Monday, November 16, 2009

Long Ago and Far Away: The New Tolkien Newsletter

So, yesterday I had another go at the box room, and this time amongst the items unearthed (from box #130)* were my copies of THE NEW TOLKIEN NEWSLETTER and some issues of THE FANTASY REVIEW (the latter gifts from Jim Pietrusz and Roger Moore in Days Gone By). The former was, in its time, perhaps the most notorious Tolkien publication out there: it picked up where Giddings & Holland's THE SHORES OF MIDDLE-EARTH [1981] had left off, developing editor Elizabeth Holland's ideas about the secret messages she thought were encoded in THE LORD OF THE RINGS.** A fascinating exercise in source-study by stream-of-consciousness association (they placed the Shire in the Balkans and Lothlorien in Turkey on the strength of the Bolger hobbit family-name sounding like Bulgaria and Galadriel's name reminding them of Galatia, as in The Epistle to the Galatians), the book also pioneered the claim that Tolkien was deeply indebted not just to medieval literature but also to the popular writing of his time and the preceding century -- a subject that both Jared Lobdell (in the first chapter of ENGLAND & ALWAYS [1982]) and I (in my essay on 'SHE and Tolkien' [1981]) had been arguing for at about the same time. Now it's a much more accepted position, but then it was going out on a limb.

What I'd completely forgotten back when compiling my list of publications for Sacnoth's Scriptorium was that I'd written in so many letters trying to bring them round to my point of view that eventually Holland gave me my own column ('John Rateliff's Page') in later issues. There had been some dispute among Tolkien fandom about whether Giddings & Holland were serious or whether they were putting us on, that perhaps the whole thing was a huge hoax; I was soon able to find out that, however extravagant their theories, Holland at least was in dead earnest. I think I might have managed to get her to moderate the tone some later on, but then again I might have been fooling myself; at any rate, we remained on cordial terms and I went out to Bath to pay a visit during my 1985 trip to England, finding her a gracious host and a wealth of information about her home town. She had already at that point suffered one major heart attack (so that she was restricted to the ground floor of her townhouse), and died, I believe, a year or two later. R.I.P.

Which brings me to the point: it turns out I have duplicate copies of two issues: #3 (August 1981) and #4 (March 1982). They're free to the first person who responds in a comment to this post that he or she would like them. If there is a good home for these strange waifs out there somewhere, better they go to it than into recycling.


*This being the arbitrary label slapped on it by the movers when we came out from Wisconsin.

**For his part, her co-author Giddings went off on his own to develop theories about gay relationships between characters in the book; Holland told me she'd had difficulty getting him to leave out of their book his theory that not only Frodo and Sam, but Tolkien and Lewis, had a longtime affair. Giddings' obsessions eventually found expression in the collection J.R.R.TOLKIEN: THIS FAR LAND [1983] which, despite its inclusion of one wonderful essay by Diana Wynne Jones, set an all-time-low for Tolkien essay collections, still unmatched today (although one a few years ago came close).


Rownsepyk said...

Hi John, I'd love to have your duplicates! Thanks for the great post as well.


Jason Fisher said...

Gaaaa, too slow!! Oh well, Jeremy will certainly give those a good home, just as I would have. :)

Rownsepyk said...

Sorry Jason!

I did use some minor information (dates of some issues) that you posted here John, in order to update my Tolkien fanzine database at

I also linked to this post since it has such excellent background on the Newsletter history. John, can I quote you more extensively?

I do plan on documenting the two issues in a bit more detail, and then giving them away again - if I get my hands on them. :-)


John D. Rateliff said...

Congratulations Jeremy; hope you enjoy.
I've just sent you an e-mail to get a mailing address to send those two issues.
Yes, feel free to quote more of what I say about them, though in that case I'd appreciate your sending me the link.
And if you plan to pass them along after you're done with them, I suspect Jason wd be perfectly happy to get them later instead of sooner (as they don't say in Bree).
--John R.