Recent entries

A chronicle of recent news, blog posts, journal issues, book releases, and events of interest to those studying Tolkien and his works, set out by date and then by entry type.

18 November


  just a note

Kalimac’s Corner } David Bratman

This is just to say, I have this morning jotted down a 550-word outline for what I hope will be my Mythcon Guest of Honor speech. It combines a couple of ideas about Tolkien that I’ve already had floating around in my head (one of them for quite a few years), but it was reading The Nature of Middle-earth that sparked off this particular writing.

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  Rare photo archive to go up for auction next month

Tolkien Collector’s Guide } Trotter

[Quoting the Daily Gazette/​Essex County Standard]:

RARE photographs and correspondence from the author of Lord of the Rings are to be sold by Colchester auctioneers next month.

The official archive of J.R.R. Tolkien’s photographer, Pamela Chandler, is estimated to have a combined value of between £20,000 and £30,000.

It will be auctioned by Reeman Dansie, which is based in Wyncolls Road in Severalls Business Park, Colchester, on Wednesday, December 1.…

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17 November


  Thirty days hath...

doubtfulsea } Ollamh

Treebeard holding Merry and Pippin; Alan Lee

What are you saying, Gandalf?’ asked Pippin.

I was just running over some of the Rhymes of Lore in my mind,’ answered the wizard. Hobbits, I suppose, have forgotten them, even those that they ever knew.’

No, not all,’ said Pippin. And we have many of our own, which wouldn’t interest you, perhaps.’

(The Lord of the Rings LRC §3.11.092–3.11.094)

It’s not only wizards and hobbits who have such lore, however. Treebeard also has a stock, as we can see in his conversation with Merry and Pippin:

What are you, I wonder? I cannot place you. You do not seem to come in the old lists that I learned when I was young. But that was a long, long time ago, and they may have made new lists. Let me see! Let me see! How did it go? … (LRC §3.04.026)

It’s interesting to note that both Gandalf and Treebeard’s lore is patterned in verse forms, Gandalf’s in a 6‑line stanza of a/​b/​c/​b/​d/​b and Treebeard’s, which has the suggestion of the common Old English four-stress, alliterative line which we see in poems like Beowulf.

Hwaet! We Gardena in geardagum
Theodcyninga thrym gefrunon… 

Silence! We Spear-Danes in the so-long past time
Heard of the heroics of high kings of the people… 

(My translation — not strictly accurate, but I want to give the feel of the form. For the original, as well as a more literal translation, please see one of my favorite Old English sites: https://​heo​rot​.dk/​b​e​o​w​u​l​f​-​r​e​d​e​-​t​e​x​t​.html For more on the form, see: http://​oe​.langes​lag​.org/​d​o​c​s​/​s​0​1​c​_​v​e​r​s​e.pdf )

There’s a telling detail, by the way, in Treebeard’s Room tum, room tum, roomty toom tum”. If we emphasize certain syllables, we can see that he’s trying to stir his memory of the next lines by doing the stresses of the poem: ROOM tum ROOM tum ROOM-ty TOOM tum, as in DWARF the DEL-ver DARK are his HOUS-es.

Keeping things in your memory is an ancient concern in Western culture, going back to the Greco-Roman world, particularly for public speakers — politicians and lawyers — and the Greeks even had a goddess for memory, Mnemosyne.…

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16 November


  № 184: David Emerson

Tolkien Experience Project } Luke Shelton

Unlike most people younger than me, I first encountered Tolkien when he was virtually unknown in the U.S. This was long before the publications of the paperback editions (the controversial Ace editions, then the authorized Ballantine editions), which thrust them into the public eye, especially on college campuses and among the hippie element (of which I certainly counted myself).

My mother was in the habit of reading bedtime stories to my brothers and me, when each of us was too young to read them ourselves. By the time she got to my youngest brother Ed, we had been through all the children’s books in the house and all the Oz books in the public library, so she casually mentioned to her friend Lydia that she was running out of things to read her son, and asked if she had any suggestions. Lydia’s husband had close family in England, so they had made many trips over there, and had brought back books. Lydia said to my mother, Hmm, try this,” and plucked a hardback of The Hobbit off her shelf.

As Mom started reading this book to Ed, I would overhear it as I passed by the bedroom door, and it seemed interesting enough that I would stand at the door and listen, even though I was about 14 at the time. After a few nights of this,…

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  Some things I learned from reading The Nature of Middle-earth

Kalimac’s Corner } David Bratman

Read them here.

It’s all about NoME (a great abbreviation, as the book is gnomic in more than one sense).

You should also read Jeff LaSala’s thoughtful piece on the subject.

I have one quibble with Jeff. He calls NoME kind of an unofficial thirteenth installment” for the 12-volume History of Middle-earth, but the 13th volume of HoME already existed before the series was published. It’s Unfinished Tales, most of which would have fit very nicely in parts 2 – 4 of The Peoples of Middle-earth, v. 12 of HoME, if it hadn’t already appeared.

