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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Anybody care to share an opinion on Scull & Hammond's latest?

MrCere
Sr. Staff


Feb 19 2007, 9:16pm

Post #1 of 20 (918 views)
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Anybody care to share an opinion on Scull & Hammond's latest? Can't Post

I would love to know what anybody thinks of the newish "J.R.R. Tolkien Companion And Guide". I have them and have thoughts about them, but would love to know what others think.

Smile

If we live in trying times, we must be the ones who try. If the future is looking dark, we must be the ones who shine.


weyhoops
The Shire


Feb 19 2007, 9:35pm

Post #2 of 20 (223 views)
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I am considering... [In reply to] Can't Post

...purchasing Hammond and Scull's Companion and Guide, so I am very much interested in hearing any and all opinions as well. Review on!


diedye
Grey Havens


Feb 19 2007, 9:35pm

Post #3 of 20 (250 views)
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I haven't had a chance to go through them properly yet... [In reply to] Can't Post

... but the little I did get to see, I liked. It's great to have all that wealth of information at one's fingertips.



a.s.
Valinor


Feb 19 2007, 10:52pm

Post #4 of 20 (239 views)
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comprehensive, interesting [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I would love to know what anybody thinks of the newish "J.R.R. Tolkien Companion And Guide". I have them and have thoughts about them, but would love to know what others think.

Smile



No no, now you know we want you to tell us what you think, too! Please do come back and share it.

Anyway, I have them and love them so far, but have only just skimmed through looking for "interesting stuff"...whatever catches my eye. I have used them once in the RR (can't remember, think it was something about immortality) as a "reference" or (dare I say) encyclopedia.

I haven't read them straight through, the way I did their LOTR "Reader's Companion", which was more like a concordance in some respects, and was interesting to read from cover to cover if you are an avid LOTR fan and are very familiar with the books.

But in the Tolkien Companion there are lots of interesting topics covered, and for such a small space the entries seem very comprehensive with many references to correspondence and journal articles not commonly available, etc. I don't know how useful they will be to a general reader, but I think they will prove useful to anyone interested in sources, influences, and the author's own insights, etc.

I haven't gotten the new Tolkien encyclopedia ed. by Michael Drout and to which many Torn members contributed; it's out of my price range right now and Scull and Hammond seem to be filling that niche for me, at least at this point in time. I'm not a Tolkien scholar but am more than a casual reader. Somewhere in between. S&H seems an interesting and useful tool for a reader like me.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

The Lost Mod Power: An Elegy (with apologies to Wordsworth)

What though the mod power which was once so bright
Be now FOREVER taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the stats, of glory in the power,
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind.


JPB
The Shire


Feb 20 2007, 1:28am

Post #5 of 20 (243 views)
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Opinions [In reply to] Can't Post

I find the new Scull & Hammond pair to be wonderful. The timeline of Tolkien's life is personally less interesting to me, but just going to the section on what Tolkien read was wonderful. Smile Summarizing so much information - just fantastic.

Not much time to post now. Unsure


(This post was edited by JPB on Feb 20 2007, 1:35am)


Beren
Bree


Feb 22 2007, 11:33am

Post #6 of 20 (233 views)
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My review of Companion and Guide [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm VERY fond of chronology... truly wonderfull book. Inside are so many hidden gems to be found. Certain things are confirmed, other facts are completely new and even surprising! Sad that i could not spent a lot of time with the Companion yet, allthough it has been very handy to look up things. Still i'm hoping to find enough time to read all that is in there... I did read the chronology completely and this i truly like A LOT. How lovely, it is just like a diary. I see the guide more as a book to look up things and as such did not read it yet front to end. Hope one day to do so...

I only see some minor flaws in books as for now (my point of view). First I only see Tolkien's bright side and he is alwaysed described from his nicest angle. While there are many questions about Tolkien as a teacher, to make an example. I do not find anything on these minor points. It is truly made by fans, but it makes me question the objectivity of the book. At the other hand we all now that the authors have the Tolkien Estate looking over there shoulders and it is possible that the latter are of influence in this... Humphrey Carpenter also ran into trouble because of this.
Secondly I miss some references to other books which are not in English. For example when mentioning photographs of Tolkien with Simonne D'Ardenne there is only mentioned The Tolkien Family Album, while I know the Johan Vanhecke has some more in his book; why not mention this also - there are some unusual photos in there but is in Dutch. Is this the way all documents are treated? Ok, i'm overacting maybe and expecting too much after waiting so many years for this bookset.

