Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Hobbit Cover Translated

[Taking a 15 min break from work to post this.  Sorry for the typos.  I did not have time to proof it properly. I also wish I had more time to go into more depth with this.}

The original cover of "The Hobbit" was illustrated by Tolkien, and it had on the cover runes as part of the border. 

Original Cover with Notes

I'm not going into the history of the runes Tolkien uses, but did you know the runes actually say something?  I bring this us because in college the professors would sometimes spend a considerable about of time on the title of the book and sometimes even the cover art.  Their reasoning was that the cover and title is part of the work of literature and should not be glanced over.  For instance if you read "Finnigans Wake" by James Joyce the professor might spend time discussing "Finnigans" and might propose questions such as "Is it only one Finnigan or is there a multiplicity of Finnigans?"  or "Did Joyce mean "Finnigan's"?  Another example is the book "Cane" by Jean Toomer, which was written during the Harlem Renascence and is excerpts of life around the United States as experience by African Americans.  With the proper mindset the title of the book can call to mind slaves working in the sugarcane fiends in the south, the canes slaves were beat with by their owners, as well as a a walking device.

Why does this matter to "The Hobbit"?  Simply put, the book, according to the cover, has a duel authorship.  One Bilbo Baggins who wrote his memoirs, and the other J.R.R Tolkien who wrote "The Hobbit" based on the memoirs of Bilbo's journey.

This matters because if you get a copy of a first edition of "The Hobbit" you will notice several discrepancies that many modern readers of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" are unfamiliar with.  One such instance of this is that in the first edition Gollum loses the riddle game and very peacefully shows Bilbo out of the cave.  Gollum appears to be a much gentler creature.  The obvious reason for the discrepancies is that when Tolkien was writing "The Lord of the Rings" he had to go back and make revision to certain characters and even the ring itself.  However, Tolkien himself is part of the story, so the way the revisions are explained, which I think is part of Tolkien's genius, is that Bilbo told the first edition story himself, and it was only later revealed after the publication of the first edition that the real story of Gollum and the ring was made known.  Therefore it was then revised later by others to be in the current state that we have the book today.

Cover with translated runes
"The Hobbit or There and Back Again being the record of a years journey by Bilbo Baggins of  Hobbiton. Compiled from his memoirs by J.R.R. Tolkien and published by George Allen and Unwin Ltd."


Monday, March 25, 2013

Tolkien and the Feast of the Annunciation

Happy Tolkien Reading Day as well as happy Feast of the Annunciation.

Some years back the Tolkien Society was asked if there was a day in which Tolkien fans could gather, read, and celebrate Tolkien.  The day the Tolkien Society chose for this is March 25 and is known as Tolkien Reading Day (TRD).  Why March 25th?  It is the day that the Ring of Power in The Lord of the Rings is cast into the fiery inferno from which it was made, Mount Doom.

Of all 365 days of a year, why chose March 25 instead of say, June 3rd?  It is somewhat simple if you are familiar with Tolkien's Catholic imagery in "The Lord of the Rings."  March 25 in the Catholic tradition serves as the feast of the Annunciation, the day the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear a son by means of the Holy Spirit and he would save the world from their sins.  But there is more, in early Christianity, March 25 was viewed as not only the day God the Son became incarnate, but there was also a tradition that said he also died on March 25th.  That's right, Jesus was made flesh and died on the same day.  This is keeping with a tradition that believed that prophets of God died on the same day they were born or conceived.  In fact, many early Christian churches celebrated Christ's death on this fixed date before Easter and Good Friday became a movable feast based upon the cycles of the moon as with the Jewish Passover.

What am I saying? To the Christian March 25th is the day that Lucifer is defeated by means of the incarnation and death of Christ.  Likewise, the day Sauron is defeated is also March 25th when the Ring was cast into Mount Doom.  One might argue that Tolkien is preparing his reader for Christ by means of a story. After all, he does write of a pre-Christian world.  It would only makes sense that there are foreshadowing of Christ to be found in it like there are in other pre-Christian cultures.

There are other events that are said to have happened on March 25th.  They are:

  • The Creation of Adam (Jesus is the New Adam)
  • The Passing of Israel through the Red Sea (Prefiguration of the defeat over the enemy as well as baptism)
  • The Binding of Isaac (Prefiguration of the Crucifixion of Christ)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Evil in the Hobbit: Conference Paper

Hello Friends,

 I know it has been a long time since I last updated the blog. I haven't forgotten about it. I've just been working hard on other things. A couple of weeks back I had the privilege to read a paper I wrote on the Hobbit by Tolkien at a conference, in honor of the movie release, at the University of Valparaiso.  No there were no participants roaming the lands dressed as elves, orc, or hobbits.  This was primarily an academic conference and less of a fan conference.  However, there were a number of Tolkien fans at the conference: librarians, house wives, teachers, pastors, etc.

The conference itself was enjoyable.  There a number of tolkien scholars present who sat and listened the papers being presented (Douglas A. Anderson, John D, Rateliff, and Verlyn Flieger.)  A Lord of the Rings symphony was performed as well.

I'm currently experimenting with using audio lectures for next school year where the student listen to the lecture at home then we read a primary source in class.  In the educational world this is know as a flipped classroom.  Because of my experimentation, I decided to record the paper I read at the conference and upload it to the blog for others who may be interested.

I will say that the initial paper was 26 pages in length.  This was far too long for the time I was allotted (20 mins).  Therefore I cut, cut, and cut some more until I was in the neighborhood of 8-10 pages double spaced.  As a result, I had to remove some of the sections that I particularly like in order to make the paper more concise. For instance, I removed a section on the Benedictian view of hospitality and how it relates to The Hobbit.

Intro and Philoxenia 0:00 -11:30
Landscape/Environment 11:30 - 12:19
Smaug, Seven Deady Sins; Bilbo and the Seven Virtues. 12:19 - End

Bumper Music:

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