It has been fifty years since the Professor sailed into the West, and the Tolkienverse is still thriving. Which is great news for any who wish to pass along the passion as part of their holiday gift-giving, or perhaps pass along that personal hint to your favorite Father Christmas. It’s time for the OneRing staff to gather our collective guidance and bring you our annual Holiday Gift-Giving Guide: the Middle-earth Edition! We’ve pored over a lengthy lineup, narrowing our recommendations down to twelve, one for each day that you and your true love may be mingling under the proverbial pear tree. May you find your Arkenstone somewhere on the list!
For book lovers
Let’s start with something to warm every book purist’s heart: The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien: Revised and Expanded Edition. This is probably the consensus number one pick across all of our TORn staff Fellowship. Just released on November 14, and available broadly from your favorite source for books, this updated edition sees Humphrey Carpenter going back to his original typescripts and notes, restoring more than 150 letters that were excised from the 1981 edition to achieve what was then deemed a “publishable length.” Fortunately our appetite continues to grow for more content on Tolkien and his world in general, and especially commentary on his writings. Anyone for an expanded “Letter 131”, hearing more about a plot summary of the entirety of The Lord of the Rings, or getting Tolkien’s vision for publishing his “Tales of the Three Ages”?
2. Our senior staff member greendragon tends to split her time between America and her home in Scotland, which also boasts one of her favorite sources for unique and beautiful Tolkien-themed gifts: Oscha Slings. And Oscha has just released a number of new items on their website. greendragon enthuses: “In past years, I’ve picked one of their shawls and a throw as gifts; this year, however, I’m excited because their clothing line is back! The Oscha Wear range includes t-shirts, hoodies, and more, in a variety of sizes and styles – and there is even a range of baby grows! Oscha’s woven pieces are incredible, and are an investment; but now you can add some of their stunning designs to your wardrobe at a lower price point. T-shirts for all the Middle-earth fans in your life this holiday season! (If you ARE up for splurging, to treat yourself or that special someone, check out Oscha’s new Imladris design. I still haven’t picked my jaw up off the floor, after seeing this…)” And don’t forget to check out their Middle-earth Mug collection!
3. It’s the 20th anniversary of TheReturn of the King! We’ve even got some staffers – such as deej and Madeye Gamgee – heading to the Land of the Long White Cloud next month in search of Kiwi celebrations. But those are a bit tough to fit into a stocking. No fear! New Zealand Post has once again got you covered. Having already marked the last two years with commemorative collectibles celebrating The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, they’re now ready to help you complete the set! Check out some amazing RotK pieces – coins, stamps and pins – that will put you in the mood to celebrate the Days of the King! Beautiful stamps show images from the final movie in the trilogy, complete with ‘hidden messages’ – an iconic line from the film hidden in each design. Or along with some of us staffers, you might prefer to receive for the holiday season a set of the stunning coins. There are four in total, depicting Meduseld, Gondor, the Beacons, and Gandalf crowning Aragorn. They tie together beautifully as a set, and would be a wonderful addition to any collection.
4. Staffer Justin has been enthusing lately about Wizards of the Coast’s entry into Middle-earth through its massively popular Magic: the Gathering line. Last June the Wizards released a highly anticipated The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth set. For gamers, the “Universes Beyond” card set has integrated Magic’s deep and strategic game-play with settings from Middle-earth (and not just the movies). With the holidays upon us, November 3 saw a new release to expand the set, including a special collection of four Scene Boxes that portray iconic LotR moments, each scene combining six borderless cards that together create a large scene that you can display on the included easel. New booster packs offer the chance to score alternative art, courtesy of the classic 70’s era Hildebrandt brothers, or some very funky “poster art” cards that have some of us humming The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins as we open our boosters. Fun!
