"The Inklings and King Arthur: Tolkien, Lewis, Williams, Barfield on the Matter of Britain"

Extollager

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The first picture above is a delightful "fake":

This artwork is entitled 'Woodcut from a 15th century German edition of "The Silmarillion": Das Silmarillion. Die geschicht von den elbischen staynen silmarilli genant, printed by Peter Wagner, Nuremberg, 1493.' This splendid artwork illustrates the tale from The Silmarillion on pp. 69-70.
 

Hugh

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...No, "English and Welsh" is too esoteric to get a rereading without a stronger reason than I've implied above. If one is interested in the man Tolkien, though, some remarks late in the essay are worth a look (though one may have encounteredt them in a biography already, without looking into the original essay). Tolkien talks about how the remains of the Gothic language took him by storm, moved his heart (pp. 191-192). Tnen Finnish gave him "overwhelming pleasure"; but greater still was the delight he experienced from Welsh (p. 192), which he saw even on as humble an object as a coal-truck. The connection between Finnish and Welsh, on one hand, and Quenya and Sindarin, on the other, is a commonplace of Tolkienian discussions. I enjoy the bits of Tolkien's imaginary languages in LotR, but have never really gone into them, or gone in for them. People such as Carl Hostetter and the artist Patrick Wynne have derived endless hours of interest from them.

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Many thanks for the link to the essay. I have mainly skimmed it, but did particularly look at the sections you referenced. It's very interesting to read about his developing interests in his own words, rather than in the various biographies.
It's difficult today to imagine the excitement and sense of immanent discovery that was present for those involved in the study of philology in the early twentieth century.
 

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And, Hugh -- think of how central Tolkien himself was in the English philological scene, especially around 1920-1950, with the enormously important Beowulf lecture, his influence on the Oxford English syllabus, and his participation, at least, in the Oxford English Dictionary, etc. However, his impact was reduced not simply by his giving of a lot of time to his creative work, but to his obligations (whether freely accepted or not) to committee work and so on. Good for this side of Tolkien is the relatively little-known but warmly recommended Tolkien by Raymond Edwards (Hale, 2014) and -- if you really want the details -- Scull and Hammond's Chronology volume for their J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, a literally day-by-day account of Tolkien's life.
 

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I wish I could remember where it was that some author whom I respect refers to the way the Arabian Nights' prodigal approach to marvels doesn't work for him -- just so much, such an extravagant heaping of marvels. That came to mind when I read, in House-Thomas's essay, about Tolkien's dissatisfaction with Celtic Arthurian works: "its 'faerie' is too lavish, and fantastical, incoherent and repetitive" (IKA p. 337, quoting Letters of J. R. R,. Tolkien, p. 144).

I've never made the experiment, but it would be interesting to see if my hunch is true -- that, if one did 30 random openings of the story (not appendices) of The Lord of the Rings, one would be more likely to find oneself reading something emphasizing "natural" things such as talking about what to do, walking, resting, eating, trees, stones, weather, rivers, clouds, birds, reading, horses, stars, sunshine, hills, clothes, and so on -- than to find oneself reading about something magical or supernatural such as making an enchantment or falling under it, using a magic weapon, receiving a magic gift such as a cloak of invisibility, dragons, etc. Of course, the things I mentioned first are probably being encountered by, or done by, non-human beings such as hobbits, elves, dwarves -- but the experience or activity is a familiar part of the world as human beings know it. Tolkien invents with a prodigious, but not a promiscuous, imagination. An inferior writer would have gone in for including more "fantastical" things: the Riders of Rohan would have saddled up unicorns, Sauron would have unleashed droves of dragons that would have been opposed by Gandalf, Radagast, Alatar, and Pallando wielding magic, etc.

Blue Wizards - Tolkien Gateway

Happily, Tolkien had a finer aesthetic sense than that.
 

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As I read House-Thomas's essay, I'm thinking she is doing something worthwhile in relating Tolkien's Guinever both to a "Celtic" type of beautiful fay-women and to a Germanic type of powerful, greedy queen. It's interesting that Tolkien's Guinever is grasping of gold -- I don't recall that covetousness is a feature of Arthur's queen in any of the familiar Arthurian works. H-T relates her to greedy Queen Olof in Hrolf Kraki's Saga (the medieval original, of course, not Poul Anderson's novel).

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'Pictured above is the Nodens Books issue of the saga, which, as I understand it, has an introduction by Priscilla Tolkien. I'd have liked to see that. The book appears to be unavailable for purchase or library lending.

A Classics Illustrated version?!

