Of all the negative reviews that The Lord of the Rings ever received, the most infamous is “Oo, Those Awful Orcs,” by the renowned American critic Edmund Wilson. It was published in the journal The Nation in 1956, and reappeared in Wilson’s collection The Bit Between My Teeth (1965) and various other sources, earning a place in the otherwise laudatory Tolkien Scrapbook edited by Alida Becker (1978).
From misspelling a principal character’s name as “Gandalph” to such declarations as “The hero has no serious temptations; is lured by no insidious enchantments, perplexed by few problems,” or “We never feel Sauron’s power,” Wilson’s review is so staggeringly imperceptive that some have found it hard to believe that Wilson read the book at all, let alone, as he states, aloud in its entirety to his 7-year-old daughter just before writing the review. I’d cut Wilson a little more slack than that.
I suppose I should say something about the recent spate of news articles to the effect that Amazon has contracted to make a tv series based on The Lord of the Rings.
I’m not really your go-to expert on matters like this. I got into Tolkien studies to study Tolkien and his works, not media spinoffs. Willy-nilly they have intruded themselves on my attention, and I’ve been warned that I count as an expert on the Jackson movies even though I really don’t want to be one.
But I can say that the news reports have conveyed that this will not be a remake of The Lord of the Rings itself, but fan fiction prequels.
A pale, drawn man sits in a convalescent bed of a wartime hospital. He takes up a school exercise book and writes on its cover, with calligraphic flourish: ‘Tuor and the Exiles of Gondolin’. Then he pauses, lets out a long sigh between the teeth clenched around his pipe, and mutters, ‘No, that won’t do anymore.’ He crosses out the title and writes (without the flourish): ‘A Subaltern on the Somme’.
This is not what happened, of course. Tolkien produced a mythology, not a trench memoir. […] Tolkien’s writing reflects the impact of the war; furthermore, […] his maverick voice expresses aspects of the war experience neglected by his contemporaries. […] they represent widely divergent responses to the same traumatic epoch. (Garth: 287)
In the late eighteenth century, an edition of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim Progress was published with a map tucked away between the pages right before the beginning of the text. Nowadays, the map is a recurring part of many novels, especially in the fantastical genre. These maps have in common that they are accompanying a story that is set in an imaginary world, thus increasing the authenticity of these worlds by depicting it in a way that is mostly associated with precision and trustworthiness.
The Tolkien Society’s Oxonmoot is the world’s longest-running annual event dedicated to Tolkien. Taking place in an Oxford college over a long weekend close to Frodo and Bilbo’s birthday in September, it is rightly considered one of the most important events for lovers of Tolkien and his works.
Things have been rather hectic again, so I have decided to mostly go about things the easy way and use the intro I get in my feed reader, just citing the first something characters of the post. Everywhere where the description is given as “<text> […]”, the <text> is from the blog post itself. In a very few cases, I have added something or done a comment myself, but these are the exceptions. If this works well, I might choose to use this feature a bit more often, though of course I do hope to find time to comment myself.