Friday, October 15, 2021

Identifying a part of THE SILMARILLION Tolkien showed KIlby

So, I was looking for something else when I came across a passage I'd marked in Clyde Kilby's TOLKIEN AND THE SILMARILLION.  After pointing out various parallels between Tolkien's myths and the Old and New Testaments, Kilby goes on to say

In this connection I should mention a lengthy account which Tolkien asked me to read. It was in the form of a Job-like conversation on soul and body and the possible purpose of God in allowing the Fall so that He could manifest

His own sovereignty over Satan all the more, 

of Christ's incarnation, the spread of His light 

from one person to another, and the final 

consummation at Christ's return. He said he 

was not certain whether to include this in 

The Silmarillion or publish it separately.

[Kilby p 61-62]

I assume Kilby is talking about The ATHRABETH here, though the description he gives doesn't seem to match up with that work very well. But we do know that Kilby read the Athrabeth and made careful notes on it. Unless there's another work that's been published somewhere in the wilderland that is HME X-XII and N.o.M.e and I just missed it. 


Cutest Bookends Ever

So, thanks to Janice for this photo.

Bonus points if you can tell which is Tarkus and which Tyburn.

--John R. 

--current reading: THE NATURE ON MIDDLE-EARTH (these sections on Elven demographics).

A Failed Meme re. Tolkien

So, there's a meme going around lately that's punchy but fails in the facts department. Usually I give such stuff a pass, but this one offers a good example of fact rearranged to make a better fiction.

Here's the post that's making the rounds:


First of all, I'd like to point out that Tolkien didn't have an editor on LotR. As a result, he had control of the text to an extraordinary degree, even over minutia like the spelling of dwarves. His argument here was with the typesetters at the printer, not with his publisher.

Nor was FELLOWSHIP rejected by an editor: this mis-statement is a mash-up of the complicated maneuverings* whereby Tolkien essentially engineered Allen & Unwin's withdrawal in order that he could to submit it to Collins instead -- who promptly dropped the ball, leading Tolkien to go back to Allen & Unwin instead.

It was the Puffin Books edition of THE HOBBIT that upset Tolkien by changing his text without his permission, especially since he only discovered what they'd done after the book was in print and on store shelves. As a result he refused to allow Puffin to reprint their edition, something they were eager to do.

A&U did irk JRRT when their printer made the same sort of changes with the first volume of LotR, but Tolkien insisted they use his preferred spellings and got this set right (see below).

Here's how Humphrey Carpenter, author of the authorized biography of JRRT, describes it:

He was . . . infuriated by his first sight of the proofs, 

for he found that the printers had changed several of his spellings,

 altering dwarves to dwarfs, elvish to elfish, further to farther

and ('worst of all' said Tolkien) elvin to elfin. The printers

 were reproved; they said in self-defence that they had merely

 followed the dictionary spellings. (Similar 'corrections' to 

Tolkien's spellings were made in 1961 when Puffin Books 

issued The Hobbit as a paperback, and this time to Tolkien's 

distress the mistake was not discovered until the book had

 reached the shops.) 

 [Carpenter, TOLKIEN: A BIOGRAPHY, page 221]

As for the OED,  I've heard this little quip before. I think it comes from an interview or memoir but cd not trace its source in time to include it in this post. Tolkien did work on the OED at the beginning of his career but he actually worked on the final sections --e.g words like walrus (W) not dwarves (D).

So, a fun little story but not exactly what happened. 

--John R. 

*essentially Tolkien wanted a publisher to commit to publishing LotR and THE SILMARILLION together as a two-volume set, when what the publishers wanted was LotR (which was actually finished, though still in need of a lot of work) with a future option on Silm (which was still far from finished).

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

A Chapter on Edith Tolkien

 So, in addition to the new book out on Edith Tolkien, there's another book just out that includes a chapter on Mrs. T.


From the description given on the publisher's website, the book as a whole reminds me of Johanna Russ's HOW TO SUPPRESS WOMEN'S WRITING (unfortunately).  

For those who might be interested in the book and to give an idea of the range here, I've copied the Table of Contents below. Of these, of course it's Chapter 16, Edith Tolkien in the Eye of the Beholder, by Maria Artamonova, that catches my attention.

Table of Contents

Notes on Contributors
List of Figures

1. Part I: Secretaries and Editors
2. M.E. Fitzgerald: Office Manager to Modernism, Catherine Hollis, U.C. Berkeley, USA
3. The Secretary and Her Professor: Alli Hytti and L. A. Puntila, Anu Lahtinen, University of Helsinki, Finland
4. Jumped-up Typists: Two Guardians of the Flame, Karen Christensen, Independent scholar
5. Thanks for Penguin: Women, Invisible Labour, and Publishing in the Mid-Twentieth Century, Rebecca E. Lyons, University of Bristol, UK

Part II: Politicians and Activists
6. Backing the Family: Servilia Between the Murder of Caesar and the Battle of Philippi, Susan Treggiari, Stanford University, USA
7. A Flaming Soul: Maissi Erkko Fighting for Women, Finland and Family Legacy, Reetta Hanninen, University of Helsinki, Finland
8. Student, Diplomat, Wife, traveller ? A Transnational Life of Marie Sargant-Cerný, Hana Navratilova, Independent scholar
9. Breaking the Silence and Inspiring Activism on Japanese Military Sexual Slavery: Legacy of Kim Hak-soon (1924-1997), Woohee Kim, Harvard University, USA

Part III: Artists and Painters
10. Jeanne de Montbaston: An Illuminating Woman, Melek Karatas, King's College London, UK
11. Judith Leyster: The Artist Vanishes, Irene Kukota, Curator, France
12. Textiles Rubbing Us the Wrong Way: A Tour of Karin Bergöö Larsson's Acts of Fibre Resistance, Godelinde Gertrude Perk, University of Oxford, UK
13. Canvases in the Attic: Four Generations of the Lane Poole women, Juliana Dresvina, University of Oxford, UK

