Wain, John (1925-1994) - David Bratman

Comments by N.E. Brigand, March 26, 2007

Bratman does a nice job introducing Wain, the rebel Inkling, in a short article that includes some brief, negative remarks by Wain on Tolkien’s work.  I would have liked a little more information on Wain’s dislike of “On Fairy-stories”, but can’t see where Bratman would have included it.  For reference, Bratman does give readers the source of Wain’s remarks.


Wanderer, The - Leslie A. Donovan

Comments by squire, June 11, 2007

This seems to cover nicely a medieval poem that I'm unfamiliar with, though clearly Tolkien was not. I had a couple of reactions nevertheless.

One, the opening summary of the poem's themes and content could have been compressed; it seems to repeat itself. Two, the idea that the work is not just an elegy but also a wisdom poem does not make it into the analysis of its impact on Tolkien's fiction. And three, it's unclear to me how many of the similarities between the legendarium's plots or themes really draw their inspiration from The Wanderer as opposed to the general body of literature on exile and loss. The examples of the seagulls crying to Legolas and the Rohirric poem recited by Aragorn seem pretty clear-cut; I wasn't so sure about the Ents, or Aragorn's lonely life as a Ranger.

Finally, there is the theological question of how the mortals and immortals of Middle-earth relate to the loss of home and the promise of return, in comparison to the hero of the poem, when the former have no prospect of Christian immortality for consolation as the latter does. Donovan does not, perhaps, see the poem as being that tightly linked to Tolkien's epics, and probably rightly so. But logically some comment to that effect would have been an appropriate conclusion.

Comments by N.E. Brigand, July 19, 2007

Donovan correctly notes that Tolkien acknowledges the debt his name “Ent” owes to “eald enta geweorc” from The Wanderer, to which Tolkien also attributes their “connexion with stone”, but in the same letter Tolkien observes that other aspects of the Ents derive from his response to Macbeth and his feelings about trees and gardens.  Still I don’t think it is unreasonable for Donovan to speculate that the Old English phrase could have informed the character of Tolkien’s Ents: Tom Shippey does the same thing – “From such hints Tolkien created his fable of a race running down to extinction” (The Road to Middle-earth, 3rd edition, p. 131).  There Shippey is referring to the similar phrase “orþanc enta geweorc” in the poem Maxims II, but he mentions The Wanderer in reference to other points that Donovan addresses here.  Unfortunately neither The Road to Middle-earth nor any other previous scholarship on Tolkien appears in this entry’s 'Further Reading' list.


War - Claire Buck

Comments by squire, December 30, 2006

Overall, this has more of the characteristics of a finely-tuned critical essay than of an encyclopedia article. The benefit is the depth and erudition of the piece at hand, the loss is the omission of a consideration of War in relation to Tolkien from a host of other angles.

Obviously, War is a large topic. Buck responds by focusing on the relationship between Tolkien's fiction and the larger body of war-fiction in 20th-century English literature. She gives an excellent if brief cover of the standard history of post-WWI war fiction and the war poets and novelists; of Tolkien's war-related biography; and of Shippey's more recent efforts to get Tolkien the recognition he deserves as a war writer in company with other war moralists and fantasists like Orwell, Vonnegut, Golding, etc.

She smoothly refers to several well-known Tolkien critics in showing how Tolkien's own fictional and fantastic response to his war experiences evolved over time, incorporating both the First and the Second World Wars, and quickly reviews some more recent Tolkien-studies work relating to war while calling for further enquiries.

Still, for an encyclopedia article about War and Tolkien, I for one missed a more balanced survey of this subject, and of the current state of critical writing about it. The Silmarillion, which is in many ways an extended war epic, gets particularly short shrift here; but so do Tolkien's descriptions of tactics, his use of real medieval and classical models in describing his wars and battles, his choices of which aspects of warfare to highlight and which to exclude completely from his tales and narratives, and his fascination with guerrilla and partisan warfare. The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son, Tolkien's most pointed war poem and only play, surely rates at least a mention or a reference here.

It seems to me that her bibliography of Tolkien criticism is fairly restricted. Katherine Malone's unpublished Wheaton College thesis (Ph. D? B.A.?) is probably a fine piece of work, given the supervision of Michael Drout, but surely there are other writers who should be on the 'Further Reading' list besides her and Shippey, Flieger, Croft and Garth? She cites Hugh Brogan in the text, but does not give us a reference; and I'm sorry she missed Anna Smol's well-known essay on the relationships of men in wartime as a source for Frodo and Sam's male bonding. Nor can Paul Fussell be the only mainstream literary critic worth reading on this topic, as seminal as his book is.