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When Lewis and Tolkien were adolescents and very young men, over a century ago, they discovered medieval literature on their own. Certainly in the case of Lewis, there was an excitement that came from reading (say) Sir Thomas Malory in some cheap reprint, the equivalent of the paperbacks that some of us remember from the 1960s and 1970s, But they were reading medieval literature -- on their own -- as well as medievalist literature such as was written by William Morris and the today-neglected Sir Walter Scott.

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Extollager

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For young readers like them, the excitement of the one might lead to discovering the other.
 

Hugh

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And, Hugh -- think of how central Tolkien himself was in the English philological scene, especially around 1920-1950, with the enormously important Beowulf lecture, his influence on the Oxford English syllabus, and his participation, at least, in the Oxford English Dictionary, etc. However, his impact was reduced not simply by his giving of a lot of time to his creative work, but to his obligations (whether freely accepted or not) to committee work and so on. Good for this side of Tolkien is the relatively little-known but warmly recommended Tolkien by Raymond Edwards (Hale, 2014) and -- if you really want the details -- Scull and Hammond's Chronology volume for their J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, a literally day-by-day account of Tolkien's life.
I read the Raymond Edwards biography a few months ago, almost certainly at your recommendation. I thought it excellent.
The Companion and Guide seems to be more expensive than I wish to pay right now for casual consultation. I will leave it until I am certain that I will read it.

From what I remember of my reading (not necessarily accurately), despite Tolkien's influential position there are those who thought Kenneth Sisam, his former tutor, should have been appointed professor instead of him. Apparently the voting on the committee was three votes each and the casting vote of the chair was needed. Presumably there were varied alliances and machinations going on.
It has been said that Sisam would have been a more effective professor in that he would almost certainly have had more published during his tenure, and been a better lecturer. It seems that Tolkien was loathe to let any manuscript out of his hands, always seeking to review and amend, to the despair of publishers. Apparently, despite his recitals in Anglo-Saxon, Tolkien was considered a poor lecturer even by friends such as C.S.Lewis.
 
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View attachment 48825

For young readers like them, the excitement of the one might lead to discovering the other.
Beautiful prints!

I'm sure that the reading discoveries of Tolkien and Lewis were also a reflection of the then school syllabus and their school libraries.
 
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Extollager

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Apparently, despite his recitals in Anglo-Saxon, Tolkien was considered a poor lecturer even by friends such as C.S.Lewis.
That's my impression, too, while Lewis was regarded as Oxford's best, or at least one of the best.
 

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I'm sure that the reading discoveries of Tolkien and Lewis were also a reflection of the then school syllabus and their school libraries.
As regards Norse and Finnish mythology, and even as regards the medieval or medievalist Arthurian materials, I'm doubtful about the required reading. For example, when Lewis writes about reading Malory, as I recall, it sounds like his own discovery, thanks to the Everyman's Library books. My guess is that Lewis and Tolkien might have encountered Arthurian materials in two forms as assigned reading: early on, maybe some kind of retelling of the Round Table etc in a school textbook written by someone no one remembers now, and later in Tennyson's Idylls (selections), etc. But I'm just guessing. Likewise, I'd guess they got some Classical mythology in retellings early on, and later encountered some in the form of glosses on Shakespeare, etc., but I'm doubtful that they would have had more than incidental encounters with Scandinavian mythology through their curricula. Here too Lewis's letters and autobiography indicate that he must have known little or nothing about Siegfried and the dragon till he saw an article in a magazine for gramophone fans! The article had one or reproductions (monochrome, I assume) of Arthur Rackham art for Wagner -- but the article and art got Lewis going. I'd have to check, but my sense is that he started writing a poem or drama about Siegfried with little or nothing to go on but the magazine article.
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Hugh, if you've read Surprised by Joy, you'll probably remember some of this. For Tolkien -- he discovered the Siegfried/Sigurd story in one of Andrew Lang's "color" fairy-tales books. I don't think it was assigned reading, though it might have been a school library book. (I wonder if someone could compile an interesting anthology of such things -- young people who became fantasy writers discovering some great things in school libraries and public libraries.)
 

Hugh

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As regards Norse and Finnish mythology, and even as regards the medieval or medievalist Arthurian materials, I'm doubtful about the required reading. For example, when Lewis writes about reading Malory, as I recall, it sounds like his own discovery, thanks to the Everyman's Library books. My guess is that Lewis and Tolkien might have encountered Arthurian materials in two forms as assigned reading: early on, maybe some kind of retelling of the Round Table etc in a school textbook written by someone no one remembers now, and later in Tennyson's Idylls (selections), etc. But I'm just guessing. Likewise, I'd guess they got some Classical mythology in retellings early on, and later encountered some in the form of glosses on Shakespeare, etc., but I'm doubtful that they would have had more than incidental encounters with Scandinavian mythology through their curricula. Here too Lewis's letters and autobiography indicate that he must have known little or nothing about Siegfried and the dragon till he saw an article in a magazine for gramophone fans! The article had one or reproductions (monochrome, I assume) of Arthur Rackham art for Wagner -- but the article and art got Lewis going. I'd have to check, but my sense is that he started writing a poem or drama about Siegfried with little or nothing to go on but the magazine article.
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Hugh, if you've read Surprised by Joy, you'll probably remember some of this. For Tolkien -- he discovered the Siegfried/Sigurd story in one of Andrew Lang's "color" fairy-tales books. I don't think it was assigned reading, though it might have been a school library book. (I wonder if someone could compile an interesting anthology of such things -- young people who became fantasy writers discovering some great things in school libraries and public libraries.)
Good points.