Part IV: Mothers and Others
14. Haunting Augustine: St Monnica as Mother and Interlocutor, Patricia L. Grosse, Finlandia University, USA
15. “The Typist Home at Teatime”: Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot's Role in Shaping T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land (1922), Arwa F. Al-Mubaddel, King Saud University, Riyadh
16. Edith Tolkien in the Eye of the Beholder, Maria Artamonova, Oxford University, UK
17. “Why Aren't There More Women in Your Books?” Ann and William Golding, Nicola Presley, Bath Spa University, UK
18. “You'll Say that Mum is at the Bottom of All This”: the Untold Story of Eva Larkin, Philip Pullen, Writer

Part V: Poets and Writers
19. “Murder, He Wrote”: Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, Julia Bolton Holloway, Independent Scholar
20. Golden Myfanwy: The Domestic Goddess Who Turned the Screw, Eleanor Knight, Writer
21. Double Act: U.A. Fanthorpe and R.V. Bailey, Partners in Rhyme, Elizabeth Sandie, University of York St John, UK


The New Arrival: L. T. Meade's EYES OF TERROR and Other Dark Adventures

So, a while back I discovered Swan River Press because they occasionally do some Dunsany. This small press based in Dublin focuses on Irish writers like Le Fanu and others of the late nineteenth/ early twentieth century who wrote supernatural fiction.  I'd never heard off Meade before, but based on the description below, taken from the back cover copy, what's not to like?

 her specialty was medical or scientific mysteries 

featuring doctors, scientists, occult detectives, 

criminal women with weird powers, unusual medical 

interventions, fantastic scientific devices, murder, 

mesmerism, and manifestations of insanity

Both prolific and popular, she definitely sounds like someone worth knowing about. I'll post again once I've read the book.

For those interested in finding out more, here's a link:

--John R.

--current reading: yesterday I read a Thomas Ligotti story for the first time

Friday, October 8, 2021

The New Arrival: Edith Bratt biography

 So, this week's new addition to the books in my office is THE GALLANT EDITH BRATT: J. R. R. TOLKIEN'S INSPIRATION by Nancy Bunting and Seamus Hamill-Keays (Walking Tree Press, 2021).

This comes as the latest entry in what seems to be a new and promising branch of Tolkien scholarship: biographies not about Tolkien himself but about people who were important in his life, to round out his milieu. First there were the two books (booklets, really) about his aunt, Jane Neave. Then the full-length biography about Fr. Francis Morgan, his guardian (originally in Spanish but since translated into English). And now this new book about his wife, Edith Bratt Tolkien.

I haven't had time yet to give this one more than a glance, but even that's enough to raise some questions that I'll want to read the biography to answer. 

First, this biography ends around the time its subject was thirty. But Edith Tolkien lived to be eighty. Did nothing of interest or importance happen to her after around 1918? That seems, at the mildest, unlikely.

Second, Carpenter is harshly treated. The authors may have a good reason for that, but I've beginning to think that maybe it's time to call an end to Carpenter-bashing. 

 Third, the book seems to bog down at one point over the question of whether Tolkien knew Sanskrit (I'd say yes) and whether it was an important influence on him (I'd say no --certainly not as much as, say, Gothic).

Looking forward to reading the thing and seeing if I learn the answers to these and other questions.

--John R.

--current reading: "The Mirror of Galadriel"

"[The trees] stood up in the twilight like living towers 

. . . amid their ever-moving leaves countless lights 

were gleaming, green and gold and silver"

Little Naveen (The Cat Room 10/8-21)

Thanks to Lisa and to our driver (Rick?), this morning we went from a single solitary v. lonely kitten (NAVEEN) to a roomful of kittens, nine in all, all between the ages of three and six months old. I don’t think it’ll be long before they find homes.

While Lisa got the room ready for the pending new arrivals, I took little Naveen out for a walk. He was too small for even our smallest harness so I used the collar and short leash. He behaved himself but was clearly at a loss as to the point of the exercise, so I mostly just carried him around and let enjoy some new sights and sounds.  I later sounded out BONNIE & BUBBA, who were more interested in smelling and playing with the leash than in letting me get it on them, so little N. remained the day’s only walker.

Of the new cats, the bonded black panthers Bubba and Bonnie were the most persistent in wanting out into the room, so despite Naveen’s mews of protest at having to go in, they got out into the room and played for a good long time. Bubba did more playing and Bonnie more exploring, but both enjoyed themselves. Bubba is definitely a predator who loves to drag toys away. At one point he went shopping, taking a tour of the room’s various toys and picking the one he wanted to play with. Afterwards they also set up a steady protest over being put back in their cage, sparked I think by Naveen’s repeated cries from the cage below.  There were growls, and hisses, and some swatting, mostly from him (Bubba) directed to her (Bonnie), but it looked like mostly crabbiness, not aggression.

The only other cat who came out for any significant amount of time was sweet little tuxedo cat SUNSHINE. He liked being carried, and games so long as they weren’t too energetic, and most of all just being out. Once he’d been out for a while he carried out a cautious exploration of the entire room, getting his bearings I think. A very endearing little cat.

The other bonded pair, Siamese RAZ and panther MATAZ, preferred to stay in and cuddle each other. Very deeply bonded, those two. Late in the shift I was able to pull first Raz and then later MaTaz out for a little time being held, or climbing on the cat-tree. They didn’t play much, but they purred loudly when I reached in and spent some time petting them in their cage, both before and after their time out. 

The final three I didn’t interact with much: PURPLE and MAGENTA and FUSHIA. Two stayed cuddled together in the big cage’s window, comforting each other in this strange new place. The third (the yellow cat) went in his little cat-cave as soon as I had it set up for him and stayed there all through the shift. He would purr loudly when I reached in and petted him (as did the other two when I petted them without making them move) but showed no inclination to come out. Think they’ll be more willing to come forth once they get used to the room, and us, and their new location and situation in general. 

—Thanks again to Lisa for getting all the name cards and information folders sorted out for the newcomers.

