Monday, August 22, 2022

Quick Schedule for Art of the Manuscript

So, for those who live in the area or can attend some but not all of the events yet to come in connection with the JRRT: ART OF THE MANUSCRIPT currently being displayed at Marquette's Haggerty museum, here's a quick outline of their schedule. In addition to the chance to meet and mingle with the curators in charge of the exhibit, Bill Fliss and Sarah Schaefer, highlights will include talks by 

Carl Hostetter (Sept 22)

Holly Ordway (Oct 13)

John Garth (Oct 17th) 

There's even a chance to learn how to play D&D.

Here's the somewhat abridged schedule:

Upcoming events  

Thursday, September 8 and Friday, September 9

Virtual Symposium: Mythical Pasts, Fantasy Futures: The Middle Ages in Modern Visual Culture
Presented in collaboration with the J. Paul Getty Museum
To attend the Day 1: September 8 keynote panel, register here.
To attend the Day 2: September 9 symposium, register here.

The visual and conceptual relationships between modern fantasy, popular culture, and the medieval era are a lively area of inquiry in a variety of cultural studies disciplines. They are also the focus of two current or upcoming exhibitions: The Fantasy of the Middle Ages (Getty Museum) and J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript (Haggerty Museum of Art). This online symposium convenes an interdisciplinary group of academics and museum professionals to examine how the Middle Ages appear in the contemporary imagination, and how its aesthetics have inspired a wide variety of media.

Thursday, September 22 (Hobbit Day!), 5 p.m.
Carl Hostetter will present Editing the Tolkienian Manuscript

Registration button

 Read about Carl Hostetter on the Tolkien exhibition programs page

Friday, September 23 through Sunday, September 25
Doors Open Milwaukee/Marquette University Parents Weekend

Registration button


HMA LogoThursday, September 29, 2022, 6 p.m.
The Fall Dinner:  
A Celebration & Tribute to J.R.R. Tolkien

Registration button


Join us for this very special fundraising event celebrating the exhibition, J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript. The evening will begin with a cocktail reception where you can nosh on delicious hors d’ouevres, enjoy live music, and mingle with the exhibition’s co-curators Dr. William Fliss and Dr. Sarah Schaefer. Following an exquisite three-course dinner, enjoy an exclusive opportunity to tour the Tolkien exhibition with the co-curators. Proceeds will benefit the operation of the Haggerty Museum of Art including exhibitions, academic and community engagement, collection care, and administration. Sponsorship opportunities are available and include a wide range of benefits. For more information, please click here.

Friday, September 30, 10 a.m. to noon
Tolkien Reading Gathering: The Hobbit

registration button
Presented in collaboration with Marquette University's On Your Marq program
Relax in a bean bag chair in the exhibition gallery while listening to an excerpt from 
The Hobbit audio book.

Friday, October 7, 5 p.m.

Our History in Manuscripts                                                                                  Performance by the Marquette University Chorus

Taking inspiration from J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript and the Haggerty Museum of Art's collection of Spanish Antiphonals, the Marquette University Chorus will explore various choral styles throughout history.

Saturday, October 8, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Community Day: J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript

registration button
A fun, engaging free day for all ages presented in collaboration with Milwaukee Public LibraryFirst Stage Children’s Theater, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s ArtsECO program. Taking inspiration from the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, partnering organizations will lead experiences including calligraphy, storytelling workshops, Tolkien trivia, and more.

Tuesday, October 11, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Tolkien Reading Gathering: The Lord of the Rings

registration button

Presented in collaboration with Marquette University's On Your Marq program
Relax in a bean bag chair in the exhibition gallery while listening to an excerpt from 
The Lord of the Rings audio book.

Thursday, October 13, 5 p.m.
Holly Ordway will present Tolkien’s Faith and the Foundations of Middle-earth

Registration button


Read more about Holly Ordway on our programs page

Saturday, November 5, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

World-Building: Dungeons & Dragons

Registration button


Take a journey with us as we explore new realms, fight evil creatures, and attempt to save a Tolkien-inspired world. Learn how to play D&D with expert hosts, then join a game yourself! Participation and spectating tickets are both available.

