord of the Rings – and then keep your eye on A Single Leaf for more in this series by Anna Smol.

Anna Smol, Saturday, 31 January 2015, ‘Talks on Tolkien: Tom Shippey & the love of trees
The post and the talk deals with Tolkien's views of trees, and the wood as a metaphor. This is good stuff, and Tom Shippey is in excellent form in this talk.
Besides the topics of these two talks, Anna Smol's choice of videos also showcases some differences between two of the best and most respected Tolkien scholars, Verlyn Flieger and Tom Shippey. They both create a powerful connection to their audience, but they do so in very different ways, which is interesting to see (and which I first noticed consciously when hearing them both at the Return of the Ring conference in 2012).


= = = = Commentary = = = =

The Tolkien Society, Thursday, 1 January 2015, ‘New issue of Gramarye released
The first sentence really says it all: “A new issue of Gramarye, the Journal of the Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy, has been released featuring contributions from noted Tolkien scholars Tom Shippey and Dimitra Fimi.” Possibly with exception of the fact that Dimitra Fimi's contribution is a review of Tolkien's Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary. An interesting issue.

Richard Gundeman, Tuesday, 6 January 2015, ‘Tolkien and the machine
I am not sure that I can put my finger exactly on my problem with this article, but it seems to me to almost give a good introduction to Tolkien's idea of the Machine (I think that Tolkien's capitalisation of the concept is important in this context). Perhaps some of it is merely in details of Gundeman's choice of examples that do not always, to my mind, illustrate the point he is making about Tolkien. To Tolkien, the idea of the Machine is certainly related to the desire for power – to the desire for making the will more immediately effective in the outside world. And this is related about domination; domination of others, but also domination of the world around us, and a subjugation of the natural world to one's will. This article made me speculate to what degree Tolkien would see his concept of the Machine as related to the idea of power, of domination, over oneself?

Jason Fisher, Thursday, 8 January 2015, ‘First mainstream appearance of tengwar outside Tolkien?
As the reception of Tolkien's work is becoming a more and more common topic of study (as distinct from the study of his work itself, or, for that matter, the biographical details of his life), it becomes of course more and more relevant to ask such questions as this. Jason Fisher is here referring to ‘mainstream’ as being outside a specifically Tolkienian (or science fiction/fantasy fan) context. 1967 is certainly much earlier than I would have guessed.

Johnathan S. McIntosh, Friday, 9 January 2015, ‘Why Only Theology Can Save "The Silmarillion"
McIntosh has kindly clarified that the title is “an allusion to John Milbank's "Only Theology Saves Metaphysics."” and that he would agree my suggestion to delete the “only” in the title. Others have commented that the theology in The Silmarillion is explicit and not a matter of “new unattainable vistas” seen from afar. This is, I think, correct, but only to a certain point. While the theology is certainly explicit in theAinulindalë and the Valaquenta, I would agree that these serve to set up a theological framework, which is hinted exists also behind the remainder of the book (at times hinted at more strongly) – as a reader you feel that e.g. the tale of Lúthien and Beren would fit into that framework, and that the framework might offer some deeper explanations for the tale, but these explanations are usually only hinted at, and you are left to imagine what it might be. In that sense, I agree with McIntosh that theology does offer vistas that are relevant in this context.
Also see the follow-up postTuesday, 27 January 2015, ‘Ok, so why Angelology also saves the Silmarillion
In which the lore of the Ainur specifically is considered as offering the necessary “new unattainable vistas’. Again, I agree, though I would also add that I think that there are other such vistas than those that suggest unknown knowledge of the divine. Tolkien suggests in many places that the stories he refers to are told in full in some other account, but these accounts are rarely extant, and even for someone who reads The History of Middle-earth the stories suggest that there is much, much more to be said about the Flight of the Noldor, about Tuor and Gondolin, about Beren and Lúthien (despite the extant Lay of Leithian) and about the voyages of Eärendil.

Anna Smol, Friday, 16 January 2015, ‘Jackson's Lost Opportunity: The Death of Sister-Sons
Leaving aside the references to the recent film, Anna Smol here gives a good introduction to the importance of relation between uncle and sister-sons in medieval literature (in addition to the examples she mention, it also appears in some of the Icelandic Sagas).

John Garth, Sunday, 18 January 2015, ‘Dragon scale: Why it's impossible to size up Tolkien's Middle-earth
I am cheering John Garth on in this question! While I, educated as a physicist, appreciates the attraction of this kind of study, I can also see the dangers of reading Tolkien's texts in this way (and seeing his illustrations in this way). The main problem, as I see it, is, however, that this kind of reading does not tell the reader anything about Tolkien and his work. It can, admittedly, be good fun, but ultimately it does not advance one's understanding or appreciation of Tolkien or his work. This, of course, does not mean that it cannot be worthwhile or interesting or that you cannot learn from it – just not about Tolkien, his work, or his sub-created Secondary World.
It is a well-known fact that we see what we are looking for. This means that by mining the texts in this way (e.g. for information to help you build a chart comparing dragon sizes), you blind yourself to other perspectives. These kinds of investigations do not tell us anything about Tolkien, but it may tell us something about our own filters of applicability.


= = = = Reviews and Book News = = = =

David Bratman, Saturday, 23 August 2014, ‘John Carey speaks
A review/commentary on memoir of John Carey, The Unexpected Professor. The memoir includes stories and negative opinions about Tolkien, but that does, of course, not mean that it cannot be an enjoyable read – sometimes the autobiography can even be more fun to read if the writer is thorougly unlikeable.
Also see the follow-up, Monday, 25 August 2014, ‘Tolkien's mildew
Following up on Carey's claim that “green mildew grew on [Tolkien's academic] gown”.

Kris Swank, Monday, 5 January 2015, ‘3 new Tolkien/Fantasy CFPs
Calls for papers for issue 6 of Silver Leaves, for the New York Tolkien Conference, and for the Real Myth and Mithril Symposium held by the Grey Havens Group.

John Rateliff, Thursday, 15 January 2015, ‘My New Book is released!
About the release of A Brief History of The Hobbit, the abbreviated (by about 40%) version of Rateliff's History of The Hobbit, which is now available.

David Day, Tuesday, 20 January 2015, ‘Open Letter to Mr. Nelson Goering
NOTE: The letter from David Day has since been deleted and is no longer available. I have nonetheless decided to leave these comments here.
David Day has long been infamous in the more serious Tolkien circles for publishing books containing a high number of fallacious statements – either outright factual errors or the presentation of Day's own inventions as if they were so stated by Tolkien. While a certain number of errors are inevitable in any large work (there are certainly also errors in the reference works usually recommended), the sheer volume of fallacious statements in Days works is wholly unacceptable for any reference work, regardless of the audience.
It would have been appropriate for Mr Day to acknowledge the many fallacies in his work and to work to correct them (see e.g. the excellent and meticulous addenda and corrigenda kept by Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond for how to do this), but instead Mr Day chooses to disparage a respected scholar and Tolkien expert (currently teaching an on-line course on Tolkien and Beowulf together with Prof. Tom Shippey for Signum University) and to deride the knowledge of Tolkien experts.
While I would agree that a number of the comments that have been directed at Mr Day are, abusive, insulting, and infantile, Mr Goering has never been either, and instead of engaging with honest criticism as an opportunity to improve (thought that is probably at least twenty years too late by now anyway), Mr Day has decided to lash out with insulting abuse of his own (albeit considerably more eloquent than much of the personal abuse that has been directed at himself). Ad hominem attacks do not justify ad hominem attacks, and much less directed at someone who never made an ad hominem attack in the first place.
All I can say is that while I do sympathise with anyone who has had to face the kind of personal abuse Mr Day has suffered over his Tolkien books, his response here does not earn him any respect in my book.

