Friday, April 12, 2024


The fact that Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, was one of the first reviewers of The Silmarillion on its publication in 1977, seems to have long escaped Tolkienists, and Tolkien bibliographers. The review is not cited in Richard C. West's impressive Tolkien Criticism: An Annotated Checklist (revised edition 1981), nor in Judith A. Johnson's J.R.R. Tolkien: Six Decades of Criticism (1986), nor in a handful of subsequent resources that I casually checked. But the review happened. It was published (pp. 85-86) in the November/December 1977 issue (out October 1st) of Quest, a short-lived (1977-1981) magazine published in the U.S. by the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation. 

Adams felt he had been granted "one of the greatest literary privileges and experiences of my life to be among the first, outside of the departed author’s circle, to read The Silmarillion." Yet he complained that: "I have been very seriously hindered indeed (I’m hopping mad, actually) because my proof copy lacks the most important map, the index of names, and the appendix on Quenya and Sindarin.  This is crippling."

By these omissions, Brian Henderson has noticed that the details match with the proof copies circulated by Houghton Mifflin. (See Brian's comments here.)

But the lack of those paratexts didn't really hurt Adams's appreciation for the book itself. Here follows a selection of Richard Adams's comments.

O mighty Tolkien! Prince of fantasists! How shall we find words rightly to praise thy nobility of conception, faultless consistency of narrative, and superb fecundity of invention?  

When I was asked to review The Silmarillion, I thought, “Ah, barrel-scraping, no doubt.”  . . . Usually these are dredged-up bits and pieces, well below the standard of the great work. The Silmarillion is not. It is, in my view, greater and more satisfying than both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

The form of The Silmarillion is not a romantic novel, like its forerunners, but a sort of Elvish Bible. The general “feel” most resembles that of the Old Testament. Dialogue and invididual character have about the same degree of importance that they have in the Old Testament—that is to say, characters appear and vanish, subordinate to history and narrative flow as they are not in Lord of the Rings.

The style is most like Malory, the greatest fantasist of all—a kind of simple, stately, half-archaic prose, eminently clear and readable. Like Malory too is the flow and the feeling that a huge plan is being worked out. . . . Some critics may feel this is eclectic. I can imagine no other style or treatment appropriate to such a theme.

Many characters and places have two and sometimes even three names each. . . . Tolkien here is “doing his thing,” if you like it. Personally, I could unravel this stuff with delight all day and all night.

It's a pity that Adams's review hasn't been more widely known, especially back in 1977 when reviews of the book in important venues weren't very favorable. I know Tolkien bibliographer Richard C. West would have been delighted by Adams's review.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Roald Dahl's 1973 Revisions to CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY

The 1964 & 1973 Knopf dw
The recent hullabaloo over posthumously revising classic texts to conform to contemporary ideologies reminded me that I have long wanted to look into the changes Roald Dahl himself made in 1973 to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Here are the results of my study. [A companion piece on the first edition points of the Knopf edition can be found here.] 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, illustrated by Joseph Schindelman, was first published by Alfred A. Knopf of New York (according to the US Copyright register) on 18 September 1964. A British edition, illustrated by Faith Jaques and published by George Allen & Unwin, appeared in November 1967. Both the US and UK editions had multiple printings, before the first film of the book, retitled Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka), came out on 30 June 1971. In 1973, Dahl revised the text in three significant instances, all to do with the Oompa-Loompas. Some of the illustrations by both Joseph Schindelman and Faith Jaques were also redone. 

Here I center on the Knopf edition, which has the same pagination in the 1964 and 1973 texts. Dahl's revisions were calculated to fit and retain the pagination. Similarly, Schindelman's revised illustrations were placed in the same places as they were found in the original edition. 

The first text change refers to the Oompa-Loompas:

    "Their skin is almost black!" 
    "So it is!" 
    "You know what I think, Grandpa?" cried Charlie. "I think Mr. Wonka has made them himself--out of chocolate!"  (p. 72, 1964)

 This passage is replaced in 1973 with a single sentence:

"Look at their funny long hair!" (p. 72, 1973)
The second text change is the most extensive, and straddles the end of chapter 15 though the beginning of chapter 16, but all on one printed page of the book:

