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What did the “The Master” tell Mr. Cox? Possible remnants from a discussion with Tolkien

Tolkien (misc.)Posted by Morgan Thomsen Sat, June 10, 2017 01:47:29

Mistakes can sometimes be lucky accidents. This was the case when I placed an order for a 1969 issue of the now defunct pop-linguistic magazine Quinto Lingo.[1] I had noticed a copy of Quinto Lingo (Vol. 7, Nos. 8-9, August/September), containing the article “Tolkien, the Man Who Created Nine Languages” by Jeff Cox, in the collection of Italian Tolkien collector Oronzo Cilli. But in my haste to acquire a copy I accidentally placed an order for the wrong issue (Nr. 10, November 1969). Quickly realizing my error, but unable to cancel the order, I glanced through the pages once it arrived, though not expecting to find anything related to Tolkien (after all, it was a magazine devoted to real-world languages). Among the letters to the editor, however, I spotted a couple of letters concerning Cox’s article, and one caught my attention in particular: a reader asked where Cox had “obtained the information he uses for his deductions” and if he “has access to Professor Tolkien’s notes, to which he makes reference”. The editor replied: “Mr. Cox has discussed the trilogy[sic] with The Master — was told some things and deduced others”. I found the editor’s reply quite interesting: would the article contain any references to the discussion between Cox and Tolkien?

When the August/September issue of Quinto Lingo finally arrived, I was therefore curious to see if there were any references to the discussion with “The Master”. Sadly, though, Cox gives us no clues to what he apparently was told by Tolkien. Nor is it mentioned through which means they discussed The Lord of the Rings. Did they correspond (as would perhaps have been most likely), meet in person, or speak over the phone? And there is only one reference to “Tolkien’s notes”:

The author [Tolkien] uses the incredibly complicated process of laying out the actual Westron in his notes, then translating it into Old English, then forming modern English equivalents from his knowledge of philology.” (p. 9)

Is it possible then to approach Cox’s article in order to derive any pieces of information that could have been communicated by Tolkien? Since Cox does not use any explicit references, and without access to any primary material (such as letters from Tolkien to Cox), it is of course almost impossible to come to any conclusions. Adding to the untrustworthiness of the article are some obvious errors: for example, Middle-earth is throughout the article rendered “middle earth”, and the two main groups of the Elves are called Quenyi and Sindarin (the correct forms being Quendi and Sindar, and Quendi rather refers to all kinds of Elves; these and "middle earth" might be transcription errors on part of the magazine’s editor, though).

However, if we assume a sympathetic reading of the article — assuming that Cox would not invent stuff on purpose or present his own deductions without warning the reader— there are at least two passages that I found worthy of note. (And now I’m stepping into the complex linguistic territory with some trepidation, since this is an area where I have no claims to much knowledge!) The first clue to what Tolkien might have been communicating is perhaps found in the following paragraph:

Some of the languages, such as Elvish and Westron (the latter being the common speech of hobbits and men), are remarkably complete, listing nearly a thousand words each. And they are true to their inner rules, following the grammar and inflection that Tolkien devised for them.” (pp. 8—9)

This is quite remarkable, written in 1969, since I would assume that the existence of the substantial Elvish wordlists and grammars would come to public knowledge first with the appearance of The History of Middle-earth in general and the Etymologies in particular. Interesting about this passage is also the mention of Westron equivalents: is this a misinterpretation of something Tolkien told Cox (e.g., a failure to note that the distinction would perhaps rather be between Q(u)enya and Gnomish/Noldorin/Sindarin wordlists and grammars, by now having been published in various volumes of Parma Eldalamberon), or is Cox making a reference to the still unpublished Taliska dictionary and grammar (mentioned by Patrick Wynne in Vinyar Tengwar 27, pp. 5—6), which, although not Westron per se, at least fall under the umbrella “Mannish”?[2] Not having access to any more information, though, we do not know and can only guess.

