Sunday, March 31, 2013

Radagast Is Not Jar-Jar

So, the first HOBBIT movie has now come and gone, after having brought in about a billion dollars as it moves on to the second-run cinemas (where I saw it again on Thursday). The special tables devoted to Tolkien at the Barnes and Noble stores are gone (as of the last week of February), and in general things have quieted down a bit on the Peter Jackson / Tolkien films front -- at least till things begin to ramp up again in anticipation of the second movie (and extended edition of the first).

Now that the film's out on dvd I've had a chance to watch it again several more times (five times in the theatres, four times on dvd since the 19th, and then once in the budget theatre on the 28th). I feel like I've come to know it fairly well, so thought I might weigh in on some of the criticism I've seen aimed at it.

In general, the consensus seems to be that the movie is good, but my impression is that people are less excited about it than they were over THE LORD OF THE RINGS films twelve years ago. Part of this is the difference between a known and an unknown quantity. People coming to see THE HOBBIT more or less know what to expect from a Peter Jackson Tolkien film, so the wow factor is a little less. It's like a rock musician releasing a first album that wows everybody; the follow-up album, even if as good or better, often gets denigrated as 'more of the same'.

Also, those fans who were swooned over Wood, Bloom, and Mortensen don't seem to have all made the transition to Armitage and the guys playing Kili and Fili. That they get to see more Ian McKellen in this movie than any of the previous ones doesn't seem to make up the difference, nor the returning roles by Blanchett, Lee, Weaving (who's allowed more than one expression this time), Holm, or Serkis. Some of the most devoted LotR movie fans I know haven't bothered to go see THE HOBBIT film yet, or only saw them once and were done with it. So another factor is that the HOBBIT movies haven't captured all the LotR movie fans.

Finally, THE HOBBIT is not THE LORD OF THE RINGS: LotR is universally hailed at Tolkien's masterpiece, while some people who like LotR don't like THE HOBBIT (and vice versa) or view it as an enjoyable but lesser 'prelude'. Thus the built-in audience for these new Jackson/Tolkien films, while huge, is arguably smaller than that for the LotR films. The latter also benefited from 'Author of the Century' synergy of Tolkien's work finally breaking through into acceptance through winning so many 'best book of the century/millennium polls. Some (like me) think THE HOBBIT is Tolkien's other masterpiece, but this is not a universally held position.

Some of the criticism of the new film, however, seem to me less a judgment on its merits (I'd argue this film is as good as the earlier LotR ones) than a manifestation of the phenomenon that people hate success. They love to see those who have succeeded in the past fail spectacularly in new ventures, and gloat over their downfall. How else otherwise to explain repeated comparisons of Radagast to Jar-Jar Binks?

For the record: Radagast is not Jar-Jar. Jar-Jar is a racist stereotype, a high-tech Stepin Fetchit, an offensive parody of a specific ethnic group. Radagast is a goofy character included for comic effect. Remove a few details -- the guano on his robes (a detail borrowed from T. H. White's Merlin), the stick-insect stunt, and the smoke-scene -- and his character wd be greatly improved. Even as is, the character still achieves everything the movie needs him to, including a rather impressive one-man exploration of Dol Guldur (which in the book had been achieved by Gandalf himself).

Those who can't get over flashbacks of bad DR. WHO episodes can comfort themselves that, while Jar-Jar plays a major role in THE PHANTOM MENACE, Radagast only appears in ten minutes, total, of THE HOBBIT film. Which is another reason why comparison between the two is so inapt.

Up Next: Peter Jackson Is Not George Lucas

--John R

Saturday, March 30, 2013

New Biography of Father Francis

So, the news got posted on the MythSoc list this week (thanks, Juanito) that a new biography of Fr. Francis Morgan, Tolkien's guardian, has just been published: LA CONEXION ESPANOLA DE J. R. R. TOLKIEN ("Tolkien's Spanish Connection"). The author is Jose Manuel Ferrandez. This is great news -- Fr. Francis is one of the really important people in Tolkien's life --essentially his foster-father -- yet he's someone about whom we know relatively little, with most of that little being concentrated in the seven years or so between the death of Tolkien's mother (1904) and JRRT's departure for Oxford (1911).

Unfortunately, there's a catch. As befitting a book published in Spain about someone who was (half-) Spanish, the book itself is in Spanish.

Now, I took Spanish in junior high and high school. But that was the typical school-Spanish as taught in the U. S., which gives you some vocabulary but really only teaches you how to read Spanish lessons in textbooks. Still, I had a pretty good teacher (Mrs. Gatling), and it stuck for a few years.

  When I got to college (Southern Arkansas University or S.A.U.; formerly S.S., or Southern State College) they didn't teach Spanish, so I took French (from Mrs. Souter, who actually was French, having grown up in Brittany). Fayetteville didn't have a foreign language requirement for the Masters, but Marquette did for the doctorate. I asked if I cd do Spanish, since I already had several years' experience with it, if by now pretty rusty. To which I was told no, the choices were (a) French and (b) German.* The way my graduate school advisor (a Deconstructionist) put it, this requirement was so I cd read literary criticism in other languages, with the implication that most of the lit. crit. worth reading (e.g., Derrida) was French. Besides, he said, nothing had ever been written in Spanish I needed to read, except maybe DON QUIXOTE.  So I chose French, since I already had a grounding in that, and took a course (in reading, not speaking, the language) that enabled me to pass my exam. The end result of which being that though I can't exactly claim to read French, I am able to get the general gist of what a piece in French is saying. It helps that (a) I have a good vocabulary in English and can recognize a lot of French cognates to words in English, and (b) I've found I know the nouns and adjectives better than the verbs -- so I can read a review, for instance, and tell what the author is writing about but not what he or she thinks about it. It made for an interesting experience earlier this year when a piece of mine was published in French,** reading through a text I was v. familiar with (after all, I wrote it) and seeing how much of the detail I cd follow in another language.

Despite this, I've regretted having to make that choice. Already by that time (circa 1984, when I was evolving the ideas that became my first dissertation proposal) it was becoming clear that French was not a language I was likely to spend a lot of time working with. Had I chosen German, I cd have read the Grimms and Kafka in the original. Had I been able to choose Spanish, I cd have read Borges (and, now, Ferrandez). Perhaps it's time to see about freshening up the remains of my Spanish, with this book as a test case.

At any rate, I've ordered a copy, so more on that when it arrives.***

*And Old English, of course, which I took at both Fayetteville and Marquette.