    "Are they really made of chocolate, Mr. Wonka?" Charlie asked.
    "Chocolate!" cried Mr. Wonka. "Nonsense! They are real people! They are some of my workers!"
    "That's impossible," said Mike Teavee. "There are no people in the world as small as that!"
          The Oompa-Loompas
    "You say there are no people in the world as small as that?" said Mr. Wonka, laughing. "Then let me tell you something. There are more than three thousand of them right here in my factory!"
    "They must be pygmies!" said Charlie.
    "Right!" cried Mr. Wonka. "Pygmies they are! Imported direct from Africa! They belong to a tribe of tiny miniature pygmies known as the Oompa-Loompas, I discovered them myself. I brought them over from Africa myself--the whole tribe of them, three thousand in all. I found them in the very deepest and darkest part of the African jungle where no white man had ever been before. They were living in tree houses. They had to live in tree houses, otherwise, being so small, they would have been gobbled up by every animal in the jungle. And when I found them they [text breaks off here at the bottom of p. 73, 1964] 
The revised text is as follows:
    "But they can't be real people," Charlie said.
    "Of course they're real people," Mr. Wonka answered. "They're Oompa-Loompas."
    The Oompa-Loompas
    "Oompa-Loompahs!" everyone said at once. "Oompah-Loompas!
    "Imported direct from Loompaland," said Mr. Wonka proudly. 
    "There is no such place," said Mrs. Salt. 
    "Excuse me, dear lady, but ..."
    "Mr. Wonka," cried Mrs. Salt. "I am a teacher of geography ..." 
    "Then you'll know all about it." said Mr. Wonka. "And oh, what a terrible country it is! Nothing but thick jungles infested by the most dangerous beasts in the entire world--hornswogglers and snozzwangers and those terrible wicked whangdoodles. A whangdoodle would eat ten Oompa-Loompas for breakfast and come galloping back for a second helping. When I went out there, I found the little Oompa-Loompas living in tree-houses. They had to live in tree-houses to escape from the whangdoodles and the hornswogglers and the snozzwangers. And they [text breaks off here at the bottom of p. 73, 1973]

The third text change is in a single paragraph:
    The Oompa-Loompa bowed and smiled, showing beautiful white teeth. His skin was almost pure black, and the top of his fuzzy head came just about the height of Mr. Wonka's knee. He wore the usual deerskin slung over his shoulder. [top paragraph of p. 83, 1964] 
This paragraph was revised to read:
    The Oompa-Loompa bowed and smiled, showing beautiful white teeth. His skin was rosy-white, his hair was golden-brown, and the top of his head came just about the height of Mr. Wonka's knee. He wore the usual deerskin slung over his shoulder. [top paragraph of p. 83, 1973]
Six illustrations by Joseph Schindelman were revised in the 1973 edition. Here I present all six, with the 1964 original followed by the 1973 replacement.


 1964 p. 72

1973 p. 72

1964 p.74  

1973 p. 74

1964 p. 82

1973 p. 82

1964 p. 89

Note the number of passengers in the ship in this reworking:
1973 p. 89

1964 p. 96
1973 p. 96

1964 p. 106

1973 p. 106

I have not compared closely the variants of the Faith Jacques illustrated editions, but will suffice it here to present just one illustration and its revision.
Jacques original 1964

Jacques revised

I note there are some additional textual differences between the US and UK texts, in that  monetary amounts are given in dollars in the US edition, and in pence or pounds in the UK one.

Later editions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were illustrated by Michael Foreman (1985) and Quentin Blake (1995), but use the revised text and so do not concern us here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

R.I.P. Richard Mathews (1944-2024)

I just googled to see if my old friend Richard Mathews was still the Director of the University of Tampa Press, only to find out that he died last month.

I met him at the 1987 Mythcon in Milwaukee, where we both appeared on a panel on David Lindsay. We found we had many common interests. Richard had published, with Borgo Press, a short book on Tolkien, Lightning from a Clear Sky (1978), and other short books on William Morris and Brian Aldiss. His most notable work was the Twayne volume Fantasy: The Liberation of Imagination (1997; reissued in 2012), which was filled with insights despite the somewhat odd structure of the book (presumably imposed upon him as part of the series it was in). Richard also contributed introductions to some of the William Morris reprints for the Newcastle fantasy series in the 1970s. 

He was devoted to his work at the University of Tampa Press, from which I see he retired in 2020. I worked on one long term project that would have excited him very much, and I was looking forward to showing it to him. But that cannot happen now, alas.  

Read more about Richard here:

In Memoriam, from the University of Tampa Press 

Local obituary

and a 2011 interview.

Condolences to his family and many friends.