Friday, November 7, 2014

Tolkien's Shopping List (and a new poem)

So, thanks to Jason Fisher for sharing the news that a London auctionhouse is about to auction off a previously unknown poem by JRRT ("Aredhel went forth in blossom white"). It's a fascinating little piece which retells part of the story of The White Lady, sister of Turgon and Fingon. From the promising and evocative opening reproduced on the auction-house's website, I hope Tolkien continued the poem elsewhere and that this quick draft of the first stanza and a bit more isn't all we have of it.  Still, even if that's the case, we now have more of it that we did before, and its very existence draws attention to a free-spirited figure who unfortunately plays only a small role in the events of THE SILMARILLION.

And, on the back, we get a quick to-do list. Tolkien-bashers have facetiously been talking about "Tolkien's shopping list" for years: now they'll finally get to see how much we Tolkien fans (who are legion) will pay for it. Plus, of course, an unpublished and previously unknown poem. I know I'd love to own it if I had that kind of money.

And if you do have that kind of money, the auction is scheduled for next Thursday, at one o'clock, in Bloomsbury (London); their estimate is that it'll go for between four thousand and six thousand pounds.

Here's the link:

--John R.
Today's song: "Where is the Walrus?" (Alan Parsons Project)


Unknown said...

There are questions over its authenticity I gather.

Gabriele Marconi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gabriele Marconi said...

Hi, John, thanks for your wonderful work, we of Tolkien Italia follow it constantly:

But, as reported by Eduardo Stark from a personal e-mail, Hammond&Scull have raised valid doubts about the authenticity of the card where the poem might be written. And Carl F. Hostetter agreed.

You've seen many of Tolkien's manuscripts. Don't you find suspicious too?

John D. Rateliff said...

Dear Ian and Gabriele: no, Ian's brief post followed up by Gabriele's more detailed one were the first I'd heard that this is a concern.

I'm reluctant to condemn a piece I haven't seen personally (just via the small image posted online). I assume that a reputable auction house like Bloomsbury takes pains to authenticate items before offering them for sale, and I note that in this case they don't use a circumlocution like "attributed to" or "believed to be by" but simply state that it's by Tolkien: I assume therefore that they think they have good reason to think this is the case.

That said, I'm not a handwriting expert: what I look at is (1) content of the piece and (2) plausibility of provenance. On those headings I didn't see any red flags. Wayne and Christina play close attention to auctions of Tolkien items, so their option carries a lot of weight. The key piece of evidence, I shd think, wd be if the one Elvish word (ANAIRE) passes muster and what it tells us about the piece (e.g., likely date of composition); Carl is obviously an expert there. But I haven't seen any online comments by either Wayne & Christina nor Carl. All I've got right now are internet rumors, and I'd want more than that to give a possible new piece a thumbs down, certainly not without looking into it more closely.

Hopefully more information about the piece will shortly be forthcoming.

--John R.

Jason Fisher said...

I requested more information from the auction house, with no reply. John Garth reported the same experience. And now, the lot has been removed from sale. Apparently, the concerns over authenticity are legitimate ones. Looking at high resolution scans, I have to say I'm not convinced the handwriting is authentic, though I'm not an expert. John Garth raised questions about the content as well as the handwriting. A very interesting situation!