quarta-feira, 16 de setembro de 2009
The Swedish Controversy
Who was J. R. R. Tolkien? Was he a linguistic genius and the creator of one of the most widely read fantasy epics of the western world? Or was he only a linguistic genius and otherwise a conceited old professor who, with a lot of borrowing and help from others, wrote a singularly indifferent and exceedingly lengthy novel for children? Over the years, critics of Tolkien and his work have largely been of two opposing kinds: one overly enthusiastic and complimentary and the other uncompromisingly negative. The Swedish translator of The Lord of the Rings*, Åke Ohlmarks, belonged to the latter camp.
When published, The Lord of the Rings received its share of immediate criticism, both good and bad. Since then, much has been said about it, and the amount of work put into books and essays on the subject has been enormous. For obvious reasons only a minor part of the existing material can be used within the limits of an essay like this. In addition, the majority of these works are mainly concerned with various aspects of Tolkien's sub-creation, Middle-Earth, and not the quality of the material.
This essay will take a look at the criticism, mainly that expressed by Ohlmarks. In the first chapter there is a brief account of Tolkien's academic career, various facts which were to influence his later work and circumstances regarding the writing and publishing of his books. Åke Ohlmarks is given a chapter of his own and finally two specific problems are discussed.
The essay will deal only with criticism of the works published under J. R. R. Tolkien's personal supervision, i.e. while he still was alive. The Silmarillion and other such works and compilations published after his death are thus disqualified from scrutiny1. Even though the texts of course are based on Tolkien's original manuscripts, complete certainty over the shape and manner in which they were supposed to be published (if at all - Tolkien was a minute perfectionist) cannot be achieved, which in my opinion makes any criticism misplaced. Throughout the essay The Lord of The Rings is abbreviated as LOTR.
*Please note that within this essay underlining does not mark an internet link, but a title. At the top and the bottom, though, are located conventional internet navigation toolbars.
1Except in 'The Nature of Evil' where The Silmarillion is used to discuss the origin of evil.
Copyright (c) 1995 Ludvig Grahn
A RING IS BORN
J. R. R. Tolkien was born in 1892 in South Africa. His father was from Birmingham and had previously taken up a position at a bank in Bloemfontein. His mother, from Suffield, took care of the children. However, little John Ronald, with his mother and brother, soon had to go back to England because of ill health and while they were away, his father died. As a result of this the family came to stay in Birmingham.
Tolkien was early on very interested in languages. At the age of four he could read and write and before long his mother had taught him the basics of Latin and French. He was soon discovered to be extremely gifted in the sphere of languages and later in school, at King Edward's in Birmingham, he learned German and Greek.
After the death of his beloved mother in 1904, he became interested in the language of Chaucer (he did not like Shakespeare) and his teacher happily gave him a beginner's book in Old English. He soon finished the book and went on to - and was fascinated by - Beowulf. He returned to Middle English and the stories of King Arthur, then moved on to Icelandic and read about Sigmund and the dragon Fafner. His love of languages and words now made him save money so that he could buy old German books on philology.
From this love of words he began constructing languages of his own which, although mostly invented for fun, were complete, with working grammars and logical vocabularies. In a television interview in 1968 he says:
I first began seriously to invent languages when I was 13 or 14 - I never stopped really... Languages have a flavour to me... a new language is like a new wine.2
One of the first languages constructed in this way had Spanish as a model. However, he was soon to stumble across his greatest linguistic passion of all - Gothic. He was excited by the dead language and invented new words to replace missing ones. At the same time he was working on artificial alphabets.
An important element of Tolkien's life was his male friends and the clubs they founded. In his last year in Birmingham, the Tea Club was formed, which soon changed into the Barrovian Society and then simply to T. C. B. S. The club's activities consisted of meetings, where matters of science and literature were discussed. The summer vacation of that year was spent walking in the Alps.
In 1911 Tolkien was granted a scholarship to study Classical Languages at Oxford. He loved the life in the ancient academic city. In the first year he also learned a little Welsh, another of his childhood passions. He had earlier enjoyed an English translation of Kalevala and now he also had an opportunity to learn some Finnish. Although he was not very successful at this, he was filled with inspiration to construct yet another language, the one which was to become Quenya, or High Elvish.
For various reasons, Tolkien was not able to obtain a First Class degree. This was, to say the least, a little disappointing and as a result he was talked into changing his subject to English. Obviously, this was where his main interest lay.
The Honours School of English Language and Literature was divided in two, with one linguistic and one literary department. Naturally Tolkien belonged to the linguists. The following terms proved to be hard work, and he came across many works in Old English which were new to him. In one of them he found two lines which were to bring about a drastic change to his life.
Eala Earendel engla beorhtast
ofer middangeard monnum sended.3
The words meant: "Hail, Earendel, brightest of angels/above the middle-earth sent unto men" and they moved Tolkien deeply. He studied Old Icelandic, and read both Eddas - the prose and the poem - and was greatly influenced by Völuspa.
In spring 1914 he received the Skeat award in English of 5 pounds. In the summer in Cornwall, he wrote the first poem of Eärendil.
Tolkien's participation in World War I was brief but substantial. After some training he was sent to France in 1915. At the beginning of 1916 he became a signaller because then he would be able to work with words and messages. He learned the Morse alphabet and a number of different modes of signalling and in the summer he took part in trench combat a couple of times. In October, however, he caught a mysterious fever and one month later he was sent back to England. The war had left many marks. Professor Tom Shippey, who now has the same position at Leeds University that Tolkien once had, has made this observation:
When he was 22 he had many friends, when he was 26 they were nearly all dead. Obviously an experience like this does affect anybody and from a very early period, Tolkien obviously continues to think about death and part of his mythology is to construct a race of creatures who are deathless and who wish to escape from deathlessness in a way that human beings wish to escape from death. But the centre of all that, is the thought of death.4
Back in England, as a convalescent, Tolkien began constructing his mythology. According to Carpenter, there were three main motives for doing this: first, the languages that he had created had made such a strong impression on him that he wanted to create stories and legends to go with them. Thus, the names of his characters and creatures were always important. In the TV interview he says:
I always in the writing - always - start with the name. Give me a name and it just produces the story, not the other way around, normally.5
Secondly, he had an urge to express his innermost feelings by means of poetry and thirdly, he wanted to create a mythology for England.
He wrote 'The Fall of Gondolin', 'Húrin's Children' and 'Beren and Lúthien' which later were to appear in The Silmarillion. He also made the time to learn a little Russian. Tolkien was officially granted leave from the army in November 1918.
Back in Oxford, Tolkien worked for a while on the New English Dictionary and extended his knowledge of philology. In 1920 he was offered a position as Reader at Leeds University and four years later, aged 32, he became Professor of English. One year later, in 1925, a chair became vacant at Oxford and Tolkien was by a small margin elected Professor of Anglo-Saxon.
The following years were to be comparatively uneventful. Tolkien instructed students and gave lectures during the day and during most of the night he worked on his legends. His life was filled with the things he loved the most. However, one important part was missing: the clubs. In the war many of his friends had died and the clubs with them. This Tolkien could not stand and he became instrumental in the founding of several new clubs, among them The Inklings.