There are as well some very annoying editorial or proof-reading glitches.


War of the Jewels, The – Matt Fensome

Comments by Jason Fisher, September 25, 2007

This entry suffers a bit from my having read it immediately after John Magoun’s excellent entry on The Treason of Isengard. The present entry is little more than an annotated table of contents for the penultimate volume of The History of Middle-earth, and a fairly dry one at that.

Still, there’s nothing really wrong with the entry. Fensome does make some important observations, as in his commentary on the importance of “The Tale of Years”. I just could have wished for more of an effort to situate the book in the larger context of its reception and use by the scholarly community. The 'Further Reading' is much less impressive than the one for Treason, and the See also is likewise thinner, though probably sufficient.


War of the Ring, The - Anthony Burdge and Jessica Burke

Comments by squire, June 1, 2007

There's no understating the difficulty of compressing and summarizing a volume of The History of Middle-earth series. This book, like its brothers, is so densely packed with information of interest to Tolkien fans and scholars that it is all too easy for a critic to get lost in thickets of detail and fail to make sense of the book as a whole or give it some scholarly context. This seems to be the fate of Burdge and Burke here: their entire article is poorly organized and focuses on details of narrative or details of editorship. Compounding this structural morass is a generally wretched writing style, topped with numerous copyediting errors of punctuation. The result verges on incoherence - such a shame when compared to its subject: the honed clarity of Christopher Tolkien's editorial prose and his briskly logical presentation of what is inherently very dense and confusing material.

Comments by N.E. Brigand, June 1, 2007

Almost acceptable.  The general structure of the article is satisfactory: general remarks on The War of the Ring followed by comments on the book’s sections in chronological order.  And there is some attempt to comment on Tolkien’s writing methods, on interesting variations from the final text of The Lord of the Rings, and on the challenges Christopher Tolkien faced in interpreting the manuscripts.  But the introductory comments, which begin clearly, quickly become bogged down in excessive detail, and the rest of the article slips from idea to idea without any organization beyond increasing page number.

Take the second paragraph, an outline of War’s contents that merely lists a set of chapter titles, which are unnecessary for those who have read the book, and unhelpful for those who have not: description of the plot would serve readers better.  For example, Burdge and Burke report that War includes drafts for the fourth book of LotR “from ‘The Taming of Sméagol’ to ‘Kirith Ungol’”.  But there is no chapter in LotR by the latter name: Book IV includes a chapter named “The Stairs of Cirith Ungol”, but ends two chapters later with Frodo imprisoned in the Tower of Cirith Ungol.  In fact, War carries the story to the latter point.

As squire has noted, the writing is poor: it is hyperbolic to say that War “documents each moment in the creative process”, wrong to say that the book covers the period when Tolkien was “completing LotR” (Sauron Defeated, anyone?), and I’m not sure what is meant by “the events of Gandalf and Théoden after the end of Helm’s Deep”.  There are also about twenty typos, including a lot of confusing stray punctuation, plus misspellings of “Rayner Unwin”, “Pelennor” (twice), and a chapter which should be titled not “The Story Foreseen from Fronts” but “The Story Foreseen from Forannest”.

The 'Further Reading' list is in reverse alphabetical order and should omit The War of the Ring itself (in favor of its appearance on the encyclopedia’s master abbreviations list).  One of the other two items, the Hammond/Scull Reader’s Companion for LotR, is misquoted in the article: Hammond and Scull quote Tolkien in his letters saying that Faramir is “like me”; Burdge and Burke quote the Companion as saying of Tolkien that Faramir is “like him”.  And there is at least one good study of War missing from this entry’s bibliography: Michael Drout’s article on Tolkien’s prose style from the first issue of Tolkien Studies.


Warwick - Lisa L. Spangenberg

Comments by squire, August 6, 2007

I liked the basic combination of breadth and focus here. Spangenberg does a good job balancing her description of the part Warwick played in the Tolkiens' lives, with an account of how in his early poem "Kortirion Among the Trees" Tolkien idealized Warwick as an ancient Elvish city in his nascent legendarium. Her comments on the later development of the poem are interesting and invite further exploration by the reader.

All this could have been tightened up, however, and reorganized to separate her discussion of that poem from other manifestations of Warwick in Tolkien's early fiction. As it is, Spangenberg buries her other references to the "prehistory" and "etymology" all in one long paragraph. This makes it appear that the connection between Warwick and Kortirion is only found in the dedication and notes on the poem.

