Tolkien research

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The works of J. R. R. Tolkien have generated a body of research covering many aspects of his fantasy writings. These encompass The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion , along with his legendarium that remained unpublished until after his death, and his constructed languages, especially the Elvish languages Quenya and Sindarin. Scholars from different disciplines have examined the linguistic and literary origins of Middle-earth, and have explored many aspects of his writings from Christianity to feminism and race.



Biographies of Tolkien have been written by Humphrey Carpenter, with his 1977 J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography [1] and of Tolkien's wartime years by John Garth with his 2003 Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth . [2] Carpenter edited the 1981 The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien , assisted by Christopher Tolkien. [3] The brief period after the war when Tolkien worked for the OED is detailed in the 2006 book The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary by Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall and Edmund Weiner. [4]

On Tolkien's writings


A variety of institutions have developed to support Tolkien research. These include The Tolkien Society and The Mythopoeic Society. Tolkien archives are held in the Bodleian Library in Oxford [5] and Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. [6] Publishers of scholarly books on Tolkien include Houghton Mifflin, McFarland Press, Mythopoeic Press, Walking Tree Publishers, Palgrave MacMillan, and Kent State University Press. [7]


Early publications on Tolkien's writing were essentially fanzines; some, such as Mythlore , founded in 1969, developed into scholarly peer-reviewed (refereed) technical publications; among the "reputable" [7] journals is Mallorn [7] by the Tolkien Society. Other specialised journals include Tolkien Studies (2004–) and Journal of Tolkien Research (2014–). There are several journals that focus on the literary society The Inklings, of which Tolkien was a member, especially Journal of Inklings Studies (2011–). [7]


In 1992, the Tolkien Society and the Mythopoeic Society held a joint conference for the centenary of Tolkien's birth, combining papers that were published in the conference proceedings, [8] with a mixed programme of events over a period of eight days, 17–24 August 1992, in Oxford. The Mythopoeic Society has been holding conferences in the U.S. (and once in Canada) nearly annually since 1970. In recent years some conferences have been virtual. [9]

Omentielva is a European bi-yearly conference on research into Tolkien's invented languages. [10]


A large literature examines Tolkien's Middle-earth fantasy fiction from numerous points of view, including medievalism, its philological roots in languages such as Old Norse and Old English, [11] its influences from literature of different periods, its poetry, its Christian symbolism, feminism, race, sexuality, and many other themes. [12] [13] These are overviewed in Blackwell's A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien , [14] which effectively marked his acceptance into the English literary canon. [15]

Constructed languages

Tolkien's constructed languages, Quenya and Sindarin, the main languages of Elves, have inspired linguistic research. Parma Eldalamberon and Vinyar Tengwar are published by the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship of the Mythopoeic Society a non-profit organization. The Vinyar Tengwar and Parma Eldalamberon material published at an increasing rate during the early 2000s is from the stock of linguistic material in the possession of the appointed team of editors (some 3000 pages according to them), consisting of photocopies sent them by Christopher Tolkien and notes taken in the Bodleian Library around 1992. An Internet mailing list dedicated to Tolkien's languages, called tolklang, has existed since November 1, 1990. [16]


Major introductory books



Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tengwar</span> Fictional script in the fantasy works of J. R. R. Tolkien

The Tengwar script is an artificial script, one of several scripts created by J. R. R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings.

The Elvish languages of Middle-earth, constructed by J. R. R. Tolkien, include Quenya and Sindarin. These were the various languages spoken by the Elves of Middle-earth as they developed as a society throughout the Ages. In his pursuit for realism and in his love of language, Tolkien was especially fascinated with the development and evolution of language through time. Tolkien created two almost fully developed languages and a dozen more in various beginning stages as he studied and reproduced the way that language adapts and morphs. A philologist by profession, he spent much time on his constructed languages. In the collection of letters he had written, posthumously published by his son, Christopher Tolkien, he stated that he began stories set within this secondary world, the realm of Middle-earth, not with the characters or narrative as one would assume, but with a created set of languages. The stories and characters serve as conduits to make those languages come to life. Inventing language was always a crucial piece to Tolkien's mythology and world building. As Tolkien stated:

The invention of languages is the foundation. The 'stories' were made rather to provide a world for the languages than the reverse. To me a name comes first and the story follows.