John Rateliff, Tuesday, 27 January 2015, ‘My Newest Publication!
About the publication of Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J. R. R. Tolkien (edited Leslie A. Donavan and Janet Brennan Croft and published by Mythopoeic Press). Rateliff has a paper in this volume – indeed an essential paper that needed writing, and I am happy that Rateliff decided to do it. I will look forward to getting and reading this book.


= = = = Interviews = = = =

Moriah Carty, Thursday, 15 January 2015, ‘Understanding the middle ages through Tolkien
An interview-article from the Daily Lobo about a Tolkien class investigating the difference between medieval reality and medieval fantasy that it offered at the University of New Mexico and taught by Megan Abrahamson.

Tobias Wolf / Marcel Aubron-Bülles, Tuesday, 27 January 2015, ‘Guest post: My personal 2014 top ten list of Tolkien publications
German Tolkien collector Tobias Wolf's list of top-ten personal favourites among the Tolkien publications issued in 2014.


= = = = Tolkienian Artwork = = = =

<i>Treebeard, Merry, & Pippin</i> by Jef Murray
Jef Murray
Treebeard, Merry, & Pippin
Jef Murray, Sunday, 25 January 2015, ‘Ulmo Rises

Jef Murray, Sunday, 25 January 2015, ‘Old Man Willow

Graeme, Monday, 26 January 2015, ‘Two random Hobbits fishing

Jef Murray, Tuesday, 27 January 2015, ‘Treebeard, Merry, & Pippin

Jef Murray, Tuesday, 27 January 2015, ‘Entwife

Jef Murray, Tuesday, 27 January 2015, ‘Elanor & the Ent

= = = = Other Stuff = = = =

Maria Popova, Friday, 14 March 2014, ‘Einstein on Fairy Tales and Education
I recently came across this old piece about Einstein and his thoughts on the importance of reading Fairy-stories and found it at least tangentially interesting in a Tolkien context.

Colin Marshall, Thursday, 14 August 2014, ‘The 1985 Soviet TV Adaptation of The Hobbit: Cheap and Yet Strangely Charming
A short description of the 1985 Russian TV-adaptation of The Hobbit, finding that “it does retain a kind of handcrafted charm.”

David Bratman, Friday, 2 January 2015, ‘I received this hoary query ...
David Bratman on the (frankly, rather foolish) question of why not let the great eagles fly someone with the Ring to Mount Doom. The real answer is of course the one Bratman gives, but (trying to see the positive side of it) it attests to Tolkien's sub-creational success and skill that readers persist in wanting a story-internal answer (and yes, as Bratman points out, “there are many holes in its history that the author never bothered, or never figured out how, to fill.”).
For that purpose, and in addition to the points brought up by Bratman, someone recently – I have unfortunately forgotten who or where – also pointed out the eagles' reluctance in The Hobbit to fly the company “anywhere near where men lived. ‘They would shoot at us with their great bows of yew’”. People also tend to forget the limited range of an eagle, particularly when carrying another person.
Todd Van Luling, Saturday, 3 January 2015, ‘5 Things You Didn't Know About 'The Lord Of The Rings'
I tend to skip all these ‘N facts you didn't know’ about Tolkienian topics because generally it's some X facts that I know better than they, and some N - X facts that they got wholly or partially wrong. In this case I admit that it was 1 fact they knew better than I ... and 4 that they got wholly or partially wrong.
I will recommend anyone to read Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull's cautionary tale on the LotR Fanatics Plaza: ‘Truth or Consequences: A Cautionary Tale of Tolkien Studies’. I have also posted a more thorough walk-through of the worst errors of the Huffington Post piece there: ‘Huffington Post's five facts.

Marcel Aubron-Bülles, Friday, 9 January 2015, ‘How Google screws with fantasy authors: Tolkien, Pratchett, Rowling, Martin and more
Some reflections on the wierdness that one may encounter when trying to enter one's favour authors in Google search – and looking at the autocomplete suggestions. I wonder what this may say about the on-line community – though I am not sure that I really want to know the answer to that question.

Andrew Wells, Sunday, 11 January 2015, ‘Some old friends
One of the more charming practices of the Tolkien Society Facebook Group is that of the ‘shelfie” – photographs of your Tolkien bookshelves. These shelfies have some brilliant books, including some of Tolkien's sources.

Jan Swoope, Saturday, 31 January 2015, ‘Welcome to Middle-earth: Step into one professor's fascination for Tolkien's world
About Dr. Leslie Stratyner at the Mississippi University for Women and her love for, and teaching of, Tolkien.


= = = = Rewarding Discussions = = = =

The LotR Fanatics Plaza, , ‘Beowulf - Reactions and Reviews
A collection of reviews of Tolkien's Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary with comments and further thoughts. This is is the most comprehensive collection of reactions to Tolkien's book that I have yet come across.


= = = = Web Sites = = = =

Perhaps it is time to trot out one or two of the good oldies. What about a couple of FAQs about Tolkien and his work?

Steuard Jensen, ‘The Tolkien Meta-FAQ
A FAQ that references a number of FAQs developed mainly in association with the Tolkien usenet groups.

Stan Brown, ‘FAQ of the Rings
A FAQ dedicated to a specific topic, the Rings of Power. An excellent resource for questions on these.

<i>Old Man Willow</i> by Jef Murray
Jef Murray
Old Man Willow

= = = = The Blog Roll = = = =

These are blogs you really should be following yourself if you're interested in Tolkien ...
Contents from these blogs will only be reported here if there is something that I find particularly interesting, or posts that fit with a monthly theme. However, you will find below links to monthly archives of posts for months where the blog has featured interesting posts with at least some Tolkien connection. In some cases you may find a comment, if I wish to recommend something particularly.

Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond, ‘Too Many Books and Never Enough
Archive of posts from January 2015

Jason Fisher, ‘Lingwë -- Musings of a Fish
Archive of posts from January 2015

John D. Rateliff -- ‘Sacnoth's Scriptorium
Archive of posts from January 2015

John Garth, ‘John Garth
Archive of posts from January 2015

Jonathan S. McIntosh, ‘The Flame Imperishable
Archive of posts from January 2015

Marcel Aubron-Bülles, ‘The Tolkienist
Archive of posts from January 2015

David Bratman, ‘Kalimac's Journal
Archive of posts from January 2015

Anna Smol, ‘A Single Leaf
Archive of posts from January 2015

Various (Bradford Eden, ed.) Journal of Tolkien Research (JTR)

Various, The Tolkien Society
Archive of posts from January 2015

Simon Cook, Ye Machine
Archive of posts from January 2015

Southfarthing Mathom
Archive of posts from January 2015
The Southfarthings are reading The Lord of the Rings and are still in the early parts of book I, so there is ample time if you wish to catch up and follow their discussions.

Michael Martinez, ‘Middle-earth
Archive of posts from January 2015

Pieter Collier, ‘The Tolkien Library
See the front page for a list of recent posts.

