Saturday, October 09, 2004

Ten Tolkien Factoids

-Ballantine, US publishers of The Hobbit, never managed to explain to the outraged author why their cover picture included two emus.

-According to family legend, the Tolkiens are descended from the 16th-century George von Hohenzollern who was so reckless in battle that he got the nickname Tollkühn -- German for foolhardy.

-Tolkien's ear for language sometimes needed fine-tuning. In an early Lord of the Rings draft Frodo was called Bingo, and one Silmarillion elf was originally Tinfang Warble.

-C.S. Lewis mentioned Tolkien's magical drowned land of Númenor in his own novel The Hideous Strength, but spelt it wrong ("Numinor"). Tolkien's verdict on that book: "Tripish, I fear." He wasn't keen on Narnia either.

-When one of his readings was first taped, Tolkien was intensely suspicious of the diabolical machine and insisted on reciting the Lord's Prayer in Gothic into the mike to purge any evil influences.

-Best contortionist feat in Middle-Earth: "'Yrch!' said Legolas, falling into his own tongue."

-Our author battled furiously with Allen and Unwin's printers over corrections to his nonstandard spellings, like "dwarves" and "elven" rather the dictionary's "dwarfs" and "elfin". He had the last laugh: thank to his influence, "dwarves" has pretty well replaced "dwarfs" in modern fantasy....

-Friends and biographers said loyally that Tolkien's erudition and enthusiasm made his Oxford lectures hugely successful despite speech problems (he injured his tongue in early life). Others were less respectful: one-time student Sir Kingsley Amis remembered those Old English lectures as "incoherent and often inaudible."

-Drafts of Lord of the Rings were read aloud to Oxford's "Inklings" literary group, including Lewis and Charles Williams. Once, as Tolkien began a chapter, a mutter was heard from the back of the room: "Oh God, not another freaking elf." *

-The Tolkien family dreads further publicity from the coming movies. After decades of harassment from overenthusiastic fans and money-hunters, Tolkien's son and literary executor Christopher now lives in France and uses an alias when visiting England. Keeping wild boar in his garden also helps.

Feature by David Langford for the SFX promotional supplement about The Lord of the Rings, Spring 2001.

Posted on TORn by Ringer Squire on Thursday 7th October 2004

*The actual very bad word appears in the web version of this text, but was magically edited to what you see here when I cut and pasted it into TORn, before I could even fix it myself. There be powerful hoodoo in TORn's message editor!
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TORnsibs discuss:

Annael Asks, "did Tolkien fall into his own tongue?" ;-)

Kimi replies: A rugby injury (which in this part of the world is often a euphemistic reference to a different part of the body entirely).

From the Biography: "Rugby sometimes led to injuries... on another occasion he cut his tongue, and though the wound healed satisfactorily he later ascribed to it much of his indistinctness of speech (though in truth he was known as an indistinct speaker before he cut his tongue...)"

I'm always amused by references to Christopher's residence as if it were a hardship to live in one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. Gosh, fancy "having" to live in south-west France, there among the walnut forests and vineyards, surrounded by ancient castles and spectacular scenery. He probably feels he has to act the part by drinking the finest Bordeaux, perhaps a drop of Sauternes from time to time, and truffles simply all the time.

I imagine they eat a bit of wilk pork, too :-)
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Erather:
I had heard some, but not all, of these. Can't resist adding a couple, which I'm sure you know but not everyone:

* In addition to Frodo being "Bingo" in early drafts, Aragorn was originally named Trotter, a curious hobbit wearing wooden shoes due to a bad experience in Mordor in the past.

* An alternative version of Celeborn's bio had him born in Valinor; his name in Quenya was Teleporno.

Aunt Dora Baggins: IIRC, Trotter's bad experience was in Moria, where his feet were tortured by orcs. Curiously enough, a shadow of this survives in LotR, where Aragorn says he went through Moria once, and that the memory was very evil.

Foe Hammer of Gondolin:Teleporno was still used...

(from the Encyclopedia of Arda)

Teleporno - The Telerin version of Celeborn

Galadriel's consort Celeborn took his name from the Sindarin language, but we have a few rare cases of the same name translated into High-elven (or, strictly, Telerin) form, as Teleporno. This variation of his name seems to belong to a tradition that wasn't ultimately incorporated into The Silmarillion (in which Celeborn originated as one of the Teleri, rather than among the Sindar), and so it is doubtful the name was ever applied directly to the Elf himself.

A more likely use for the name, though unattested by Tolkien, would be for the White Tree of Tol Eressëa. In Middle-earth, it was referred to in Sindarin as Celeborn ('silver tree'), but the Telerin form Teleporno would seem quite appropriate for use by the Elves of the Lonely Isle.
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Drogo Drogo: Emus and a lion..

What's even funnier about the Barbara Remington cover art on the Ballantine Hobbit (and LOTR authorized paperback editions) was that he balked over the inclusion of a lion to the point that he made the publisher remove it from subsequent printings. The emus, however, remained, leaving us to ponder why some zoo animals are better suited to Middle-earth than others!

The lion Hobbit is a collector's item now, and I was thrilled to find it for $1 at a used bookstore about 2 years ago--Alibris had it listed for the absurd price of $180 at that time.

The lion is on this page towards the middle, 1st Ballantine pb ed

Squire: what a cool bibliography, or publishing history or whatever they call it. I had no idea the little bowing hobbit doesn't appear on later editions of the US 1938 hardback.

