Saturday, May 7, 2016

mythopoeic scholarship

I've managed to slot in a day at the well-equipped Stanford libraries, reading up for the Mythopoeic Scholarship Awards, whose first-ballot deadline is coming up. We don't release the first ballot (because the nomination threshold is too small to be meaningful), so I shouldn't tell you which books I liked - some of which I liked a whole lot - and which I didn't, but I can share some tidbits from the latter.

Here's a book which speaks breezily about Tolkien, and has a few insightful things to say about him, but is so packed with minor, niggling factual errors that I can't endorse it.
No, Tolkien did not go to boarding school.
It's misleading to speak of Tolkien's father "taking his young family to Africa," since neither of the children had been born yet.
It's nasty to speak of Tolkien's return to England as if his mother had taken the children and abandoned Africa, and her husband in it, because she couldn't stand the place; and even nastier to imply that Humphrey Carpenter, Tolkien's authorized biographer, was dissembling regarding her motives.
Tolkien's mother died of diabetes, because "insulin had not yet been invented." Actually, insulin was invented by God in 3760 B.C. or whenever he did his inventing. What wasn't yet available was injectable insulin for diabetics.
"Wizard ... refers to a species rather than a fantastical occupation." Actually, it's more like the other way around.
No, Christopher Tolkien isn't his father's younger son. He's the youngest of three sons.
There's no Tolkien critic named Scott Lobdell. That's the name of a comic-book writer. You mean Jared Lobdell.
At the point 20 pages in when the critic declares flatly that orcs have no free will and that Sauron's minions are "automatons not dupes" (not true of the Southrons), I gave up.

Then there's the book on cross-media development of franchises, which is interesting but not very mythopoeic, and which the author apparently wrote in an effort to explain to himself why he collected Star Wars figurines as a boy. In a chapter dealing with Tolkien mostly in the form of a plot summary of The Lord of the Rings, he at least avoids creeping Jacksonism, but refers to Frodo as Bilbo's nephew (why do people do that?), calls Denethor a member of the Fellowship, and startles by describing plot references back to The Hobbit as "intramedial links" and compares Gandalf's fall in Moria to the death of Pacman, whom you can resurrect by restarting the game. I really don't think that's equivalent.

No comments:

Post a Comment