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. 


1 comment:

Paul W said...

Thank you for the answer! That makes sense. It encourages me to read Ryan's work if I can get ahold of a copy. I have to admit, I don't really understand Tolkien's antagonism to source study. I suppose it is related to the tower analogy he used to describe the dangers of only studying Beowulf for as an ancient textual source rather then literature. but didn't he understand one can do both?

Just another reason i wish i could have spent a month or so attending Inkling meetings!