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LIVE CHAT with Douglas Anderson at Barlimans Chatroom

The Annotated Hobbit - Douglas Anderson
The Annotated Hobbit - Douglas Anderson
Douglas Anderson: Author of "The Annotated Hobbit" 13/12/02

<jincey> Renowned Tolkien Scholar Douglas Anderson, whose expertise in all things Tolkien has meritied the inclusion of his "Note on the Text" in the front of each copy of The Lord of the Rings, joins us today for a moderated chat.

<jincey> He collaborated with another scholar, Wayne G Hammond on JRRT: A Descriptive Bibliography.

<jincey> An expert in the history of fantasy literature, he was instrumental in reintroducing the world to E A Wyke-Smith's "The Marvelous Land of Snergs", a children's fantasy that Tolkien cited as an influence on "The Hobbit".

<jincey> Doug's Annoted Hobbit has just been extensively revised with new information and is in bookstores now. For this project, Doug worked closely with Christopher Tolkien, son of JRR Tolkien.

<jincey> He has just submitted the manuscript to his publisher, Ballantine for his next work, "Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern Fantasy", due out in Sept 2003.

<jincey> As always, this guest chat will be moderated. This means that once we moderte the room, you will not be able to speak in the main window.

<jincey> To ask a question of Doug, please private message Balin, Demosthenes, Morog, Po, or Scorpio with your question. They will send the question to me, the lead moderator to be asked of Doug in the main room.

<jincey> We do this for order and continuity of the chat.

<jincey> Please remember to follow the guidelines and avoid nick changes.

<jincey> Once questions have been asked and answered, we will unmoderate the room so everyone can have a chance to speak to Doug. Please try not to innundate him ; )

<jincey> Thanks for coming and have fun! The moderated chat begins NOW. So send in those questions : )

<jincey> First question is from me ; ) When did you first read Tolkien and how did he influence your life ; )

<DougAnderson> I first read Tolkien when I was 13. I was visiting my older sister, and annoying her in the way that younger brothers are good at, and she thrust the books at me to shut me up! Obviously, Tolkien has been an enormous influence, as I've read and worked with his writings for almost 30 years

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> i guess it worked?

<jincey> TreeBeard: Doug, What can readers expect from your recent project Tales Before Tolkien?

<DougAnderson> It's an anthology of fantasy before Tolkien, including a number of rare stories that influenced him. There are some twenty-ish stories, by Dunsany, Haggard, William Morris, Kenneth Morris, Andrew Lang, E. H. Knatchbull-Hugessen, and E. A. Wyke-Smith, to name a few

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> Can you give us a couple examples of what sort of fantasy? Are these elves? dragons?

<DougAnderson> The Wyke-Smith piece is an extract from his book The Marvellous Land of Snergs

<jincey> what is a snerg?

<DougAnderson> THat's a children's book from 1927, about half-high creatures called Snergs with names like Gorbo

<DougAnderson> Tolkien's children loved the book, and wanted more stories about Snergs, so Tolkien toild them instead stories about Bilbo, the half-high hobbit. There are also some good dragon stories, a children's version of the Volusnga Saga, by Andrew Lang, and a dragon story by E. Nesbit. Some of the others are fairy tales, and other fantasy. It's a fun selection.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> Demosthenes: What encouraged you to become a tolkien scholar?

<DougAnderson> Hmmmm.

<DougAnderson> Nothing encouraged me beyond my own interests. At college, studying Tolkien was not looked upon in a friendly manner, so it really has been pursuing what interests me personally.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> Balin: Do you feel that Tolkien is starting to get his literary due for his writing?

<DougAnderson> Yes, I think it is a natural course of events.

<DougAnderson> When Tolkien first became popular in the 1960s, the older generation turned their noses up at the enthusiasms of the younger generation. Now, the younger generation is taking over, so Tolkien will get his due. Inevitably!

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> follow up: is his reputation on the rise with academia?

<DougAnderson> I think so. Certainly. Now there are courses taught on Tolkien, many of them through medieval studies. But that was not usual when I was in school twenty years ago.

<DougAnderson> next

* DougAnderson says sorry for the bad typing

<jincey> that's ok:

<jincey> po: how closely did you work with Carpenter while working on the biography with Hammond?

<DougAnderson> I assisted Carpenter with the Letters volume and Wayne Hammond and I were independently researching Tolkien's bibliography so we just combined our work.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> Tehanu: I've just finished reading George Macdonald's Lilith and Phantastes, supposedly influences on Tolkien. Do you see that influence in Tolkien's work?

<DougAnderson> Not so much from Phantastes and Lilith, but more so from The Princess and Curdie books. And from some of the fairy stories, like "The Golden Key" (which will be in my anthology)

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> OBsessed_Silawen_gone: Why did you want to be assosiated even more with Tolkien by writing these books? Any specific reasons?

