The Art of The Lord of the Rings
Tomorrow, October 8th, is publication day in the U.K. for The Art of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (HarperCollins). We hope it will please and inform. The American edition, from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), will be published next week, on the 13th. As expected, the HMH edition will be available in a dust-jacket but not a slipcase, while the HarperCollins edition is in a slipcase but not a dust-jacket. An early review of The Art of The Lord of the Rings is being written by Ethan Gilsdorf for Wired.com. We hear that our new book has also just been published in Finnish by WSOY.
The final product still has 240 pages, as we reported earlier, with 192 numbered figures (including 10 details), around 100 of which were not previously published. In the last stages of production, we located further small instances of art in the Lord of the Rings papers at Marquette and had to revise how the pictures were presented.
Tolkien on Record
For the completist collector, or anyone interested in spoken word recordings, Tolkien’s performance of the ‘troll song’ from The Lord of the Rings, first issued on the 1975 Caedmon album J.R.R. Tolkien Reads and Sings His The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring, was also included as a sample track on the 1977 Caedmon anniversary double album Caedmon: Speaking of the Best for 25 Years (SP25). We discovered this on eBay.
The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun
A new edition of Tolkien’s Lay of Aotrou and Itroun, presented in English and Serbian on facing pages and with extensive commentary, has been privately published by the translator, Aleksandar Mikić (email@example.com). We asked Aleksandar to hold a copy for us when he announced it, but once it became available we found it difficult to send money by wire transfer from our rural location. Fortunately, Aleksandar was able to set up payment by PayPal through a friend of his in Wales.
Tolkien’s Letters to Sterling Lanier
‘Between the Covers’ of Gloucester City, New Jersey are offering an archive of six typed letters signed by J.R.R. Tolkien, and one autograph letter signed by Edith Tolkien, to Sterling E. Lanier, author, sculptor, and the editor who convinced Chilton Books to publish Dune. These are concerned with small bronze figures based on characters in The Lord of the Rings, which Lanier made and hoped to market with Tolkien’s permission. Tolkien was amenable, but United Artists held the rights at that time. The correspondence also touches on the Ace Books affair, with Tolkien reporting on an initial overture from Ace, ‘very specious and slightly glutinous’, and later commenting on ‘very reasonable terms’ from the publisher. A small portion of one letter was published in Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, on p. 422. The entry in Between the Covers’ web catalogue includes a full description but only a very small picture, which does not seem able to be enlarged. The seller’s printed catalogue (Archives & Manuscripts no. 19) includes more and larger photos. The asking price for the collection is $40,000.
After many years in temporary form, the official Tolkien Estate website has been redesigned and much expanded, with texts in French and Spanish as well as English. It is divided into four sections, Writing, Learning, Painting, and Paths, and each of these in turn has various sub-categories.
Under Writing are ‘Tales of Middle-earth’, ‘Other Tales and Poetry’, ‘Tales for Children’, ‘Translations, Essays’, ‘The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien‘, and a brief interactive timeline of Tolkien’s life and works.
Learning includes ‘Languages and Writing Systems’, ‘Tolkien and Visual Arts’, ‘Thoughts and Studies’, and ‘On Specific Works’. The latter two contain miscellaneous essays on Tolkien studies, reading Tolkien, Tolkien the philologist, and other topics.
Painting contains brief descriptive texts leading to numerous pictures drawn or painted by Tolkien, and to photographs of Tolkien himself, some of which have not been published previously or have not previously appeared in colour. Among these are a few of the maps which will first appear in print in our forthcoming Art of The Lord of the Rings, but here can be enlarged to examine details.
Finally, although Paths at first seems to include only common website elements such as Frequently Asked Questions and site credits, on further exploration these are very interesting and lead to other links to follow.
Christina writes: Most people who read our posts know that Wayne and I have an extensive book collection, and not just of Tolkien. A substantial part constitutes a joint interest: Tolkien, Pauline Baynes, Victorian art, and children’s literature, along with other authors, artists, and subjects. But there are also areas where we have differing interests, or at least interests to differing degrees. In the area of history, for example, I am relatively more interested in the ancient, classical, and medieval periods, while Wayne tends to be more concerned with American and military history. Many may not know, though some may recall, that we also have a large collection, or rather two large collections, of music and videos, and there – apart from a little overlap, mainly in nature programming – our interests are almost entirely distinct. I collect mainly opera (on CD and DVD), but also lieder, chansons, and songs in various languages other than German and French (generally on CD), as well as ballet (on DVD). Wayne, on the other hand, prefers orchestral or instrumental classical music, with relatively little vocal, and has a substantial collection of soundtracks, with lesser numbers of jazz, pop, rock, and New Age CDs, and his DVD collection consists mainly of films and television series.
