127 years ago today, January 3, 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien came into the world in Bloemfontein, South Africa. After the death of his father in 1896, his mother, Mabel, decided to return to England with ‘Ronald,’ just three years old at the time, and his younger brother, Hilary. While it’s possible, even likely, that the family would have returned to England eventually, the loss of his father at such a young age, the move back to England, and the loss of his mother less than ten years later, propelled Ronald on an adventure that would take him ‘West of the Moon, East of the Sun.’
Tolkien’s adventures included meeting and eventually marrying the love of his life, Edith; fighting in World War I; attending and later teaching at Oxford; meeting, collaborating (and having a few pints) with his fellow Inklings, including C.S. Lewis; and, of course, creating and writing about the beloved realm of Middle-earth.
Today is a day for all of us to celebrate the life of a great man, and our love of the world and characters he created. As is the tradition every year, the Tolkien Society invites his fans to raise a glass (alcoholic or not, alone or with friends), to “The Professor.” Alternatively, you may want to celebrate by pulling something off of your shelf of Tolkien’s works (we all have one), opening it to a favorite passage (or two), and smiling in remembrance.
However you choose to celebrate, let’s all wish a happy birthday to J.R.R. Tolkien and the amazing, awe-inspiring legacies he left us.
Just a reminder that the incredible Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth exhibition is still on at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. You have until October 28th to see this astonishing collection of manuscripts and artefacts from Tolkien’s work and life. American fans will then have the opportunity to see most of the exhibition, together with some new additions, at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York, from January 2019; and from October 2019 to February 2020, an even bigger collection (which will include some of this current display) will be on show at the Bibliotheque nationale de France. (This will be the first time that the French national library has ever curated an exhibition about a non-French author, and will include items from their own collection, setting Tolkien’s works in the wider context of fantasy literature.)
Earlier this summer, TORn staffer greendragon had the opportunity to sit down with the Bodleian’s Tolkien archivist, Catherine McIlwaine, to find out some more about the behind-the-scenes work which went into creating this exhibition. McIlwaine was already a big fan of Middle-earth herself, so it has been the perfect job for her; as she put it herself, she was in the right place at the right time! Originally hired to create a detailed catalogue of the library’s Tolkien collection – a job which she thought would last for a couple of years – McIlwaine never expected to find herself, fifteen years later, curating such an extensive exposition of the Professor’s life and work.
The Bodleian owns a very large collection of material relating to J.R.R. Tolkien, totaling approximately 500 boxes of manuscript items! Much was donated by the Tolkien family in 1979; though manuscripts for The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and Farmer Giles of Ham had been sold to Marquette University by Tolkien himself in the late 1950s, the rest of his manuscripts, academic and personal papers reside with the Bodleian. The current display features over 200 items, roughly half of which have never been seen by the public before; fascinating doodles on the back of completed crossword puzzles, and scribblings such as the opening lines of Beowulf written in tengwar, are amongst the treasures.
Staffer greendragon with exhibition curator Catherine McIlwaine (left)
Marquette University have been very supportive of the exposition, and have allowed many items from their collection to be included; McIlwaine said that the highlight of planning the exhibition, for her, was the opportunity to travel to Milwaukee twice, and to get to know the staff at Marquette. The ‘Maker of Middle-earth’ show sees some of Tolkien’s manuscripts and original art works being reunited for the first time since the 1950s!
Also featured in the current display are Tolkien’s own writing desk, chair, and some of his pipes, exclusively loaned by the Tolkien family, who have been very supportive of the endeavour. Christopher, Tolkien’s son and the editor of many of his works, was unfortunately not able to travel to visit the show, but his wife attended, and was delighted by it.
This enormous exposition (which still only reveals about three-quarters of the Bodleian’s current Tolkien archive – which is still growing!) was five years in the planning, with 18 months of full-time work in the run up to opening. The release of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies was the chief impetus, prompting the Bodleian to think that the time was ripe for such a showing; and the Tolkien Trust were eager to support it, to give something back to the fans. (Tickets to the exhibition are free!) Much of the content on display is usually only available to researchers – and access is closely restricted. Here, fans have the opportunity (in many cases, for the first time) to peer closely at Tolkien’s tengwar scrawl on an academic paper; and to gain an insight, through personal letters, into his family relationships.