She thus may well know, but does not make it very clear, that at one point Tolkien roughed out an entire legendarium tradition explaining the historical roots of English settlement in the former Elf-island of Tol Eressëa. Hengest, the eldest son of the mariner Eriol, made his home in Kortirion, renamed as Warwick on elaborately contrived linguistic grounds; while his two brothers similarly settled and renamed other ancient Elvish sites as Oxford and Great Haywood (formerly Tavrobel).

Spangenberg omits entirely an early personal poem, not directly applicable to the myth-cycle: "The Town of Dreams and the City of Present Sorrow" wherein Tolkien contrasts memories of Warwick with his later residence in Oxford.

See also is good but should certainly include "Ælfwine (Old English "Elf-Friend)", "Book of Lost Tales II", "Church of England", "Grove, Jennie (1860-1938)", "Kôr", "Tavrobel (or Tathrobel)" and the correct article "Poems by Tolkien: History of Middle-earth" in place of the more general title "Poems by Tolkien".


Weapons, Named - Anthony S. Burdge and Jessica Burke

Comments by N.E. Brigand, July 19, 2007

“The characters are archaic and the language barbaric” – and that would be true even if this article didn’t omit Caudimordax, “the famous sword that in popular romances is more vulgarly called Tailbiter.”  Burdge and Burke rightly turn to works such as Beowulf and the Völsungasaga to identify sources for Tolkien’s practice of sword-naming (though strangely not to Arthurian legend: “Excalibur” is never mentioned) but they restrict themselves to the Middle-earth legendarium and so miss an opportunity to note Tolkien’s jokes on this very subject.  A shame.  The more so because they don’t do much with their historical references: the long paragraph on Beowulf is especially unhelpful, just a summary of the poem with attention to its battle scenes but no connection whatsoever to Tolkien.  Much is made, for example, of the poem’s motif of weapons that fail, but there is no payoff.  And a typo has Burdge and Burke incorrectly stating that Beowulf fought Grendel “with use of his sword”.

Much here has little to do with the naming of weapons anyway: in their opening remarks Burdge and Burke claim that the practice connects to rites of passage, “ritualistic warfare”, transfer of authority, enchantment and history, but they don’t show how these ideas manifest in Tolkien’s writing.  Even considered simply as an essay on weapons that happen to bear names, the article fails.  If Tolkien “preferred” his heroes to uphold “a code of physical warrior prowess”, how are Bilbo or Frodo to be explained?  What is “memorable” about Aiglos, mentioned only in passing in Tolkien’s work?   Where does Tolkien write that Turgon made Glamdring?  And why is there nothing here on the particular meteoric origin and God-killing eschatological destiny of Túrin’s sword, Gurthang?  Plus the article is littered with bad sentences like “Naming weapons has long been part of our mythological history.”

The last quarter of the article is a simple list of apparently every named weapon in The Hobbit, LotR, The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, including both identification of maker and owner, and page references.  I think this is a poor use of space in the encyclopedia, but at least the list could have been made consistent.  Of the eighteen names, only a half-dozen are translated: why Andúril (“Flame of the West”) and Aranrúth (“King’s Ire”) but not Aiglos (“Snow-point”, “Snow-thorn”, “Icicle”) or Gúthwinë (“Battle-friend”)?  Grond is not clearly identified as the name of two different weapons.  The Dragon-helm listing mentions neither Telchar, its maker, nor Azaghâl, its original owner.  And Dramborleg is listed with no description whatsoever: it was Tuor’s axe.  The page references are also inconsistent: there are ten different citations for Gurthang but only one for Andúril.

Comments by Jason Fisher, July 20, 2007

I agree that this is a poor article. The history of sword-naming is touched on, though with the glaring omission of Arthur’s sword Excalibur, as N.E.B. noted, and of Charlemagne’s Joyeuse as well, inter alia. For Tolkien’s models for sword-naming, I think Burdge and Burke ought to have taken a look at more recent influences on Tolkien also – e.g., Sir Thomas Malory, Sir Walter Scott, William Morris, and perhaps even Lewis Carroll (remember the Vorpal Sword from “Jabberwocky”?). Any exploration of the deeper sociological sources and motivations for sword-naming is sacrificed for trite explanations and plot summaries.

As N.E.B. also mentioned, the article is poorly written. For example, in the preface to their laundry list of weapons, there’s a conspicuous subject-verb disagreement. In other places, Burdge and Burke tend to omit definite or indefinite articles, creating a loose, choppy, and informal quality, as in “the connection to ancestral past” or “Heorot, hall of Hrothgar”. And why, for instance, is “Forge” capitalized in “trapped and forced to Forge a sword”? Other weak constructions, like “The transfer of a sword or weapon…transfers historical significance…”, are terribly distracting. There are incomplete and run-on sentences, too, like “Forged by the race of giants, the sword’s origins written in runes upon the hilt.”