Although we enjoy acquiring books, records, and so forth by chance discovery, coming upon them in some out-of-the-way shop or otherwise serendipitously, many are sought out only after we have done research, and this is particularly important with music, where the performance and sound quality are as important as the work performed. For fifteen years, one of our most reliable sources of information about classical music recordings has been the British magazine International Record Review, or IRR. A few days ago, Wayne looked up from his computer and said: ‘I have some bad news. There will be no more issues of the International Record Review.’ He had just read in an email that due to the death of Barry Irving, sole director of the company that published IRR and evidently its financial support, the firm ceased to exist, and the March issue we received a few weeks ago was the last. We first saw the International Record Review in Blackwell’s Music Shop in Oxford during a visit to England in 2000; it was the second issue, dated April, and we read it on the flight back home. We both liked it enough to subscribe and to purchase the March number as a back issue to have a complete run. Over the years, IRR has covered the areas that interest us far better than other music magazines have done. I was particularly happy to find it, because in Autumn 1999 I had lost the International Opera Collector, which I enjoyed but which ceased publication after only thirteen issues.
I also look at several other music magazines to help me choose what to buy. It’s sometimes amusing to see how opinions differ. I subscribe to the American Opera News, but this is mainly about performers and live performances, with only a few pages devoted to reviews of CDs and DVDs. I originally subscribed to Opera News to get advance information about Metropolitan Opera broadcasts, in the days when our cable company offered an FM music channel for only a few dollars a month: the same broadcasts were carried by one of our local FM stations, but much less clearly over the air than by digital cable. This too was discontinued, because the cable firm decided that it served only a minority interest, and wasn’t worth their trouble to keep even though its fans offered to pay more for the service. Luckily, by that time I was too busy writing books to follow a broadcast schedule, and instead was buying CDs or DVDs for such moments as I could devote to music.
Wayne writes: More recently, Sirius XM, the subscription satellite radio service we have in our car, dropped their Classical Pops channel for car listening, moving it exclusively to their tabletop radio lineup where it does us no good under our particular subscription. They had only three classical channels to begin with, against umpteen pop, rock, talk, and sports channels, and are now down to only Metropolitan Opera Radio, which I don’t listen to (and Christina prefers not to listen to opera in the car), and Symphony Hall, which seems to have a preponderance of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, and Telemann, but not much Ravel, Debussy, Rimsky-Korsakov, Vaughan Williams, et al. which one found on Classical Pops, so it’s not a substitute. According to the Classical Pops Facebook page, Sirius lost a number of subscribers over this. We haven’t left yet, though we’re seriously considering it as our renewal date approaches. This seems to be another case of corporate accountants deciding that even though the firm serves niche interests, the classical music niche is just too small or inconsequential.
Christina writes: For reviews in the British Opera and Gramophone and the American Fanfare, I rely on the copies received by the Williams College Library. Opera, like Opera News, is mainly devoted to performances and performers, while at least half of each Gramophone and Fanfare comprises general articles on music, performers, technical matters, and so forth. Fanfare has the widest coverage of all, since half of each issue comes to nearly 300 pages, but the reviews are listed in alphabetical order by composer rather than by separate category, which makes it harder to use for my purposes, and it is published only once every two months, so reviews tend to appear later than in other sources. I might subscribe to Fanfare, as it constitutes a good historical reference source, but can’t afford the shelf space it would eat up (yes, I could subscribe to the online edition, but I find it harder and more time-consuming to read reviews on a screen than in print). And while Gramophone can be entertaining, and sometimes has an interesting article or two, both Wayne and I find it too slick and ‘popularized’ for our tastes. (BBC Music Magazine is in much the same vein.)
Apart from the quality of a performance and recording, I am particularly interested in two other factors. Firstly, with regard to DVDs, I want to know about the production. I do not like most current productions, which play to the producer’s ego and perversely make nonsense of both words and music. I do check YouTube clips when they exist, but that is not always sufficient. Secondly, for CDs of more unusual items, I want to know if the text, at least, is included, if not a translation if the work is not sung in English. International Record Review provided this information, and Fanfare still does. Gramophone has symbols which are supposed to speak to this, but they are rarely included. Indeed, recently Gramophone actually said that no libretto was included for Francesco Maria Veracini’s Adriano in Siria, and I had crossed it off my list of desiderata until the final issue of IRR stated correctly that the recording had the text of the opera but not a translation. I’ll admit that when I first removed the shrinkwrap from the jewel case I was worried, as the booklet seemed very thin, but the text was there, if rather horrible in white printed on black!
Wayne writes: I’ll miss the International Record Review too, and hope that its knowledgeable and talented reviewers fare well in other magazines or media. I was unhappy a few years ago when IRR changed its typography, making it (I thought) harder to read, and I wrote to the editor to say so – I mean, digital Perpetua looks washed-out when printed on coated paper. But either they made subtle adjustments or I got used to it. I haven’t found any good equivalent online, at least not yet. I must admit, though, that in recent years it has been for me a case of diminishing returns. I have so many recordings that new performances aren’t often better than those I already own, and I have to be careful that ‘new’ CDs aren’t just reissues I’ve already bought. I’m noticing, for instance, attractive recordings on the Helios budget reissue label which I bought years back on Hyperion. But also, I’ve read fewer reviews about unfamiliar composers that make me want to give them a try. I remember how an early number of IRR led me to try out the Russian-born Aaron Avshalomoff, some of whose orchestral works are available on Marco Polo.
