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Notes and thoughts about J.R.R. Tolkien, the Tolkien Index, and related topics.

Professor Tolkien's Whimsical Talk

Tolkien (misc.)Posted by Morgan Thomsen Mon, April 30, 2012 18:03:20
On 14 December 1956, J.R.R. Tolkien made a speech at the opening of the new Deddington Library (Scull & Hammond, The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: Chronology, pp. 497–8). The Oxford Mail published an article from the opening on 15 December, but it appears to have been largely unknown that another article from the event was featured in The Banbury Advertiser on 19 December. As far I know, the latter article was first “re-discovered” when it was mentioned in a 2011 brochure from the Deddington Library.

The British Library was able to provide a photocopy of the original article, “Deddington’s New Library Opened by Mrs. L. Hichens – Prof. Tolkien’s Whimsical Talk”, appearing on page 5 in The Banbury Advertiser for 19 December 1956. I have made some efforts to contact a representative of The Banbury Advertiser (no longer in print), but without any success: the magazine appears to have been owned by a member of the Russell family of Deddington, and the original owner is deceased and his son now apparently lives in China (for this piece of information, thanks to David at the current Banbury Advertiser, not associated with the original publication [Update: link no longer available as of 27 April 2013]).

Below follows a low-resolution reproduction of the original article, and transcriptions of the passages dealing with J.R.R. Tolkien.

Deddington’s New Library Opened by Mrs. L. Hichens – Prof. Tolkien’s Whimsical Talk

Nowadays books are besieged by a great many powerful embattled enemies, some of whom have been strongly entrenched, and to be here at the opening of a strongpoint from which troops can be sent out against those enemies is a great honour.

Any schoolboy who noticed a similarity between these words spoken by Prof. J. R. R. Tolkien at the opening of the Deddington Branch Library on Friday afternoon, and an adventure story he had recently heard would not be far wrong. For Prof. Tolkien is the author of “The Lord of the Rings,” a remarkable fairy romance for which he invented 700,000 words, and which has in its three volumes been broadcast extensively on the B.B.C. schools programme.

Prof. Tolkien was speaking after the official opening by Mrs. Lionel Hichens, formerly the chairman of the Oxfordshire Education Committee.

Mrs. Hichens said it was a great day for the people who lived in or near Deddington.

“It’s now a great deal different from the sad, grey and horrible surroundings of the court,” she said (the library is situated in the former Deddington Courtroom), “and it has undergone a wonderful change.”


Prof. Tolkien was introduced by the County Librarian, Miss M. Stanley-Smith, and in a whimsical address he said he felt that while not a native Oxonian, he could count himself a naturalised subject for he had lived at Oxford for the past 38 years.

Libraries, he said, were to blame for him, because he had never been able to distinguish between the fascination of finding fairy stories on the same shelves as Primers of the Gothic language. “Out of these things have come my books,” he said.


“The wealth of books to be found here,” he said, “is food for the mind, and everyone knows that for the stomach to go without food for a long time is bad, but for the mind to go without food is even worse.”

He advised his audience that everything they read might eventually be of use to them. He had read pages which he had thought he had forgotten, and yet at the oddest times, the information which those pages had contained had proved of use to him.


“I have seen visions through the wormholes of books printed before Caxton died, and from the painting of skins of animals which roamed that County we don’t speak of at Wantage before Alfred was born,” he said.

He concluded with a verse from one of his volumes in the musical fairylike language that he invented.

He was thanked by the Rev. M. Frost, Vicar of Deddington, who said that the County Library Service was most useful.


Miss Christina Hole, the authoress and expert on English folklore, whose books are a popular “must” for many country-people, seconded Mr. Frost’s vote of thanks and thanked Prof. Tolkien for coming from those far lands which he had created. His works had given her and many others intense pleasure.


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Vinyar Tengwar 49 Index

IndexingPosted by Morgan Thomsen Tue, March 27, 2012 00:30:53
Just finished compiling an index of names for Vinyar Tengwar 49 on Tolkien Index.

As can be seen in the index log, I limited the indexing of the substantial editorial comments (especially for the latter piece, ""Five Late Quenya Volitive Inscriptions"). However, in case you think it's useful to have an index of names to all of the editorial texts in this issue, please let me know.

(Remember that page references to editorial comments are given in square brackets; in this way they can easily be distinguished from page references to Tolkien's texts.)