—John R. 

Thursday, October 7, 2021

In My Desk

So, several months ago I took the first stab at straightening up my office (which still has a long way to go) and the top drawer of my desk. Last week I made another effort that turned up some things I'd been looking for for quite some time. And last night I gave it another go, aimed at the middle and bottom drawers. Things I turned up include candles and matches, many little scraps of paper, some interesting rocks, a letter from a nun, cat-treats (some of which Tarkus and Tyburn tested to see they were still good), lots of pens and some pencils, and this (see above):

I'm pretty sure I bought this at one of my visits to the Wade Center. I had clearly put this aside in hopes of at some point re-assembling it. But looking at it now, years later, I've concluded it's a lost cause. So, alas, out the door.

The quote on the mug, by the way, reads 

"Daybreak is a never-ending

glory . . . getting out of bed is

a never-ending nuisance."

The logo identifies it as coming from The American Chesterson Society, a group I've never belonged to. Based on other things it was found with suggests that it became an x-mug around 2013, so I probably got it a few years before that.

--John R.

---current reading: "The Bridge of Khazad-dum"

"What an evil fortune!" [muttered Gandalf]

"And I am already weary."

Sunday, October 3, 2021

My Newest Publication (Obit for Richard)

So, this month began with my newest publication, a piece I wish I'd never need write at all: a memoir of my friend Richard West, one of the all-time greats when it came to Tolkien scholars and a close friend of almost forty years (he was Best Man at our wedding). 

I'd recently written about how much I enjoy visiting Milwaukee because it's a chance to see old friends. One of the sad things about visits to Milwaukee is that in addition to getting together with friends I'm also strongly reminded of friends who are no longer with us. Taum Santoski of course, and also Jim Pietrusz, the most dedicated reader I've ever known, and now Richard.  

For the past few years I've visited Marquette twice a year for research trips of from one to four weeks each, And during each of those trips Richard wd take the morning bus over from Madison one day. We'd meet up for lunch and walk down to Miss Katie's diner,* then spend the afternoon pursuing our own researches at the Archives. As the time for the six o'clock bus back to Madison neared I'd walk him down to the bus station (just as years earlier he or one of the other Univ.Wisc.Tolk.Soc members had walked me back from their meeting room to the Madison bus stop for the last bus to Milwaukee), the two of us talking up a storm the whole way. I'll miss those visits, and those talks. And reading the eventual published results. Richard was also a dedicated participant in a long running series of Tolkien symposiums; the fellowship from this will continue but diminish by this absence. 


He loved Tolkien scholarship 

and cats 

and the company of like-minded scholars, 

Old English and Old Norse literature, 

and C. S. Lewis and the Inklings, 

folk dancing,  

and of course Perri.

Here's a link to the journal's site: my memoir for Richard is in Volume XVIII

--John R.

*sometimes joined by Bill Fliess, Marquette Archivist, or Stephen Sullivan, an alumni of TSR from before my time and fellow Alitterate who happened to be Richard's cousin. 

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Drought Over: Time for Flood Warnings

 Well, that was quick.

The long hard drought we struggled with all summer --the kind of drought that kills trees and does other permanent damage -- is now over. How do I know? Because yesterday they activated the Flood Warning system

--John R.

Alert Sent On: 10/01/2021 11:19:44 AM PDT

This is a system test.

No river flooding is occurring in King County at this time. As a subscriber, you will receive automated phone calls, emails and/or text messages when certain flood conditions exist. The type of message you receive – and for which rivers – depends on how you set up your flood alert account.

To make changes to your account or to learn more, visit the King County Flood warnings and alerts website or call 206-477-4727. To unsubscribe from all Flood Alerts, reply to this email using “unsubscribe” in the subject field.

If you live or work near or in a floodplain, remember to be flood ready this fall!

The Cat Room

It was good to get back into the Cat Room yesterday. After more than a month away it was a roomful of cats I didn’t know (nine in all: four cats and five kittens). A good day for cat walking.

ARIEL and LUCETO, our pair of beautiful tortoiseshells, had the first walk. Janice helped me get the blue harness on the dark torbie (Luceto?) to start with but afterwards at the end of the walk  I wasn’t able to open the snaps and had to pull the harness off over the cat's head. Luckily she’s  a fairly low-key cat and didn’t object. Next up the orange torbie (Ariel?) had her turn with the collar. She too did very well. Beautiful, beautiful cats.

The other fluffy pair, ZOEY and SIMBA, each had a turn on the leash; like the others two they spent their time exploring all the cat-trees up and down near the cat-room all the way over to the niche between the cat room and the fish. Both pairs had to deal with dogs passing by that got closer than I was comfortable with but fortunately the cats stayed calm and the dogs were well behaved. I’d put that down as ‘wary of dogs’ and recommend they not be adopted to a household with a dog.

The three two-month kittens, Naveen and Ariel and Tiana were shyer than I expected. They were shy of being picked up or of my approaching them but on their own they played and explored and hide and pounced as kittens should. Toys that had a little distance also got the many-toed thumbs up. Naveen had an admirer who wanted to adopt him then and there: I showed her the Q-code and encouraged her to send in a query to Arlington right away, which I think she did.

The two three month kittens: McGhee and Zora, our little black panthers, were independent and full of energy: they loved just about every game that was offered to them. McGhee rode on my shoulders at one point. He got a short walk at the end of things, during which I discovered that he knows the rules but just thinks they don’t apply to him. 

Here’s hoping they all find good homes, sooner rather than later.

—John R.

Question: do we really have two cats (of different generations) with the same name? Or as seems more likely have I gotten my notes muddled on this point?

And today came the word that those beautiful affectionate tortoiseshells have been adopted. — JDR


Thursday, September 30, 2021

Back in Kent

 So, it's good to be back in Kent after a long (four week) research trip spent in the Marquette Archives. Once again my work focused mainly on fine-tuning the Map of the Manuscript I've been working on for about four years now. This schematic shows the sequence in which every draft of every chapter of THE LORD OF THE RINGS was written, making it much easier to navigate between the vast amount of material in Marquette's collection.  I made a lot of little fixes (and some not so little). As usual I learned a lot: it's impossible, for me at any rate, to spend any amount of time with the manuscripts without thinking of some project I'd like to work on, if only there were time.