Christina writes: A more serious loss was the Book and Magazine Collector. I began to collect this magazine with about its third issue in May 1984, and purchased the earlier two as back issues. We have the complete run of all 328 issues, until it folded after the Christmas number in 2010. The magazine had been taken over a short time earlier by a company who thought they could change it and make it even more profitable. They succeeded only in bringing it to an end. The greater part of each issue consisted of a number of articles on authors and topics, with bibliographies and suggested secondhand prices. The first issue, for example, contained ‘Ian Fleming and the James Bond Books’, ‘Collecting Penguins’, ‘Victorian Small Wars: A Guide to Some of the Most Valuable Books about the Colonial Wars’, ‘Rare Cookery Books’, and ‘Bibliography of U.K. Fan Magazines’. The penultimate issue carried articles on Neil Gaiman, L. Frank Baum, Enid Blyton’s ‘Secret Series’, and Victorian dust-jackets.
Articles included author biographies where relevant, and brief but tantalizing summaries or descriptions of topics or works of fiction. All of these were interesting to read even if one knew nothing much about the author or topic. Over the years, the magazine provided a wide-ranging overview of both fiction and non-fiction. Some popular topics were dealt with more than once, with later articles noting changes in popularity and prices or special anniversaries. Tolkien was dealt with in nos. 17, 57, 95, 214, and 238; the last also included an article on the Tolkien Society. There were occasional articles on aspects of collecting and selling, and a letters section. Each issue also gave considerable space to listings of books for sale and books wanted, though the latter usually took up only a few pages. While I was living in England, I did not have a subscription, but would buy B&MC as soon as it appeared for on the newsstand. I would often make a detour to Smith’s on Waterloo Station on my way to work when I knew the new number was due. Before reading the articles, I would scan the lists of books for sale, though I only ever found a few items I wanted (this was before such listings began to migrate to the Internet). My memory is not clear, but I think I found my copy of Leeds University Verse (with early Tolkien poems) through the magazine.
A good blog post about the demise of the Book and Magazine Collector, and about the differences between print and Internet resources (both content and standards), may be found here.
Wayne writes: In the late 1980s I discovered Cook’s, and enjoyed it as a good home-cook alternative to magazines like Gourmet, which featured sometimes very elaborate, professional-level recipes and articles on travel. I see now that Cook’s was started and sometimes edited by Christopher Kimball, later of America’s Test Kitchen fame. I subscribed to Cook’s, and had hardly done so, it seemed, when it folded, and in compensation for the issues remaining on my subscription I was offered one or two months of – Gourmet. I wrote a harsh letter to the publisher, saying that Gourmet wasn’t to my liking; they replied: Right, then, we won’t send you anything. A few years later, Kimball started Cook’s Illustrated, and I subscribed to that for a while, but gave it up when it seemed that the material was being more compactly presented in the America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks. Looking back at Cook’s now, I see that Kimball left as publisher very near the end, when the magazine was sold to the Condé Nast syndicate), and that the senior writer then was Mark Bittman, which explains some of the quality.
Christina writes: As preface to another loss, I have to tell you that as a child, one of my favourite authors was Violet Needham (1876–1977). Many of her novels were Ruritanian, but others were historical or involved mythic elements. Most of her heroes and heroines were orphans who had to show courage, make difficult decisions, or adapt to living with strangers in different and sometimes overwhelming circumstances. She did not spare her characters – one hero dies in battle, another is tortured by the Spanish in the Netherlands in the sixteenth century. I borrowed the first few Needham titles from the library, and thereafter bought each as it came out. One of the earlier ones I read only years later, when I found it in the reserve collection of Holborn Library. A few years after that, I found a copy to buy. Although she is not one of the best remembered children’s authors of the twentieth century, Violet Needham was popular enough at the time her books were published for at least a couple to be dramatized on BBC Radio’s Children’s Hour programme.
On 18 May 1985 I attended the inaugural meeting of the Violet Needham Society. The Society thereafter produced three issues a year of a magazine called Souvenir, which soon expanded from articles on Needham to juvenile Ruritanian stories generally, and to books by Needham’s contemporaries, who, like her, had been largely forgotten. Over the years it brought back many nostalgic memories of childhood reading. Unless prevented, while I was still living in London I attended annual general meetings and went on excursions to places associated with Needham and her books, or to other literary venues. On one occasion, we visited the area described by A.A. Milne in his stories about Winnie the Pooh and stood on the bridge and played ‘Pooh sticks’. Members of the Society have included several authors of works on children’s literature, and two other Tolkien Society members beside myself: Rikki Breem and Jessica Yates. But we’re all growing old, and there are fewer people who remember reading Needham’s books, and fewer still willing and able to take on some of the burdens of running the society, and in particular editing Souvenir. There will be a final AGM this autumn (which, alas, I will be unable to attend), and a final Souvenir to be followed by a collection of the best articles from Souvenir and an Index. Thereafter there will be a website, and perhaps informal meetings, but no journal, subscription, or formal gatherings.