For me (greendragon), highlights of the exhibition included Tolkien’s letters from his mother. I had no idea that she had taught him his beautiful calligraphy – I always assumed it was something he dreamed up himself. When you see the letters from his mother, however, it is very clear whence that unique script originated. Another family touch I loved were the sketches Tolkien created for his son Michael, to help him deal with nightmares. There was a recurring ‘monster’ which tormented Michael, and following his description, his father drew the beast – now named ‘Owlamoo’ – to help Michael confront and defeat his fears. I love the rather cross-looking owl-creature; and this display of fatherly affection is very touching.
Throughout the run of the exhibition, there have been various lectures and events in Oxford. A self-guided walking tour of ‘Tolkien’s Oxford‘ has been very popular, and many of the evening lectures have been sold out. Some exhibition tickets, however, have deliberately been held back for each day, so that there are always some available.
For anyone who can’t make it over to Oxford, I heartily recommend the exhibition catalogue. It is the biggest catalogue the Bodleian has ever produced, and it even includes archival items not seen in the display! As the exhibition website states, the book ‘brings together the largest collection of original Tolkien material ever assembled in a single volume. Drawing on the archives of the Tolkien collections at the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, and Marquette University, Milwaukee, as well as private collections, this exquisitely produced catalogue draws together the worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien – scholarly, literary, creative and domestic – offering a rich and detailed understanding and appreciation of this extraordinary author.’ Worth every penny; visit the exhibition shop to see some of the other goodies on offer.
J.R.R. Tolkien and Edith Bratt, soon to be Tolkien
Tolkien fandom finds itself with an embarrassment of riches in 2018. The Tolkien Biopic has wrapped principal photography and is currently in post-production. There will be a new book out featuring Gondolin, edited by Christopher Tolkien. The most recent update about the Amazon Studios’ TV series is now confirmed to be a 5 season commitment. And then word starts to filter through that there are current negotiations for an actual Middle-earth Theme Park.(more…)
When Amazon Studios first announced their big production deal last November for a Lord of the Rings television series, there was just one thing missing, a big name attached to the project. There was no Producer, Showrunner or even a Writer or team of Writers to indicate the direction these stories might take and give confidence to fans that Middle-earth would be in good hands.
It has been confirmed that the Guillermo Del Toro has signed on with Amazon Studios, in conjunction with his Tequila Gang production company, to Executive Produce and write this iteration of Middle-earth. He brings with him his co-writer, Chuck Hogan from The Strain. Del Toro’s long time manager, Gary Ungar says that they have already begun identifying and sifting through possible stories that exist within the Appendices, separating out those that are more fleshed out in other Tolkien properties. Because the deal with the Tolkien Estate and Trust is still in flux, they are currently only looking at storylines they know won’t be a legal issue so they can get down to writing.
During that time waiting for The Hobbit project to finally get going, Guillermo Del Toro spent nearly two years breaking down The Hobbit and working with pre-production designs for the story he was helping to craft. His visual style and ability to create wild and very unique looks was one of the reasons fans came to really anticipate Del Toro’s take on Middle-earth. We wanted to see what he would do with the Elves and Dwarves and even Men, and we especially wanted to see what he would have come up with for all the monsters. When he finally had to leave the project because it was dragging on too long waiting for a green light, fans felt a sense of loss and mourned The Hobbit that could have been.
This is why Del Toro is perfect for this project. He already has a deep knowledge of the source material, including what can and can not be included legally, and he’s got designs that never got the see the light of day. Because Peter Jackson and WETA are not going to be involved in the Amazon Studios production, there is little reason to maintain strict adherence to the design motifs put in place for the various races. The only design features required are within Tolkien’s books, and beyond that, Del Toro will get to finally let loose with his own, distinct look and feel with very little constraint. What will his Numenor look like? Will we see a Northern Kingdom or meet a young Aragorn, as Thorongil, as he journey’s about Middle-earth learning the skills he will later need to become King?