§  10 to 10:30 a.m. Intro to Dungeons & Dragons

§  10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dungeons & Dragons game sessions

Presented in collaboration with Milwaukee Public Library

Thursday, November 17, 5 p.m.
John Garth will present Whispering Leaves: How Tolkien’s Manuscripts Reveal the Secrets of His Creativity

Registration button

 Read more about John Garth on our programs page


Saturday, August 20, 2022

Walkthrough of the Exhibition (Marquette)

So, for those who cdn't make it to the current display of Tolkien manuscripts, or those who wd have liked more time to see the exhibit (howevermuch time was available was bound to feel too short), here's a video walk-through of the whole display, more than half an hour long, made a few hours before the exhibit opened.  Though taking pictures was not allowed, as is usual with works on display, a group from the German Tolkien Society (Deutsche Tolkien Gesellschaftes U) had official permission to record the event. That evening that same group circulated during the reception and after, taking pictures of people in attendence, myself included.

It was a great exhibit, esp. the placement of two iconic pieces at far ends of the galley: Tolkien's green great dragon nr the entry and the Ishness painting of Kor. I do have to admit that a high point for me starts around 26.00 on the film, when the camera shows and the narrator describes The River, the chart placing page of every draft of every chapter of LotR into a schematic map. This is the big project I've been working on for several years now, as my part of the LotR reprocessing project. I hope and think this will prove of great help to future researchers work out the sequence of composition at a page-by-page level.

Here's hoping the D.T.G. does indeed post more film of the exhibit.

--John R.

--unusually for me, the last day or two I've been too busy to do much reading --whether it was visiting with friends from our old book club, walking around a site with many Indian mounds, or visiting a fellow survivor from TSR.


Thursday, August 18, 2022

Then Came the Swedes

So, thanks to friend Jim for sharing the news that people keep giving huge amounts of money to get Tolkien licensing rights. This time it's the Swedes:

Here's a passage that shows how widely they interpret their remit.

. . .  the deal . . . gives Embracer the rights to movies,

 video games, board games, merchandising, theme parks 

and stage productions relating to Tolkien’s works.

This is essentially the old Saul Zaentz 'movie merchandising' that Tolkien Enterprises has licensed, re-licensed, and sub-licensed from for decades.  But the new folks, Embracer /Asmodee intend to go further:

The company said it will explore “additional movies 

based on iconic characters such as Gandalf, Aragorn,

 Gollum, Galadriel, Eowyn and other characters 

from the literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien.”

--That is, they plan to go boldly into territory that was considered hands off under the Amazon license.

It'll be interesting to see what new projects come out of this (e.g., a Middle-earth theme park*), and how the new Swedish overlords exercise their stewardship.

--John R.


Wednesday, August 17, 2022


I have measured out my life with . . . spoons

So,  my first cup of tea of the day was at home, continued in the car in a tippy cup on the way to the airport.

My second was in the new lounge at the airport (v. nice).

The third was on the plane, in-flight.

As was the fourth.

As was the fifth.

The sixth was at Mader's, in Milwaukee, with dinner. Bringing my own teabags prevented me from succumbing to the Earl Grey conspiracy.

The seventh saaw me though the rest of dinner.

Back at The Plaza, I've not yet decided on whether I'll have an eighth and final cup for the day before calling it a night. But the evidence suggests it's likely.

--John R.

--current reading: the Peterson

Sunday, August 14, 2022

The Art of the Manuscript: Marquette Exhibit

 So, the opening of Marquette's exhibition is almost upon us (this Friday).

Here's a three-minute interview of a local newsman with Bill Fliss of Marquette's Special Collections  (which includes the Tolkien manuscripts) and Sarah Shaefer from UWM.

Thanks to Janice for the clip.

--John R.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

More on J. S. Ryan

So, a few days ago someone (Paul W) queried my statement that

[Ryan] had the odd distinction 

of having his work dissed 

by Tolkien himself 

(and quite unfairly, I think).   

Deadlines being always with us --or with me anyway-- I don't have time for a full evaluation.

Here's a quick note summing up my evaluation.

J. S. Ryan's position in Tolkien studies was that of one of the first pioneers -- those who wander across a field, making the first beginnings of the paths that others who came after wd follow, eventually becoming established major roads. Except that Ryan never developed paths but remained a wanderer all these long years.



My original copy of Ryan's book, TOLKIEN: CULT OR CULTURE (1969) I find I can't now re-read without the book disintegrating in my hands (something that happened just last week with my copy of Lockley's PRIVATE LIFE OF THE RABBIT). Accordinglyfor purposes of this note I have taken the text from his later collection TOLKIEN'S VIEW: WINDOWS INTO HIS WORLD (Walking Tree Press, 2009).