I agree with N.E.B. about the catalog of named weapons: it is a waste of precious space, and probably incomplete anyway. They don’t make clear that they’ve limited themselves to the published works about Middle-earth; and why did they, if a complete catalog of the topic was their purpose? In addition to the confusion about Grond, the wording on Glamdring is also vague. One can’t tell it’s even a sword. To the uninitiated, it sounds more like a mace, I would guess.

And finally, as N.E.B. asks, “Where does Tolkien write that Turgon made Glamdring?” This may be their assumption based on the sword's origin in Gondolin (The Hobbit). But I fear it’s another infection from the Peter Jackson films. The sword created for the films (and the collectible copies manufactured by United Cutlery – I have one myself!) bears runes that read, Turgon Aran Gondolin, Tortha gar a matha Glamdring, Vegil Glamdring gud daelo, Dam an Glamhoth. This is David Salo’s Neo-Sindarin for “Turgon, King of Gondolin, wields, has and holds the sword Glamdring, Foe of Morgoth's realm, Hammer of the Orcs”. This may have given them the idea, perhaps?


Welsh Language - Jared Lobdell

Comments by squire, May 1, 2007

Incomprehensible. And I'm not talking about the parts in Welsh, either.

I can't prove it, but I suspect that one of the expectations of the editors for this article, was for it to tell a bit about Tolkien's lifelong fascination with Welsh, starting with the well-known anecdote of his seeing Welsh names on rail cars when a child, and focusing on his use of Welsh sounds and syntax in forming his "lower" Elvish language families (such as the late example called Sindarin). In other words, unlike many of the less-obvious languages that receive Encyclopedia entries of their own, Welsh was central to Tolkien's imaginative philology. There is no mention of any of that here.

Instead there is a preface on the technical history of Welsh as a so-called "p-Celtic" language of early Britain, which reads as if it has been bodily transported from one encyclopedia to another with no regard for the focus of the latter; and then follows an extensive but almost entirely empty gloss on Tolkien's 1955 lecture "English and Welsh."

Not that there is anything wrong with mentioning that lecture here, of course. However, to spend three-quarters of this article liberally quoting from it with only the most arch or opaque connective commentary is ridiculous, especially since "English and Welsh", as one of Tolkien's scholarly publications, has an entry of its own. Once again, there is the question of whether two so closely-related subjects should even have been separated at all. Since they were, though, Lobdell should have left "English and Welsh" and any related discussion of how Tolkien used Welsh in his professional academic work, to that contributor - so as not to waste utterly his reader's time. Too late!

The 'Further Reading' inspires doubt: can Lobdell's The Rise of Tolkienian Fantasy (the only critical reference) really address Tolkien's relation to Welsh in more depth than this article? And in See also, there is no such article as "Language, Theories of". More tellingly, the omission of "Languages Invented by Tolkien", with its masterful description of Tolkien's love of Welsh and his use of it in his Elvish languages, is the best example of what's wrong with this article.

Comments by N. E. Brigand, May 20, 2007

Squire is mistaken: there is indeed a "Language, Theories of" article, by Allan Turner.  It immediately precedes Lobdell's own "Languages: Early Introduction and Interest".


Whitby - Chester N. Scoville

Comments by squire, May 20, 2007

This is such a slight little thing, it is hard to imagine why it is here. Scoville does his best with the hand dealt him: he valiantly chronicles Tolkien's visit to the town of Whitby in his youth, which is recorded by sketches that have been preserved and published. With nothing more to go on, Scoville accurately critiques the sketches. Whitby also is a town of small note in English ecclesiastical and literary history. But the reader eventually gathers the truth: there is no mention of or reference to Whitby in any of Tolkien's papers. In the end, Scoville must resort to guessing that Tolkien "undoubtedly" had "great interest" in the old town's heritage. Maybe so -- but so what?

Perhaps it is cheating, but I found that Hammond and Scull in their recent Tolkien Companion have managed to document a second visit to Whitby by Tolkien, in 1945, on the evidence of a postcard that was saved. I think "so what" remains a valid reaction.


Williams, Charles Walter Stansby (1886-1945) - Colin Duriez

Comments by squire, August 3, 2007

Disorganization is the main problem here. Duriez, an authority on the world of the Inklings, obviously knows his stuff about Williams. Yet twice we read about Tolkien's "coolness" towards Williams in his later correspondence; three times we see Williams move to Oxford during the war; his wife is not named until she becomes a widow; and we hear about two of Williams's novels before we get to any characterization of his fiction -- which is broad, vague, and never really explains the opening hook that his writings were "enigmatic".

