Friday, January 17, 2020

Another Dismal Day of January: Christopher Tolkien 1924-2020

In medieval superstition, two days of each month were accounted especially unlucky, the so-called dies mali in Latin, or dismal days in English. For me these dies mali of January will henceforward remind me of the deaths of two friends. Humphrey Carpenter, Tolkien's biographer, passed away on 4 January 2005 at the age of 58, and now, fifteen years later,  Christopher Tolkien has passed away in the night of 15/16 January 2020 at the age of 95. These two men taught me more than I can express about the literary life and what it means to be, and how to go about being, a literary scholar. I became friends with Humphrey in the summer of 1978 when I attended a summer program in Oxford. A few years later Humphrey put me in touch with Christopher. Though I had some excellent and helpful teachers in college, none of them affected me as profoundly, or as lastingly, as did these friendships with Humphrey and Christopher. It is too soon for me to comment about Christopher, but here I pass on my condolences to his family and to his wide following among Tolkien readers and scholars. Below I share a photograph, taken at Keble College during the Tolkien Centenary Conference in August 1992, of Verlyn Flieger, myself, and Christopher.  The postcard I am holding shows one of the faces and stone heads outside of the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford.* I had just commented that that particular head epitomized how I felt just before delivering my talk at the conference. (The photo was taken by Marjorie Burns.) It is unfathomable to me that more than twenty-seven years have passed since that day.

*I think. I still have one similar postcard that I bought on that same day.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Robert Holdstock (1948-2009)

UK ed, with great Alan Lee cover
It's hard to believe that Robert Holdstock passed away ten years ago today, on November 29th, 2009.  I loved most of his Mythago Wood series, but especially liked the second volume, Lavondyss, which I thought the finest fantasy novel published in the 1980s.  In honor of his memory, I'm re-reading one of his great short stories,"The Ragthorn" (with Garry Kilworth). If you've never read Holdstock, give that story a try. 

Robert Holdstock

Monday, November 18, 2019

Tolkienian Resonances

My messy year of 2019 actually began in the summer of 2018, after a close lightning strike fried the electronics in my house, including my computer (despite it being hooked into a surge suppressor). Regaining equilibrium has been a slow process, for many reasons that I need not recount here. For now I'm dipping my toe back into the Tolkienian blog waters . . .

I'm using the term "Tolkienian resonances" in this post's title to refer to some things that predate Tolkien's own relevant works, but are certainly not influences. They could perhaps be called precursors, but that seems too expansive a term. In any case, a few of these works with such resonances are interesting, and I recount them here.

First, there is the discovery by Mark Hooker of the poem "The Orc and His Globular Island." Hooker wrote about it in the November 2019 issue of Beyond Bree. The poem is interesting not only for its use of the word orc, but for the orc's similarities to Gollum in The Hobbit. This orc lives on an island, where he is "exceedingly lonely." He is long-lived (and hasn't had an adventure for a century), always short on food, and to pass time he "thinks up a comical riddle, and guesses it."

"The Orc and His Globular Island" was published in the American magazine for children, St. Nicholas: An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks, in October 1913 (Volume 40, p. 1070). It was written by E.L. McKinney, a recent Harvard University graduate (Class of 1912) whose full name was Edward Laurence McKinney (1891-1968). He was apparently a lifelong resident of Albany, New York, where in the 1910s he was employed at his father's iron-works. He contributed to The Harvard Advocate in 1911, and also to The Century, and St. Nicholas. Most of his publications were of light verse. His only-known volume was a fine press miniature book, The King of Indoor Sports (1963), containing  humorous anecdotes about typewriting. Here is the page from St. Nicholas with his poem (click on the image to make it larger). Even the image of the Orc seems almost Gollum-like.

Interestingly, the same issue of St. Nicholas also contains some of "The Nursery Rhymes of Mother Goose," illustrated (mostly in black and white) by Arthur Rackham. But there is one color plate, an illustration for "Hey! Diddle, Diddle," which of course can be related to Tolkien's famous poem "The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late," published in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (1962), which first appeared in Yorkshire Poetry in 1923 under the title "The Cat and the Fiddle: A Nursery Rhyme Undone and its Scandalous Secret Unlocked." Anyway, just for fun, here's the Rackham illustration. (Rackham's texts and illustrations were collected in 1913 in his book Mother Goose: The Old Nursery Rhymes.)

