J.R. R. Tolkien

“In a sense, in returning to Oxford as a Professor, Tolkien had come home.  Although he had few illusions about the academic life as a haven of unworldly scholarship (see for example Letters 250), he was nevertheless by temperament a don’s don, and fitted extremely well into the largely male world of teaching, research, the comradely exchange of ideas and occasional publication. In fact, his academic publication record is very sparse, something that would have been frowned upon in these days of quantitative personnel evaluation.

However, his rare scholarly publications were often extremely influential, most notably his lecture “Beowulf, the Monsters and the Critics”. His seemingly almost throwaway comments have sometimes helped to transform the understanding of a particular field – for example, in his essay on “English and Welsh”, with its explanation of the origins of the term “Welsh” and its references to phonaesthetics (both these pieces are collected in The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, currently in print). His academic life was otherwise largely unremarkable. In 1945 he changed his chair to the Merton Professorship of English Language and Literature, which he retained until his retirement in 1959. Apart from all the above, he taught undergraduates, and played an important but unexceptional part in academic politics and administration.

His family life was equally straightforward. Edith bore their last child and only daughter, Priscilla, in 1929. Tolkien got into the habit of writing the children annual illustrated letters as if from Santa Claus, and a selection of these was published in 1976 as The Father Christmas Letters. He also told them numerous bedtime stories, of which more anon. In adulthood John entered the priesthood, Michael and Christopher both saw war service in the Royal Air Force. Afterwards Michael became a schoolmaster and Christopher a university lecturer, and Priscilla became a social worker. They lived quietly in the North Oxford suburb of Headington.

However, Tolkien’s social life was far from unremarkable. He soon became one of the founder members of a loose grouping of Oxford friends, (by no means all at the University), with similar interests, known as “The Inklings”. The origins of the name were purely facetious – it had to do with writing, and sounded mildly Anglo-Saxon; there was no evidence that members of the group claimed to have an “inkling” of the Divine Nature, as is sometimes suggested. Other prominent members included the above-mentioned Messrs Coghill and Dyson, as well as Owen Barfield, Charles Williams, and above all C. S. Lewis, who became one of Tolkien’s closest friends, and for whose return to Christianity Tolkien was at least partly responsible. The Inklings regularly met for conversation, drink, and frequent reading from their work-in-progress.

Meanwhile Tolkien continued developing his mythology and languages. As mentioned above, he told his children stories, some of which he developed into those published posthumously as Mr. Bliss, Roverandom, etc. However, according to his own account, one day when he was engaged in the soul-destroying task of marking examination papers, he discovered that one candidate had left one page of an answer-book blank. On this page, moved by who knows what anarchic daemon, he wrote In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

In typical Tolkien fashion, he then decided he needed to find out what a Hobbit was, what sort of a hole it lived in, why it lived in a hole, etc. From this investigation grew a tale that he told to his younger children, and even passed round. In 1936 an incomplete typescript of it came into the hands of Susan Dagnall, an employee of the publishing firm of George Allen and Unwin (merged in 1990 with HarperCollins).

She asked Tolkien to finish it, and presented the complete story to Stanley Unwin, the then Chairman of the firm. He tried it out on his 10-year old son Rayner, who wrote an approving report, and it was published as The Hobbit in 1937. It immediately scored a success, and has not been out of children’s recommended reading lists ever since. It was so successful that Stanley Unwin asked if he had any more similar material available for publication.

By this time Tolkien had begun to make his Legendarium into what he believed to be a more presentable state, and as he later noted, hints of it had already made their way into The Hobbit. He was now calling the full account Quenta Silmarillion, or Silmarillion for short. He presented some of his “completed” tales to Unwin, who sent them to his reader. The reader’s reaction was mixed: dislike of the poetry and praise for the prose (the material was the story of Beren and Lúthien) but the overall decision at the time was that these were not commercially publishable. Unwin tactfully relayed this messge to Tolkien, but asked him again if he was willing to write a sequel to The Hobbit. Tolkien was disappointed at the apparent failure of The Silmarillion, but agreed to take up the challenge of “The New Hobbit”.

