Friday, September 5, 2014

The surprising longevity of one Tolkien essay — and a new Tolkien collection

Almost a year ago, out of the blue, I got a request to reprint one of my essays on Tolkien in a Gale reference collection I was told was being edited by Michael Drout. Naturally, I was happy to see the essay go even further that it already had (on which, see below for more), and Gale tends to pay to reprint, which was also nice. I’m not used to earning actual dollars and cents for the work that I do, though when I do get a small payday, it is certainly welcome! And the Gale Literary Criticism series is well respected and widely used in many libraries.

I got in touch with Mike to inquire about this, and he demystified the project. He wasn’t really editing anything, per se. Rather, the publisher had sent him a long list of essays, of which he’d chosen what he thought were the top twenty of so. He also suggested some that weren’t on their long list. And in the end, the publisher made the decisions about what to include and what not to.

So anyway, I took care of the paperwork and then promptly moved on to other things. I had forgotten all about it when a check showed up a couple of weeks ago. Apparently, the book had appeared, or was about to, and I had never heard another word about it. I came up with nothing searching the web, so I wrote to the publisher. They sent me a link to the book: Volume 299 in the Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism series. No wonder I couldn’t find it: at a glance, you’d never know it had anything to do with Tolkien! In fact, the collection actually covers three writers: Jane Addams, Mao Dun, and J.R.R. Tolkien. A strange assortment! The part about Tolkien is specifically limited to essays on The Hobbit, which may be stranger still (or perhaps not: they covered The Lord of the Rings in a previous volume). And finally, the book lists for $360, so I asked the publisher whether they might send me a copy. They did, and it arrived in yesterday’s mail.

Before I describe the new book, I thought I might summarize the remarkable journey of my essay. It began here on this blog, in a series of posts late in 2009. I developed these into a conference paper, which I delivered at the 13th C.S. Lewis and Inklings Society conference in Oklahoma City in the spring of 2010, and for which I won the Best Scholar Paper award that year (the first of five consecutive wins at this conference). The essay was published in Mythlore later that year. Then it was reprinted as a chapter in 2012 in the CSLIS volume, C.S. Lewis and the Inklings: Discovering Hidden Truths, a volume for which I was also an assistant editor (though this had nothing to do with the selection of my essay for publication there). And now it has appeared one more time, in the esteemed TCLC series. Wow, have I gotten a lot of mileage out of that piece of work!

Since this is not likely to come to the attention of the casual Tolkien watcher, and since some of the essays may not be that easy to come by otherwise, I thought I would enumerate the contents as a public service. The Tolkien portion of the book runs from pp. 241–342, a cool hundred pages of valuable essays on The Hobbit collected together for use in libraries. The layout is “encyclopedia style” — large, double-columned pages. It opens with a short introductory essay on The Hobbit, outlining its plot and major characters, themes, and critical reception. This piece is written by Cynthia Giles, a freelance encyclopedist from my old stomping grounds in Dallas. Apart from that, I know nothing about her. At a glance it looks solid, but I haven’t read it closely yet.

This introductory piece is followed by a bibliography of Tolkien’s principal works, which I’ve only skimmed (but I spotted one small error). After this, the “Criticism” section comprises the reprint essays, each of which is given a bracketed paragraph intro. After the essays (enumerated below), there is a short and selective bibliography of “Further Reading”, annotated and categorized (bibliographies, biographies, criticism).

The fourteen reprinted essays and their original publication details are:

Constance B. Hieatt. “The Text of The Hobbit: Putting Tolkien’s Notes in Order.” English Studies in Canada 7.2 (1981): 212–24.

Christina Scull. “The Hobbit Considered in Relation to Children’s Literature Contemporary with Its Writing and Publication.” Mythlore 14.2 (1987): 49–56.

Lisa Hopkins. “Bilbo Baggins as a Burglar.” Inklings 10 (1992): 93–9.

Christina Scull. “The Hobbit and Tolkien’s Other Pre-War Writings: Part Two.” Mallorn 30 (1993): 14–20.

Janet Brennan Croft. “The Great War and Tolkien’s Memory: An Examination of World War I Themes in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.” Mythlore 90 (2002): 4–21.

Olga V. Trokhimenko. “‘If You Sit on the Door-Step Long Enough, You Will Think of Something’: The Function of Proverbs in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbit.” Proverbium 20 (2003): 367–77.

Brian Rosebury. “Tolkien and the Twentieth Century.” Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon. Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. 134–57.

Stuart D. Lee and Elizabeth Solopova. “The Hobbit.” The Keys of Middle-earth: Discovering Medieval Literature through the Fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. 59–122.

Nils Ivar Agøy. “Things to Remember When Translating Tolkien.” Lembas Extra (2008): 42–50.

Thomas Kullmann. “Intertextual Patterns in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.” Nordic Journal of English Studies 8.2 (2009): 37–56.

Dimitra Fimi. “Epilogue: From Fairies to Hobbits.” Tolkien, Race, and Cultural History: From Fairies to Hobbits. Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. 189–99.

Jason Fisher. “Dwarves, Spiders, and Murky Woods: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Wonderful Web of Words.” Mythlore 29.1-2 (2010): 5–15.

Aaron Isaac Jackson. “Authoring the Century: J.R.R. Tolkien, the Great War and Modernism.” English 59.224 (2010): 44–69.

David Day. “The Genesis of the Hobbit.” Queen’s Quarterly 118.1 (2011): 115–29.


  1. That's quite an interesting collection of essays on (mostly) The Hobbit (I see that Janet's essay does cover LOTR as well).

  2. Neither of my university libraries are subscribed to this series, and Tolkien stuff is somewhat rare here in general. Too bad!

  3. I'm glad the article continues its journey, Jason. Thanks for the link to the book.

  4. Thanks to you all for the comments. :)