The Inklings began as a literary club in 1931, and during its meetings unpublished material was read aloud and criticised. There was no fixed membership but among the more frequent attenders were people like J. R. R. and Christopher Tolkien, C. S. and Warren Lewis, R. E. Havard, Owen Barfield, Hugo Dyson and Charles Williams. In this environment Tolkien began to read parts of the work which was later to become...
To establish exactly when Tolkien began to write The Hobbit has proved to be rather difficult. There are no dated original manuscripts left and when asked, Tolkien could not remember. However, according to Carpenter, it must have been in 1930-31 6.
At this point, The Hobbit had no explicit connection with his other myths. It was simply a bed-time story he had made up for his children and that he now had expanded and put into writing. It was published in September 1937 and the reviews were brilliant.
Tolkien later regretted the patronizing style he had used in the book. In later editions he also made some changes in order for it to fit better with the forthcoming LOTR.
The Lord of the Rings
Primarily because of the good reviews, LOTR began in 1936 as a sequel to The Hobbit. He soon put it away, however, in order to continue with his mythologies which were much more dear to his heart. People close to him made him realise though, that if he wanted to publish any more books, they had to be about hobbits, not elves.
As Tolkien was writing the first chapter of the new book, he had really no idea what it was going to be about. He simply wrote about a couple of hobbits who were related to Bilbo and who had his ring, with which they were going to do something. The work proceeded slowly and sporadically and characters such as the Black Rider and Strider were as new and mysterious to Tolkien when they suddenly appeared, as they would be to any new reader today.
In August 1938 the hobbits had reached the house of Tom Bombadill but it was not until they were in Rivendell that Tolkien suddenly knew the name and the course of the new book - The Lord of the Rings. In March 1939 he gave a lecture on fairy-stories in which he explained what he believed was the working principle behind a good story and the important role of the narrator - or subcreator. Then World War II broke out and Tolkien was for a long time stuck at Balin's tomb in Moria.
After having written the short story 'Leaf by Niggle' Tolkien was inspired to move on with LOTR. In April 1944 the group of travellers had been dissolved and Frodo and Sam had met Gollum. In May Tolkien was wondering whether 'Shelob' was a good name for a giant spider or not.
By the end of 1947 he had finally reached the end. However, his sense of perfection meant that he had a lot of revision and rewriting to do and it was not until the autumn of 1949 that the entire manuscript was finished and neatly typed.
The reason for its then taking five whole years to become published can only be ascribed to Tolkien himself. As mentioned earlier, his mythologies meant more to him and the following years were primarily filled with the publishers trying to explain to Tolkien that they were not going to publish The Silmarillion (which was not even finished at the time) but only LOTR.
Eventually, Tolkien gave in, but it was not easy to 'go public' like this. Tolkien was not just writing another novel like any other author: this was his life's work. In a letter to his dear friend, Father Robert Murray, he said:
I am dreading the publication, for it will be impossible not to mind what is said. I have exposed my heart to be shot at.7
In the TV-programme Tolkien quotes Simone de Beauvoir:
"There is no such thing as a natural death. Nothing that happens to man is ever natural... All men must die. And for every man his death is an accident, and even if he knows it, he can sense to it an unjustifiable violation"
- You may agree with the words or not, but those are the keyspring of the Lord of the Rings. 8
Tom Shippey sees that "LOTR is not a completely isolated work". He notices that it has something in common with its contemporaries, such as 1984, Animal Farm and somewhat later Lord of the Flies, apart from their all being post-war books:
... they want to say something about human nature, they want to talk... about the nature of evil and the nature of death and it seems that the writers cannot do that inside a realistic tradition... they must therefore say it in some way through the medium of fantasy.9
The thick book with its unusual content attracted a great deal of attention. Many reviewers were singularly impressed and praised Tolkien to the skies. Among these were W. H. Auden in America and of course his dear friend C. S. Lewis. However, negative criticism was just around the corner. In January 1956, Mark Roberts wrote that LOTR is "clearly an unusual sort of narrative for a modern writer to attempt"10.
With Tolkien's essay on fairy-stories in mind he tries to analyse LOTR in Tolkien's own terms. These are Fantasy, Recovery, Escape and Consolation and here he rates it very highly. However, there is a missing piece in the total picture of the novel, namely the 'value'.
One cannot very well talk about the style of the book, for the style changes so constantly and so radically... The trouble is, however, that these changes of style, though well-intentioned, are managed in a way that is hopelessly mechanical.
In his conclusion he sums up:
Perhaps the word 'contrive' will serve to pinpoint what is ultimately wrong with this book: at bottom it is all a matter of contrivance. It doesn't issue from an understanding of reality which is not to be denied; it is not moulded by some controlling vision of things which is at the same time its raison d'être. ... Lacking a serious controlling principle, the work sprawls.
In April the same year in The Nation, Edmund Wilson decides to straighten things out as far as LOTR is concerned. He begins by mentioning that LOTR, as opposed to the children's book The Hobbit, is intended for adult readers. This he cannot understand and is perplexed by all the recognised reviewers giving it so many compliments.
There are... some details that are a little unpleasant for a children's book, but except when he is being pedantic and also boring the adult reader, there is little in The Lord of the Rings over the head of a seven-year-old child. It is essentially a children's book... which has somehow grown out of hand...11
Wilson is on no level impressed with Dr. Tolkien. He notes that
Prose and verse are on the same level of professorial amateurishness.
There are streaks of imagination: the ancient tree-spirits, the Ents, with their deep eyes, twiggy beards, rumbly voices; the Elves, whose nobility and beauty is elusive and not quite human. But even these are rather clumsily handled.
He thinks the Black Riders are nothing but spectres, the Orcs never do anything really bad and that the winged steeds of the Nazgûls and the giant spider Shelob are actually quite harmless.
What one misses in all these terrors is any trace of concrete reality.
Wilson admits that the basic idea of having an innocent creature carrying an evil, gradually influential artefact to its evil homeland for its destruction is interesting, although Tolkien fails to make anything out of it.
Wilson concludes with the observation that those who appreciate LOTR are people who "have a lifelong appetite for juvenile trash".
Many years later, Tolkien is still topical. In 1977 Peter Conrad's12 view is that:
Tolkien is, as Cliff Richard said of Elvis, 'a phenomena'. He is interesting not as an artist but as a serendipitous success.
Para-scholarship... camouflages Tolkien's imaginative deficiencies, for although he can invent languages at will... he can't actually write.
Conrad also fails to understand why Tolkien has achieved so much success. He suggests therefore that Tolkien might fulfil a certain need for escapism. However, this is exactly what Tolkien is not doing:
... the context is epic, but the spirit is bureaucratic.
Tolkien pleases not because he is arcane and outlandish but because he is an unadventurous defender of mediocrity. Middle-Earth is a suburb; its hobbits are Babbits, homespun, humdrum shopkeepers, lineal descendants of Christina Rossetti's mercantile goblins and Beatrix Potter's tweedy bunnies. ... He is, in a word, kitsch.
The field of literary criticism had so far proved to be male-dominated. Therefore it is interesting to see that Robert M. Adams brings up a subject not mentioned so far:
Bilbo and Frodo are lifelong bachelors... there's only one female hobbit in the books... Apart from this necessary exception, hobbitry is a boy's club.