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The History of Middle-earth Index corrigenda

IndexingPosted by Morgan Thomsen Mon, March 26, 2012 19:20:21

While working on the Tolkien Index website, I've encountered a few errors in the paperback edition of The History of Middle-earth Index (HarperCollins 2002). (It would be interesting to know if any of these were corrected for the print-on-demand hardcover edition released in 2010.) I will be updating this article if additional errors are found.

p. 28 (entry for Atanamir): [for] Tar-Atanamtr [read] Tar-Atanamir

p. 31: [after] Aur [insert] (I)

p. 123 (entry for Elenarda): [for] *2423 [read] *242—3

p. 155: [for] Falmani [read] Falmari [Added 26 September 2013]

p. 157: [for] Faskala-ntmen [read] Faskala-númen [Added 28 April 2014][Note 1]

p. 180 (entry for Gartharian): [for] Gartharian [read] Garthúrian

p. 191: [for] Gochnessiel [read] Gochressiel

p. 251 (entry for Ivorwin): [for] Ivorwin [read] Ivonwin [Added 7 April 2013]

p. 270 (entry for Lindon): [The form Lindónë appears in the index, while the form Lindóne is used in the text.]

p. 326 (entry for Nen Cenednil): [for] Nen Cenednil [read] Nen Cenedril

p. 330 (entry for Nimphelos): [for] 10 [read] 11

p. 435 (entry for Tom Bombadil (VII)): [for] Porn [read] Forn [Added 24 June 2012]

p. 459 (entry for Valaturu): [for] Valaturu [read] Valatúru [Added 23 March 2013]


Note 1: In the textual passage (BLT1:187), the form is actually given as Faskalanúmen (i.e., without the hyphen); other references, however, give the form with the hyphen (such as BLT1:253 and PE11:34).

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Hans Künzel Discovered The Lord of the Rings?

TolkienPosted by Morgan Thu, March 22, 2012 20:45:29

Pierre Dethorey, owner of Åkarps Antikvariat in Lund, has offered the following reminiscence about Hans Künzel (Swedish editor, who worked at Gebers, the publishers of Sagan om ringen, the first Swedish translation of The Lord of the Rings):

Hans Künzel ... discovered Tolkien. He told me once that he found The Lord of the Rings at a bookmarket (Frankfurt?), and read it at a single sitting during the night. However, he later had large difficulties trying to convince Gebers to buy the Swedish publishing right!” (1)

This anecdote offers a small but unique insight into the publication history of The Lord of the Rings in Sweden, and might complement the account given by Erland Törngren:

It was my mother, Disa Törngren, who towards the end of the 1950s heard about an English professor of Anglo-Saxon and English literature, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, who had written an extraordinary and impressive epic story of over 1,200 pages, a trilogy that had become popular in England. She was editor-in-chief at Gebers publishers, loved fairy tales, and contacted Sir Stanley Unwin, the English publisher. When the contract for the three parts was cleared, she commissioned Åke Ohlmarks, learned in languages and who had formerly translated, for example, the Icelandic Edda, to do the translation.” (2)

I contacted Mr. Dethorey, who had no futher details to add to to his reminiscence (besides that Künzel had told Dethorey the story many years ago when they worked together compiling catalogues for Gunnar Johanson-Thor, then owner of Nyléns Antikvariat in Stockholm).

Notes & Acknowledgements

Photograph of Åkarps Antikvariat. Copyright Pierre Dethorey/Åkarps Antikvariat. Reproduced with permission.

1) Original Swedish text:

Hans Künzel var en gång redaktör på Lundagård, och under sin tid på Gebers redigerade han bl.a. Fakirens samlade verk. Han "upptäckte" också Tolkien, berättade för mig en gång att han fick tag i Sagan om ringen på en bokmarknad (Frankfurt?), sträckläste den på natten, men att han sedan hade stora svårigheter att övertala Gebers att köpa den svenska rättigheten!” (Source; accessed 22 March 2012.)

