I don’t remember where or when I first heard that I was banned from participating in Tolkien trivia contests at conventions.  This has been a running joke for decades, now, but it was going strong when I handed the Tolkien fan programming track at Dragon*Con over to Jincey from  She sent me an email one evening with an odd request.  “I need expert-level trivia questions that even you cannot answer,” she pleaded.

For my part I have always felt there were questions I cannot answer.  I just cannot think of them when people ask me for examples, but it’s hard to perform under pressure when you’re supposed to sift through millions (thousands?) of questions. (more…)

The Tolkien Society Seminar 2016 was held in Leeds on Sunday 3 July, a few days after the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme.


In regard to my critique of an article on Tolkien, various posters in the comments section are trying to convince me that “fight” is a perfectly reasonable term to describe the ornate and scholarly word contest that Gandalf and Saruman have in Tolkien’s book.

Among them is the author of the article, who points out that “argument” is used to define “fight” in his dictionary. Leaving aside the fact that even “argument” is not really the best choice of word to describe the scene, it’s a fallacy to say that a word used to define another word in the dictionary must have exactly the same meaning. More likely, they overlap over parts of their meanings. It’s true that I can find “argument” used to define “fight” in a dictionary, but in the same dictionary I find “debate” used to define “argument” and “discussion” used to define “debate,” and by that point, I think, we’ve left “fight” far behind, so I don’t think much of the dictionary-definition shuffle as a method of shifting your word’s meaning.

“Fight” is especially ill-chosen to describe the scene in the book when it’s a perfect term to describe the absurd wizard-fu battle in the movie. It makes it look as if you’re remembering the movie instead of the book. And when, of all the possible words to describe that scene in the book, you choose this one, is leads inevitably to the conclusion that the movie has affected your memory of the book.

What do you think?

Usually when I come across a mainstream journalistic critical article about Tolkien, it’s time to sigh deeply and sort through everything they got wrong. So I was pleased to see Konstantin Kakaes on The Lord of the Rings in Slate yesterday, because Kakaes gets it.


I seem to spend a lot of space here apologising for, or complaining about, my lack of time, though the first half of this year seems to have been worse than usual (hopefully culminating in June). My available time seems unlikely to change much, so the reduced commentary this month is likely to stay the norm, at least for a while.


Every summer, The Tolkien Society hosts a seminar to showcase leading Tolkien scholarship from around the globe. This seminarthe Society’s 25thtakes place at the Leeds City Hilton on Sunday 3rd July. Book now so you don’t miss out! (more…)