And of course I enjoyed being back in Milwaukee. I've been away from the area twenty years now but still have a lot of friends in the area, some I got to see (which I enjoyed) and some I didn't manage to sync up with (hoping for better luck next time). Plus I got to visit the cat cafe twice, ordered out from my favorite Milwaukee restaurant (and trying out several I hadn't been to before), got some frozen custard, had a few long walks around the East Side, visited a bookstore famous for its cats, only to discover its longtime cat had died just two week before. No C.o.C. game in The Walnut Room, but then  my visit did fall during GenCon.

And now after the better part of a week spent settling back in it's back to work on the current project Monday. 

---John R.

--current reading: A KNIFE IN THE DARK.

--PORIUS by J. C. Powys

Friday, September 24, 2021

Six Books

Here's a question about staying power. 

WATERSHIP DOWN has been out nearly fifty years now. THE LORD OF THE RINGS is more popular than ever after more than sixty years.

So, of the books listed below, which do you think will stand the test of time and still be read twenty, thirty, forty years from now?


Ben AaronovichThe Rivers of London series


Susanna ClarkJonathan Strange and Mr. Norell


Suzanne CollinsThe Hunger Games


Jonathan Howard — Johannes Caball, Detective;  'Jonathan Caball and the Blustery Day' and other stories (uncollected)


Daniel O'MalleyThe Rook


Philip Pullman Northern Lights.

--John R.

--current reading: "A Long-Expected Party"

--last day at Marquette 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Radio Adaptation of LUD-IN-THE-MIST

So, thanks to Doug A. for the news that BBC4 is broadcasting an audio-drama of Hope Mirrlees's highly respected but seldom read LUD-IN-THE-MIST (1926), one of the great classic fantasy novels. Here's a link:

and here's another with more detail, including that Neil Gaiman will be doing a cameo. How Hitchcockian of him.

History suggests (WRINKLE IN TIME, DARK IS RISING, EARTHSEA) that adapting fantasy is a tricksy business and prone to disaster.

On the other hand, I’m more hopeful for their ability to do a radio play than a film adaptation. And  it’ll raise her profile and introduce some people to her book, which is all to the good.

So I’ll be looking forward to it but trying to keep from getting my hopes up too much.

—John R.
--current reading: many parts of LotR and the LotR-relevant portions of HME (esp. Vol. V).

Monsters of the Id? (Milwaukee downtown art)


So, here's something new since my last visit to Milwaukee: a statue on  Wisconsin Avenue east of the river that I can only describe as a local variant of Jonny Quest's monsters of the id.

Or maybe that just holds for those of us who were part of that show's original audience (and thus scarred for life).

--John R.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

September 22nd

So, happy Bilbo's birthday (though I think of it as Silmarillion day.

As my time for my current research trip winds down,  there's always that final rush to get things to a good stopping point.  It's been a successful trip, and I've enjoyed seeing old friends and being in Milwaukee again (after all, I lived here for more than ten years). What can you say about a city that not only has a zeppelin mooring post downtown but also a bronze statue of a heroic little mother duck and three of her ducklings?

Still, it'll be nice to be back home again.

--John R.

--current reading; THE NATURE OF MIDDLE-EARTH and snippets of other things. I abandoned Douglas Adams' unfinished novel because it seemed appropriate.  --JDR

Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Marquette Project

Left to right: Ed Sanchez, head of Marquette's Library IT; 

myself (John D. Rateliff), Tolkien scholar; 

Erik Mueller-Harder, software developer and Tolkien scholar;

 William Fliss, curator of Marquette's Tolkien Collection.

 So, for the past four years* I've been coming to Marquette twice a year to work on an ongoing project. I was finally able to share it as a work in progress at the Tolkien day gathering at Kalamazoo's Medieval Congress (the last time they had an in-person gathering --2019?). Now it's been officially announced. Here's yesterday's announcement on Facebook:


J R R Tolkien Collection - Marquette University Libraries


New posts on this page are infrequent, but that doesn’t mean we’re not busy at Marquette!! This has been an incredible month as we work on the system for digitally reprocessing the manuscripts for The Lord of the Rings. Here is the core team: Ed Sanchez, head of Library IT, John Rateliff, Tolkien scholar extraordinaire, Erik Mueller-Harder, software developer and Tolkien scholar, and Bill Fliss, curator of Marquette’s Tolkien Collection. After years of mapping the collection, we are finally designing the system for navigating the virtual collection. It will make life so much easier for scholars who visit Marquette to study the manuscripts. (Copyright prevents us from just sharing the system, with its 10,000+ images, online.) The project has been exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. Meetings have been intense but productive as we work through known obstacles and anticipate future challenges. Truly, “There shall be counsels taken / Stronger than Morgul-spells.”

--I'm really looking forward to sharing news about this project as it moves from creating a 'map of the manuscripts' (my contribution to the project), a graphic representation** to quickly guide researchers to a specific draft of a specific chapter of THE LORD OF THE RINGS, a framework that will provide the basis for an electronic database that will use this 'map' to quickly access a high-quality scan of any page out of the thousands in the collection.***

I think this project, when fully realized, will build on Christopher Tolkien and Taum Santoski's work in the late eighties to make it far easier for visiting scholars using the collection to track a specific scene or passage or motif's first appearance within the story. It'll be a particularly valuable tool for those who use it in conjunction with the relevant HISTORY OF MIDDLE-EARTH volumes built upon that work.

  Exciting times. And the next stage of a long-simmering project nearing culmination.



*except the plague year, 2020, when travel and research were alike impossible.