Tolkien's ring of invisibility (as found first in The Hobbit) is often sourced back to the Ring of Gyges in Plato's Republic,  though I think this instance is more of a precursor than an actual source. I've recently discovered in an Edwardian children's book an exceptionally good and what seems to be a likely source for several of the qualities of Tolkien's (pre-Lord of the Rings) ring of invisibility. I'll write more about this in another place, but here I'd like to share a story from 1943 about a ring that brings power to its bearer, as well as working disaster, in the way of the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings. The story, by Nelson Bond (1908-2006), was first published as "The Ring of Iscariot" in The Blue Book Magazine, June 1943. Bond collected it under the title "The Ring" in his 1949 collection, The Thirty-First of February.

The story is set after W.W. I. where the main character, Otto Muller, is the Berlin correspondent for a New York newspaper. At an auction Muller becomes obsessed with acquiring a ring, reputed to have come from the Kaiser's personal collection. The bidding goes high, and his competition, a priest, pleads with him to cease, saying that it is of utmost importance that he --the priest-- buy the ring. In the end, Muller wins the bidding for ring, and his luck quickly changes. His misfortunes turn out dramatically for the better. But the ring, a trifle large, has a tendency to slip off his finger, so he instructs his wife to send it to a jeweler. Meanwhile, the priest tracks him down, offering to buy the ring at over three times the price paid, but Muller refuses, noting that is has become a good-luck piece. The priest retorts, "Not good luck, no! The reverse." The priest wants the ring to exorcise it, noting that a force of evil is embodied in the ring, for it is the Ring of Judas:  "The history of this ring's ownership is one of terrible, brief grandeur followed by black tragedy." The curse of Iscariot's ring is that "he who wears it shall aspire and win to world-shaking greatness." Muller recognizes the effect that the ring has had on himself, and promises to give the ring to the priest. Returning to his wife, he discovers that she hasn't yet gone to the jeweler, but the ring is now missing, evidently stolen by the assistant to the old paperhanger who is working in that room. The assistant has departed, but the old man says, "he is a bad one, that one. I curse the day I ever laid eyes upon him . . . common little thief! His name is Shicklgruber. But it is Hitler he calls himself these days . . . Adolf Hitler." The story ends here.  (Note: the idea that Hitler had been born Adolf Shicklgruber has been debunked, but was a common belief in the 1940s. See this entry at the OUP blog.)


I've been asked a few times in the last few years if I am the same "Doug Anderson" who did artwork for the Middle-earth game from the late 1990s. Nope, that's not me.  And I'd never seen the artwork until one of the people who asked sent me a sample.  Here it is. Far better art than anything I could produce.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun: The Breton Ballad

Since the publication of Verlyn Flieger's edition of The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun in 2016, there has been much renewed attention to Tolkien's five-hundred and six line poem, originally published in The Welsh Review in December 1945.  Little notice, however, has been made of the fact that the original Breton poem was sung to a ballad.  Last year I got a copy of Miracles & Murders: An Introductory Anthology of Breton Ballads (Oxford University Press, 2017), by Mary-Ann Constantine and Éva Guillorel.  Besides a long introduction, this anthology contains some thirty-five Breton ballads (or gwerz), with musical scores, and, most significantly, a CD containing recordings of twenty-two of the ballads.

The first gwerz in the anthology, and the first on the CD, is "Lord Count and the fairy." Constantine and Guillorel note that "the tune is an old one, in three musical phrases with repetition of the second line of text. On the whole this is a stable gwerz with relatively few variables; though it is often known by the Barzaz-Breiz title 'Lord Nann and the Fairy', most versions have a 'Lord Count' or a 'Count Tudor' as their protagonist" (pp. 38-39).

Towards the end of her edition, Flieger gives the opening verses from Breton, French and English versions of the ballad.  I reproduce her page 97 here:
In Miracles & Murders, a Breton original is given as well as an English translation.  It consists of some twenty-six stanzas, most of which are of three lines, with the third line in most stanzas (but not all) being the repetition of the second line, as noted above by Constantine and Guillorel.  Here, for comparison, are the first two verses of "Lord Count and the fairy," in Breton and below it in English:

An ôtrou kont hag e bried
Oa abredig mad o daou dimet
Oa abredig mad o daou dimet

Un daouzeg vla, 'n heiñall trizeg
Eur mab bihan a zo ganet
Eur mab bihan a zo ganet

Lord Count and his bride
Were married very young
Were married very young

One was twelve; the other thirteen
A little boy was born to them
A little boy was born to them
And here is the music:

From the CD I have excerpted the first stanza of the gwerz as sung.  If I've done this right, you can access it here:

What is most interesting to note is that the lines from Tolkien's poems also scan with the music, if you follow the same formula of repeating every second line.  Try it for yourself.  Here follows the appropriate lines from the beginning of Tolkien's poem:
In Britain's land beyond the seas
the wind blows ever through the trees
the wind blows ever through the trees
Tolkien was known to use folk-songs as tunes for some of his poems, most notably those in Songs for the Philologists.  One suspects he might have known this tune as well. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A Note on Fonway and Fonwegian

J.R.R. Tolkien’s lecture on inventing languages, “A Secret Vice,” was first published in 1983.  A critical edition, including newly published writings by Tolkien, appeared in 2016 as A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages, edited by Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins.