Grey Havens Group, ‘The Grey Havens Group
Archive of posts from January 2015

Bruce Charlton, ‘Tolkien's The Notion Club Papers
Archive of posts from January 2015

= = = = Sources = = = =

New sources in January 2015
I have added Jonathan S. McIntosh' blog, The Flame Imperishable to the list of regular blogs to follow (being, frankly, a bit surprised – and embarrased – to find it wasn't there).

I have also added the blog of the Grey Havens Group, the Tolkien Society for Boulder County, The Grey Havens Group.

For older sources, see http://parmarkenta.blogspot.com/p/sources.html

Friday, 2 January 2015

Tolkien Transactions LIII

December 2014

First of all, I hope you have all had a very happy Yule, and I wish you all a prosperous, happy, and Tolkienian New Year!


Next, I will remind you of the 2015 birthday toast on Saturday, January 3rd, when you are supposed to toast to “The Professor” at 21:00 (9 PM) local time. For much more information, see the Tolkien Society's 2015 birthday toast pages – and don't forget that you can join the Tolkien Society ...

Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.

One advantage of writing up these things myself is that I get to be the sole arbiter of what I find interesting and Tolkien-related – the two primary criteria for inclusion in these transactions (besides the obvious one, that I must have seen it). Besides this brief notice, I shall therefore militantly ignore anything to do with the recent Hobbit film as it, by my judgement, fulfills neither of these criteria.


These transactions are posted on my blog, Parma-kenta (Enquiry into the books) and on the Tolkien Society web-site.

This month it has suited my purposes to sort the contents under the following headlines:
1: News
2: Events
3: Essays and Scholarship
4: Commentary
5: Reviews and Book News
6: Interviews
7: Tolkienian Artwork
8: Other Stuff
9: Rewarding Discussions
10: In Print
11: Web Sites
12: The Blog Roll
13: Sources

= = = = News = = = =

Emma Townshend, The Independent, Wednesday, 6 August 2014, ‘Tolkien's black pine: Why do we love old trees?
One of the articles that got produced on the news that the famous black pine of the Oxford Botanic Garden were to be cut down due to it posing a danger to the public.

Emma Townshend, The Belfast Telegraph, Wednesday, 6 August 2014, ‘Tolkien fans' fury after tree collapses
Another article (by the same author as above, but in a different paper) on the felling of Oxford Botanic Garden's Pinus Nigra, this one focusing on the outrageous agression by certain people claiming to be fans of Tolkien.

Cheezburger, Friday, 22 August 2014, ‘All Good Journeys Must Come to the End
Just for fun ...

Cheryl Eddy, Wednesday, 3 December 2014, ‘Sotheby's Is Auctioning These Rare Tolkien Illustrations
A couple of interesting illustrations were up for sale at Sotheby's on 9 December along with some other “antiquarian books and manuscripts from an English country house”. The Tolkien items are two original illustrations by John Blanche of the Battle of Five Armies and the Downfall of Númenor respectively. The catalogue also includes many other wonderful items that have no relation to Tolkien.

Dimitra Fimi, Friday, 12 December 2014, ‘Tolkien and the Welsh language (and other news)
News on various projects that Dimitra Fimi has been involved with, including a couple of BBC iWonder guides.

Forces War Records, Friday, 12 December 2014, ‘Did Trench Fever Save 'The Hobbit'?
The information here is certainly not new (it is available in John Garth's Tolkien and the Great War), but I don't think that the admission and discharge book from the Casualty Clearing Station of the Officers' Hospital has been published before, and the two-day casualty statistics (38 dead, 63 missing and 166 wounded) for the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers are different period than the one Garth reports (41 dead or missing and 117 wounded), but are presumably for the same battle from 19th – 22nd October, but for a different period, or otherwise different records show different numbers.

N. Smerker, Wednesday, 17 December 2014, ‘Beowulf Through Tolkien
Announcing a course this spring exploring Beowulf through Tolkien and Vice Versa, taught by Professor Tom Shippey and Nelson Goering.

Tom Boggioni, Friday, 19 December 2014, ‘Swiss Tolkien collector opens lavish museum with its own Hobbit-hole and Balrog
The Greisinger Museum in Jenins is hardly news, but it's brilliant to see it making the news. The article explains what you can see at the museum.

Joe Gilronan
Do not disturb the water

= = = = Events = = = =

Shaun Gunner, Monday, 8 December 2014, ‘Tolkien Society Seminar 2015
On the Tolkien Society Seminar, to be held on the 4th July 2015 at the Hilton Hotel in Leeds. The theme in 2015 will be Tolkien's earliest works, through to his service in the Great War. This seems almost made for the likes of John Garth and Andrew Higgins, which makes me truly sad that I shan't be able to go.

The Tolkien Society, Wednesday, 24 December 2014, ‘Merry Christmas from the Tolkien Society
With the nice artwork by Anke Eißmann that was also on the Christmas card that was sent to members of the Tolkien Society.


= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =

Medievalist.net
Highlights with some Tolkien connection from December:
Viking Hall discovered in Sweden” – Interesting find with threads to Lejre and Beowulf (8 December)
Norse Elements in the work of J.R.R. Tolkien” – A 2002 essay by Martin Wettstein looking into some of the Old Norse elements in Tolkien's work – some of these are possibly not entirely as straight-forward as Wettstein makes it appear, but overall it seems a reasonable introduction. (15 December)
‘In the hilt is fame’: resonances of medieval swords and sword-lore in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings” – A reference to a 2006 article from Mythlore vol. 25. But Mythlore is always worth an extra mention. (17 December)
Beowulf mini-series being created for television” – One should probably not start rejoicing before seeing the result, so let us be hopeful, but still await the 13 episodes from ITV before getting worked up ... (19 December)
Can you answer the Riddles of The Hobbit?” – I somehow find it difficult to believe that any of my readers will have problems remembering the answers to the ‘Riddles in the Dark’ in The Hobbit. (20 December)
The Year in Review: 1014” – Just because that idea is so good fun and therefore worth sharing :-) (31 December)

University of Oxford, Monday, 1 December 2014, ‘Tolkien Podcasts
A collection of podcasts with the keyword "Tolkien". The latest contributions are three podcasts from December 1st from the ‘Tolkien in Oxford’ at Merton College with Andy Orchard leading in true Tolkienian style with recitation from Beowulf.

Marcel Aubron-Bülles, Thursday, 4 December 2014, ‘Visit Tolkien's Birmingham (ca. 1890) via the British Library's Flickr
Pictures and images have always been important in the study of Tolkien and his work. There are, of course, his own work collected e.g. in Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, The Art of the Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, the upcoming Art of The Lord of the Rings as well as illustrations in various books, but also pictures from Tolkien's life (e.g. The Tolkien Family Album). This find of Marcel Aubron-Bülles' of images of Birmingham in Tolkien's earliest years is a valuable contribution to this, as it makes it easier for us to imagine the world in which Tolkien grew up.
The images from the book The Making of Birmingham can be found here, and you can also download a pdf of the whole book.