... Indeed, Tolkien's avoidance of sex is striking; given the mode of romance, it's a perfectly legitimate avoidance, but can't fail to heighten the sense of infantilism in the fantasy.13
The Legend Grows
When LOTR came out in the mid-50s it thus had a mixed reception from the critics. However, in the 60s it was discovered by a completely different audience - young American students. This younger generation was not interested in literary criticism. They accepted the tale completely and a kind of fanaticism developed - paving the way for the Tolkien Societies.
In his last book on Tolkien, Ohlmarks gives an example of this unquestioning readiness to accept everything written in the books. When asking a young man why The Silmarillion is such a great book he is perplexed by the answer: "Because one gets to know so much in it."14
The Tolkien Societies are a world-wide phenomenon, of course biggest in the USA with thousands of societies. Their activities consist mainly of meetings and banquets where the members dress up and take names from the books. They eat, drink, engage in fake swordplay, read poetry, sing and act. In Sweden the "Annual of Arda-research" is published on a yearly basis by the Arda Society. It includes articles such as 'Beowulf - a Work of Art', 'Tolkien's Conception of Evil: An Anthropological Approach', 'Mordor: Empire of Evil or Decline of a Model' and 'The Hero Stereotype and its Modifications in The Lord of the Rings'15
In addition, there are many other things that have been influenced by LOTR: the entire genre of Fantasy which includes books, cartoons, films, role-playing games, etc. Even pop-groups, like Marillion, have borrowed their names from Tolkien.
The impact Tolkien has had on the sub-culture of role playing games cannot be exaggerated. Here, all his races and characters appear, either as they were or in slightly altered forms: hobbits (or halflings), dwarves, elves, ents, orcs and goblins. Names are also adopted from the books and the nine members of the fellowship of the ring stand as a model for adventurous parties - at least one representative from each race. Middle-Earth Role Play is actually based on the very books, and games such as Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer Fantasy Role Play all copy different aspects of Tolkien's subcreation.
2 Tolkien till minne
3 Lines 104-5 from Crist by Cynewulf, here quoted from Carpenter (1978), p. 72
4 Tolkien till minne
5 Tolkien till minne
6 Carpenter (1978) p. 181
7 Tolkien till minne
8 Tolkien till minne, emphasis added
9 Tolkien till minne
10 Roberts (1956)
11 Wilson (1956)
12 Conrad (1977)
13 Adams (1977)
14 Ohlmarks (1982), p 86, my translation.
15 ARDA 1988-1991
15 'Role play' is a narrative story-telling activity, which takes place indoors round a table. Paper, pen and dice are vital ingredients, as well as good imagination. Game sessions usually last 3-6 hours, often much longer. The game involves about 4-6 players, one being the Gamemaster who is the main narrator and controller of everything in the imaginary world; the other players have one role each to play, as warrior, rogue, ranger, magician, etc.
Copyright (c) 1995 Ludvig Grahn
THE SWEDISH INTERPRETER
Twenty Years with Tolkien
In the late 50s the Swedish publishing company AWE Gebers bought the rights toLOTR, and Åke Ohlmarks was suggested as translator. He was already a well-known author and translator of the Eddaic myths, Shakespeare and the Koran, among other works, and was considered an expert on religious history.
When asked, Ohlmarks immediately read the first fifty pages of LOTR but was disappointed. He found it to be a children's story, much like the previous The Hobbit.
...from the first fifty-sixty pages "The Fellowship of the Ring" seemed to be written in the same spirit [i.e. of The Hobbit]: a pure nonsense-fairy-tale to suit the little ones, with an endlessly long account of a boring birthday party... I gave up even before the end of the long-drawn-out chapter about "A Long-expected Party"...17
However, he was talked into reading some more and suddenly he was struck - this was indeed great literature!
His goal was to reproduce the novel in Swedish with not the slightest suggestion of its English origin. Putting all his skill and knowledge into it, he had finished it in 1959. The book was published, the reviews were very flattering and some years later Ohlmarks received an award of 10,000 crowns (approx. 850 pounds) from The Swedish Authors' Foundation.
From now on, Ohlmarks' life was more or less dedicated to Tolkien and LOTR. He began to give lectures on Tolkien and Middle-Earth and was later involved in founding some of the Tolkien Societies in Sweden (e.g. the one in Umeå).
Over the years Ohlmarks has written three books connected with Tolkien. The first came in 1972 and was called Sagan om Tolkien ('The Tolkien Saga'18), which he claimed was the first biography of Tolkien, although it was never officially recognised as such. Six years later, in 1978, came Tolkiens arv ('The Tolkien Inheritance') and in 1982 Tolkien och den svarta magin ('Tolkien and Black Magic').
Sagan om Tolkien consists roughly of half biographical facts on Tolkien and half literary analysis of LOTR. The analysis deals mainly with Tolkien's possible sources for the books, which are indeed, according to Ohlmarks, innumerable.
The elves, for example, are taken from the stories about King Arthur, mainly the Irish tradition. Tolkien's Westernesse is the Avalon of the Arthur myths. Aragorn is a character inspired by Arthur and the name of Aragorn's father, Arathorn, is clearly influenced by the old Germanic form of the word Arthur, Ara-Thorin. Furthermore, Gandalf is of course Merlin, but not only in the role of magician. The elven name of Gandalf is Mithrandir and Ohlmarks sees a resemblance here with Merlin's origin in the Welsh prophet Myddrin. And when it comes to names in general, Ohlmarks provides a long list of names that look alike in LOTR and in the Arthur myths. Here are some examples19:
Balin the dwarf Balin the knight
Dagorlad the battlefield Dagornet the knight
Galadriel Galahad, Galachim
Mablung Mabon the wizard
Mark Rohan King Mark
Pelennor King Pellinore
Rohan Rohant the knight
Further, Ohlmarks notes that some of Tolkien's names come from Latin (Númenor, Legolas, Incanus), some from French medieval history (Pippin, Folco, Fredegar, Odo, Lotho), some from Spanish (Drogo, Bilbo, Marcho, Blanco), and some from Greek (Sauron, Erebor, Imladris, Echthelion, Denethor)
Next, he finds similarities between the style of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales and the easygoing jovial style of the hobbits.
One of the major influences, Ohlmarks maintains, is the Beowulf saga. He finds that the monster Grendel in Beowulf in many aspects is Tolkien's Balrog, and that the ways in which the two episodes are narrated are quite similar. Also, the fight between Sam and Shelob resembles the fight with Grendel's mother.
As far as the hero's fights against Balrog and Shelob, and Grendel and his mother respectively are concerned, the similarities between Beowulf's and Tolkien's stories are so great that the accounts of them in The Lord of the Rings are hardly conceivable without regarding the Anglo-Saxon poem as a worthy source of inspiration.20
The dealings Bilbo has with Smaug in The Hobbit resemble another passage inBeowulf.
With references to the work of John Tinker, Ohlmarks shows that the language spoken in Rohan is nothing but pure Old English (Anglo-Saxon). For example, Éo, which often appears in names (Éomer, Éowyn, Éothéod, Éomund, etc.), comes from Anglo-Saxon éoh which means 'horse'. The second elements of the names in the example are also Anglo-Saxon.
From Gothic come the name of the orc Snaga and the ford Tharbads. Other words which might have Gothic influences are balrog, wose, Tauremorna, Rhosgobel. Words beginning with Ga- also have a Gothic sound (Galadriel, Galadrim, Gil-Galad).