**"Un Fragment Detache: Bilbo le Hobbit et le Silmarillion"

***it's not available on, but abebooks lists it.

Here's the book's description from the original MythSoc list post. The link to the author's website is well worth following: he includes there more information about the book as well as several excerpts, both in English and in Spanish:

A biography of Fr. Francis Morgan, the guardian of Tolkien, is published in Spain. The book entitled "La Conexion Española de J.R.R. Tolkien" (J.R.R. Tolkien' Spanish Connection) have 262 pages and is published by Editorial Csed. The author is Jose Manuel Ferrández who already published articles on the relationship between Tolkien and Fr. Francis in Tolkien Studies or in Mallorn.

The book is about the familiar origins of Fr. Francis, his relationship with the Birmingham Oratory and the Cardinal Newman and  obviously on his personal and intellectual influence on Tolkien.

Unfortunately this book is only available in Spanish.

More info in the website of the author:

Friday, March 29, 2013

Cat Report (W. 3/27-13)

Things are relatively quiet in the cat room this week, with only five cats today: EDNA JANE, LEUMURA, TATTOO, OLIVER BOB, and newcomer MAUI TATE. Part of the quiet is certainly due to having fewer cats and thus less stress among the shyer or less sociable ones.

 I bought the cats some cat grass (which I took home to my own cats when they were through with it). That went down v. well; lots of sniffing and nuzzling and a little nibbling. Thought it'd do them good to get a sniff of something green and growing and outdoorsy.   Plus I brought along some (dried) catnip, which went down v. well indeed. Maui in particular hunted down the bag and eviscerated it, the better to roll in afterwards.

Started the day by seeing if LEMURA would like a walk. She wasn't so certain at first, and so long as she could see the cat-room she wanted back in it (through the glass, not the door). Once carried a ways away and set down, however, she relaxed and started exploring. Not at all fazed by dogs, not at all interested in the birds, and more attracted to people than otherwise. She marked territory all over the back part of the store by rubbing her chin against it. The part she liked best were the cat-stands (she preferred the brown one), which she tried out and found Good: definitely got her seal of approval.  Once back in the cat-room afterwards, she lazed atop the cat-stand by the door, enjoyed mightily being petted, and played a little (so long as it didn't involve moving much). Later she came down and prowled a bit.

EDNA started by expressing her absolute approval of cat-grass, followed by Just Saying Yes to catnip. This was followed by Going High via a conveniently placed cat-stand to the Cage Tops, which she had all to herself. Just the way she likes it. Then along came The Bug Game and her happiness was complete. Until, of course, I made her come down at the end of the morning, much to her displeasure. She still doesn't like me, but she had a good day.

TATTOO was sweet today, varying between hiding down low beneath cat-stand #2 and coming out to lay on the charm, get petted, and generally make herself agreeable. Interested to note that she doesn't want any trouble; when Lemura comes near, Tattoo pretends not to see her. And for the most part Lemura ignored Tattoo right back; several times they got almost in each other's face with nary a hiss (glad to see Lemura mellowing a bit there). Definitely the friendliest cat in the room -- when I'm around, anyway. Hope she soon finds a home where she can shower all that affection on her own people.

I know from reading other people's reports that he's not always that way, but OLIVER BOB was very shy today. He stayed in until I lifted him out for cage-cleaning, then hid as low down as he could get till he figured it was safe. Turns out he really loves to be on the mid-level of the cat-stand by the cabinet, especially when it's partially draped by cat-blankets to create a sort of arbor or cloister where he can see out but not be seen. Got spooked by end-of-morning activities, such as sweeping, and had to be dragged out from under the cat-stand's lowest level. Poor Bob; glad to hear he's been more relaxed and welcoming of attention on other days and shifts.

That just leaves MAUI TATE (M.T.), who turns out to have quite the personality.* He let me put the collar on but the door closing worried him so much I decided to call off the walk. Maybe I'll try walking around carrying him next time.  He was enthusiastic over the catnip; rarely have a seen a cat so abandon himself to The Catnip Gods. Afterwards he slept it off atop the cat-stand by the door. He likes to let his forepaws hang down; v. cute. Another odd but endearing behavior was when he expressed interest in a water-dish I was filling, so I held it up where he could lap from it without giving up his comfy spot. He lapped a few times, then stuck is paw in, lapped some more, did the same with the other paw -- and so forth; kept it up for quite a while. Think maybe he's testing where the water level is. Saw him do it again after he went back in his cage at the end of the morning, only this time he dipped his paw, licked it, dipped it, licked it, and so forth. Maybe he's part raccoon.

Ended the day with wet catfood, which all but one cat were VERY interested in (think the exception was Oliver; I forget). 

There was one cat-blanket of different shape and texture than the rest, which it turned out the cats were all in favor of, esp. Tattoo.

And think that's about it for another Wednesday morning.  --JDR

health concern: everyone seemed well; we Haz Got Poop from Oliver, so worries about his outtake can subside a bit. The area above Lemura's right eye was pink and a bit swollen; we'll need to keep monitoring that.

*I shd mention that I'd dropped by briefly earlier in the week to meet him, having heard he was quite shy. He scooted himself along on his back to the front of the cage so I cd pet him through the bars. Quite the charmer, who I hope soon finds a home where he can blossom.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Guardians of Middle-earth (computer game)

So, when I was watching the just-released dvds of Peter Jackson's THE HOBBIT, I found the only thing I really baulked at was in one of the trailers for a computer game based on JRRT's works, GUARDIANS OF MIDDLE-EARTH (which seemed more LotR than H). The voiceover in this trailer/ad ran something like this (emphasis mine):

The battlegrounds of Middle-earth are not for the faint of heart.
Choose your guardian wisely. And create the ultimate Alliance.
This is not about good versus evil.
This is about -- Victory!

Now, this pulled me up abruptly, because it seemed extraordinary to me that something cd be both (1) based on Tolkien's Middle-earth and (2) so dismissive about good and evil. It's like making a video game out of PARADISE LOST with Satan as a first-person shooter trying to break into the Garden: it might or might not be a good game, but it certainly wdn't represent anything Milton wd recognize.