John Garth, Tuesday, 9 December 2014, ‘Tolkien's death of Smaug: American inspiration revealed
The parallels to Longfellow's Hiawatha have long been known and acknowledged (Tolkien himself indicated that he knew Longfellow's poem), but John Garth here extends the likely source connections, including the special death of Smaug in The Hobbit. Having come to expect Garth's work to be well-written, lively, interesting, and well-argued, I suppose it is unavoidable that he will some day fall short of the standard he has set – but that day has yet to come.

Emil Johansson, Saturday, 13 December 2014, ‘Character Mentions in the Lord of the Rings
Emil Johansson has produced a number of very nice graphs and statistics on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, in this case an overview of the number of times a character is mentioned on any given page of The Lord of the Rings. Such graphs can be very revealing – e.g. by showing how much any given character is referred to when they are not present on stage in the narrative (as e.g. Frodo and Sam during book III, or the rest of the Company of the Ring during book IV).

Simon Cook, Friday, 19 December 2014, ‘Concerning Hobbits
I am always suspicious whenever people speak of any source as the source for some concept in Tolkien's writings – in most cases (certainly when the concept is something more complex than a single word), the use of the definite singular form is unwarranted, but in most cases the use of the indefinite could save that: suggesting that something might be a source for that concept (of course we also get a number of claims where even that is unwarranted).
Simon Cook takes a look at John Rhys' peculiar ideas about a race of british aborigines predating the Celts, and it does indeed seem likely that this does add something to the mix that is the Hobbits, but to claim that it is the only, or even just primary, source for the Hobbit race seem to me unlikely.

Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, Sunday, 21 December 2014, ‘Lord of the Rings Comparison 2
A valuable comparison of the text in new editions of The Lord of the Rings including the new editions from the last three years. A must read!

Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, Tuesday, 30 December 2014, ‘Tom Bombadil Addenda & Corrigenda
Another chance to exercise the superlatives! This set of addenda and corrigenda to their recent pocket edition of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, includes discussion of some of their decisions on what to include and what to omit from the volume, of some possibilities that they didn't consider, and on an error. It also includes a passage from a 1954 letter by Tolkien to Nevill Coghill, the quoted passage giving Tolkien's answer to Coghill's request for explanation of Tom Bombadil.


= = = = Commentary = = = =

Elliander Pictures and King Edward's School, Sunday, 30 November 2014, ‘Tolkien's Great War
A wonderful half-hour film about Tolkien and his TCBS friends in the Great War. Told by John Garth and faculty members from King Edward's School in Birmingham.

Thomas J. West, Tuesday, 2 December 2014, ‘Tolkien and the Political Pleasures of Sadness
I am not sure what the ‘political’ is doing in the title, but I think West captures something about the sense of sadness and loss in Tolkien's Hobbit work. My only quibble with this is that West omits discussion of the other side of it – the hope that is also present in Tolkien's work. Verlyn Flieger has an excellent (of course!) discussion of this in her introduction to Splintered Light.

Robbie Collin, Saturday, 6 December 2014, ‘The Hobbit: Tolkien's adventures in Hollywood
On some, though not all (I know that was a Swedish film in the seventies, and I also believe that there was at least one more Russian production in the Soviet era) of the many attempts to make a film-adaptation of The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. All of these have things to commend them as their creators in each case added things to give them their “particular force or individual life,” (to use Tolkien's expression), but personally I am still hoping for something that I would recognise as Tolkien's' story (Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring was almost there ... almost).

Josh Glancy, Sunday, 7 December 2014, ‘Hobbit guide to our warring world
This article provides an OK, but not excellent summary of some of the points made by John Garth in Tolkien and the Great War (which Glancy acknowledges) and by Tom Shippey e.g. in Author of the Century (which he fails to acknowledge). For a better presentation, read the next article from the Mirror, or, better yet, read Garth's book.

Warren Manger, Sunday, 7 December 2014, ‘The Hobbit: Real life battles that inspired wars of Middle Earth [sic]
Based on an interview with John Garth, this article looks at the influences of Tolkien's experiences on his fiction. If I could, I'd rather put a geas on all the readers to go read John Garth's book, which gives a fuller, and far more rich, picture.

Rumeana Jahangir, BBC News, Sunday, 7 December 2014, ‘The Hobbit: How England inspired Tolkien's Middle Earth
While I am among the first to applaud any effort to bring the Shire home to England, but preferably this should avoid baseless claims such as Lydney Park (which Tolkien probably did not visit), various pairs of tall structures in Birmingham, or the Roman ring inscribed with ‘Silvianus’. The other examples in this list are, however, all firmly attested examples of how Tolkien found inspiration for his sub-creation in the lands he knew and had visited.

Dimitra Fimi, Monday, 8 December 2014, ‘Why do the Elves in The Hobbit sound Welsh?
A quick introduction to Tolkien's Welsh connection. Presented by Dimitra Fimi, this is an excellent introduction, and even if there is little or no new information, it is worth going through for the footage and the presentation.

Richard W. Rohlin, Thursday, 11 December 2014, ‘Richard Rohlin on 'King Sheave'
Discussing Tolkien's poem King Sheave, Rohlin takes a look at the etymological origins of 57 roots in the first stanza of the poem. The result is interesting, but I am afraid the sample is too small for a statistical analysis to be useful for any conclusions – in particular if the analysis appears to confirm the working hypothesis (remember to always look for evidence that will falsify your hypothesis). I hope Rohlin will find time to extend the analysis to all words in the entire poem, as this will provide a much better sample upon which one can actually conclude anything.

Damien Walter, Friday, 12 December 2014, ‘Tolkien's myths are a political fantasy
Well, of course they are ... what did you think? Though I like Walter's point about science using the language of storytelling, or myth, to convey its insight into the world, I think his piece is fatally flawed from the outset. The error, as I see it, lies in the presumption that, because I like a particular work of art, or the works of a particular artist, I need to agree, or even justify, the political or religious views that have shaped the art I like. This is, frankly, utter nonsense!
I am well aware that Tolkien's writings are shaped by his views, of which I disagree with many. But in my opinion, it is better to be able to enjoy something you disagree with than to close yourself to anything disagreeable. Who knows if my enjoyment of Tolkien might not help me grow into a better human being, precisely because he exposes me to ideas that I normally disagree with?

Huffington Post, Sunday, 14 December 2014, ‘7 Reasons Why 'Harry Potter' and 'Lord of the Rings' Should Be Required Reading in School
I don't disagree that the Harry Potter books (perhaps particularly the first three or four books of the series) and The Lord of the Rings would be good choices for schools, but some of the arguments here are, in my opinion, more indicative of the unknown writer's own enthusiasm than of considered thought. She also seems unable to imagine that the books that have so enthused her might not enthuse everyone, nor that some of the books that have bored her might enthuse others, and this also weakens her argument.


= = = = Reviews and Book News = = = =

David P. Goldman, Monday, 1 December 2014, ‘How Tolkien Ennobled Popular Culture (While Star Wars Degraded It)
Most of this post is a review of an extensive 2007 review of Tolkien's The Children of Húrin from a specifically Christian perspective. While I often find the blinkered myopia of those taking this perspective to be problematic, it is nonetheless a perspective that one certainly cannot ignore when trying to understand Tolkien, and Goldman does not ignore other perspectives.