2) Original Swedish text:

Det var min mor, Disa Törngren, som mot slutet av 1950-talet fick höra talas om att en engelsk professor i anglosaxiska och engelsk litteratur, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, hade skrivit ett mycket märkligt och mäktigt sagoepos på över 1 200 sidor, en trilogi som blivit populär i England. Hon var då litterär chef på Gebers förlag, älskade sagor och tog kontakt med den engelske förläggaren, sir Stanley Unwin. När kontraktet för de tre delarna var klart anlitade hon den språkkunnige Åke Ohlmarks, som tidigare översatt bl.a. isländska Eddan, för att göra översättningen.” (Törngren, Erland. "När ‘Sagan om ringen’ kom till Sverige" ["When The Lord of the Rings Came to Sweden"]; Nationalencyclopedin. []. Published 14 December 2001, accessed 22 March 2012.)

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Astrid Lindgren and Tove Jansson about The Hobbit

Tolkien in SwedenPosted by Morgan Tue, March 20, 2012 22:02:42

Update (23 March 2014): John Garth has kindly notified me that Westin's biography was published in English (Tove Jansson: Life, Art, Words — The Authorised Biography) early in 2014.

In 2007, Boel Westin (Professor of Literature at Stockholm University) published the Swedish-language biography Tove Jansson: Ord, bild, liv (‘Tove Jansson: Word, Image, Life’). Swedish-speaking Finnish author Tove Jansson is best known for her books about Moomin. Among Tolkien enthusiasts , she is (in)famous for her illustrations to the second Swedish translation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit (Bilbo - en hobbits äventyr, 1962; cf. Anderson, p. 395).

Westin is the first researcher having been given access to the entire archive of Tove Jansson, and included in the book is the publication for the first time of the correspondence between Astrid Lindgren (Swedish children's book author, renowned for the Pippi Longstocking series) and Jansson about the preparation of the illustrations for The Hobbit.

When the publishing house Rabén & Sjögren was planning for a new translation of The Hobbit, Lindgren (who was working as editor for the children's book department at Rabén & Sjögren) wrote to Jansson in November 1960:

When reading the book, one can clearly see the illustrations, made by Tove Jansson; it is evident that this will be the children's book of the century, which will continue to live a long time after we are dead and buried.” (Westin 356)

Lindgren perceptively understood the importance of Tolkien's book. And Jansson, who had illustrated a translation of Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark (Snarkjakten, 1959; she was also to illustrate Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in 1966), saw in Tolkien an equally large challenge: she accepted the commission already within a week.

The illustrations were sent during the summer 1961 to Lindgren, who replied in July 1961:

I'm so glad for your wonderful, little Hobbit, it's impossible to describe in words. Tiny, ingenious, and sweet exactly how he should be, and he hasn't been portrayed like this in any edition.” (Westin 360)

Jansson had invented a new method for drawing the illustrations for The Hobbit. She tried to get away from the Moomin-style by using “accurate strokes with the pen and carefully filled spaces” (Westin p. 359). She wrote to Lindgren:

The possibility to escape from my own technique was to draw on paper of bad quality (for which I didn't have any respect) and to freely draw many copies of every figure 20, 40, or 60 times, until it looked somewhat free. You will understand. Then I glued together the results. Hence a lot of the vignettes look like patchwork, bit it cannot be seen in print.” (Westin 359-60)

Concerning the approach of illustrating The Hobbit, Jansson wrote to her life partner, Tuulikki Pietilä, just after accepting the commission:

The figures are banal: dwarves, gnomes, fairies, dark-elves. But the scenery is luring in its macabre cruelty ... Haunted woods, pitch-dark rivers, a moon-lit moor with burning wolves.”(Westin 359)

Rather than focusing on the details of the characters (she thinks of making them “rather tiny” and perhaps inventing other kinds of “gnomes and fairies”), Jansson is caught by Tolkien's description of the landscapes, which she tried to portray in her illustrations.

According to Westin, the edition illustrated by Jansson did not become the success the publishers had hoped for. The illustrations received a lot of negative critique: “one saw Jansson where one wanted to see Tolkien” (Westin 361). In the opinion of many reviewers, Jansson had apparently not managed to distance herself enough from the world of Moomin and had neglected to strictly render the characters as described in The Hobbit, .

As far as I know, no comments by Tolkien on Tove Jansson's illustrations have been published. Since Tolkien in several letters offered his opinion about illustrations for various editions of his books, it wouldn't surprise me if we'll one day see something dug up from the archives.

Works cited

Anderson, Douglas A. (ed). The Annotated Hobbit. Houghton Mifflin: 2002.

Westin, Boel. Tove Jansson: Ord, bild, liv. Schildts: 2007. [Quotes from the book freely translated by M.T.]

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