5. The OneRing’s “Collecting the Precious” champion, Elessar, has passed along a couple of favorite gift-giving treasure troves, starting with our friends at Weta Workshop. Weta has been prolific with a host of new offerings aligned with the 20th anniversary of the PJ films, and you can find an array of figures, environments, prop replicas, t-shirts, art posters, etc. on their site. Elessar has highlighted a collection of them designed to fit many budgets, from new entries in Weta’s mini-epic and mini-statue lines like the King of the Dead, Sauron and Treebeard; to additions to their classic figures like a stunning Gondorian Fountain Guard; all the way to the threatening new environment, The Black Gate. Plus, Weta typically offers some great Black Friday promotions, so keep an eye out!
6. Elessar has also had his eye on a growing list of companies offering new Lord of the Rings lines, like Diamond Select Toys. You’ll find dioramas (like Aragorn), a collection of blind box mini-figures, and action figures galore (like a Nazgûl) on their site. Plus they have some terrific new offerings that you can pre-order now for delivery in early 2024. (I would be remiss should I fail to mention my man Sam in that lineup.)
7. Judging from our social media feeds as well as our own obsessions on the OneRing staff, Rivendell has been a glorious new addition to the LegoLord of the Rings universe. Boasting 3 stunning sections, 15 mini-figures, and over 6,000 pieces, you’ll need (and want) to find a generous space in your home to keep Elrond and company on permanent display. Bonus points for any who add on one of the special lighting kits available from multiple vendors like Lighttailing and Light My Bricks.
8. It’s back to the books for Madeye Gamgee, this time with a glorious new edition of The Hobbit. Published in September, the book features over 50 sketches, drawings, paintings and maps by J.R.R. Tolkien himself and with the complete text printed in two colors. The additional art pieces from the author – although exhibited and published elsewhere – have never appeared within the pages of the book itself. You can find the hardback edition broadly, or for a book this beautiful, you may want to splurge on the special deluxe boxed edition, which comes with two poster-size, fold-out maps revealing all the detail of Thror’s Map and Wilderland, an illustrated 88-page booklet, and a printed art card reproducing Tolkien’s original dust jacket painting.
9. Staffer Mithril has some kingly gifts to suggest. First up is the Lord of the Rings Tarot Deck from Insight Editions. Written by Casey Gilly and illustrated by Tomás Hijo, Mithril describes this as “like getting a mini gallery of art and a Palantír in a box.” It’s available at HerUniverse.com and on Amazon. If you’re in the mood for some Middle-earth inspired ornamentation on a more standard card deck, take a spin over to the King’s Wild Project or Theory11 for some amazing embellishments for poker night.
10. Our friends at Badali Jewelry have expanded their licensed offerings to a multiverse of fandoms, but their Middle-earth collection has always been like the Three-Farthing Stone in the Shire: right at the center. Check out their array of offerings like the Arkenstone, Shieldmaiden earrings, or their Palantir Locket. Staffer Mithril is a particular fan of their latest line of the Nine “Rings of Men”, with notable affection for the Ring of Númenor. Pick out your own Ring of Power! Captivate your friends! Watch out for shieldmaidens with swords!
11. Staffer Tanya keeps an eye out for sources of attire fit for hobbits, elves, Rohirrim, and other Middle-earth denizens. Three in particular have caught her eye and heart this year. She writes of Linennaiveas offering “several options for Hobbit costuming, focusing on creating dresses using natural fibers. It currently has a Black Friday sale at its website, which assists with the slightly higher pricing for quality work.” Next up is Holy Clothing, a regular shopping spot for my own Rosie. Tanya writes that they’re “an ethical clothing brand out of Asia that pays their tailors fair wages, and gives 15% of their profits to charities. They have dresses named ‘Arwen,’ ‘Eowyn,’ and ‘Tauriel,’ and I admit I am eyeing up this excellent cloak for my own Christmas list.” The final entry on Tanya’s shopping list is Scarlet Darkness: “they have a variety of extremely affordable outfit options that are still perfectly acceptable at, say, a congregation of Elves at DragonCon, or your local renfest. (I might have used this site for DragonCon myself!) The pricing is very fair, and the quality holds up through all your Hobbit parties or journeys into the west.” Another clothing site option you may want to check out comes from Mithril: Her Universe, which has a new line of Middle-earth fashion. “Their clothes have great details and are always high quality and comfy to wear. Check out this Fellowship Cardigan. With both front and back filled with LotR graphics, it would be great for cozying up by the hearth in style.”
