Tuesday, October 11, 2022

The Snergs Fraud Multiplies

It is fairly well-known that Tolkien's Hobbits were inspired by The Marvellous Land of Snergs, a 1927 children's book by E.A. Wyke-Smith. Tolkien wrote in the notes for his lecture/essay "On Fairy-stories" that “I should like to record my own love and my children’s love of E. A. Wyke-Smith’s Marvellous Land of Snergs, at any rate of the snerg-element in that tale, and of Gorbo, the gem of dunderheads, jewel of a companion in an escapade.” 

A couple of years ago, a British publisher released a re-written version of the book, though the book still uses the Tolkien quote as though the reader of this new version will be reading the book that inspired Tolkien. But it is not the same book, not even close. I wrote about it on this blog back then, "When the Snergs book is NOT the Snergs book."

Recently I discovered a newly published US edition, and following up, I realized that this shady production has perpetrated more translations than Wyke-Smith's actual book has had. I recommend anyone interested in the book that actually inspired Tolkien avoid these frauds. Here follows the (alphabetical) non-English language Snergs Hall of Shame. (At least currently ...)









Sunday, August 7, 2022

RIP: J. S. Ryan

 J.S.Ryan (top left) and J.R.R. Tolkien (bottom right) 
A quick note to remark on the passing of Tolkien's former student, J.S. Ryan, who later published a number of books on Tolkien. Ryan died in early July at the age of approximately 93. I say approximately because Ryan himself had a policy of never giving out his birthyear ("lest it be used against me" he once wrote me). However, as his parents were married in 1928, and considering genealogical records (including ship's passenger lists from the 1950s), it seems pretty certain that his birthyear was 1929. John Sprott Ryan was born in Dunedin, New Zealand, educated in New Zealand, England and Australia. He spent most of his academic teaching career at the University of New England in Armidale, Australia. 

He was a student at Merton College, Oxford, under Tolkien, from 1954 through 1957 (both appear in the 1955 Merton College photo, above) , and later went on to write many articles on Tolkien. The first of these, "Germanic Mythology Applied: The Extension of the Literary Folk Memory", appeared in Folklore, Spring 1966; Tolkien himself found it "nonsensical". It was reprinted in Ryan's 1969 volume Tolkien - Cult or Culture?, one of the earliest book-length studies of Tolkien. From there, Ryan published a large number of articles, often elaborating on small points in Tolkien's life, in diverse venues such as Anor, Inklings-Jahrbuch, Ipotesi, Orana, Quadrant, The Ring Bearer, and others, as well as in fanzines such as Minas-Tirith Evening-Star (of the American Tolkien Society), and scholarly journals such as Mythlore (the journal of the Mythopoeic Society). Several of his contributions to Minas Tirith Evening-Star were collected as The Shaping of Middle-eath's Maker: Influences on the Life and Literature of J.R.R. Tolkien (1992), as by John S. Ryan ["J.S. Ryan" being his usual byline], edited by Philip W. Helms and published by the American Tolkien Society. 

His most significant collections for the Tolkien scholar remain the two published by Walking Tree Publishers (edited and prefaced by Peter Buchs), Tolkien's View: Windows into His World (2009) and In the Nameless Wood: Explorations in the Philological Hinterland of Tolkien's Literary Creation (2013).  

 2012 edition
In 2012, a slightly-corrected reprint of Tolkien - Cult or Culture? was issued through the Heritage Futures Research Centre at the University of New England in Armidale, New South Wales, in a reportedly very small edition, which received little attention. (My copy was expensive and not easily procured.) 

Ryan's studies of Tolkien are not without frustrations. As pioneering works, he often missed vital connections in order to focus on less significant ones, and beyond a small essential core of Tolkien scholarship, Ryan rarely engaged with the publications of other Tolkien scholars. Yet his essays are well-worth reading for the inspiration they can give for further research. 

