Thursday, September 2, 2010


So, today's mail brought my copy of the newest volume of TOLKIEN STUDIES -- number seven in the series, and it continues to keep up the high standard of the whole run to date. This time the stand-out item is THE STORY OF KULLERVO, Tolkien's first piece of heroic/fantasy fiction: his own version of the Kullervo story out of the KALEVALA, along with his essay ON 'THE KALEVALA' OR THE LAND OF HEROES (two versions: both the manuscript draft and subsequent typescript). All of this edited by Verlyn Fleiger with Introduction and Notes. A major new contribution to Tolkien studies, and worth the price of the volume by itself.

Also here is a charming little contribution to Tolkien biography by John Garth, who has identified the child Tolkien refers to in ON FAIRY STORIES as dismissively scoffing at the idea of flower-fairies: he turns out to have been the little (half-)brother of Rob Gilson, one of Tolkien's closest friends.

The book review section also contains a major piece: a thirty-page review-essay on SIGURD & GUDRUN by T. A. Shippey (who better?).

I'm also particularly pleased with this issue for two other reasons. For one thing, it contains two reviews by me -- one of Mark Hooker's THE HOBBITONIAN ANTHOLOGY (p. 330-335) and the other of J. S. Ryan's TOLKIEN'S VIEW: WINDOWS INTO HIS WORLD (p. 340-345). For another, this time around David Bratman's ever-impressive annual survey of everything of significance written about Tolkien, "The Year's Work in Tolkien Studies" has gotten up to 2007, and thus includes mentions of MR. BAGGINS & RETURN TO BAG-END. In fact, my book gets two mentions.

First, in his introduction giving an overview of the year's corpus, he follows up a mention of Shippey's ROOTS & BRANCHES collection with a paragraph about "long awaited" works by myself and Diana Pavlac Glyer (both of which were in-process since the early nineties). He calls THE HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT and THE COMPANY THEY KEEP "the keystone works of 2007's scholarship", saying that mine is "highly welcome after the long wait" and notes that both won the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award (in Inkling Studies): hers in 2008 and mine in 2009. (TS.VII.348)

Then, two pages later, he devotes pretty much a full page to THE HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT, noting that while it's my name on the title page the book "is every bit as much a work by J. R. R. Tolkien as is THE HISTORY OF MIDDLE-EARTH" -- which is absolutely true. In fact, I went back and forth so much about whether or not Taum Santoski's name shd appear with mine on the front cover (e.g., perhaps as "with the assistance of Taum Santoski") that the obvious question of putting JRRT's name up there first simply never came up. Most of David's paragraph is a succinct description of my book's contents (trust a bibliographer for being able to convey a lot of information clearly in a short space), but when I read his last line my head started swelling to the extent that I might have to get a new hat. He says of the mini-essays that I add throughout the book following each chapter: "Each of some fifty essays by Rateliff would make a major research paper on its own." I certainly put as much work, both research and writing, as for a full-fledged essay into each (one reason the book took me so long to finish!). In the end, I find my work keeps coming back to my favorite mantra from Keats: "load every rift with ore".

And all this isn't even taking into account the first half of this volume of TOLKIEN STUDIES, with ten essays from scholars both well-known, like Kristine Larsen, and others whose work is new to me, like Vladimir Brljak and Sherrylyn Branchaw. I haven't had a chance to read any of these yet, but once again looks like this volume will be full of good things. Congratulations to its editors.

--John R.

current reading: CROW PLANET by Lyanda Lynn Haupt
current audiobook: KING JAMES BIBLE (2nd Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah

UPDATE 9/7-10:
Vladimir Brijak to Vladimir Brljak
and Sherrylun Branchaw to Sherrylyn Branchaw,
thus inadvertently reinforcing the point that these scholar's names were new to me.
my apologies for the errors; thanks to Merlin for spotting the slips. --JDR


David Bratman said...

I have never read a scholarly paper that left me more thoroughly charmed than John Garth's on Tolkien and Hugh Gilson.

Consider the final sentence of my write-up on your book to be my apology for not being able to treat all the individual essays on the same level of detail that I give to articles published separately in journals or multi-author anthologies. It's the paradox of a work-by-work survey: the longer the subject work is, the less proportionate attention it gets.

Pax said...

Being unsure where to put this post, I apologize for it being out of place.

I recently came across something interesting which may have a relationship to the term "Carrock". Where (if anywhere) would be the best place to post it?

Ardamir said...

Pax, there are some good Tolkien message boards, like

N.E. Brigand said...

Pax, you could also submit a note like that to Mythprint, Amon Hen, or Beyond Bree.

Pax said...

Thanks to you both!

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi Pax
If you want to send it to me in an email, I'd consider posting it here as a 'guest post'. Otherwise, the places Ardamir and Brigand mention are good. It sounds v. much like the sort of thing BEYOND BREE prints.

--John R.

Pax said...

Thanks, John. I don't know that I can elaborate on it enough to make a worthy post. It's just something that caught my attention & I found myself wondering if there was anything to it. My first thought was to ask your opinion in an email, but I didn't see any contact info & wasn't sure how to go about it.

I greatly enjoy your blog, as well as your "The History of the Hobbit" books. Your blog has led me to books I wouldn't have otherwise discovered & your books have added to the appreciation I've long felt for Tolkien's genius. Sometimes a "big head" is totally justifiable!