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J.R.R. Tolkien by Pamela Chandler. © Diana Willson
J.R.R. Tolkien by Pamela Chandler. © Diana Willson

As an author, J.R.R. Tolkien remains one of the most popular writers in the world, with book sales in the 250-300 million range and earning a position where he is widely regarded as the father of modern fantasy. Those book sales have not only touched millions of people the world over – and led to the creation of this Society – but spawned two blockbuster film trilogies which caused Forbes to declare Tolkien as the third highest-earning “dead celebrity” behind Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. (more…)

February 2017

‘Busy as a bee’ is, I believe, the English expression that matches my life at the moment, though I will happily accept that ‘bee in the bonnet’ would be an appealing expression to apply to me ….

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That’s part of the title of a little opinion piece by Thomas Honegger in the latest issue of Hither Shore (v. 12, dated 2015), “To whom it may concern – a Reviewer’s Complaint.” Honegger’s complaint is over a lack of “a certain minimal level of professional quality” in Tolkien studies. He mentions fact-checking and proofreading, but his main concern is lack of bibliographical research, scholars unaware of major and basic work in the areas they are covering. “How are we going to advance Tolkien studies if scholars in the field are ignorant of each others research?”

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Over the next six months we are going to hear a lot more about Beren and Lúthien as the world gears up towards the publication of the book on the 4th May. But, for those unfamiliar with the story, who are Beren and Lúthien? (more…)

Some of Tolkien’s most interesting and illuminating letters are those in response to readers of The Lord of the Rings, especially those correcting misapprehensions of his intent. Misreadings are, of course, a hazard for all authors, as C.S. Lewis noted when he wrote, “I sometimes think that writing is like driving sheep down a road. If there is any gate open to the left or the right the reader will most certainly go into it.” (Wirt) And Lewis’s work has demonstrated this with the persistent misreading of The Last Battle known as the Problem of Susan.

If this can happen to great authors like Tolkien and Lewis, it can also happen to lesser ones like myself, even if the reader galloping firmly through the wrong gate is the learned and estimable Tom Shippey.

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January 2017

These monthly introductions have become an outlet for my feelings of having too much to do – to some extent as an explanation of delays and reduced commentary. As can be seen, I am now (albeit slowly) catching up with respect to the delays, which is certainly a relief (and due to a general lightening of loads compared to the latter half of 2016). The commentary is still light as I am unable to read through all items (and a number of them I simply include because they look interesting), and this is likely to continue for quite a while.

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