THE SHADOW MAN

Never-before-seen Tolkien poems written before The Hobbit are discovered

NEVER-before-seen poems written by J.R.R. Tolkien have been discovered inside an old school magazine.

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Poems by J.R.R. Tolkien have been discovered

The Shadow Man, written a year before his first classic work The Hobbit was published, was found after staff at Our Lady’s Abingdon school, Oxfordshire looked through back issues of its magazine.The poem, which was later appeared as Shadow-bride, and was released as part of the fantasy icon’s Adventures of Tom Bombadil in 1962.

According to the independent school’s principal, Stephen Oliver, they began to look through their archives after being contacted by an American Tolkien scholar, Wayne G. Hammond who had seen that two of Tolkien’s poems were listed in The Abingdon Chronicle.

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Tolkien’s work was found in a school magazine

Now, Mr Oliver believes that the poems may have been given to the magazine after Tolkien struck up a friendship with the nuns that were running the school.As well as The Shadow Man, the poem Noel was written to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Tolkien lived in Oxford at the time he wrote the The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Mr Oliver said: “We had no idea that we had a copy of some of Tolkien’s poetry so it came as a surprise when we found them. I feel pretty privileged to have been a part of the discovery.”An American academic got in touch with us to say that he was looking to find them and that they were contained in a publication called the Abingdon Chronicle.

“At first we couldn’t find the 1936 edition and referred Mr Hammond on to the archives of the Sisters of Mercy, who founded the school, which are in London.

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The Shadow Man

My excitement when I saw them was overwhelming

Stephen Oliver

“But after we were preparing for another event for former pupils, we uncovered our own copy and discovered the poems that he had been looking for.”My excitement when I saw them was overwhelming. I am a great Tolkien fan and was thrilled to discover the connection with the school.

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The poem

“The school magazine was something that was produced each year to provide things like updates on the alumni and would also contain bits of poetry.”It was brilliant to find it and it’s great that we have found such a great bit of heritage to tie to our school. We had no idea that there was a link between us before that point.”

THE MYTH OF THE WRITER, AND THE FANTASY THEREOF

Last night a friend and I were having a discussion regarding Myth and Fantasy on his Facebook page. Since this is a subject I have much studied and long thought about I decided I would post my reply to his discussion on this page. So here is my summation of some of the more salient differences, and some of the basic similarities, between Fantasy and Myth.
This is in the form of my Facebook page response, of course, but later I will create an essay out of this and related material I have written in the past on the same subjects.

 

SOME OF THE DIFFERENCES AND SIMILARITIES BETWEEN FANTASY AND MYTH

To me it mostly depends on if you’re writing Myth or Fantasy.

Myth, such as Tolkien wrote is filled with footnotes and endnotes and much of Tolkien’s myth refers directly to real world history or is a thinly veiled modification of it, just as Classical myth is, e.g.. Homer and Virgil.

The Black Gate is a modification of the Iron Gate of the Byzantines, Rohan was a modification of a real place and people, etc..

If it is fantasy it might also contain heavy historical elements, but they are greatly modified and changed significantly. In that kind of fantasy (swords and sorcery fantasy) magic is more important than myth, the supernatural more important than technology or realism, story more important than history, and character more important than culture (typically).

Tolkien for instance created very realistic cultures and landscapes that were well developed enough to imagine living in, or wanting to live in. Howard, with Conan (fantasy), created heavily modified versions of semi-realistic, but mostly underdeveloped proto-human cultures that few if any would really want to love in. Same with Moorcock (another fantasy writer). A lot of underlying history and myth in both Howard and Moorcock, no real admirable cultures or worlds to live in. No real higher mythic and spiritual content, a lot more grunt-work and gritty adventure and survival.

I follow that same general pattern. I’m writing a mythic series (The Other World) which is a mix of Byzantine realism and the mythos of Prester John. It is also a retelling of the Fall of Constantinople and the founding of America in mythic form. It has a lot of “high, mythic, poetic, and spiritual content.”
I am writing another series of what I call magic and miracles fantasy which is based on what we now know of pre-historic and proto-human cultures, but the emphasis is not on sweeping myths or great cultures, but on personal adventure, and individual supernatural and magical experience.

