Saturday, March 26, 2022

Sandyman's Biscuit Fastory

So, here  at the end of my first week (of two) at the Archives, I once again marvel at the LotR manuscript collection.  Even after so much time, reading closely through variant versions reveal how differently things cd have turned out at so many points, making the familiar text become strange and new again.

For example, consider two extremely minor details from the end of Plot Note F.

On a penciled scrap of paper placed at the end of PN F we are told that Frodo and Sam in the end come back to find the Shire ruined and the Sandyman house a biscuit factory.

So, why a biscuit factory?  Remember that for English English 'biscuit' usually means what in American English we call a cookie. So decades before the Keebler elfs we find here a passing glimpse of little people going into the cookie industry. If this had been written down two decades later I'd suspect it was linked to the little elf-queen on Noakes's Cake in SMITH OF WOOTON MAJOR, but the long gap of years between makes that seem a stretch.

Is biscuit chosen here for some specific reason, so drive home a particular point? Or is this a random point that briefly popped into Tolkien's head as he was jotting down some notes re. possibilities in the parts of the story he hadn't gotten to yet?

Have to say I haven't got a clue.

--John R.

--current reading:  O'Malley's THE ROOK


Clive Shergold said...

Biscuit may also refer to a form of pottery; see
Could Tolkien have been thinking of a pottery's kilns rather than a bakery's ovens?

John D. Rateliff said...

Clive: I hadn't thought about the pottery works. That may be what Tolkien had in mind. Though if so it just shifts the question a bit. That is, I can't immediately think of what point JRRT wd be making in that case either.

--John R/

Wayne and Christina said...

It's conceivable that Tolkien was thinking of Reading, not far from Oxford, which for many years was known as "Biscuit Town" because of its biscuit factories, notably Huntley & Palmers', but also Jacobs' and McVities'. Gone now (the factories, not the brands), but see, for example, for a smokestack-filled Reading landscape of Tolkien's day, and this just the Huntley & Palmers complex.

John D. Rateliff said...

Dear Wayne and Christina

Thanks for the comment.

Yes, I think you've probably nailed it down. Am I right in my impression that Reading is, or was, also a big railway hub? That's how it struck me the one time I was there, trying to get from the Isle of Wight to Oxford. Later I realized I wd have done much better to just go all the way to back in to London and then back out again to Oxford from there.

I'll be on the lookout for Huntley & Palmers next time I'm in a 'English-style' tea room.

--John R.

Wayne and Christina said...

Reading is indeed a big rail hub, one of the busiest of the interchanges. We were there a few times for the university, which has the Allen & Unwin archive.

You may or may not find Huntley & Palmers products in an English tea room, as their range is a shadow of what it once was and other brands are more popular. Of course most of these are owned now by the same few non-UK multi-nationals.