But then I thought, there's a long tradition in war games in de-coupling the strategic and moral sides of a war. Civil War games are about tactics, not slavery or states' rights; World War II games are deliberately neutral as to which side a player plays (eg. AXIS AND ALLIES choices of Russia, Germany, England, Japan, and U.S.). For that matter, there have been plenty of LotR based wargames in which you cd play Sauron or the Fellowship, Rohan or Saruman, without committing yrself to who are the good guys and who the villains of the story. Even RISK, as morally-neutral as wargames get (it's hard to assign relative moral value to the red pieces vs. the blue pieces), has a LotR version*

So I think it's not the de-coupling here that's perturbed me. It's their calling attention to it: no good, no evil, just winners and losers. Except that, for Tolkien, the way you fight a war is just as important as whether or not you win it, and seeking power is, in and of itself, evil.  It's like making a game out of MOBY-DICK that boasts of cutting out all the characterization and just has whalers harpooning whales vs. whales ramming whaling ships.

So, I'd say if something is based on Tolkien's work in any meaningful way, it has to be "about good vs. evil". But then if you take out the phrase "meaningful way",  perhaps that criticism no longer applies.

Or maybe I'm just not the target audience. Which I suspect is nearest the truth.

--John R.

*as does MONOPOLY, of all things, where you build a Fortress on Mt Doom rather than a hotel on Boardwalk. zWeird.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Thoughts on viewing the HOBBIT dvd

So, now I've seen THE HOBBIT again, for the sixth time, this time at home on dvd.

I still like it. A lot.

I was good this time and let it go at its own speed, but I suspect in many future viewings I'll fast-forward through least-favorite scenes and perhaps replay favorite bits. Once again I'm surprised how much of Tolkien's book they got into the movie, how little screen time the non-Tolkienian bits (orcs) took up, and how impressive most of the performances are (esp Freeman's Bilbo and, once again, Serkis's Gollum).

The extras are different this time around; aside from a relatively brief (six-minute) documentary on the natural New Zealand scenery they used, which is flat-out spectacular, it's mostly the trailers (two different ones, with the second coming in a number of variants with the final few seconds different each time) and the production blogs. I'd seen most but not all of these as they were released online; it's nice to have them preserved in more permanent and readily accessible form. Seeing them and the trailers, I saw bits from several scenes not in the first movie, most of which are still to come but a few of which must belong to a planned expanded edition of the first film.

In this category must fall the scene from the first trailer of Bilbo exploring Rivendell and coming across the shards of Narsil. The actor who plays Bofur also talks about having sung the Man-in-the-Moon/ Merry Old Inn song, which could come later (e.g., at Lake Town) but sounds as if it belongs somewhere early on.

In the still-to-come category is obviously Gandalf's exploration of sinister ruins --originally I'd believed these to be Dol Guldur; now I think they must be the Witch-King's tomb described by Galadriel and Elrond at the Council. Presumably it will be to explore these, rather than attend the White Council, that he leaves Bilbo and the dwarves at the edge of Mirkwood to go and do. We also in the production blogs see the dwarves all trussed us in spider-silk, Bilbo in the treetop (the butterflies episode, I presume), Beorn's hall from the inside (w. giant-sized furniture), and especially the barrel-scene. In this it's clear they've changed things so that rather than hidden inside closed barrels floating horizontally the dwarves are riding in barrels floating vertically and open on the top, so their heads and arms can stick out. This isn't how Tolkien described (or drew) the scene, but I understand the cinematic logic behind the change: closed barrels from which you might hear a muffled groan or shout is far less interesting to see than a barrel going down a rapid river with the actors at least partially in sight. So, that looks to be a changed scene, but not radically changed.

My favorite detail from the dvd extras: one props person explaining that they ran out of gold paint for Smaug's hoard, using up the entire available Asian supply and had to send to Germany for more.

There was something in the extras related to the computer games that gave me considerable pause, but since that's a tangential point I'll save it for another post.

--John R.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Cat Report (W.3/20-13)

Finally back from the trip and mostly recovered from the cold, so got to see the cats today for the first time in a while (2/27). Since then Heidi and Pascale got adopted (yay, Pascale!, and yay the good people who gave her a chance), Butterscotch got sent back, and Max the Magnificent came and went.

That leaves us with only four cats: EDNA JANELEMURATATTOO, and newcomer OLIVER BOB. It really makes a difference to have the room so empty; hope it gives those among our cats with the biggest barriers to being adopted* a chance to show their more winsome sides. It was also a really quiet day (only one visitor, who didn't come inside, and that at the v. end of the morning), prob. because of the rain. I arrived late (having waited for the big traffic jam over on I-5 to clear out), and there was still time for attention (petting, games, treats) for each of the four. At one point I sat on the bench to see if anyone wd come over and ask to be petted: Tattoo was the one who took me up on the offer, though she seems to like being petted but not held. 

Lemura, Tattoo, and Jane all enjoyed their catnip.

Tattoo became quite enthusiastic over her string game. 

The bug-on-a-string toy went down well with Lemura and Tattoo; Jane was interested but distrustful that it was all a trick and I'd try to pet her or something. Later on, when she came out and went up to cage-top land, she tore around with great zeal and zest after it.

Oliver Bob was v. quiet and v. shy. He froze anytime I petted him, and shrank back whenever I extended a hand for him to smell or offered him a toy. He did come out after a while, and hid under the cat-stand by the cabinet. Later in the morning he came out from under briefly, and crept along toward the front door -- which was interesting to watch, because he used Tattoo as cover, waiting till she was heading that direction and slinking along low down alongside her, using her as cover. Afterwards he went into her cage, where he stayed till I moved him over into his own at noon. So he's not afraid of Tattoo, and she's not worried or threatened by him, though a little puzzled by his behavior. He did enjoy some wet catfood (as did they all). Glad to hear others have had good results with petting him and hearing him purr, but no suck luck for me today. Hope I get there, though, since his being tailless makes him look a lot like Tiger, the cat I had growing up (all the way from when I was in second grade till I was in graduate school; a good long life), who was part Manx.**

Jane loves the cagetops, though she hates being made to get down from there at end-of-shift (I used The Cardboard Wall of Doom). She was a little less hostile this morning, though still deeply suspicious of What I Might Be Up To. Petted her v. briefly when first opened her cage, without blood loss. Think she's trying to change, but change is hard; for my part, going to try to get her out and about and play with her more and see if that helps.

Lemura was a mellow sweetie. She put herself atop the short cat-stand by the door and stayed there all morning, sometimes snoozing, sometimes playing games, sometimes enjoying being petted. She let me groom her some. Think next week I'll try her with walks again and see if maybe she'll take to it better now.

