- The Years’ Work in Tolkien Studies 2001-2002
Just as in The Silmarillion the year of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad is known as the Year of Lamentation, the years of 2001 and 2002 are for Tolkien studies the Years of the Movie. Or some of its years. Since 1968, in the wake of the first great Tolkien boom, hardly a year has gone by without the publication of a full-length book on Tolkien by an academic or commercial press, but except for spurts during the years immediately following the 1977 publication of The Silmarillion, and again in 1992 around the centenary of Tolkien's birth, there had never been more than two or three a year. This changed in 2000, and has shown no signs of slowing down since. The number of academic articles has also grown.
The impetus for this increase in Tolkien-related verbiage is undoubtedly many-faceted. The posthumous History of Middle-earth series, edited by Christopher Tolkien, was completed in twelve volumes in 1996: scholars have begun to absorb its complex contents, finding new aspects of Tolkien's writing to discuss. Gradually, ever so slowly, study of Tolkien and other popular fantasists is gaining a foothold of respectability in corners of the academic world: scholars are beginning to feel less dissuaded from writing about Tolkien, and an academic market is growing for study of his work.
But mostly, it's the movies. The first of three annual films directed by Peter Jackson, collectively titled The Lord of the Rings, was released in December 2001 amid great publicity that had been building up for at least two years while filming had proceeded. These days a major film cannot be released without a batch of film books about its making (not covered in this article), and some of this interest has rubbed off on the book on which the films are supposedly based and on its author. Some of the interest of academic publishers in issuing books on Tolkien may have been affected by the film's presence; the sudden vast increase in popular books explaining Tolkien to a general audience certainly has. The release of the first film was also the occasion for a burst of popular magazine and newspaper feature articles on Tolkien, some of the more interesting of which are annotated here.
The most significant books of Tolkien criticism published in 2001-2002 are two scholarly editions, Beowulf and the Critics edited by Michael D.C. Drout and the revised and expanded edition of The Annotated Hobbit edited by Douglas A. Anderson, for their extensive scholarly apparatus. A third edition, The Alphabet of Rúmil & Early Noldorin Fragments edited by members of the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship, is an important first publication [End Page 289] of Tolkien's early linguistic work. Like Anderson's work, Splintered Light by Verlyn Flieger is not a casually revised reprint but a complete reworking of a most important critical study. The Uncharted Realms of Tolkien by Alex Lewis and Elizabeth Currie and Women Among the Inklings by Candice Fredrick and Sam McBride are provocative and interesting though flawed. J. R. R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth by Bradley J. Birzer is a well-researched study with worthy content. Of the books on Tolkien for general readers, the most readable are Meditations on Middle-earth edited by Karen Haber, a collection of personal appreciations and observations mostly by practicing fantasy authors, and The Magical Worlds of The Lord of the Rings by David Colbert, a children's introduction to Tolkien's mythic sources and parallels.
Journals devoted entirely to Tolkien published many of the most valuable articles on his work during 2001-2002. These journals include Mallorn, the journal of the Tolkien Society, which published issues 38-39 in 2001 and issue 40 in 2002; Mythlore, from the Mythopoeic Society, which published issue 89 in 2001 and issue 90 in 2002, the latter devoted entirely to articles on Tolkien; and two linguistic journals published by the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship. Issue 13 of Parma Eldalamberon, the ELF's edition of The Alphabet of Rúmil & Early Noldorin Fragments, appeared in 2001. Vinyar Tengwar published issue 42 in 2001 and issues...