Wayne writes: One of my favourite authors, Arthur Ransome, still has enough popularity (for Swallows and Amazons and the other books in that series) that the Arthur Ransome Society seems in good health, at least for the moment. Its survival will depend on finding younger members to take over as officers and organizers and editors. May this good thing go on for a long time.
Images, from top: International Record Review, April 2000; Book and Magazine Collector, May 1984; Souvenir, Summer 2014.
It has been too long since we last put on our website new addenda and corrigenda to our J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: nearly a year in the case of the Chronology volume, and approaching two years since we updated the Reader’s Guide. New material is always coming our way to better document Tolkien’s life, and we still have some catching up to do in describing works by Tolkien published after the Companion and Guide appeared in 2006. We can’t be posting additions and corrections every week, but letting them accumulate for too long makes for seriously lengthy and complicated work fitting them into our various pages and keeping, or trying to keep, everything consistent in form.
We did at least post addenda and corrigenda to our Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion this past January, and to the new Adventures of Tom Bombadil collection at the end of December. Most of our older books have settled down, with very few corrections or additions occurring to us or being called to our attention; but it’s tempting fate to say so, and indeed, we have sent three or four to our website in this round.
Nineteen pages have been updated, as follows, everything on our list, in fact, except Wayne’s Arthur Ransome bibliography, and that could use an update as well!
The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide in general
Supplemental bibliography to The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide
The Lord of the Rings 50th anniversary edition
The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion, 2005 edition
The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion, 2008 edition
The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion, 2014 edition
Supplemental bibliography to The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion
Image: Spine of the boxed set of The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide.
Lovers of books will enjoy posts on The New Antiquarian, the blog of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America. Lovers of many books (but never enough) will enjoy a recent post by Kurt Zimmerman, ‘You Know You’re a Serious Book Collector When . . .’
For example, you know you’re a serious book collector when:
You realize you may never see that rare book again but you can always make more money. We’re all for financial responsibility. We save, we spend wisely, we look for value for money. But you will never forget the book you let get away as long as you live.
You sell your piano to make room for another large bookcase. We did that! Except that it made room for three large bookcases.
You quietly worry about the structural integrity of your home. No (it’s very well built), but others certainly do.
You have book shelves in your bedroom closets. Only in two bedrooms, and there are no beds in those rooms – just books.
You order book jacket protectors and rolls of protective mylar in bulk from library suppliers. Well, yes (from Gaylord). This is part of being financially responsible.
Your vacations feature book stores and book dealers. Doesn’t everyone’s?
You can scout book stores all day long and forget to eat. Not quite, though we have been known to work straight through lunch when we’re in a library and in the middle of research.
Guests grow silent in amazement when they walk through your book-laden home. Then they ask about its structural integrity.
Wayne writes: In the March 8th Sunday Book Review of the New York Times, Sarah Manguso told of a book she read in her childhood, details of which she could recall but not its author or title. It was about a beaver family, she remembered, or it could have been woodchucks or muskrats, and one of the characters was called ‘Crackie’. When she exhausted Google Search, she turned to a blog called ‘Stump the Bookseller‘ and learned that her mystery book was probably Toodle and Noodle Flat-Tail: The Jolly Beaver Boys by Howard R. Garis, author of the ‘Uncle Wiggly’ stories. (Uncle Wiggly, I’ve heard of. Toodle and Noodle Flat-Tail, no.) Unfortunately for Ms. Manguso, the book is out of print and, at least at the moment, is not available from online sellers.
The books we read, or have read to us, in childhood stay in our memory, not always clearly, sometimes as only a ghostly presence, but there they are, part of the foundation of our personalities and our selves. At least, that has been my experience. I’ve been lucky that many of the books I knew and loved as a child were never discarded, and I can revisit them whenever I like. There are Milne’s Pooh books, with Now We Are Six and When We Were Very Young. There are the ‘Horton’ books by Dr. Seuss, and If I Ran the Zoo. There’s the set of My Book House by Olive Beaupré Miller, blue bindings (in my edition) all in a row. There are Little Golden Books, and Giant Golden Books too. There, for a boy brought up on TV westerns, is The Big Book of Cowboys by Sydney E. Fletcher.
