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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Jared Lobdell has passed away - did you know who he was?


Apr 13, 12:53am

Post #1 of 3 (411 views)
Jared Lobdell has passed away - did you know who he was? Can't Post

I wanted to call attention on this board to the recent passing of Jared Lobdell on March 22. Some here may know of him, others perhaps not. He was a very early scholar of Tolkien’s works from a literary and academic perspective, to the point that in the mid-60s he was writing Tolkien about his ideas and getting responses from the Prof – not something later Tolkien scholars (besides Tom Shippey) could claim to have done.

The height of Lobdell’s fame in this area is his editing and publication of A Tolkien Compass in 1975, two years after Tolkien’s death. It was the first collection of academic-quality papers on Tolkien, formally beginning the scholarly field that has come to be known as Tolkien Studies. Here is a table of contents (courtesy of Tolkien Gateway):

  • Jared Lobdell: "Introduction" (dated September 1974)
  • Bonniejean Christensen: "Gollum's Character Transformation in The Hobbit"
  • Dorothy Matthews: "The Psychological Journey of Bilbo Baggins"
  • Walter Scheps: "The Fairy-tale Morality of The Lord of the Rings"
  • Agnes Perkins and Helen Hill: "The Corruption of Power"
  • Deborah C. Rogers: "Everyclod and Everyhero: The Image of Man in Tolkien"
  • Richard C. West: "The Interlace Structure of The Lord of the Rings"
  • David M. Miller: "Narrative Pattern in The Fellowship of the Ring"
  • Robert Plank: "'The Scouring of the Shire': Tolkien's View on Fascism"
  • Charles A. Huttar: "Hell and The City: Tolkien and the Traditions of Western Literature"
  • U. Milo Kaufmann: "Aspects of the Paradisical in Tolkien's Work"
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: "Guide to the Names in The Lord of the Rings"

  • Articles with titles like these simply hadn’t been seen in the academic literature before. It was ground-breaking stuff, not to be sniffed at just because we’re now so used to this level of inspection of Tolkien’s amazing work.

    Notice the last item: yes, an article by Tolkien, on Tolkien. That is, it’s the Prof’s famous guide to translators on how he wanted them to approach his fabulously rich nomenclature. When should one simply render a word phonetically in a new language (hobit, hobitti, alhubit, huo bite ren – Bosnian, Finnish, Arabic, Chinese), and when should one use an equivalent word in the new language (Grafgeest, Heidezehn – Barrow-wight in Dutch, Heathertoes in German)? This working document for publishers fell into Lobdell’s hands almost accidentally and he wrote Christopher Tolkien for permission to publish it, which was granted – a real coup for Dr. Lobdell.

    He continued to hold academic positions and to write about Tolkien as well as other mid-century fantasists, publishing right up to a few years ago. Simply from longevity and persistence, he has been regarded as an anchor of Tolkien scholarship by various editors and compilers.

    And here I want to admit how conflicted I feel about Jared Lobdell, even as I try to honor his career and note his passing today. A few years ago I had the opportunity to read a large body of his essays on Tolkienian subjects, and I found to my growing amazement that they were, in my opinion, poorly and sloppily written, with an almost arrogant disregard for both the topic at hand and his readers’ patience and understanding. Checking around, I found others would quietly agree that “Jared has gone downhill” and “He pretty much writes what he wants to now because he’s Jared Lobdell”. I was disappointed to have to contemplate a man’s life and career in such a light, and I’ve tried, in this essay, to help both myself and all of us remember that the late Dr. Lobdell did, in his own time and own way, pioneer an entirely new way of thinking and writing about Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings. That achievement does very much to make up for any failings we might discover in his later career.

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    N.E. Brigand

    Apr 13, 12:19pm

    Post #2 of 3 (388 views)
    Very sorry to hear this. [In reply to] Can't Post

    About ten years ago, Jared Lobdell submitted a paper to Mythcon in Dallas but was unable to attend in person. The organizer, Jason Fisher, asked if I could read it for him in absentia. That was a challenge! Lobdell wrote very densely, with nested parenthetical remarks, and he also included a lot of names and phrases I''d never had occasion to pronounce.

    More recently, Lobdell was the keynote speaker at at a one-day Tolkien conference at Baruch College in New York City in July 2016. I took overnight Greyhounds there and back just so I could see him. He proved to be quite nice, as did his wife who attended with him, and he graciously signed my copy of the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia, to which he had contributed a number of articles. And I found the paper he delivered to be much more engaging and tentative than many of his works read in cold print.


    Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

    But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.

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    Grey Havens

    Apr 14, 12:40pm

    Post #3 of 3 (282 views)
    Thanks for the memories. [In reply to] Can't Post

    It's helpful to get a feel for the person behind the name. I didn't attend the Dallas Mythcom and am sorry I missed the opportunity.

    "I shall not wholly fail if anything can still grow fair in days to come."


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