(And this is paradoxically why poetry and song so rarely appear in pure fantasy, and when it does, it is almost always of very inferior quality – but in myth really good song and poetry is a primary and necessary component – Beowulf and the Iliad are poetic, in Conan real poetry and song are absent. Real Myth is poetic, by nature. Fantasy is prosaic, comparatively speaking.)

In myth magic is tightly controlled and there is little of it, especially overtly. Magic is underground and few can master it. Magic is an elite force employed by an elite few. In fantasy it is usually ubiquitous yet extremely dangerous and likely always out of control, or completely uncontrolled. In fantasy the elite think they can master magic but it almost always it overmasters them. In myth they often can master magic, be it Gandalf or Wotan, though it always has a price for the greedy and unwise. (Such as Fafnir.)

On the other hand, Conan being a fantasy character and a barbarian and a primal man instinctively knows this about his world, he lives in a supernatural and fantastical environment (not a mythic one) , well above his personal pay-grade. The way to equalize magic is not to make it rare and tightly controlled, like in myth, but to avoid it altogether, or destroy it if possible. In myth magic is really a spiritual force, good or bad, and not easily understood or mastered. In fantasy magic is not a spiritual force, but supernatural nitro-glycerin.)

In myth there are also obviously miraculous and apparently fated events. In fantasy fate is what a man makes of himself.

And to me therein lies another of the real differences. In myth, although the characters are very important, the myth is Fundamental. Obviously much bigger things than the individual are at Work.

The myth is what is really being discussed; the characters are archetypes in action.

In fantasy the cultures and the environment are the archetypes, it is the characters being discussed. The individual is what is at Work. The person is in reaction, struggling to bring things under his own control, and usually failing.

In my second series, the fantasy series, the books are about the adventures of Solimar, who is renamed by his god and given a mission to fulfill in the world. So he roams the world seeking to fulfill his mission and understand his supernatural origins, both at birth, and at “rebirth and renaming.”
Solimar, who begins as Soar (So-ar), is really a retelling of the stories of Jacov and of Abram (Solimar’s god, Olim, or Holim, inserts his own name in the middle of Soar’s name to remake him into his representative in the world) in a vaguely Conan like form. Though Solimar is not a warrior but more of a spy, and a Jack of all Trades adventurer, who has become his god’s semi-reluctant and covert Agent.

Now all of that being said I still think there is plenty of room in the middle. As a matter of fact GRR Martin and his series is exactly that. Half-mythic realism, half-magical fantasy. Half Westeros mythos (and Real World history – Dunk and Egg), and half Dragon-Egg/White Walker fantasy. And you can clearly see how the two separate worlds impinge upon and overlap one another, and you can also clearly see how they are separated by, “A Wall.” (In Tolkien the wall of separation was the frontier of Mordor.)

So if you ask me you can lean towards the ends of the bell curve, or, if you wish, seek the top and the middle.

Plenty of room to roam landscapes in all directions if you so wish.

 

 

THE TOLKIENIC RINGS

He’d have been crusty and stodgy in some ways, but it would have been hard not to like the guy.

Actually though I did know most of these things. Recently I finished reading Sigurd and Gudrun which was indeed, quite excellent. Not as good as The Fall of Arthur but very, very good.

10 Things You Might Not Know About J.R.R. Tolkien

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There are plenty of things even the most ardent fans don’t know about John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.

1. He had a flair for the dramatic.

As a linguist and expert on Old English and Old Norse literature, Tolkien was a professor at Oxford University from 1925 until 1959. He was also a tireless instructor, teaching between 70 and 136 lectures a year (his contract only called for 36). But the best part is the way he taught those classes. Although quiet and unassuming in public, Tolkien wasn’t the typical stodgy, reserved stereotype of an Oxford don in the classroom. He went to parties dressed as a polar bear, chased a neighbor dressed as an axe wielding Anglo-Saxon warrior and was known to hand shopkeepers his false teeth as payment. As one of his students put it, “He could turn a lecture room into a mead hall.”

2. He felt many of his fans were “lunatics.”

Tolkien saw himself as a scholar first and a writer second. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were largely Tolkien’s attempt to construct a body of myth, and their success caught him largely unaware. In fact, he spent years rejecting, criticizing and shredding adaptations of his work that he didn’t believe captured its epic scope and noble purpose! He was also utterly skeptical of most LOTR fans, who he thought incapable of really appreciating the work, and he probably would have been horrified by movie fandom dressing up like Legolas.