Amazon has already announced that it will be developing a Lord of the Rings series set before the events of the original films. The company reportedly spent $250 million to acquire the rights alone and, according to that same report, marketing and productions costs for two seasons could raise the investment to $500 million. It is still unclear if these stories will be told in a series of anthology like episodes or story arcs, or if there will be a much wider, more epic scope to the narrative.
Amazon Studios will produce the series in cooperation with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, book publishers HarperCollins, and New Line Cinema.
Many of you will know that Royd Tolkien, great-grandson of the Professor, is currently in New Zealand. He’s completing a ‘bucket list’ of activities left for him by his brother, Mike, who sadly died from ALS (also known as MND) in 2015. Mike was an adrenaline junkie; Royd, by his own admission, is most definitely not. His brother’s list, therefore, is a challenge for Royd, and will see him facing fears and undertaking all kinds of adventures on his mission – quest – thing…
All Royd’s exploits are being filmed for a documentary, There’s a Hole in my Bucket. You can find out more about it in this video: [click here]. Royd says, “It is a journey of discovery and inspiration,” intended “to remind people how precious and important life is and to make every second count.”
Those of you lucky enough to be in Wellington next week can join Royd on Wednesday, 12 April, at the Roxy Cinema in Miramar. At ‘An Evening with Royd Tolkien‘, you’ll hear him talk about his experiences completing his fifty
Auction item: full orc head prosthetic made by Weta Workshop
challenges (which should mostly be done by next week). You will also have the chance to bid in a fabulous auction, with none other than Jed Brophy as the star auctioneer! Today, Royd announced that one of the amazing items up for grabs is a genuine Weta Workshop full Orc Head prosthetic, made for one of Royd’s challenges (see left). What an amazing addition that would make to any Middle-earth collection! Other auction items include a Gandalf statue signed by Peter Jackson himself, and pieces signed by Richard Taylor.
And the good news is – even if you aren’t in New Zealand, you can still participate in the auction! If you check out the Facebook event page [here] you’ll find an email address for Jodie, the event coordinator. To place an absentee bid on any of the auction items, we’re told you can simply send Jodie an email, and she’ll send you the Absentee Bidding Form, which lists all the auction items, reserve prices, and any the information you may need. If you’re an avid Tolkien collector, an art fan, a wine connoisseur, a foodie, or even a keen sailor, you’ll find something to please on the incredible list of auction items. Check out the event page, contact Jodie, and grab yourself an extraordinary treasure!
The event is a fundraiser for MND New Zealand. Details on how to buy tickets to attend are on the event page. If you’d like to know more about MND New Zealand, or support them, click here.
Be sure to let us know if you attend the event – we’d love to hear all about it!
Adding to the list of rich foreigners who are buying land in New Zealand is singing sensation Justin Bieber. Fresh off a tour of NZ, during which he tweeted his love for the place, the ultimate Bielieber has entered negotiations to buy a substantial tract of land at Glenorchy, near Queenstown. The property includes various film sites from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, and is where many Lothlorien scenes were shot.
“What the world doesn’t know is that Justin is a massive Lord of the Rings fan – but the movies only, not really the books which he’s never read,” says a source close to the singer. “Although he knows about Tom Bombadil, he thinks he’s hilarious. He’s seen some Bombadil fan videos online and he wants to create his own, but using these woods that appeared in the films.
“His plans are to build a replica of the horse-people hall and hold big Middle-earth parties exclusively for his friends – but he’ll likely want some local ring-ins as character props, so anyone who looks really hobbity will have a good shot at being invited.”
Bieber spent a few days in Queenstown after his concert in Auckland before jetting off to South America to continue his Purpose World Tour. The source added: “I can say for a fact that he was overheard having several phone conversations with a “PJ.” Whether that was ‘the’ Peter Jackson, I can’t really say. I just know the conversations definitely mentioned Bombadil, something called the Sil-merryland, and roles of interest to JayBee.”
Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien will recognize that the ‘Sil-merryland’ almost certainly refers to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, an epic compilation of stories recounting, in part, the struggle of the peoples of Middle-earth against the dark lord Morgoth. “Getting the film rights was apparently going to be a major hurdle” said the source. “‘Impossible’ and ‘a real long shot’ were overheard quite often.” But apparently Justin hopes to use his considerable influence to sweet-talk some of the members of the Tolkien family and Tolkien Estate who are huge fans, and devoted Bieliebers, to release at least limited rights to some of the Silmarillion stories.
Regarding possible roles for Bieber, one can only guess. Given that his physique doesn’t lend itself to playing the rotund Tom Bombadil, and Bombadil doesn’t appear in The Silmarillion anyway, fans can only speculate that it would have to refer to some other major role. Given Justin’s rather elfin features, the roles of the heroic Fingolfin, or even the proud Feanor come to mind. The mention of “growing acceptance of gender neutrality trends” was reportedly also overheard by our source, so the roles of Luthien or Melian can’t be ruled out completely.
Meanwhile, if the Queenstown land purchase goes ahead, the Mayor of Queenstown Lakes District has promised to name Bieber as an official inhabitant of Middle-earth. “I’m sure I can get Peter Jackson down here to dub him with a replica of Anduril – the guy owes me a favour for having to muck up all the horse poo he left behind after filming the charge of the Rohirrim,” says the Mayor.
Christopher Tolkien, known to all fans and scholars of his father, J.R.R. Tolkien as the devoted son who brought many of his father’s previously unpublished works to light, is to become a recipient of the 2017 Bodley Medal. The award, which includes past laureates David Attenborough and Stephen Hawking, honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the worlds of communication and literature.
Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian, said: “Christopher Tolkien’s contribution as a scholar and editor has been immense. Without his dedication and commitment, his father’s works would not have reached such a broad public audience and without his erudition and scholarship J R R Tolkien’s work would not have been presented so fully and with such authority.”
Christopher Tolkien said: “Although I have never looked for anything remotely of such a kind, I find it especially welcome to receive the Bodley Medal in that it affirms the unique significance of my father’s creation and accords a worthy place in the Republic of Letters to Tolkien scholarship. It gives me particular pleasure that the award comes from and is conceived by the Bodleian, where a great part of my father’s manuscripts lie and where I have happy memories of the great library itself.”
According to the Bookseller article, The Bodleian is planning a major Tolkien exhibition for 2018; something to put on all of our calendars!
TheOneRing.net wishes to congratulate Christopher on this well-deserved award, and express our thanks for the many hours, days and years of painstaking attention and care dedicated to furthering our enjoyment of his and his father’s works.
The Haywood Society’s touring exhibition, ‘J.R.R. Tolkien – Soldier recruitment and Myth Maker’ launches at the Museum of Cannock Chase in Staffordshire, UK, March 7th to April 24th.
This fascinating exhibition focuses on Tolkien’s time in Staffordshire during the First World War. It will include ‘Original artwork, of domestic scenes and landscapes, which has not returned to Staffordshire since it left with Tolkien in 1918 … [as well as] photographs specially loaned by The Tolkien Estate and Bodleian Library.’
‘During the Great War Second Lieutenant J. R. R. Tolkien of the Lancashire Fusiliers was stationed in Staffordshire, first at Whittington Heath, near Lichfield, next at a musketry camp at Newcastle-under-Lyme, then at Rugeley and Brocton Camps on Cannock Chase. After his marriage in March 1916 Tolkien’s wife came to live in Great Haywood so that she could be close to him. Tolkien regularly visited Edith in the village until he was posted to France in June 1916.
Tolkien returned to Great Haywood in early December 1916 to recover from his traumatic experiences at the Somme. He lived with Edith in a cottage there until late February 1917 and during this time created his first mythological stories, in part inspired by Staffordshire landscapes and experiences.
After a brief posting to East Yorkshire, Tolkien returned to Staffordshire in 1918 and lived in a cottage at Gipsy Green, Teddesley Park, near Penkridge, where other important work was undertaken.’