Tattoo is a great cat: she loves to be petted, then starts to groom my hand (sometimes taking long sleepy pauses with her tongue just sticking out, which is adorable), then begins to nibble on it. She lets me take my hand away just as she's starting to grab and the claws begin to prick just a little. Then a while later we play the same game again. She was quite upset at having to go back into her cage at noon (and not because of Oliver B, who was already back in his own digs by then). 

Good to be back, and to see the cats again.

--John R.

*the one who won't allow herself to be touched or petted (Jane), the one who's started to feel that grooming herself is optional (Lemura), the senior cat with diabetes issues (Tattoo), and the one with a heart murmur (Bob). Challenges all round.

**though she was a striped stumpee, not a solid-black rumpee.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Hobbit Dvd Day

So, today THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED PARTY is released on dvd.

I got mine, once I figured out which of the four variant packagings was likeliest to be the one I wanted (the 3d version was, in the words of Monty Python, right out).* The one I got has both dvd and blue ray dvd, as well as "ultra" (access to an online version, it wd seen, and not, like ADandD's ultra vision, the ability to see in the dark like Gollum). Apparently that means I've passed on a thirty-minute documentary "only at Best Buy" on the "special edition" (wh. the Best Buy staff suggested must just be the standard version?), but so it goes.

Meanwhile, online access woes continue. So far we've got a new modem (my first of three errands today), but the airport still isn't working and said modem only seems to work with Janice's laptop, not mine. I've made an appointment with the Geniuses tomorrow to see what might be ailing my laptop. So if you're trying to get ahold of me between my visits to Starbucks, please be patient.

On the plus side, I did get a fine petting session today with Puck, Tesla, and Mr. Crowley, three Cats of Tindalos I only see once in a while. And I was surprised to find a pair of ducks coming up to the spot below the bird feeder: apparently they've either been availing themselves of the gleanings that fall below or helping themselves to the ground birds' seed.

--John R.

current reading: AN EXPERIMENT IN CRITICISM (but not for much longer . . . )

*and yes, I am able to identify all those dwarves who appear on its cover

Monday, March 18, 2013

Weighed and Found Wandrei

Weighed and Found Wandrei

So, as part of my project of slowly working my way thr. the various WEIRD TALES authors in Lovecraft's circle, I've now reached one who played a major role historically but seems to have been insignificant literarily: Donald Wandrei, one of the older of HPL's young disciples, having corresponded with Lovecraft from 1926 onwards. His role as co-founder of Arkham House means he shares with Derleth the credit for rescuing HPL's work from obscurity, and likewise the blame of ghettoizing said work into small-press-dom. Derleth of course put himself front and center as the defender of Lovecraft's legacy, as well as claiming the right to say exactly what that legacy was, while Wandrei remained more in the background, playing relatively little part from the early/mid 1940s onward aside from his major project of trying to assemble and transcribe virtually the whole of Lovecraft's correspondence --the first volume of which did not appear until more than a quarter-century after Lovecraft's death, in 1965.

As a person, Wandrei seems to have been an internet troll before his time. This book skirts his role in driving Lovecraft's chosen executive, R. H. Barlow, not just out of Lovecraft studies but out of fandom altogether, as well as the question of his knowledge of, or duplicity in, Derleth's various frauds. But it's not a good sign when the biographical essay at the end of the book ("Of Donald Wandrei, August Derleth, and H. P. Lovecraft", by D. H. Olson) starts by arguing that Wandrei was not a paranoid crank, whatever we might have heard. Talk about an "unaccustomed as I am to public speaking" opener! My own feeling, after reading said piece, was that "paranoid, litigious crank" about summed it up.

Still, personality and talent are very different things. There are authors I don't much like whose works I love, and vice versa. Having now read two volumes of Wandrei stories, I conclude that I've read enough -- I'll probably read his novel THE WEB OF EASTER ISLAND (1948) if I ever get the chance, but two thick volumes of over 700 pages of short stories seems a fair trial to say this stuff is not for me. Of the two, the collection of detective stories, FROST (Fedogan and Bremer, 2000) reads like the kind of stories Harry Stephen Keeler was parodying as far back as the 1920s: infallible inscrutable detective, beautiful sidekick, and bizarrely complicated / spectacularly improbable crimes. It's a tradition still alive and well today in manga like DETECTIVE CONAN and KINDAICHI CASE FILES; readable enough but impossible to take seriously.

The other, DON'T DREAM, collects horror and pulp science-fiction stories together -- in fact, I discovered after the fact that it largely replicates the contents of Wandrei's first book, the Arkham House collection THE EYE AND THE FINGER (1944). Those looking for early Mythos tales will come away wanting: aside from references to "the old ones" "the whisperer in darkness" "the color out of space" [sic] and "the call of Cthulhu" -- all in a single more or less irrelevant paragraph in the story "The Lady in Grey" [WEIRD TALES, 1933] -- there's only one truly Mythos story, though not marked as such: "The Monster from Nowhere" (which shd have been titled The Shoggoth from Space). Two variant stories -- "When the Fire Creatures Came" [1932] and its revised form "The Fire Vampires" [1933] introduce the flame vampires and Fthaggua (Derleth's Cthugha) but are schlock science fiction, not horror; something later adopted into the Mythos rather than an intentional contribution.

Most of these stories are predictable, gruesome pulp sci-fi, with a handful of horrors from exotic jungles contributing their bit. He's fond of past-life regression stories (always accompanied by physical regression as well), as well as amoeba-like division and runaway reproduction of monsters (a theme he uses time after time). Although said to have been fond of the prose-poem, the examples included here show he wasn't any good at the form: these are the most static, uninteresting prose-poems I've ever read (and, as an admirer of Dunsany, Clark Ashton Smith, and Poe, I'm a great admirer of the form). 

Still, a few stories stand out. "The Destroying Horde" [WEIRD TALES, 1935] seems to be the origin of the famed DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS monster 'the gelatinous cube' (deadly because perennially underestimated). "Spawn of the Sea" [ibid, 1933] is a too-obvious prequel to Hodgson's great tale "The Derelict", with bits from Poe's PYM thrown in (Wandrei testifies elsewhere "The discovery of Poe was the greatest literary event of my life" -- p. 356).  It's interesting to note that the opening story here, "A Fragment of a Dream" [1926] features a green sun, but this seems serendipitous; the chances of Tolkien's having seen it -- either in its first appearance in the MINNESOTA QUARTERS [1926] or its reprinting in W. Paul Cook's fanzine THE RECLUSE [1927] or in the Arkham House collection [1944] -- seem effectively nil. Also of minor interest is a Wandrei essay "The Imaginative Element in Modern Literature" which defines all "imaginative literature" as falling into three groupings: ghost stories, horror stories, and "pseudo-scientific romance" (p. 361). It's a good indicator of just how narrowly fantasy can be defined, but wholly inadequate when compared to, say, "On Fairy-Stories" or "Supernatural Horror in Literature": Wandrei was no Tolkien or even a Lovecraft.