For the rest i'm very happy and can only cheer! The book is truly the ultimate resource. I'm happy that the authors when not having absolute answers (for example how the Hobbit started, how the document made it to the printers); we then get all possible solutions and suggestions. At first I expected to receive all answers in this book. But now appreciate it very much that all possibilities are set one next to the other without choosing paths. It leaves us with questions, but it is better and more objectif (or shall i say scientific). The book is full of details and the research for this book must have been enormous. You can feel it when reading through the two volumes. Sometimes it is a day by day guide of Tolkien, sometimes it is a long list of possibilities, sometimes it gives very detailled info on a variety of topics, sometimes it is even very funny and makes you laugh or feel sad. If a scientific book can still move the reader then I would say the authors have succeeded to put the live of a person on paper!

[url=http://www.tolkienlibrary.com] 'It is fulfilled. Even now a Silmaril is in my hand.' - tolkienlibrary.com

(This post was edited by Beren on Feb 22 2007, 11:35am)


squire
Valinor


Feb 22 2007, 1:01pm

Post #7 of 20 (232 views)
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Brick: "You're not Beren IV..." [In reply to] Can't Post

Welcome Beren, and thanks for that review. I'm looking forward to getting the book myself, as many people have said it is superior in organization and consistency to its "rival", the JRR Tolkien Encyclopedia. It's interesting that you perceive it as showing only Tolkien's "bright side" - that is a question that I supposed will only be settled when a few more decades pass. It's also interesting that you are familiar with valuable Tolkien source material that is not in English - I wish more people in the international Tolkien community were able to share their resources across the language barrier like you are.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Feb 22 2007, 3:50pm

Post #8 of 20 (160 views)
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Welcome to TORN! [In reply to] Can't Post

And thanks for that very informed review.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Jan. 29-May 20: Visit the Reading Room to discuss art by John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and others, including Tolkien himself.

Feb. 19-25: The Hobbit.


Beren
Bree


Feb 22 2007, 4:06pm

Post #9 of 20 (200 views)
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no rival at all [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
it is superior in organization and consistency to its "rival", the JRR Tolkien Encyclopedia.


'It is fulfilled. Even now a Silmaril is in my hand.' - tolkienlibrary.com


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Feb 22 2007, 4:29pm

Post #10 of 20 (179 views)
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Is your avatar a Cor Blok painting? (nt) [In reply to] Can't Post

There were some questions about the availability of Blok's work raised in this subthread from a January 2006 discussion of Tolkien's letters. (N.b. it takes about 5-10 seconds for that link to open, and that thread no longer accepts replies.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Jan. 29-May 20: Visit the Reading Room to discuss art by John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and others, including Tolkien himself.

Feb. 19-25: The Hobbit.


Wynnie
Rohan


Feb 22 2007, 6:20pm

Post #11 of 20 (186 views)
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Another Beren? [In reply to] Can't Post

This could get confusing.

Umm, what I meant to say was: Welcome! And thanks for the book recommendation. My library just got it in a few days ago; it's not on the shelf yet, but I'll be sure to check it out soon.



Owlamoo
ink drawing by JRRT


SandWitch King
Rohan


Feb 22 2007, 6:21pm

Post #12 of 20 (185 views)
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Thanks for that! [In reply to] Can't Post

Welcome to the boards and thanks for that fine contribution.

My hat is off to you for reading the whole chronology. I am impressed.