Morgan Thomsen, Thursday, 11 December 2014, ‘Tolkien's 'Fragments on Elvish Reincarnation'
A description of the publication, in the French La Feullie de la Compagnie
, of three short texts by Tolkien on Elvish reincarnation. We can only hope that this material will also soon be available to an international audience.
Emil Johansson, Monday, 15 December 2014, ‘Tolkien's beautiful letters from Father Christmas to his children
It has been the season for some attention on the Letters from Father Christmas. Emil Johansson shows a few images, including the 1933 letter with transcript.

James Heiser, Wednesiday, 17 December 2014, ‘A Review of J.R.R. Tolkien's "Beowulf"
As it says, a review of Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary. The reviewer finds much to commend the book, saying that “readers may readily come to regard” Tolkien's book as “both readily accessible to the popular reader and of substantial merit to scholars in the midst of their studies.”

Theresa Jackson, Thursday, 18 December 2014, ‘Biography Gives Quick Look At Tolkien
A review of Devin Brown's biography of Tolkien, Tolkien: How an Obscure Oxford Professor Wrote The Hobbit and Became the Most Beloved Author of the Century. While this review is quite positive, it is also clear from this review that Brown's book doesn't really add anything new compared to the biographical information in Carpenter's Biography, Garth's Tolkien and the Great War and Scull and Hammond's Companion and Guide – three books that I will strongly urge anyone interested in Tolkien's biography to buy.

Jonathan Witt and Jay W. Richards, Wednesday, 24 December 2014, ‘Are Hobbits For Hippies? Or, How Would J.R.R. Tolkien Vote?
What better than get a chance to present your own book? Getting the authors to write about the topic of their book seems a good solution, provided you agree with the authors' world view, but it is hardly the road to a balanced review. Witt and Richards, from everything I have seen about their book, mostly provide us with an example of a very strong projection bias: projecting their own views onto Tolkien and then going to the source to confirm their pre-made conclusions. It is true that Tolkien in many ways should be considered conservative, but he would nonetheless have been appalled at the positions of the people who self-identify as conservatives in modern American or British (or for that matter, Danish) politics. Not that he would have liked the alternatives any better – he would have found some small aspects to agree with in all positions, and much more to be horrified over: Tolkien's views simply do not exist on the modern political compass.

Ilia Blinderman, Friday, 26 December 2014, ‘Read J. R. R. Tolkien's "Letter From Father Christmas" To His Young Children
Another article about Tolkien's Letters from Father Christmas, this time featuring the 1925 letter with transcript.


= = = = Interviews = = = =

Carlotte and Denis Plimmer, Monday, 8 December 2014, ‘JRR Tolkien: 'Film my books? It's easier to film The Odyssey'
Originally published in The Telegraph magazine on 22 March 1968 under the title ‘The Man Who Understands Hobbits’, this is the famous Plimmer interview with Tolkien, who was not wholly satisfied with it, though evidently the Plimmers did take much of his commentary to heart (they had sent Tolkien a draft for the interview, to which he sent a ten-page typewritten commentary).

Wayne G. Hammond, Friday, 26 December 2014, ‘Love, Career, Tolkien
The full text of Wayne Hammond's answers to the questions for last month's interview in the Williams Record along with some additional comments.


= = = = Tolkienian Artwork = = = =

Various, December 2014, ‘There and Back Again
The flavour of the month for December 2014 at John Howe's web-site was “There and Back Again” which, unsurprisingly, included many hobbit-inspired pictures by the various contributors.

Graeme Skinner, Wednesday, 10 December 2014, ‘In the Shire
A nice little hobbit hole with a blue door.

Joe Gilronan, Thursday, 11 December 2014, ‘New painting Moria "Do not disturb the water"
The fellowship is gathered on the Eregion side of the lake before the West gate.

Graeme Skinner, Sunday, 14 December 2014, ‘For Sale by Auction
The notice of the auction on the gate as Bilbo returned.


= = = = Other Stuff = = = =

BBC, ‘BBC Archival Footage: In Their Own Words British Authors – J.R.R. Tolkien
Since BBC have themselves linked to this Youtube video from their archives, I presume it is OK to do it here as well. First aired in 1968, this video (and part 2, which is linked in the description) features an interview with Tolkien by BBC's John Izzard in the BBC series In Their Own Words British Authors.

Austin Gilkeson, Monday, 8 December 2014, ‘How I Defeated the Tolkien Estate
As everyone reading this regularly will know, I am pretty much a humourless nerd when it comes to Tolkien, so you will not be interested in what I think of this satire. Better men than I have found it hilarious (I did smile, several times, even!)

T.J. West, Friday, 12 December 2014, ‘Teaching Tolkien: Biographical, Textual, and Historical Approaches
Some speculations into how one might go about teaching an entry-level course on Tolkien, discussing various possible approaches to such a course, and what kind of books might go into it.

Laurence Dodds, Friday, 12 December 2014, ‘The Hobbit: How the 'clomping foot of nerdism' destroyed Tolkien's dream - and the fantasy genre
It's one of these occasions where one can only shrug and say that everybody are entitled to an opinion, but not all opinions are equal. While I have certainly encountered a handful (or less) of Tolkien fans on-line whose behaviour might fall close enough to the charicature that Dodds paints to make it at least somewhat amusing, the vast majority of people I have met in a Tolkien context have been very different from this. If we were to take this seriously, one might have expected a bit of research into the group of people that one tries to paint with a broad brush. If Dodds prefers The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings, then that is all very fine, but I don't see the point of having to justify this by claiming that all the people who feel differently have destroyed the entire fantasy genre.

Olivia Goldhill, Friday, 12 December 2014, ‘The Hobbit: Welcome to the world of Tolkien mania
A somewhat more kindly description of Tolkien enthusiasts, including a favourable description of the Tolkien Society.

CGP Grey, Wednesday, 17 December 2014, ‘The Lord of the Rings Mythology Explained
I have seen many references to this video, and I applaud the idea, and I think they have done better than could have been expected (given the aim to explain Tolkien's mythology in little more than 4 minutes), but there are still too many errors. Besides what we might call linguistic errors (misspelling Saruman's name and erroneous Elvish word-forms), there are some cases of error by oversimplification (including presenting speculative ideas as fact). The most egregious error that I noticed was the misrepresentation of the Gift of Ilúvatar to Men – for some strange reason most commenters fail to realise that the all-important aspect of this is the freedom from fate while alive in Arda, and that mortality is the less important side-effect.

Daniel Helen, Saturday, 27 December 2014, ‘Who are the armies in the Battle of Five Armies anyway?
A look at the five armies, and who they were, including Tolkien's early notes as described in John Rateliff's History of the Hobbit.


= = = = Rewarding Discussions = = = =

LotR Fanatics Plaza, December 2014, ‘Thread: LOTR edition that Tolkien would want me to buy...?
This old (2012) thread was updated in December with some very interesting information regarding new and upcoming editions of The Lord of the Rings from HarperCollins ... and the promise (since fulfilled) from Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond (user Findegil) of an update of their post comparing editions of The Lord of the Rings was also very good news indeed!

LotR Fanatics Plaza, November – December 2014, ‘Tolkien's views of Paganism
A very interesting thread following up on a short discussion on Facebook. This discussion also attempts to look into how Tolkien imagined the pagan's world view and the pagan's outlook.


= = = = In Print = = = =

I received a big envelope from The Tolkien Society this month, containing a Christmas card, Amon Hen no. 250 and Mallorn no. 55 – many goodies there!