In some of the newly-published writings, Tolkien introduces in a curious manner the (imaginary) island of Fonway, and its language, Fonwegian. Here are the appropriate details, in an interpolation given just after a discussion of Nevbosh and Naffarin, two of Tolkien’s early efforts at inventing languages. 
Here I will interpose some material—which will save this paper from being too autobiographical. I recently became possessed by accident of some secret documents—a grammar and glossary and some sentences in the Fonwegian language spoken apparently in the island of Fonway. (pp. 20-21)

Editors Fimi and Higgins quite reasonably have presumed that Tolkien was the creator of Fonwegian, and his presentation of the language as a “found manuscript” is a literary device. Higgins has expanded on this in a conference paper, “Tolkien's A Secret Vice and ‘the language that is spoken in the Island of Fonway’” which is available in volume 3 issue 1 of the online Journal of Tolkien Research (direct URL here).

The lexicographer Edmund Weiner has (equally reasonably) questioned the idea of Tolkien as the creator of Fonwegian in two posts at his Philoloblog. The two posts include “Did Tolkien Invent Fonwegian?” (direct URL here) and “Fonwegian—A Rejoinder” (direct URL here).

Weiner is right to point out that Tolkien’s language introducing Fonwegian is quite curious, but he offers no solution to the problem. I suggest a possible one here.

In a 1977 speech to the Tolkien Society, Tolkien’s second son Michael recalled that, as children, he and his siblings had all been encouraged by their father to create and manage their own islands. Michael noted that his island (filled with railways, to his father’s dismay)  had a language based on Latin and Greek.  Could Fonway and Fonwegian be a creation made by one of Tolkien’s children, for an imaginary island, echoing in names the real world Norway and Norwegian?  When Tolkien first delivered “A Secret Vice” to the Johnson Society at Pembroke College, Oxford, on 29 November 1931, Tolkien’s four children were, respectively, 14 (John), 11 (Michael), 7 (Christopher) and 2 (Priscilla).  Michael’s description of his own island’s language seems to rule him out, but perhaps Fonwegian was a creation of his older brother John, or even his younger brother Christopher?  Such an instance might explain Tolkien’s comments of his having “recently become possessed by accident of some secret documents.”  We may never know the truth, but this scenario seems a possibility. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Ephemera for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series

I cover here some ephemera related to the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. First, the boxed sets.  I know of three of them.

The first is The World of Lovecraft (SBN 345-01300-X, $3.80).  It contained four books, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, The Survivor and Others, The Fungi from Yuggoth and Other Poems, and The Doom That Came to Sarnath.  I understand it contains (though I don't have this set myself) the Second Printing, July 1971, of Dream-Quest; the First Printing, February 1971, of Doom; the Second Printing, February 1971, of The Survivor; and the Second Printing, February 1971, of Fungi. I suspect that the boxed set came out in July 1971, with the new printing of Dream-Quest.

The second is The Gormenghast Trilogy (SBN 345-23525-8, $3.75). This came out in September 1973, containing Fourth Printings of all three volumes.  

The third is the Evangeline Walton set (SBN 345-24208-4, $6.00). This came out in November 1974, when Prince of Annwn was first published.  It contains a Second Printing of The Island of the Mighty, a Second Printing of The Children of Llyr, a Third U.S. Printing of The Sword of Rhiannon, and a First Printing of Prince of Annwn, all dated November 1974. Technically, this boxed set post-dates the series proper. 

Interestingly, Ballantine published three posters related to the series.  These all showcase artwork by Gervasio Gallardo, but his illustrations for the Lovecraft covers are not really his best work.  I have somewhat shabby copies of all three posters, and have (with difficulty) photographed them. All three were issued in the Spring of 1971, priced $2.50 each.