The English philologist and author J. R. R. Tolkien created several constructed languages, mostly related to his fictional world of Middle-earth. Inventing languages, something that he called glossopoeia, was a lifelong occupation for Tolkien, starting in his teens.

The Black Speech is one of the fictional languages constructed by J. R. R. Tolkien for his legendarium, where it was spoken in the evil realm of Mordor. In the fiction, Tolkien describes the language as created by Sauron as a constructed language to be the sole language of all the servants of Mordor.

Tolkien fandom is an international, informal community of fans of the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, especially of the Middle-earth legendarium which includes The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. The concept of Tolkien fandom as a specific type of fan subculture sprang up in the United States in the 1960s, in the context of the hippie movement, to the dismay of the author, who talked of "my deplorable cultus".

The Elvish Linguistic Fellowship is a "Special Interest Group" of the Mythopoeic Society devoted to the study of J. R. R. Tolkien's constructed languages, headed by the computer scientist Carl F. Hostetter. It was founded by Jorge Quiñónez in 1988.

Carl Franklin Hostetter is a Tolkien scholar and NASA computer scientist. He has edited and annotated many of J. R. R. Tolkien's linguistic writings, publishing them in Vinyar Tengwar and Parma Eldalamberon.

<i>Mythlore</i> Academic journal

Mythlore is a biannual peer-reviewed academic journal founded by Glen GoodKnight and published by the Mythopoeic Society. Although it publishes articles that explore the genres of myth and fantasy in general, special attention is given to the three most prominent members of the Inklings: J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Charles Williams. The current editor-in-chief is the Tolkien scholar Janet Brennan Croft. The Tolkien Society describes Mythlore as a "refereed scholarly journal".

This is a list of all published works of the English writer and philologist J. R. R. Tolkien. Tolkien's works were published before and after his death.

Verlyn Flieger is an author, editor, and Professor Emerita in the Department of English at the University of Maryland at College Park, where she taught courses in comparative mythology, medieval literature, and the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. She is well known as a Tolkien scholar, especially for her books Splintered Light and A Question of Time. She has won the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award four times for her work on Tolkien's Middle-earth writings.

Michael D. C. Drout is an American Professor of English and Director of the Center for the Study of the Medieval at Wheaton College. He is an author and editor specializing in Anglo-Saxon and medieval literature, science fiction and fantasy, especially the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and Ursula K. Le Guin.

<i>Tolkien Studies</i> Academic journal

Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review is an academic journal founded in 2004 publishing papers on the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. The journal's founding editors are Douglas A. Anderson, Michael D. C. Drout, and Verlyn Flieger, and the current editors are Michael D. C. Drout, Verlyn Flieger, and David Bratman. It states that it is the first scholarly journal published by an academic press in the area of Tolkien research.

Sindarin is one of the constructed languages devised by J. R. R. Tolkien for use in his fantasy stories set in Arda, primarily in Middle-earth. Sindarin is one of the many languages spoken by the Elves. The word Sindarin is a Quenya word.

Richard Plotz is the co-founder of the Tolkien Society of America, which in 1972 was merged with the Mythopoeic Society. Plotz is known for his interview with J. R. R. Tolkien in the late 1960s under the auspices of Seventeen Magazine, and for a 1967 letter from Tolkien delineating the declension of the noun in late Quenya. Plotz attended Harvard University as an undergraduate.

Arden Ray Smith is a member of the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship and holds a Ph.D. in Germanic Linguistics from the University of California, Berkeley. He has published numerous articles relating to the languages constructed by J. R. R. Tolkien. He was a columnist and editor of Vinyar Tengwar, for which he wrote the popular column "Transitions in Translations", in which odd elements in translations of Tolkien's work were described and commented upon.

