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  • The Year's Work in Tolkien Studies 2006
  • David Bratman

In Tolkien studies, 2006 was the Year of the Encyclopedias. Each of the two volumes of Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond's J.R.R. Tolkien Companion & Guide outweighs their already massive 2005 book, The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion. The Companion & Guide, while a chronology and encyclopedia rather than a biography, instantly superseded Humphrey Carpenter's long-standard Tolkien: A Biography as the source of first reference for biographical data on the man. Together, these three compact volumes, filled with tiny print, dominate the field of Tolkien reference books. To nobody's surprise, the Companion & Guide received the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies in 2007, as the Reader's Companion had the previous year. As if that weren't enough to make the year memorable for encyclopedias, the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia, edited by Michael D.C. Drout, also appeared on the shelves. A folio-sized volume with very large print, the Drout encyclopedia looks quite unlike Scull and Hammond, and it reads very differently as well. Its entries by many hands are full of individual character, which is the book's strength as well as its weakness.

Two notable anthologies appeared in 2006. The Lord of the Rings, 1954-2004: Scholarship in Honor of Richard E. Blackwelder, edited by Hammond and Scull in that order (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2006), is the proceedings of a conference held at Marquette University, where Tolkien's Lord of the Rings papers are deposited, in 2004 in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the book's publication. The lucidity and insight of almost all the contributions make this a major anthology in Tolkien studies. This commentator intends no boastfulness, for it could be said even more strongly were he not among the contributors: the quality of this book comes simply from the fact that, if you invite the best Tolkien scholars to your conference, you will get the best papers.

Tolkien and Modernity is a two-volume set edited by Frank Weinreich and Thomas Honegger (Zollikofen, Switzerland: Walking Tree Publishers, 2006). On volume 2 the editors' names are given in reverse order, apparently an attempt at impartiality by the publishers, but one which will only cause sighs of exasperation in library catalogers. The volumes are properly kept together, and all their contents will be cited as Weinreich and Honegger, with volume number, in this survey. The articles sometimes step on each others' toes, but largely avoid the definitional question of whether Tolkien was a modernist, whatever that means. Instead, most [End Page 315] discuss his approach to matters deemed typical of modern literature.

Like the two encyclopedias, other publications of the year tended to cluster. There were two books in the previously untilled field of Tolkien and plants: Ents, Elves, and Eriador by Matthew Dickerson and Jonathan Evans, primarily a study of Tolkien's environmental views with some material on secondary world horticulture, and The Plants of Middle-earth by Dinah Hazell, basically a botanist's guide to the sub-creation. In shorter papers, the subject of Tolkien as a modernist attracted Ralph C. Wood and John C. Hunter outside the Weinreich and Honegger anthology. Marjorie Burns and Jane Chance both wrote on class structure in Tolkien. Norman K. Swazo and Zak Cramer both wrote on Jewish cultural influences on Tolkien. Character studies of Aragorn and Tom Bombadil also each came in pairs. No fewer than four papers diligently pursued parallels to Beowulf in The Lord of the Rings. Studies of Tolkien's linguistic aesthetics came to the fore and swamped out the translation studies that had dominated Tolkienian philology for the previous couple of years.

Journal publications of the year devoted to Tolkien included Volume 3 of this journal, Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review; Mallorn issue 44 from the Tolkien Society, dated August; Parma Eldalamberon 16 from the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship; and two double issues of Mythlore from the Mythopoeic Society: issue 93/94 (Vol. 24, no. 3/4, dated Winter/Spring), and issue 95/96 (Vol. 25, no. 1/2, dated Fall/Winter). Hither Shore, the yearbook of the Deutsche Tolkien Gesellschaft, for...


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