There is one outstanding story in this collection, however, which makes the whole seven-hundred-page slog worthwhile just to discover it: "Strange Harvest" (WEIRD TALES, 1953). One of Wandrei's later tales, it's wonderfully atypical. If I came across it anonymously in an anthology I wd have instantly identified it as the work of Rbt Arthur (one of the great unappreciated authors of the era, best known for his later work on Alfred Hitchcock anthologies). It's not an original idea -- all the plants in a remote region gain sentience, and object strongly and effectively to the local farmers' baffled attempts to harvest them -- but handled extremely well, with great humor and effectiveness. The escaping apple orchard, who replanted themselves in a spot more to their liking and whom the would be harvester unwisely pursued, was my favorite bit, but it's hard to resist a line like "Not least among the remarkable events in Shawtuck County that morning was the saga of the fugitive potatoes." (p. 304). That line pretty much tells you whether this is a story you'd like or not. For me, the answer is v. much yes; I'll be hanging on to this volume solely for the essay on Wandrei at the end and this story.

Finally, there's a puzzling passage in Wandrei's deposition, drawn up as part of his suits and counter-suits against Arkham House after Derleth's death and incorporated into the volume's terminal essay. At one point, after mentioning Lovecraft's having appointed Barlow his literary executor, Wandrei goes on to say

"Lovecraft had also given specific authorization to six persons to use all story ideas in his notebooks, and to use all his Cthulhu mythology, these six individuals including Clark Ashton Smith, Frank B. Long, Derleth, and me." (p. 377)

Now, in the first place this does not ring true to the way Lovecraft approached the mythos, which was much more free-form and informal. That he wd encourage some and discourage others doesn't seem to fit the facts very well. And in the second place, assuming any such document or instructions ever existed, who are the other two names, and why did Wandrei omit them from his list?  I can think of lots of possibilities --Howard? Bloch? Kuttner? Price? Barlow? Leiber? et al. -- but no way to narrow it down plausibly to the ones Wandrei had in mind.

So, done with that. Wandrei's true legacy is not in his works (not the short stories and essays, anyway) but in having co-founded a legended small press at age thirty. Now to see if I can find that novel, or whether Donald's brother Howard Wandrei was any better . . .


Sunday, March 17, 2013

The New Arrival (VT.50)

So, the same day we returned home from the trip, the newest Tolkien-related publication arrived: issue number fifty of Vinyar Tengwar. This now-venerable Tolkien linguistic journal (the first issue having been printed back in the eighties*) some time back morphed into being a venue for printing minor (i.e., relatively brief) primary texts by Tolkien, in conjunction with Parma Eldalamberon, which similarly prints major (longer) pieces. As such they are specialty publications, often opaque to those of us without formal linguistic training (e.g., in this piece's use of technical terminology like "enclitic conjunction", "spirantized", "deictic construction", "passivizing element", "postvocalic lenition", and the like).** I mainly pick these up to have them for reference, as I often find out elsewhere after the fact that they contain valuable material for the non-specialist.

This particular issue is devoted entirely to "The Turin Wrapper" (not to be confused with the Shroud of Turin***): a page of Elvish written in the (early) 1950s, reproduced both in facsimile and in letter-by-letter transcription, along with over twenty pages of detailed analysis deciphering what Tolkien had written and what it meant. Most of it turns out to be relatively straightforward -- names for Ireland (in Old Irish, Primative Celtic, Modern Irish, Latin), and variant titles for the Turin story. The most interesting part of all, from the point of view of what it tells us about the mythology, is a brief passage in which Rian (Huor's young widow) speaks to her infant son Tuor, something about "What have we done" and now being estranged from the dwarves and the elves (perhaps in a geographical sense, i.e. separated by vast stretches now occupied by hostile forces). With all the work I've been doing recently on changing depictions of the dwarves in the legendarium, this latter was of particular interest to me. Unfortunately, as often proves to be the case w. Tolkien manuscripts, the most interesting parts tend to be the most difficult to read and interpret.

Hostetter has done an amazing piece of work here, carefully distinguishing between the known and the unknown, extrapolation and speculation, with phrases like "inferred by reference" and "recourse to . . . surmise", "unattested" and (my favorite) "of uncertain meaning and opaque derivation".  Despite which he builds a persuasive case for almost the whole of the translations proffered, which is pretty impressive in itself.

That said, it's a tough read for any non-linguist.  Though not without its rewards: the take-away that interested me most was the passing observation that Huorn meant "talking tree" ("orn" = tree, as in Fangorn and Onodrim) and wondering whether making "din" the Elvish word for silence (Amon Din, the Hill of Silence) was a deliberate joke on Tolkien's part or just worked out like that. And, now that I know the speaker's introduction survives from the event in which Tolkien was granted his honorary doctorate in 1954 (VT.50.11), I find myself curious what the man said on that occasion. cx

--John R.
current reading: AN EXPERIMENT IN CRITICISM (CSL), AVILION (Verlyn Flieger)

*September 1988, to be precise. To my astonishment, having just checked my files I find I actually have an almost-complete set, lacking only #49

**i.e., not for the Bertie Woosters of the world

***speaking of which, in other news: habemus papam (or, in the vernacular, We Haz Got Pope)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Dayquil Days and Nyquil Nights

So, not much posting from me, as a direct result from our both being laid low with colds (congestion, aches, lethargy, coughs). More when mental acuity and energy levels return.
   Till then, much bonding with the cats, who are delighted to have us both home for several days in a row, and encouraging us to sit quiet, read, nap, watch book tv or browse online, et al.


current anime: the BLOOD series (BLOOD THE LAST VAMPIRE; BLOOD+; BLOOD C)
current reading: just finished the Donald Wandrei horror/fantasy short story collection; starting CSL's AN EXPERIMENT IN CRITICISM (1961) in search of a quote I wanted to use in my Kalamazoo piece; so far no luck.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Valparaiso, Day Three

