The Haggerty Museum of Art and Raynor Memorial Libraries at Marquette University will be presenting a a lecture series in September in conjunction with the collaborative exhibition “J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript.

The exhibition — which opens on August 19 — will feature original manuscripts created by J.R.R. Tolkien for his The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and other works. It will consider Tolkien’s work through the lens of manuscripts, in terms of both the materials that he studied as a medieval philologist and the manuscripts that he created while developing his legendarium.

All lectures will be held at the Haggerty Museum of Art and are free to attend. They will also be streamed online for audiences who wish to attend virtually (great for people not in the USA!). The museum states that — due to limited capacity — reservations are required. You can reserve a place to attend the lectures here.

Thursday, Sept. 22, 5 p.m.: “Editing the Tolkienian Manuscript,” presented by Carl Hostetter

Carl Hostetter is a computer scientist at NASA who has earned a reputation as one of the leading experts on J.R.R. Tolkien’s invented languages. He is a key member of the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship, an elite group of four Tolkien scholars whom the Tolkien Estate has entrusted with special access to the author’s unpublished linguistic manuscripts. These linguists have published extensively on Tolkien’s invented languages, including in “Vinyar Tengwar,” a peer-reviewed journal that Hostetter edits.

Hostetter is one of the most experienced students of Tolkien’s manuscripts. His ability to read and interpret Tolkien’s notoriously difficult handwriting is second to none. Christopher Tolkien (1924-2020) entrusted Hostetter with editing his father’s last volume of published writings, released in 2021 under the title, “The Nature of Middle-earth.” Hostetter’s work is highly regarded by Tolkien scholars. His volume “Tolkien’s Legendarium”—co-edited with Verlyn Flieger—is considered one of the best collections of essays on the history of Tolkien’s secondary world.

Thursday, Oct. 13, 5 p.m.: “Tolkien’s Faith and the Foundations of Middle-earth,” presented by Holly Ordway

Holly Ordway is a rising star among Tolkien scholars. Her 2021 book “Tolkien’s Modern Reading” is a tour de force destined to become a classic in Tolkien studies. Ordway demonstrated that Tolkien, usually pigeonholed as a medievalist, was remarkably well read in modern literature.

Her work shows how many modern works affected Tolkien’s creative output. Currently on faculty at Houston Baptist University, Ordway has taught English at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and MiraCosta College. She specializes in J.R.R. Tolkien and, more generally, in mythopoeic literature. Ordway’s current research project is a book-length treatment of Tolkien’s Catholicism, fitting for a Catholic, Jesuit university such as Marquette.

Thursday, Nov. 17, 5 p.m.: “Whispering Leaves: How Tolkien’s Manuscripts Reveal the Secrets of His Creativity,” presented by John Garth

Trained as a journalist, John Garth has gained an international reputation as a leading writer about J.R.R. Tolkien and a popular commentator on Tolkien’s works and life. His published works include the recent “The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien” (2020). His earlier masterpiece, “Tolkien and the Great War” (2003), is universally acknowledged as a classic in the field of Tolkien Studies.

Garth, who has made a special study of Tolkien’s manuscripts, will focus his lecture on a manuscript that is part of Marquette’s collection and has never previously been exhibited or published. He will demonstrate his renowned historical research skills by analyzing the manuscript and using it to tease out insights about Tolkien’s experiences during the Second World War.

Tickets for the “J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript” exhibition are on sale now. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $8 for senior citizen and active military (with I.D.). Friends of the Haggerty Museum of Art members, K-12 educators, children aged 17 and under, and Marquette University students, faculty members, and staff members are free with advance reservations and a valid I.D. The exhibition will be open until 8 p.m. on the night of each lecture.

About the Haggerty Museum of Art

The Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University is an innovative nexus of interdisciplinary learning where creativity, intellect and social justice intersect. Located in the heart of the Near West Side, adjacent to downtown Milwaukee, and open daily, the museum is one of the most accessible arts venues in the city.

“The Short Lay of Earendel, Earendillínwë,” Version K, ca. 1949–1953
“The Short Lay of Earendel, Earendillínwë,” Version K, ca. 1949–1953. Raynor Memorial Libraries, Marquette University. Credit: © The Tolkien Estate Limited 2022.

Over on Wraith Land, Thomas Kelley has just published the first part of an extended interview with noted Tolkien artist Jay Johnstone.

