As we wait – eagerly or anxiously – for new Middle-earth content in the form of Amazon’s upcoming Rings of Power tv show, we can pass some of the time with new content direct from the Professor himself. On February 26th the Tolkien Estate relaunched their website, releasing previously unseen material from their archives.
The exciting new reveals include draft manuscripts, letters, and even audio and video clips of Tolkien and his son, Christopher. You can read more about this release here; and you can find the Tolkien Estate website here.
Writer Joanna Robinson sure has been busy. Over on The Ringer (not actually a Tolkien site, believe it or not), she writes cogently on the commonalities and differences between the “Harfoots” we’ll see in Amazon’s The Rings of Power series, and the Hobbits we know rather better from The Lords of the Rings and The Hobbit.
She muses on how hobbits function as a crucial mediating influence into Tolkien’s milieu — and how that probably serves double for wider audiences outside core Tolkien fandom, a wider audience whose emotional attachment is mostly via Peter Jackson’s films.
And she explores the applicability of Hobbits to the WWI and WWII experiences of J.R.R. and Christopher Tolkien, and of the British folk in general.
Hobbits can be seen as the proxies for Tolkien’s children, but as with all things with the author, there’s also something much darker at play here. Tolkien abhorred any attempts to turn his Middle Earth books into simple allegories for the two world wars he lived and wrote through. Still it’s very hard not to see his hobbits as the “everyman” analogues for the pastoral Brits who were drawn into the horrors of the First World War and then the even greater terrors of WWII, as Tolkien and his sons were, respectively. In that way, Bilbo of The Hobbit—who is press-ganged into leaving his cozy hobbit hole by a wizard and a pack of dwarves—reminds us of the young J.R.R. Tolkien, who was so reluctant to go off to war at the tender age of 22 he used an academic deferral to delay enlisting.
In a 1941 letter to his son Michael, Tolkien recalled: “In those days chaps joined up, or were scorned publicly. It was a nasty cleft to be in for a young man with too much imagination and little physical courage.” A few years later Tolkien did, reluctantly, go to war. He wrote: “Junior officers were being killed off, a dozen a minute. Parting from my wife then … it was like a death.”
DON’T FORGET! Joanna Robinson will be joining TORn Tuesday tomorrow from 5pm PT, 8pm ET to discuss her Rings of Power experience with Staffers Quickbeam and Justin. Join us then, and be sure to bring your own burning questions!
Just in time for Tolkien Reading Day: our friends at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have sent us exciting news! Later this year, a new edition of The Lord of the Rings will be published, featuring – for the first time since the original 1954 publication – artwork by the Professor himself.
Here’s their full press release:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books & Media will publish a brand-new edition of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien that, for the the first time since its publication in 1954, will feature paintings, drawings and sketches by the author, in the U.S. on October 19, 2021.
Deb Brody, HMH’s VP and Publisher, says: ‘Professor Tolkien is known the world over for his literary and academic achievements, most especially as author of The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and the critically acclaimed and worldwide bestselling The Lord of the Rings.
‘His charming and evocative illustrations that accompanied The Hobbit, particularly the now-iconic image that appears on its cover, have become as beloved as the story they accompany.”
‘Yet the author himself was characteristically modest, dismissive of the obvious and rare artistic talent he possessed despite having had no formal training. This modesty meant that relatively little else of his artwork was known of or seen during his lifetime, and generally only in scholarly books afterwards.
‘This all changed in 2018, with the first of three record-breaking Tolkien exhibitions in Oxford, New York and Paris, at which hundreds of thousands of people were able to appreciate at first hand the extraordinary artistic achievement of a man known primarily for the written word. Among the exhibits was a selection of the paintings, drawings and sketches that Tolkien produced when writing The Lord of the Rings. Originally intended by him purely for his personal pleasure and reference, after such an overwhelmingly positive response by people to Tolkien the Artist it seemed fitting to finally reunite this art with the words it enhances, and we are delighted that in so doing it will allow people to enjoy this masterpiece anew.’
The Hobbit was first published in 1937 and The Lord of the Rings in 1954–5. Each has since gone on to become a beloved classic of literature and an international bestseller translated into more than 70 languages, collectively selling more than 150,000,000 copies worldwide.
The Lord of the Rings, illustrated by the author, will be published subsequently in translation around the world.
“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
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!