News stories

A chronicle of recent news stories of interest to those studying Tolkien and his works, set out by date.

23 August

American medieval historian explains how Tolkien inspired her love for Welsh folk tales


An American medieval historian has explained how J. R. R. Tolkien inspired her love for Welsh folk tales.

Rebecca Fox Blok, who worked at the Medieval Institute, at Western Michigan University, said the theories of the linguist, scholar and author of the Lord of the Rings fantasy trilogy encouraged” her to study Pedair Cainc y Mabinogi (The Four Branches of the Mabinogi).…

In an article for the North American Welsh Newspaper, Ninnau, she explained how Tolkien, who held a professorship of English language and literature at Oxford, gave a lecture in 1955 called English and Welsh”, which she says, argued that English philologists ought to study Welsh as carefully as they do Norse or French”.…

Unsurprisingly, the lecture is mostly about languages and their history — how English and Welsh impacted one another in their development — but it is also very revealing about Tolkien’s ideas of ethnic identity and the value of a language that many Englishmen of his era pooh-poohed as irrelevant, out-dated, and ugly.…

But in his lecture, Tolkien, unexpectedly, rejects such ignorant perspectives.… To be ignorant of Welsh is to be ignorant of an important part of the history of English, Tolkien argues.

But he concludes, the real reasons that Welsh ought to be more studied are these: Welsh is of this soil, this island, the senior language of the men of Britain; and Welsh is beautiful.’ …

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19 August

J.R.R. Tolkien: The art of the manuscript

Raynor Memorial Libraries J.R.R. Tolkien Collection

Marquette University’s Raynor Memorial Libraries and the Haggerty Museum of Art are pleased to announce an upcoming exhibition of manuscripts from the celebrated author and artist J.R.R. Tolkien (1892−1973), best known for his literary classics The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

The exhibition considers Tolkien’s work through the lens of manuscripts, both in terms of the materials he studied as a medieval philologist and the manuscripts he created while developing his legendarium. Professor Tolkien was deeply immersed in the complexities of manuscripts, and this exhibition will illustrate how different aspects of the manuscript tradition found expression within Tolkien’s scholarly life and in his creative writing.…

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24 July

Comrades of the Ring: How Soviet artists evaded censors to create their own visions of Tolkien

Foreign Policy } Joel Merriner

… As noted by Russian scholar Olga Markova, interest in Tolkien’s tale grew quickly behind the Iron Curtain. The first Soviet readers were primarily philologists and translators, individuals who were keen to explore the literary and philosophical elements of the books. For them, The Lord of the Rings offered an escape route out of socialist realist literature into a rich and colorful alternative world.

Soviet authorities, however, were extremely suspicious of what they perceived as a thinly veiled Cold War parable, particularly one that pitched bourgeois country gents (Hobbits), bearded mystics with a suspicious ability to heal ailing royalty (Gandalf), and hereditary monarchs (Aragorn, Théoden, etc.) against an industrialized Eastern nation presided over by an omniscient ruler. Consequently, The Lord of the Rings was barred from publication in the Soviet Union, with any extant English copies of the trilogy consigned to secret KGB holding archives called spetskhrany.

It can be tempting to pigeonhole Soviet Tolkien adaptations as weird or comical expressions of a dysfunctional society. But this does them a disservice. Soviet Tolkien was not a sad indictment of communism. It was an example of what was possible when talented, resourceful individuals defied the odds to recreate something they loved. Tolkien, himself, often referred to his fantasy world as a sub-creation,” namely an imaginary, subsidiary world existing inside of a real one. Soviet Tolkien, with its many variations on the author’s original themes, replicates this in a microcosm.…

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30 June

Queer readings of The Lord of the Rings are not accidents: Following breadcrumbs to find ourselves, in Tolkien’s history and his fiction

Polygon } Molly Ostertag

I was 12 in 2003, when The Return of the King was in theaters, and Frodo kissing Sam goodbye as he left Middle-earth made me sob like my heart was being ripped out, without understanding why. Outside of the safe darkness of the theater, in the Mordor-like wasteland of middle school, the movies were synonymous with the favored insult of the time — gay.”

Brokeback Mountain wouldn’t come out for two more years, and none of us had seen a movie on the big screen where men hold each other, comfort each other, kiss each other’s foreheads. Early-2000s preteen America was a time of gay jokes, of no homo,” of mocking voices and slurs, and secret, punitive violence enacted in the locker room against anyone who had a whiff of otherness. In that world, the Lord of the Rings trilogy stood out as deeply earnest, and therefore vulnerable.…

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28 June

black-and-white image of Frodo, Sam, and Gollum from a Soviet edition of The Lord of the Rings

Why bringing LotR to the USSR was a quest akin to a fiction tale: After the book was dismissed by Soviet censorship, independent translators took a great risk spreading Tolkien’s fiction in the Soviet Union

Russia Beyond } Nikolay Shevchenko

Amidst the Cold War, Soviet censorship was suspicious of all things Western. Written by a British writer, The Lord of the Rings was no exception. To share the classics of high fantasy with readers in the USSR, Soviet translators attempted to translate it illegally, publish the story under a different name, transform it into a play and even rewrite Tolkien’s book as a whole new sci-fi story.