The second clue concerns Cox’s analysis of the Sindarin poem A Elbereth Gilthoniel, first published in The Lord of the Rings. Writing about the word galadhremmin, Cox says that it is a:

compound word — ‘galadh’ being tree and ‘remmin’ being woven (from the Quenya root ‘rem’ meaning net or weave of strands).” (p. 9)

Now, from what I can find, the detailed translation of the root rem appears to be especially interesting. A similar verbal base REB/REM, glossed as “entangle, snare, trap (as hunters or fishers) with lines or nets”, was first published in Vinyar Tengwar 42 (p. 12) in 2001. For example, there is no mention of such a root in the Etymologies, and Tolkien does not discuss the element -remmin in The Road Goes Ever On.[3] Again, though, I want to stress my very basic acquaintance with Elvish linguistics, and there might be other (and obvious) sources which I have missed.[4] If so, please let me know in the comments and I will be happy to amend this blog post!


[1] The magazine appears to have been published from 1964 (“Quinto Lingo” was registered as a trademark on 11 September 1964) or 1965 until the 1980s; the earliest issue I have seen dates from 1965 and the latest from 1983.

[2] Another wild guess is that Cox had seen the (apparently disputed) material referred to by Lisa Star as “Sóval Pháre, a substantial amount of information (some 15 pages) related to the ‘true language’ of men and hobbits, especially the grammar and phonology, privately circulated”, and elaborated by Star in Tyalië Tyelelliéva No. 17. I have never been able to read any copy of the Tyalië Tyelelliéva magazine.

[3] Appendix E of The Lord of the Rings (p. 1115, note 1, 50th anniversary edition) has “rem ‘mesh’”.

[4] For example, in 1966 the poem A Elbereth Gilthoniel with an English translation by Tolkien was published in the Tolkien Journal (Vol.2, No.1). I have not read this issue, and cannot say if there is anything there that Cox could have picked up.

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Tolkien’s “Fragments on Elvish Reincarnation”

Tolkien (misc.)Posted by Morgan Thomsen Thu, December 11, 2014 04:14:30

When Christopher Tolkien edited a vast amount of his father’s manuscripts for publication in The History of Middle-earth series, he omitted certain texts due to constraints of space and editorial discretion. Generally speaking, these texts are either theological/philosophical or linguistic in nature, and were thus perceived to be of little or no interest to the general reader (see, for example, The War of the Jewels, XI:359). Much of this omitted material, however, have since appeared in specialised publications (most notably in issues of Vinyar Tengwar and Parma Eldalamberon), and the most recently published material appears in the French volume La Feullie de la Compagnie N° 3,* released on 3 December 2014. This material consists of three sets of formerly unpublished or partially published manuscripts by Tolkien, presented here under the collective title Fragments on Elvish Reincarnation. The manuscripts, appearing both in English and a French translation, have been edited by Michaël Devaux, with the assistance of Christopher Tolkien and Carl F. Hostetter.

My intention here is not to offer an analysis of the meaning or importance of these texts; it is rather to present a brief description of Tolkien’s writings, and its associated editorial matter, in La Feullie de la Compagnie 3. Information in English about this new material is still sparse, and hopefully this summary could be of use when pondering whether or not to acquire a copy of the book.

Editorial introduction

Deveaux has composed an ambitious introduction, covering some 70 pages, to the Fragments on Elvish Reincarnation. The introduction consists of: (1) a general introduction to the material; (2) a detailed description of the manuscripts; (3) an analysis of the literary styles found in these writings and an “in-universe” analysis of the ideas found in the manuscripts; (4) a section containing both a glossary of Elvish terms appearing in the manuscripts, supplied by Carl Hostetter, and some notes specific to the French translation of certain terms; (5) a discussion of the ideas found in the manuscripts, with references to (real-world) philosophy, theology, geography, and general natural science.

In my opinion it is quite a drawback that the editor has chosen not to include an English translation of this introductory material (even Hostetter’s contribution, originally in English, appears only in French). Firstly, acquiring a copy of La Feullie de la Compagnie 3 is, as of now (and perhaps indefinitely?), the only way to access this new and quite substantial primary material by Tolkien, and non-French readers are much at a loss by not being able to consult the introduction. Secondly, with English being the lingua franca of Tolkien studies, it complicates the possibility of critical scholarship on these texts. And thirdly, relying on my somewhat rusty French, it is evident that Deveaux is a scrupulous Tolkien scholar and keen commentator, whose thoughts on the matter deserve to reach a wider audience.