This is the most frustrating part: that aside from a last-minute mention of his fascination with the "occult", we never learn what it was about Williams's fiction or philosophy that so engaged C. S. Lewis, and so put Tolkien off his feed. Sure, if T. S. Eliot calls Williams's genius "not easy to explain", what can mere mortals expect? But I think this is the core of the Williams-Tolkien relationship, and Duriez could have dug deeper into the paradox of how one of Tolkien's personal friendships foundered on a literary disagreement.

'Further Reading' is excellent, with its rare subset 'Primary Sources'. The See also is disappointing. Why not include "Coghill, Nevill Henry Kendal Aylmer (1899-1980)", "Dante", "Inklings", "Leaf by Niggle" (oops! no such article: make that "Tree and Leaf"), "On Fairy-Stories", "Sayers, Dorothy Leigh (1893-1957)", and "World War II", to name a few?

Comments by N.E. Brigand, January 5, 2008

Duriez leans heavily on his earlier works, and one sentence here, on “Leaf by Niggle”, appears almost identically in his book, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship.  Additionally, Anne Ridler is quoted twice in the text, but is missing from the ‘Further Reading’ list.


Wiseman, Christopher (1893-1987) - John Garth

Comments by squire, August 3, 2007

"By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead." So pleads Tolkien in his revised Foreword to The Lord of the Rings, telling his readers that his grand mythology had roots far deeper, both personally and historically, than the memorable years immediately preceding publication in 1954. Thanks to recent scholarship, like Garth's, we now know much more of the importance that his school chums, the so-called T.C.B.S., had in Tolkien's artistically formative years. Yet Tolkien grew to artistic greatness in his adult years, long after the T.C.B.S. was killed off.

In this well-written but strictly biographical article Garth reviews the life and influence on Tolkien of that one other friend who not only survived, but even had a "largely happy war", Christopher Wiseman. Garth's account is straightforward and focuses on the facts. What I think is missing is any analysis of the story.

Isn't there some irony or mystery here: Wiseman was Tolkien's intellectual solemate and perceptive artistic critic as late as 1916, but then something happened, we are left to guess what. Garth's only comments are that "the bond weakened after the war" - 1920s, perhaps? - and next gives us Wiseman's own suggestion that Tolkien is too busy for him in the 1950s. Correctly or not, we conclude that Tolkien's best friend in boyhood dropped out of his life soon into adulthood. Garth interprets Tolkien's cheery letter to Wiseman in the late 1960s as a "restrained rapprochement" - perhaps he knows more than the published record can tell.

This kind of change of life is not so rare, of course. The irony is that the T.C.B.S. had imagined it would be different. Their goal for themselves was to help each other create, as a group, some new force in English letters and arts. Tolkien himself seems to have resolved, out of survivor's guilt, that his mythological project would stand for the lost promise of his late friends Gilson and Smith. Yet Wiseman, who lived, never collaborated with Tolkien after their edition of Smith's poems, nor did he produce any notable artistic or intellectual work of his own in a long and respectable life as an educator. Can we ever know why? And with Wiseman as our sample, can we be as sure as Tolkien was at the time, that the T.C.B.S. would indeed have made a difference in the world had it survived the war intact?

I was fascinated by Garth's unattributed suggestion that Tolkien's reckless athletic god Tulkas was inspired by young Wiseman, whose adult self seemed to Tolkien a "model of rectitude and headmasterly seriousness" (Letter 254, 1964). It is perhaps meaningless that in later revisions Tulkas came to be characterized as being "of no avail as a counsellor, but is a hardy friend."


Wilderland - Matthew Dickerson

Comments by squire, May 20, 2007

It is accurate enough for Dickerson to document the changing bounds of a region called Wilderland as Tolkien conceived or reported them in The Hobbit and later in The Lord of the Rings. He follows with a contrasting list of civilized centers within Wilderland, although he leaves out the colonies of the Woodmen, that the goblins intend to attack, and more tellingly he misses that, by Treebeard's estimation, Lothlórien is also within Wilderland. The chance for a larger scale analysis is missed when he points out that by Bilbo's map, at least, Rivendell is in "The Wild", if not in Wilderland proper. He doesn't follow this up with the obvious question: then what is not within Wilderland?

The missing key here is that what later became "Middle-earth" in The Lord of the Rings was no such thing in The Hobbit. Bilbo and the dwarves went East into Wilderland, and returned, traversing the entire story-world. As Dickerson notes, at that time "Wilderland" was an invented coinage for a kind of traditional fairy-tale land of danger and adventure, meant to contrast with Bilbo's cozy and civilized hobbit-land to the west (policemen and all!), and Tolkien enjoyed the subsidiary echoes of "bewilder" and "wilder"(="wander astray").