In 1966, Soviet translator Zinaida Bobyr attempted a desperate move to adapt Tolkien’s fiction to the standards of the Soviet literary magazine Tekhnika-Molodezhi (Youth Engineering). Convinced the Soviet censorship would not allow printing a straightforward translation of the original, Bobyr transformed Tolkien’s epic fantasy into a science fiction novel and hid the magic theme behind the façade of rational scientific discoveries.…

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26 June

J.R.R. Tolkien seminar goes woke with focus on “diversity” in LotR

New York Post } Conor Skelding

This year’s annual Tolkien Society seminar will pay more critical attention than ever” to diversity issues, according to an announcement by the literary charity.…

The organization, founded in 1969, exists to promote the life and work of Tolkien, the English Catholic writer of epics set in Middle-earth.

Tolkien’s efforts to represent (or ignore) particular characteristics requires further examination,” the organizers wrote.…

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15 June

LotR goes on: Anime film The War of the Rohirrim in works at New Line

Deadline Hollywood } Anthony D’Alessandro

The J.R.R. Tolkien franchise is heading back to the big screen in a fresh New Line and Warner Animation animé title The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim. I’m told that the Oscar-winning feature architects Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh are not involved with the project as we speak, but that will be determined down the road. Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings: Return of the King scribe Philippa Boyens will be a consultant on the new project directed by Kenji Kamiyama. The pic is being fast-tracked with animation work done by Sola Entertainment. Voice casting is currently underway.…

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14 June

John Lennon once asked Stanley Kubrick to direct The Beatles in LotR

Far Out Magazine } Jack Whatley

…The latest in the series of I can’t believe I didn’t know this about John Lennon’ was not only his penchant for 2001: A Space Odysseys director Stanley Kubrick but his request for the filmmaker to make an on-screen adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel The Lord of the Rings featuring Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. Yes, in what could have been one of the most surreal sets of circumstances, Lennon was very keen on enlisting the services of the esteemed director Kubrick for a quest across Middle-earth featuring the Fab Four.…

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13 June

The Middle-earth history of Helm’s Deep

Looper } Jaron Pak

… The pic will expand the untold story behind the fortress of Helm’s Deep.” Most fairweather fans simply know this location as the imposing structure where Théoden, Aragorn, and company fight a monstrous battle in the film The Two Towers.” While this is certainly a major moment in the stronghold’s history, though, it isn’t the biggest one. The seminal event in Helm’s Deep’s backstory comes 250 years before Legolas and Gimli play who can kill the most Uruk-hai” and Saruman sees his dreams dashed in one long, bloody night. The citadel’s greatest moment will actually unfold during the upcoming movie. With that in mind, we’ve decided to do a deep dive into the backstory of Helm’s Deep to see what makes this bastion of the Rohirrim such a big deal.…

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11 June

What to expect in LotR: War of the Rohirrim

Looper } Jaron Pak

… This leaves the story square in the second half of the Third Age. Fortunately, the Deadline report went into further detail, explaining that the events of the film would specifically focus on Helm Hammerhand, a king of the Rohirrim that waged a desperate fight at none other than Helm’s Deep itself (and yes, it’s named after him). This narrows the narrative window to a very specific event that takes place less than three centuries before the War of the Ring. That said, here are a few of the things that we can expect to see in the upcoming film.…

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8 June

LotRO update revisits Middle-earth history: The latest Lord of the Rings Online expansion, Blood of Azog,” allows players to relive Middle-earth history and battle an iconic franchise foe

Screen Rant } Thomas McNulty

The latest update to The Lord of the Rings Online allows fans to play through a memorable moment in Middle-earth history. The massively multiplayer role-playing game, based on the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, first launched back in 2007. Since then the game’s long line of developers have continued to keep the game updated with new content, with developer Standing Stone Games currently managing the title.…

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LotR: Ten storylines the Amazon series could follow: With Amazon spending big money on developing its own Lord of the Rings series, there are lots of potential storylines it could follow

Comic Book Resources } David Harth

… With Amazon’s upcoming series set in the Second Age of Middle-earth, fans not well versed in Tolkien lore are going to see Middle-earth like they never have before. There are over three thousand years of stories to follow in the Second Age, making it fertile ground for a show.…

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