Jay’s artwork employs techniques from religious manuscripts, icon and fresco illustrations from the medieval period, and uses a variety of mediums — oils, watercolors, acrylics, egg tempera with gold powder and leaf. Striking detail and traditional techniques give the impression of artwork that could have been produced in the real Middle-earth.

Kelley delves into the goals underpinning Johnstone’s unique approach, and some of the insights into Tolkien’s worksthat Johnstone himself has gained out of it. If the interesection of Tolkien, art, psychology and spirituality is your thing, you’ll find this a very interesting read indeed.

An excerpt:

Johnstone dreams in Tolkien. And through him and his artwork we can perceive anew what it would mean to live in Middle-earth and to create art inside it. While Tolkien himself made “sub-creation” the purview of his own characters, from the creation of the Silmarils by Fëanor to the writing of the Red Book of Westmarch by the hobbits, Johnstone imagines what it would be like to be a painter inside Tolkien’s world, and then paints that world and its history. Reminiscent of the religious medieval icon paintings by Duccio di Buoninsegna and Fra Angelico, Johnstone’s paintings work not just like time portals but dream portals.

Visit Wraith Land to read the feature in full.

Tolkienography: Isildur’s Bane & Iconic Interpretations by Jay Johnstone
Tolkienography: Isildur’s Bane & Iconic Interpretations by Jay Johnstone.

Got Tolkien news? Email us at spymaster@theonering.net.

If you have a Tolkien/Middle-earth inspired poem you’d like to share, then send it to poetry@theonering.net. One poem per person may be submitted each month. Please make sure to proofread your work before sending it in. TheOneRing.net is not responsible for poems posting with spelling or grammatical errors.

Tolkien art meets with the very latest technology! Spiderwebart and Greg Hildebrandt have been in touch to let us know that the painting ‘The Ring of Galadriel’ (1975) is for sale now, as an NFT. (Purchase would also include the original acrylic paint on board.) This is a rare chance to own a unique and famed piece of Middle-earth art, which also inspired George Lucas. Here’s an official statement about the painting:

The Ring of Galadriel was originally created in 1975 by master fantasy painters Greg and Tim Hildebrandt. First appearing in Ballantine Books’ 1976 Tolkien Calendar as the month of May, the design of this painting was based on classic imagery. The Brothers Hildebrandt derived inspiration from great works such as The Madonna, Botticelli’s Angels, along with Maxfield Parrish’s lighting and statuesque figure style. Researching medieval attire, they chose to use long draped sleeves to add a graceful majesty to our heroine. There is also a nod to the great English Academy artists in the rendering of her hair. Galadriel has an attitude of beauty, power, and strength as she is the Elf Queen who possesses one of the greatest powers in Middle Earth.
The purchase of this NFT also entitles the buyer to the original acrylic paint on board 36×36 inches, framed, signed

The Tolkien art of the Brothers Hildebrandt helped establish the genre of fantasy art and made their names world-renowned. After responding to an open call for artists, Tim and Greg Hildebrandt were chosen to create 43 paintings for Ballantine Books’ J.R.R Tolkien calendars over a period of three years in the late ’70s. 

During this same time, a young filmmaker by the name of George Lucas was in need of a striking movie poster to help sell his latest film. He had taken notice of the first two Lord of the Rings calendars and sought the brothers out to create a painting that would help sell it. The brothers created what became one of the most recognizable movie posters in cinematic history for the film Star Wars.

Over the years both Greg and Tim have created several iconic pieces for books and movies including work for companies like Marvel, Lucasarts, and Universal. Now an octogenarian, Greg Hildebrandt still sits at his table each day, busy as ever.

You can find the sale of this amazing piece here.

The wonderful painting by the Brothers Hildebrandt, of Galadriel holding Nenya aloft. The ring shines on her hand with a light of its own. It is night, and the dark blue sky behind her is full of stars - which are echoed in the white flowers around her feet. In front of her stand the dish and ewer which serve as her mirror, on a tree shaped pedestal.
The Ring of Galadriel, by the Brothers Hildebrandt

“A palace with a thousand and one entrances, J.R.R. Tolkien’s world can be explored through a thousand and one doorways … doors and corridors leading into often unexplored aspects of his universe.” – tolkienestate.com

The home page of tolkienestate.com
TolkienEstate.com Home Page

If you’ve never visited the Tolkien Estate website, you’re in for a wonderful treat – one of seemingly endless discovery and learning about everything Tolkien. If you’re one of the lucky ones who have already discovered this gem of a site, it’s time to revisit it!