How time flies! Exactly a year ago today, February 21st 2015, many of us gathered in Hollywood for The One Last Party. Fans and TheOneRing.net staffers were joined by movie cast and crew members, brought together by a love of Tolkien and of Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth trilogies. Many more fans around the world tuned in to watch TORn’s live stream coverage, led by staffers Quickbeam and Justin. Bruce Hopkins (Gamling) acted as MC for the night, PJ himself sent a special video greeting, and the Professor’s great-grandson Royd Tolkien came all the way from Britain for the celebration. Partygoers danced the night away to the music of Emerald Rose and William Kircher’s group The California Dreamers. It was indeed a night to remember!
Staffer Mithril posted recently about the beautiful Red Book she made, containing the names of all who contributed to the crowdfunding campaign to make The One Last Party happen; this lovely book was sent to Sir Peter as a ‘thank you’ from all of us to whom his movies have meant so much. In another look back to that wonderful night a year ago, here are just a few moments captured from that night, and put together by film maker and TORn friend Dan McBride. Let’s reminisce – and hope that it isn’t really the last such event. We may yet have an excuse, one day, for an unexpected party…
You know what Bilbo had to say about adventures: ‘Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!’ But Professor Tolkien’s own great-grandson, Royd Tolkien, is ignoring all that Bilbo had to say and taking the plunge into a significant adventure of his own!
Royd very sadly lost his younger brother, Mike, earlier this year. Mike had ALS, also known as Motor Neurone Disease, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Royd had to watch his active, thrill-seeking brother succumb to a terrible disease, for which there is currently no cure.
But Mike left Royd a legacy – a ‘bucket list’ of fifty challenges for the much more Bilbo-like (ie less thrill-seeking, more cake-and-tea-enjoying!) older brother Royd to undertake. And Royd is going to fulfil that list, with the help of none other than actor Jed Brophy, surrounded by the beautiful scenery of Middle-earth – by which I mean, of course, New Zealand.
This is a remarkable quest, and one which you will be able to see – because Royd is going to make a film of his adventures! Read more about the amazing journey the Professor’s great-grandson has ahead of him at Royd’s website, here. You can also get involved, support Royd on his odyssey, and maybe grab yourself a pretty amazing perk with some Middle-earth cast or crew (including Richard Taylor and folks at Weta!) – learn more here.
It’s a dangerous business, going out your front door – especially when you have no idea what challenges your little brother has left, to test, stretch and possibly humiliate you! Here at TORn we wish Royd every success, and joyful travels; and we honour the memory of Mike, of TORn’s friend Mel, who also sailed into the West far too early, and to all who battle ALS.
As you know, last week a select group of fans in London were treated to a screening of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition. Some pretty special guests were in attendance – we hope many of you were able to watch via the live stream!
The organisers behind the event have sent us along this report:
“On Saturday, 7th November 2015, a number of the world’s biggest and most passionate fans of TheHobbitfilm trilogy assembled in London for a very special screening event, where they were joined by a host of special guests, to celebrate the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Extended Edition on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital release, and to commemorate the one-year anniversary of last year’s incredible The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest competition. The Warner Bros. Home Entertainment release is the final film in the globally popular The Hobbit Trilogy, a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures.
Kyle Pedley of (A)musings Media, who was among the UK-based winners of the global fan competition, organised and hosted the event along with fellow members of The Hobbit Fan Fellowship, with help from Warner Bros. Pictures UK and Tourism New Zealand. International winners flew in from all over the globe – from as far afield as the United States, Mexico and Eastern Europe – to take part in an evening full of surprises and special appearances.
Guests were not only treated to an exclusive UK screening of the Extended Edition of The Hobbit Trilogy’s epic conclusion at Warner Bros. Pictures’ own private screening theatre ahead of its home entertainment release, but were also treated to surprises including a video message from director Sir Peter Jackson all the way from New Zealand, and a Q&A session with a panel of distinguished guests.