3. He loved his day job.

To Tolkien, writing fantasy fiction was simply a hobby. The works he considered most important were his scholarly works, which included Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics, a modern translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and A Middle English Vocabulary.

4. He was quite the romantic (and he’s got the nerdy gravestone to prove it).

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At age 16, Tolkien fell in love with Edith Bratt, three years his senior. His guardian, a Catholic priest, was horrified that his ward was seeing a Protestant and ordered the boy to have no contact with Edith until he turned 21. Tolkien obeyed, pining after Edith for years until that fateful birthday, when he met with her under a railroad viaduct. She broke off her engagement to another man, converted to Catholicism, and the two were married for the rest of their lives. At Tolkien’s instructions, their shared gravestone has the names “Beren” and “Luthien” engraved on it, a reference to a famous pair of star-crossed lovers from the fictional world he created.

5. His relationship with C.S. Lewis was not all it’s cracked up to be.

Tolkien’s fellow Oxford don C.S. Lewis (author of The Chronicles of Narnia) is often identified as his best friend and closest confidant. But the truth is, the pair had a much more troubled relationship. At first, the two authors were very close. In fact, Tolkien’s wife Edith was reportedly jealous of their friendship. And it was Tolkien who convinced Lewis to return to Christianity. But their relationship cooled over what Tolkien perceived as Lewis’s anti-Catholic leanings and scandalous personal life (he had been romancing an American divorcee at the time). Although they would never be as close as they were before, Tolkien regretted the separation. After CS Lewis died, Tolkien wrote in a letter to his daughter that “So far I have felt . . . like an old tree that is losing all its leaves one by one: this feels like an axe-blow near the roots.”

6. He enjoyed clubbing.

Well, the extra-curricular, after-school sort. Wherever Tolkien went, he was intimately involved in the formation of literary and scholarly clubs. As a professor at Leeds University, for example, he formed the Viking Club. And during his stint at Oxford, he formed the Inklings—a literary discussion group.

7. He wasn’t blowing smoke about those war scenes.

Tolkien was a veteran of the First World War, and served as a second lieutenant in the 11th (Service) Battalion of the British Expeditionary Force in France. He was also present for some of the most bloody trench fighting of the war, including the Battle of the Somme. The deprivations of Frodo and Sam on their road to Mordor may have had their origins in Tolkien’s time in the trenches, during which he contracted a chronic fever from the lice that infested him that forced him to return home. He would later say that all but one of his close friends died in the war, giving him a keen awareness of its tragedy that shines through in his writing.

8. He invented languages for fun.

A philologist by trade, Tolkien kept his mind exercised by inventing new languages, many of which (like the Elvish languages Quenya and Sindarin) he used extensively in his writing. He even wrote songs and poems in his fictional languages. In addition, Tolkien worked to reconstruct and write in extinct languages like Medieval Welsh and Lombardic. His poem “BagmÄ“ Blomā” (“Flower of the Trees”) might be the first original work written in the Gothic language in over a millennium.

9. He’s been published almost as prolifically posthumously as alive.

Most authors have to be content with the works they produce during their lifetime, but not Tolkien. His scribblings and random notes, along with manuscripts he never bothered to publish, have been edited, revised, compiled, redacted, and published in dozens of volumes after his death, most of them produced by his son Christopher. While Tolkien’s most famous posthumous publication is Silmarillion, other works include The History of Middle Earth, Unfinished Tales, The Children of Hurin, and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun.

10. He wasn’t nearly as fond of Nazis as they were of him.

Tolkien’s academic writings on Old Norse and Germanic history, language and culture were extremely popular among the Nazi elite, who were obsessed with recreating ancient Germanic civilization. But Tolkien was disgusted by Hitler and the Nazi party, and made no secret of the fact. He considered forbidding a German translation of The Hobbit after the German publisher, in accordance with Nazi law, asked him to certify that he was an “Aryan.” Instead, he wrote a scathing letter asserting, among other things, his regret that he had no Jewish ancestors. His feelings are also evidenced in a letter he wrote to his son: “I have in this War a burning private grudge—which would probably make me a better soldier at 49 than I was at 22: against that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler … Ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed, that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light.”