Ryan's great contribution to Tolkien studies was that he was among the first to stress the importance on Tolkien's great work of myths and legends from Old English, Old Icelandic, medieval Germanic, and Celtic. Tolkien may have been annoyed at Ryan's source-study, but that's more because he disliked source-studies of his work in general, not Ryan's work in particular.  I at least find it hard to disagree with Ryan's statement regarding the effect of all these medieval legends on LotR:


"The sensation is one of dealing with materials 

drawn from archetypal versions of the medieval

 treasure stories".

--I'm sorry to say that my only connection with JSR was indirect: an unfavorable review I did of one of this books. 


Peter Jackson's regrets

 So, I was interested to see a short piece in which Sir Peter Jackson confesses that he wishes he could see his LORD OF THE RINGS and HOBBIT movies as fans cd see it. Just as the chef cannot enjoy the meal, so too P.J. cdn't watch the films without constantly thinking about how they were made, in detail. Mark Twain famously once made a similar point about being a riverboat pilot.

Here's the quote:

On a recent episode of the Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast, Jackson revealed that the most galling thing about making the Lord of the Rings trilogy was not getting to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy as a fan. “It was such a loss for me not to be able to experience them like everyone else was, that I actually did seriously consider going to a … hypnotherapy guy to hypnotise me, to make me forget about the films and forget about the work I’d done over the last six or seven years, so at least I could sit and enjoy them,” he said.

And here's the link, for those who might want to see the comment in context:

--John R.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

A Class on THE HOBBIT (Flieger / Rateliff)

 So, here's something I've been looking forward to: an online class on J. R. R. Tolkien's THE HOBBIT. 

 I'll be co-teaching this one with Verlyn Flieger. 

The name of the class is "The Hobbit: How It All Began" .

It's hosted by Politics and Prose bookstore in D.C. and will meet four times:

    Sunday September 11th

    Sunday September 18th

    Sunday October 2nd, and

    Sunday October 9th.

Each class runs for an hour and a half, from two o'clock to three -thirty Eastern Time.

If you're interested in joining us, here's the link to the official announcement:

--John R

current reading: GAME WIZARDS by Peterson, and excerpts from TALES FROM WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams.

Monday, August 8, 2022

The Cat Report (8/5-22)

 With the adoptions of Meringue the mew-er and that majestic pair Melificence and Skreech, the cat-room seems positively roomy with four cats and four kittens: Miss Lucy, Joshua, Olive, Ella, and kittens Copperfield and Houdini and Sunny D and Tang. 

MISS LUCY got to come out first, as she considers right and proper. She had a nice walk of about thirty minutes, keeping her cool even though there were quite a few dogs out. She’s brave or perhaps optimistic in that when she saw a dog her reaction was to either saunter towards it or hold her ground, depending of the dog’s bevavior. As usual she was a great walker and did her goodwill tour duty. The only point on which we butted heads was her discovery of some short cat-stands with a hollow base near the cat-room door. She’d no sooner seen these than she had to go in one, and we disagreed over how long she shd stay there.

JOSHUA came next. I doubted I’d be able to walk him, but to my surprise while nervous he wasn’t panic-strickened. Most of the time (10 to 15 mintes) I carried him around the area outside the cat-room, but he did walk some on his own. Given his suspicions that Cat-eating Fiends might be about he did well. This marks the first time I’ve been able to give him a walk beyond a reluctant token gesture. 

OLIVE had her turn then, which was similar to her brother’s except she was more nervous.  I picked her up and held her where she could see into the cage room from outside and surprisingly this calmed her down; her heartbeat went from racing to normal. I’m hoping that going for short outings may convince this pair that walks aren’t that scary after all but a interesting break from the cat-room. We’ll see.

The rest of the time was devoted to ELLA and the KittensHOUDINICOPPERFIELDSUNNY and TANG. All came out, except one of the buff-color kittens, who slept through the call for playtime (though he was happy to play catch-up).  Though small the kittens and Ella were enough to fill the room and then some. I had to be careful not to step on anybody as they dashed about in pursuit of some escaping cat toy/prey.

The real revelation was Ella’s coming out of her shell. She played like a kitten, sometimes joining in games and sometimes enjoying toys on her own.  Playful and affectionate. I set up a catnip puzzle for her: a catnip sachet sealed in a little ziplock bag placed in a closed little box of thin cardboard. She managed to open it, sooner than I thought.

The kittens, for their part, lived up to their motto We’re Kittens and We’re Out. They played with each other, their mom, me, a variety of cat toys, and the room itself. They’re far more socialized than just a week ago, happy to be played with and tolerating being picked up, so long as it’s not for long.