A fuller appreciation of his life and career (with photos), appears here in Pulse News of the University of New England in Armidale.

Monday, January 17, 2022

An Update on Things Tolkien- and Inklings-Related

My short note "Tolkien's Friend Selby" on Tolkien's correspondence with G.E. Selby (1909-1987) was just published by The Tolkien Society in a recent issue of Mallorn issue 62, Winter 2021 (pp. 34-35). Selby's bookplate, at right, appears here courtesy of Oronzo Cilli. 

I'm very sad to report on the passing of my friend of over forty years, Tim Wickham-Crowley, in late October, after a battle with cancer. Tim was a sociologist, specializing in Latin America, but also a keen Tolkien fan (whose wife, Kelley, is a noted medievalist and Tolkien scholar). I commissioned his one contribution to Tolkien scholarship, a book review of Tolkien through Russian Eyes (2003), by Mark T. Hooker, which appeared in Tolkien Studies: Volume II (2005). Tim is greatly missed by all who knew him. A full obituary from The Washington Post appears at Legacy.com here

Timothy P. Wickham-Crowley
 A recent mailing of the Friends of Arthur Machen had an interesting notice in Machenalia about an "Inklings Festival and Arthur Machen" that took place in Wichita, Kansas, in October 2021. One of the speakers was Christopher Tompkins, of the Darkly Bright Press (a small US press specializing in Arthur Machen), who discussed the fact that Victor Gollancz, when reading the manuscript of Charles Williams's War in Heaven [then titled The Corpse] in March 1930, called upon Arthur Machen to be an outside reader for it. In the summer of 1927, when Gollancz worked as an editor at the publisher Ernest Benn, he had hired Machen to be a regular reader for Benn. Gollancz soon left Benn to found his own publishing firm, and since Williams's novel, like Machen's The Great Return (1915), has the Grail showing up in contemporary Britain, Machen clearly seemed to Gollancz a good outside reader. According to the report in Machenalia, "Machen made corrections to some Hebrew and Latin in the MS, corrections that appear in the final version. Since, in the correspondence with his publisher, Williams expressed an interest in seeing The Great Return, it seems he hadn't yet read it" (p. 6).  I look forward to Christopher Tompkins writing this all up.  

It's hard to believe that Chris Mitchell, Director of the Wade Center for nearly twenty years, died at age 63 as long ago as 2014. I can still hear his quite distinctive voice in my head from our many meetings. Recently published is a tribute volume, The Undiscovered C.S. Lewis: Essays in Memory of Christopher W. Mitchell (Winged Lion Press, 2021), edited by Bruce R. Johnson. Of course the content heavily favors C.S. Lewis, but there is one article on Tolkien, "Across Western Seas: Longing for the West in Tolkien's Legendarium," by Laura Schmidt, Archivist at the Wade Center (who worked alongside Chris for many years). And other Inklings are represented too, including Nevill Coghill, who appears in Walter Hooper's contribution (probably Hooper's final writing before his death in December 2020). In all it's a fine tribute to Chris, who passed away at far too young an age.

I note here the recent publication of Tolkien & The Lizard: Tolkien in Cornwall 1914 (2021) by David Haden. It is published only as a pdf--ordering information here. This is an independent offshoot of a larger project that Haden is current engaged on. Haden also maintains a fascinating Lovecraft blog, Tentaclii, which I recommend. And he has a further offshoot Tolkien publication, Cracks of Doom: Untold Tales in Middle-earth, which he describes as:

 "a fully annotated and indexed list of ‘Untold Tales’ in Middle-earth, pointing out the ‘cracks’ where new fan-fiction might be developed. There are 125 entries and these usually lightly suggest ideas for story development. It will also be useful for scholars seeking to understand what Tolkien “left out” and why, or those interested in ‘transformative works’ and fandom." 

Available as a Lulu trade paperback, or an ebook version via Amazon, the fuller details (and link to a sample pdf) are here.