Continue reading “The Joy of Discovering (or Rediscovering) the Tolkien Estate Website”

As we prepare to hang up our stockings on Christmas Eve, hoping for a visit from a certain gentleman dressed in red, let’s take a closer look at a wonderful, festive book for Tolkien fans of all ages.

The October 2020 edition from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The October 2020 edition from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Released in time for the 2020 holiday season, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has followed the path of its British cousin Harper Collins in publishing a striking new edition of the Letters from Father Christmas. Hitting the American market in late October, this oversized hardback beauty boasts 208 pages of colorful Christmas chronicles first designed to enchant Tolkien’s growing family with seasonal tales from the North Pole. This is the first three-digit milestone for the Tolkien corpus: as a “Centenary Edition”, the publication date marks the 100th anniversary of the first letter from Father Christmas reaching three-year old John Frances Reuel Tolkien in December 1920. These letters would continue over the next 23 years, welcoming Michael, Christopher, and Priscilla into the society of Father Christmas, the Great (Polar) Bear and his two sidekick nephews, Paksu and Valkotukka, and an elvish secretary, as they cope with everything from goblins to general clumsiness.

This latest (and more affordable) edition, like the slipcase “Deluxe Edition” published in 2019 by Harper Collins, contains transcriptions and facsimile pictures of the entire collection of “F.C.” letters, along with their assorted envelopes and stamps so characteristic of Tolkien’s meticulous attention to detail. It also includes an introduction from the book’s editor and Tolkien’s daughter-in-law, Baillie Tolkien, who married Christopher in 1967. Also included is a personal note from the Professor himself, reproduced for the first time.

Letters from Father Christmas, Deluxe Slipcase Edition, published by Harper Collins in October 2019 at an appropriately deluxe price point.
Letters from Father Christmas, Deluxe Slipcase Edition, published by Harper Collins in October 2019 at an appropriately deluxe price point.

Tolkien likely began these letters as a whimsical family flourish, designed to make Christmastime a bit more magical for his children. But as with most of his projects, the tale grew in the telling.  The letters began with a simple note of less than 100 words to his firstborn, accompanied by an iconic Father Christmas “self-portrait” and picture of his house.

Father Christmas assures young John Tolkien that all is well at the North Pole
Father Christmas assures young John Tolkien that all is well at the North Pole

Over the years, these evolved into occasional notes to each of his children, much lengthier epistles, occasional poetry, a more extensive cast of recurring characters, and assorted annual calamities to be overcome: from a plumbing disaster, to a broken North Pole, to reindeer on the loose, to an unexpected visit from the Man in the Moon. Occasionally, there is even a faint early echo from Middle-earth, with the appearance of elven aid “Ilbereth”, a single vowel away from his more famous star-kindling forebear; extensive new languages and calligraphy for multiple races, and a great (polar) bear fighting off goblin hordes in ways that would make Beorn proud.

The Great Polar Bear defends the realm Beorn style
The Great Polar Bear defends the realm Beorn style

The art of The Father Christmas Letters proves to be the most engaging element of the books, including meticulous hand drawn stamps and envelope decorations, spidery handwriting in Tolkien’s favorite black and red mix (nearly illegible in some cases), and above all the host of water color illustrations that surely captivated the imagination and speculation of Ronald and Edith’s young family, even as they continue to do for us (especially for any who have had a chance to see some of the originals under glass at recent exhibitions in Oxford, New York, or Paris).

This combination of text and illustration is a likely contributor to the Letters’ complicated publishing history. They first appeared three years after Tolkien’s death with a greatly abridged 1976 edition that focuses on pictures (not always reproduced in their complete form), partial texts, and only token reproductions of the original and elaborate written and decorated letters.

The first edition, and third posthumously published Tolkien work, clocks in at only 44 pages, 1976
The first edition, and third posthumously published Tolkien work, clocks in at only 44 pages, 1976

Even in this premier edition, there are hints from Baillee Tolkien that we were only getting a sampling of a richer treasure. Further editions followed, largely keeping to a similarly abridged approach.