This soon developed into something much more than a children’s story; for the highly complex 16-year history of what became The Lord of the Rings consult the works listed below. Suffice it to say that the now adult Rayner Unwin was deeply involved in the later stages of this opus, dealing magnificently with a dilatory and temperamental author who, at one stage, was offering the whole work to a commercial rival (which rapidly backed off when the scale and nature of the package became apparent). It is thanks to Rayner Unwin’s advocacy that we owe the fact that this book was published at all – Andave laituvalmes! His father’s firm decided to incur the probable loss of £1,000 for the succès d’estime, and publish it under the title of The Lord of the Rings in three parts during 1954 and 1955, with USA rights going to Houghton Mifflin. It soon became apparent that both author and publishers had greatly underestimated the work’s public appeal.

The Lord of the Rings rapidly came to public notice.  It had mixed reviews, ranging from the ecstatic (W. H. Auden, C. S. Lewis) to the damning (E. Wilson, E. Muir, P. Toynbee) and just about everything in between. The BBC put on a drastically condensed radio adaptation in 12 episodes on the Third Programme. In 1956 radio was still a dominant medium in Britain, and the Third Programme was the “intellectual” channel. So far from losing money, sales so exceeded the break-even point as to make Tolkien regret that he had not taken early retirement. However, this was still based only upon hardback sales.

The really amazing moment was when The Lord of the Rings went into a pirated paperback version in 1965. Firstly, this put the book into the impulse-buying category; and secondly, the publicity generated by the copyright dispute alerted millions of American readers to the existence of something outside their previous experience, but which appeared to speak to their condition. By 1968 The Lord of the Rings had almost become the Bible of the “Alternative Society”.

This development produced mixed feelings in the author. On the one hand, he was extremely flattered, and to his amazement, became rather rich. On the other, he could only deplore those whose idea of a great trip was to ingest The Lord of the Rings and LSD simultaneously. Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick had similar experiences with 2001- A Space Odyssey. Fans were causing increasing problems; both those who came to gawp at his house and those, especially from California who telephoned at 7 p.m. (their time – 3 a.m. his), to demand to know whether Frodo had succeeded or failed in the Quest, what was the preterite of Quenyan lanta-, or whether or not Balrogs had wings. So he changed addresses, his telephone number went ex-directory, and eventually he and Edith moved to Bournemouth, a pleasant but uninspiring South Coast resort (Hardy’s “Sandbourne”), noted for the number of its elderly well-to-do residents.

Meanwhile the cult, not just of Tolkien, but of the fantasy literature that he had revived, if not actually inspired (to his dismay), was really taking off – but that is another story, to be told in another place”.

Excerpted from: http://www.tolkiensociety.org/tolkien/biography.html

Turkish Delight

 

 

Title: TURKISH DELIGHT
  Categories: Candies, Turkish
       Yield: 1 servings
 
       2 c  Sugar
       2 tb Cornstarch
       1 c  Water
     1/2 ts Cream of tartar
       1 tb Flavoring *
            Food coloring **
     1/2 c  Toasted nuts, chopped ***
            Confectioners’ sugar
 
   * Flavorings: rose, mastic, strawberry, orange or
   lemon. ** Food coloring: red, yellow, green or orange
   (depending on flavoring used) *** Nuts: almonds or
   pistachios
  
   Dissolve sugar and cornstarch in water.  Add cream of
   tartar.  Boil to 220 degrees F.  Cover pot the last 5
   minutes.  Add flavor and food color.  Add nuts.
  
   Pour into oiled shallow pan.  When cool, cut into
   squares and roll each piece in sifted powdered sugar.
   Store in plastic bag.
  
   From: The Complete Greek Cookbook, by Theresa Karas
   Yianilos, Avenel Books, New York.
 

The Chronicles of Narnia

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was the first book written in the seven-book series, but the second book in the chronology of Narnia. As we read the first nine chapters over the Conpeex week, I want you to think about how evil is presented in the book. What does it do? What does it cause in creatures, places, social relations? Is there suffering, is there sadness? Is there fear?

Last chapters of Peter Pan

As we go into the last chapters of Peter Pan, I want you to think about the violence that appears in the book – the killing most speciically. Is this violence situated in evil or is it random? Do the characters grow and learn anything because of or due to the violence? Or is it just a part of adventures?

Neverland

“Neverland is a realm of death under the cover story of boyish fun and adventure”.

Sarah Gilead, Magic Abjured: Closure in Children’s Fantasy Fiction, PMLA, Vol. 106, no. 2 (Mar. 1991) p. 277-293.