An another front, my copy of Excalibur by Sanders Anne Laubenthal has a review slip in it:

And finally, some of the file copies owned by Betty and Ian Ballantine were sold in the past, and my Cabellian friend Bill Lloyd (see The Silver Stallion website) sent me this scan:

Does anyone know of further Ballantine Adult Fantasy series ephemera?  I'd be glad to hear of any such items.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Outliers and the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series

The iconic list (or at least the starting point) for a definitive bibliography of all of the titles in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series is the one by Lin Carter which appears as “Bibliography II” in his book Imaginary Worlds, published in June 1973, itself a volume of the series. Carter lists 57 numbered volumes of the series, as published from May 1969 through May 1973.  The series would officially last one further year, bringing the official total to 65 volumes.

But Carter’s list, even when extended with the further official titles, doesn’t cover outliers that, for one reason or another, seem like they should be considered as part of the series. There are three main types of potential outliers—fantasies published by Ballantine 1) before the series; 2) during the series, and 3) after the end of the series. Carter began his Bibliography in Imaginary Worlds by listing sixteen such precursors, noting “they are all books I would certainly have urged Ballantine to publish.”

I will consider these sixteen titles first, and list them here with Carter’s numbering.

1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit [published August 1965]
2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
4. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Tolkien Reader
6. E.R. Eddison, The Worm Ouroboros
7. E.R. Eddison, Mistress of Mistresses
8. E.R. Eddison, A Fish Dinner in Memison
9. J.R.R. Tolkien and Donald Swann, The Road Goes Ever On
10. Mervyn Peake, Titus Groan
11. Mervyn Peake, Gormenghast
12. Mervyn Peake, Titus Alone
13. David Lindsay, A Voyage to Arcturus
14. Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn
15. J.R.R. Tolkien. Smith of Wootton Major & Farmer Giles of Ham
16. E.R. Eddison, The Mezentian Gate [published April 1969]

The J.R.R. Tolkien books (nos. 1-5, 9 and 15) were never published under the imprint of the unicorn’s head logo, but some of the others were. 

Seventh Printing: September 1973
Of the E.R. Eddison books (nos. 6-8, and 16), the U.S. “Seventh Printing (September 1973) of The Worm Ouroboros is the only printing of any of the titles with the unicorn’s head logo.  The first U.S. printing of The Mezentian Gate, however, is marked “A Ballantine Adult Fantasy” in small print running up the spine on the upper cover (it appeared in April 1969, the month before the series proper started).  All four Eddison titles were advertised and sold in their Pan/Ballantine editions as part of the Pan/Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, though they did not have the unicorn’s head logo.  

Fourth Printing: September 1973
Mervyn Peake’s books (nos. 10-12) have the unicorn’s head logo only on two U.S. printings of each of the three books:  the “Fourth Printing: September, 1973” and the “Fifth Printing: January, 1974”.  The Peake titles were not published in the Pan/Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, because the U.K. rights were held by another publisher, Penguin Books, who published editions of all three books in 1968, 1969 and 1970, respectively. The Penguin editions were reprinted a number of times over the next several years.

Second Printing: April 1973
Two U.S. printings of David Lindsay’s A Voyage to Arcturus have the unicorn’s head logo on the cover, the “Second Printing: April, 1973 (SBN 345-03208-X) and the “Third U.S. Printing: September, 1973” (SBN 345-23208-9).  The Pan/Ballantine edition of March 1972 (SBN 345-09708-4) has the unicorn’s head logo on the front cover; the second U.K. printing from 1974 (330-24057-9) has not been seen. 

Fourth Printing: October 1972
As for Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, the unicorn’s head logo appeared on the “Fourth Printing: October, 1972”, probably on the “Fifth Printing: February 1973” [not seen], and definitely on the “Sixth Printing: September, 1973” and “Seventh Printing: February, 1974.”  Also, the phrase “A Ballantine Adult Fantasy” appears in small print running up the spine on the upper cover, on the first printing (February 1969) through the third printing (November 1970).

First Printing: February 1969
The Ballantine edition of Peter S. Beagle’s novel A Fine and Private Place also preceded the series proper. It came out in February 1969, but that the author was Beagle and that the cover art is by Gervasio Gallardo make it of interest to fans of the series. Also, as with The Last Unicorn and Eddison’s Mezentian Gate, the words “A Ballantine Adult Fantasy” appear in small print running up the spine on the upper cover.

First Printing: March 1969
Carter’s list excluded his own Tolkien: A Look Behind “The Lord of the Rings,” “First Printing: March, 1969,” which came out just before the series started. It is not usually considered to be part of the series, but it is probably of interest to most fans of the series.

Next come the various titles published by Ballantine while the series proper was ongoing (May 1969 through April 1974) that have some elements in common with the Ballantine  Adult Fantasy series, but which were never considered as officially part of the series.

