The Lord of the Rings: A New English Translation.
December 8, 2014 7:53 PM   Subscribe

 
Hah! There are lots of good pull quotes, but they're best read in context, so just go read it.
posted by alms at 8:04 PM on December 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


This is great, especially for those of us who actually read the Appendix as teens, and were fascinated by the Easter egg of Tolkien's linguistics. (He was Maura Labingi the whole time!)

There was a knot of fangirls around 2001 that was convinced that Tolkien really did translate his work. This was all the doing of the internet-infamous Andy Blake, but that's a story for another day.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:06 PM on December 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


Metafilter: a knot of fangirls around 2001
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:08 PM on December 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


I wish it was a little more Borges and a little less Dan Brown.
posted by peeedro at 8:12 PM on December 8, 2014 [11 favorites]


Fix the syntax
Crack the caves
Litigation comes in waves
posted by clavdivs at 8:12 PM on December 8, 2014 [36 favorites]


Truly, Gandalf was wise to avoid the mines.
posted by Tevin at 8:13 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Burma Shave, clavdivs.

I think the parts he describes that Tolkien left out made it into the infamous Harvard Lampoon edition.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:18 PM on December 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


Neat! Fun!
posted by clockzero at 8:29 PM on December 8, 2014


The road goes ever on and on...

Oh, snap.

Burma shave!
posted by clavdivs at 8:30 PM on December 8, 2014


I'm Mr. No Fun on this one - Tolkien's "Anglicizing" wasn't done whimsically at all. He had an elaborate rationale for *everything*. "Edoras" sounds foreign, but "Snowbourne" doesn't for very concrete reasons set out at great length by Tolkien in the Appendices.

My 10-year old son has just finished making me read him the Appendices, so this is fresh in my mind. He is now making me read him The Silmirilion. Eru have mercy on me.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:38 PM on December 8, 2014 [36 favorites]


From the piece:

Translating the Red Book led to more than a few surprises. I discovered that the Tom Bombadil chapters weren’t original to the text at all, but had been inserted by a different author at a later date. They’re written in the Adûni dialect of Bree, not Sûzat, and judging by the sloppy handwriting, whoever wrote them was almost certainly drunk, a child, or both.

this is serious stuff
posted by philip-random at 8:40 PM on December 8, 2014 [13 favorites]


I started to get all tight in the chest while reading that. Anxiety! Expectation! Would there or wouldn't there be an excerpt of the new translation??? Apparently that's something my sympathetic nervous system desires greatly--as greatly as Beren, son of Barahir, desired Luthien Tinuviel, in whom flowed the blood of the Ainur; as greatly as Morgoth Bauglir desired the light of the silmarils; and shit.
posted by Zerowensboring at 8:59 PM on December 8, 2014 [14 favorites]


friendly debates over second brunch

...seems far more civilized than second breakfast.

This is some beautiful next-level nerdery.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:59 PM on December 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


That was really well done; thanks for linking.

I remember the first time I came across the stuff about names in one of the History of Middle Earth books. I don't much like the name Bilbo; but I do recall my mind reeling at the depths of Tolkien's (very successful) approach to verisimilitude in his 'translation'.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 9:06 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have to admit I started this article really really really hoping that at some point it would link to a place where I could read this "new translation". And, honestly, I still kind of wish the article had been a long ad for someone's profoundly nerdy fanfiction! I would love to read a modern, politically correct rewrite of the trilogy.
posted by town of cats at 9:18 PM on December 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


I have to admit I started this article really really really hoping that the whole thing was a wind up.

"If Tolkien's translation of the Red Book was good enough for Jay-sus, it's good enough for me."
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 9:21 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


By politically correct, we're talking about the one with the descriptions of hobbit sexual practices left in, right?
posted by I-Write-Essays at 9:22 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


My 10-year old son has just finished making me read him the Appendices, so this is fresh in my mind. He is now making me read him The Silmirilion. Eru have mercy on me.

YOU ARE AWESOME AND CONTRIBUTING TO AN AWESOME WORLD FOR ME TO GROW OLD IN!!!
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:22 PM on December 8, 2014 [20 favorites]


My 10-year old son has just finished making me read him the Appendices, so this is fresh in my mind. He is now making me read him The Silmirilion. Eru have mercy on me.

