Qenyaqetsa: The Quenya Phonology and Lexicon - Carl F. Hostetter

Comments by squire, May 13, 2007

Hostetter gives a clean and clear description of this little-known linguistic tour de force. What strikes me most forcefully on reading about it is just how slight an impact it has had so far on more mainstream Tolkien studies. Yet Hofstetter shows that through his Qenya vocabulary Tolkien defined much of his "Middle-earth" universe months or years before writing his first Elvish story. This text is the proof of Tolkien's much-derided remark that the Silmarillion cycle (leading indirectly to The Lord of the Rings) was begun to give his languages a world to live in.

Only Garth is credited with incorporating this work into his account of Tolkien's early gestation as world- and word-creator. I've remarked before on this distinction between Tolkien's own personal "Lit and Lang" sides, when reviewing Hostetter's other specialized entries on Tolkien's languages. Here it comes back in detail.

Typically, although Hofstetter notes that parts of the Qenyaqetsa were printed in the appendices of the Book of Lost Tales (both Vols. 1 & 2), he does not give those books in his See also; and to return the favor, neither contributor of the twin BoLT articles mentions the Qenyaqetsa excerpts therein, or refers to this article. Odder still is Hofstetter's omission of his own "Elvish Compositions and Grammars" compendium article.

It really is as if the scholarship on Tolkien's fantasy philology inhabits a parallel universe that is exclusionary of those who study his fantasy story-telling!

Comments by N.E. Brigand, January 3, 2008

The spelling error in the title, presumably an editorial introduction, is most unfortunate: for “Quenya” read “Qenya”, as it is given in Hostetter’s ‘Further Reading’ list, his other linguistic articles in the Encyclopedia, and the index.


Quest Narrative - Carol A. Leibiger

Comments by squire, January 14, 2007

This article covers the basics of the Quest narrative archetype as it is realized in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, with an impressive Further Reading list. Given that Tolkien wrote several other quests (Beren, Tuor, etc.), a little overall analysis of the role of, and the reason for, Quests in Tolkien's fictive imagination might have been appropriate.

As well, since Leibiger properly notes the "anti-quest" nature of Frodo's journey, it would be interesting to read how critics have regarded Tolkien's masterpiece's "twist" on the traditional quest epic. Overall, the most interesting thing about Tolkien's Quest Narratives is that they were written in the modern era: how, and where, do they fit thereby into the genres of modern literature?

And where does Aragorn become "increasingly youthful and kingly in his appearance and bearing" as he nears his more traditional quest-goal?

Comments by N.E. Brigand, January 3, 2008

Leibiger is correct that not only is Aragorn revealed in increasing majesty on several occasions as the story progresses, but he is at least once described as appearing more youthful.  She might have cited some specific passages, like the moment when Aragorn receives the Elessar from Galadriel: “they had not marked before how tall and kingly he stood, and it seemed to them that many years of toil had fallen from his shoulders”.  However, Tolkien was not averse to the majesty of age, writing of Aragorn in Letter #244, “He was old, and that is not only a physical condition: when not accompanied by any physical decay age can be alarming or awe-inspiring.”  And if increasing youthfulness is a standard trope of quest stories, Tolkien was willing to play against it: Frodo looks unusually young at his quest’s beginning, but this is an effect of the Ring, and Frodo grows haggard during his journey.  If Tolkien wasn’t deliberately flouting the strictures of a traditional quest, certainly he doubted such story-models, as shown by his comments on W.H. Auden’s application of formulas to LotR – and Leibiger uses Auden’s structure here, unquestioningly.  But in fairness, I think Leibiger’s article is severely constrained by word-count: her analysis if limited is taut and solidly supported with critical references.