Tolkien’s manuscripts

After the editorial introduction follow transcriptions of Tolkien’s manuscripts in a bilingual edition (presented side-by-side on opposite pages).†

I. The Converse of Manwë with Eru (ca. 1959)

In his Appendix to Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth (published in Morgoth’s Ring, volume X in The History of Middle-earth), Christopher Tolkien noted the existence of “a text entitled The Converse of Manwë and Eru”, consisting of three manuscripts: “This work was planned as two-fold … and a second, more ample version of the ‘Converse’, was given up” (X:361). In Morgoth’s Ring, only the “original shorter recension” (ibid.) of the Converse appeared, reprinted here as manuscript A, The Converse of Manwë and Eru, together with two amendments (ca. 2 pages)‡. Manuscript B, The Converse of Manwë with Eru concerning the death of the Elves and how it might be redressed; with the comments of the Eldar added (ca. 14 pages), is the second part of the two-fold work, described by Christopher as “an elaborate philosophical discussion” (ibid.). And finally, manuscript C, Beginning of a revised & expanded version of ‘The Converse’ (ca. 4 pages), is the abandoned, “more ample” version of manuscript A.

II. Re-incarnation of Elves. The Númenórean Catastrophe & End of ‘Physical’ Arda (ca. 1959 – spring 1966)

The second set of texts, also noted in the Appendix to Athrabeth, is described by Christopher as a “hastily written manuscript on small slips of paper, entitled ‘Reincarnation of Elves’ (X:363). The first section, Re-incarnation of Elves, amounts to ca. 6 pages, and The Númenórean Catastrophe & End of ‘Physical’ Arda covers ca. 2 pages.

III. Some notes on ‘rebirth’, reincarnation by restoration among Elves. With a note on the Dwarves. (1972)

Among the “brief or fragmentary writings closely associated with [the Glorfindel manuscripts]” (The Peoples of Middle-arth, volume XII: 377), Christopher notes “a discussion of the question of Elvish reincarnation” (XII:382), existing in two versions. In The Peoples of Middle-earth, only the first version of the writing, and parts of second version of the final note on Dwarves, is given, while here appears the second version in its entirety (ca. 3 pages).


* It should be noted that the volume is an anthology (it has 502 pages in total), also containing articles in French about Tolkien and his works, some illustrations, and a bibliography of French Tolkien-related publications.

† A facsimile version of two manuscripts pages is reproduced at the very end of the section on Fragments on Elvish Reincarnation.

‡ Here, and below, the page numbers refer to the extent of only the English material, as it appears in La Feullie de la Compagnie 3 (it has a somewhat larger typesetting than employed in The History of Middle-earth). The page numbers are included to give readers an idea of the length of the primary material.

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The Riddles of The Hobbit by Adam Roberts

Tolkien (misc.)Posted by Morgan Thomsen Tue, October 15, 2013 16:30:02

Nearly a month ago, Pieter Collier wrote a review at the Tolkien Library about the forthcoming The Riddles of The Hobbit by Professor Adam Roberts (Palgrave Macmillan; to be published in November 2013). Thanks to the publishers I also got a chance to read the book before its publication, and will here try to note a couple of points not already brought up by Mr Collier, that I hope could be of interest to potential readers.

To my knowledge, The Riddles of The Hobbit will be the first book-length, academic study about the theme of riddles in Tolkien's works. The latter is important to point out: contrary to what one could be led to believe from its title, the book is not only and simply about the riddles in The Hobbit – Roberts start out (Chapter 1) by tracing the use of riddles in Anglo-Saxon culture and literature, and he devotes a whole chapter (2) to riddles contained in the Exeter Book. This historic contextualisation (which certainly is relevant when it comes to Tolkien) gives Roberts a valuable perspective when analysing (Chapter 3) the riddle-game found in the chapter “Riddles in the Dark” in The Hobbit. In Chapter 4, Roberts tentatively suggests an apparent “meta-riddle” (a sort of synthesis of all the riddles exchanged between Bilbo and Gollum), which he constructs out of a reading of a certain Celtic riddle, the Exeter Book, and the Elder Edda. A quite fascinating suggestion, which no doubt will be discussed further among Tolkien scholars and fans!

