All the usual disclaimers apply about newness, completeness and relevance (or
any other implication of responsibility) 🙂
This month it has suited my purposes to sort the contents under the following
1: The Birthday Toast
4: Essays and Scholarship
6: Reviews and Book News
8: Tolkienian Artwork
9: Other Stuff
11: Web Sites
12: The Blog Roll
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
David Bratman, ‘to
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
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’
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&rsuo; 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
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
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.
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
Following the walk describe above, David Robbie will also give a talk at
Penkridge Library on Tolkien’s Staffordshire.
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
Oxonmoot … what else is necessary to say?
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
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
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.
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
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, ‘
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.
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).
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 The Fall of Arthur.
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.
David Bratman, Saturday, 23 August 2014, ‘John
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
Following up on Carey’s claim that “green mildew grew on [Tolkien’s
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
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
David Day, Tuesday, 20 January 2015, ‘Open
Letter to Mr. Nelson Goering’
NOTE: The letter from David Day has since been deleted, but can be found in a
version cached by Google 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
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.
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.
Treebeard, Merry, & Pippin
Jef Murray, Sunday, 25 January 2015, ‘Ulmo
Jef Murray, Sunday, 25 January 2015, ‘Old
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’
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,
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
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
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.
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.
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.
These are blogs you really should be following yourself if you’re interested in
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.
Various (Bradford Eden, ed.)
Journal of Tolkien Research (JTR)
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
Pieter Collier, ‘The Tolkien
See the front page for a list of recent posts.
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