I don't know how this thing about the Silmarillion being a difficult read continues to find such traction. It's a beautiful, gripping compilation of engaging and heartbreaking prose.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 9:27 PM on December 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


I want to know more about Old Toby.
posted by clavdivs at 9:28 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well to be fair it's pretty dense, paleyellowwithorange. I love it and have read it multiple times, but it's not exactly a breezy Sunday afternoon read, you know?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:29 PM on December 8, 2014


It's about as dense and breezy as The Lord of the Rings.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 9:29 PM on December 8, 2014


I'd only consider LOTR breezy in comparison to Silmarillion. Hobbit is a light romp.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:31 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


multiple payments left on my 1998 Dodge Stratus
posted by clawsoon at 9:34 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Chrysostom: My 10-year old son has just finished making me read him the Appendices, so this is fresh in my mind. He is now making me read him The Silmirilion. Eru have mercy on me.

You have a unique and wonderful son. I expect he'll probably end up with a PhD in Germanic languages or ancient sagas or some such.

However, yeah, my condolences to you. I've read the Silmarillion before, and I vowed never to do that again.
posted by JHarris at 9:40 PM on December 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


Two reasons, I think. As mentioned, things seem more distant than in LOTR. The Shire is a recognizable world of rural England, with people who seem not unlike people we might know, in prose that is pretty conversational. It opens up a bit into larger concerns, but it begins very grounded. The Silmarillion - particularly in the Ainulindalë and Valaquenta - are incredibly cosmic, and told in in a much more formal manner.

Secondly, a lot of beings have very similar names. Finrod, Finwë, Fingolfin. The Moriquendi, Calquendi, Laiquendi. It can be difficult to tell things apart.

Here is a representative passage:
But the Teleri remained still in Middle-earth, for they dwelt in East Beleriand far from the sea, and they heard not the summons of Ulmo until too late; and many searched still for Elwë their lord, and without him they were unwilling to depart. But when they learned that Ingwë and Finwë and their peoples were gone, then many of the Teleri pressed on to the shores of Beleriand, and dwelt thereafter near the Mouths of Sirion, in longing for their friends that had departed; and they took Olwë, Elwë's brother, to be their king.
This is not exactly old Barliman Butterbur at the Prancing Pony. It *is* quite moving in places, but I don't think it is surprising not everyone can get into it.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:41 PM on December 8, 2014 [23 favorites]


I think this passage from Noels' work on the Languages of middle earth is apt.
"Everything in LOTR is recorded by hobbits. Nothing is told that they could not know, either by experience or by report...This restraint from using the omniscient author's viewpoint, maintained also on 'The Simarillion', adds much to Tolkien's realism"
posted by clavdivs at 9:57 PM on December 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


Thanks Chrysostom, that makes sense.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 10:22 PM on December 8, 2014


Chrysostom: "I'm Mr. No Fun on this one - Tolkien's "Anglicizing" wasn't done whimsically at all. He had an elaborate rationale for *everything*. "Edoras" sounds foreign, but "Snowbourne" doesn't for very concrete reasons set out at great length by Tolkien in the Appendices."

Could it also be that Mitch Hedberg did not actually file his donut receipt back at home under "D" for donut?
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 10:25 PM on December 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


HA!

It's true though, 'Bilbao' Baggins would have been one the biggest spoilers in History.
posted by clavdivs at 10:34 PM on December 8, 2014


Chrysostom: "Secondly, a lot of beings have very similar names. Finrod, Finwë, Fingolfin. The Moriquendi, Calquendi, Laiquendi. It can be difficult to tell things apart.

Here is a representative passage:
But the Teleri remained still in Middle-earth, for they dwelt in East Beleriand far from the sea, and they heard not the summons of Ulmo until too late; and many searched still for Elwë their lord, and without him they were unwilling to depart. But when they learned that Ingwë and Finwë and their peoples were gone, then many of the Teleri pressed on to the shores of Beleriand, and dwelt thereafter near the Mouths of Sirion, in longing for their friends that had departed; and they took Olwë, Elwë's brother, to be their king.
This is not exactly old Barliman Butterbur at the Prancing Pony. It *is* quite moving in places, but I don't think it is surprising not everyone can get into it.
"