**think of the London Underground 'map' as an example

***including any text on the back of a page, such as pages from student essays

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Live in A Hobbit House

So, from time to time we hear about someone who's created their own version of a hobbit hole. Some go so far as to live in them. But this is the first one I've heard of who decided to dress the part, and even organize a re-creation of the journey of the ringbearer by what seems to have been a pleasant stroll to Mt Vesuvius to toss the ring in their local volcano. Except they decided to give the ring to some passing kid. Which, thinking about it, wd make a pretty good origin story for a future Dark Lord Jr.

Here's the link

--John R.

--current reading: LORD OF THE RINGS manuscripts, mostly.

Monday, September 6, 2021

More on Re-Wilding Dunsany

So, thanks to friend Greg for this link providing further news about the current Lord Dunsany's project of letting a good part of the grounds surrounding Dunsany Castle (one of the Castles of the Pale, and home of the Plunketts for a good many centuries now) go back to nature.

This piece is a bit unusual from my point of view in that it doesn't mention my Lord Dunsany, the great fantasy writer, except obliquely in the line

"Other Plunketts were leading figures in politics and the arts"

I do admit to curiosity about the current lord's independent film, THE GREEN SEA, although I have not seen it yet.

It is nice to have a Lord Dunsany who's on nature's side, as opposed to the great hunter his great-grandfather (I think it was) was.

Thanks again to fellow Burrahobbit Greg R.

--John R.

Tea, with Cats

 So, Saturday I got to drop by my favorite cat cafe,* Milwaukee's SIP AND PURR.

Their set up is somewhat different from Purrfect Pals' model. Here instead of having their meet-the-cats adoption/socialization room inside a large pet store (e.g. PetsMart) they have a cat cafe. First you go through the ‘cafe’ part, ordering a beverage if you like, and then proceed into the cat-room, where for about ten dollars  for the next hour you can pet as many of the free-roaming cats (about ten) as feel so inclined to indulge you. Two of the cats are permanent residents (Nacho and Nero, I think); the rest are all up for adoption.

 I try to visit whenever I’m in Milwaukee, and yesterday was this trip’s time. I’m glad to report that while feathers-on-a-stick is their local favorite they greatly enjoyed the laser pointer and string-and-chain toys I’d brought.** At one point I had five cats chasing the little red dot as a pride, which is unusual.

These cats don't get walks of course since it’s in a busy urban area, but from their behavior it's very obvious that they are well-socialize with plenty of attention when they want it as well as quiet spots they can retreat to when feeling the need for a little down time.

Anyway, it’s nice to see different models of cat adoption room appearing in different parts of the country.

—John R.

*and, to be fair, I think the only cat cafe I've managed to visit in person.

**asking permission of the staff first to make sure this was okay

Sunday, September 5, 2021

The Dancing Bears of Numenor

So, one distinct feature of THE NATURE OF MIDDLE-EARTH is the degree to which it emphasizes what we already knew from other sources: that in his final years Tolkien ceased to be as interested in story than in World-building. It's as if he wants to get everything down, every detail as it occurs to him or emerges out of some other text, before it's too late.

 A curious example is the passage (.335) about Numenorean bears and their custom of gathering yearly each fall to perform slow but dignified dances. This seems just amusing but irrelevant detail, but it's interesting to note that it marks the re-emergence of an idea that's been in Tolkien's mind for decades. Recall  Tolkien's reference to what we might call a Bear-moot that occurs off-stage in THE HOBBIT in Gandalf's report of what he cd discover about Beorn's nighttime activities.  And there are also dancing bears in THE FATHER CHRISTMAS LETTERS: one picture of NPB dancing with some visiting penguins and another (if I remember it rightly) of bear-cubs, red elves, and young snow-men dancing together in a ring. Trying to absorb all the bits and pieces of information in this new book and relating them to Tolkien's more substained works will be a congenial task for Tolkien scholars for years to come. 

One question though,  regarding the following passage:

[The bears] never dwelt in or near the homes of Men, 

but they would often visit them, in the casual manner 

of one householder calling upon another.  At such times

they were often offered honey, to their delight. Only an

occasional "bad bear" ever raided the tame hives.  (.335)

-- am I the only one who catches a whiff of Milne's Pooh here?  

 --John R.

-- current reading: Douglas Adams biography (flawed but interesting).

P.S.: For those who, like me, are fond of turtles, it's good to know that Numenor was well supplied with these: 

"In the south there were some land-tortosies, of no great size; and also some small freshwater creatures of turtle-kind" (.336)

I think, with the exception of the great Fastitocalon, this is Tolkien's only mention of turtles, at least so far as I can remember.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Cool and Busy

 So, so far my favorite line in THE NATURE OF MIDDLE-EARTH is the description of the Numenoreans. We're told that, "they became a kind of imitation Elves', especially the Men. 

"Fortunately their wives were cool and busy"

(NoMe .330) 

--John R.

--current reading: D.Adams biography. 

Just How Important is Douglas Adams?


So, I've been reading on a biography of the late great Douglas Adams as part of my mulling over a claim I'm thinking about making to the effect that Adams is arguably the most important science fiction writer of the last few decades (say from about 1977 onwards). And as an offshoot of that, the importance of someone whose impact largely came through novelizations (of the original radio scripts) suggests that during the modern era science fiction has increasingly been dominated by media (unlike fantasy, which has been thrived in both print and film/series).

I don't have any explanation of why this is so, but the more I think it over the more it seems to be the case. The long-awaited SILMARILLION came out in 1977, about a quarter century after it'd been promised, and was on the NYTBR bestsellers list for twenty-one weeks in a row. Shortly afterwards the era of the Tolk-Clones got well and truly underway.  I can't really make myself believe that THE LAST DANGEROUS VISIONS, which seemed to be on the verge of publication in 1979, wd if published about a quarter century later in circa 2004 wd have been seen as anything but nostalgic, a summing up of an era that was long past.

 --John R.

