Friday, October 2, 2020

The 50th Anniversary of RED MOON AND BLACK MOUNTAIN by Joy Chant

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

Puffin 1973

Herbert Danska, Dutton, 1976

The Brothers Hildebrandt, Del Rey, 1977

Unwin Books, 1982

Frank Frazetta, Bantam 1983


  1. I think I read it twice when it was first out, and remember liking it a lot - though it's a dim memory now. I also like The High Kings.

  2. I reviewed "The High Kings" in the Washington Post as one of several items in a monthly feature called Young Bookshelf. I admired both Chant's retellings and, just as much, the striking art. Alas--hangs head in shame--I never got to Red Moon and Black Mountain. Perhaps it's not altogether too late.

  3. The Frazetta cover was first used for a Science Fiction Book Club release in the very early 1970s, by the way.

  4. I've heard that, but since those SFBC editions are all undated, it's not certain. What is certain is that the Frazetta cover is on the 1983 edition. I highly doubt that the SFBC would have paid for a Frazetta cover on their own, only to have a trade publisher reuse it later. It worked the other way round usually.

  5. I note that the SFBC edition lists the publisher as Ballantine, so it must have been licensed during 1970 to circa 1980, when Ballantine had the US rights. Ballantine were clearly not happy with the Bob Pepper cover on their first printing, so perhaps Frazetta was asked for a potential cover for the second printing that came out in 1973 (with an Ian Millar cover). I don't know where one could find evidence.

  6. I am sure I had the Frazetta wraparound painting on a book I bought in San Francisco in early 1972 (remotely possible 1971), but I gave it to someone and can’t check the date, which I wrote in the book.

  7. The Ballantine first printing is dated March 1971. Perhaps the Frazetta was at some point intended as the cover for the first printing. I confess I like the Bob Pepper better, both aesthetically and in considering the content of the book.

    1. On the 1983 Bantam edition, the bar code at the lower left of the rear cover obscures Frazetta's signature and the date, given as "(c) 1981" (as can be seen on the complete illustration at: ) So your SFBC edition might have been 1981, but not earlier.

  8. Thanks Doug. I'll hunt down a copy.

  9. Read the Ballantine editon when it was issued, and enjoyed the work enough to return several times in the years since. One of the few Tolkien-influenced works to be excellent on its own terms without being deriviative.

  10. It's such a good book and too little known these days.