I haven't read Surprised by Joy, mainly because my interest has been primarily in Tolkien, but also because I understand that there is no mention of Mrs Moore in the book. I'm sure I'll get round to it one day.

I'm planning (? early January) to read Andrew Lang's Red Fairy Book with the S/S story because I'm curious to read the story that had such an effect on the young Tolkien in its original book setting.

A while back I read Kenneth Grahame's The Golden Age, an 1895 book about a group of (wealthy) young children. It was supposedly aimed at children, but I believe was very popular with adults including President Theodore Roosevelt. What impressed me about it was how steeped these young children were in mythology and legend, (perhaps much like Marvel and DC today). I think the young Tolkien could have lived in a similar culture, even if money was significantly tighter.
 
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Extollager

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Hugh, there's now a thread for the discussion of the life and writings of Andrew Lang here at Chrons:

Andrew Lang and His Fairy Books: Red, Yellow, Blue, Grey, etc.

I hope you could get some discussion going there with observations about The Red Fairy Book. I don't have any of Lang's books, but I'll see about getting a library copy of that one so that I can join you if you go ahead.
 

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Hugh, there's now a thread for the discussion of the life and writings of Andrew Lang here at Chrons:

Andrew Lang and His Fairy Books: Red, Yellow, Blue, Grey, etc.

I hope you could get some discussion going there with observations about The Red Fairy Book. I don't have any of Lang's books, but I'll see about getting a library copy of that one so that I can join you if you go ahead.
I will definitely post something, though I'm not necessarily expecting to be that enthused. Reading it is really just curiosity and dotting some "i"s and crossing "t"s re Tolkien.
 

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Well, I'm glad you got the ball rolling on this. I've often wished that I knew more about Tolkien's reading. Now here's this book that everyone knows he did read, at an impressionable time, and that is copiously illustrated, and should be easy to come by in the Dover reprint -- and (to my knowledge) hardly anybody goes to the trouble of looking it up. I include myself in that group.

I'm eager to get a copy of the promised book about Tolkien's library.

New book on Tolkien’s Library announced

Unless I'm missing something, the publisher hasn't made it possible to pre-order it. Their announcement almost makes it sound like you have to be at the convention to pick up a copy. Surely that can't be what they mean.
 

Hugh

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Well, I'm glad you got the ball rolling on this. I've often wished that I knew more about Tolkien's reading. Now here's this book that everyone knows he did read, at an impressionable time, and that is copiously illustrated, and should be easy to come by in the Dover reprint -- and (to my knowledge) hardly anybody goes to the trouble of looking it up. I include myself in that group.
.
Curiosity,and the hope that in reading it I may have some small smidgeon of the pleasure/awe that the young Tolkien found in it.

Another Tolkien-referenced book that I intend to read in 2019, though no immediate plans for this one:
The Marvellous Land of Snergs by E.A. Wyke-Smith
 

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I'm eager to get a copy of the promised book about Tolkien's library.

New book on Tolkien’s Library announced

Unless I'm missing something, the publisher hasn't made it possible to pre-order it. Their announcement almost makes it sound like you have to be at the convention to pick up a copy. Surely that can't be what they mean.
Please post something about this when it comes out.
 

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I hope that I can! I'm a little uneasy about the possibility that the publisher will fail to make the book readily available & in sufficient copies. When I tried to use their site, nothing happened.

Speaking of a different book -- I wish this one

https://www.amazon.com/dp/061567125X/?tag=id2100-20

hadn't gone out of print so quickly. It contains a reminiscence by Priscilla Tolkien.
 

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I hope that I can! I'm a little uneasy about the possibility that the publisher will fail to make the book readily available & in sufficient copies. When I tried to use their site, nothing happened.

Speaking of a different book -- I wish this one

https://www.amazon.com/dp/061567125X/?tag=id2100-20

hadn't gone out of print so quickly. It contains a reminiscence by Priscilla Tolkien.
Which one is that? The link gives a list.
 

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Stella Mills's The Saga of Hrolf Kraki as reprinted by Nodens Books in 2012.
 
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