Still beats Abimelech begat Jacob who begat Abimael who begat Mothra, etc etc from that dusty ol' bestseller The Bible.
posted by symbioid at 10:36 PM on December 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


That was fun, but I'm pedantic enough to ask: if the original Red Book was unavailable, what did he learn Adunaic from?
posted by zompist at 10:57 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


sssshh
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:01 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


And yet, no mention of Teleporno. That would go really well with the more earthy translation of the Red Book.
posted by happyroach at 11:19 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Countess Elena and others who remember that particular knot of fangirls and its fallout, did you guys also get uncomfortable flashbacks to Turimel's self-published expose with that header image?
posted by moonlight on vermont at 11:22 PM on December 8, 2014


I always felt the Silmarillion would benefit from an oral performance. Reading that representative passage I can see a good story teller making come alive.
posted by Carillon at 11:26 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


...if the original Red Book was unavailable, what did he learn Adunaic from?

Isn't the reason that the Tolkien estate so jealously guards copyright and access to the primary sources because their main revenue stream these days is the linguistics and textbook market?

That would mean, though, that he learned Adunaic from Tolkien-branded texts, then claimed that his was better than Tolkien's, which smacks of amazing hubris.
posted by frimble at 11:26 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


I ultimately left academia to pursue a career in the friendlier and more lucrative and efficient world of federal government bureaucracy.

This is when it became obvious that the author was making things up.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:32 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


That was fun, but I'm pedantic enough to ask: if the original Red Book was unavailable, what did he learn Adunaic from?

If we are positing a universe in which there was an original Red Book, it is by definition a universe in which Adunaic existed; it is thus likely that other texts existed in it. (Surely we are not supposing that Tolkein himself, in such a universe, extrapolated the entire language solely from the Red Book. On the contrary; he used his prior knowledge of the language, such as a scholar of ancient tongues would be expected to have, for his translation.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 11:38 PM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Pretty sure Mitch would have filed his donuts under "O".

Except the ones he'd have to file under "C".
posted by five fresh fish at 12:03 AM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Mine are filed under "A" for "Ate 'em"
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:14 AM on December 9, 2014


I use P/NP filing: Everything that's pie goes under P, everything that isn't goes under NP. It has its problems, but it's a complete system.
posted by frimble at 12:21 AM on December 9, 2014 [35 favorites]


Plus, once they prove P=NP, you don't have to eat anything but pie ever again.
posted by No-sword at 1:19 AM on December 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


Uh, I mean "if". If they prove! It's not as if I'm some sort of traveler from another P-line doing anthropological research on pre-PanP Terran primate societies or anything. Talk about ridiculous!
posted by No-sword at 1:22 AM on December 9, 2014 [15 favorites]


you're just here to steal our pie
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:24 AM on December 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


Or trying to learn the recipes for Second Age pies that the Tolkien family has filed in their vaults.
posted by frimble at 1:27 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is the person in the comments describing his experience in a lawsuit with the Tolkien estate real or continuing the satire?
posted by medusa at 1:54 AM on December 9, 2014


I'm going to hazard 'real' -- At least, there's a real person and a real press with those names who were sued for making a chronology of Lord of the Rings.
posted by frimble at 2:09 AM on December 9, 2014


It's nice, and I'm sure it makes the text a lot more approachable for the layperson, but I still prefer the poetry of the King Elessar Version.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:24 AM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


...I still prefer the poetry of the King Elessar Version.

"Poetry." As if it weren't translated specifically to enhance the heresies he liked (resurrection of Olórin, apostasy of Curunír). The traditional readings where all of the Maiar are uncorrupted and working against Sauron (Curunír-as-risen-Olórin) are really much more convincing in the source languages, and even the New Revised Gondorian Edition.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:16 AM on December 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


symbioid: "Still beats Abimelech begat Jacob who begat Abimael who begat Mothra, etc etc from that dusty ol' bestseller The Bible."

Well, sure. And the KJV translation, in particular, is sometimes beautiful, but often challenging.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:59 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


if the original Red Book was unavailable, what did he learn Adunaic from?

As the Tolkien estate maintained a monopoly on access to source texts, Hobbit Studies was a primarily archaeological field until 1989, when A.A. Lowdham's nearly complete Adunaic grammar was published in samizdat.