Extensive resemblances are also found in the various Eddaic and Old Germanic myths, such as Sigmund the dragonslayer, Völsungarna in the Sämundar-Edda, and Nibelungenlied. Ohlmarks shows point by point how Tolkien must have been inspired by these legends when he wrote LOTR. Also, there is an account of how the events and characters in LOTR correspond with those in Genesis.
However, one must not be misled into thinking that Ohlmarks at this point does not like LOTR. On the contrary, he believes Tolkien to be at times the equal of authors such as Shakespeare, Milton, Keats, Shelley, Tennyson and Kipling.21
One year after Ohlmarks' book was published, J. R. R. Tolkien died.
Tolkiens arv (The Tolkien Inheritance) is a collection of bits and pieces related to Ohlmarks' work with LOTR. The book, he says, is an attempt to make the long waiting period for The Silmarillion endurable. In it he tells how he came to translateLOTR, his dealings with Tolkien and his visits to Christopher Tolkien and Rayner Unwin.
Then Ohlmarks gives an account of possible reasons why Christopher Tolkien suddenly felt the need to send Ohlmarks a letter containing threats and insults. Ohlmarks had earlier sent Christopher a copy of a preliminary manuscript in Swedish for a new book - probably the forerunner to this one. However, Christopher did not regard the manuscript as anything but an impertinent attack on himself and his family. As a result of this, Ohlmarks was later completely out of the question when it came to translating The Silmarillion.
In another chapter he is saddened and surprised at Humphrey Carpenter's attack in his biography. Carpenter writes:
...[Tolkien] was much less pleased with a Swedish translation of the book... Not only did he disapprove of much of the actual translation (he had a working knowledge of Swedish) but he was also angered by a foreword to the book inserted by the translator. Tolkien called this foreword 'five pages of impertinent nonsense'... After Tolkien had registered a strong protest, this foreword was withdrawn by the Swedish publishers...22
Ohlmarks was devastated and could not for his life understand the reason for printing this. Firstly, Ohlmarks claimed that he had not interpreted anything, merely pointed out a few obvious facts, such as World War II giving Tolkien inspiration to move on with his story. Secondly, Tolkien had not had 'a working knowledge of Swedish' - at least not 'working' in the sense that he would have been able to pass such judgements on a work in Swedish as he did. Thirdly, the fact that the Swedish publishers, when asked, could not remember having received any protest of that kind from Tolkien, raises the suspicion that this last point is a fabrication on the part of Carpenter, or at least Christopher Tolkien.
What is the real purpose of Christopher Tolkien, via Carpenter's typewriter, emptying a bucket of slops over my head? Is this happening only because I sent him a small well-meant manuscript, or part of it, in a photostat copy in order for him to give his opinion about it, to send word whether he thought I could print it or not? Is it really possible to show greater respect? Had I sent him a finished copy I could probably sympathize with him. But now?23
Curiously, the passage about the Swedish translation was omitted in the Swedish version of Carpenter's biography.
Among many other things, Ohlmarks provides an extensive account of how Tolkien's books and mythology are influenced by or perhaps allegorical about modern and historical Europe. This subject is further examined below.
In Tolkien och den svarta magin (Tolkien and Black Magic), which is dedicated to Edmund Wilson, one of the fiercest anti-Tolkien critics, Ohlmarks begins with the words "Pater peccavi..." (Father, I have sinned...). And truly, Ohlmarks is by now deeply regretful for having spent decades promoting Tolkien in Sweden. He continues with phrases such as "Tolkien's trash", "the damned thing" and "the only too lately deceased old man Ronald Reul..."24. Ohlmarks' new attitude to the books is evident:
The first book [Book 1 of LOTR] is poor rubbish for children and tells almost exclusively of a lengthy, tiresome birthday party among the 'creatures' called hobbits... These hobbits... make pretty boring reading... Tolkien invented his hobbits in a miserably bad fairy-story as early as 1937 ... [LOTR] is the naive folk-tale, painted in black and white, at its worst... 25
The correct usage of the Swedish language was naturally a delicate matter to Ohlmarks.
The old man John Reul was in many respects an odd character and by no means without faults. He believed he had mastered practically every language in the world, including... Swedish.
Sure enough, with the help of dictionaries he could passably spell his way though a Swedish text... But he lacked every sense of the nuances of Swedish words, which did not stop him from tyrannically dictating what everything was going to be called in Swedish...
However, he regarded my independence as an insolent criticism of his omniscience and never forgave me. The fact that I have given nearly forty lectures about him and his work and ... that for twenty years I have done more than anyone else to spread Tolkienism in the whole of the Nordic area did not bother him at all.26
But mostly, Ohlmarks is angry and upset with the Tolkien Societies and a small number of the Swedish ones in particular - the ones whose members had fallen into alchohol abuse and acts of terrorism. What usually began as a pleasant invitation to Mr. and Mrs. Ohlmarks to a happy event only too often ended in nonsensical disputes and general harrassment - the most serious being when Ohlmarks' own house nearly burnt down and his wife had to go to hospital.
In his capacity as Tolkien's representative in Sweden, Ohlmarks also received a number of letters from more or less deranged people, some of them with multiple personality disorders (e. g. being Aragorn, Gandalf and Frodo at the same time).
However, the most grave accusation is the claim that LOTR is essentially the work of another mind than Tolkien's. Ohlmarks still believes that books 2-6 are very good indeed, though not Tolkien's work but probably C. S. Lewis'. This subject will be more closely examined below.
17 Ohlmarks (1978), p 5-6, my translation.
18 The book titles are my translations.
19 Ohlmarks (1972), p 54
20 Ohlmarks (1972), p 85, my translation (the Swedish is not absolutely clear here)
21 Ohlmarks (1972), p. 216
22 Carpenter (1978), p. 227-228
23 Ohlmarks (1978), p. 148, my translation
24 Ohlmarks (1982) p. 9, my translation.
25 Ohlmarks (1982), p. 22-24, my translation
26 Ohlmarks (1982), p. 29, my translation
Copyright (c) 1995 Ludvig Grahn
THE SWEDISH INTERPRETER (continued)
Two Incompatible Spirits
How can a man devote twenty years of his life to a cause, and then suddenly change his mind and wish that the source of his work had met with an earlier death? The change came gradually, though. Ohlmarks first expressed a slight irritation in Sagan om Tolkien, then open contempt towards Christopher Tolkien in the next book and, finally, plain rage in the last.
Ohlmarks was infuriated because of the moral breakdown of some of the Swedish Tolkien societies. Some weeks before Tolkien och den svarta magin was released, he commented on it in an interview for a newspaper.
Had I not written it, I could never have looked at myself in a mirror again.
- I was writing in a rage... I felt so terribly disappointed that I had introduced this insanity into Sweden.27
Although he as late as in Tolkiens arv says things like -
I am grateful for having had the opportunity of spreading the word about one of the greatest authors and most creative minds of our time.28
- he says in the interview that he always considered Tolkien to be an incompetent writer.
The books are on a cartoon-level... just like the Phantom and Guran and the Pygmies.
In his outburst in Tolkien och den svarta magin Ohlmarks confirms:
... the cartoon is the only adequate form for children's stories of such low literary quality. I once spoke about JRRT in connection with the Nobel Prize. Forgive me honoured members of the Academy... I was as stupid as the poor serving-hands of the Tolkien societies...29
He was not afraid to speak up, and said he never had been. As to the Tolkien societies he claims in the interview:
Tolkien himself admired Hitler deeply. The societies devote their time to warlike exercises, it is just like the SS-system29
And sure enough, Ohlmarks finds a clue in the name Saruman: SA-rhum-an30 (SA : the German military unit, 'rhum': 'honor' in German).