I hear ya Tolkien. It would have been the same for me…

HARROWHOARD AND HALLOWHOARD

Crap, I had to get up out of bed and work again this morning even though I didn’t want to. Nevertheless I had three ideas far too good to lose. So I just got up and started working them.

They occurred to me as I was reading Tolkien’s reworking of the Lay of the Völsungs – Sigurd and Gudrun. Specifically the section just after Sigurd slays Fafnir and he and the dwarf Regin are discussing the outcome which has some of my favorite Tolkienic lines of the Lay.

“Nay, blame not thyself,
Backward helper!
Stout heart is better 
Than strongest sword.”
“Yet the sword I smithied,
The serpent’s bane!
The bold oft are beaten
Who have blunt weapons.

I love these lines, especially the ones I have emboldened and italicized as both are true. For different reasons yet both true.

Then the poem goes on to speak of Regin cutting out the heart of Fafnir and encouraging Sigurd to cook it so that Regin can eat it and gain the dragon’s magical powers. Sigurd does so but accidentally burns his fingers and touches the cooking blood to his tongue to cool his finger and he gains the magical power to understand the languages of beast and birds.

Thereafter Sigurd learns of Regin’s treachery, slays him, and takes the Rhinegold for his own only to later learn of the tragic curse upon the treasure.

This gave me three related ideas to use in my own novels. The first is of a group of Lorahn (a powerful but more rural and rustic and primitive fairy people distantly related to the Sidhs, the Lorahn remain basically a wilderness or frontier people while the Sidhs have over time become more urbanized and moved to the interior) who go about the inhabited parts of Iÿarlðma hunting down and slaying any Korreupt (a monster created by exposure to Elturgy, or magic) they can find. After slaying them it becomes a common practice for these hunters to eat various parts of the monsters they kill thereby temporarily (not permanently) gaining their powers (The Blood of Uncanny Monsters). Only later do they discover that some of these monsters are actually their own people who have been transformed by exposure to Elturgy. Therefore these hunters have been practicing cannibalism unawares. With later drastic and disastrous consequences.

Secondly thinking about both the Cursed Gold of the myth and the forging of Gram by the dwarf Regin I had an idea for a large Hoard (treasure trove) of powerful and ancient artefacts and items that is also cursed but one that is cursed in a very peculiar way. The discoverer of the hoard can take any object he wishes from it without harm, any object he likes or desires (and some of the objects evoke an almost lustful desire to be possessed) but only one (that is the first nature of the curse) and the hoard itself often tries to lead the item-taker in particular choosing-directions. Often a hoard-object seems the perfect item for a given individual to possess but later on the hero or item-taker discovers that the object taken was the entirely wrong object, or an object that is as much a burden as a boon. The hoard also never seems to appear in the same place twice and furthermore if one intentionally goes looking for it then it can almost never be discovered. It is almost always stumbled upon by seeming accident. How the curse of the single-item will work I have yet to precisely decide but I have a couple of ideas about how it might function. I call this treasure trove the Harrowhoard, that being a play on words meaning both, “the Hoard of Suffering,” and the “Harrowed, or Plowed-under, Hoard.” Because the hoard is both often found underground or in harrowed lands, and for the habit of the hoard in suggesting false choices thereby “plowing under” (burying) the item taker with his treasure.

The third idea I had, and the second for a hoard, is not what one would typically think of as a hoard at all but rather is more like a shrine containing hundreds of powerful relics smuggled away from their original hiding place on our world by secret Eldeven agents who steal the powerful relics of various Saints and take them to their own world, that of Iÿarlðma. The Eldevens (mostly Sidhs, but others as well) build a hidden and Elturgically concealed and protected shrine to house and store these relics. Occasionally though someone will stumbled upon this hoard or pierce the elturgical enchantments protecting it and make off with a relic only to find that within a short period of time, although they still possess the relic, they have no memory of the location of the hoard. Also not knowing what the relic is or what it is for these relics are often as obscure to the owner as they would be to anyone else who knew not what they possessed. I call this hoard the Hallowhoard. For obvious reasons.

I still have to devise the proper Eldeven and Sidhelic terms (in those languages) for both Harrowhoard and Hallowhoard but I’ll do that later.

Anyway it is nearly 2:30 AM now and I must get back to working to integrate these ideas into my novel.

Thank God my wife is off work tomorrow and I can sleep some during the day. I’d like a few hours of uninterrupted sleep at least.