12. Rounding out our “Durin’s Dozen” in this Holiday treasure trove is a unique gift spotted by one of our OneRing founders, Calisuri: a set of four pewter shot glasses each attired as one of our favorite hobbits! From Nemesis Now, and available from a number of sources, including Walmart and Amazon, the glasses come in an attractive gift box. And while they won’t hold a full pint, you still might consider getting one!
13. Ok fine. How about a “Barliman’s Dozen” then. We’ll add one more bonus entry to this year’s list, particularly fit for any fan with knitting needle facility: The Fellowship of the Knits book. Who couldn’t use a handy set of “Watchful Eye” mittens this winter? Or a “You Shawl Not Pass”? Thanks again to Mithril for the suggestion – it might be worth learning to knit!
First published in 1981 and now expanded with more than 150 new letters, excerpts and additional notes, this new edition of the oft-cited book, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, gives fans and scholars a deeper insight into the man behind The Lord of the Rings.
Get the new updated edition at your favourite bookstore or online (Amazon).
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, first edited by Humphrey Carpenter with assistance from Christopher Tolkien, is the definitive source of Tolkien’s personal writings. If you have ever seen a quotation cited from “Letter 131” it’s a reference to the numbering of this book. Some call it a biblical bibliography of Tolkien. In this new edition the numbering remains the same, with additional content added in context via a “203a… 203b…” system. Several letters have expanded, with the 8+ page Letter 131 now 40% longer from its originally edited form.
We learned on the podcast this week how these letters continue to be discovered, with some fetching over $100,000 at auction in recent years. Tolkien was prolific in his communications to fans and family over his lifetime. In one series of letters, he talks about the wonderful quality of storyboards presented in a film pitch meeting – drawings by Ron Cobb who went on to design Star Wars, Alien and Back to the Future.
The following is extracted from a much longer (and more collector-focused) review at TolkienGuide.com which also includes a PDF tracking all the changes big and small in this new 2023 edition.
This edition will give fans of J.R.R. Tolkien a greater understanding of his family life, his work, and his secondary world.
We see the first change come in the June 1925 letterto the “Electors of the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professorship of Anglo-Saxon, University of Oxford” but it is not until January 1934 in a letter to his son John, at that time a 16-year-old pupil of the Oratory School in Berkshire, that we see the first new letter.
We notice very quickly that early letters are sadly not found here and Humphrey Carpenter in his introduction to the original edition says that “among the omissions is the very large body of letters he wrote between 1913 and 1918 to Edith Bratt, who was his fiancee and then his wife; these are highly personal in character, and from them I have chosen only a few passages which refer to writings in which Tolkien was engaged at the time” so omitting those early, private letters shouldn’t be too surprising, and that attitude still holds.
This new edition allows us to see the editorship of Humphrey Carpenter, with Christopher Tolkien’s assistance, in a brand-new light. Originally,the book was far more general, and generous with the inclusion of many excerpts which show J.R.R. Tolkien’s love and concern toward his sons who were either engaged in battle or training to be during WW2. With enlightening passages to Christopher Tolkien, we witness J.R.R. Tolkien talking openly about the horrors of war, and the impact on those involved. The published edition was cut down, as said already, but only with this new edition do we see how Humphrey Carpenter did not simply reduce it for size, but also for thematic purposes. If the original edition is a letters volume which focuses mostly on J.R.R. Tolkien’s imagined writing, this new edition gives us the filling, it shows us the backdrop to it all and offers more on J.R.R. Tolkien’s routines around his working and home life. We see J.R.R. Tolkien exchanging with his sons now at school and what comes across is more of the concerned father, it exemplifies (if one needed any such confirmation) the relationship he shared with his boys and the concern for their education, life choices, financial matters, and love. With open and honest assessments of the relationships his sons were beginning to experience, J.R.R. Tolkien’s role as a father is brought into sharper focus.