After a transitional chapter (5) presenting the different versions of The Hobbit, Roberts discusses (Chapter 6) the manual and hands-on quality of the Old English poem Beowulf in order to investigate Bilbo's question “What have I got in my pocket?”. This discussion goes on (chapter 7) to an analysis of the enigma of the One Ring: here I believe Roberts makes an interesting (and apparently formerly unnoticed) connection between the Ring and a particular riddle found in the Exeter Book.

The remaining chapters are more diverse, and touch on subjects such as riddles of writing and characterisation in the works of Tolkien, and the “Enigma of Genre Fantasy”.

Initially, since this is Roberts’s first contribution to Tolkien studies, I was worried that the author would have failed to take account of what are often considered to be the preeminent analyses of the Tolkien's riddles, namely the discussions found in Douglas A. Anderson’s The Annotated Hobbit, John D. Rateliff’s The History of The Hobbit, and the works of Tom Shippey. However, this turned out to be a false worry: Roberts not only includes references to all of these, but also expands upon and, at times, questions certain aspects of their work – all of which makes for a rewarding read.

Note [added 5 December 2013]: Over at Jason Fisher’s blog Lingwë I just discovered a long discussion (see the comments field) about how the topic of the riddles in The Hobbit is noteworthily brought up in several works (that I failed to take account of above). Such include The Tolkien Encyclopedia (entry for “Riddles”) , Marjorie Burns’s Perlious Realms, and Corey Olsen’s Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit .

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Pauline Baynes’ ‘There and Back Again’: Some Notes

Tolkien (misc.)Posted by Morgan Thomsen Sun, July 21, 2013 23:41:41
Recently I managed to acquire a copy of a poster-map I’ve been eager to take a closer look at: Pauline Baynes’ There and Back Again: Bilbos Journey through Eriador and Rhovanion (1971[1]). Long-time collectors and scholars will of course be familiar with this poster, but as a younger (well, mid-30s) enthusiast, it wasn’t readily available and I had my own reason to study the map.

Before finding a copy of the map, I namely posed a question at a well-known online Tolkien forum, asking if anyone knew if Baynes consulted with Tolkien for the creation of There and Back Again. My question derived from the knowledge that Baynes’ earlier poster, Map of Middle-earth (1970), was produced in collaboration with Tolkien, “who sent her a marked photocopy of the general map, as well as additional names to include and advice on a few points of topography and nomenclature”.[2] Could it therefore be that also the 1971 poster-map has some unique features that would be able to enrich our understanding of Middle-earth?

However, no one had a reply (or perhaps no one found the question interesting!) at the forum, and since none of my Tolkien-related reference works had anything to say on the subject, I decided to directly ask the foremost experts,[3] Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull. They kindly replied (quoted with their permission):

“Tolkien seems not to have given Baynes any additions for the Hobbit map, or instructions except to concentrate on landscape rather than figures. He asked to approve the art before it went to press, and did so when Pauline and her husband visited Tolkien in Poole.”[4]

While being grateful for an authoritative and informative answer to my question, it was of course also somewhat disappointing that the small “research project” undertaken for this blog post mainly yielded negative knowledge: it would likely be fruitless to look for additional pieces of information concerning the legendarium using the 1971 poster-map as a basis. Nevertheless, though, the illuminated map is a beautiful piece of art, created by “Tolkien’s illustrator of choice for his own works”[5] – reasons enough for me to take delight in it!

Final Note 1: I find it interesting that Tolkien recommended Baynes to “concentrate on landscape rather than figures”. The statement sheds additional light on one of my older posts here (‘Tolkien and the Illustrations of Robert J. Lee’), where I argued (though likely not being the first to point out this aspect of Tolkien’s artistic preferences) that Tolkien’s own illustrations contains “very few actual portraits, and when people occasionally appear in a landscape, they are often very small and in the background” – perhaps one of the reasons why Tolkien disliked Lee’s pictures.