But in The Lord of the Rings, Middle-earth emerges with an entire history of ancient empires and vaster lands to the west, south and east of the The Hobbit's simple journey. Tolkien drew repeatedly on that book's proven episodic adventure-story model in crafting the larger epic, and one of his basic devices is the journey in the dangerous and pathless wild, alleviated by occasional respites in insular but safe havens.

So we see that most of "the lost kingdom of Arnor", the Ettenmoors, the wide lands south of Rivendell, Hollin, the Brown Lands and banks of Anduin, Emyn Muil, and even Ithilien are all thematic variations on Wilderland. In Tolkien's enlarged concept, Bilbo's comfortable land in the West is no less an island in the Wilderland than the Elf-king's realm in Mirkwood or Beorn's in the Vale of Anduin. Dickerson's closing comments on the unchanging signficance of Wilderland are more accurate than he seems to know.

I think Dickerson missed the irony apparent in his own "Middle-earth studies" analysis of Wilderland, because he was treating his two sources as if they were written as part of a seamless legendarium. Despite Tolkien's craft in extending the world of The Hobbit into an entire continent with a vast past history, the join between the earlier and later work is anything but seamless.

Comments by N.E. Brigand, May 28, 2007

A small geographical note: as Dickerson observes, Treebeard says of the hobbits that “Orcs pursue them down all the leagues of Wilderland”, but then Dickerson adds that this “pursuit ran from the Misty Mountains to the edge of Lothlórien.”  However, Treebeard cannot have meant this: the Fellowship covers the distance from the Misty Mountains to Lórien in one afternoon.  It’s true that some orcs from Moria pursue the Fellowship only that far.  In LotR, Book II, Ch. 6, Haldir says those orcs will not escape from Lórien (though in Tolkien’s notes for the story, he writes that those orcs are “Driven off by Elves” – see The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion, p. 360).  But some Moria orcs, under the direction of orcs from Isengard, pursue the Fellowship down the Anduin to Parth Galen, where Merry and Pippin are captured: "We have come all the way from the Mines to kill, and avenge our folk".  These are the many “leagues of Wilderland” to which Treebeard refers.


Wizards - Michael N. Stanton

Comments by N.E. Brigand, July 19, 2007

Perhaps because there are separate entries on Saruman and Gandalf, this entry doesn’t address how wizards function as literary characters in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but settles for summarizing their imagined history.  The only “external” reference is one citation of Tolkien’s letters, where he acknowledged his wizards’ angelic nature.  The only notable insight here is that all three wizards portrayed in LotR are masters of language.  Otherwise, Stanton’s article reads like an entry from Foster’s Guide, with the addition of material from Unfinished Tales.  However, Foster was at least decent enough to include specific references to Tolkien’s works, while this article’s readers are never directed to the UT chapter on “The Istari”!  (The Hobbit, The Silmarillion and The Peoples of Middle-earth are likewise unmentioned; LotR is cited once.)  So Stanton doesn’t acknowledge that some of his material comes from Tolkien’s private musings, of quite different status than what he passed for publication.

The facts in Stanton’s chronicle are generally accurate, but sorely lacking interpretation, even within a Middle-earth studies approach.  Why did the Valar take a different approach to addressing Middle-earth’s problems in the Third Age?  Why did their plan with the Istari fail, as Tolkien says in his Letters (p. 202)?  Why did they appear as old men?  Why are there five wizards?  Why were the Blue Wizards sent East?  Did the wizards do anything besides study in the two thousand years before Sauron reappeared in Mordor?  (The White Council is not mentioned.)

The See also list is too short; in addition to the missing works mentioned above, add “Animals”; “Colors”; “Magic: Middle-earth”; and “Valar”.


Wolvercote Cemetery – Robert G. Anger

Comments by Jason Fisher, April 18, 2007

In this very short entry, Anger does everything one should expect of him – and a little bit more. The writing is crisp and succinct, indeed the model of “encyclopedic” writing. The only things I could possibly think to add might be a more detailed description of the grave plot itself (e.g., it’s covered in soil and planted with shrubs and flowers, as one can imagine the Tolkiens would have liked); how many fans and admirers make a pilgrimage to the spot, often leaving behind poems and Lord of the Rings memorabilia at the grave; and a mention of where one or two of the other Inklings are buried (e.g., for C.S. Lewis’s and Charles Williams’s final resting places, see Carpenter’s Tolkien 259).