The more astute reader among us will read some newly published excerpts and know that they have read portions or all of the quotes previously in The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, and this is true, not every new passage found here is truly new, but they are reunited with topically connected letters and offer us yet more glimpses into J.R.R. Tolkien’s life. There are of course still treasures to be found among the details found in The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, and readers should use the two books side-by-side to explore further.
We learn more of the work that J.R.R. Tolkien put into The Hobbit through his letters to his publisher and being able to read what J.R.R. Tolkien was sending to George Allen & Unwin. But we also see some stories about his family life, and how his children were very much his children. For example, you will learnthat Priscilla Tolkien could “take any amount of dragon, and a reasonable dose of goblin; but we recently had to change all the handles on the chest-of-drawers in her room, because the former handles ‘grinned at her’, even in the dark.”
In November 1937 we get the first bulky new letter – sent to his friend E. V. Gordon. We learn more about Gordon’s Pearl and Tolkien’s role in the creation of this book, which would not be published until long after E.V. Gordon’s untimely death.
The revisions and additions in this new edition gives a greater insight into J.R.R. Tolkien’s life and allows us to find out more about the mind and thinking of the Professor. These letters are of great use to general readers and J.R.R. Tolkien researchers when looking for answers in J.R.R. Tolkien’s works.
During the late 1930s and through the war years of the early to mid 1940s, Tolkien wrote to his sons a lot, and this volume has a healthy group of excerpts, mostly to Christopher Tolkien and we witness the closeness of the two. That Christopher Tolkien became his father’s literary executor is no accident. These letters demonstrate further how essential Christopher Tolkien was to his father’s creative endeavors.
Our first glimpse of 1951 is where the new edition really pays off. J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous letter #131 to Milton Waldman (of Collins)has always been a favorite among readers, but now, we see just how potent this letter is. The original was always known to be longer, and the portion which dealt with The Lord of the Rings was wisely not included. Now the two pieces are reunited, as we now know was Humphrey Carpenter’s original intent. But there is more! A portion which we do not believe to have been known is included at the conclusion and it is J.R.R. Tolkien’s “proposed for publication” list which is a wonderful gift to those interested in how Tolkien saw his writing, and what he believed was important for publication.
After that we learn more on proofs of The Lord of the Rings, the artwork for it and the pressures of Tolkien’s life at that time. Still a busy academic, he now faced increased demands from those interested in adapting his work and the new selections provided highlight that fact further.
For the next decade of his life, J.R.R. Tolkien would spend his time on revisions, dealing with piracy and how he will enlist fans’ help in informing people of its harm to his financial welfare, adaptations, translated editions of his work, academia, and all manner of other responsibilities which would keep him from completing his epic work on The Silmarillion.We can understand through these letters more than ever just how much J.R.R. Tolkien had on his plate. But also we can deduce that J.R.R. Tolkien would flit from one project to another. He would decide that Sir Gawain must be dealt with, only for him to delay it to complete the Silmarillion. J.R.R. Tolkien was nothing if not an expert excuse maker and those who love his excuses need not worry, there are plenty of new additions here to keep fans happy.
And this carries us through the book to its end. It gives us new details on a myriad of subjects. We learn more about J.R.R. Tolkien’s professional relationships and his family, his losses, and his achievements which make him a house-hold name. This edition shows more keenly the shifting of time and with it we see both his and Edith Tolkien’s health decline far more closely than in the original edition.
The Index at the back of the book, compiled and revised for this edition by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, is comprehensive and does allow for easy retrieval of a letter based on subject.