<DougAnderson> Hah! Just a question of splashing one's tastes! I like Tolkien's works. I like the older fantasy that inspired him. I certainly don't mind being associated with Tolkien, since I enjoy all of his works highly.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> Puck: My question is: Were you consulted at all for the three movies?

<DougAnderson> No, I had no involvement with the movies.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> What did you think of The Fellowship of the ring?

<DougAnderson> Ummm. Well, tough question to answer in a small space

<DougAnderson> I think it had strong points, and less strong ones. The special effects and visualization of Middle-earth was wonderful.

<jincey> did the elves match your vision?

<DougAnderson> But a number of aspects of the script didn't make me happy-- Pippin and Merry reduced to comic effect. Hollywood throwaway lines like "Let's go hunt some orc."

<DougAnderson> I'm perfectly happy that people have found the movies enormously wonderful, but I'm in a very odd place myself, having worked closely with the text of the books for many years

* jincey sees many heads nodding in the audience ; )

<DougAnderson> So things that might tend to jar me, might not bother anyone else

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> po: How intimidating is it for you to prepare an "annotated" novel written by Tolkien who has written the Book of the Century?

<DougAnderson> Well, I guess I never thought of the possibility of it being intimidating. I had done it once before,for the 1988 edition. So all I did was in once sense update what I had done before. But that involved an immense amount of new work, so it's almost like I redid the whole book from scratch

<DougAnderson> Then again, if you love what you are doing, that's the fun part.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> it is a beautiful book, by the way

<jincey> samgamgee7: It's obvious that jrr's worked affected you, as they have all of us...what was it , do you think, that really got you enthused so much about his writings?..this wonderful world he created?

<DougAnderson> Thanks, Jincey!

<DougAnderson> Good question!

<DougAnderson> I think what first interested me was the immense, imagined history. But as one learns that, you become interested in other aspects ... like the way Tolkien went about creating his world, and the medieval literatures and languages that inspired him.

<DougAnderson> Each time I've gone back to the books, I've found that I have learned something more since the last time I read them, and that allows one to see further depths in what Tolkien has done.

<DougAnderson> So, it really is an ongoing process. One learns more, and one gets more out of Tolkien.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> Do you ever meet up with other Tolkien scholars and discuss all things Tolkien?

<DougAnderson> Yes, frequently

<DougAnderson> The Mythopoeic Society has an annual conference and though I don't attend every year, I try to get there as frequently as I can. It's a great forum for meeting other people who share your own enthusiasms.

<DougAnderson> And there are other places too. I've been attending the Medievalist's Congress in Kalamazoo too for the last few years, and Jane Chance has arranged some wonderful Tolkien sessions there

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> Demosthenes asks: Do you ever feel you're overlapping the work that Chris Tolkien does/has done?

<DougAnderson> Not really. Christopher's work is more of the presenting of text, than literary criticism. I tend a bit more towards the latter.

<DougAnderson> But he and I have worked closely on correcting the text of the Lord of the Rings, so I guess there has been some overlap

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> copans: Because of your research, you find new sources most of us don't know like for the wargs. Did this diminish your respect for Tolkien in anyway as a pasticheur?

<DougAnderson> Not in the least. Almost any writer draws upon what they know, and it is eye-opening to follow Tolkien and learn some scraps of what he knew.

<DougAnderson> The magic is in how all his learning went into the leaf mold of his mind, and out of that came such a wonderful thing as The Lord of the Rings. Rather, I'd say it increases my respect for him.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> What do you think of people trying to build upon the elvish languages in order to make them viable in regular speech?

<jincey> Tolkien left a lot out, but gave a groundwork...

<DougAnderson> The fact that Tolkien's invented world engages anyone in such a way is marvellous. The same way with games, etc., based on Tolkien. That a work of literature brings people to such levels of excitement is wonderful, and I think that is a major reason why Tolkien appeals to so many.

<DougAnderson> For all the vista of the imagination that he fillls, there are yet more that each of us want to see filled in his world. So we each bring our own talents and interests to the process, which results in people working on the linguistics, and the history, and the mucis of Middle-earth, etc. etc.

<jincey> Have you tried to learn Elvish?

<DougAnderson> I have dabbled in Elvish. but I'm fortunate enough to know friends who are much better linguistically than I am, so when I have questions, I can turn to them.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> TreeBeard: Doug, i'm semi-new to the world of Tolkien and I'm wondering if you have any non-Tolkien works or plan to do anything unrelated in the future?

<DougAnderson> Yes, I've edited a number of other books --various older writers, some horror, some fantasy, for small presses. I've got a number of them in the works. And I'm doing other things on other favorite writers too.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> here's a fun one : )

<jincey> Frode: would you say that fantasy inspired Tolkien as much as western mythology did...including the christian myths?