It was not until 1993 that Tolkien scholars began to appreciate the full extent and complexity of what was still missing from the Father Christmas saga; and inquiring minds wanted to know more.

The first response was a delightful new edition published by Houghton Mifflin in 1995, introducing a novel approach: ten letters enclosed in actual envelopes, sprinkled with recaps and illustration highlights. While still not exhaustive, this latest installment began to recreate some of the delight of actually receiving and opening these annual updates. The book also included three previously unpublished pictures.

Father Christmas starts mailing it in, 1995; a new title approach, too!

Finally, in 1999, we received a new “revised and enlarged” version, with the complete set of more than 30 letters and all of Tolkien’s pictures, some with a lesser quality color reproduction. For the truly deep-pocketed, there was also an opportunity to add to their Easton Press library of well-bound leather books. These were particularly fine editions for those who love distractingly enlarged details as page decorations.

Now that the complete set of letters was finally available to the public, we could enter the era of anniversary editions. The first on the scene came after five more years, in 2004, with fewer pages and illustrations, but at least fewer marginal distractions. The 2009 edition – or 10th anniversary of the complete set – proved that the 1999 version was only mostly complete, adding several omitted pages from letters in 1937 and 1941. An updated version of the same edition in 2012 provided 39 new images covering all but a few pages of the actual letters, and much improved reproductions.

For the truly dedicated enthusiast, the upgraded Collector’s Edition of the Bodleian’s exhibit catalogue, Tolkien, Maker of Middle-earth, includes a facsimile version of the Christmas 1936 letter and its accompanying explanatory picture.

For the truly dedicated enthusiast, the upgraded Collector’s Edition of the Bodleian’s exhibit catalogue, Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth includes a facsimile version of the Christmas 1936 letter and its accompanying explanatory picture.

Tolkien’s family tradition ended on a bittersweet note in a 1943 letter (“a grim year”) to a 14-year-old Priscilla. Father Christmas muses, “After this I shall have to say ‘goodbye’, more or less: I mean, I shall not forget you. We always keep the old numbers of our old friends, and their letters; and later we hope to come back when they are grown up and have houses of their own and children.” The 2020 Centenary Edition of The Father Christmas Letters offers just that kind of opportunity: to reminisce, to return, to find great hope and cheer in small things, and to consider how we might pass this joy to future generations. Merry Christmas!

(Looking for further gift ideas, as you rush to complete your shopping? Check out TORn’s holiday gift guide!)

Editor Note: Throughout the month, and as part of our Tolkien Advent Calendar celebration, we are featuring news and resources for fans of J.R.R. Tolkien, his worlds and works. Today’s official advent calendar is below!

Day 21 of TheOneRing.net's Advent Celebration 2020
Day 21 of TheOneRing.net’s Advent Celebration 2020

Artistic Tolkien fans united on twitter this year for #Tolkientober to share new illustrations and representations of Middle-earth. Both fun and personal, the charge was led by Molly Ostertag who here pulls a small sample of the 1000’s of outstanding drawings.

EDITORS NOTE: Guest author Molly Knox Ostertag was invited to showcase the great artistic work done by fans worldwide for #Tolkientober. She is one of 2020’s Forbes 30 Under 30 media professionals, a NYTimes best-selling author and a leading illustrator for Disney animation.

A common theme of 2020 (besides mounting existential dread and the strange feeling that it’s lasted several centuries) has been people finding comfort in a return to their teenage passions. This is my sole excuse for why I have become as obsessed with Lord of the Rings this year as I was when I was 12 and would literally lie on the floor with giant speakers on either side of my head, playing the Return of the King soundtrack and crying about the Grey Havens. 

I’ve been having fun drawing and writing and indulging this obsession, but there’s a limit to how much hobbit fanart a bored lesbian in lockdown can produce. Craving more content in much the same way Thorin & Co crave their ancestral treasure, I started a drawing challenge for October called #Tolkientober (I couldn’t think of a better name; please let me know if you come up with one). Each day had a theme, sometimes obvious things like ‘a dwarf’ and sometimes more interpretative, like ‘a guardian’. With weekends off, of course – no one better than Tolkien understood the importance of having periods of rest and healing in between efforts.

Hobbits as Children by Molly Ostertag
Continue reading “Tolkientober: How Molly Knox Ostertag brought out the Tolkien artist in everyone”