Other books recalled from my youth were never purchased, only borrowed, from the elementary school or county libraries. I know these included at least some of the ‘Cowboy Sam’ titles by Edna Walker Chandler, though what I saw in them, as I look now at images online, I have no idea: not one of their stories and pictures has stayed with me, just the name of the series. More importantly, I also read The Wind in the Willows at a very young age, so young that for a long time the only memory I had of it was of E.H. Shepard’s illustration of Badger, Rat, Mole, and Toad routing the stoats and weasels in Toad Hall, and I didn’t link my memory specifically with that book. I was thrilled to rediscover the picture many years later and finally make the connection, when I read Kenneth Grahame’s great work again as an adult and fell in love with it.
For a long time, I remembered as well that I liked a series of books with the character ‘Zip-Zip’, and had a vague idea that they were science fiction. Thanks to the Internet, I identified these as the work of John M. Schealer, and eventually bought copies of all three: Zip-Zip and His Flying Saucer, Zip-Zip Goes to Venus, and Zip-Zip and the Red Planet. Published between 1956 and 1961, they would have been fairly new when I checked them out of the elementary school library. Read again in adulthood, they don’t appeal quite as much, in fact not much at all, but the ten-year-old in me recalls them fondly.
Now if I could only identify the book on scuba diving I often borrowed from the same library: those were the days of Sea Hunt and Assignment: Underwater on TV, and for a while I had it in mind to become an oceanographer. But I’m not sure if, in memory, I’m not mixing it up with The First Five Fathoms by Arthur C. Clarke, which I think I had as a birthday gift and is still on our shelves.
Christina tells me that she has a book memory of her own. The main character of this work is a boy or girl, who has been ill for a long time, and whose mother goes out to buy a book for her child. She meets someone who persuades her that a certain book is the very one she needs, and it has (perhaps) twelve pictures. In the course of the story, the boy or girl (as it may be) gets into the pictures and meets another child (of the opposite gender). Then there is something to do with dance, maybe a fire dance, and the children end up at some great event, where they perform. Does this sound familiar to anyone? Christina admits that it’s entirely possible that she’s mixing up more than one book.
Image: Illustration by E.H. Shepard for Chapter 12, ‘The Return of Ulysses’, in The Wind in the Willows. At least in the editions we have, the picture is divided, with a small part printed on the facing page. Here I have put it back together with Photoshop.
Further to our earlier post, HarperCollins have informed us that the U.K. edition of The Art of The Lord of the Rings will be published on 8 October this autumn, a few days prior to the American edition. HarperCollins’ edition will be listed on Amazon U.K. and other sites in due course; their data feeds out to online retailers on a different schedule than that of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, whose edition we reported to be already available for pre-order.
The final binding and U.K. slipcase designs will be approved shortly, and will closely resemble those whose pictures we have posted. As they preferred for The Art of The Hobbit, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will publish their edition of The Art of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien in a dust-jacket, with no slipcase.
Our forthcoming book, The Art of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, is now available for pre-order on (at least) Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.ca, and Book Depository. The publication date is given as 13 October 2015, and the number of pages (240) matches our design. The listings, however, are still only for the American edition from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, not yet for the HarperCollins U.K. edition. (We had not previously had confirmation that there would be an American edition, though it seemed likely.)
The Amazon U.S. and Book Depository listings include our blurb for the book; this is omitted by Amazon U.K. and Amazon Canada. None of the listings includes an image, and we have not yet heard if the design of the early mockup (seen above) has been retained or changed. Nor do we know if Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will have the same binding, or, as they did for The Art of The Hobbit, choose to have a dust-jacket rather than a slipcase. On our part, we have submitted the book to the editors and production staff at HarperCollins and are awaiting comments or proofs.
Christina writes: In the second half of January this year, I suffered from a virus with a heavy cough and a disinclination to do anything physically or intellectually demanding. I decided instead to do something I had been promising myself for some years: to listen again to the BBC dramatisation of The Lord of the Rings with my full attention. I first had to decide whether to listen to it on tape (26 half-hour episodes as originally broadcast in 1981 or 13 one-hour episodes as broadcast again in 1982, both recorded off the air, or the BBC 1987 commercial edition, 13 cassettes in a black box stamped in gold with the title and an Eric Fraser design) or on compact disc (the 1995 BBC Radio Collection, 14 CDs in a cloth-covered binder in a flimsy slipcase (no. 603 of 5000), or the 2001–2 BBC Radio Collection, 12 CDs in 4 jewel cases, with new opening and closing narrations by Ian Holm in the persona of Frodo, or the 2009 BBC Radio J.R.R. Tolkien Collection, 12 CDs together with 9 other CDs). In the 1995 and 2001–2 BBC sets, the last CD is devoted to Stephen Oliver’s music, which I had bought separately on both on LP and cassette in 1981. I chose to listen to the 2001–2 set of CDs, as having the extra material and being accompanied by much better documentary material. Wayne and I listened to this set in 2009 while on a long car journey, but I really couldn’t concentrate in those circumstances, and the sound was not ideal. Listening to it with full concentration in ideal conditions brought back many memories.