However, there seems to be no evidence whatsoever for ascribing this position to Tolkien. As a matter of fact, the German translation of The Hobbit was delayed till after the war because German publishers wanted Tolkien to confirm that he was not of Jewish origin. Apparently, this entire notion was appalling to Tolkien and the Germans were rejected.31
From the first contact with Tolkien, Ohlmarks was feeling offended. Tolkien was not entirely satisfied with his translation and most of all, he did not like Ohlmarks' invention of calling hobbits for 'hober' in Swedish. Ohlmarks explains that he patiently answered Tolkien with a letter of seven pages32 in which he listed all the undesirable associations that 'hobbit' and other terms could have in Swedish. Tolkien was forced to yield but wrote to his publisher:
The enclosure... from Almqvist &c. was both puzzling and irritating. A letter in Swedish from fil. dr Åke Ohlmarks, and a huge list (9 pages foolscap) of names in the L. R. which he had altered. I hope that my inadequate knowledge of Swedish... tends to exaggerate the impression I received. The impression remains, nonetheless, that Dr Ohlmarks is a conceited person... [Ohlmarks] lectures me on... the Swedish language and its antipathy to borrowing foreign words (a matter which seems beside the point), a procedure made all the more ridiculous by the language of the letter... thriller-genre being a good specimen of good old pure Swedish.33
Here, Tolkien gives the impression of being overly pedantic. He may be right about the letter containing many loan-words, but this, however, "seems beside the point" as well. It must have been quite clear that Ohlmarks was referring to the translation of LOTR, and not Swedish in general.
A few years later the Swedish version of LOTR appeared. In it, Ohlmarks had included an introduction with biographical notes on Tolkien. Tolkien wrote to his publisher:
Ohlmarks is a very vain man... preferring his own fancy to facts, and very ready to pretend to knowledge which he does not possess. He does not hesitate to attribute to me sentiments and beliefs which I repudiate. Among them a dislike of the University of Leeds... This is impertinent and entirely untrue. If it should come to the knowledge of Leeds... I should make him apologize.34
There seemed to be altogether a lack of chemistry between Tolkien and Ohlmarks. They were at the same time very much alike and yet very different from each other. They were both incredibly learned scholars who were fascinated by the old Norse and Germanic myths and they were both proud, even though neither one of them would have admitted it. Tolkien was known to be offended whenever his work was criticised and C.S. Lewis' remark is quite revealing:
He has only two reactions to criticism. Either he begins the whole work over again from the beginning or else takes no notice at all.35
Ohlmarks' reaction to Christopher and later to the Swedish Tolkien Societies gave evidence of a strong sense of pride, at least as far as his work was concerned.
On the differing side are their personalities. Tolkien was known to be almost timid and shy, talking in a low and grumbling voice. As opposed to this, Ohlmarks was big and noisy (and happily joked about his weight).
Considering this, Ohlmarks' thorough analysis in Sagan om Tolkien must have been far too imprudent and aggressive to suit English, or at least J. R. R. Tolkien's, modesty. For example, Ohlmarks has a theory about the circumstances regarding the invention of the name of one of the hobbit tribes - the Fallohides. Ohlmarks draws a parallel with South Africa and the bushmen who lived in the jungle outside Bloemfontein. Like the hobbits they were of short height and, as the name would later give evidence of, they wore a cloth to hide their genitals - hence phallo-hides36. There is no recorded reaction to this interpretation from Tolkien, but the chances are that it would not have been approving.
Ohlmarks noticed that unfavourable criticism of Tolkien often seems to be based on jealousy - something that he perhaps falls victim to himself. Ohlmarks' rather sour remarks regarding Carpenter (Tolkien's biographer), in Tolkiens arv ochTolkien och den svarta magin reveal at least some degree of jealousy.
By the way, who is this Mr Humphrey Carpenter? ... he is not in Who's Who, not in any literary dictionary whatsoever... He does not seem to have written anything prior to this biography. He has arbitrarily been appointed by Christopher Tolkien ignoring all the more authorative literary biographers and down to the smallest detail he is dependent on his benefactor and employer. To him Christopher has been able to dictate anything at whim and Carpenter has completely accepted it all...37
Further, Ohlmarks' visit to the younger Tolkien, of which an account is given in Tolkiens arv in 197838, resembles Carpenter's visit to the older, described in 197739. Could this be a way of expressing - visualising - the wish of having met Tolkien? In order to use Ohlmarks' own way of finding similes a comparison of the two events is given in the following.
Carpenter is after a short and nervous anticipation greeted at the front door and the first thing he notices is that, to his surprise, Tolkien is under average height. On entering Christopher Tolkien's house Ohlmarks understands that, despite his precautions he is a little early, because he is let in by a moody housekeeper and is left to wait for quite some time. Then, Ohlmarks finds Christopher to be almost two metres tall - height seems to be of some significance here. Both father and son have a steady handshake.
Carpenter is soon led out to the garage which serves as an office. The room is filled with books and sheets of paper and letters. Tolkien is very busy revising LOTR for the next edition. Ohlmarks is soon led into Christopher's study, which is in a total mess, and then after a while into an old rebuilt stable in the backyard in which the material for The Silmarillion is currently under compilation.
Both Ohlmarks and Carpenter sit and listen in awe, taking notes, as their respective Tolkien is talking. However, after a while Ohlmarks realises that Christopher has only limited knowledge of philology, linguistics and phonology whereas Carpenter remains in complete fascination throughout the entire visit. Both visits end in a happy manner: Carpenter is invited back and Ohlmarks is both complimented for his translation and granted a privilege - a preview of the forthcoming The Silmarillion.
Ohlmarks' great misfortune was probably the fact that he never met Tolkien in person. Considering himself to be of an equal kind, not having met Tolkien naturally diminished Ohlmarks' own authority. The 'biography', written one year before Tolkien died, did not include one single exclusive piece of information from Tolkien. In consequence, Ohlmarks' book suffers from a few errors and it was not recognised as the first biography of Tolkien either.
Ohlmarks began as a devoted Tolkien-fan, but over the years he changed and became one of his fiercest critics. The reason for this was not, however, LOTRitself or even Tolkien. It must be ascribed to external causes.
The Accusation of Forgery
The most serious accusation put forward by Ohlmarks is that of forgery. However, he does not believe that this diminishes the standard of LOTR:
the story itself is fascinating and narrated in a way which makes cold shivers go down one's back... 40
Ohlmarks claims that there is a major discrepancy in the narrative style when comparing The Hobbit and Book 1 of LOTR with Books 2-6. He says that, together with a colleague whose name he thinks it best not to reveal, he has found substantial evidence to support this. Consequently, he suspects the major part ofLOTR to be the work of another author.
... because it could definitely not be him [Tolkien]. If it were, the entire academic exercise of "philological determinance of authorship" would be worthless. ... there are fundamental discrepancies in style, vocabulary, syntax, narrative technique, story-telling, visionary power - everything.41
To answer the obvious question of who then is the real author of the major part ofLOTR, Ohlmarks chooses to mention Tolkien's dearest friend at the time, C.S. Lewis. How could Lewis otherwise have been able to give a review of LOTR at such short notice if he was not in fact the actual author?