(Lowdham was a character - he claimed to have received his grammar in a series of lucid dreams emanating from Elendil, his ancestor/preincarnation. You can't very well sue a man for privately circulating his dream journal, though lord knows the Tolkien estate tried.)

The current theory is that Lowdham derived the grammar from a cache of Ge'ez-Coptic-Adunaic texts he "found" during his travels in the Ethiopian highlands. We're slowly waking up to the fact that late medieval Tewahedo monks are responsible for collecting and preserving the vast majority of extant Third Age literature, including much of what now languishes in the Tolkien vaults.

The latest manuscripts out of Shewa promise to revolutionize our understanding of Númenorean-Haradrim relations. Apparently they were nowhere near as fraught and constantly antagonistic as the Red Book would have you believe.
posted by Iridic at 6:27 AM on December 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


Clearly, someone who does not use diacritical marks properly cannot be taken seriously. It's Númenórean.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:34 AM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


> if the original Red Book was unavailable, what did he learn Adunaic from?

From Brockelmann's Die Sprache von Númenor/Westernis, of course. I got a copy in grad school for under ten bucks when I was working at a used bookstore. It's a slog, but you get a pretty good grasp of the language.
posted by languagehat at 6:53 AM on December 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


You have a unique and wonderful son. I expect he'll probably end up with a PhD in Germanic languages or ancient sagas or some such.

And then, when he takes Old Norse and uses this book he'll figure out what "Gandalf" means, and, if he reads the acknowledgements, he'll find that the authors thank a certain other Oxford professor for help with the grammar, and he'll be happy.

(And then, a couple years later, he'll look at the academic job market for PhDs in Germanic languages, and cry a little. But that's for later.)
posted by damayanti at 6:57 AM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Serious but probably dumb question: since Tolkien writes straight-faced about the Red Book as if it's an actual ancient text, why couldn't someone else write their own version of the Lord of the Rings allegedly based on the same ancient text? Why wouldn't it be considered simply another translation of the same non-copyrighted text? Or did Tolkien actually copyright a "Red Book of Westmarch," and if so, did he produce an actual manuscript?

I'm just wondering what would happen if someone really did say "I found another copy of the Red Book" and wrote their own translation, and if when the Tolkien estate sued, argued that Tolkien didn't have any more of a right to the original text than he did. Could the estate prove that Tolkien actually invented that text, since he himself gives no indication (in the books) that he is the author? And if it came down to someone having to actually produce this (obviously nonexistent) text, whose burden would it be to do so?
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 7:56 AM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I find it maddening that this academic fraud is getting such a friendly reception. His "new translation" is clearly plagiarized almost wholesale from the work of Professor Tolkien. This worm says that Tolkien's "command of Late Vulgar Adûni was rudimentary at best" when in fact Tolkien was one of the first scholars of the modern era to even understand that it was a language, and not, as that proto-Nazi Brockelmann claimed, merely the scribblings of illiterate "Männer unter den Hügeln." And the less said about Lowdham, the better. He had such a promising start as a scholar in the early 60s but he succumbed to the fashions of his day and took to hallucinogens like a hobbit to mushrooms.

And yes, while I agree that Tolkien's estate has an academic duty to publish a proper scholarly edition of the original Red Book of Westmarch, it is hard to blame Christopher Tolkien for wishing to do it himself, especially considering the often poor state of modern hobbit studies, as exemplified by this "new translation." I mean, for crying out loud, from the introduction it is clear that this supposed expert on Adûnaic doesn't even understand that there were four grammatical genders.

I have this "new translation" right in front of me, and it's clear that this was not an original, but largely Tolkien's original translation with minor changes. In fact, some cases it seems that it's been done by searching and replacing text. In a few cases the resulting text becomes nonsensical, like how the doors to Khazad-dûm say in this "new translation": "Speak, frifinish, and enter."
posted by Kattullus at 8:05 AM on December 9, 2014 [20 favorites]


Could the estate prove that Tolkien actually invented that text, since he himself gives no indication (in the books) that he is the author?

Very, very easily, yes. Most fictional works give no indication (in the texts) that they are anything but real, and "framing" devices that claim that the inner story was a manuscript received by the author are about as old as the novel form. In our universe, there would be no legal case here.
posted by Shmuel510 at 8:08 AM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't know how this thing about the Silmarillion being a difficult read continues to find such traction. It's a beautiful, gripping compilation of engaging and heartbreaking prose.