<DougAnderson> That's another tough one to answer in a small space!

<DougAnderson> In short, if you mean fantasy, and fairy tales, and children's literature, then perhaps yes.

<DougAnderson> I think of influences on Tolkien not in a particularly segregated way, but more in an integrated one. All of the branches come together--Christian, mythology, fantasy, etc., and that's what makes Tolkien special.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> another from Frode: do you go into Tolkien's relationship with shakespeare's writings at all?

<DougAnderson> No, I didn't--not in The Annotated Hobbit at least. But that's a complicated question.

<DougAnderson> Tolkien once said that Shakespeare didn't much interest him. But that's too simplistic of a statement. He certainly read Shakespeare and knew his works fairly well.

<DougAnderson> Which leads one to think that he didn't find an essential sympathy with them, but could recognize their value, and various aspects of them.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> copans: Do you recommend a trip to Marquette to see the archives?

<DougAnderson> Sure! A wonderful place.

<jincey> For folks that have no idea, could you please tell what it there?

<DougAnderson> They have a permanent dsiplay up, but you can also order up various things that your are specifically interested in. They have a tremendous amount of fanzines, and other things too. The Tolkien manuscripts you usually see via microfilms.

<jincey> what *is* there?

<DougAnderson> In 1957, Tolkien sold the manuscripts of The Hobbit, THe Lord of the Rings, and some other works to Marquette University in Milwaukee. They form the basis of a marvellous Tolkien archive.

<DougAnderson> Wheaton College, in Wheaton Illinois, also has a Tolkien collection, part of their Wade Center, which is devoted to seven Christian authors, including Tolkien, C S Lewis, George Macdonald,etc.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> (and folks, you might need to contact these places in advance to see the collections)

<jincey> Tehanu: Ooh, this is something I've wondered: the archives at Marquette, is Tolkien's handwriting easy to read or is it a chore to decipher?

<DougAnderson> Sometimes easy, sometimes hard. He seemed to have written first drafts at a lightning pace. And then gone back and written second drafts (sometime in ink over pencil, on the same page), where he took more time.

<DougAnderson> Once you get familiar with his handwriting, things become easier. There is a photograph of a page from the first draft fo The Hobbit, Chapter One, in the new Annotated Hobbit. So people can see Tolkien's handwriting there. And that page of manuscript is at Marquette too.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> From angel: Do the archives have any notes left by Tolkien about his works and influences?

<DougAnderson> Well, not really. At least not in his own manuscripts. His letters--and some original letters are at Marquette and Wheaton -- now those are a gold-mine for information about what influenced and interested him. And we have that wonderul volume of Letters, where they are all in a type-face so one can read them easier!

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> Moses: Do you have any idea why the tolkien archival material went to America? Surely Oxford would have been a more appropriate home

<DougAnderson> The stuff went to Marquette simply because they approached Tolkien through an agent, and he accepted their offer.

<jincey> At the time, i wonder if oxford would even have been interested in his papers

<DougAnderson> The major part of his papers are at the Bodleian Lipary in Oxford, and that includes all of teh Silmarillion stuff, and the stuff in the History of Middle-earth. Some of these papers are not yet open to the public, but some are. And Christopher Tolkien has been depositing other papers there for years, as he finishes sorting them.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> Feanor: How do you think Tolkien would have viewed the Movies and the mass marketization of his works.?

<DougAnderson> I think seeing the Burger King glow-cups would have appalled him!

<jincey> well i have a set ; )

<jincey> or two

<DougAnderson> There are a lot of aspects of merchandizing that today we think nothing of, but these were not elements of life in the 1960s. And Tolkien passed away in 1973, a few years before Star Wars, which really started the whole merchandizing thing. So I think he would have found a lot of that extremely foreign.

<DougAnderson> As to the Peter Jackson films, there is a marvellous letter in the Letters volume in which Tolkien writes at great length about a proposed film-script for THe Lord of the Rings. In it, he didn't seem to mind abridgement, but he definitely didn't want to see his characters altered. And I think some aspects of simplification of characters in the Peter Jackson films would certainly have bothered him.

<DougAnderson> But then again, who really can say?

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> Demosthenes: What did you enjoy best about writing the Annotated Hobbit?

<DougAnderson> finishing it!

<jincey> LOL

<DougAnderson> Well, a more serious reply is that I enjoyed writing it completely.

<jincey> first or second time?

<DougAnderson> Think of it: I got up every day for months, and got to work with a book that I enjoy. So there were no real hurdles, no sections I dreaded doing. The only pressure was one of time. It took longer for me to go through all of the materials, and thus the book was delayed a few months.

