- Tolkien, les racines du légendaire, and: Tolkien, trente ans après (1973-2003)
After many decades of apparently evincing little interest in the works of Tolkien, French scholars have produced a veritable flurry of published material during the last five years. In addition to the two volumes under review one might mention the substantial contributions of Ferré (2001), Caldecott et al. (2002), Ducreux (2003–a reprint of her doctoral dissertation from 1995), and Ridoux (2004), not to mention a considerable number of more popular works. There is also a growing body of secondary material on Tolkien that is being translated from English, including a 2003 translation of Lin Carter's 1969 standby, Tolkien: A Look Behind "The Lord of the Rings." A revised translation of The Lord of the Rings into French should be available in 2006 and the painstaking process of translating The History of Middle-earth is also underway. The first two volumes, Le Livre des Contes purdues, appeared between 1995-1998 translated by Tolkien's grandson, Adam, and volume three is slated to appear in 2006.
Tolkien, les racines du légendaire is the second volume of Tolkien studies entitled somewhat modestly as La Feuille de la Compagnie ["The Broadsheet of the Society"] published by La Compagnie de la Comté ["The Shire Society"], an organization founded in 1996 whose goal is promote [End Page 196] understanding of the work of Tolkien for a French-speaking audience (one should also note that the German Tolkien Association has just published the first volume of its yearbook under the title Hither Shore, which contains the proceedings of the Society's 2004 meeting in Cologne). The first volume of La Feuille de la Compagnie appeared in 2001 at a modest 152 pages and like the volume under review was divided into sections entitled: "Dossiers," "Articles," and "Comptes rendus" ["Reviews"].
However, the first item in the present volume is a section "Inédit" ["Unedited"] (19-81) which contains an annotated translation done by Michaël Devaux of the complete letter to Milton Waldman written in 1951 in which Tolkien outlines the concept of his Legendarium and the history of the Three Ages (published in part, Letters, 143-161). Included is the English text of the section omitted from Letters which is a summary of the narrative of The Lord of the Rings. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull have also edited this omitted section and it now appears in their The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion (742-749).
One of the concerns of both of the volumes under review is to consider the "archaeology" of Tolkien studies in France: why were they so slow in getting off the ground; who were the pioneers; how did the interest develop despite the lack of adequate translations of Tolkien's major works. One of the first steps in this direction was the contribution Edouard Kloczko made to his collection, Tolkien en France, under the title "Tolkien et la critique française: une bibliographie" (161-69). The earliest essay there on The Lord of the Rings dates from 1967. Michaël Devaux opens up the section "Dossiers" ["Documents"] (85-146) with a much earlier witness to an interest in Tolkien and in doing so uncovers a hitherto overlooked link between Tolkien and one of the more prominent Catholic theologians of the second half of the twentieth century. Father Louis Bouyer (1913-2004) had been a protestant minister until 1939 when he converted to Catholicism. He eventually established himself as one of the foremost contemporary authorities on the Eucharist. At the Institute Catholique de Paris he ran into opposition from his colleagues, not helped by his somewhat hasty temper, chief among them Father Jean Daniélou (1904-1974). (Daniélou was later a Cardinal whose death was not entirely free from scandal...