But really, nothing important is omitted here. And I smiled at Anger’s comparison in the final paragraph; a rare and welcome moment in a necessarily somber entry (though Silmarillion should have been in italics).

I am a bit curious about the availability of two of the three items in the Further Reading, specifically Jackson’s Oxford Journal and the Oxford Mail. With a cursory attempt, I failed to locate these, which probably means that most readers would do likewise. Still, they do no harm in the short list. The See Also was also spot-on; the important items are there, the rest are swept aside.


Women in Tolkien’s Works - Carol A. Leibiger

Comments by N.E. Brigand, July 19, 2007

This article is somewhat duplicative of “Gender in Tolkien’s Works”, and its excellent 'Further Reading' list has seven items in common with the other article’s list, and also shares nine references with the bibliography for “Feminist Readings of Tolkien”.  The purpose of the “Gender...” article was to examine Tolkien’s presentation of masculine and feminine roles, while this one surveys Tolkien’s portrayal of female characters, a focus presumably determined by Tolkien’s reputation for scanting women in his works.  (There is no comparable article on “Men in Tolkien’s Works” – the article, “Men: Middle-earth” is about all of humankind.)

Leibiger’s article shares with one or both of these other entries a discussion of: Tolkien’s personal views on gender; the lack of prominent female characters in The Lord of the Rings; Tolkien’s implicit criticism of traditional male roles through the creation of less actively heroic male protagonists; the essentialism of the Valar and Valier and their complementary natures; the superiority of Melian, Lúthien, and Galadriel to their husbands; the active roles played by Lúthien and Éowyn; the passivity of Arwen; and Shelob as both monstrous parody of the feminine and double for Galadriel.

Here is how Leibiger’s entry differs from the “competition”: she specifies medieval romances as a source for Tolkien’s portrayal of women (and she cross-references the article on romances – her See also list is good).  The roles of Varda and Yavanna are examined in more detail here, and both are contrasted with Ungoliant.  Arwen’s role is contextualized with notes on her late appearance in the writing process and some sound remarks on her position as one of the fading, retreating elves.  And more of Galadriel’s imagined history is traced to show her active role over a longer period, with comments on her portrayal from several critics, though two of Leibiger’s citations here (“Campbell” and “Kotowski”) are missing from her 'Further Reading' list.

One of Leibiger’s sources calls for some response.  Leibiger quotes Daniel Craig in “'Queer Lodgings'” as saying of Galadriel’s testing of the Fellowship, “…it is hard to imagine Tolkien using a male character in this way.  It is therefore a gendered moment.”  Is that true?  Aragorn tests the hobbits in Bree, and Denethor seemingly attempts to daunt others with his gaze.  At the least, this article and the one on “Galadriel” should, but do not, refer to the entry on “Gaze”.

It’s nice that Leibiger goes beyond The Lord of the Rings to address Varda, Yavanna, Ungoliant, Melian, and Lúthien.  She passingly refers to the active nature of “most of the female characters in The Silmarillion”, but it’s too bad she didn’t specifically address such characters as Morwen, Niënor, Erendis, Míriel, and Andreth. 

The ending of this article is weak, stopping but not concluding.

Comments by squire, July 19, 2007

I think N. E. Brigand's last point is very important. Leibiger spends too much time on the deific or demonic characters who are female, and not enough on those characters in Tolkien's works who are women. The emphasis on the former practically compels the overlap with the subjects of "gender" and "feminism" that he criticizes, because they are not individual women (as written) but female archetypes.

Lúthien, Galadriel and Éowyn, of course, cannot be ignored on any level and Leibiger certainly does not do so, though she scants Galadriel's raw will to power. But as N.E.B. says, The Silmarillion's Morwen, Niënor, Erendis, Míriel, and Andreth are ignored -- yet some of them practically rate an article of their own, for depth of portrayal and amount of dialog alone. Additional 'Tolkien women' of less fully realized but still distinctive character, who do not really deserve Leibiger's dismissal as typical "chaste medieval ladies of courtly romance", include Goldberry, Ioreth, Haleth, Lobelia (one of an array of hobbit matriarchs), Aredhel, Tar-Ancalimë, and even the rapacious but unnamed daughter of Larnach from the fully told tale of Túrin. And within the context of this article, I would even have hoped for a little more analysis of the phenomenon of the "damsels", like Arwen, Idril, Rían, Míriel (the first one) and Indis, Melian, Elwing, Nellas, Rosie Cotton, Mrs. Maggot, Finduilas (both of them), Nimrodel and Celebrian.

