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Tolkien Notes 16

September 2, 2018

Forty-five Years

We’ve been recalling our sadness when we read, in newspapers a day later, of the death of J.R.R. Tolkien forty-five years ago today. Christina was visiting her parents in Bristol, England, Wayne was still living with his parents in Brooklyn, Ohio while attending college. One thought, Will I ever see The Silmarillion? We had no idea then that so many unpublished works by Tolkien would be brought out, over so many years, let alone that we (who had not yet met) would have a hand in the process.



A few weeks ago we read on the Tolkien Society’s Facebook page of a new ‘special J.R.R. Tolkien edition’ of Newsweek magazine, obviously to coincide with the publication of The Fall of Gondolin on 30 August. Since there are no newsagents near us, we found a copy of the special magazine available on eBay. It’s heavily pictorial, and most of the photos are from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, but remarkably, it includes two double-page spreads devoted to our Art of The Hobbit and Art of The Lord of the Rings. The former book is said to offer ‘a look at the artistic process that fleshed out Middle-earth in pencil and ink’ (well, watercolour too), while the latter explores ‘the Lord of the Rings trilogy [it’s not a trilogy!] in incredible detail’. We’re happy to have the publicity.


A Hole in the Ground

Every now and then a Tolkien enthusiast decides to construct, or have constructed, an actual hobbit-hole – or at least something along those lines. We visited perhaps the best-known of them, in Chester County, Pennsylvania, but many exist (just Google ‘hobbit house’). There are even firms which sell pre-fabricated ‘hobbit houses’ to install in the side of a hill – excavation and finishing not included. The latest article about a sort-of-Bag-End can be read on the website: ‘A “Lord of the Rings” Fan Makes His Dream Hobbit House’. Actually there are two ‘hobbit’ structures: the owner’s first attempt was a backyard shed, now home to a lawn tractor. The more elaborate of the two, Hobbit Hollow, has two bedrooms and two bathrooms in 1,500 square feet. It isn’t completely set into a hillside, but has windows front and back, and skylights. The result is interesting if vaguely industrial. Both structures have round door frames, but standard rectangular doors set into them; the Pennsylvania ‘hobbit house’ has an actual round door, with a custom-made hinge.


‘Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth’

By all reports, the Tolkien exhibition at the Weston Library of the Bodleian in Oxford, which runs until 28 October, has been consistently well attended. An enthusiastic review in the latest number of The Book Collector (Autumn 2018, p. 582) describes a crowd ‘packed, shoulder to shoulder . . . as silent and unmoving as that before the finest hanging of Rembrandts. One had the feeling it would have been the same had people had to pay.’ (Which they will when the show moves to the Morgan Library in New York this January.) Much of its charm, the reviewer says, comes from the intimacy of the exhibits, ‘lent by [Tolkien’s] four children’; would that this were possible, but John and Michael are no longer among the living.


New Books

Yesterday’s post brought the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt edition of The Fall of Gondolin and the HarperCollins paperback of The Story of Kullervo. Gondolin is a first printing, but Kullervo is a third. Even though we ordered Kullervo a year ago (when it was originally announced to appear), because we did so online we were at the mercy of the warehouse gods and got whatever is in stock. We had the same problem with the HarperCollins paperback Beren and Lúthien, i.e. we received a later printing from an online order, and had to hunt around shops when we were in London in May to find a first. HarperCollins sometimes have short print runs, which is hard on collectors but satisfies demand closer to real time and cuts down on copies stored in the warehouse.


Tolkien’s Spanish Connection

We’ve just written a review of a useful book by José Manuel Ferrández Bru, ‘Uncle Curro’: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Spanish Connection. The ‘connection’ is Father Francis Xavier Morgan, the Catholic priest who acted as guardian to Ronald and Hilary Tolkien after the death of their mother in 1904. Father Francis famously forbade Tolkien from seeing or writing to his beloved, Edith Bratt, for three years, until he came of age at twenty-one; but one can argue that this was for Tolkien’s own good, hard though it was, as it brought his attention back to his studies (extra-curricular interests such as Gothic, the invention of languages, and the writing of poetry notwithstanding). Ferrández Bru explores the life and ancestry of Father Francis in great detail, as well as his close relationship with the Tolkiens. Our review can be read in the online Journal of Tolkien Research.

  1. September 3, 2018 5:01 am

    Hello C&W

    I have a request if I can be so bold, I would like if it is allowed to scan the index from the Companion and Guide so I can use a PDF for searching, I am often in the index but I struggle a little with my eyes and the quantity of numbers, it all becomes a blur. Being able to zoom a page would make life easier. If this falls squarely against copyright then please feel free to ignore this request.

    Thanks and my regards


    • September 3, 2018 8:29 am

      Hi, NF,

      We would have no objection to you making a scan of the index for your personal use.

      Wayne & Christina

  2. inusrrbution permalink
    September 3, 2018 2:40 pm

    Always great to hear you!

    Yeah, the HarperCollins thing you guys experienced with Kullervo and Beren and Luthien in paperback is annoying – if there are X amount of pre-orders, there should be Y amount of stock to fulfill them. I mean, what’s the point of pre-ordering, right? The demand should be anticipated.

    Sorry about that slight rant! I’ve got the paperbacks of A Secret Vice and Aotrou & Itroun pre-ordered, and hope they actually some on publication day to send out…

    I’m also looking forward to the new edition of The Annotated Hobbit, due next year.

  3. September 6, 2018 1:59 pm

    Since Rose Cotton, Sam’s wife, and Wilcome her brother (also known as Jolly) share the samebirth year should readers assume that they are twins? Sam and Rose are recorded as the most prolifichobbit couple, barely eclipsing Gerontius and Adamanta Chubb Took. Usually what looks like two yearsbetween births. Ought readers to conclude that hobbit gestation is something like 9 months and that twins are fairly rare (none that I know of)? Tom Shippey said “seems likely; possible; I don’t know of any hobbit twins  – ask W&C”. 

    • September 9, 2018 5:30 pm

      Hi, silverwolfwushu,

      Without authoritative information about their gestation period, one should probably assume that 9 months was usual for Hobbits, in which case a mother could give birth to two children within the same year without them being twins. It’s been known to happen for us big folk. We don’t know of any hobbits who are explicitly twins – elves, yes, but not hobbits.

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