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien: Revised and Expanded edition is a welcome addition to Tolkien studies, for both readers and researchers and it is to Humphrey Carpenter’s credit that this volume can stand on its own as a monumental work, but it also makes the original a more impressive read because we can now see how the editor shaped and crafted it into an absorbing work.
A volume like this can be a curse and a wonderful gift all at the same time, and it delivers both in equal measure, especially for those who hold J.R.R. Tolkien, Edith Tolkien, and their family in their hearts. We meet these people again through this expanded selection of letters, and it is brought home to this reader that they have all passed into the West and we are given these new memories to remember them by. The new book is an essential addition to your Tolkien library, as it supersedes the earlier edition.
Read the entire collector-focused review over at the Tolkien Guide.
More Context and Perspectives
TolkienGuide.com joined TORn Tuesday show for a 2-hour deep dive on the biggest changes and most enlightening additions to the book.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Oxonmoot, an annual event hosted by The Tolkien Society in Oxford, UK. The event will be available to stream live from Thursday, August 31 through Sunday, September 3.
Bear McCreary will join Oxonmoot for an exclusive chat on Friday, September 1st at 4:40pm UK-time (8:40am PDT / 11:40am EDT / 5:40pm CET), and the session will be available live to online attendees.
McCreary, a lifelong Tolkien fan, composed the 37 tracks that make up the score for Prime’s Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power. His work for the show received acclaim from fans and critics alike. The gorgeous themes he developed for the show were completely new yet still reflective of the scores that Howard Shore composed for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. McCreary is also know for his work on Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Dead, and Outlander, among other television series. McCreary is articulate in speaking about his methodology, and he is just plain fun in an interview.
Brian Sibley will also be a guest at Oxonmoot. His session is called “‘The Fall of Númenor’: An Editor’s Journey.” As the name of the event implies, Mr. Sibley edited the volume of J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings titled The Fall of Númenor: And Other Tales from the Second Age of Middle-earth, which was illustrated by Alan Lee. Sibley will speak about the “pleasures and pitfalls” in editing the book.
Sibley has written extensively for radio dramas such as BBC Radio 4’s adaptation of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. He is well known for authoring many “making of” books about films, including those for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, as well as the Harry Potter series. He is incredibly knowledgeable about Tolkien and fascinating to listen to.
Tolkien Collector’s Guide has spotted something very interesting — a new and revised edition of Humphry Carpenter’s The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien is coming out this November (Nov 9 to be precise).
This revised edition is already available for pre-order on Amazon (30 quid for a hardcover book; 20 quid for a kindle version). Looks like it’s going to be a beast of a book, too: 700 pages versus the 463 of the 1981 edition.
In this revised and expanded edition of The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, it has been possible to go back to the editors’ original typescripts and notes, restoring more than 150 letters that were excised purely to achieve what was then deemed a ‘publishable length’, and present the book as originally intended.
Enthusiasts for his writings will find much that is new, for the letters not only include fresh information about Middle-earth, such as Tolkien’s own plot summary of the entirety of The Lord of the Rings and a vision for publishing his ‘Tales of the Three Ages’, but also many insights into the man and his world. In addition, this new selection will entertain anyone who appreciates the art of letter-writing, of which J.R.R. Tolkien was a master.
Thanks to TimB and DurinDeathless on our Discord for the heads-up.
In 1953, J.R.R. Tolkien visited the University of Glasgow, to give a lecture on the medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Later this month, the university’s Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic will celebrate the anniversary of the event – and you can join them, in person or online!
With an illustrious panel of speakers, chaired by Dr Dimtra Fimi, the event includes a pop-up exhibition featuring a handwritten letter from the Professor.
UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW TO CELEBRATE LORD OF THE RINGS AUTHOR JRR TOLKIEN
A selection of books by JRR Tolkien including Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (above)
Today he is remembered as the “father” of modern fantasy literature and the author of two of the best-loved and biggest-selling books of all time.