Volume 11 of Tolkien Studies has started arriving, but not yet in Hedehusene – hopefully I will receive it shortly ...


= = = = Web Sites = = = =

Blog, “Queerly Different
I do hope that West will continue to occasionally blog on Tolkienian matters (his intention was to declare December 2014 as ‘Tolkien Appreciation Month’), as there are some new perspectives that I find interesting.


= = = = The Blog Roll = = = =

These are blogs you really should be following yourself if you're interested in Tolkien ...
Contents from these blogs will only be reported here if there is something that I find particularly interesting, or posts that fit with a monthly theme. However, you will find below links to monthly archives of posts for months where the blog has featured interesting posts with at least some Tolkien connection. In some cases you may find a headline for a post, if I wish to recommend it particularly.

Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond (S&H), ‘Too Many Books and Never Enough
Archive of posts from December 2014

Douglas A. Anderson (DAA), ‘Tolkien and Fantasy
Archive of posts from December 2014

John D. Rateliff (JDR) -- ‘Sacnoth's Scriptorium
Archive of posts from December 2014

John Garth, ‘John GarthArchive of posts from December 2014

Marcel Aubron-Bülles (MB), ‘The Tolkienist
Archive of posts from December 2014

David Bratman (DB), ‘Kalimac's Journal
Archive of posts from December 2014

Morgan Thomsen (MT), ‘Mythoi
The post from December 2014

Various, The Tolkien Society (TS)
Archive of posts from December 2014

Simon Cook, Ye Machine
Archive of posts from December 2014

Emil Johansson (EJ), ‘LotR Project Blog
Archive of posts from December 2014

Michael Martinez (MM), ‘Middle-earth
Archive of posts from December 2014

Bruce Charlton (BC), ‘Tolkien's The Notion Club Papers
Archive of posts from December 2014

= = = = Sources = = = =

No new sources in December 2014

For older sources, see http://parmarkenta.blogspot.com/p/sources.html

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Tolkien Transactions LII

November 2014

Well, I'm back ...
After a hiatus of three months, I return with the Tolkien Transactions for the month of November 2014. This means that I have skipped the transactions for August through October, except for the few bits that I had prepared before I got too busy, and the few bits that are too good to miss out on :-)

The latter – the pieces from August through October that are too good to miss – will probably be appearing over the next couple of issues ... just because.

All the usual disclaimers apply about newness, completeness and relevance (or any other implication of responsibility) :-)

These transactions are posted on my blog, Parma-kenta (Enquiry into the books) and on the Tolkien Society web-site.

This month it has suited my purposes to sort the contents under the following headlines:
1: News
2: Events
3: Essays and Scholarship
4: Commentary
5: Reviews and Book News
6: Interviews
7: Tolkienian Artwork
8: Other Stuff
9: The Blog Roll
10: Sources

Oh, and a very merry Yule to everybody!
Joe Gilronan, 2014-11-28
First Snowfall, The Shire

= = = = News = = = =

The Tolkien Society ‘News
Do remember to regularly check – or, even better, subcribe to – the news from the Tolkien Society. This is one of the most exhaustive sources of various news about Tolkien (and more or less related matters, including news about Peter Jackson).
Daniel Helen, Friday, 1 August 2014, ‘BBC launches online guide on Tolkien and the Great War
The first I saw about the BBC iWonder guide on The Lord of the Rings and WWI:
Various, BBC, ‘How was The Lord of the Rings influenced by World War One?
An elementary guide to the question raised by the title. I remain unconvinced with regards to the implications of the Nazgûl part (the latter half of part 3), but overall the guide is fine as far as it goes.

Daniel Helen, Monday, 4 August 2014, ‘Tolkien and Fantasy Online Courses returns September 2014
About the on-line courses taught by Dr. Dimitra Fimi.

David Emerson, Mythopoeic Society, Sunday, 10 August 2014, ‘Mythopoeic Awards: 2014 Winners Announced
Congratulations to all the winners, but of course particularly to Jason Fisher for winning the Scholarship Award for Inklings Studies with his book, Tolkien and the Study of His Sources: Critical Essays.

Oxford Today, Friday, 15 August 2014, ‘Farewell, Tolkien's Tree
The story of the final defeat of the Pinus Nigra in the Oxford Botanic Garden, known for being a special favourite of Tolkien's, hit just about the turn of July, with this being released in mid-August. See also the news from the Tolkien Society on 30 July, Tolkien’s favourite tree to be cut down.

David Oberhelman, The Mythopoeic Society, Thursday, 30 October 2014, ‘Mythopoeic Awards 2015: Call for Nominations
Members of the Mythopoeic Society have until February 1st to nominate books for the 2015 Mythopoeic Awards. If you are not a member yet, then hurry off to http://www.mythsoc.org/join/ to join.

= = = = Events = = = =

Mythgard Institute, , ‘Mythmoot II Proceedings
Proceedings (a mix of abstracts, full texts and videos) from the second Mythmoot.

ASU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, ‘Politics in Tolkien: What We Can Learn From Hobbits
A guest lecture with Tom Shippey to be held on 15 April 2015. If you know of anyone going, or if you find a report from this event elsewhere, I would love to know about it.

= = = = Essays and Scholarship = = = =

Medievalist.net
Highlights with some Tolkien connection from November:
The Hero’s Journey: Beowulf, Film, and Masculinity” – In her bachelor thesis from Arizona, Katherine Marie Ismeurt looks at The Hero's Journey: Beowulf, Film, and Masculinity. (2 November)

Jef Murray, 2014-11-29
Fireside Journeys
Simon Cook, Wednesday, 6 August 2014, ‘Scef or Scyld? (Tolkien's English Mythology revisited)
Despite the obvious attraction of a theory that sets my home area at the centre of much of Tolkien's imaginative work (I do live on Zealand, a mere 15 km from the presumed site of Heorot – less than 10 miles), I do not rush to embrace Cook's theories. Or, perhaps rather, I am willing to accept them as a contributing factor in that complex network of influences and inspirations that, along with a healthy dose of original, sub-creative genius, brought about Tolkien's fiction, but I hesitate to assign a greater importance to these influences than to many of the other.

Michael Flowers, Monday, 11 August 2014, ‘In Tolkien's Genuine Footsteps
A well-written blog/essay on Tolkien's connections to East Yorkshire and particularly the Holderness area and Roos. It is good to see these actual connections emphasised in a time where we are faced left and right with fallacious claims of connections to the Burren, to Ethiopia or to Pawnee legends – claims based on spurious reasoning. In this case, the research, however, is solid, and we still get to add details to our understanding of these connections as e.g. Michael Flowers builds on earlier research by Carpenter, Garth and Mathison.

John Garth, Wednesday, 24 September 2014, ‘Middle-earth turns 100
In celebration of the 100 years anniversary of Tolkien's poem, The Voyage of Éarendel the Evening Star, John Garth writes, inspiringly as always, on the beginning and emergence of Tolkien's legendarium – adding a particular discovery about the name Lowdham that I will encourage you to read in Garth's own words.

Jonathan S. McIntosh, Monday, 3 November 2014, ‘Elvish modal metaphysics: no possible worlds?
It's been a while since his last post, but Jonathan McIntosh has now posted an interesting question on his Flame Imperishable blog. It is, admittedly, of the rather metaphysical sort (there's a reason I like his posts so much), with some interesting (albeit tenuous) connections to certain aspects of physics (I'm thinking of various interpretations of quantum physics).
There is also an interesting connection to letter #153 in which Tolkien writes about sub-creation as “a tribute to the infinity of His [God's] potential variety” (I have quoted more from the letter in a comment to the blog post).