First Printing: February 1971
H.P. Lovecraft. Fungi from Yuggoth and Other Poems. “First Printing: February, 1971”
This is a retitling of Lovecraft’s Collected Poems (1963), as edited by August Derleth and published by Arkham House.  The Ballantine Adult Fantasy series published other Lovecraft title, with cover art (as here) by Gervasio Gallardo.

Second Printing: February 1971
H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth. The Survivor and Others. “Second Printing: February 1971”  This title was first published by Arkham House in 1957, and Ballantine published a first printing in mass market paperback in August 1962. For this Second Printing, a new cover was commissioned from Gervasio Gallardo. That these stories are bylined as “by H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth” is a fraud.  They were entirely written by Derleth, who claimed them to be “posthumous collaborations” based on notes by Lovecraft, but these notes were (when discernable) minor idea fragments that barely resemble the stories Derleth wrote.

Fourth Printing: November 1971
Sometime, Never  (“Fourth Printing: November, 1971”) was originally published by Ballantine in June 1957.  It consists of three tales of “science Fantasy” by William Golding, John Wyndham, and Mervyn Peake. It was reprinted in September 1957, November 1962, and in November 1971 when it was given a new cover by Gervasio Gallardo.  The classic Peake story, “Boy in Darkness,” and the Gervasio Gallardo cover make it of special interest to fans of the series.

First Printing: November 1971
Isidore Haiblum. The Tsaddik of the Seven Wonders. “First Printing:  December, 1971”. This title is occasionally erroneously included in lists of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, but it had only one printing, and it never had the unicorn’s head logo on it. It is called by the publisher on the cover a Science Fantasy Novel.  The cover art is by David McCall Johnston, who did other covers in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series proper.

First Printing: February 1972
Lin Carter. Lovecraft: A Look Behind the Cthulhu Mythos.” “First Printing: February, 1972”  Of Carter’s three works of nonfiction published by Ballantine, his Tolkien book preceded the Adult Fantasy series proper, and his Imaginary Worlds book was included as part of the series. Why his book on Lovecraft was not included in the series is unknown, but beside Carter’s authorship, and the subject, the cover art is by Gervasio Gallardo, and these three points make it of interest to fans of the series.

Finally, the last of the outliers come from June to November 1974, and comprise two books published after retirement of the unicorn's head logo.  These were originally intended for the series before it was cancelled. The first has a Carter introduction and the second completes a set of four begun during the series proper.

First Printing: June 1974
H. Warner Munn. Merlin's Ring. “First Printing: June, 1974” Munn’s book was clearly intended for the series, as it has the usual Lin Carter introduction proclaiming it to be in the series, and the wraparound cover art is by Gervasio Gallardo. It is among Gallardo’s very best.  There remains a small white circle on the front cover, here filled with the words “First Time in Print” but which was likely intended to house the usual unicorn’s head logo. A volume of associational interest, Merlin’s Godson by H. Warner Munn, came out as a “Ballantine Fantasy” with a gryphon logo on the cover in September 1976. It contains two prequel novellas, “King of the World’s Edge” and “The Ship from Atlantis,” originally published in 1939 and 1967 respectively.

First Printing: November 1974
Evangeline Walton. Prince of Annwn. “First Printing: November, 1974” This is the final volume of Walton’s reworkings of the four branches of the Mabinogion. The first three were published as part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series proper, and doubtless the fourth volume would have been too, if the series hadn’t ended some six months earlier.  And instead of an introduction by Lin Carter, Prince of Annwn has a puff piece from an article by Patrick Merla published in a November 1972 issue of The Saturday Review, that was also used to replace Carter’s introductions in the other three volumes as they had been reprinted.  The cover art is by David McCall Johnston, who also did the cover art for the second and third volumes of Walton’s series.

First Printing: July 1975
Also of interest to readers and collectors of the series is the one-volume edition of William Morris’s The Well at the World’s End which was published in July 1975 (345244826  $2.95), and reprinted in May 1977 (now labelled a “Ballantine Fantasy Classic,” 0345272390  $2.95), which uses two panels of Gervasio Gallardo’s art from covers of the two volume edition.

Any one care to suggest other possibilities?  Please do so in the comments below.

Update (8/26/18):  Per the second comment below, I add here the cover of Tales of a Dalai Lama by Pierre Delattre, published by Ballantine in January 1973 (345030486 $1.25), cover art by Philippe Gravesz.
First Printing: January 1973
Update (9/29/18): Here's another outlier of interest. For the sixth printing (June 1969), the seventh (January 1971), and the eighth (July 1971), Ballantine used a Bob Pepper cover on the classic Ray Bradbury collection The October Country (first published in mass market paperback by Ballantine in April 1956):