Final Note 2: At least two erros, concerning the spelling of place names, appear to occur on the 1971 map:

[for] River Gladuin [read] River Glanduin
[for] Dimril Dale [read] Dimrill Dale

Footnotes & References

[1] ‘In Memoriam: Pauline Diana Baynes’, in Tolkien Studies: Volume 6, p.vii.
[2] Hammond, Wayne G. & Scull, Christina, The Lord of the Rings: A Readers Companion (HarperCollins 2008), p. lxiv.
[3] Hammond and Scull are currently working on a biography about Pauline Baynes – a work in progress which they occasionally write about at their weblog: Too Many Books and Never Enough.
[4] Private correspondence (8 June 2013).
[5] Scull, Christina & Hammond, Wayne G., The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: Readers Guide (HarperCollins 2006), p. 76.

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Father Francis Morgan, Tolkien, and Spain

Tolkien (misc.)Posted by Morgan Thomsen Mon, April 22, 2013 23:42:46

Acknowledgements: I’m grateful to David Bratman and Daniel Helen for reading the draft and providing me with comments and corrections. Update (28 May 2013): I would like to thank Beregond, Anders Stenström for pointing out an error and for giving a linguistic insight (the text has been amended accordingly).

1. Introduction

In March 2013, the Spanish Tolkien scholar José Manuel Ferrández Bru published La Conexión Española de J.R.R. Tolkien: El “Tío Curro” (Astorga, León: Editorial CSED). Ferrández Bru’s book, which is both the first biography about Father Francis Xavier Morgan Osborne (henceforth Father Francis) and the first book-length study of connections between Father Francis, Spain, and J.R.R. Tolkien, could be placed in at least two categories of texts dealing with Tolkien.

Firstly, it joins a handful of books, having appeared in the last decade, which focus on a particular aspect of Tolkien’s life – I’m thinking of such works as John Garth’s Tolkien and the Great War (2003), Andrew H. Morton’s Tolkien’s Gedling (2008) and Tolkien’s Bag End (2009), and Phil Mathison’s Tolkien in East Yorkshire 1917–1918 (2012).

Secondly, it is one of quite few original publications in languages other than English that include formerly unknown biographical information (albeit being bits and pieces) about Tolkien. Of such, there are for example Arne Zettersten’s Tolkien - min vän Ronald och hans världar (2007; eventually appearing in an English edition in 2011), an interview in Polish with Tolkien’s friend Przemyslaw Mroczkowski (Tygodnik Powszechny, No. 14, 1994), and an interview with Tolkien’s former au-pair Arndís Þorbjarnardóttir, published in the Icelandic newspaper Morgunblaðið (28 February 1999).

My personal interest in reading Ferrández Bru’s biography lies in gaining a deeper understanding of the connection between Father Francis and Tolkien and his family (and the chosen title of his book reveals that Ferrández Bru is aware that this will be the case for a majority his readers). I will therefore proceed below by mainly noting such details which appear to be hitherto unknown concerning this relationship.

2. Anecdotes and reminiscences

Ferrández Bru has to date published two articles in English about his particular field of research in Tolkien scholarship: ‘J.R.R. Tolkien and the Spanish Civil War’ in Mallorn 51 (2011), and ‘“Wingless fluttering”: Some Personal Connections in Tolkien’s Formative Years’ in Tolkien Studies, vol. VIII (2011). To these should also be added the articles about Father Francis that Ferrández Bru has published in English on his website.

In Tolkien Studies, Ferrández Bru noted that he “obtained invaluable data in interviews and letters exchanged with Priscilla Tolkien” (p. 59). While Priscilla Tolkien’s contribution remained implicit in that particular text, the Mallorn article provided two brief quotations by Priscilla, both concerned with reminiscences of Tolkien’s views on the Spanish Civil War. These two quotations also appear in La Conexión Española de J.R.R. Tolkien (pp. 231-2), and the book includes several additional quotations and references to his correspondence with Priscilla: such are reminiscences by Priscilla about her father’s great interest in the Spanish language owing to his close connection to Father Francis (p. 159), a brief description of Father Francis and his relationship to her (pp. 193-4), and how the death of Father Francis affected her father (p. 198). Moreover, La Conexión Española de J.R.R. Tolkien contains the following anecdotes recorded by Priscilla Tolkien:

A ceremonial ”good afternoon”: In the early 1920s in Leeds, J.R.R. Tolkien stepped out of a tram in the company of Father Francis. The latter had a powerful presence and made a deep impression on a girl standing next to the tram, who kept staring at the Father intensely. Taking notice of the girl, Francis Morgan “removed his large-brimmed hat and turning towards the girl said ‘good afternoon’ with great ceremony” (p. 194).[1] The surprised girl became terrified and started to run away from Father Francis. Afterwards, J.R.R. Tolkien was fond of telling this amusing story to his children.

Tears for wheat flakes (p. 198): In the early 1930s at Tolkien’s home at 20 Northmoor Road in Oxford, the elderly Father Francis (who died on 11 June 1935, 78 years old), was sitting by the table while Edith Tolkien kept asking what kind of cereals he might be wanting for breakfast. At last he chose a brand called Force, but noticed that the young Priscilla had started crying – it was her favourite cereals and she regarded them as belonging to her. Father Francis, who guessed why she was crying, handed her the package of cereals and apologized, thereby winning her confidence and stopping her tears.

The smelly Camembert (pp. 195, 197): Travelling on a train, Edith Tolkien and Father Francis were bringing a gift to Ronald, a Camembert cheese (of which he was especially fond). Having reached its maturity, the cheese omitted such a strong smell that fellow travellers started leaving the wagon, which eventually became empty except for Edith and Father Francis. According to Priscilla, this memory has been kept throughout the years within the Tolkien family. While I have found no other reference to this incident, it bears likeness to the anecdote about the greasy Banbury cake: “Father Francis sometimes came to visit from Birmingham, once chaperoning Edith. She remembered the train stopping at Banbury and Father Francis insisting on buying Banbury cakes – the local delicacy – which were very greasy. The grease got everywhere and caused considerable confusion.” (The Tolkien Family Album, p. 35).

The “flip-flap” clock: The heritage of Father Francis’s brother Augusto Morgan contained a certain clock being a family heirloom. After struggling with administrative hindrances, Father Francis brought the clock to England from Spain, and upon his own death, he bequeathed it to Tolkien, who “kept it in his study throughout his whole life and who more than once managed to get it repaired even though its machinery was antique” (p. 208).[2] In a footnote, Ferrández Bru comments that the Tolkien family called the clock by the name “the flip-flap”,[3] and that it passed on to John Tolkien, Ronald’s eldest son. The clock appears to have been lost after John’s death.

3. Possible influences

3.1 Father Francis

The Saviour in the Gnomish Lexicon: Ferrández Bru points to an entry appearing in Tolkien’s Gnomish Lexicon (dating from 1917 and published in its entirety in Parma Eldalamberon, vol. 11): “Faidron or Faithron = Francis”. By observing the usage in the Gnomish Lexicon of proper names being denoted by capital letters and the equality sign denoting names in other languages, in addition to the occurrence of names of other figures in the life of Tolkien in the corresponding Qenya Lexicon (Parma Eldalamberon, vol. 12), Ferrández Bru concludes that “Francis” here very likely refers to Father Francis (in his Foreword, Ferrández Bru thanks John Garth for suggesting this lead).[4] He then looks at the Elvish cognates, finding English glosses such as freedom, set free, liberation, liberty, liberator, and Saviour. Ferrández Bru admits that it is impossible to tell if Tolkien actually intended these concepts to be characteristic of Father Francis, but suggests that it’s “very revealing that [Tolkien], in his private world and creation, composes the name of his tutor through terms connected with freedom and liberation” (p. 182).[5]

In the guise of Thingol (pp. 242-3): It is well-known that Tolkien’s relationship to Edith served as an inspiration for the story of Beren and Lúthien. Ferrández Bru suggests that the character of Thingol, who opposed the love of Beren and Lúthien, might be owing something to Francis Morgan, who likewise opposed the love between Ronald and Edith.