However, the notion of there being a discrepancy in style between The Hobbit and the different parts of LOTR is not a new one. Robert M. Adams says for example that
... they are very uneven books [The Hobbit and LOTR], both when compared to one another, and in their different parts as well.
The Hobbit, for example, stands well apart from the trilogy.
Altogether different is the tone of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. At issue is not a gold-hoard but the survival of "civilisation as we know it,"... 42
Paul H. Kocher43 also clearly sees a difference between the books, even though he refuses to term either one of them as better than the other. He maintains that they are entirely separate types of stories, the one a children's/adult fairy-tale and the other an adult epic saga, and that as such they have very different qualities indeed.
No one seems to dispute that there are differences between The Hobbit andLOTR, and no one seems to question whether Tolkien wrote The Hobbit or not. The real question then, seems to be whether Tolkien wrote all of LOTR or not.
Any evidence to support Ohlmarks' claim has so far failed to see the light and as Åke Ohlmarks passed away a few years ago there seems to be little hope of sharing such knowledge.
One of Ohlmarks' arguments is that while The Hobbit and other such works written before LOTR are of the same poor standard as The Silmarillion, which was published after LOTR, it would be practically impossible to produce a work in between of such a high standard. What seems to escape Ohlmarks here is the fact that The Silmarillion was largely written before even The Hobbit. In this light,LOTR could perhaps be seen as the crowning of a slowly developed literary style.
LOTR was written over a long period of time - about 13 years. Tolkien himself did not know how it was going to end as he wrote it and before it was published he rewrote many parts. The world was at war for five years and authors do change and develop. It is not very complimentary to suggest that an author has no ability whatsoever to vary his style - although complimenting Tolkien was perhaps the least of Ohlmarks' concerns at the end.
It is true that LOTR was not a work unfamiliar to Lewis. Parts of it were on a regular basis read during the Inkling sessions and he was frequently asked by Tolkien to comment on the progress of the story. Tolkien's daughter Priscilla recalls:
Tolkien admitted that without C. S. Lewis the Lord of the Rings would not have been completed.44
To suggest that Lewis would have 'shadow-written' LOTR seems strange, however. The progress of the book is the subject of an enormous amount of correspondence, primarily with Tolkien's sons and publisher, and the idea that each and every one of these letters would hide an elaborate and cunningly devised lie, seems far-fetched, to say the least.
Allegory or Not?
Tolkien repeatedly claimed that there was no such thing as allegory in his work. In a letter to his publisher in 1938, concerning the progress of LOTR, Tolkien says that:
The darkness of the present days has had some effect on it. Though it is not an 'allegory'.45
In another letter, after the publication of LOTR, he writes:
There is no 'symbolism' or conscious allegory in my story. Allegory of the sort 'five wizards=five senses' is wholly foreign to my way of thinking.46
Mark Roberts also dismissed ideas such as that the Ring should represent Atomic Power, or that Sauron would advocate National Socialism or that the real enemy should be industrialism.
It follows that The Lord of the Rings cannot be read as a connected allegory, with a clear message for the modern world.47
However, Ohlmarks counters by producing an extensive amount of work with the aim of proving the opposite. In all three of his books, Ohlmarks touches upon the subject of allegory, becoming more intense in the last one.
According to Ohlmarks, Morgoth is Marx, and among other things he uses theories of sound change to support his claim. He uses the word London as an illustration48. The early pronunciation of London was probably something like /'lo:ndon/, which has later developed to modern /'landn/. In the same manner,Morgoth was pronounced /'mo:goth/ and consequently changed into /'magth/, now spelt Marx. After a long account of how the suffix -we could properly be changed to -in, Ohlmarks points out that the elven lord Lenwe is in fact Lenin! To complete the picture, Sauron is of course Stalin and Mordor is Russia.
Ohlmarks continues: Saruman is Hitler, the Black Riders/Nazgûls are the Gestapo, Isengaard is Berlin (both were destroyed during war), Ortanc is Hitler's Reichskanzlei (also destroyed/bombed). Theoden is marshal Pétain, Rohan is France, Frodo/Aragorn is Churchill, the Shire is Great Britain, Westernesse is USA and Radagast is the environmentalists49.
Ohlmarks often accused Tolkien of having "a bee in his bonnet" about languages and linguistic matters. The same could be said of Ohlmarks and his allegories. He was convinced that if he could spot any allegory in a story, the allegory had to be intentional on the part of the author. Tolkien maintained that there was no intentional allegory, but - of course - applicability.
27 Bielf (1982), my translation.
28 Ohlmarks (1978), p. 14, my translation
29 Ohlmarks (1982), p. 137, my translation
30 Ohlmarks (1982), p. 30
31 Carpenter (1990), p. 37-38
32 Ohlmarks (1978), p. 23. However in Ohlmarks (1982), p 29, the letter is said to be of almost 20 pages.
33 Carpenter (1990), p. 263
34 Carpenter (1990), p. 305
35 Carpenter (1978), p. 149
36 Ohlmarks (1972), p. 14
37 Ohlmarks (1978), p. 144-145, my translation
38 Ohlmarks (1978), p. 51-75
39 Carpenter (1978), p. 11-14
40 Ohlmarks (1982), p. 24, my translation.
41 Ohlmarks (1982), p. 25, my translation.
42 Adams (1977)
43 Kocher (1972), p. 25
44 Tolkien till minne
45 Carpenter (1990), p. 41
46 Carpenter (1990), p. 262
47 Roberts (1956)
48 Ohlmarks (1978), p. 182
49 Ohlmarks (1982), p. 30
Copyright (c) 1995 Ludvig Grahn
Stereotypes and Dualism
The characters of LOTR are said to be perfect stereotypes with little or insignificant psychological depth, and the world divided in two major powers, the good side and the evil.
Mark Roberts writes in his preliminary review of LOTR:
The Lord of Evil is black and ugly, and his followers are bad-mannered and quarrelsome creatures who in general give off a bad smell; they torture their prisoners, and take pleasure in destroying pleasant woodlands and fair buildings. But save for their cruelty in war (...) we are never told exactly in what their wickedness consists. 50
The Good are beautiful, intelligent and artistic. They are all craftsmen who make lovely objects, or industrious farmers. ... and their domestic lives, when they are not fighting Evil, are entirely delightful. But save for the chivalrous courage and devotion to duty which they all display (...) there seems to be nothing outstandingly virtuous in their behaviour.
A major problem for Edmund Wilson is the characters, or lack of characters
For the most part such characterisations as Dr. Tolkien is able to contrive are perfectly stereotyped: Frodo the good little Englishman; Samwise, his dog-like servant, who talks lowerclass and respectful, and never deserts his master. These characters... are no characters... .51
He cannot identify himself with, for example, Gandalf
At the end of this long romance, I had still no conception of the wizard Gandalph, who is made to play a cardinal role. I had never been able to visualise him at all.
So, he does not get to know Gandalf, and he does not get to know Sauron either:
... the build-up for him [Sauron] goes on through three volumes. He makes his first, rather promising, appearance as a terrible fire-rimmed yellow eye seen in a water-mirror. But this is as far as we ever get. Once Sauron's realm is invaded, we think we are going to meet him; but he still remains nothing but a burning eye scrutinising all that occurs from the window of a remote dark tower. This might, of course, be made effective; but actually it is not: we never feel Sauron's power.
