On 10 June 1970, Rayner Unwin sent J.R.R. Tolkien a proof copy of a book he was to publish in the fall. Unwin suggested similarities between the book and The Lord of the Rings, and hoped that Tolkien would enjoy it, adding: "If you do may I unashamedly ask that you tell me so in precisely one sentence and to allow us to use your commendation to help the book along?" Tolkien apparently mislaid the proof and the letter, for six weeks later Unwin's secretary sent Tolkien a second copy of the book. But after Tolkien's death, the original proof and letter turned up and were sold as part of Tolkien's library.
We don't know if Tolkien ever read any of the book, for he seems to have left no mention of having done so. Yet the book, Red Moon and Black Mountain by Joy Chant, was published by Allen & Unwin on 15 October 1970, and this month marks the book's fiftieth anniversary.
The author was Eileen Joyce Chant (b. 1945), who went by the name Joy Chant. Some years later she married and became Mrs. Eileen Joyce Rutter, so various references sources say that "Joy Chant" is the pseudonym of "Eileen Rutter." This overstates the case, and it is perhaps more accurate to say that "Joy Chant" is the pen-name, and original name, of Joy Rutter. Be that as it may, it was her first book. It was followed by a nonfiction booklet, Fantasy and Allegory in Literature for Children and Young People (1971); a prequel to Red Moon and Black Mountain entitled The Grey Mane of Morning (1977); another related novel, When Voiha Wakes (1983), and an art-book of Arthurian stories, The High Kings (1983), illustrated by George Sharp. And then Chant basically ceased publishing.
Sadly, because Red Moon and Black Mountain was one of the earliest and best of the fantasies of the post-Lord of the Rings generation. It is indeed a product of a writer who has read and absorbed Tolkien, as Chant's comments on Tolkien in her 1975 essay "Niggle and Númenor" make apparent:
The Lord of the Rings is above all a story. There is no question that it is out of step with every current literary fashion: it is extrovert rather than introvert, it has heroes, it delights in the music of words and names and the unselfconscious celebration of beauty; it is active, optimistic, affirmative. At a time when writer swere turning inward, making their chief concern the development and motivation of character, Tolkien was writing books that are pre-eminently narratives. . . . Tolkien's craftsmanship is astonishing.
Red Moon and Black Mountain had a number of editions through the 1980s, but after Chant ceased publishing, it went out of print. It's US debut was in the acclaimed Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, and a later edition featured a Frazetta cover. In celebration of the book's fiftieth anniversary, I present a gallery of covers from 1970 through 1983.
|Tony Raymond, Allen & Unwin, 1970, and 1977|
|Bob Pepper, Ballantine Adult Fantasy, 1971|
|Ian Millar, Ballantine Adult Fantasy, 1973 reprint|
|Herbert Danska, Dutton, 1976|
|Frank Frazetta, Bantam 1983|