Once upon a time I was MrCere. I still am but this name is for posting and being part of the community while that one is for official business. 8-)


dna
The Shire

Feb 23 2007, 12:34am

Post #13 of 20 (256 views)
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'Amon Hen' considers them rivals... [In reply to] Can't Post

January's issue reviews them both in the same article, though the Reader's Guide does fare better. Some of the comments:

"Judging from the names of the authors, you would expect these two reference works to be of very high quality, and you will not be disappointed... Both are the products of considerable scholarly research, dealing with complex issues not only of what Drout defines as Tolkien studies and Middle-earth studies, but of biography and association... [the Encyclopedia] is especially strong both on Tolkien's scholarly work and, less predictably, on the films and other media representation... However, the breadth of scope means that in many cases topics requiring a lengthy treatment get short shrift... and that some of the entries are of marginal relevance...
In general the Reader's Guide entries are more concise than those in the [E]... not to say that entries are necessarily, or even often, shorter... for example, the [E] has a two-page entry on "Marriage", and another of a page and a half on "Women in Tolkien's Works", while the [RG] has a single entry of 16 pages on "Women and marriage" which sets out far more comprehensively not only the story of Edith and Tolkien, and Tolkien's female characters (including Erendis, omitted from the [E] entries), but his expressed, and conflicting, attitudes to women, marriage, divorce and related topics. Also, very often there are long entries in the [RG] to subjects only briefly mentioned in the [E] with no separate entries, such as the Notion Papers and Numenor. Unlike the [E], the [RG] remains very much on-topic; also, whereas the [E] tends towards the broad sweep, the [RG] gets down far more often to minute particulars. And these particulars are also highly precise... The only real problem I have with the [RG] is the lack of any top-of-page headings, which, especially given the fact that many of the entries (eg. Oxford) have sub-headings also in alphabetical order, without sufficient distinction of typeface, can be irritatingly confusing when trying to find your way around.
But then there is the Chronology! This is quite unlike anything that has been published before... The [E] tends to deal in more academic terms; universities and those working in them would certainly want it. However, the [RG] also covers a great deal of academically useful ground, often in greater detail, and is probably even better for the general reader."

I highly concur with the unbelievable difficulty in finding things within the RG! You better be looking for something specific, and have time enough to flip through dozens of pages at a time with no clue as to where you are. Other than that, the information does seem to be better. But they are very much like Foster & Tyler, as well as Fonstad & Strachey - consulting them both will ensure a complete picture!


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Feb 23 2007, 12:40am

Post #14 of 20 (157 views)
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Thanks for that! [In reply to] Can't Post

I was just working on a post in which I had written, "To my knowledge, the Encyclopedia hasn't been reviewed in print yet". My knowledge is now different.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Jan. 29-May 20: Visit the Reading Room to discuss art by John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and others, including Tolkien himself.

Feb. 19-25: The Hobbit.


drogo
Lorien


Feb 23 2007, 12:52am

Post #15 of 20 (199 views)
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The timing was unfortunate [In reply to] Can't Post

Having both the RG and the E come out in the fall was a sad case of publishing happenstance, but regrettable in some ways nonetheless. If the E had come out earlier (as it was originally planned), then it would not have been a work to be compared point-for-point with the RG, and perhaps it would have been a better book.

Hammond and Scull had their own travails (as their having to post a TOC on their website testifies!), but they managed to create a meticulously researched, highly detailed reference work.

I hope both the E and the RG will be read alongside each other in the future. Their different focus and spin even on the same topics is interesting.


(Formerly drogo of the two names!)


squire
Valinor


Feb 23 2007, 1:53am

Post #16 of 20 (173 views)
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John Garth [In reply to] Can't Post

reviewed the Encyclopedia for the Times Literary Supplement: "Where's what, Gollum?" 22 Dec 2006. He was favorable, according to my source, but to read the review one has to subscribe to the TLS Online.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Feb 23 2007, 1:58am

Post #17 of 20 (220 views)
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My local library... [In reply to] Can't Post

carries the TLS --that was a nice discovery when I was searching for Tom Shippey's 1981 review of The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien-- and I may be able to swing by on Saturday.

It's interesting the TLS would let Garth review the Encyclopedia, as he is a (valuable) contributor to that book.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Jan. 29-May 20: Visit the Reading Room to discuss art by John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and others, including Tolkien himself.

Feb. 19-25: The Hobbit.


Wynnie
Rohan


Feb 23 2007, 1:19pm

Post #18 of 20 (223 views)
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Here you go -- [In reply to] Can't Post

From the Dec. 22, 2006 TLS:

Where's what, Gollum?
John Garth

Tolkien encyclopedias have been around for years. The kind of books which might refresh your knowledge of the Gondorian kin-strife or the geography of the Shire, they were intended for those fascinated by the teeming detail of Tolkien's imagined world, not for those seeking to understand his work as literature, let alone for those perplexed by his success. The phenomenon reflected a tendency which only began to recede with the publication of Tom Shippey's study The Road to Middle-earth in 1982. With the same eagerness that enthusiasts staked their claim to Tolkien, literary criticism had spurned him.

