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Old 10-30-2013, 03:52 PM   #1
Bęthberry
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Tolkien Hammond & Scull's Cautionary Tale of Tolkien Studies

A friend of mine via the Tolkien Society posted this very interesting article from the Plaza. Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull are the scholars who have produced the JRR Tolkien Companion and Reader's Guide, two dense volumes which are chock full of historical detail about chronology, biography, bibliography, and textual transmission in Tolkien's life and work.

This article examines some of the very well known stories about Tolkien to establish their credibility. It is an excellent example of how these two work to establish the legitimate facts of Tolkien's work rather than the myth, gossip, and legend that surrounds him.

Some of the stories they examine include the genesis of the Black Riders, the epidsode of Edith dancing in the woods inspiring Luthien and Beren's story, Tolkien's claim about a mythology for England, and the bizarre claim that Tolkien's mother had taught in a sultan's harem. (I had never heard that one before!) Hammond and Scull also admit to revising one of their previous decisions based on new evidence.

It's an interesting exploration, too, of how the internet disperses false information.

Anyhow, I thought folks might be interested in this as it touches on themes that we often accept here.

Truth or Consequences: A Cautionary Tale of Tolkien Studies
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Old 10-30-2013, 10:40 PM   #2
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Indeed, in particular Hammond & Scull’s essay debunks the commonly found false story that Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings as a mythology for England, something repeated ad nauseum.

Tolkien would certainly have known that the real pagan mythology of England told of Woden (the Norse Óđinn) and Donner (the Norse Thórr), not of his own inventions, Manwë and Tulkas. In his letters, in Letter 131 to Milton Waldman Tolkien writes:
But once upon a time (my crest has long since fallen) I had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend, ranging from the large and cosmogonic, to the level of romantic fairy-story-the larger founded on the lesser in contact with the earth, the lesser drawing splendour from the vast backcloths – which I could dedicate simply to: to England; to my country.
This refers to Tolkien’s The Book of Lost Tales which later metamorphized away from any connection with England on its way to becoming the Silmarillion. Tolkien only mentions here that he wished to dedicate these tales to England, not mentioning that the mythology in its earliest form was more closely connected to England than it subsequently became.

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Old 10-31-2013, 02:29 PM   #3
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What I find interesting is their analysis of Tolkien's own comments and letters. This is the first time I've seen a thoughtful evaluation of the contradictions and discrepancies in Tolkien's letters on a fan site. This is not to attack Tolkien but to engage in critical scholarly thought.

I see fans over and over quoting the letters without any thought about context and recipient and without considering the contradictions that exist within the letters and within statements Tolkien made. Kudos for Hammond and Scull for pointing out that memory can be faulty and that the farther removed from an event the more likely someone's recollections can err.
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