<DougAnderson> That was entirely my fault, not the publisher's. But the amount of Tolkien scholarship that came out between 1988 and the present is truly staggaring. And to do it right, and do it well, took more time that I could estimate it would.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> related question from angel: How long did it take you to annotate the book?

<DougAnderson> Two part answer: 1) I'd done the book once before, so that shortened the time.

<DougAnderson> 2) I rechecked everything I had previously done, and reworked it from scratch. In the end, I think I spent almost nine months doing nothing else, and a good three or four months before that when I was mixing it in with other projects

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> Balin: I have seen your slide show of illustrations. Do you have any plans to put it in a book form?

<DougAnderson> Hi Balin!

* Balin bows

<DougAnderson> No, in one sense, it's the selection from which I drew upon for the illustrations in The Annotated Hobbit. To do it as a book would be an enormous undertaking to clear rights, etc. I don't see a publisher being able to do something profitably on that scale.

<DougAnderson> The full slide show has about 450 slides, but I rarely have the time to use more than a third of them. And the slides keep growing. I just got a new Russian translation of The Hobbit, which will provide a few more. Plus anumber of other interesting things.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> Tehanu: can you think of another author that works in a similar way to Tolkien?

<DougAnderson> Tehanu: elaborate please!

<Tehanu> Ah, this relates to your earlier comment: about him mixing up myth etc and letting it stew in the mulch of his imagination. Or words to that effect

<DougAnderson> Well, if you mean in the sense of depth behind the work, I'd certainly suggest Ursula K. Le Guin, whose writings I believe you are familiar with :-)

<DougAnderson> I love her Earthsea books, and others.

<DougAnderson> As to mixing up the myths and letting it mulch, there are few who do that. What I really find interesting about fantasy, and I find it more in older fantasy -- is where an author puts his or her profoundest thought in the creation of the world

<DougAnderson> I think another writer who did this was E. R. Eddison. His Worm Ouroboros is a marvellous conception, which he extended in his later books.

<DougAnderson> I find his philsophy not especially attractive, but I admire his artistry none the less.

<DougAnderson> And tolkien thought pretty much the same.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> From angel: Do you think Tolkiens work had a strong biblical influence?

<DougAnderson> Well, as a strand of influence, definitely yes. But there are many other strands that fit in there too.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> despite JRRT's denials, how much allegory do you feel personally is evident in his writings?

<DougAnderson> Good thorny questions here!

<DougAnderson> It depends on how you define allegory. Tolkien said a number of people confuse allegory with applicability.

<DougAnderson> And I think that's true, especially when the tired analysis of Lord of the Rings as an allegory of WWII comes up. The whole Nazgul = Nazi thing. There is no such allegory in Tolkien.

<DougAnderson> But you definitely get allegory in things like "Leaf by Niggle", which in a sense is an allegory of the writing process, and of Tolkien's creation of Middle-earth -- a sort of personal allegory. And similarly you can see some aspects in Smith of Wootton Major.

<DougAnderson> So it's a tough line to follow. Tom Shippey has some nice bits on this topic in his Road to Middle-earth book, which he's just revised for a new edition to come out in the US next year (I think).

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> Aaragorn: As a writer, has Tolkien inspired you in the way of writing? What other influences have you had?

<DougAnderson> Well, I'd have to say yes, certainly.

<DougAnderson> When you immerse yourself in the writings of a talented prose stylist, I hope you can learn something about expressing subtleties, and doing so in a clear and intersting manner

<DougAnderson> An odd thing, but I think I have learned a lot about writing not so much from reading -- which is a good place to start -- but from retyping works I admire. I'd had to do this over the years for various different reasons, and when it gets to the point of retying someone elses words your own mind starts to but in and try to get you to write it how you yourself might. And then you have to read closely, and look at why this author wrote it differently, and why. What was his point? What shadow of meaning did he intend or achieve? When you look that closely at a remarkle writer and thinker, you begin to see more faults in how you normally do things yourself.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> gapielvilleda: what do you think of schools including tolkien as required summer reading?

<DougAnderson> I confess I hate the thought of required reading in any form. It put me off writers that I would have liked had I found them on my own.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> po: do you think we will ever see another novel written as complete, historically, linguistically, such as LOTR again, or in this day of fast-reward commercialism, it just wouldn't be feasible?

<DougAnderson> I hope so. Remember, Tolkien was not writing for a living. He had his day -job as a Professor, so he could afford the luxury of writing The Lord of the Rings over a period of twelve years.

<DougAnderson> I hope we have other authors in the future with both the talent and the means to use it to such an end.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> Frode: as a writer Tolkien was pre-occupied with the 'human situation' perhaps most of all with the fact that we are all going to die. Do you think that modern fantasy in general lacks applicability and only caters to our need for escapism?