The dramatisation was first broadcast in 26 thirty-minute episodes, from 8 March to 30 August 1981, at noon on Sundays with a repeat at 10.30 p.m. on the following Wednesday. I was one of many who taped those episodes week by week. I also taped the 13 one-hour episodes broadcast from 17 July to 9 October 1982 (with a little additional material to fill in space freed by overlaps, and having only one introduction and closing credit for each episode). For both series, if for some reason I was unable to do the taping myself, I commissioned someone else to do it for me. Brian Sibley recalls in a booklet in the 2001–2 edition ‘seeing a postcard in the window of his local newsagent with the plea “Will trade copies of any episodes of The Lord of the Rings for episode ten which I missed”.’
When possible, Brian Sibley and Michael Bakewell, who made the adaptation, would try to finish episodes on a cliffhanger. Some of these disappeared in the hourly episodes, including breaking off as Farmer Maggot and the hobbits heard the sound of hoofs on the road ahead, and the middle of Galadriel’s response on being offered the Ring. I listened to the tapes so often that for several years, when I was reading or dipping into the books again, I would hear the appropriate musical theme behind the words.
I first read The Lord of the Rings in 1955, the first two volumes before The Return of the King was published, and, having been unable to renew the loan of a library copy of The Return of the King in September 1956 during an umpteenth re-reading, I decided I needed my own copies. I had enough saved pocket money to buy The Return of the King almost at once, and the other volumes followed at monthly intervals. Over the years I acquired a basic collection, not occupying more than a couple of feet of shelf space, and the only near duplicate was the second edition of The Lord of the Rings. The BBC broadcasts produced enough public reaction that in spring 1981 Foyle’s bookshop in London had a display of Tolkien editions in print. I was tempted – I wanted all of them – and I fell, and so started what became a very large Tolkien collection.
But it wasn’t just books by or on Tolkien that I wanted. I went through the Appendix of Tolkien’s published writings in Humphrey Carpenter’s J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography and set out to get copies of everything listed there. Between the Senate House Library (London University) and the British Library, I was able to get photocopies of all but a few items. I wondered if the Tolkien Society might be able to help with these. I had seen a photograph of some members in costume in an article in the Radio Times the week the broadcasts began, and had been doubtful about joining as I was not (and am not) keen on dressing up in costume, but now decided to ask for information. If I remember rightly, I had to wait a while for a reply because the Society had been overwhelmed with applications and the Membership Secretary felt that every new or prospective new member should be answered by an individual, handwritten reply. The duty was shared out among the committee members. My reply was written on 3 July 1981 by the then Secretary, Helen Armstrong.
Well, I joined the Society, and on the afternoon of Sunday, 16 August 1981, having listened to episode 24 of the BBC broadcast, ‘The Return of the King’, set out to attend my first Tolkien Society event, a meeting of the Northfarthing Smial, the Society’s London local group, at Susan Rule’s apartment in Bloomsbury. My memories are rather dim, but I do remember clearly that Brian Sibley was present, and that general opinion was that the voice of the eagle who brought news of victory was a mistake. When I mentioned my interest in obtaining copies of the Tolkien material I had not been able to get elsewhere, someone advised me to write to Charles Noad, the Society’s bibliographer, which I did. He replied on 1 September, enclosing copies of some of the items I sought and advice on where I might obtain other material.
In that period it was still possible to imagine that one might be able to collect not just everything published by Tolkien, but also a greater part of the material on him and his works. I widened my searches in the London libraries and made many trips to Colindale in north London, to the newspaper and periodical branch of the British Library, in particular searching for reviews of Tolkien’s books. I also began to subscribe to various periodicals devoted wholly or partly to Tolkien, not only in English, and made lists of articles I saw mentioned to pursue on my excursions to libraries.
A few years later, Charles Noad and I obtained permission from Rayner Unwin to photocopy Allen and Unwin’s collection of Tolkien press cuttings, including ones from the U.S.A. sent by Houghton Mifflin, Tolkien’s American publisher. We made several trips to Allen & Unwin’s offices in Hemel Hempstead, north of London, catching a train about 8.15 a.m. from Euston Station to arrive at the offices not long after they opened at 9.00 a.m. We would work without break until they closed at 5.00 p.m., unscrewing press cuttings scrunched into envelopes and laying then out higgledy-piggledy on the photocopier to get as much as possible on each sheet. We made two copies of each, which we paid for. Later I cut my sheets up and sorted the cuttings and placed them in scrapbooks. Alas, the Allen & Unwin collection was lost, presumably trashed, in one of the firm’s later corporate changes.
