Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Edith Blatt

So, thanks to friend Shelly drawing the library's copy to my attention I've now read a new younger-readers biography of Tolkien:   J. R. R. TOLKIEN FOR KIDS: HIS LIFE ANS WRITINGS, by Simonetta Carr.

This book is not bad as such things go, but it's unlikely to establish itself as the standard bio for young readers any more than White, Collins, or Lynch did (all of whom she lists in her bibliography) in their day.  Ddoesn't seem to have actually used these books, instead drawing on much better books by Scull & Hammond and Garth.

So far as a young-reader biography of Tolkien goes, to its credit it gets right that Tolkien was not born in 'Bloemfontain, South Africa'  but in 'Bloemfontain, in what is now South Africa'. A critic or biographer who doesn't understand the distinction is likely to make more, similar sort-of-but-not-quite-right statements throughout the work.

A curious glitch is the author's getting Tolkien's wife's name wrong. It should, of course be Edith Bratt. And that's what the author uses when describing how the two orphans met at Mrs. Faulkner's.  But the next time she appears, in the pages devoted to their re-uniting and courtship, her name is given --and not just once but over and over-- as Edith BLATT.  And later still --I think from the point of her marriage onward-- it's just Edith.

How they come up with the name BLATT isn't at all clear, but some quick googling suggests that the error popped up online through references to the casting in the 2019 TOLKIEN biopic.  And, as is the way with such things, once the error is out there it'll perpetuate itself.* 

There are certainly worse mistakes the author cd make. Mrs. Tolkien's maiden name isn't of crucial importance in the grand scheme of things when trying to understand Tolkien's life and works. But getting it wrong, and inconsistently wrong at that, certainly shows carelessness in the researching and/or proofreading it passed through on its way to library shelves.

As a final note, I shd mention that the book contains '21 Activities' --things like writing in runes or making a kite.

To sum it up briefly: Not bad, but this book doesn't fill the need for a good younger-reader biography of JRRT.

--John R

*How many years did we have to put up with reviewers spelling JRRT's last name as 'Tolkein' (a blunder that's not quite extinct even now, though it's gettiing close to it)?


David Bratman said...

What I'm finding more often is people who might spell Tolkien correctly but pronounce it wrong, "toll-kine".

"South Africa" is wrong as the land of Tolkien's birth if you take it as a jurisdiction, as putting it after the city name would imply. But South Africa as a geographic expression was already in use at the time, so it wouldn't be wrong to say merely "Tolkien was born in South Africa." What he wasn't born in was the Union of South Africa, or the Republic of South Africa as it now is, for that's what wasn't formed until 1910. But most of the time I see his birth identified as "Blomfontein, Orange Free State" which is correct. But I suppose that, in a children's book particularly, you'd then need to explain what and where the Orange Free State is, and that may be more than you want to get into.

Marcel R. Aubron-Bülles said...

Just out of curiosity - did they spell Bloemfontein as Bloemfontain? :)