So, Sunday morning it was hard to drag myself out of bed but highly necessary that I do so, since we had to check out of the hotel, eat breakfast, and get to the campus (not that it was v. far) before nine o'clock, when it was my turn to present the third and final plenary speech of the conference: "In the Company of Dwarves: THE HOBBIT's Influence on THE SILMARILLION".*

I'd been fretting about this piece ever since I finished it more than a week before (unusually for me, who usually runs a deadline right up to the last moment, and sometimes slightly beyond). Oddly enough, it was not my conclusions that worried me but the syntax. My Marquette piece ("How THE HOBBIT Came to Milwaukee") of a few months before was deliberately casual in tone, including bits of personal reminiscence and the like. This time to make my point I had to go into detail about just when elements entered into the mythology, where specific changes were made, and their significance in light of other details in other works. In short, an extremely detail-oriented argument heavily depending on the audience's being able to keep the relative dates and relationships of all the works I was discussing clear while hearing me read it aloud. And for some reason I found it impossible to set out all the information without resorting to relatively complex syntax, with the danger that what I wanted to say might get tangled up in how I was saying it. Luckily, Janice gave it a read-through the first night of the conference and gave me some good advice on relatively minor ways I cd change the phrasing that greatly improved the piece.

And, to my relief, the presentation itself went well. I always consider it a win when the audience doesn't charge the stage with pitchforks and torches, but there's also always the fear that they'll just shrug and say 'so what?': that the mountain of argument only receives a molehill of revelation. Luckily, that seems not to have been the case; I got a lot of good questions afterwards, and heard good things about it from people whose judgment I trust.** So, a happy ending. Here's a picture of me presenting it:

(thanks to Jason Fisher for the link)

The mid-morning sessions, the last scheduled events on the conf., quickly followed: out of two interesting sessions, I chose the one dealing with Bombadil in it, this being a long-term interest of mine (having once years ago presented a piece on "The Importance of Being Bombadil"). So while I missed pieces by Tolkien linguist Eileen Moore on "The King's Letter", by Heather Patnott on "What Names Do For Narrative", and by David Weber on "The Virtue of Hope", I did get to enjoy Justin Noetzel's "Beorn and Tom Bombadil: Mythology, Narrative, and The Most (Non) Essential Characters in Middle-earth", wh. was enjoyable to listen to but difficult to sum up; the most interesting part for me was his association of Tom Bomb with the Celtic Otherworld and tales of the Tuatha de Danaan. This was followed by what was for me the last presentation of the conf., by Thom Foy, an independent scholar who I think said was making his first presentation, on "Satisfying the Skeptic: Truth, Knowledge, and Tolkien's Music of Creation", a wide-ranging piece that covered everything from crop circles ("people make them!" a no-nonsense farmer told Foy and his wife, who'd come to marvel at one for themselves) and Hurin's curse to see everything through Morgoth's eyes to string theory and quantum theory.

After the usual questions, the roomful of people dispersed. Emerging into the hall, I found the conference had more or less ended. It broke up quickly and quietly, with people just slipping away; most were already gone by the time I wandered out of the meeting room after that last session. So didn't get a chance to make my final farewells of some, but there's always next time.

In short: Brad Eden put on a great conference, and I'm glad I made it. I'm honored to have been one of the plenary speakers, and hope to soon see several of the papers I heard this weekend in print.

And then it was off to Milwaukee, and then to Harvard, and then Rockford; enjoyable visits to many a Coulter; a day (T.3/5) of being snowed in in our extended stay with nine-and-a-half inches of snow (that'll teach us to be nostalgic about Midwest winters!); a day at Marquette; getting to see my friend Jim Pietrusz, all too briefly (probably the best-read person I know; we can go on and on for hours talking about books); more visits; much talk of Lewis and Clark and Yellowstone and John Colter; finally a cat-petting session (Fr.3/8); slowly succumbing to a travel-cold; returning home; being laid low with said cold. More posts as the mental fuzziness and physical not-at-all-wellness recedes.

--John R.

*my original title having been "Anchoring the Myth: The Impact of THE HOBBIT on Tolkien's Legendarium", but I had to change that when my thesis changed in the course of researching and writing up the paper -- as is sometimes the case: you start out with an idea, do the research to see if you can prove it, and wind up with conclusions altogether different from what you started with.

**I got a particularly glowing response from David Bratman, whose own paper I think one of the best I've seen on THE HOBBIT, on his blog: 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Valparaiso, Day Two

So, Saturday dawned all too early; second day of the conference and I'm already fighting the drag of not-enough-sleep.

Still, the first event of the day (at nine o'clock, a.m.) was worth getting up early for: Verlyn Fliger's plenary talk on BILBO'S FRENCH CONNECTION. This was in part pushback against Carpenter's claim that Tolkien suffered from a kind of Gallophobia and dislike of all things French; in part, a look at Tolkien's use of the words "adventure" and "aventure" in OFS and THE HOBBIT, tying this back to that word's usage in Arthurian romances like Chretien and the Lancelot story (and, she might have added, particularly in Marie de France).  And in part an argument that stories of knights errant (Eric, Yvain, Lancelot) had much in common with our Mr. Baggins. I thought the middle part (about aventure) outstanding and the first part (arguing Tolkien owed more to France and things French than generally acknowledged) interesting. The final part I'm not yet convinced on, partly I think because I need to go back and read Chretien's ERIC AND ENIDE and think of it in relation to THE HOBBIT.

Next came the morning sessions: of the two tracks, I went to the HOBBIT over the 'Bromancing Tolkien' one. Presided over by Doug Anderson, it had two presentations: Judy Ann Ford's piece on Peter Jackson's depiction of The White Council and David Bratman's "Bilbo in the Land of Fable". The former was the main piece dealing with the new HOBBIT movie at the conf.; thought it did a good job sorting out Jackson's changes to the story. It did not address something about the scene that intrigued me: has Saruman gone bad yet at this point, or is that still to come? I thought Jackson threaded the needle with great care here; J.A.F. took the position that he was already evil and deliberately working to forestall the Council's taking any effective action.