The ceremonial Troll (pp. 194-5): In connection with the anecdote of Father Francis’s ceremonial “good-bye” mentioned above, Ferrández Bru suggests that this event might have influenced Tolkien when composing the poem ‘Perry-the-Winkle’. In the poem, the Lonely Troll tries to find a friend and encounters Mrs Bunce, a hobbit. The well-meaning troll greets her with a smile and a “Good-morning, ma’m! Good day to you!”, but the hobbit “yelled a frightful yell” and “ran home like mad”.

3.2 Spanish influence

The young Tolkien had access to Father Francis’s library containing many Spanish books (the library is unfortunately no longer existent),[6] possibly including works written by his relatives (see below), and that he surely used to recount anecdotes about Spain for Tolkien. Ferrández Bru says that one can therefore find “an interesting line of speculation about an unknown influence in Tolkien’s works” (p. 159),[7] and suggests a number of such possible influences.

Romanticism (pp. 211ff): Among Father Francis’s older relatives were found quite a few prominent authors, such as Juan Nicolás Böhl de Faber, Frasquita Larrea, and Cecilia Böhl de Faber. Ferrández Bru analyses romantic and traditional themes (“progress contra nature”) in the writings of these authors, and notes a similarity in the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, perhaps suggesting that Tolkien was aware of their works or possibly having been influenced by their ideas through Francis Morgan.

Landscape and places in Spain: While admitting the inherent danger of guesswork concerning relationships between locations appearing in the legendarium and the real world (p. 241),[8] Ferrández Bru proposes that the transportation of wine barrels on the river between Lake-town and the Elf-king’s cave in The Hobbit is reminiscent of the transportation of goods on the river Guadalete from Jerez and El Puerto de Santa María (from where hailed the family of Father Francis). He further notes that Gondor and Minas Tirith might owe something to the white facades of certain Andalucian houses, “los pueblos blancos”, and discusses an etymological similarity between the river Anduin, the Great River, and the rivers Guadalete and Gualdalquivir, the latter deriving from an Arabic name meaning “great river” and both referred to as “Río Grande” in everyday speech (pp. 242ff).

4. Some critical points

When writing a biography about or closely related to Tolkien, one can nowadays hardly escape from consulting The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide (2006). I was therefore somewhat surprised to find that La Conexión Española de J.R.R. Tolkien did not include Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond’s magisterial reference work in its list of references.[9] A passage where Ferrández Bru’s exposition would have benefited from such a reading concerns the funeral of Father Francis. Based on a recollection by Priscilla Tolkien, Scull and Hammond note that while Tolkien himself could not attend the funeral, his eldest son John possibly went there to represent his father (Chronology, p. 788). Ferrández Bru appears not to include this piece of information. Another example is the dating of the poem ‘Perry-the-Winkle’: Ferrández Bru places the composition of the poem to between 1920 and 1930 (citing Humphrey Carpenter’s biography as his authority), but a quick glance in the Companion and Guide reveals a more exact year of composition in addition to providing more information about its background (see Reader’s Guide, p. 997).[10]

In some cases Ferrández Bru has instead consulted Daniel Grotta, both through correspondence and the Spanish translation of his J.R.R. Tolkien: Architect of Middle-earth, for biographical information about Tolkien. Grotta’s biography about Tolkien is regarded as problematic by many Tolkien scholars,[11] and questions about credibility therefore arise when Ferrández Bru, attributing Grotta, writes that Father Francis soon after the death of Mabel Tolkien took the Tolkien brothers on a railroad trip to Wales for fifteen days (p. 164). From what I can find, no mention of this event has occurred elsewhere.[12]

These critical points notwithstanding, I consider La Conexión Española de J.R.R. Tolkien to be a valuable contribution to Tolkien scholarship. Ferrández Bru writes lucidly and cogently, and for anyone seeking to find out more about Father Francis’s ancestors there is a wealth of information (which I have not covered here). Furthermore, the neat division of the book into clearly separated parts makes it useful as a reference work (although it regrettably lacks an index). Like Zettersten’s book, I’m eager to see an English edition of La Conexión Española de J.R.R. Tolkien in a near future, hopefully revised and expanded on a few points through consulting The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide. A not-so-distant English edition would additionally ensure that the quoted excerpts of Priscilla Tolkien’s reminiscences (which I surmise are written in English) will be available in their original form.