<DougAnderson> Oh, Frode, I'm beginning to recognize you for all the tough questions....

<DougAnderson> In short, I think a lot of modern fantasy lacks the depth that we find in Tolkien. I mean, who but Tolkien would write the Athrabeth in one of the later History of Middle-earth volumes, in which a mortal woman debates the nature of mortality with an elf lord!

<DougAnderson> It's that kind of thought that we find all throughout Tolkien that is missing from many of the commercial fantasy we see published today. The whole, doorstop-of-a-book syndrome. The trilogy in ten volumes, etc.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> Kalessin: If JRRT wanted to create an "English" mythos, why did he use Icelandic, Germanic and Finnish myths (all foreign) and not Celtic myth (indiginous to England)?

<DougAnderson> Here's a tough one on what is English and what is British.

<DougAnderson> The English were Germanic tribes (Angles, Saxons, Jutes), but were not native to the land we call "England".

<DougAnderson> So the Germanic and Icelandic myths were historical myths to the people who came to live in England. Hence you get Tolkien working Anglo-Saxon people and place-names into the early versions fo The Book fo Lost Tales.

<DougAnderson> The Celtic myths were displaced by the invading Germanic tribes, but mingled with those of the invaders. So it's all an historical mix.

<DougAnderson> Tough question--I hope I've been able to put in a few bits on it.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> from Georgie: Did the content of Tolkiens work change much from the first draft or was it more style changes expressing the same thoughts in a different way?

<DougAnderson> Usually, each draft would increase in length and complexity. As Tolkien worked, he thought of more things, which he tended to add to the next drafts. I think this is why he left so many things unfinished. They just started to grow beyond his control.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> TreeBeard: If you could have a sit down dinner with Tolkien right now, what would be the first thing to come out of your mouth; what else would you talk with him about?

<DougAnderson> Well, how about the Balrogs/wings question or who on earth is Tom Bombadil?

<DougAnderson> Seriously, that's a tough one.

<jincey> lol

<DougAnderson> I've found it very difficult to chat with authors I admire

<jincey> do you feel tolkien was an imposing man?

<DougAnderson> I think Tolkien was a genius, who knew what interested him. These qualities tend to make people imposing. So probably, yes. But if you had common interests, and could peak down the barriers, it's clear that Tolkien could be an enormously charming man too.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> Here's a great question from Kalessin: Do you think any author ever will receive rights to pen a novel that expands on Tolkien's universe?

<DougAnderson> I think it doubtful. Of course, whenever the copryight expires in forty or more years, then anyone could (and will) write further Middle-earth books. Just like the modern additions to the Sherlock Holmes canon.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> and a related question from Quickbeam: How cooperative was the Tolkien Estate when you approached them to work with Professor Tolkien's private notes and manuscripts for your wonderful "The Annotated Hobbit"?

<DougAnderson> I've worked with the Tolkien Estate in various ways for many years, so it really wasn't a matter of approach. They have been very kind to me, and I think they have found value in my work so they have allowed me privileges.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> Feanor: I have read in one of Tolkiens letters that he wished he had done something different with the Hobbit. What do you think he would have changed or added if he could do do it over.

<DougAnderson> That depends on when you might have asked him! Around 1960, Tolkien decided that ifThe Hobbit is going to be understood to be the precursor to The Lord of the Rings, well, then he should make it that.

<DougAnderson> So he started to re-write it from the beginning. I think he re-wrote around three chapters, and was dissuaded from continuing by his secretary.

<DougAnderson> There are disparities of tone between The Hobbit and THe Lord of the Rings, and to reconcile them might have been simply too large a task -- you might gain in some ways, but you'd lose in others

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> from amooglia: Did you find evidence of Tolkien incorporating real folklore and/or historical events?

<DougAnderson> Hmmm. "Real folklore" seems almost an oxymoron!

<DougAnderson> Certainly he incorporated folklore elemnts--like the idea of trolls turning to stone in sunlight. I'm not so sure about historical events, though. At least I can't think of any off the top of my head.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> Willowmere: Tolkien said that he saw LOTR as a history -- something that readers could apply to their lives. Though he deplored allegory, do you see indications of him creating a "history" that reflected certain social/political issues he felt strongly about?

<DougAnderson> I think any serious artist can't help but reflect issues that mean something to them, however obliquely.

<DougAnderson> I'm wondering whether you are thinking of aspects of the monarchy, and how that appears in Tolkien's works. Plus an author can't but reflect issues of his or her own times -- and sometimes it takes a generation or two afterwards to really reflect on what those issues were.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> we've touched on this before sort of, but for new joiners: Corsair asks: What does Mr Anderson think Tolkien, given his conservative frame of mind, would make of all the renewed interest in his works and the hoopla around the movie version. If fact would the good Professor like the movie version?