--current reading: about the dancing bears of Numenor (NoMe .335)

Messages Out of the Void (Douglas Adams)

All alone in a town far from home with a three-day holiday weekend ahead. Time to blog! --JDR

[Adams] cited his two biggest influences as the Beatles and Monty Python

 -- 'Both were messages out of the void saying there are 

people out there who know what it's like to be you'

Lewis famously described that moment as 'what! you too?'* and it's long been associated with his becoming friends with Tolkien.

I suppose for me that'd be my friend Franklin, and later of course Taum.  It's interesting in that the evidence suggests you don't have to be v. much alike in any other way, so long as you have the bond of overwhelming absorption in the shared interest, whatever it may be.


current reading--  HITCHHIKER: A BIOGRAPHY OF DOUGLAS ADAMS by M. J. Simpson (cf p.14)

-- NoMe 

*I think in SURPRISED BY JOY but I'm away from home and can't check the reference.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Establishing Context (The Marquette Archives)

So, I haven't blogged this past week because I've been too busy doing what I came for: working my way through a list of things I wanted to look up in the Marquette Archives. A lot of these are things I've looked at before on previous visits but found out afterwards I hadn't made adequate notes on (as in, notes that made sense when I didn't have the originals in front of me), accompanied by a bit of context when needed. Among the things I've looked at include the King's Letter, the Epilogues to THE LORD OF THE RINGS, the Scouring of the Shire (still a work in progress), Tolkien's doodling about the Muar River (in which he jots down words and phrases from a wartime radio broadcast while drafting the death of Boromir), &c. And there's still lots to go, if there's time, like seeing just how much of the mythology appears in the differing drafts of the Earendil poem. It'd be interesting, for example, to work out which text Tolkien showed to Clyde Kilby in 1964 -- it was one of the ones that (a) didn't come to Marquette in the fifties but was still in Tolkien's possession in the sixties, and (b) describes Earendil's killing of Ungoliant). 

Let's see what I can get through in week two. Though once I get my hands on a copy of THE NATURE OF MIDDLE-EARTH my evening reading will be locked up for some time to come . . .

--John R.

--current reading: collection of Averoigne pastiche (nearing the end), COME GO WITH ME (a fascinating unfinished novel by Shirley Jackson), and a biography of Douglas Adams.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Tea, in a Plaza

So, thanks to my friend Dale, a friend and co-worker at both TSR and WotC, and since, I made it without a hitch to The Plaza, where I'll be staying the rest of this trip. We even had a light meal in their courtyard,* which has never been open on any of my previous visits here. It was past their busy time so they told us it was fine if we wanted to linger over our beverages (mine was tea, of course). So we had a v. pleasant time catching up and reminiscing, while I admired the cafe sparrows.

*I assume this is the 'plaza' after which the hotel is named.

Afterwards I even got in a grocery run (thanks again Dale) to help me take advantage of the little kitchen in my room. Pity I did not discover until later that the oven was inert: both stove and burners weren't functioning. Probably just a pilot light is out, based on past experience. They shd have fixed Monday. And luckily till then I've still got the microwave.

For today (Sunday) I was looking forward to a get-together over brunch with another TSR & WotC friend (hi Sue),** but she had to cancel, so we'll try that again another time. 

**who was also at Marquette as well, but our times there did not overlap.

Yesterday's meal out in the courtyard having been so pleasant, I thought today I'd repeat the experience. If there was a long wait, why not: I had a book (well, my Kindle) with me and didn't have anywhere I had to be (we'd deliberately left the day mostly open so I'd be well-rested when the main purpose for the trip, the time in the Archives).

Then the forty-five minute wait got stretched by another twenty minutes. This was the second wait, but I decided to stick it out.

Then the sky opened.

I'd forgotten what Midwest downpours are like (we don't have them out in the Pacific Northwest much). So now they had to close the courtyard and combine the two waiting lists, Inside/Outside, into one (Inside only). Eventually an apologetic staff got me seated and I had a pleasant if somewhat tardy meal, breakfast/brunch having transitioned into brunch/lunch at some point in there.

I had thought of taking advantage of the wide-open afternoon to go up to Sip n Purr, Milwaukee's cat cafe, but after the rain stopped it had gotten really hot. So I went back to my room, where made some preparations for the Archive work tomorrow.

Then, for a change of pace, I spent some time with character creation for a 1st edition AD&D solo game I'm hoping to run off and on during the evenings; we'll see how it goes. I am finding that this iteration of the rules, my all-time favorite, relies heavily on the player already knowing the game v. well --which seems fair enough, given that they put 'Advanced' right there in the name.

We'll see how far I get.

--John R.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Tea, in the Dark

So, thanks to my friends Jim and Deb, whom I've known since Marquette days, even before TSR, I got smoothly from the airport to my hotel, and even got some frozen custard* along the way. After a good visit I settled into my room for the night.

That's when the power went out. It flickered a minute or so as if it were trying to restart but didn't. So with the aid of a little alarm clock/ pocket flashlight I went down to the front desk. No light, no elevator, no wifi, no phone, and no tea.** Luckily the door keys still worked, and the 'Exit' signs kept the corridors from being totally dark. 

The people at the front desk said they didn't know what was going on, since the phones were out, leaving them with no way to talk to the electricians who ought to be on their way. This was not encouraging. I'd planned to catch up on sleep that first night of my trip, but this was a bit much.

Back to the room where I waited some more and organized stuff I'd brought with me as best I cd with the aid of the little flashlight and some light coming in through the window. After a time I went back down again, where the staff seemed to be pretty relaxed about things. By now it's starting to get towards late afternoon, and I'm not looking forward to the prospect of an unfamiliar dark room once it gets dark out. I asked if it were likely the lights wd be back on before dark. Of course, they said.

Sure enough, the power came back, lights and internet and all,  after near-total darkness from 4.11 to 5.20  --more than an hour.

--John R.

*a Milwaukee tradition that has failed to establish itself in the Seattle area.

**luckily I'd made a cup shortly before the power failed, but there was a limit to how far I cd stretch this out, and the tea-making equipment in the lobby was inert.