I'd heard an earlier version of the latter paper at a gathering a few years ago and been much impressed then; now I found the more fully written up version brilliant: a major contribution to Tolkien scholarship. David's approach here is the exact opposite of mine in MR. BAGGINS and "A Fragment, Detached" (or my own presentation here at Valparaiso the next day, for that matter) that I thought produced some interesting insights into the work: that Bilbo is like a fairy-tale hero who goes off into the wild (i.e., into fairy-land/Faerie), where he has a series of strange adventures and encounters with familiar fairy-tale monsters and beings: elves, goblins, trolls, evil wolves, dragon, et al. The strange contradictory indicators of time (did Gondolin fall ages before, or within living memory of the average goblin?) make sense if we'e in Faerie, which as he pointed out is notorious for strange variations in chronology and geography. If I had to make an analogy of the way his paper and mine relate to each other, it'd be that if you look to the right, you see some things you can't while looking straight ahead, and if you then look to the left, you'll see other things you can't see while looking to the right. But all of them were there all the time, wh. is why approaching works from different points of view can be so interesting.

Then after a snackish lunch in the college cafeteria, during which time I got to visit some w. various co-attendees I hadn't met before, it was time for the afternoon sessions. In my pursuit of attending as many HOBBIT-themed presentations as possible, I mixed and matched the next set of sessions. That is, I attended the first paper in one set (Sharin Schroeder's piece on JRRT and Andrew Lang), then shifted over to the session running opposite it in time for the second (Kris Swank's piece on THE HOBBIT's links to THE FATHER CHRISTMAS LETTERS) and third (Michael Fox's "The Narrative Structure of THE HOBBIT") papers in that session. That's the thing about dual-tracking papers: it means you have good things no matter which session you chose, which is good, but it also means you're missing out on A as you take in B. Alas.

Of these, Sharin's paper convinced me I need to learn a lot more about Andrew Lang, whom I've known mainly as an editor (and as writer of PRINCE PRIGIO, a minor but amusing work, and its still more minor sequel); what little I know of his feud with Muller* I know second-hand thr Verlyn's (excellent) book INTERRUPTED MUSIC. Kris Swank's piece did a good job going back and forth between H and FCL, showing ways each influenced the other (and also taking into account other works like ROVERANDOM and the early Man-in-the-Moon poetry). It also cited my book a lot, which was gratifying but also for some reason highly embarrassing. Why is it that I'm delighted to read someone citing my book or saying something nice about it, yet the same comments in person make me bashful and want to hide behind the person sitting in front of me? Michael Fox's piece looked at THE HOBBIT's links to various Old English and Old Norse stories, chief among them BEOWULF but also GRETTIR'S SAGA, ARROW-ODD's SAGA,** HROLF KRAKI's Bothvar Biarki, et al. I was particularly struck by his argument that Grettir starts out as a slayer of monsters but ends up being a monster himself. I've still not read Grettir's Saga (though I picked up a good translation a year or two back), but I see I'll have to remedy that soon.

The second afternoon sessions (2.30 to 4) began right away. Here there was no doubt where I would be, since I was moderating the session in Room A (more on THE HOBBIT), opposite those in Room B (more Bromance). Here I didn't take many notes, since I was busy moderating. The first speaker of three was Laura Lee Smith, whose "This Is of Course the Way to Talk to Dragons: Ettiquette-based Humor in THE HOBBIT" compared THE HOBBIT's concern with politeness and mock-politeness with Carroll's ALICE books, MacDonald's CURDIE books, Milne's POOH, and Wyke-Smith's SNERGS. One thing she highlighted was how politeness ebbs and flows depending on power: characters at a disadvantage are distinctly more polite than those who feel in a stronger position.

Next came Paul Catalanotto's "Down, Down, and Into the Dark: Evil in THE HOBBIT", which among other things looked at manifestations of the Seven Deadly Sins and Seven Virtues in HOBBIT characters, particularly looking at the ancient concern for philoxenia (hospitality). I was particularly struck by his description of Smaug as "luciferian". His conclusion was that the lesson of THE HOBBIT for young readers is simply this: Evil is real. By contrast, Trish Lambert's "From Ear to Eye to Film: The Evolution of THE HOBBIT" argued that the oral origins of THE HOBBIT left their mark on the story; indeed, that some of the early chapters read like transcriptions of the latest storytelling sessions. I've come to be skeptical about those oral Hobbit tales myself, but she's certainly right that he was originally writing for "an appreciative audience" (his own children, particularly the three sons) and did a good job extrapolating from  the theory into how we might see it in practice. In the latter half of her essay she sequed into discussion of the various film adaptations or attempts at adaptations: Zimmerman, Carpenter's stage play, the Rankin-Bass HOBBIT, and the current ongoing Peter Jackson. All in all, quite a good session, with an array of questions afterwards.

From hence, we walked over to the university Chapel (a huge college church that looked like a great ship sailing across the campus) to hear an informal talk already in progress by Jonan de Meij, composer of SYMPHONY No. 1: THE LORD OF THE RINGS (which is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary). De Meij talked about how he came to write the piece, which parts he's written in which order (he wrote part four, Moria, first), why specific keys were used at specific points (the ending in peaceful C-major), changes he'd made to the orchestration over the years (extra cellos to join the rather unusual soprano sax of the original), et al., following this with a question-and-answer session. I actually enjoyed the talk even more than the performance that followed: it was interesting to learn that he'd started with the idea of wanting to do a large-scale work, and looked about for a suitable text, only then come across Tolkien and decided that would make a good basis.

The Concert itself followed, conducted by de Meig himself. I have two recordings of the symphony, one a cassette by a military band, of all things, the other by the Amsterdam wind ensemble.*** This live performance was far and away superior to either -- so much so that it made me wish there'd been a way for them to have recorded it and made this performance available.

Afterwards, a group of us got together, it being too early to go over to the banquet, and set forth seeking hot tea and coffee and a place to sit and talk for a while. The little campus cafeteria had closed by now. We knew there were Starbucks nearby but not exactly where, and didn't feel like casting about trying to find it when we were travelling in multiple cars. So we decided we'd just settle on the Dairy Queen that was within sight of the campus. A good discussion over acceptable tea and bad coffee followed: getting together with friends and fellow Tolkienists is one of the best things about these occasional gatherings,**** and this was no exception.

Have to say the Dairy Queen were as nice as cd be at a largish group that came in, bought v. little, and stayed talking for a good long while (it probably helped that the college was on spring break and there were few students about, so we weren't taking up a table others might need).

Finally, there was the banquet. Some of us stood around outside talking until almost all the table had filled up, so we picked the one that was still mostly empty, which turned out to be the one de Meij and Brad Eden, the conference organizer, were at. So we not only had more enjoyable conversation among outselves but also got to talk more with the composer, who again showed himself to be full of interesting things to say. I had no idea that there are thirty-two recordings of his Symphony available (soon to be thirty-three in a few more weeks). Of these, he recommend the Wind Orchestra recording I have as the best recording available of that version of the symphony, while he said the London Symphony one was the recording he'd recommend of the full orchestral version.