<DougAnderson> We did discuss this before, but in brief, I think certain aspects he would have liked, and certain others he wouldn't have.

<DougAnderson> I think he certainly would have appreciated the fact that it was a live film, and it's marvellous scenery but he would have writhed over some of the simplifications in characters.

<jincey> from angel: If Tolkien wanted to create a mythological world, do you think scholars place too much emphasis on finding a deeper meaning other than fantasy?

<DougAnderson> Well, meaning is often relative. And if you say a single deeper meaning, I think I'd rather say deeper meanings. Some are of course more valid than others, and some scholars do seem to take this things too far. But that's what shcolars do.

<DougAnderson> I think there is a balance in between the roles of what the author might have intended, and what the critics outside the work can read into it. But it's a tough line to follow.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> Elrond_Peredhil: What is your (to the best that you can make it) opinion of Who/What is Tom Bombadil?

<DougAnderson> That has about three answers!

<jincey> go for it ; )

<jincey> we'd all LOVE to know

<DougAnderson> 1) Tom Bambadil was a wooden Dutch doll that one of Tolkien's children had. One day, one of the other children stuffed it in the lavatory. So it has an actual biographical source outside the story.

<DougAnderson> And 2) Tom Bombadil began literary life as a poem, which Tolkien said reflected the vanishing spirit of the coutryside around Oxford.

<DougAnderson> So 3) you get Tom Bombadil in Middle-earth, which I think began in the same way as Elrond, and Mirkwood showed up in The Hobbit. Merely, that Tolkien re-used elements from his other stories.

<DougAnderson> But where does Tom Bombadil fit within the scheme of Middle-earth?

<DougAnderson> I think he must have been some sort of lesser Maia, roughly equivalent to a kind of nature spirit, whose genius loci is the land where he chose to live. And Goldberry seems to fit this too -- she is River-woman's daughter, again a kind of nature spirit.

<DougAnderson> There have been thousands of words about the nature of Tom Bombadil but nothing outside of an unknown Tolkien letter can really tell us. All we can do is speculate.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> aratorod_joy would like to comment on the earlier question about sources: JRRT had a more scandinavian/homer style vision of myth than celtic myth - he needed to go outside celtic myth because it is not big on large scale epic tales like LOTR, celtic tales are more tv episodes than movies - JRRT needed i feel to go to more extensive sources of the saga to get the breadth and depth for his vision to inspire.

<DougAnderson> Is there more to the question?

<jincey> nope just a comment : )

<DougAnderson> I think probably the Germanic mythologies simply appealed to Tolkien in their content and form more than the Celtic, though certainly elemnts of the Celtic did appeal to him. So it probably is just his own tastes we see reflected in Middle-earth. Linguistically, Finnish had a profound influence on his Elvish languages, as did Welsh.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> Demosthenes: I wanted to ask whether you felt The Hobbit was more than simply a good tale ... whether there was something more at its centre, like LoTR

<DougAnderson> Oh yes, The Hobbit really goes on as a good tale for about half the book, but then it grows into something much more. The high style of the later chapters, and the idea of Bilbo not being a hero, really bring it up to another level. If Bilbo had merely stabbed Smaug in his sleep, would the book have become a classic? I don't know. I think how the small actions effect the whole world (the Elvenking, Bard and the Lakemen, etc.) are part of the same process which we see in Frodo taking on the problems of the world in bearing the ring (though of course in The Lord of teh Rings the scale is more massive!).

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> Two more questions then if doug is willing, we'll open up the floor for general chat

<jincey> Frode: having an in-depth knowledge of the amount of thought and work behind Tolkiens writings, what do you suppose is the reason why some members (whose names we shall not mention) of the 'literati' remain so full of disdain towards Tolkiens writings?

<DougAnderson> I think for several reasons. They have no critical vocabulary to understand fantasy, and they simply don't get it. Plus they have made it in their profession by fully empacing the modern ironic mode, complete with the academic adultery of the month club kind of story, that they have just come to view literature in such a narrow perspective. kind

<DougAnderson> And professionally they are invested in promoting the satus quo. Once they shuffle off their mortal coils, and the younger generation brought up on Tolkien talkes over, things will be different. It's just the old Tennyson thought -- the old order changeth, yielding to the new.

<DougAnderson> next

<jincey> LAST question! But before i ask this question on many minds, We at TheOneRing.net would like to thank you for being so generous with your time in coming tonight : )

<jincey> Any time you want to drop in, please do!

<DougAnderson> Thank you for having me, and thanks to everyone for such challenging questions!

<jincey> i have to find it.. hang on ; )

<jincey> Do you have plans to annotate any of Tolkien's other works in the future?

<Demosthenes> such as LoTR, perhaps?