Simon J. Cook, Tuesday, 4 November 2014, ‘On disciplinary sin
A meta-comment here from Simon Cook on the tendency to approach Tolkien studies from a very narrow disciplinary perspective. Simon Cook's commentary here is mainly addressed at the English literary criticism approach to reading and understanding Tolkien, but I think it is applicable also to other approaches. For my own part, I know that I am likely to exaggerate the effect of Old Norse mythology on Tolkien's work, but I am aware of it, and I think that is an important step, and next we need scholars to start looking for the evidence and ideas that would actually falsify their own theories.

Simon J. Cook, Thursday, 6 November 2014, ‘What is a Hobbit?
This idea is intriguing, and the probability that there is something of Rhys' ideas floating around somewhere in Tolkien's Hobbits seems to me large enough to at least warrant some further study. I am, however, somewhat sceptical of the phrasing: “Did Tolkien discover Hobbits in the pages of Rhys’s writing on Welsh fairies?” to which Cook answers affirmatively. I find this an exaggeration given what also know about Wyke Smith's Snergs and Sinclair Lewis' Babbitt. It does seem likely that Tolkien had found bits and pieces in various sources, and that these combined in his mind with something of his own to become Hobbits; that is, that Tolkien discovered the Hobbits in his own mind, but that some bits of pieces of the Hobbits come from other sources, possibly including Rhys' aborigines.

= = = = Commentary = = = =

Jason Fisher, Tuesday, 5 August 2014, ‘Bad puns can be hobbit-forming
Full marks to Jason Fisher for his ability to imagine a time when the hobbit/habit pun was still fresh. In this post he traces the pun as far back as possible, with the earliest use discovered so far being from April 1955.

Jason Fisher, Monday, 3 November 2014, ‘Jonah and the Colocynth
Following the publication of Tolkien's translation of Jonah in Journal of Inklings Studies, Vol. 4, No. 2 (October 2014), Jason Fisher here offers the first comments, which are related to the translation of a single word. “I would always rather try to wring the juice out of a single sentence, or explore the implications of one word than try to sum up a period in a lecture, or pot a poet in a paragraph.” indeed!
See also Judith Wolfe, Friday, 1 August 2014, ‘Tolkien's Jonah Text and John D. Rateliff, Thursday, 20 November 2014, ‘Tolkien's Jonah

Dwight Longenecker, Thursday, 13 November 2014, ‘Quickened to Full Life by War: Tolkien's Redemption of the Trenches
I am not sure that I agree with everything he says, but I do find Longenecker's perspective on the relations between Tolkien's Great War experiences and his mythological vision to be interesting (admittedly some of my scepticism may be due to some simplifications – Longenecker, I think, is not writing to Tolkien students such as myself, but to a more general audience).

Michael Martinez, Thursday, 20 November 2014, ‘Silmarillion Simulations: Boldly Writing What Tolkien Never Wrote
Michael Martinez discusses the idea of ‘what The Silmarillion might have looked like, “had Tolkien finished it”” concluding that not only were Tolkien unable to complete The Silmarillion, but we have little to guide us to where it might have gone, had Tolkien worked on it longer than he did. Amen to that! Personally I think the idea of a ‘canon’ of Tolkien's Middle-earth, however attractive, is producing more harm than good, and I would rather have people see Tolkien's work as a beautiful evolving whole.

Jane Ciabattari, Thursday, 20 November 2014, ‘Hobbits and hippies: Tolkien and the counterculture
“Between the lines” is the title of this column ... beyond the lines might be a better name for this, but it seems to be the month for this kind of thing. Whence came, for instance, the idea that pipeweed is hallucinogenic? On the plus side is the aspect of explaining to a younger generation the fascination of the hippies with Tolkien's work, on the negative side is the apparent endorsement of the hippie reading of The Lord of the Rings.

Kelly Bulkeley, Huffington Post, Thursday, 20 November 2014, ‘Tolkien's Future Vision of Lucid Dreaming
A commentary in a main-stream media outlet that comments on Tolkien's The Notion Club Papers is, in and of itself, interesting enough to warrant mention. Of course it doesn't hurt that the commentary appears level-headed and doesn't try to read more into Tolkien's story than the text can actually support.

Michael D.C. Drout, Tuesday, 25 November 2014, ‘How to Read J.R.R. Tolkien
A link to Michael Drout's October 2014 lecture at Carnegie Mellon University. To be watched!

= = = = Reviews and Book News = = = =

Judith Wolfe, Friday, 1 August 2014, ‘Tolkien's Jonah Text
The news that Tolkien's translation of the Book of Jonah, which he made for the Jerusalem Bible, will be published in the Journal of Inklings Studies in October.
See also Daniel Helen, Saturday, 2 August 2014, ‘Tolkien's translation of Jonah to be published
Jef Murray, 2014-11-29
Sam at Caradhras


Catholic World Report, Thursday, 30 October 2014, ‘The Political Vision of J.R.R. Tolkien
Despite warning that “Every interpreter is tempted to remake Tolkien in his or her own image.” this seems exactly what Dr. Richards is bent on doing himself in his book, The Hobbit Party. Like most (all?) other one-sided attempts at interpretative criticism, Richards' views suffer from a strong confirmation bias. This, of course, does not mean that everything that he says is wrong (most of it probably isn't); only that this interview suggests that he has never stopped to ask himself whether there might be other likely explanations than the ones he favour. Based on this interview (and some other bits and pieces) I certainly do not feel tempted to spend any money on this book.
Joseph Pearce responds to comments in the above interview on Tolkien and the idea of distributism, Thursday, 6 November 2014, ‘Distributism in the Shire: The Political Kinship of Tolkien & Belloc
And the authors, Jay Wesley Richards and Jonathan Witt respond to Pearce's comments here, Monday, 10 November 2014, ‘Tolkien vs. Belloc on Distributism: A Response to Joseph Pearce
Whatever one's views, a good and envigorating discussion.

Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, Monday, 3 November 2014, ‘New Tolkien Projects, Part Two
If I wasn't conscientously writing up things chronologically, this piece would have made the top! Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond here announce that they are making a follow-up volume to the book The Art of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, the next one to be The Art of The Lord of the Rings. Woohoo! To be published some time in 2015.

Christopher Howse, The Telegraph, Friday, 14 November 2014, ‘Tolkien and the Goths' disaster
A review of the recent biography, Tolkien by Raymond Edwards. Howse is fairly positive of this new biography, though he doesn't say what, if anything, it adds to the knowledge available from reading the books by Humphrey Carpenter (J.R.R. Tolkien: A biography and The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien), by Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond (The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide) and by John Garth (Tolkien and the Great War). Before buying new biographical works, I think it is necessary to know what they add to our knowledge – and, frankly, if they do not add anything new (White, Grotta, ...) then I am not spending my money on them.