But then what about John D. Rateliff’s 2‑volume The History of The Hobbit? That too surely qualifies. So that makes NoME at least v. 16.

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15 November


  yes, again

Kalimac’s Corner } David Bratman

I’m not going to waste a reply on this latter-day review of Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring movie to the post’s comments section, since I know from experience that the author rarely replies to comments. Instead, I’ll write it here.

This is another golden example of a fan of the Jackson movies not getting what’s wrong with them as adaptations. Again, I don’t mind people liking the movies as movies. What bristles me is when they ship their liking into thinking the movies are adequate specifically as an adaptation of the book.…

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12 November


10 November



  Take his medicine

doubtfulsea } Ollamh

… If we continue with the idea that behind the Orcs is the British Army of 1916, then we might imagine that what Sergeant Ugluk has just done is what was done on a daily basis: he’s issued a rum ration, which came in large ceramic containers, like this one — … (SRD stood for Supply Reserve Depot”, but soldiers had more creative — and sometimes bitter — translations, like Service Rum-Diluted” or Seldom Reaches Destination.”)

Rations were handed out in very small portions — 1/​16th of a pint — in the older system an ounce — roughly 30ml.…

This is Orc first aid and it made me think about the medical system which JRRT would have encountered in those bloody days at the Somme, in the summer of 1916.…

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9 November


  № 183: Catherine Madsen

Tolkien Experience Project } Luke Shelton

I can’t improve on my mother’s account, though it’s a bit long:

As for The Hobbit, I’ll have to take the credit or the blame for introducing you to that book. It happened like this. I was in a graduate library science seminar with my favorite L[ibrary] S[cience] professor one summer [probably 1961]. She divided the class up and gave us the task of coming up with a project that would enrich or strengthen our work and the profession. There was a children’s literature expert at Wayne [State] who was internationally known, named Dr. Eloise Ramsey. My partner and I decided we wanted to interview her and see what her recommendations were for the top, not to be missed, books for children. We would get her permission to duplicate the list and share it with the hundred or so school librarians in the seminar. There was only one problem. She had the reputation of being unpredictable, irascible and generally unapproachable. Certainly her image did not encourage queries. She had never read How to Dress for Success, but went around in cotton house dresses and socks. Our professor approved the project, saying that if we managed to get the interview it would indeed be a contribution.…

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5 November


  Alan Lee and Jane Johnson talk

Tolkien Collector’s Guide } Jeremy Edmonds

Sorry for the late notice on this, just came to my attention! The talk is TOMORROW, November 6th, 4 PM to 5:30 PM at the Exeter Literary Festival, tickets cost £8


Twenty years ago, The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, was released. Conceptual designer Alan Lee and Jane Johnson, J.R.R. Tolkien’s editor at Harper Collins, and author of the film’s Companion series, chat about their time in New Zealand on the set of this iconic film.…

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3 November


  Ugluk Orckins

doubtfulsea } Ollamh

It has been discussed, both elsewhere in print and on this blog, what an Orc is. Treebeard’s definition is often cited,.… When asked about Orcs, JRRT offered several clues, saying:

  1. Also the Orcs (goblins) and other monsters bred by the First Enemy…” (letter to Milton Waldman, late 1951? Letters, 151) — so, somehow created by Morgoth, Sauron’s master 2. But since they are servants of the Dark Power, and later of Sauron, neither of whom could, or would, produce living things, they must be corruptions’.” (letter to Naomi Mitchison, 25 April, 1951, Letters, 178)
  2. Treebeard does not say that the Dark Lord created’ Trolls and Orcs. He says he made’ them in counterfeit of certain creatures pre-existing. There is, to me, a wide gulf between the two statements…It is not true actually of the Orcs — who are fundamentally a race of rational incarnate’ creatures, though horribly corrupted…” (draft of letter to Peter Hastings, September, 1954, Letters, 190) — in this same letter, he also quotes Frodo: “‘The Shadow that bred them can only mock, it cannot make real new things of its own. I don’t think it gave life to the Orcs, it only ruined them and twisted them.’“ (LRC §6.01.109)
  3. I have represented at least the Orcs as pre-existing real beings on whom the Dark Lord has exerted the fullness of his power in remodeling and corrupting them, not making them.” (from the same draft to Peter Hastings)
  4. Elves may turn into Orcs, and if this required the special pervasive malice of Morgoth, still Elves themselves could do evil deeds.” (continuation of draft of letter sent to Rhona Beare, 14 October, 1958, Letters, 287)

As these are remarks by the creator (well, sub-creator”, as JRRT would say), then they must be true, but I would offer another detail — not as to who or what Orcs are, but on whom they might be based.…

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