Friday, August 27, 2021

An observation about Clark Ashton Smith

So I've started reading a collection of Clark Ashton Smith pastiche, and have come up with a maxim:

People who try to write like Clark Ashton Smith



Tea, on a Plane

So, on my flight to Milwaukee today I asked for hot tea when they offered me a beverage, and they brought me tea-flavored tea. And later a refill. It was Teavana English Breakfast. And it occurred to me that while getting just plain tea has gotten v. spotty at restaurants and, sad to say, even StarBucks, the airlines of all people have toed the line and are getting it right.

--John R.

--current reading: a collection of Clark Ashton Smith pastiche. 

P.S.: I'm in Milwaukee

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

A Grove of Strawberry Trees

"They lay that night in a grove of strawberry trees"

--THE WORM OUROBOROS , Chapter XXVIII, page 334

So, I'm nearing the end of my slow and careful re-read  of THE WORM OUROBOROS.  I first read this in the summer of 1980, which means that's probably when I managed to track down a copy,. I'd have been aware of it for several years before that via sources such as Lin Carter's LOOK BEHIND THE LORD OF THE RINGS (which I'd in turn come across at our local WalMart on 3/25-76, a Thursday).

This current reading is (I think) my fourth time through (at least).  

My most recent reading had been for my CLASSICS OF FANTASY column on E.R.E. (March 2003. I found that reading it now I remembered the plot and characters and certain vivid details but had forgotten all the mountain climbing bits. They reminded me of all the whaling chapters in MOBY DICK. Is this how wrong-headed people who think THE LORD OF THE RINGS is too long feel about what they like to refer to as 'the walking bits'?

I did come to appreciate Eddison's descriptive passages when he lovingly describes natural scenes. And his skill with characterization is impressive: there aren't nearly as many spear-carriers as you'd expect in a book this long. Plus there are the two scenes where JRRT clearly borrowed from ERE. Speaking of which I knew about Eddison's borrowing the Induction that starts his book from Shakespeare's TAMING OF THE SHREW but had not fully appreciated how much ERE follows Elizabethan practice in having major events (say, ones that wd be difficult to stage, like a naval battle) take place offstage and be reported aafterwards by an eyewitness.

My conclusion: Eddison came closer than anyone else in the pre-Tolkien era in putting together the elements that, in Tolkien's hands, became the tropes of modern fantasy. All he's missing is hobbits. But that just confirms just how important hobbits are to the mix.

My second conclusion: any man who writes of strawberry trees either is presaging John Lennon by forty-five years or didn't do his own shopping down at the market. Perhaps both.

--John R.

current reading : THE WORM OUROBOROS (just finishing up).

Monday, August 23, 2021

10 years a volunteer?

 So, recently one of my fellow volunteers down at the Purrfect Pals cat room mentioned that she'd been doing this for ten years. I got to wondering how long I'd been at it myself, thinking it must have been at least that long. 


Unfortunately I've only kept sporadic records, which has gotten even more so since my handwriting has gotten worse, but I do post a write-up to my blog --not every week, but more often than not.


I did turn up a notebook in which I kept a record running from W. Jan. 18th 2012 through W. July 3rd 2013. Each page lists each cat by name, whether he or she ate, drank, peed, or pooped, as well as who had a walk, often with some additional notes about a cat's favorite game, health issues,* and any striking behavior.


I know that the person who organized the volunteers when I was first there left not that long after, and died not that long after that, around March 2011. And I know that the person who took over and coordinated things between the Tukwila cat-room's group of volunteers for years told me she started volunteering in October 2009, and I know she had already been there a while when I joined up.


So I can't be sure, but it seems like I must have started sometime in 2011. Possibly in 2010. 


That's a lot of cats, some of who are just a blur, while others stay vividly in the memory . Like Moreo, the best walker we ever had --he even went outside the store a few times (till we got told don't do that). 


Or Edna Jane, who for weeks lurked at the back of her cage and swatted at any hand that came near her, who one day let me pick her up, put on the leash, and walk her. She'd decided we weren't cat-eating fiends. From then on she was like a different cat, friendly and sociable and soon adopted.


Or little black ball of fluff Amy Lynd, who one day was out for a little walk when she realized that all those bags on all those shelves, row after row, were full of catnip. 


Or Old Man Hank, who was determined to cheat on his diet at every opportunity, in each walk visiting the likely spots where a morsel of kibble may have fallen out of sight and falling upon it with satisfaction. 


Or Tessa, I think her name was: a blind cat who nonetheless was one of our best walkers


And so many more. I'm glad Janice talked me into volunteering as a cat socializer. It's been a good ten (-ish) years.


--John R.



*this is where I learned about the dreaded Calici virus, and how to spot the warning signs


Friday, August 20, 2021

A mile up a mountainside

So, yesterday I was not able to read any more on THE WORM OUROBOROS, because we were belatedly celebrating an anniversary by joining a little tour up Mt. Rainier  (or, if you prefer the local peoples' name, Big Tahoma).

It was pure coincidence that the passage I've been reading describes, in detail, the heroes' climb up the great mountain Koshtra Pivrarcha. 

 Obviously we did not go anywhere near the top, but it's still amazing to travel from thirty-three feet above sea level here in Kent to fifty-four hundred feet at Paradise lodge half-way up the mountain. We saw marmots (a first for me), and grouse (three together), tadpoles (favorites of mine; it's been a while), tall trees (fir, spruce, cedar), waterfalls (e.g. Nisqually Falls), the remnant of Nisqually Glacier (black ice, like ice tends to get when it's old), and far too many steep ledges for an acrophobiac.   

A good outing, and one I'd gladly do again.

--John R.

P.S.: This just in: The WORM turns out to be available in Kindle. That might save some wear and tear on my old copy.

Marquette Manuscript Event

So, thanks to friend Jeff for the following link.

Tolkien manuscripts on display? All I can say is Sign me up. 

--John R.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

The World Wobbles

 So, here's a piece from a while back I'd intended to post a link to but never found the right time. So here it is as a companion piece to the Gulf Stream article from a few days ago. Just another of those disquieting things that show the world is changing --on the whole in predictable but unwelcome ways, but sometimes with sudden unexpected shocks.