Shaun Gunner, Tuesday, 25 November 2014, ‘New book by Patrick Curry: Deep Roots in a Time of Frost
A short description of the new book by Patrick Curry that has been published by Walking Tree Publishers as the 33rd book in their Cormarë series. Also see the book's page at the publisher's site: Deep Roots in a Time of Frost: Essays on Tolkien

David Bratman, Wednesday, 26 November 2014, ‘Published Tolkien drafts and annotations in book form: a quick guide
An excellent overview of the publications of annotated editions and drafts and associated papers for all the books Tolkien published in his life. Having just received Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond's new edition of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, I will have to find their 1999 edition of Farmer Giles of Ham in order to complete my set.

Project Muse: Tolkien Studies Vol. 11, Friday, 28 November 2014, ‘Volume 11, 2014
The table of contents for volume 11 of Tolkien Studies and electronic access for the lucky people with Project Muse access to the journal.

= = = = Interviews = = = =

Alison Flood, The Guardian, Tuesday, 5 May 2009, ‘Christopher Tolkien answers questions about Sigurd and Gudrún
This old interview was again brought to my attention recently, and I thought it was appropriate to also remind others of its existence.

Jef Murray, 2014-11-29
The Pony & the Mage
Vidya Venkatesh, The Williams Record, Wednesday, 12 November 2014, ‘Librarian found love, career through Tolkien
A delightful interview with Tolkien scholar Wayne G. Hammond. I will not summarise – read the whole thing yourself (if you haven't yet)

John D. Rateliff, Tuesday, 25 November 2014, ‘A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT arrives
On the arrival of an advance copy of the abbreviated version of Rateliff's History of the Hobbit, the shorter version, A Brief History of the Hobbit is aimed people who “found the size of the full version intimidating” – which presumably cannot include many of my own readers ... ;-)

Sue Bridgwater, Saturday, 29 November 2014, ‘Back to the past - Simon J. Cook on Tolkien and History
A short review of Simon J. Cook's new e-book single, J.R.R. Tolkien's Lost English Mythology, which is out on Kindle. Sue Bridgwater finds that “Cook has opened up an insufficiently explored aspect of the development of Tolkien as a scholar and writer” and urges “anyone truly interested in Tolkien's work” to read it. Well, I have a high respect for Sue's opinion, but Cook's book was on my reading list even before this.

= = = = Tolkienian Artwork = = = =

Jef Murray, Wednesday, 8 October 2014, ‘Scatha the Wyrm
One of the less depicted of Tolkien's great worms, it is good to see Jef Murray also tackling this.

Joe Gilronan, Friday, 28 November 2014, ‘First Snowfall The Shire
a very nice seasonal picture from Joe Gilronan depicting Hobbit children playing in the snow and a presumably well-known staff-carrying figure in grey.

Jef Murray, 2014-11-29
The Conversation
Jef Murray, Saturday, 29 November 2014, ‘The Conversation
A meeting of two of the Wise on the greenway a day on Mid-year's Day in SR 1418 ...
See also this eponymous sketch from Wednesday, 8 October 2014, ‘The Conversation

Jef Murray, Saturday, 29 November 2014, ‘Fireside Journeys
Though the fireside traveller in this case appears to be a Hobbit, I am sure that we can all recognize this mode of travelling when we find ourselves under the enchantment of Tolkien's sub-creation.

= = = = Other Stuff = = = =

Shaun Gunner, Sunday, 3 August 2014, ‘German Tolkien Seminar 2015
On the 2015 seminar of the German Tolkien Society, with the theme ‘On Fairy-stories’.
See also Shaun Gunner, Sunday, 3 August 2014, ‘Call For Papers: German Tolkien Society Seminar

David Bratman, Saturday, 9 August 2014, ‘Mythcon, day 1
David Bratman's reports from MythCon. There is more Tolkien-related stuff in the reports from later parts of MythCon – see the reports from day 2, and from days 3 – 4.

BBC Radio 4, Sunday, 26 October 2014, ‘Hope in the Darkness
The BBC Radio 4 ‘Sunday Worship’ on 26 October was broadcast from Merton College and featured also an exploration of Tolkien's life and spirituality by Pref. Alister McGrath. The bodcast is no longer available, but transcript can be found at the page.

Emil Johansson, Tuesday, 18 November 2014, ‘The Age of Characters in the Lord of the Rings
An infographics by Emil Johansson of the LotR Project

= = = = The Blog Roll = = = =

These are blogs you really should be following yourself if you're interested in Tolkien ...
Contents from these blogs will only be reported here if there is something that I find particularly interesting, or posts that fit with a monthly theme. However, you will find below links to monthly archives of posts for months where the blog has featured interesting posts with at least some Tolkien connection.

Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond (S&H), ‘Too Many Books and Never Enough
Archive of posts from November 2014

Jason Fisher, ‘Lingwë -- Musings of a Fish
Archive of posts from August 2014
Archive of posts from September 2014
Archive of posts from October 2014
Archive of posts from November 2014

Pieter Collier, ‘The Tolkien Library
Monthly archives not available – see the main URL above for a list of recent posts.

John D. Rateliff, ‘Sacnoth's Scriptorium
Archive of posts from August 2014
Archive of posts from September 2014
Archive of posts from October 2014
Archive of posts from November 2014

John Garth, ‘John GarthArchive of posts from August 2014
Archive of posts from September 2014

Marcel Aubron-Bülles, ‘The Tolkienist
Archive of posts from August 2014
Archive of posts from September 2014
Archive of posts from October 2014
Archive of posts from November 2014

David Bratman, ‘Kalimac's Corner: a journal by DB
Archive of posts from August 2014
Archive of posts from September 2014
Archive of posts from October 2014
Archive of posts from November 2014

Various, Southfarthing Mathom — The blog for the Tolkien Reading Group (Southampton UK), The Southfarthing Smial
In the time since August, the Southfarthings have finished Unfinished Tales and started (again) on The Lord of the Rings. Follow the Southfarthing Mathom for interesting and enlightening commentary on Tolkien-related books.
Archive of posts from August 2014
Archive of posts from September 2014
Archive of posts from October 2014
Archive of posts from November 2014

Anna Smol, ‘A Single Leaf
Tolkien Studies at Popular Culture Association 2015 meeting (01 October).

Various, The Mythopoeic Society
Archive of news

Various, The Tolkien Society (TS)
Archive of posts from August 2014
Archive of posts from September 2014
Archive of posts from October 2014
Archive of posts from November 2014

Simon J. Cook, Ye Machine
Simon J. Cook's blog, Ye Machine, is one of the best new things to happen in the Tolkien blogosphere for a long time (along with the new website of the Tolkien Society with the diverse posts).
Archive of posts from August 2014
Archive of posts from October 2014
Archive of posts from November 2014

Southfarthing Mathom
Archive of posts from August 2014
Archive of posts from September 2014
Archive of posts from October 2014
Archive of posts from November 2014

Emil Johansson, ‘LotR Project Blog
Archive of posts from November 2014

Michael Martinez, ‘Middle-earth
Archive of posts from August 2014
Archive of posts from September 2014
Archive of posts from October 2014
Archive of posts from November 2014

Bruce Charlton, ‘Tolkien's The Notion Club Papers
Archive of posts from August 2014
Archive of posts from September 2014
Archive of posts from October 2014
Archive of posts from November 2014

Jef Murray, 2014-10-08
Scatha the Wyrm

= = = = Sources = = = =

New sources in November 2014

For older sources, see http://parmarkenta.blogspot.com/p/sources.html