Now, as a sign of the coming of age of Tolkien studies, we have two works of reference which attempt to breach the old barriers. One compiles the work of 128 contributors, the other is written by two authors; each publication exemplifies the benefits and disadvantages of these modes of production.

The J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia seethes with insight and opinion. It benefits greatly from articles by acknowledged experts, such as Shippey himself, and Verlyn Flieger, the author of Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien's World (revised edition 2002). The guiding hand of Michael Drout, an Anglo- Saxonist, is evident in the high proportion of medieval entries, which further emphasizes both Tolkien's contribution to English philology and English philology's contribution to Tolkien. There are valuable articles on the medieval cultures, languages and philosophies familiar to Tolkien but not to most readers. What might have surprised the old professor is the use made of critical theory: race and gender studies, subject theory and semiotics, textuality and orality. In between, among much else, are discussions of translations, fandom and film. All this is worthwhile: the more Tolkien's success baffles the sceptics, the more it demands serious examination.

Less welcome are descriptions of fictitious characters, places and totems whose sole frame of reference is Middle-earth, as if such entries had strayed in from the old-style Tolkien encyclopedias.

The admirable articles on Gollum and Gandalf, which probe literary technique and mythical parallels, ought to have served as models for the rest. It is to be hoped that a revised edition, whether printed or digital, might streamline the entries and iron out the distracting errors and overlaps.

Like the J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia, the Reader's Guide volume of The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide lists people and places of significance to Tolkien. But it is much more thorough: every faculty colleague at Leeds and Oxford appears; every available work, down to the shortest individually published poem, receives a summary and (where possible) a textual and critical history.

The Silmarillion, compiled by Christopher Tolkien from a complex of texts, is wisely treated in discrete sections by chapter.

The Reader's Guide bears no resemblance to the old-style Middle-earth encyclopedias; its focus is on biographical, bibliographical and textual matters.

This methodical thoroughness is only to be expected from Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond, who wrote the standard guide to Tolkien's visual art and last year produced a Reader's Companion to The Lord of the Rings. However, the handling of themes and critical issues here is less ambitious than in the J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia. It is also easy to lose one's way in the Reader's Guide, which would have benefited from headwords on each page as well as a thematic list of entries, or even division into a "Who's Who", a "Where's Where" and so forth.

Scull and Hammond draw on some of the family papers previously seen only by Tolkien's authorized biographer Humphrey Carpenter, and they also gather much information from more dispersed material; so it is a pity that they have not methodically provided source notes. For anyone examining Tolkien's life, their 800-page timeline should prove invaluable. No biographer now should have any excuse for regurgitating (as too many have done) Carpenter's venerable but slight biography of 1977.

It is tempting to call these impressive works of reference definitive, but that would miss the point. The mapping of a complex critical and contextual landscape by Michael Drout's team, and Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond's generous dispensation of biographical and textual apparatus, should facilitate further exploration of Tolkien as a writer, not make it unnecessary.


Owlamoo
ink drawing by JRRT


a.s.
Valinor


Feb 23 2007, 2:13pm

Post #19 of 20 (151 views)
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mods up...and many thanks {nt} [In reply to] Can't Post

 

"an seileachan"

The Lost Mod Power: An Elegy (with apologies to Wordsworth)

What though the mod power which was once so bright
Be now FOREVER taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the stats, of glory in the power,
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind.


Penthe
Gondor


Feb 23 2007, 10:36pm

Post #20 of 20 (610 views)
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Thanks Wynnie [In reply to] Can't Post

I spent about an hour yesterday struggling to get the wretched thing to open through our library's subsciption. No luck.

That's certainly the most positive review I've yet seen, despite being aware of flaws in the encyclopedia. It's quite nice that it appears in a mainstream rather than a Tolkien publication. Although I expect the non-Tolkien audience are probably a bit less obsessively fussy about all of this.

 
 

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