At this time it was also possible to think that one might obtain, if not a complete collection, at least a fairly substantial one of translations of Tolkien’s works, and I embarked on this also. I also wanted to buy American editions of Tolkien books, which was not easy in the days before Amazon. But, of course, there were Americans who wanted British books, so the general method was to find an exchange partner. Jessica Yates, a long-term member of the Tolkien Society, had an exchange with John Rateliff, who was closely associated with Taum Santoski and the Tolkien papers at Marquette. When Taum wanted an exchange partner, Jessica suggested me. I also acquired another American exchange partner when I met Wayne Hammond at a Northfarthing Smial meeting in summer 1983. He was introduced to me as someone working on a Tolkien bibliography, and was told that I had a collection he should see. Well, most of you know what came of that meeting! We announced our engagement at the closing ceremonies of the 1992 Tolkien Centenary Conference, married in 1994, and merged our collections when I moved to the U.S.A. in 1995 – and I’m not going to measure how many shelves or linear feet the combined collection now occupies, and is still growing.
Returning to my opening subject, what did I think now about the BBC adaptation? It took a while for the old magic to reassert itself, but then, even the book starts slowly. The amount of writing on Tolkien we have done over the last two decades made me appreciate even more than before the masterly adaptation which not only keeps to Tolkien’s story line, but also in most cases presents the characters as he depicted them, and above all seems to me to have caught the spirit of the books. I thought and think that the use of alliterative verse in dealing with the battle of the Pelennor Fields was a brilliant idea. I had forgotten how much Gerard Murphy as the Narrator contributed, and not just because he had some of my favourite passages to read. I thought that one or two of Stephen Oliver’s themes very appropriate, and most of them adequate, but I hated the eagle’s song and the use of a boy soprano or countertenor, and found some of the music for the elves a little too dainty and tinkly, more suitable for the diminutive flower fairies Tolkien hated.
Inevitably, I compared the BBC version to Peter Jackson’s interpretation, which I saw only once and prefer to forget. I don’t like films much anyway, finding them cold and lifeless compared with stage performances – I began to go to the theatre in Bristol in my teens, and theatre was perhaps the main reason I found a job in London, where I usually attended performances of plays, ballet, or opera several times a week – but I think my happiness with the BBC production made me even less happy with Jackson than I might have been without it. I am not complaining about the omission of Tom Bombadil, which the BBC adapters also cut. In the films I particularly disliked the added material, the unnecessary alterations, the emphasis on violence, and the weakening of almost all the characters: they are not the characters I meet in the book or in the BBC dramatisation, and for most of them I have no feeling of empathy, in fact I actively dislike several.
I also thought that most of the acting in the BBC episodes was superior, though I admit that the script the film actors had to deal with did not always present a congruous characterization (Gandalf) or a characterization anything like the books (Frodo, Merry, Pippin, Faramir, Denethor, Treebeard, etc.). Listening to the BBC version again, I hardly know which portrayal to praise first: Peter Woodthorpe’s brilliant Gollum, Michael Hordern’s perfect Gandalf, the believable relationship between Frodo and Sam, and the brief moments between Denethor and Pippin. I know that when the dramatisation was first broadcast, some were unhappy with Robert Stephens as Aragorn, but I had seen him at the Old Vic as Atahuallpa in The Royal Hunt of the Sun by Peter Shaffer, as Benedict in Much Ado about Nothing, and as Captain Plume in The Recruiting Officer by George Farquhar (opposite Maggie Smith in the latter two), and I could just imagine him in the part.
Now that I’ve rediscovered the BBC version, I intend to listen to it again in the not too distant future.
Image: Detail from the cover of Radio Times, illustrated by Eric Fraser.
Christina writes: In my last garden post – last March!! – I was eagerly expecting spring. Eventually spring came, but there was a late cold spell in April, with icy winds. This damaged blossom so that we harvested only one apple from our three trees, there were only a few berries on our holly bushes, and only one of our three white azaleas had any flowers, and those low down on the plant where they were half hidden and protected by pachysandra. Many of our shrubs looked unhappy until our landscaper, Dan, began a fertilizer regime which soon revived them. Writing projects kept us too busy to write blog posts for much of the year (my ‘Aragorn’ comments posted in late May and early June were written mainly at the end of 2013 and only needed a little polishing), but of course we could not similarly abandon our garden. This post summarizes some of the main garden events of the year.
In my garden notes for November 2013 I commented that I had had some older phlox (subject to mildew) removed from the perennial bed and partially replaced with subdivided peonies. During the spring clean-up, I had Dan’s men reduce the areas of the shasta daisies and black-eyed-susans (Rudbeckia) and transfer a clump of catmint (Nepeta) to an area from which some irises had been removed. Neither of the buddlejas (butterfly bushes) added last year survived, so I had plenty of space to transplant or add new plants. As usual, we made several visits to garden centres and on our return covered much of our shady patio with plants waiting to be put in the ground.