--John R.

--current reading: THE WORM OUROBOROS

--the newest arrival: ALONE AGAINST THE TIDE solo CoC adventure. Long ago their ALONE AGAINST THE WENDIGO was great, and their ALONE AGAINST THE DARK good enough, so decided to give this one a try while on an upcoming trip.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Is This a Cheese Shop?

 So, I've been happy that the friendly neighborhood Starbucks is open again so that once a week or so I can take my laptop down, put the earphones on,  and work away* at one of their little tables. I was a little disappointed the first week that when I ordered tea they were out of English Breakfast. I went with Earl Grey instead --a mistake, but at least I'd know better next time.

The second week they were again out of English Breakfast, but rather than oil of Bergamot I went with a hot chai tea latte. Good, though not what I really wanted.

The third week they's run out of English Breakfast, so I went the chai route again. Starting to get annoyed.

The fourth week, today, they didn't have English Breakfast. I asked was it discontinued, did they not carry tea-flavored tea anymore? They said no, they carried it, they were just out today. So I ordered a cup of hot water. Techically I ordered a large Earl Grey but told them not to put in the tea bags yet. Then once I got safely to a table I disposed of the E.G. teabags and used two teabags I'd brought from home.** Call it a workaround.

There must be a way to get these folks to sell me a cup of tea. But so far finding out how is, shall we say,  a work in progress.

--John R.

--current reading: THE WORM OUROBOROS

*today it was finalizing the text and trimming back the endnotes for my piece on Wm Hope Hodgson

**Market Spice's Northwest Breakfast blend


. . . And the next time I went in and ordered a hot tea, they got me a hot tea. English Breakfast. Tea flavored tea, with no fuss.  Which makes me luckier than Dent Arthur Dent.  --JDR

Thursday, August 12, 2021

The Gulf Stream shutting down

So, the most alarming story I've seen in a long time appeared in THE GUARDIAN last week: The Gulf Stream is becoming unstable --slowing down, cooling down.

This wd bring, in the words of their reporter,  "catastrophic consequences around the world".

I think its importance is shown by the immediate response it got from the first three people I shared it with: 

            Oh my God.

Here's the link: 

--John R.

current reading: 


 Eaves & Kimpel's Introduction to Richardson's PAMELA (1741)

and (taking lots of notes) the preview of Carl's new book THE NATURE OF MIDDLE-EARTH (2021)

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Preview of the new Tolkien book

 So, thanks to friend D. for letting me know about the just-released preview of THE NATURE OF MIDDLE-EARTH, ed. Carl Hostetter (and thanks to T.O.R. for providing the link.  For those of us who can't wait till September, here's a thirty-five page sampling from the book.

I know what I'll be reading on tonight.

--John R.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

MFA finalists

So, the Mythopoeic Society has now announced the five finalists for this year's Mythopoeic Award in Inklings Studies:

Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inklings Studies

That's an impressive array of interesting books, each of which makes a significant contribution to Tolkien studies, and I'm pleased that a work I contributed to made the list.

For more information, including the nominees for the awards in fantasy studies, fantasy fiction, and fantasy fiction for young readers, see

--John R.

--current (re) reading: THE WORM OUROBOROS by E. R. Eddison

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Re-Reading Twain

Re-Reading Twain

So, it shd be easy to spot the theme that links my recent reading:






I'd read the first two of these years ago, probably not long after I bought a paperback copy combining the two (on Sunday January 12th 1986). I didn't think much of TOM SAWYER, DETECTIVE then and don't think much of it now, though the trial scene at the end is interesting to the extent that it shows how far back the 'Perry Mason' tradition (Defense Counsel Explains All) goes. At any rate it's better than the two other detective stories by Twain I've read, "A Two Barreled Detective Story" (which includes a parody/pastiche of Holmes, whom Twain hated, as a character) and PUDD'NHEAD WILSON (which starts with a good idea --twins separated at birth, one raised 'white' and the other 'black'--and utterly fails to do anything with it).

ABROAD isn't much better, but at least it links Twain up with the Poe-Verne runaway balloon tradition.

The third entry, HUCK FINN AND TOM SAWYER AMONG THE INDIANS, I read years ago (as in decades). Back when I was in high school or junior high this is one of the many, many books I read while working as a shoe shine. The edition I hunted down for reading now, on Kindle, prints the start of the novel by Twain which then segues into a much longer continuation and conclusion by a Western writer I've never otherwise heard of: Lee Nelson. His contribution, while interesting for its historical backdrop (something Twain tended to keep vague), isn't anything I'll be needing to read again. The same applies to Twain's fragment as well -- although Twain is my favorite American author* there's a smattering of works by him I've never read, and I'd rather read on them and re-read some favorites than to give this one an undeserved third try.


That just leaves SCHOOLHOUSE HILL, the only one of these I don't think I've read --though I've had the book it's in since August 18th 1979,** and despite the fact that I've marked up other sections of the book (which contains three variant texts of Twain's THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER. I was surprised by how good it is. After three duds I was prepared with lowered expectations, but he really came through. Pity he broke off and left this version unfinished.

So I'll certainly need to read the other two alternate versions of the story (posthumously assembled from his papers). I'll probably skim several more Twains I don't think I'll need to keep, I'll definitely be adding other Twains to the read-this-at-last shelves.

--John R.

current viewing; think now's a good time to dig out and re-watch Hal Holbrook's MARK TWAIN TONIGHT.

*some of my favorites of his works including THE LETTERS FROM THE EARTH, THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER, THE DIARY OF ADAM AND EVE, and of course stories like "A Day at Niagra", "His Grandfather's Old Ram",  and "Journalism in Tennessee", not to mention the lecture "Advice to Youth"

**only about a week after I graduated from Magnolia, moved to Fayetteville, and started graduate school:: clearly I picked it up pretty much the first time I was able to get into a bookstore