When JRR Tolkien visited the University of Glasgow 70 years ago, he had written The Hobbit to great acclaim and was on the cusp of publishing the 1st volume of The Lord of the Rings.
In 1953, Tolkien, then Oxford University Merton Professor of English Language and Literature, was in Scotland to give a lecture on late 14th-century poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – a key text in the Arthurian tradition featuring young King Arthur himself, the knight Sir Gawain, a mysterious green knight, and the sorceress Morgan le Fay. The poem is itself a source text for modern fantasy and was an inspiration for Tolkien in his Middle-earth mythology.
But it was obvious Tolkien’s popularity as a fantasy writer was on the rise in 1953, as the ticketed WP Ker Memorial Lecture was at its capacity with 300 people in attendance.
Now academics at the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic are celebrating Tolkien’s Glasgow connection with a special event to mark the 70th anniversary of Tolkien’s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight lecture.
Dr Dimitra Fimi, Senior Lecturer in Fantasy and Children’s Literature at the University of Glasgow and the Co-Director of the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, said: “It was a thrill to discover more about Tolkien’s lecture at Glasgow and this fascinating connection to the city, including the venue it was held, and the handwritten letter by Tolkien in our archives.
“Today 70 years later at the University of Glasgow, Tolkien’s own work is on the curriculum of our Fantasy MLitt programme, and we have various PhD students working on Tolkien.”
Dr Andoni Cossio, Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, said: “As a schoolboy, Tolkien had a great affection for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight poem, which even led to occasional recitations of certain passages for his friends.
“By the time of the Glasgow lecture, Tolkien had a deep knowledge of the poem that he put to good use in his university teaching, supervision and lectures. Tolkien had also prepared and published an edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in 1925 (together with his colleague EV Gordon), which is remains today an important textbook for students studying the poem and helped establish it as a canonical text in medieval studies.
“During his 1953 W. P. Ker lecture, Tolkien quoted from his own Sir Gawain translation, which was later broadcast by the BBC. The University of Glasgow lecture was only accessible much later to a wider audience when it was published in 1983.
The Tolkien Sir Gawain lecture 70th anniversary event is hybrid – both in person at the University of Glasgow and online. For those attending on-campus, there will be an opportunity to see a pop-up exhibition with documentation related to Tolkien’s appointment as the 1953 WP Ker Memorial Lecturer (including a hand-written letter by Tolkien), in collaboration with Archives & Special Collections, University of Glasgow.
Tolkien and Glasgow
On 15 April 1953, Tolkien delivered the WP Ker Memorial Lecture, on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, to an audience of 300 at the University of Glasgow. The essay was published posthumously, in 1983, in The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, edited by Christopher Tolkien.
Join us at Glasgow on Thursday 27 April 2023, 5-6:30pm, on-campus (Joseph Black Building) or online, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the lecture and its significance, Tolkien’s links to Glasgow, and the importance of the Sir Gawain poem in Tolkien’s creativity.
Our panel of speakers will feature:
Professor Jeremy Smith, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, University of Glasgow
Dr Lydia Zeldenrust, Lecturer in Middle English Literature, University of Glasgow
Dr Andoni Cossio, Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic
Chair: Dr Dimitra Fimi, Senior Lecturer in Fantasy and Children’s Literature, and Co-Director of the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic
It’s free to attend this event – either in person or online – but you do need to book via Eventbrite.
Two handwritten letters, from J.R.R. Tolkien to the British Council, have been uncovered by a volunteer at the National Archives in Kew.
In a recently published blog, we are told: ‘The correspondence centres on Tolkien’s research collaboration with Simonne d’Ardenne, a former student of his at Oxford, who shared his academic interest in historical languages.’
It’s always exciting to uncover new items related to the Professor – and especially to see that familiar and unique handwriting. The letters will remain at the National Archives, added to the previously catalogued Tolkien correspondence in their collection. You can read more about this unearthed treasure here.