Works consulted

Carpenter, Humphrey (1977). J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography. London: George Allen & Unwin.

Grotta, Daniel (1992; 1st ed. 1976). J.R.R. Tolkien: Architect of Middle-earth. Philadelphia: Running Press.

Scull, Christina and Hammond, Wayne G. (2006). The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: Chronology & Reader’s Guide (2 vols.). London: HarperCollins.

Tolkien, John and Tolkien, Priscilla (1992). The Tolkien Family Album. London: HarperCollins.


The photograph of the “Force Enamel Advertising Sign” is copyrighted by (reproduced in accordance with the terms and limitations of use).

[1] “… se quitó su sombero de ala ancha y girándose hacia la niña le dijo buenas tardes con gran ceremonia.”

[2] “… lo conservó en su estudio durante toda su vida y en más de una ocasión fue capaz de repararlo a pesar de la antigüedad de su maquinaria.”

[3] The onomatopoeic name “flip-flap” is used in the Spanish text; I’m uncertain if Ferrández Bru used a Spanish expression to translate an English variant.

[4] Suggesting a different (or supplementary) interpretation, Beregond, Anders Stenström has commented that while “the presence of Francis in the Gnomish Lexicon obviously reflects the presence of Francis Morgan in Tolkien’s life, its translation is probably simply etymological: the basis of the name is the same as in Frank and French, but this also came to refer to liberty, being a free man, as in frank and franchise” (comments field to this article, accessed 28 May 2013).

[5] “… es muy revelador que en su mundo privado, en su creación personal, componga el nombre de su tutor usando raíces relacionadas con la libertad y la liberación.”

[6] Ferrández Bru writes (p. 163) that he found an online post, at a Tolkien forum, providing some information about books from Father Francis’s library. He doesn’t give a link to the post, but it can be accessed at (as of 19 April 2013).

[7] “… una interesante línea de especulación sobre una desconocida influencia en la obra de Tolkien”.

[8] A tendency discussed by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull in their blog article ‘Tolkien, Leek, and the Moorlands’ (4 September 2012;

[9] In his article in Tolkien Studies, though, Ferrández Bru does mention The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide as well as the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia edited by Michael D.C. Drout, which he regards as “useful resources which provide new sources of data beyond the information available in the Carpenter biography” (p. 59, note 1). However, neither of these works is cited as a source in the article or in La Conexión Española de J.R.R. Tolkien.

[10] The precursor of ‘Perry-the-Winkle’, a poem called ‘The Bumpus’, belongs to a series of unpublished poems called Tales and Songs of Bimble Bay. These poems are “centred on an imaginary English coastal town and harbour” and date from ca. 1928. Thus, the “real-world” background of ‘Perry-the-Winkle’ might actually corroborate Ferrández Bru’s theory that Father Francis’s “ceremonial ‘good afternoon’” served as an inspiration for the “ceremonial Troll”.

[11] See Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, ‘Truth or Consequences: A Cautionary Tale of Tolkien Studies’ (, and the comments field to Jason Fisher’s blog post “Shadows of the past” (

[12] It is possible that Grotta’s notes about Tolkien’s trip to Wales with Father Francis (which can be found in J.R.R. Tolkien: Architect, p. 27) derive from his interviews with some of “Tolkien’s friends and associates” (p. 8). It should also be made clear that Ferrández Bru does state that the version of the trip to Wales included in his book is given “according to Daniel Grotta” (“[s]egún Daniel Grotta”) and that it is not known if the trip “actually took place” (“si realmente se produjo”; p. 164). However, since Humphrey Carpenter only says that “[l]ater in childhood [Tolkien] went on a railway journey to Wales” (J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, p. 26), providing no further details (and neither are such found in Scull and Hammond’s entry for Wales, in their Reader’s Guide, p. 1085), Grotta’s version lacks supporting evidence – a critical point which I wish Ferrández Bru could have emphasized even more strongly.

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