|News has reached us of the imminent release of two children's books from the descendents of J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Dickens, published by Thames River Press.
Tolkien is to write stories, while Dickens will narrate the audio-books. The books are scheduled for release later this year, and are based on two stories that Michael Tolkien's famous grandfather read to him as a child.
The First, 'Wish', is a new reading of the 1923 novel 'The Rose-Coloured Wish' by Florence Bone, a tale of two children's quest to save their mountain home by seeking out an evil sorcerer's magic necklace of wishing stones, taking them on a dangerous journey.
The second book, 'Rainbow', is another adaptation of Bone's earlier novel, 'The Other Side of the Rainbow.'
Michael has been fond of the tales since he was read them as a child in the 1940's and 50's, and said he desire to forge a new telling of the story to "recreate the spirit of the original in new dress". The BBC has quoted his collaborator, Gerald Dickens, as say that, "Wish is a timeless story which children will enjoy for years to come. Michael Tolkien has brought it to life in narrative verse."
Michael shared his grandfather's love for the written word, attending St. Andrews University reading English, and fed his love of the language while teaching as head of English at Uppingham School, Rutland, England, until 1992. He is known as a poet, with three of his works published by Redback Press. Gerald Dickens is an actor known for his excellent one-man shows based on the novels of his great-great grandfather, many of which have been committed to CD.
Is this a literary match in heaven, or mere cashing in on the imminent author's names? There's no doubt that such books, without the glamour of their author's heritage, would likely disappear into the mess of vampires and zombies currently plaguing the literary scene. There has, however, been a surge of interest in classic fairy tales and children's adventure stories lately. In a complex world of recession and worse, there's something quite quaint and inviting about the settings and themes of these classic tales: comfortably formulaic, they nevertheless appeal to the childhood sense of fun and adventure, the sense that the whole world was waiting for you. A feeling that is very much alive in Tolkien's books, especially The Hobbit. Great timing for the release of the films, without a doubt.
Tolkien himself was influenced by many of these tales. He wrote an extended essay on the importance of them, called 'On Fairy Stories,' (1947) originally delivered in the form of a lecture at the University of St. Andrews. While we tend to see these stories as exclusively the domain of children, Tolkien is quick to point out, "the association of children and fairy stories is an accident of our domestic history. Fairy–stories have in the modern lettered world been relegated to the 'nursery', as shabby or old–fashioned furniture is relegated to the play–room, primarily because the adults do not want it, and do not mind if it is misused." He likens the influence of the tales on modern writers to a pot of soup, into which various influences of history, mythology, folk tales, and written creations have been thrown together and allowed to simmer for centuries, even millenia: when a writer composes a tale of magic and enchantment, they dip their pen into the pot and the words become mingled with their own ink.
Writers who have partaken of their soup are legion, including some of our best known and loved authors, men of which whose influence has been so powerful as to shape the future of language itself. Authors like Shakespeare, Chaucer, Blake, Milton, Keats, Yeats, Rowling, and of course, Tolkien. These works were rarely for children - they contained seriously adult themes. It was only in the 19th century these stories became adapted for the exclusive enjoyment of children. Thankfully, these tales are slowly re-emerging into the mainstream, through the lenses of gritty re-imaginings of tales, often in cinematic format. Red Riding Hood and the upcoming Cinderella films come to mind, along with the NBC series Grimm and Once Upon a Time, amongst many others. Even the Harry Potter tales contain more than a touch of darkness and adult themes, which is one of the reasons why so many adults love them. Tolkien's collection of the tales must have been legion, and probably insured today for a pretty penny and the home in which they were kept for many years was subject to some substantial house insurance.
Do yourself a favour and have a read of Tolkien's 'On Fairy Stories' for a fascinating insight into this deceptively childlike genre.
|Title: Tolkien on Fairy-Stories
Authors: Verlyn Flieger, Douglas A. Anderson
Estimate: 128 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
Publication Date: 2 June 2008
For those who cannot wait for the release by Thames River Press:
In 2010 Wish was already released by AuthorHouse, as you can read in my review of the book here.
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Author: Michael G. R. Tolkien
Publication Date: June 23, 2010
Type: paperback, 132 pages
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