Quenya is a constructed language devised by J. R. R. Tolkien, and used in his fictional universe, Middle-earth.

John Garth is a British journalist and author, known especially for writings about J. R. R. Tolkien including his biography Tolkien and the Great War and a book on the places that inspired Middle-earth, The Worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien. He won a 2004 Mythopoeic Award for Scholarship for his work on Tolkien. The biography influenced much Tolkien scholarship in the subsequent decades.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Richard C. West</span> American librarian and Tolkien scholar (1944–2020)

Richard Carroll West was an American librarian and one of the first Tolkien scholars. He is best known for his 1975 essay on the interlace structure of The Lord of the Rings, for which he won the 1976 Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inkling Studies.

<i>The Nature of Middle-earth</i> 2021 compilation of material by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Nature of Middle-earth is a 2021 book of previously unpublished materials on Tolkien's legendarium, compiled and edited by the scholar Carl F. Hostetter. Some essays were previously published in the Elvish linguistics journal Vinyar Tengwar, where Hostetter is a long-time editor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tom Loback</span> American artist and Tolkien scholar (1949-2015)

Tom Loback was an artist, known for his illustrations of characters from J. R. R. Tolkien's 1977 book The Silmarillion, his miniature figurines, and his public artworks in New York. He contributed also as a Tolkien scholar interested in Tolkien's constructed languages.


  1. "Tolkien Bibliography: 1977 - Humphrey Carpenter - J.R.R. Tolkien: a biography". The Tolkien Library. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  2. Garth, John (2003). Tolkien and the Great War: the threshold of Middle-earth . London: HarperCollins. ISBN   978-0-00-711953-0. OCLC   54047800.
  3. Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (2000). "Letter 294". The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien . Houghton Mifflin. ISBN   978-0-618-05699-6.
  4. Gilliver, Peter (2006). The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0-19-861069-4.
  5. Barella, Cecilia (2013) [2007]. "Tolkien Scholarship: Institutions". In Drout, Michael D. C. (ed.). J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment . Routledge. pp. 656–659. ISBN   978-0-415-86511-1.
  6. "J R R Tolkien Collection - Marquette University Libraries". Marquette University Libraries. 30 November 2020. Archived from the original on 2022-02-26. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 Croft, Janet Brennan (2016). "Bibliographic Resources for Literature Searches on J.R.R Tolkien". Journal of Tolkien Research. 3 (1). Article 2.
  8. Proceedings of The J. R. R. Tolkien Centenary Conference 1992 – separate articles (out of print); – single PDF with index
  9. GoodKnight, Glen H.; Reynolds, Patricia (15 October 1996). "Editorial". Mythlore . 21 (2): article 1.
  10. Omentielva
  11. Solopova 2009.
  12. Drout, Michael D. C., ed. (2006). The J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. New York City: Routledge. pp. xxix–xxx. ISBN   0-415-96942-5.
  13. Hammond & Scull 2006b.
  14. Lee 2020.
  15. Higgins, Andrew (2015). "A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Stuart D. Lee, reviewed by Andrew Higgins". Journal of Tolkien Research. 2 (1). Article 2.
  16. Bradfield, Julian. "The Tolkien Language List". Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  17. Tolkien Studies at West Virginia University Press
  18. Mythlore
  19. Journal of Tolkien Research
  20. Mallorn
  21. At its issue #15 , Tolkien Journal merged with Mythlore.
  22. Vinyar Tengwar
  23. Petersen, Vibeke Rützou (2012). "Review of Fastitocalon. Studies in Fantasticism Ancient to Modern: Immortals and the Undead 1.2 (2010): 91–200". Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts . 23 (2 (85)): 334–337. ISSN   0897-0521. JSTOR   24352949.
  24. Croft, Janet Brennan (2010). "Review of Fastitocalon: Studies in Fantasticism Ancient to Modern: Immortals and the Undead". Mythlore . 29 (1/2 (111/112)): 188–192. ISSN   0146-9339. JSTOR   26815554.