And then, after a feast and dragon-cake and many cups of tea, it was back to the room to get some sleep and be ready (a) to check out in the morning before the first session and (b) to have everything ready for that session, which was to be my own plenary presentation. And, despite shorting ourselves on sleep again some, that's just what we managed to do.

More to come re. the third and final day of the conference.


current reading: the same.

*my general impression (from OFS) having always been that both men were obviously wrong, I'd previously lacked the impetus to delve into their works first-hand or at any length.

**this being the Arrow-Odd who went to Permia, as all readers of WHOSE AFRAID OF BEOWULF will no doubt recall.

***Here's a link to the cassette; apparently the same recording is now also available on cd:

I cdn't find a link to a cd of the Wind Orchestra version, but it is available for download:

And finally here's the full symphonic version, which I've not heard (but which I'll have to pick up, now that I know it exists and that de Meij recommends it):

****another, of course, is meeting new people who are going good work that I wdn't know about otherwise

UPDATE (3/5-13)
I've corrected de Meij's name: it's JOHAN de Meij, not 'Jean". I've also fixed a typo ("lucierian"). Thanks to sharp-eyed Merlin for catching these.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Valparaiso, day one

Yesterday: goodbye to cats. ride to airport (thanks, Stan). acrophobiac on airplane. Chicago. snow on the ground. cold.

Today: up, rendezvous with another conference attendee, drive to Valparaiso. check into hotel. register for conference. strict admonition not to lose tiny little banquet ticket.  Meet up with friends: David Bratman, conference organizer Brad Eden. Visit library with DB to check out their Tolkien, Wms, Lewis, and Dunsany shclves. Good primary collection for JRRT, good secondary collection for CSL. They have four books by Dunsany, wh. is good. two are duplicate copies of FIVE PLAYS, while the other two are books-for-libraries reprints (like the first Dunsanys I read) of two of Dunsany's three best books: THE LAST BOOK OF WONDER and A DREAMER'S TALES (if only they had THE BOOK OF WONDER they'd be all set).

Hence over to the chapel, where the LotR Symphony will be performed tomorrow, and then over to the Tolkien Exhibit, drawn from Brad Eden's personal collection, where we reunited with Janice and Yoko while perusing the exhibit.  Many Tolkien posters showing a wide range of artists and styles. Some autographed books belonging to various members of the Tolkien family. David and I between us worked out two lines of a three line inscription in one of them, wh. I think was doing pretty good considering that was (a) in Tolkien's handwriting, (b) in a language I don't know, and (c) highly abbreviated.

Leaving the exhibit, our group of south-moving Tolkien scholars (Janice, Yoko, David, myself) ran into a group of north-moving Tolkien scholars (Verlyn Flieger, Vaughn Howland, Doug Anderson). Didn't Dr. Seuss write a story about something like that? Except in our case we were so delighted to see each other that we stopped and congregated in collegial fashion. Got to visit briefly with Jn Houghton, where we commiserated with each other over a project we've both put a lot of work into that's stalled interminably by forces outside our control.

All in good time, we mosied over to the campus cafe for a snack to hold us till after the evening's event. Then to the evening event itself: Eileen Moore performing a number of in-character songs from the point of view of a lot of Tolkien's female characters: Eowyn, Galadriel, and Luthien of course, but also Lobelia and Rosie and Melian, as well as more obscure or unexpected ones like Gollum's (yiddish) grandmother, Aredhel, Shelob.

Before, during, and after the event saw more familiar faces, mostly from Kalamazoo: Deborah Sabo, Eileen Moore, Anna Smol, Merlin DeTardo. Plans for dinner started simple but became so complicated that we decided that if we were too tired to follow the directions to the restaurant where we were to all meet up maybe we'd better give it a pass, so Janice and I called it an early night, got a quick meal at the Culvers across from our hotel, and settled in for some down time, during which I read through and revised my paper (which I'm delivering Sunday), I think improving it. I'm particularly pleased by one small addition I made near the end (more on this later).  After which Janice read through it, improving it a good deal more.

And now it's past midnight, past one o'clock, and time to call it a night. With more time with friends and more Tolkien goodness to come.

--John R.

current reading: JOHANNES CABAL AND THE FEAR INSTITUTE (Jonathan Howard, 2011) and DON'T DREAM (Donald Wandrei, 1997)

UPDATE (3/3)
The best evidence of how tired I was when I posted this was that I left out the big event of the day: Doug Anderson's talk about illustrations for THE HOBBIT, a slide show of art such as he included in THE ANNOTATED HOBBIT. I've heard versions of this talk before, in 2002 (at GenCon and again in Seattle), 2012 (Commerce, Texas), and again now: it's different each time, and I see things in familiar pieces I hadn't noticed before. One of the notable new inclusions is the 'mosaic' cover of the Latin Hobbit, and some pieces from a 1950s/1960s reprint of An Unexpected Party. If you ever get the chance to see Doug put on this show, don't pass it up if you're at all interested in Tolkien, or fantasy art, or the many ways different artists may illustrate the same scenes.

--JDR (from Rockford)

UPDATE #2 (3/5-13)
And as a good example of how Doug is always adding to and updating this presentation, recently an enhanced electronic version of THE HOBBIT was released that included a few new audiofiles of Tolkien reading from or, in one case, singing a song from THE HOBBIT. Doug not only played the audio file of Tolkien singing the thumping-pole song, but he even had identified the traditional melody JRRT was re-using: Katy Beardy, wh. turns out to be a Scottish variant of the tune to 'London Bridge Is Falling Down".  Also included was the possibility that, when Tolkien first invented the tengwar (wh. Doug dates to circa 1931) it might not have been initially an 'elvish' script -- wh. might explain why his Dwarves use it (in Thorin's letter, and on the treasure-urns in Smaug's lair). Some of the newer illustrations he showed were quite good, but I'm glad WEIRD TALES artists Virgil Findley didn't do a full set of illustrations (the one he did do isn't bad, and reminded me of the Folio Society's art by Eric Frazier, but a bookful of such art wd have been both dark and busy). As for Frazetta's Gollum, let's just say that while Frazetta/Conan might have been an ideal match, Frazetta/Tolkien isn't, and let it go at that. But as a might-have-been, it's fascinating.