<DougAnderson> No. The impulse to do The Hobbit was to take a characteristic Tolkien text and use it to attempt to show how Tolkien worked as a writer. To do more would be, for me, doing more of the same.

<jincey> Please note the smiles all around the room

<jincey> even something as complex as the silmarillion?

<jincey> which needs notes ; )

<DougAnderson> Hmmm. No-one has ever asked that....

<jincey> and study guide

<DougAnderson> But really, in a sense, Christopher Tolkien's twelve volumes of the History of MIddle-earth is an annotation to The Silmarillion. So I think he's already done that!

<jincey> ahh true : )

<jincey> wow this has been fantastic, doug!

<jincey> care to hang around for a bit?

<Balin> many thanks Doug

* Balin bows

<DougAnderson> I can stay for 10 or 15 minutes, but then I need to get dinner!

<jincey> ok opening room now : )

<Willowmere> been a delight Mr Anderson

<TempleDog> Thank you!

<DougAnderson> Thanks WIllowmere

<Faust> Woo! Well done Mr Anderson, and thank you. :)

<MOZONE> Thanks!

<Mellon> Thanks

<Tehanu> Thanks Doug!

<samgamgee7> thank you for sharing with us mr anderson

<Elrond_Peredhil> Thank you for coming tonight My. Anderson, it has been a joy

<sherlock> thanks mr. anderson

<Angel> It has been very insightful, thank you Mr. Anderson.

<Dark_Queen> thanks Mr Anderson, I've learned lots and its been fun

<DougAnderson> It's been a pleasure.

<samgamgee7> and yer welcome to come visit anytime : )

<po> Mr. Anderson, to be honest, i've bought your book a few months ago, but put off reading it because i figured it was more of the same, what do you think will be different reading this book with your commentary?

<DougAnderson> Po -- It basically tried to elucidate the various dimensions and depths in Tolkien.

<po> oh, sorry, and let me add, i've read all of JRRT's stuff

<DougAnderson> Textually, via his influences, literary, and biographical, etc.

<DougAnderson> Some people find such backgournd interesting, some don't. It's really not essential, but it's kind of like haviing a guide while reading the book.

<Willowmere> one question i do have--others may know the answer to this--Christopher Tolkien must be getting quite up in years...does anyone know who may take over the LOTR/Tolkien legacy once he passes on?

<po> good question, Willowmere

<po> do you know, Mr. Anderson

<DougAnderson> Hi Willowmere. I have no idea. I'm sure there must be something set up.

<Tehanu> That reminds me of another question: Do you think there are troves of undiscovered Tolkien letters or even manuscripts somewhere?

<Dark_Queen> definitely hope so

<Willowmere> lol wouldn't that be yummy

<Frode> Thanks a bunch for your time and knowledge, Doug!

<DougAnderson> There are definitely unpublished works. My colleague, Mike Drout, whose edition of Tolkien's booklength "Beowulf and the Critics" is just coming out, is working on an edition of Tolkien's translation of Beowulf. And I'm working on some of Tolkien's early poems, many of which are unpublished.

<Elrond_Peredhil> Mr. Anderson, can you tell us about the current merchandising rights issue with the Saul Zaentz company and the Tolkien estate?

<Tehanu> Great!

<jincey> ahhhhh

<Willowmere> lovely

<Dark_Queen> Yeah!

<jincey> could you ever see A & E or BBC doing a miniseries of the silm or unfinished tales? like an anthology series?

<DougAnderson> As to Saul Zaents-- he is the force behind Tolkien Enterprises,which is a Hollywood firm set up to exploit the movie and merchandizing rights, which Tolkien sold off before he died. Tolkien Enterprises, which licenses things like the Galadirel figurines you see advertised in Sunday newspapers, has no connections with the Tolkien Estate.

<Elrond_Peredhil> Is there any chance (if even they want it) that Tolkien's family may get the rights back some day?

<DougAnderson> Jincey -- I don't know. I don't think (but I don't know for certain) that the Estate is interested in selling film right to things like The Silmarillion. Or else they probably would have done so already.

<DougAnderson> To Elrond_Peredhil, I'm afraid I don't know any of the details of those contracts. The only bit I've seen is what Rayner Unwin published in his autobiography a few years ago a wonderful book called "George Allen & Unwin--A Remembrancer"

<po> Mr. A, how did you reconcile some of the inconsistencies when doing the annotation, for example, Beorn?

<DougAnderson> Po -- what inconsistency about Beorn?

<po> where did he come from, for example

<DougAnderson> Oh, I could only really speculate on how things fit in without real Tolkienien evidence, but I tried to use any stray Tolkien cometns that I could.

<po> there is no prior example of his type of species (for lack of a better word) anywhere in Middle Earth?