I think it finds such traction from the innumerable LoTR fans who gave up in despair and disgust about 15% of the way in. You can't really say that people are judging the book by its reputation and that if they only tried it they'd find out how great it was. When the book was published vast numbers of committed LoTR fans bought it and almost equally vast numbers found it impossible to get through. It's great that it appeals to some people, but it's demonstrably untrue that it works as "gripping...engaging and heartbreaking prose" for the vast majority of readers.
posted by yoink at 8:49 AM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


"Edoras" sounds foreign,

It's an Old English word.
posted by grubi at 8:53 AM on December 9, 2014


"Poetry." As if it weren't translated specifically to enhance the heresies he liked (resurrection of Olórin, apostasy of Curunír). The traditional readings where all of the Maiar are uncorrupted and working against Sauron (Curunír-as-risen-Olórin) are really much more convincing in the source languages, and even the New Revised Gondorian Edition.

Splitter!
posted by grubi at 8:58 AM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


grubi: It's an Old English word.

"The past is a foreign country."
posted by Kattullus at 8:59 AM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I discovered that the Tom Bombadil chapters weren’t original to the text at all, but had been inserted by a different author at a later date. They’re written in the Adûni dialect of Bree, not Sûzat, and judging by the sloppy handwriting, whoever wrote them was almost certainly drunk, a child, or both.

I have been saying this for years! Maybe now someone will finally believe me!
posted by dnash at 9:03 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I discovered that the Tom Bombadil chapters weren’t original to the text at all, but had been inserted by a different author at a later date. They’re written in the Adûni dialect of Bree, not Sûzat, and judging by the sloppy handwriting, whoever wrote them was almost certainly drunk, a child, or both.

I have been saying this for years! Maybe now someone will finally believe me!


Then how did they survive the Barrow-downs? HUH?
posted by grubi at 9:05 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Then how did they survive the Barrow-downs?

AK-47s.

Singing AK-47s.
posted by yoink at 9:09 AM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


All this ivory tower squabbling about inconsequential variations in translation totally ignores the larger political truth: that the Lord of the Rings was propaganda promoted by the house of Telcontar to obscure the genocidal crusade the elves and the men of the west engaged in to quash the budding enlightenment and industrial revolution in Mordor. The truth is out there!

(previously)
posted by Wretch729 at 9:11 AM on December 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


Typical conspiracy theorist. "Barad-dûr was an inside job!" Riiiight.
posted by grubi at 9:12 AM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


grubi: "It's an Old English word."

Yes, it means "courts" or "enclosures." But that's not something anyone other than an Old English scholar would likely recognize. Old English is, to all intents and purposes, a foreign language at this point. Whereas Snowbourn is recognizably English.

Appendix F, "On Translation":
In several cases I have modernized the forms and spellings of place-names in Rohan: as in Dunharrow or Snowbourn; but I have not been consistent, for I have followed the Hobbits. They altered the names that they heard in the same way, if they were made of elements that they recognized, or if they resembled place-names in the Shire; but many they left alone, as I have done, for instance, in Edoras 'the courts'. For the same reasons a few personal names have also been modernized, as Shadowfax and Wormtongue.
Edoras sounded foreign to *the hobbits*, who are the reader's stand-in.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:25 AM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Old English is, to all intents and purposes, a foreign language at this point.

BLASPHEMER!
posted by grubi at 9:26 AM on December 9, 2014


In a few cases the resulting text becomes nonsensical, like how the doors to Khazad-dûm say in this "new translation": "Speak, frifinish, and enter."

I'm hardly a Kay-ian in my outlook, but that's a printing error, not, as you so vindictively accuse, a clbuttic mistake. The author claims that almost the entire tale of the Doors of Durin was made up out of whole cloth by Tolkien. Otherwise, why would an inscription from the Second Age use the name Moria, the Third Age term?