—John R.

J. S. Ryan's passing

Sad to hear from Doug A. about the passing of J. S. Ryan, the last survivor I think of that first generation of Tolkien scholars who published books on JRRT as far back as the 1960s.  He had the odd distinction of having his work dissed by Tolkien himself (and quite unfairly, I think).  Here's a judicious evaluation and overview of his long career:

--John R.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Tolkien TV Is Almost Upon Us

"It was  like Tolkien put some stars in the sky

 and let us make out the constellations"  

So, I picked up the new issue of EMPIRE that features the forthcoming RINGS OF POWER as its cover story.  After creeping up on us for so long, the show's debut is almost here, scheduled for three weeks plus a weekend away. Thought I'd go through the piece and adjust my expectations, if need be, one last time.

1. "For the first time on screen, it imagines new characters and events within Middle-earth, instead of simply translating Tolkien's prose."

--um, Tauriel?  

--It's not actually as effective as you'd think to show off your knowledge on a subject and get it wrong.  Not when Tolkien fans are notoriously persnickety.


2. They're aware of the "other hands" quote (Letter to Waldman) and use it as justification for their project: "We're doing what Tolkien wanted".

--Fair enough.

3. "We wanted to do a story in Middle-earth that deserves its own space on the shelf, alongside the novels and films."

-- on the one hand, it's good to be ambitious and go all in, as it were. But the idea that this tv show or the Jackson films are the equivalent of Tolkien's books . . . no. that one just doesn't fly.  

4. One of the showrunners said to think of this not as a tv show with episodes and seasons but as a 50-hour movie

In fact, they think it transcends all previous tv ("This show attempts to surpass all TV that's gone before it")"  Or, in that overused phrase, it's a game-changer. Which suggests hubris.

--just as a personal note: you know you're getting old when the thought of sitting and watching a film for fifty hours straight is appalling.

5. "This show has a lot of action in it -- more so than any television or streaming show that we've seen.  Every episode has set pieces, creatures, battles, and white-nuckle fights to the death."

-- I hope they leave time in there between all the special effects for acting.

6. "Gloom is baked into The Lord of the Rings, the first seeds of which were born when Tolkien was fighting at the Somme in World War I"

--I don't know whether to mark this last point as just plain wrong, as in liable to to cause misunderstanding (Tolkien didn't think of the book until twenty years later) or let it pass as sort of right, in a way ( he did specifically referred to the death of best friends in the Somme in his Preface to LotR.

So, soon. Very soon now.

--John R.

--current reading: GAME WIZARDS book.


Friday, August 5, 2022


So,  this week GenCon is going on in distant Indianapolis. There was a time when I never missed GenCon each year when it came rolling round.*  Now I doubt I'll go again: too far away. And the suspicion I've been away too long.


I first became aware of this monarch of all D&D and RPG gaming conventions  through DRAGON MAGAZINE --probably issue #47 or perhaps #49, when I was still down in Arkansas.  But for a long time it was one of those things I knew about but was out of reach. Even though the gap lessened when I moved up to Milwaukee, there was no way for a grad student without a car or money to spare to get from Milwaukee to Parkside and back due to the complete lack of public transport between Milwaukee, where I was stalking that PhD, and Parkside, where GenCon was being held.

Things changed when GenCon moved to Milwaukee in 1985. Now that it was near at hand (in some years actually within walking distance)  I went every year from 1985 through 2002 (except 1992). Running games, playing games, joining in RPGA events and, once I came on as TSR staff, demos in the castle and panels and all. I'm particularly proud of having put together a panel on women and minorities in the industry (someone had to).

Then I left TSR. Then I was hired back. Then I left again. Then I was hired back again. Then I left again, for the third and last time. I went to all the GenCons until it left Milwaukee. So I've now been away for longer than I was going. I'm glad that the convention has survived, and thrived, and, from what I can tell, is in good hands. But the only conventions I've managed to attend in recent years are on a much smaller scale, like one in Texas I enjoyed greatly and was able to combine with a family visit in the area. Or earlier this year when (thanks to a ride from friend Jim L.)  I was able to attend the TSR reunion at GaryCon in Lake Geneva. 

So, here's hoping this year's GenCon was great and those who attended greatly enjoyed it.

--John R.

--current reading: THE PRIVATE LIFE OF RABBITS (a re-read, almost finished) and GAME WIZARDS (just starting)

* With one exception, chronicled in a chapter of Ben Riggs' book.