These included Royd Tolkien, great-grandson of author J.R.R. Tolkien and long-time advocate and supporter of the film adaptations (who made a cameo appearance in 2003’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), and writer / broadcaster Brian Sibley, who has long been involved in the community celebrating the author’s legacy, having been jointly responsible for the acclaimed 1981 BBC Radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings and penning a number of official behind-the-scenes books and guides for both of Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth trilogies. Finally, to the excitement and disbelief of fans – met with an uproarious standing ovation – came the surprise appearance of film, theatre and television icon Sir Ian McKellen, known and beloved around the world for his defining portrayal of the Wizard Gandalf in Jackson’s Middle-earth and the only principle cast member to appear in all six films across both celebrated film trilogies.
Other special guests in attendance included a contingent of Middle-earth ‘cosplayers’ – The Galactic Knights, who showcased some of their terrific Hobbit- and Rings-inspired costumes and replicas; Chairman of The Tolkien Society, Shaun Gunner; and Rachel Sprackett of Tourism New Zealand.
Kyle Pedley, The Hobbit Fan Fellowship member and host of the event, said:
“This was an incredible, unprecedented celebration of the impact both these films and also last year’s incredible competition have had on people from all corners of the globe. To have such a dedicated group of fans, who last year formed their own genuine fellowship over the course of a magical week in New Zealand, reunite for this special occasion was just an absolute joy to behold and be part of. To be joined by the likes of Royd Tolkien, Brian Sibley and Sir Ian McKellen, and have such a fantastic personal video message from Sir Peter Jackson over in New Zealand, was an absolute thrill and honour. The guests were not aware or expecting any of it, and their reactions to not only the surprises, but also getting to see one another again, were a moving reminder of how indelible and genuine the bonds of fellowship formed in New Zealand really were.”
The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest was an international search conducted in 2014 by Tourism New Zealand, Air New Zealand and Warner Bros. to find 75 of the world’s biggest Hobbit fans. Over 140,000 people registered for the competition, and over a two month period were required to complete a series of tasks and challenges, including testing their knowledge of New Zealand as the cinematic Middle-earth, designing a postcard for Peter Jackson, and also producing their own two-minute videos detailing their favourite memories of Middle-earth and demonstrating why they were the biggest fans of the franchise.
The winners and their +1s were then flown to New Zealand for an incredible, all-expenses paid trip which spanned both Islands and included visits to the actual filming locations from the movies, a special tour of the Hobbiton Set itself in Matamata, a special Maori Cultural welcome ceremony and Hangi Banquet, a visit to Weta Workshop where all of the creatures, costumes, weapons and special effects of the Middle Earth films were made, and finally a private screening of the final film, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, in the company of Peter Jackson himself, over a month before its theatrical release.”
An important, and frankly amazing Tolkien document has emerged, recently discovered loose in a copy of The Lord of the Rings once owned by illustrator Pauline Baynes.
The Guardian reports that Baynes removed the map from a previous version of the novel as she was working on a then new color map for a new edition that was published in 1970.
The map then had “copious” notes made by J.R.R. Tolkien in green ink and pencil. Baynes then made her own notes on the map. It is essentially a map annotated by Tolkien himself.
Blackwell’s, which is currently exhibiting the map in Oxford and selling it for £60,000, called it “an important document, and perhaps the finest piece of Tolkien ephemera to emerge in the last 20 years at least”.
Corner of Blackwell’s Tolkien map
According to Blackwell’s, it displays “the exacting nature” of the author and his creative process. He fixes names, gives additional names and reveals details such as Hobbiton “is assumed to be approx at latitude of Oxford,” where Tolkien was, of course, a professor.
Blackwell’s also claims that Tolkien wrote “the city of Ravenna is the inspiration behind Minas Tirith – a key location in the third book of the Lord of The Rings trilogy.” There are other real-world references as well.
“Before going on display in the shop this week, this had only ever been in private hands (Pauline Baynes’s for the majority of its existence). One of the points of interest is how much of a hand Tolkien had in the poster map; all of his suggestions, and there are many (the majority of the annotation on the map is his), are reflected in Baynes’s version,” said Henry Gott, a rare books expert at Blackwell’s.
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