No, the doors possibly had the inscription on them, "Speak the speech of the Folk of Hador and you may enter." Gilkeson, in his admittedly clumsy prose, rendered that as "Speak Finnish and enter." Not beautiful, but hardly the simple find/replace in Tolkien's work that you're claiming.
posted by frimble at 9:27 AM on December 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


Besides, Gandalf sitting down in defeat and muttering "Perkele!", only to have the doors open, is a stronger joke than the bowdlerised version.
posted by frimble at 9:31 AM on December 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


Shmuel510: In our universe, there would be no legal case here.
Unless - and I admit this is ridiculously unlikely - unless in our universe copyright issues were often decided in favor of big-money interests.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:55 AM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is also one of the most University of Chicago pieces of humorous writing that I have ever read (even ignoring that Hobbit Studies was actually merged with Third-Age Archaeology, and The Committee on Adûnaic Philology, and folded back into the The Gondorian Institute in '97).
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:56 AM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Unless - and I admit this is ridiculously unlikely - unless in our universe copyright issues were often decided in favor of big-money interests.

You may be misunderstanding me. What I meant was that, in our universe, anybody claiming to have found the nonexistent Red Book and to have used it as the basis for a new translation independent of Tolkein would never prevail in court. It would be a ludicrous claim. (Unless you're positing that the person making such a claim would be backed by big-money interests?)
posted by Shmuel510 at 10:02 AM on December 9, 2014


Ah, yes.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:05 AM on December 9, 2014


> I don't know how this thing about the Silmarillion being a difficult read continues to find such traction

People buy it expecting a novel like LOTR, and it isn't a novel. It's mostly written as a chronicle, like large parts of the Bible and like the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (which is also a bit of a slog and I don't just mean the Old English.) It does contain bits and pieces that are expanded into actual stories, as the Bible is, but even most of these are very sad and dark. Nobody ever read either the tale of Hurin or the story of Job for good cheer on a gloomy night.

I liked The Silmarillion very much and have read it all the way through twice. But when I say liked I mean that in the same way I "liked" Heart of Darkness. Neither one is a happy fun book, and The Silmarillion always leaves me asking "These here elves are supposed to be such superior beings; how come they can't do a damn thing right?"
posted by jfuller at 1:15 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Then one day, in a back corner of the second sublevel of Regenstein Library, I stumbled across an unmarked file dropped by a twitchy-looking undergrad.

All manner of tawdry sex, of course. Primary source material: the Manhattan Project described by its housewives. One twitchy undergraduate attempting to murder another twitchy undergraduate via syringe, while his twitchy accomplice freaks out at realizing this attempt is for reals. (Seriously, this was a thing that happened, the assailants were a homophobic secret society member and pledge, their victim had been outed by a listserve or something. Somehow the incident triggered a bouquet of roses presented on stage to Jacques Derrida.) And let's not forget the beginning of the end of the world.

[Random Items, Not in Any Card Catalog, Stumbled Upon in Regenstein B-Level.]
posted by feral_goldfish at 2:03 PM on December 9, 2014


The real scandal is that each of the six volumes is a $240 hardcover with Word-defaults typesetting. Not that I expected anything else from Brallrog Publishing, of course...
posted by No-sword at 3:17 PM on December 9, 2014


The author claims that almost the entire tale of the Doors of Durin was made up out of whole cloth by Tolkien.

That's a common misunderstanding. In fact the "hidden doors" were made of cloth with inscriptions that glinted in the moonlight. Olórin was just a bit rubbish with fashion and had never seen one, what with exiling himself in the fashion deserts of former Arnor. I mean, the man considered wearing white a breakthrough.
posted by ersatz at 4:06 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


The best thing I ever stumbled upon in the Reg was bound original copies of Le Moniteur Universel in the regular stacks ("This young Bonaparte fellow seems like a real up-and-comer! I think he's really going to turn things around!").


The worst thing I ever stumbled upon was a pile of used condoms.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:52 PM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


We're they napoleons?
Because we could rebuild hm.
posted by clavdivs at 6:44 PM on December 9, 2014


(One of the coolest things I ever stumbled upon in the Newberry Library was a pamphlet published by the East India Company in 1798, meant to assuage investors' fears that Napoleon's Egyptian campaign was a prelude to a march across Arabia and an invasion of India. The author calmly explained that the Army of the Orient would falter once it reached Palestine (which turned out to be perfectly true), and closed with the satisfied reflection that failure in the East would finally spell the end of "the upstart Alexander of Corsica." This turned out to not be so true: it never occurred to the Company man that Napoleon could abandon thousands of men in the desert and get away with his reputation unscathed.)
posted by Iridic at 6:56 PM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


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