I replaced the buddleja in the perennial bed with two blue anise (Agastache), also said to attract butterflies; these did very well, though I didn’t notice many butterflies (generally not very plentiful last year), and I was happy that the plants flowered well into the autumn. Two of last year’s lupines survived, and I added a third. Since two astilbe from the front of our house were being crowded out by growing bushes, I had them moved to the perennial bed by our driveway. Other new perennials included campanula, more veronica, a splendid foxglove (Digitalis), a white salvia, a couple of delphiniums, and a new phlox in a different colour to that remaining. Near the north end of the bed, I have an area devoted to sweet william (Dianthus barbatus). Several of these plants had reached the end of their lives, having provided for years a low carpet of colour in early summer, so I filled in the gaps and was delighted to find the flowering season greatly extended, presumably due to a longer-flowering variety.
Once again I planted annuals at the edges of beds in front of perennials and bushes to provide colour throughout the summer and early autumn, mainly pansies, Supertunias, ‘Yellow Chiffon’ Superbells, snapdragons (Antirrhinum), and pale cream and lemon yellow African marigolds. This year I could not get violas from my usual local supplier, where they come six to a solid block, and had to buy them at a garden centre where they are grown in containers with six individual projections. I was worried that these seemed to be very slow to start multiplying, and then realized that this was probably because the roots had less space. Eventually they did produce their usual display. The area around our two large locust trees at the south end of the driveway is shady, and I have planted much of it with lamium, but there is a small piece of ground just to the east which gets a little morning sun but is protected from the hotter midday sun by taller plants including phlox. There I planted a little shade garden of oxalis, double impatiens, and dianthus.
I found a place to try another, larger buddleja, next to a mock orange (Philadelphus) on the south-east side of the garden, in an area originally planted with decorative grasses which had become overgrown and unwieldy and with yarrow (Achillea) which was fading after several years. The buddleja grew well during the summer, and I hope it will be third time lucky. We didn’t intend to add another rhododendron but could not resist the ‘Purple Passion’ specimen we saw at the Windy Hill garden centre. We managed to fit this in by removing some pachysandra. On the east side of the garden, the two spireas we planted last year to replace ‘Purple Gem’ rhododendrons have done well.
As part of our landscaping project in 2010, we planted a large number of different, carefully chosen daylilies just behind the violas along the outer edges of the beds in front of our house. I had put off dividing these, as I could not think where to put the extras (our neighbours already have full gardens) and I hated to just abandon them. But they were clearly in need of division, with yellowing leaves and, on some, fewer flowers. Eventually, in consultation with our landscaper, I decided make a new bed for them adjoining the east of the house. Dan thinks it gets enough sun, and Wayne is quite happy with a little less lawn to mow. At the same time, we slightly enlarged the bed to the right of our front steps which then curves out around the rose of Sharon at the corner of the house and continues into the new bed along the east side. This was partly because the rose of Sharon had grown over the years.
The extra space at the front allows more room between the violas and the lilies, and space for early bulbs (crocus and snowdrops) between the lilies, and for daffodils slightly behind. The former will have died back by the time the lilies are well up, and by then the lilies will conceal most of the daffodils as they die back after flowering. Well, that’s my theory, and I’ll have to wait until spring to see if it works out. I bought the bulbs for this bed from Windy Hill as I was not entirely satisfied with those from Home Depot I planted in 2013. The crocus did reasonably well, and I was delighted and amused to find that bees discovered the flowers within twenty-four hours of their opening in early spring. I was less happy with the sixty ‘assorted’ daffodil bulbs I planted round the apple trees: most flowered, but almost all of them were the same yellow, not the varied selection shown on the package.
In early summer, the busiest period when both planting and weeding demand hours of attention, I had a great deal of help from a woman temporarily working for our landscaper. Once she left, I felt on top of the work and capable of keeping the weeding under control without excessive effort. Then on the first of July I somehow damaged a tendon or muscle in my left knee, and for a few weeks had to take it easy, managing to do only a little deadheading of lilies. Luckily we had quite a lot of rain, so there was less need to water the garden, and I would have been kept indoors part of the time anyway. In fact, we had so much rain on one occasion that the rose of Sharon, heavy with flower, sagged forward onto the lawn and had to be staked back into position. Of course, while I was recovering, the weeds flourished.
We had a long autumn with plenty of rain and no frost until early November, then warm weather so that some annuals lasted into mid-November when there were a few snow sprinkles; and then a severe storm arrived the day before Thanksgiving, with wet, heavy snow which iced over. We heard strange noises during the evening of the storm, and when Wayne went out with a light he found that the birch in front of our house was bent over and scraping the roof. The apple trees and taller bushes were also bowing under the weight of snow, but Wayne managed to free them. It was a few days before the snow melted enough for the birch to right itself; come spring, we’ll have this topped. We were lucky not to suffer any damage beyond a few fallen twigs, though some quite large branches fell onto our property from neighbours’ fir trees. Further up the road, one of the three trunks of a neighbour’s birch not only bent but broke.
Images, top to bottom: new plants on our patio; a splendid foxglove; a shade garden (iris, oxalis, catmint, lamium, etc.); rhododendron ‘Purple Passion’; petunias, marigolds, and pansies; our birch tree bending under snow and ice.