Sunday, November 2, 2014

Bombadil arrives!

So, my copy of the new extended edition of THE ADVENTURES OF TOM BOMBADIL has now arrived*, and I'm glad to say it's an appealing little book. It's a small-sized hardcover, a little shorter and a little wider than a standard mass market paperback (or, to put it another way, about the same size as a cd jewelcase, only a little taller).  There's a lot of material here -- new editorial introduction giving the history of the volume, a reprinting of the entire contents of the 1962 book, an extensive section of commentary reprinting earlier versions of the poems, three pages in tengwar, the all-too-brief fragment of the Bombadil story, and the third, previously uncollected Bombadil poem, along with another (non-Bombadil) poem they suggest might be a precursor to it.

I haven't had time to read carefully all the way through it yet, so here are some first impressions

(1) I was wrong is saying this was a Hammond & Scull volume, like ARTIST & ILLUSTRATOR, THE ART OF THE HOBBIT, and the LotR READER'S COMPANION. Instead, it's a Scull & Hammond volume, like ROVERANDOM, the FARMER GILES OF HAM extended edition, and the two volume JRRT COMPANION & GUIDE.

(2) The Story of Tom Bombadil is indeed very short, only three paragraphs long, a mere 262 words -- most of which is devoted to setting the scene in the days of King Bonhedig, long before the days of Arthur. What little we do have is interesting because of its unexpected parallels to the opening of FARMER GILES, and for its contribution of another of Tolkien's invasion sequences; it'll be interesting to compare the one here with that in Tolkien's notes for THE LOST ROAD and also those glimpsed in notes and outlines to THE BOOK OF LOST TALES (esp. in the story of Eriol/AElfwine).

(3)  "The Dragon's Visit" is indeed unfortunately omitted from this expanded edition (as well as "Kortirion among the Trees", which is much less of a loss). The good news is that "Once Upon a Time", the third and final Bombadil poem, is indeed included, along with another (non-Bombadil) poem they suggest might be a precusor to it. I'm dubious both on the merits of the latter and its connection between the two, but still it's good to have another Tolkien poem reprinted where it'll be more accessible to more people.

(4) In the matter of "Fastitocalon" and "Cat", they do indeed preserve the second (revised) sequence but fix two references in Tolkien's Preface so that they now each refer to the correct poem respectively. They were not able to restore the flames to the picture of Fastitocalon, but this is because they reprint all the incidental art within the body of the original book here in black and white.

(5) They describe [p. 20] the original dustjacket as having depicted the mariner from "Errantry"; I have always assumed this is the narrator of "The Sea-Bell". Not only does he and his ship lack any of the panoply so prominently featured in "Errantry" but he actually holds in his hand the sea-shell that awakens the sea-longing in "The Sea-Bell" (he's also incidently sailing past a bell in the sea, ringing on a buoy).

(6) One minor piece of errata: they say [p. 24] that three of the poems Tolkien recorded in 1967 were not used on the Caedmon record POEMS AND SONGS OF MIDDLE EARTH and "were issued only in 2001" as part of the JRRT AUDIO COLLECTION. In fact, "The Sea-Bell" is included on the 1967 Caedmon record. It's omitted from the track listing on the back of the album cover, but does appear on the label of the record itself. I only caught this because I've had this record for years, and sometimes still dig it out and play it (I'm not part of the 'vinyl revival; I just kept all my old records and still listen to them on occasion); this recording has long been a great favorite of mine: one of Tolkien's best readings of what I consider to be his best poem.

More to come: I'll try to do a quick wrap-up final impression piece once I've read all the way through the highly informative treasure trove that is the commentary and notes.

--John R.
yesterday's song: "Cool Night" by Paul Davis
currently reading: THE SHADOW OF REICHENBACH FALLS and ATB expanded edition

* I was going to say, fresh from England, but actually it was mailed from Fife -- and took less time to get here than many of the books I order from the US branch,

1 comment:

John Hancock said...

Thanks for this. I ordered mine :)

I had the original which is much tattered from continuous use over many years. I would often read excerpts to my children and many of the poems I could recite verbatim.

I agree with (5). I always though that was from "The Sea-Bell", one of my favourites. Another of my favourites was "The Mewlips". The children, well, most of them, loved it. The oldest girl would plead for me not to read it while the other three eagerly waited for me to begin. The other one was (I think it was called) "The Old Troll". I still quote pieces from them to my children who are now in their mid thirties.