Not surprisingly, one finds Ohlmarks later also expressing this opinion.
One side was the white, so good and pure and noble that anything better cannot be conceived - while the other side was blacker than the blackest coal, evil personified, cruelty in its every appalling shape, Satan and his devils, the whole blasphemous menagerie. 52
Noreen Hayes and Robert Renshaw maintain however that LOTR does have characters with psychological depth and that there are no dualistic black and white aspects of the conflicts.
... the struggle between Sauron et al. and the Fellowship of the Nine takes place in a pluralistic context, i.e. there are evils instead of "evil" and goods instead of "good".
Neither those forces characterized as good nor those characterized as evil are monolithic or unmixed in nature. Within the fellowship itself Boromir attempts to seize the ring of power.
... the dualistic interpretation ignores the careful differentiation of characteristics among the individual good and bad characters. ...
Both Gollum and Sauron are described as evil, yet they are essentially different.53
There are several instances in LOTR which show how terms like 'good' and 'evil' may be altered according to context. Elves and Dwarfs are inherently antagonistic, each regarding the other as the enemy. The Ents regard everyone in possession of an axe (primarily Orcs and Dwarfs) as evil. Saruman illustrates the fact that even the purest can become evil.
Wilson is disappointed that he never meets Sauron. He seems to forget though, that lack of knowledge about evil beings often makes them even more frightening. Avoidance of details might thus be intentional on the part of the author.
The Nature of Evil
Shortly after LOTR was published, Tolkien put down on paper, for personal reasons, some thoughts concerning the book.
In my story I do not deal in Absolute Evil. I do not think there is such a thing, since that is Zero. I do not think that at any rate any 'rational being' is wholly evil... In my story Sauron represents as near an approach to the wholly evil will as is possible... In The Lord of the Rings the conflict is not basically about 'freedom'... It is about God, and His sole right to divine honour. 54
The greatest problem of all regarding Tolkien's fabulous sub-creation seems to lie with the view of evil. Robert M. Adams is not satisfied with Tolkien's morality:
The exotic visual effects and rich linguistic textures absorb the reader's attention and prevent him from feeling the simplistic poverty of Tolkien's moralism 55
In Tolkien's Middle-Earth we feel that evil exists: pure, raw, unadulterated evil. Apparently, the Dark side is evil simply because it is evil.
However, in the world today not everyone would agree with this notion. Many people do not believe that such a thing as pure evil does exist. On the contrary, the maintenance of such an idea can cause harmful and unexpected things to continue to happen, because the real source is never exposed.
The Swiss psychoanalyst Alice Miller56 has come up with a new understanding of supposed 'evil' human beings. She describes how children are shaped into mass murderers and rapists by society in general and parents or guardians in particular. The principle in this shaping is called Black Education. Ola Lindgren57 shows that vital events concerning the shaping of moral values in The Silmarillion are based on this principle, namely the original notion of evil. As mentioned in the introduction, this essay will not deal with works published after Tolkien's death, but it is in all cases interesting to see that Tolkien's basic view of evil, as presented in the work which he himself regarded as the most important, is influenced by Black Education.
Lindgren highlights two episodes in The Silmarillion. The first has to do with Aulë and his longing for the arrival of Elves and Humans to the world. He cannot contain himself, and thus secretly forestalls Eru's plans and creates his own creatures, the Dwarves, an act which of course does not escape Eru, who is omniscient.
According to Lindgren an example of Black Education is thus becoming visible. Eru is not content with watching Aulë from a distance. He suddenly reveals himself, faces Aulë with the facts and says:
Why hast thou done this? Why dost thou attempt a thing which thou knowest is beyond thy power and thy authority? For thou hast from me as a gift thy own being only, and no more; and therefore the creatures of thy hand and mind can live only by that being, moving when thou thinkest to move them, and if thy thought be elsewhere, standing idle. Is that thy desire? 58
What is Aulë's answer supposed to be? He has been caught red-handed with something forbidden, and he has no means of responding to Eru, since he is completely at the mercy of Eru's power and good will - exactly the way in which a real child is dependent of its parents. He now realises that he has to reject everything that implies that he has a will of his own, since this more than anything else threatens the inner equilibrium of the great father. Aulë, just like the child who has not yet been properly raised, has to pay a high price for the spontaneity and the closeness to his own feelings that has not yet been suppressed. A price that will be paid with a growing lack of self confidence and low amount of self esteem.
Now, Aulë is prepared to kill his Dwarves in order to please his father but Eru, moved by compassion, stops him just in time. Lindgren observes:
It is interesting to see that Aulë's willingness to kill his own beloved creatures corresponds with a fact that Alice Miller and other psychoanalysts have known for a long time, that the child will do anything in order not to lose the love of its parents. The child would rather kill its own feelings than risk losing the love of the parents. 59
This is the core of the work of Alice Miller. As the child expresses feelings of its own, which are in conflict with the parent, the child is accused of wilfulness. This wilfulness is the cause of all evil. It has to be annihilated, at all costs. In the following process, the damage done to the child is irreparable.
Returning to The Silmarillion the Lord of Evil to be, Melkor, is at an early stage found to have this wilfulness60. In a most obstinate manner, he refuses to play the same tune as the other Ainur and he persists in wandering off to the desolate areas of the universe, against Eru's will. As a result of this Melkor is expelled from the 'family' of Eru and Ainur and is doomed to walk the path of loneliness. Melkor's emotional response to this is anger and jealousy; he broods in the darkness of existence and becomes Morgoth, which in our world would be the socially handicapped mass murderer.
Lindgren realises that the use of these moral values may very well be unintentional on the part of Tolkien. This was simply the way things were being done at the time of his own upbringing. To have the moral base of one of the century's greatest epic novels rest on this principle is, however, worrying and deeply regrettable.
Ohlmarks of course, being a religious expert, has something to say about evil too:
According to Tolkien it is thus envy and lust for power that has caused everything evil in the world. The fact that God let Satan thrive and did not nip [evil] in the bud, is one of many inexplicable things about Tolkienism...61
Thus, when attempting to explain the origin of evil Tolkien fails in credibility much in the same way as the Bible does, i. e. with the problem of theodicy. If God/Eru was the only original being and everything else in one way or another came from him, the 'evil' things must also have come from him. Therefore God/Eru cannot be altogether good. If, on the other hand, God/Eru is altogether good, then he could not be all-powerful nor the first original being since evil things co-exist with him and not being all-powerful nor the original being does not make a very impressive god.
