Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The History of the Hobbit

For Christmas my husband gave me John Rateliff's The History of the Hobbit (a box set which includes Vol. 1 Mr. Baggins, Vol. 2 Return to Bag End, and The Hobbit with a forward by Christopher Tolkien). I hope to read part of it during the holiday break but have been pretty busy lately due to my uncle's health problems. (You can read more on my Citadel of Stars blog if you are interested.) It looks like Rateliff's books are similar to Christopher Tolkien's History of Middle-earth, so I know they will have lots of interesting information -- and Jason Fisher gave them a great review in Mythlore.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Middle-earth meets Marquette

The article below is The Marquette Tribune, Oct. 9, 2007. They get bonus points for using the word "alumnus's" correctly but demerits for spelling Tolkien two different ways in the first sentence. I love the quote from the student who wanted to hear John speak in Elvish. LOL!

Middle Earth meets Marquette: Tolkien historian lectures on campus
By Jaena Wenninghoff

Middle Earth came to Raynor Library Thursday with a lecture on J.R.R. Tolkien by Tolkein historian John D. Rateliff.

The Marquette alumnus's two-volume book, "The History of the Hobbit: Mr. Baggins and the Return to Bag End," was published last month. He said his work was aided by many of the original Tolkien manuscripts housed in the library.

"We are living in the golden age of Tolkien studies," Rateliff said, citing the vast number of books and magazines dedicated to the author's work.

Tolkien's popularity, Rateliff said, comes from his ability to engage readers.

"The style in which he chose to write … is deliberately done to spark reader participation," he said.

According to Rateliff, this participation is the result of Tolkien's ability to incorporate detail. The amount of detail he included was enough to set the foundation of the story but left much to the imagination of the reader. Rateliff said "too much detail limits applicability" and that Tolkien used the right amount.

Another thing that impacted the popularity of Tolkien's works was his ability to write as a memory as opposed to a series of events as they took place, Rateliff said. He said Tolkien wrote about "several sharp vivid scenes" just like memories to which the reader can relate.

While Tolkien's first published book, "The Hobbit," was created for his own enjoyment, according to Rateliff, Tolkien wrote "The Lord of the Rings" at his publisher's request.

"When 'The Hobbit' was published, they immediately asked him what else he had," Rateliff said.

"The Hobbit" was written 17 years prior to "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Rateliff said Tolkien originally wrote "The Hobbit" as a stand-alone story but said it was later revised to better accommodate the sequels.

Rateliff concluded his lecture saying, "What we carry away from a book Tolkien wrote is the delight in the world he created."

Attendees of the lecture said they were intrigued by the in-depth look into Tolkien literature.

"I thought the lecture was interesting," said Logan Berens, a sophomore in the College of Engineering. "He had a lot of solid details he was able to explain thoroughly."

Sarah McElroy, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences agreed.

"He discussed several things I never knew about Tolkien," she said. "I just wish he would have said something in Elvish."

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Of Sorcerers and Men

Michael Drout's lecture series Rings, Swords, and Monsters is now available at Barnes and Noble. Don't be confused by the name; it's now called Of Sorcerers and Men: Tolkien and the Roots of Modern Fantasy Literature and sells for $39.95 (much less than the $98.75 Recorded Books sells it for)!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Coming Soon: The History of the Hobbit

My friend Jason Fisher is reviewing John Rateliff's The History of the Hobbit weeks before the rest of us US readers even get to buy it! The books look wonderful and Jason's reviews are always outstanding and I'm looking forward to reading this one, as well as Rateliff's books.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Frodo and HoMe

Although I haven't posted in a long time, I've been thinking about LotR a lot. I spent my summer reading Vols. 6-9 of The History of Middle-earth hoping to see how the evidence I used in my Mythcon 37 paper "Frodo's Elvish Air" developed. The only hint of any of these scenes was in Cirith Ungol when Sam thought Frodo was dead. Since Vol. 9 stops before the final draft, I can only assume all these interesting bits came very late in the revision process. I was also surprised that at the end of Vol. 9 Strider was still Trotter, Aduril was still Branding, and Arwen's gift to Frodo had only just been added.

While I was looking through the index of Letters for something else, I made a seredipitous discovery: I found a bit about freewill that mirrors Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy that will be perfect for my paper. I'm sure Tolkien the Medievalist was familiar with this work and his quote is too similar to be coincidence.

This summer I also listened Dr. Michael Drout's Rings, Swords and Monsters: Understanding Fantasy Literature, a college course on CD which was mostly about Tolkien. It's very good. I downloaded mine from my local library's audio book section but it's also available from Recorded Books and should soon be at Barnes and Noble stores.

In the last lecture of the series, Drout mentioned that Elves and Men were closely related and that Tolkien said "Elvishness" could enter into men. This quote would be perfect for my paper! I went through Letters but couldn't find it, so I e-mailed Dr. Drout. He was very nice and is looking up the quote for me. He thought it might be in a footnote in Morgoth's Ring (HoMe Vol. 10), so I'm skimming that now. He also said to submit my finished paper to him for Tolkien Studies. That's what I had in mind but I am very pleased to hear that he is interested!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Very Tolkien Birthday

This year I couldn't decide what I wanted for my big birthday present. I finally decided on the J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide (Two Volume Box Set) by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull for a combined anniversary and birthday present. It looks great!

Vol. 1 is The Reader's Guide (not to be confused with The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion by the same authors) which includes "comprehensive alphabetical entries on a wide range of topics, including a who's who of important persons, a guide to places and institutions, details concerning Tolkien's source material, information about the political and social upheavals through which the author lived, the importance of his social circle, his service as an infantryman in World War I -- even information on the critical reaction to his work and the 'Tolkien cult.'"

Vol. 2 is The Chronology. It "details the parallel evolutions of Tolkien's works and his academic and personal life in minute detail. Spanning the entirety of his long life including nearly sixty years of active labor on his Middle-earth creations, and drawing on such contemporary sources as school records, war service files, biographies, correspondence, the letters of his close friend C. S. Lewis, and the diaries of W. H. Lewis, this book will be an invaluable resource for those who wish to gain a complete understanding of Tolkien's status as a giant of twentieth-century literature."

I'm also really interested in the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment edited by Michael Drout but don't want to spend $200, especially since Drout and the contributors are not happy with Routledge. Apparently Routledge did not incorporate the final round of editing, much to everyone's frustration. Even so, it looks like an outstanding resource, but I think I'll let my university library pay for this one! For more on the Encyclopedia read Drout's story of its imperfections, visit Squiretalk or Squire's Reader's Diary.

I'm looking forward to my summer vacation so I can enjoy my new books!