I love the infamous lion, and also the first UK paperback from 1960. Thanks for finding that!

drogo drogo: The bowing hobbit is the sacred cow of book collectors



"Houghton-Mifflin also decided to place a small figure of a bowing hobbit on the title page and the cover. Unfortunately, this hobbit wore boots! To be fair to the publisher, this hobbit was modeled on the hobbit figure in Tolkien's illustration, Conversation with Smaug. The hobbit in the illustration also wears boots. This figure was removed at some point in production, probably as part of the second impression. However, the American edition with the bowing hobbit is also referred to as the first state of the first impression. The number of copies of the first state is currently unknown."

Those editions go for up to $15,000 with dealers (highest price now on Alibris). Those little mistakes make all the difference in the world for the value of the book.

By the way, anyone who wants to start collecting Tolkien books should watch out for the absolutely outrageous prices some sellers charge for rather ordinary editions of his books (dealers and Ebay sellers, some just because they don't know any better). It's not the edition, it's the printing # that matters. First and maybe second printings/impressions are very valuable, but prices go down from there aside from oddities like the lion Ballantine Hobbit. Right now, the highest currently listed price on Albris for a 36th printing of the US Houghton Mifflin Hobbit is a brain melting $9,030,838.00 !!!! Uh, folks, I have a 36th printing of my own and it came out in 1978 since that's when I bought it new, so that's 50 years from a first printing of an American edition. Ay carramba!

Curious: But did you know squire's family edition is also signed by Tolkien and dedicated to squire's grandfather! Signed first editions are in a whole different category. By all means have that looked at by a professional, squire!
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Skadhi:
Castle Hohenzollern?!?
ok... now I'm *totally* interested...!
this is my neighborhood castle!!!
there's somewhere else to bring flat-frodo ;-)
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Celandine Brandybuck: Dwarrows... perhaps it's a good thing he didn't go for the true plural, eh? "Dwarves" having caused him enough editorial grief.

I'd comment on Legolas falling into his own tongue, but this is a family board...
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Penthe: "incoherent and often inaudible."
Diana Wynne Jones's extremely charitable (?) comment on this is that Tolkien was attempting to get rid of his undergraduates so he could keep writing his books.

Squire: Where does Wynne Jones say that?
Is that in a biography?

It seems unlikely that Tolkien would try to "get rid of his undergraduates" to spend more time with his books, when the undergraduates were paying his salary, and the books were practically unpublishable. I believe professors were paid by the lecture, over and above their nominal staff salary for supervising studies on a one-on-one basis with their assigned students. Tolkien supplemented his income by lecturing and by grading term exams, which he also hated, according to biographies I've read.

I suspect his lecture style was a function of shyness in public speaking, a not uncommon trait in many people whether they are scholars or not. I don't think much of the "injured tongue" theory, unless he used it as an crutch to avoid doing what he didn't like doing.

A while ago, someone posted some sound files of Tolkien reading from his books, and his voice was clear, strong, and lively.
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Lelin:Okay, how about this theory?
Tollkuhn = foolish = Took

Nina Glyndwr: toll = mad, kühn = bold (taken seperately)

Chip of Dale: Sounds Tookish enough for me.
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dernwyn:
*chuckles* Gotta love that man!

I remember being horrified the first time I read about "Bingo" - can you imagine: "You'll keep an eye on Bingo, won't you?" sounds like Bilbo wants Gandalf to help at the local Saturday night gaming.

I think it was Lewis who made the comment regarding "another...elf". Although he had disdain for Tolkien's fantasy, and Tolkien was appalled at Lewis' outright allegories, it's wonderful that the two were such friends who could complement and support each other's endeavors.

Arevanye: I have read that it was Hugo Dyson who made the remark about the elves, while quite inebriated at a meeting of the Inklings. In fact, Colin Duriez, in his book "Tolkien and Lewis: The Gift of Friendship" went on to say that if Dyson was at a meeting of the Inklings, he would veto any reading from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings manuscripts.

I think that Lewis was one of Tolkien's greatest supporters, and immensely enjoyed hearing Tolkien read his chapters aloud as he wrote them. Tolkien has acknowledged in his Letters that without Lewis's encouragement, the stories might never have been published. You could say that Lewis was one of the first "fans" of LOTR.

Dernywn: I'm still trying to get a handle on Tolkien's early adult years, and the relationships among the Inklings, and how he and Lewis seemed to lose touch with each other as LOTR neared completion.

Arevanye:Yes, the Inklings fascinate me as well.

I think that Lewis and Tolkien remained friends all their lives, but their friendship became strained because Tolkien disapproved of Lewis's radio talks on Christian theology. Even though Tolkien played a key role in Lewis's conversion from atheism to Christianity, he felt those subjects were better handled by expert theologians. Also, Lewis knew that Tolkien would disapprove of his relationship with, and subsequent marriage to an American divorcee (Joy Davidman), and so their communication with each other waned. But Tolkien was quite shaken by Lewis's death in 1963. Four days after Lewis's death, he wrote a letter to his daughter, Priscilla and said "So far I have felt the normal feelings of a man of my age--like an old tree that is losing all its leaves one by one: this [Lewis's death] feels like an axe-blow near the roots. Very sad that we should have been so separated in the last years; but our time of close communion endured in memory for both of us." (Letter #251)

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