<Guest1> Mr. Anderson, are you looking forward to the relases of Peter Jackson's TTT in a few days?

<DougAnderson> True. And there isn't much to say about how Beorn evolved within the world itself.

<po> did tolkien keep handwritten notes on the Hobbit like he did with LOTR?

<Guest2> Mr. Anderson, why do the men of Laketown destroy the bridges and trap themselvrs open their island city when they are attacked by Smaug? This seems like bad tactics.

<DougAnderson> Guest1, Yes, I look forward to seeing TT. I expect like the FotR, I'll like some things, but dislike some

<po> doesn't that drive you nuts, not knowing where Beorn came from?

<Guest1> Thank-you :)

<DougAnderson> po -- some handwritten outlines for the Hobbit, but not nearly like he did with The Lord of the Rings

<Guest1> Me too, heh.

<DougAnderson> Guest 2: Bad tactics it is.

<aratorodwen> Lissenen ar'maska'lalaith tenna' lye omentuva

<po> do you feel that the Hobbit locations were left out in the War of the Ring?

<jincey> folks doug has about 5 more minutes before he leaves for his dinner engagement

<po> for example, Lake town, Dain Ironfoot

<DougAnderson> po -- not sure what you're asking? Do you mean the movie?

<po> no, in the LOTR, i felt that the men of Lake town and the Lonely Mountain were "left out"

<DougAnderson> Oh, I guess that would have involved too many other threads for Tolkien to work into the main narrative. he does (briefly) deal with them in teh appendices

<po> during the entire story of the LOTR, i realize, the story was not about "them" but i missed them

<Guest3> i think it mentions somewhere that wars were going on in other parts of ME

<po> it does

<DougAnderson> po -- I agree there

<jincey> yes

<po> Mr. Anderson, i also have read that the three books, hobbit, LOTR, and Sil were written for different age groups, your opinion?

<DougAnderson> po -- yes, there is some truth to that

<Guest2> I have seen the Wargs in Peter Jackson's trailer for the movie, does tolkien ever decribe their origins or creation.

<DougAnderson> And the fact that Tolkien wrote them at different periods of his life

<DougAnderson> The earliest Silmarillion was The Book of Lost Tales, written when Tolkien was in his twenties, before he had developed his best prose. So you see variations in different ways

<DougAnderson> Guest 2 -- on the wargs, not that I recall.

<DougAnderson> Okay, one more and I have to go!

<po> all i can say now, Mr. A... when i read JRRT, i have several books open on my lap at the same time, now i have to add yours

<Guest2> Thank you for speaking with us!

<Guest3> maybe i missed when you answered this question, but you said earlier that bilbo was not the hero of the hobbit?

<Guest3> at the end

<DougAnderson> Hah, po! When I read JRRT I have numerous books open too!

<po> LOL, Mr. A, do your fingers get tired of "holding places" too?

<DougAnderson> Guest 3 -- I was meaning not _a_ hero in the sense that he didn't kill the dragon, and didn't fight in the battle

<jincey> Oooh, what do you thnk of the guide to middle earth by robert foster?

<DougAnderson> po -- I bless the soul who invented yellow post-its! I have no idea how people worked before them!

<jincey> ever thought of a silm guidebook?

<Guest2> But given up the Arkenstone was heroic, even against its power

<po> told you, Jincey, i plan on writing that

<Guest3> ok

<DougAnderson> Guest2 -- absolutely, but not in the usual mythological sense of "hero"

<Elrond_Peredhil> the arkenstone had powers? I thought it was just a very fair jewel

<Guest3> thorin wanted it above everything else

<Guest3> that's it

<Guest2> I read it as influencing greed and betrayel

<DougAnderson> Jincey -- I love Foster's Guide to Middle-earth. It's the best of all the guides. I wish he'dsimilarly cover the History of Middle-earth!

<Dark_Queen> power for greed, power in an abstract sense

<jincey> i agree !

<Elrond_Peredhil> I just took the impression that it was just because it was a fair jewel of his fathers

<jincey> ok folks time's up!

<Dark_Queen> nooo

<Willowmere> Many thanks Mr Anderson, it's been lovely!

<Josholas> heh, good talking

<Elrond_Peredhil> and he was a greedy dwarf

<Dark_Queen> k, bye, thx again

<DougAnderson> Okay, I've got to go. I've had a fine time chatting with you all. Thanks!

<sdread> thanks for making these chats possible everybody!

<Guest3> bye thanks

<Demosthenes> cheers doug :)

<tolkienisgod> bye

<Frode> thanks doug!

<Jaguarundi> Thank you! Farewell!

<Guest2> Thanks

<po> thank you, thank you, thank you, . Mr. A, for coming by

<Yoohoo_Kosh_Baggins> Yoohoo

<jincey> thank you so much for coming in!

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