Leibiger's 'Further Reading' list may well overlap the other articles from the same field of study, but it (and the excellent system of citations within the article) is still an admirable example of the standard of reference that readers of this Encyclopedia deserved throughout.


World War I - John Garth

Comments by squire, March 2, 2007

John Garth is, of course, the single most distinguished scholar of Tolkien's life and art in relation to the Great War, here called World War I. As such it is not unexpected for him to recapitulate his seminal book in this article. Garth follows a simple organization: what Tolkien did in the war, followed by what he wrote during the war, and finally how the war affected what he wrote late on.

Without finding a single word out of place on factual grounds, I wonder if the chronological stuff could not have been cut back in favor of more detailed and specific analysis of the impact of the war on his writing. As well, a little more historical background of the war's effect on British society, and even on the academy that Tolkien returned to in 1918, might have rounded out a reader's understanding of just how cataclysmic this era was. This is especially true if the double inclusion of "World War I" under the thematic headings "Tolkien's Life" and "Tolkien's Contemporary History and Culture" was the intent of the editors.

Garth ingenuously but correctly credits his own 2003 book with "laying the ground" for more scholarship on the War and Tolkien. I can't remember the respective publication dates well enough to guess whether the recent "Tolkien/Great War" studies by Janet Croft, Mark Hooker and Anna Smol (at least) should have made it into Garth's 'Further Reading' list.


World War II - Jared Lobdell

Comments by squire, March 2, 2007

What a disgrace to the encyclopedist's craft this is. To devote almost half this article to a meaningless war chronology baldly lifted from the internet is a total waste of the reader's time, only compounded by the arrogant assertion that we nevertheless must know the course of the war in detail after July 1943! It's as if even the effort of copying and pasting became overwhelming, or perhaps Lobdell realized too late that a complete account to 1945 would really leave no room for... for.... oh yes, Tolkien.

Tolkien is finally mentioned. Such interest as may be found is entirely biographical or political, that is, taken from Carpenter, the Family Album, and Letters. It may seem to the stunned reader, after wading through copious excerpts from the Letters with minimal context or organization by Lobdell, that perhaps forgoing the war's "well-known" events from 1943 to 1945 was no bargain. But If  Tolkien's letters are to be quoted from, his sympathetic meditation to Christopher on the horrors of war service and his fatherly advice to turn from revulsion to art should not have been left out.

What is missing is what I for one expected from the first: an organized and thoughtful consideration of the impact of the Second World War on Tolkien's professional and artistic career. The History of Middle-earth's account of the writing of The Lord of the Rings, and Tolkien's letters from this period on, make it clear that if the War of the Ring is not exactly an allegory for WW II, still those most terrible years had a dire impact on Tolkien's spirits. Arguably the war contributed to the mordant tones in both his masterpiece and in the revisions he made to the Silmarillion in the postwar years.

This approach and argument seems never to have occurred to Lobdell at all, who chose instead to wander with the US Army into "bauxite-rich Dutch Guiana".


Wyke-Smith, A.E. and The Marvelous Land of Snergs - Bradford Lee Eden

Comments by N.E. Brigand, July 19, 2007

Wyke-Smith’s 1927 children’s novel, The Marvellous Land of Snergs, was acknowledged by Tolkien as a source for The Hobbit.  Eden implies that Tolkien’s only reference to Snergs is in notes for “On Fairy-Stories”, but Tolkien mentions the work’s influence in Letters (p. 215).  Eden also fails in most respects to show that the works are alike.  Are the stories similar?  Eden provides no description of the plot of Snergs.  He says the books’ styles are similar, but with no explanation.  The eponymous Snergs, claims Eden, are like Hobbits in their “general culture and physical features”.  Again, no details on either count, not even a note that both peoples are short.  The land of the Snergs is said to be like Middle-earth because “it is somewhere in our current world but set apart and difficult to get to” -- which is not true of Middle-earth.  Eden closes by noting George Morrow’s Snergs illustrations, which he calls “unique” – how so?  Apparently they aid “in the subcreational realism of the story”, as do Tolkien’s illustrated works. Why then no are there no See also references to "Mr. Bliss" or "Roverandom", or for that matter to "The Hobbit", "Children’s Literature", "Art and Illustrations", or any other entry?

I’ve never read Snergs or Douglas Anderson’s introduction to its 1996 reissue, which Eden cites.  The other two items on Eden’s 'Further Reading' list are online reviews by David Bratman and J. Michael Williams, and Eden leans heavily on the latter.  For example, Williams writes, “The Marvelous Land of Snergs has elements in common with Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan”; which Eden renders as “Snergs, which has elements of Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan in it…”.  Williams is also the source of Eden’s error concerning “On Fairy-Stories”.