50 Roberts (1955), emphasis added.
51 Wilson (1956)
52 Ohlmarks (1982), p. 23-24, my translation.
53 Hays and Renshaw (1967)
54 Carpenter (1990), p. 243
55 Adams (1977)
56 Miller (1991)
57 Lindgren (1991)
58 Tolkien (1994), p. 49
59 Lindgren (1991). My translation, emphasis added.
60 Tolkien (1994), p. 15-24
61 Ohlmarks (1982), p. 33, my translation
Copyright (c) 1995 Ludvig Grahn
Tolkien, J. R. R. The Hobbit London: HarperCollinsPublishers(1993)
Tolkien, J. R. R. The Lord of the Rings London, BCA (1991)
Tolkien, J. R. R. The Silmarillion London: HarperCollinsPublishers (1994)
ARDA 1988-1991, The Arda-Society/Forodrim (1994)
Carpenter, Humphrey J. R. R. Tolkien A Biography London: Unwin Paperbacks (1978)
Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien London: Unwin Paperbacks (1990)
Kocher, Paul H. TOLKIENS SAGOVÄRLD En vägledning Stockholm: Norstedts Förlag (1989)
Miller, Alice I begynnelsen var uppfostran Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand (1991)
Ohlmarks, Åke Sagan om Tolkien Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell Förlag AB (1972)
Ohlmarks, Åke Tolkiens arv Bokförlaget PLUS (1978)
Ohlmarks, Åke Tolkien och den svarta magin Sjöstrands Förlag AB (1982)
Transcripts from a television programme on Tolkien, Tolkien till minne (prod.nr. 10-92/2700, broadcast 29 Jan 1993, Kanal 1, 20.00)
Essays and articles
A big help in selecting international articles was Richard West's Tolkien Criticism: An Annotated Checklist (The Kent State University Press, 1981)
Adams, R.M. 'The Hobbit Habit' New York Review of Books, 24: 22-24 (1977)
Allen, Bruce 'At the Creation' Saturday Review/World, 6/15/74: 25-27 (1974)
Bielf, Lars 'Tolkien var en usel författare' Aftonbladet 20 Mars 1982 (1982)
Conrad, Peter 'The Babbit' New Statesman, Sep 23: 408-409 (1977)
Hayes, Noreen and Robert Renshaw 'Of Hobbits: The Lord of the Rings' Critique, 9: 58-66(1967)
Lindberg, Ola 'Tolkien och den svarta pedagogiken' Fenix 3,9,91/92 p. 142-159 (1991?)
Roberts, Mark 'Adventure in English' Essays in Criticism, 6: 450-459 (1956)
Roberts, Mark 'The Saga of Middle Earth' The Times Literary Supplement, Nov. 25: 704 (1955)
Wilson, Edmund 'Oo, Those Awful Orcs!' The Bit between My Teeth London: W. H. Allen & Co, p. 326-332 (1956)
Copyright (c) 1995 Ludvig Grahn
The Ohlmarks's case coda
The Swedish translation of the Lord of the Rings is very bad. If is full of errors. Some are very large. Tolkien did not like the translation (or Ohlmarks) and I and many others in Sweden hope that a new translation will be made.
Example of an error: Instead of Eowyn, Merry kills the Which-King with the sword between the crown and the body! He wrote he instead of she.
Here are wome examples of what Tolkien thought about the Swedish translator and his translation of the Lord of the Rings:
Tolkien wrote: "Ohlmarks is a very vain man (as I discovered in our correspondence), preferring his own fancy to facts, and very ready to pretend to knowledge which he does not possess."
Tolkien about Ohlmarks and the translation:
"Sweden. The enclosure that you brought from Almqvist &c. was both puzzling and irritating. A letter in Swedish from fil. dr. Åke Ohlmarks, and a huge list (9 pages foolscap) of names in the L.R. which he had altered. I hope that my inadequate knowledge of Swedish - no better than my kn. of Dutch, but I possess a v. much better Dutch dictionary! - tends to exaggerate the impression I received. The impression remains, nonetheless, that Dr Ohlmarks is a conceited person, less competent than charming Max Schuchart, though he thinks much better of himself. In the course of his letter he lectures me on the character of the Swedish language and its antipathy to borrowing foreign words (a matter which seems beside the point), a procedure made all the more ridiculous by the language of his letter, more than 1/3 of which consists of 'loan-words' from German, French and Latin: thriller-genre being a good specimen of good old pure Swedish.
I find this procedure puzzling, because the letter and the list seem totally pointless unless my opinion and criticism is invited. But if this is its object, then surely the timing is both unpractical and impolite, presented together with a pistol: 'we are going to start the composition now'. Neither is my convenience consulted: the communication comes out of the blue in the second most busy academic week of the year. I have had to sit up far into the night even to survey the list. Conceding the legitimacy or necessity of translation (which I do not, except in a limited degree), the translation does not seem to me to exhibit much skill, and contains a fair number of positive errors.* Even if excusable, in view of the difficulty of the material, I think this regrettable, & they could have been avoided by earlier consultation. It seems to me fairly evident that Dr. O. has stumbled along dealing with things as he came to them, without much care for the future or co-ordination, and that he has not read the Appendices at all, in watch he would have found many answers .....
I do hope that it can be arranged, if and when any further translations are negotiated, that I should be consulted at an early stage - without frightening a shy bird off the eggs. After all, I charge nothing, and can save a translator a good deal of time and puzzling; and if consulted at an early stage my remarks will appear far less in the light of peevish criticisms.
*For example: Ford of Bruinen = Björnavad! Archet = Gamleby (Old Village) (a mere guess, I suppose, from 'archaic'?) Mountains of Lune (Ered Luin) = Månbergen (Moon-mountains); Gladden Fields (in spite of descr. in 1. 62) = Ljusa slätterna (Bright plains), & so on."
Tolkien about another part of the translation:
"In translating vol. i p.12, 'they seldom wore shoes, since their feet had though leathery soles and were clad in a thick curling hair, much like the hair of their heads', he read the text as'. . . their feet had thick feathery soles, and they were clad in a thick curling hair. . .'and so produces in his Introduction a picture of hobbits whose outdoor garb was of matted hair, while under their feet they had solid feather-cushion treads! This is made doubly absurd, since it occurs in a passage where he is suggesting that the hobbits are modelled on the inhabitants of the idyllic suburb of Headington."
In addition, Ohlmarks also created his own stories about tolkien's life. He also thought that he knew the meaning of things that he had no sufficent knowledge about.
Ohlmarks about Tolkien: "There are reminiscences of journeys on foot in his own youth up into the Welsh border-region."
Tolkien answered: "As Bilbo said to the dwarves, he seems to know as much of my private pantries as I do myself. Or pretends to. I never walked in Wales or the marches in my youth. Why should I be made an object of fiction while still alive?"
Ohlmarks: "The professor began by telling tales about it [Middle-earth] to his children, then to his grandchildren; and they were fascinated and clamoured for more and still more. One can clearly see before one the fireside evenings in the peaceful villa out at Sandfield Road in Headington near Oxford .... with the Barrowdowns or Headington Hills in the rear and the Misty Mountains or the 560 feet high Shotover in the background."
Tolkien answered: "!!This is such outrageous nonsense that I should suspect mockery, if I did not observe that O. is ever ready to assume intimate knowledge that he has not got. I have only two grandchildren. One 18 who first heard of the books 5 years ago. The other is 2. The book was written before I moved to Headington, which has no hills, but is on a shoulder (as it were) of Shotover."
Ohlmarks: "One of his most important writings, published in 1953, also treats of another famous homecoming, 'The Homecoming of Beorhtnot, [sic] Beorthhelm's son.'"
Tolkien: "Coming home dead without a head (as Beorhtnoth did) is not very delightful. But this is spoof. O. knows nothing about Beorhtnoth, or his homecoming (never mentioned till I wrote a poem about it) and he has not seen the poem. I do not blame him, except for writing as if he knew."
Ohlmarks: "The Ring is in a certain way 'der Nibelungen Ring'. . . . "
Tolkien: "Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceases."