Transcript of chat session with Pr. Tom Shippey during The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun Online Release Party (09.05.09 by Pieter Collier) - Comments

On the 5th of May was released The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun. Because a new Tolkien book is not being released every day, or even not every year, I thought it a good thing to organise an online release event. Online Release Events always have some common features, like a lot of chatting about J.R.R. Tolkien and his books, giveaways or contests and chat sessions with special guests. Because the new Tolkien book was not Middle-earth related and because neither HarperCollins or Houghton Mifflin were doing a live release event (remember the Children of Hurin release parties in London and New York!) I thought it good to make it a one day only event. One day, one guest... only one person came in my mind: Professor Tom Shippey.

Thomas Alan Shippey (born 9 September 1943) is a scholar of medieval literature, including that of Anglo-Saxon England, and of modern fantasy and science fiction, in particular the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, about whom he has written several scholarly studies, of which many have been put together in Roots and Branches: Selected papers on Tolkien. He is best known for his two books: The Road to Middle-Earth: How J. R. R. Tolkien Created a New Mythology and J.R.R.Tolkien: Author of the Century. He is widely considered one of the leading academic scholars on Tolkien. His work and life cross paths in many ways with that of Tolkien; like Tolkien, he attended King Edward's School, Birmingham in Birmingham and taught Old English at Oxford University. He occupied Tolkien's former chair at the University of Leeds. In addition to writing books of his own, he has edited a number of collections, such as The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories, and as of 2003 is the editor of the journal Studies in Medievalism. Under the pseudonym of John Holm, he is also the co-author (with Harry Harrison) of The Hammer and the Cross trilogy of alternate history/fantasy novels.

Today, I'm very happy to be able to release the chat session with Pr. Tom Shippey. As you will read there could not have been a better person to participate in the celebration of the release of the new Tolkien book The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun. Thank you Pr. Tom Shippey from all who participated in the event and who you so kindly answered there questions!

The Chat Session with Pr. Tom Shippey

Pieter Collier: Welcome Mr Shippey

Tom Shippey: Hi everyone, I'm still figuring out how this works but it's coming...

Pieter Collier: Welcome Mr Shippey to the release party of the new Tolkien book! We will let you figure out everything first before start asking you questions!

Tom Shippey: I think I'm Ok to answer now, would anyone like to fire away.

Pieter Collier: Have you had a chance to read the Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun? What do you think of it?

Tom Shippey: Yes, I've read it - got a proof copy. It is about 80 years old and this shows in the language.

Rafael Juan Pascual: how does your academic background relate to the myths told in the legend of Sigurd and Gudrun?

Tom Shippey: a bit sideways - I've always been interested in Norse and Eddic poetry, and have published on it, but it hasn't been a major topic for me. For one thing, I've never done time in Iceland, which you need for a proper grasp of the language

Trotter: Did Tolkien spend any time in Iceland?

Tom Shippey: no, I don't think he did, though he did have Icelandic connections - through William Morris's daughter, oddly enough.

Stephen Davis: As a Tolkien scholar, as well as having a heavy interest and background in Germanic and Northern European cultures and myths, particularly where they have influenced Tolkien's life and work, how excited are you about the publication of Tolkien's Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun in print?  Indeed, how long have you awaited such a thing personally, given what you've known for so long about its impact on aspects of Tolkien's legendarium?

Tom Shippey: well, we've known about the existence of these poems since the publication of the Letters, in 1981, and I've always felt they were the unpublished pieces I most wanted to read. It's going to take a while to take it all in and see what difference it makes to our general understanding of the legends - and what has long been called the königsproblem, the main problem of Germanic philology.

rzg6f: Mr. Shippey, I just started my dissertation under Prof. Honegger in Jena.  I'm looking at dragon slayers from Beowulf and Sigurd to Bard and Turin Turambar and how Tolkien brought Saga into popular culture.  I am very excited about this work.  Did you find any insights from Tolkien's POV that enlightened you the dragon slayer and dragon in this work?

Tom Shippey: dragon slaying? No. I think Tolkien has tidied that scene up a bit, but it was never in much question, as we have the Fafnismal complete. There is a different conception of Sigurd as a hero...

Ed Pierce: Much has been said about the influence of Old Norse - English - Germanic Literature in what ways do you thin that Tolkien's work shows the influence of modern fantasists such as Morris, Dunsany and Eddison as well as other writers (or writing conventions) of his day?

Tom Shippey: Clearly Tolkien must have known Morris's very long and now almost forgotten poem on the Legend of Sigurd, which Morris himself thought was his greatest work. And I am sure Tolkien also knew Morris's romances, especially what I call the heroic group - Wolfings, Mountain’s Glittering Plain. These are much cleverer and more detailed than they have ever been given credit for, but I suspect he felt that Morris had turned away from some of the more horrific aspects of the original works - and of course, wanted to do better. And then there's the brooding shadow of Wagner, whom Tolkien knew but did not (I think) like or respect.

Infinity Thompson: In what ways do you feel Tolkien's other works, specifically those pertaining to Middle-earth, were inspired by Northern mythologies?

Tom Shippey: well, very heavily! But (and this is true of Sigurd and G as well) even more inspired by THE BITS OF MYTHOLOGIES THAT AREN'T THERE ANY MORE!

Jason Fisher: In your essay, Tolkien and Iceland: The Philology of Envy, you give three reasons you think Tolkien leaned rather heavily on the Old Norse canon in his effort to restore to England some measure of its own lost mythology: (1) that Old Norse myth is strangely funny, (2) that it rejects the classical notion of decorum, and (3) the rationale it gives for heroism, in which, sometimes, the wrong side wins in its epic struggles. Would you say that these elements are present in Sigurd and Gudrun, Tolkien’s own attempt at an Old Norse tale?

Tom Shippey: The third element is certainly there, and gives the whole legend a different frame and rationale. The first two are not so present - so there goes my theory! But Tolkien had a strong sense of decorum of his own, and like Morris has axed some parts of the story for reasons one can only guess at. ? Or shall I say more about this one?

JasonFisher: I wouldn't mind hearing a bit more if others don't mind.

Tom Shippey: Well, one bit that has been much cut down is the death of Sigmund's son and Sigurd's half-brother Sinfjotli. In one account Sinfjotli is vulnerable to poison, as his father is not, and the wicked queen tries to get him to drink some. Twice he refuses, but then his father, drunk, gives very bad advice, which I translate, following Jesse Byock, as: filter it through your moustache son. He does, and drops dead. Tolkien cut that out. Also Sigmund’s murder of the two unsatisfactory nephews sent by his sister Signy. But he did keep in the incest of Sigmund and Signy, as Morris did not...

Rafael Juan Pascual:  Which specific parts of this legend correlate with well-known passages of both, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and how?

Tom Shippey: none that I can think of. Some lines of poetry are reworked for LOTR, but this was written before even the Hobbit was conceived of.

Z-naught: Do you think that Tolkien's Legendarium could be seen, in part, as an apologetic work trying to reconcile the vigor and richness of pagan mythic tradition with Christian morality and modernity?

Tom Shippey: yes, and actually that shows up in this new work. Part of the frame is the explanation that Sigurd is necessary for Odin's plan. He, Odin, needs a hero to fight the Midgrard Serpent on the Last Day, but it must be a hero who has lived and died, a human not a god. This is absent from any early version, and obviously has strong suggestions of the Christian schema.

Mithrennaith: Back to correlations, if you please, what about Silmarillion / Children of Hurin? (Connects with the last answer as well, I see)

Tom Shippey: well, Sigurd as dragon slayer, wearer of the helm of terror, obviously has overlaps with Turin. But they two heroes don't seem to me too much like each other - it is the Legend of Sigurd AND GUDRUN, and that takes the story in a different direction.

Jason Fisher: One of the apparent reasons Tolkien wrote Sigurd and Gudrun seems to have been an attempt by him to solve a scholarly crux in the Old Norse literature. Can you talk a little bit about Tolkien’s academic predilections for taking on these kinds of cruces, as well as give your thoughts as to how successful he was, either here in Sigurd and Gudrun or in other cases?

Tom Shippey: I'd have to talk a lot! As said above, what appealed to Tolkien was often what WAS MISSING, and in this case it is the famous 8 pages from the main manuscript of Eddic poetry, which contain the core of the story. But Tolkien also brooded on for instance missing aspects of the Beowulf legend, or the Beowulf legend background, and tried to fill them in too - as with the poem about King Sheave, in HOME. As also in his posthumously published work on Finn and Hengest, which also appears in a way in the frame of the Book of Lost Tales.

Ed Pierce: How much attention do you think the Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun will receive in scholarly circles?  Will it be appreciated by contemporary Old Norse scholars, or largely ignored? Do you personally think it will be of value in shedding light on how Tolkien perceived the source material?

Tom Shippey: oh dear. I fear it will NOT be much considered by Old Norse scholars. It is surprising how little Tolkien's later scholarly work has been regarded or cited - the edition of Exodus, never seen it mentioned. Finn and Hengest - well, it has got into the new and very good edition of Beowulf by Rob Fulk and co., but for twenty + years, again, no citations. But I think it shows a very original mind considering some very hard questions.

Pieter Collier: Ed Pierce: Aside from their value in shedding light on Tolkien’s mythology, how successful do you think Tolkien’s previously published lays (included in the Lays of Beleriand) are as literature?

Tom Shippey: I've looked especially at the Turin legend done in alliterative verse, and have to say that I think Tolkien was still practicing. Alliterative verse is quite easy to write badly in modern English, even I can do it, but hard to write well. Tolkien was, I think, still struggling with the metrics in Lays of Beleriand. Sigurd and Gudrun was a different kind of experiment, and you can see him improving on that as the poems go on.

Jonathan Fruoco: We know that C.S. Lewis wrote The Great Divorce because of Blakes Marriage of Heaven and Hell, but the common points that Tolkien had with William Blake has never really been studied. What is your opinion on the resemblances (the creation of their own mythology, their view of the industrial revolution) between the two men?

Tom Shippey: I know very little about Blake, and have never been very convinced by the similarities people have pointed out, so I don't think I can help on that one. Sorry.

Ed Pierce: To what extent and in what ways (if any) did your ideas about Tolkien’s methods and influences as a writer change in light of the material published in the History of Middle earth series?

Tom Shippey: well, quite markedly. I don't think any of us realized how much Tolkien seemed to be sleepwalking. As for influences ... well, I guess I realized how much the Kalevala had got to him, though that might have been detectable before.

Pieter Collier: Now that people get into the Northern Myths by reading this book, what would be the best next step? I see this new Tolkien book as a good primer to get into Northern Legends, what would be the next books to read?

Tom Shippey: hmm, Jesse Byock’s translations of Volsunga saga, and of the saga of King Hrolf. Even better, Christopher Tolkien's edition/translation of the saga of King Heithrek the wise, if you can get it - it's hundreds of dollars on abebooks and I don't have a copy! Gwyn Jones's History of the Vikings is very readable indeed.
Oh, and Andrew Faulkes's translation of Snorri's prose Edda, out in Everyman. Ursula Dronke STARTED editing the Eddic poems, very well, but only got about 8 of the 30+ done, alas.

Petri Tikka: What is the relationship between Tolkien’s Christian worldview and the pagan backdrop of works such as The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun? How was Tolkien able to merge these different and possibly disparate philosophies artistically and intellectually? Did he try to Christianize some of the elements in the work, like the author of Beowulf or Elias Lonnrot, the compiler of The Kalevala? Or did he leave the pagan elements as they are, merely recasting them not to be foreign to his sensibilities? And what did Tolkien learn from his adaptations of old legends when molding the religious background of his legendarium?

Tom Shippey: Yes, he did try to Christianize the pagan deities. Ronald Hutton, a brave soul, has pointed out a couple of times that Tolkien and Lewis, in their earlier years, look like Neo-Platonists, whose characteristic feature is the moving of the pagan deities into subordinated roles as planetary deities, eldils or Valar, whatever you want to call them. This has not made him popular with Lewis fans, especially, but see Michael Ward's new book on Lewis, which says pretty much the same thing as the key to Narnia. Really dumbed-down BBC TV program on that, by the way. It is a more complex subject than the BBC was prepared to face. Hutton also points out that Tolkien seemed to backtrack later in life, perhaps wondering whether this kind of merging was allowable.

Jason Fisher: Now that we have seen one 80-year-old manuscript brought out into the light, how do you rate the chances that we may finally see Tolkien’s translations of Beowulf some time in the next few years? And what else still remains unpublished, almost forty years after the death of Tolkien?

Tom Shippey: as regards Beowulf, I guess there's a fair chance of that, as the project has been started in the past, if not completed. What else is there? We don't know! The Arthur poems and the fairy tale known as Sellic Spell?

Petri_tikka: There is the Story of Kullervo!

Tom Shippey: And the story of Kullervo, indeed! But of the unpublished translation I have seen only the bits Tolkien himself quoted. There are now so MANY translations of Beowulf, including the one by Shameless Seamus, that I would be prepared to call for a moratorium on the whole thing. There are more urgent and interesting tasks that could be undertaken.

Ed Pierce: Are there any particular stories or poems by Tolkien - either in the HOME series or elsewhere - that you think lend themselves to being presented in a popular collection (similar to how the Turin material was extracted from Unfinished Tales and elsewhere and presented in The Children of Hurin)?

Tom Shippey: hmm. I did think once that one could make a nice collection of Tolkien poems published in the many scattered publications he used - but most of them have now appeared in HOME or in the Annotated Hobbit. Bits of the Lost Road sequence, maybe? John Rateliff and I do not agree about that!

Ad Poirters: what do you think of using Tolkien in the classroom?

Tom Shippey: works a treat. It's bound to be done more and more, as even the educational establishment start to realize that the students are just voting with their feet! They'll come for Tolkien courses, but with much of what's on offer these days - they go off to do business studies, and who can blame them. Don't get me started on the pedagogical establishment...

Johan Olin: You ran into J.R.R. Tolkien several times when you were living near each other in Oxford - do you remember any of these occasions in more detail?

Tom Shippey: dinner in Merton. I really missed my chances there. Could have asked lots of really penetrating questions, actually talked about the rugby results at the old school. But it was interesting to hear Tolkien talk about NAMES. He really could find inspiration in the telephone directory, and I mean that quite literally. He was even interested in the rugby team sheets, and lord knows no one else I knew was, and that included the teams... I suppose it was a hobbit kind of conversation, about the doings of cousins and remote or hypothetical relations. Maggie Burns in Birmingham is however doing a lot of work on Tolkien’s relations.

Johan Olin: How would you describe Tolkien’s personality?

Tom Shippey: Tolkien personally? Well, tricky, and kind of wary. He’d been interviewed an awful lot, and probably much of the time by fatheads from the BBC, so he wasn't going to tell you too much straight off, till he figured out whether you were with him or not. I wish I'd had a chance to talk to him again, once bona fides had been established, but we only met briefly after that. I didn't expect him to go so suddenly alas.

Johan Olin: Did Tolkien send more than one letter to you? Will the letters be published in full some time?

Tom Shippey: I think I know what the question is, and no, I only got the one letter. Very interesting, took me a long time to figure it out. Told me very politely I was barking up several wrong trees, but then, we didn’t have HOME then, did we?

Frodolux: After having written a thesis with Prof Andrew Wawn at the University of Leeds about Tolkien’s influences, I now want to concentrate on the Saga of the Volsungs for another thesis. What would be an interesting angle to work from in your opinion?

Tom Shippey: hah, well, several interesting angles. Tolkien clearly changed his mind about that saga. Liked it when he first read it, came to think of it as the work of a botcher. Scholars are very loath to say any of their great ancestral works are mistakes, but in this case one might try to figure out what went wrong, what issues the author was trying to solve (or duck). Read Ted Andersson's book on The Legend of Brynhild, and see how that affects your thinking. There's a lot of stuff coming through on the fornaldarsoegur, about which Prof Wawn can certainly tell you - he's even found a new one, the Saga of Ulf Uggason. Rather a Leeds specialty...

Rafael Juan Pascual: Do you think it will be possible to widen the scope of English and Norse studies in order to cover Tolkien’s version of the poem? And how could the relationship between both, Norse traditions of old and Tolkien’s 20th century works be explained? In other words: will it be possible to reasonably include this new Tolkien book into Anglo-Saxon - Norse studies tradition? And how?

Tom Shippey: Rafael, there almost ISN'T an AS/Norse studies tradition any more. Hey, the educational establishment isn’t even replacing Prof Wawn! So a chair held with distinction for nearly a hundred years, by Tolkien, Gordon, yours truly, Prof Wawn, and several others, is going to be shelved - or axed. It's a sad situation. Rightly did Celebrimbor talk about fighting the long defeat, I know what it feels like.

Petri_tikka: What is your favorite book or tale by Tolkien? And what do you think was Tolkien's favorite among his own works?

Tom Shippey: what can one say. The Hobbit was the first I read and still has very pleasant associations. The work of his heart was surely the Silmarillion.

Pieter Collier: In the 1992 documentaries you told about 'wuttu wassa' the wild men of the wood... do you have similar tales about other streets?

Tom Shippey: I do wonder about - damn, can't remember the name - oh yes I can, Umberslade Road. And of course Crick Road, where I used to live, round the corner from where Tolkien lived. And then there's the proper name of Bag End, which was - can't remember now, but Tolkien thought it derived from the Anglo-Saxon name deormod. As said earlier, he could find inspiration in the telephone directory - or from a map. What about Bagginswood near Birmingham, mentioned to me by a taxi-driver. I didn’t know about it, but quite likely Tolkien did, it's in an area he took special interest in.

FrodoLux: Prof Shippey, how long did you hold the chair at Leeds University?

Tom Shippey: 14 years, and I feel the weight of all of them.

Frandalf: What do you think of the various interpretations of his work (illustrations, movies, games, music)? Anything that stands out for you (or that you loath)?

Tom Shippey: I try not to loathe anything. Games, dunno. Music, appreciate Eilev Myhren's work. Illustrations - well, there's a lot of really striking work. The movies: I'm learning more about them, and am impressed by how well Jackson and co, knew the entire Tolkien oeuvre. There are snippets in there from all over, often cut and pasted, but intelligently.

Mer_Blackwood: Are there any Norse sources that speak much of the elves?  In what I was reading of the mythology, they're often mentioned, and many names include an alf element, but few surviving tales I know of speak much of them.

Tom Shippey: absolutely. Read (a) my edited collection The Shadow-walkers, which has a really splendid piece on elf-traditions, who wrote it, gosh, I believe it was me. And then there is Alaric Hall's more recent and much fuller book on the same subject. It is a living tradition, descending into many Icelandic folktales, possibly the best-preserved set in Europe. They deserve to be better known. My student Eric Bryan wrote his PhD on a similar subject, which awaits publication, along with new tales never before translated.

Trotter: How or did you have to adapt to Tolkien's previous tenure at Leeds University?

Tom Shippey: well, when I got there the system left by Tolkien and kind of metastasized, and was not longer comprehensible. I made some drastic changes, and the whole system had to go in 1983 - which I regretted. Part of the long defeat, but in rearguard actions, what do you do? You retreat. But you make the other side pay a price for it. Sad topic.

Hoe: Here's my question. Mr. Shippey, I don't believe I've ever heard your reactions on being a part of the LOTR Extended DVDs (on the chapter "J.R.R.Tolkien: Creator of Middle-earth"). It was very insightful and poignant to hear someone like you speak so wonderfully about Professor Tolkien on the film medium. What did it feel like to bring your knowledge and insights to the world of cinema? Also, would you perhaps consider doing something similar for the DVDs of the upcoming Hobbit films if asked? (I know this second part might be premature, so you don't have to answer it).

Tom Shippey: the funny thing about interviews is you never know which bits they're going to pick. It always feels as if they sit you down, shine bright lights in your eyes, and ask you questions till you say something really silly, and that's the bit they choose. At least they didn't waterboard me. But it was good fun, and I'd cheerfully do it again.

Mithrennaith: Prof. Shippey, I was sorry we (Unquendor) couldn't manage to meet with you when you visited Amsterdam a few years ago. Might there be any chance of welcoming you here again?

Tom Shippey: I certainly hope so, Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities, and I hope to meet Profs. Leerssen, Bremmer, and Goffe Jensma from the Frisian Institute. Note - there is a translation of the Hobbit into Frisian coming out, by someone called Anne (man’s name) Popkema. I only heard about it this morning. See my recent TLS review of Rolf Bremmer's Intro to Old Frisian, WHICH WE SHOULD ALL BUY!
… And don't remind me, I owe Lembas extra a piece. It's coming...

Gimli-Spain: What is the level of importance of the own Tolkien biography (the places that he lived and travel, the people who he knew) in the development of his literary works??

Tom Shippey: he didn't travel much, in later life. I suspect his Oxford milieu has not been much investigated. Did he ever talk to R. Collingwood? They must have known each other, and Collingwood was taking a deep interest in folktale at that time. Tolkien also, I think, had a high opinion of his father. There may have been other social/intellectual connections, which could be researched. The editor of Mallorn would love to have pieces of that nature, I'm sure.

Trotter: Do you have a blog, I’m hugely interested on your views on the areas that we are discussing tonight?

Tom Shippey: no, never grasped the technology, I'm afraid! It's all I can do to answer my mail.

Renee: Maybe this question has been asked before I logged in, but translating the Legend poems into Dutch, I got the impression Tolkien was more strict about the metre and the alliterations than some Edda poets. What's your impression, Prof. Shippey?

Tom Shippey: hah, very hard question. I shall try to answer it fully in the piece I haven't quite written yet for Lembas Extra. But Tolkien BECAME very strict about metre. I think the turning point of the legend of Sigurd and Gudrun is in fact signaled by A DELIBERATE METRICAL ERROR, WHICH, OF COURSE, YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO NOTICE as a sign of serious emotional disturbance.

Renee: Prof. Shippey could you please tell me more about this metrical error, because I only got eight weeks to translate the text and I'm afraid I was in too much of a hurry to notice such things! A hint would suffice, I think.

As for the metrical error, it will be mentioned in my long review of the Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, in the Times Lit Supp this Friday, and they tell me, getting the lead position. 8 weeks to translate. That's going to be hard.

Renee: It was hard. I asked about the error because it's not yet too late to do something about it, but Friday it may be. I really beg you to give the hint now!

Tom Shippey: oh, OK, I'll have to find the page reference, It is page (got to find it, wait for me) p. 154, line 4 of the second stanza on that page, "all unfulfilled". This must take stress on the first two syllables. But in a second half-line, the second stress must NEVER take stress and alliteration, as it does here. Shock horror. But it is a moment of shock horror, as Sigurd gets his memory back and realizes he has betrayed Brynhild. OK?

Renee: Thanks, this helps a lot!!

Earnur: Hello Prof. Shippey. Of all the languages Tolkien created, which was your favorite and why? My personal favorite is Quenya. Aure Entuluva!

Tom Shippey: I fear I never tried to learn the invented languages, being so far behind on important real-life ones (like Gothic). Indeed, I've only just acquired Vladimir Orel’s Handbook of Germanic Etymology, a great work.

Pieter Collier: There are some great Tolkien book collectors here? Do you have any special Tolkien books on the shelves and what is the version you prefer to read in?

Tom Shippey: I read a battered paperback LOTR and Hobbit, so i can write in the margins without fear. I do have a Xerox copy of Songs for the Philologists, with Tolkien’s handwritten annotations. But it's only a Xerox. There are said to be only 14 original copies in the world.

Melkor-Morgoth: You mention Songs for the Philologists... will this ever be re-published, or at least will ALL of Tolkien's 8 or so poems ever appear in publication, do you think?

Tom Shippey: I'm surprised no one has ever troubled to translate them. Of course we aren't sure who wrote all of them, but Tolkien was responsible for (we think) 11, and Gordon for several more. Prof Wawn has just found a letter in the Library of the university at Reykjavik sent from Leeds and written in Icelandic verse. I think, reluctantly, it probably wasn't Tolkien, but might have been his friend EV Gordon.

Frandalf: Apart from Tolkien, the northern mythologies and work for your profession - what other kind of literature/writers do you enjoy?

Tom Shippey: I have been an avid reader of science fiction since January 1958, never stopped, never faltered. Another area the mainstream refuses to recognize...
Oh, and epic verse of all kinds, in any language I can manage...

Petri_tikka: you mentioned before that the History of Middle-earth series revealed how much Tolkien was influenced by the Kalevala. What do you think are the biggest influences in that regard?

Tom Shippey: perhaps, the elements of pathos. Old Norse is not big on pathos (to say the least), and Old English hasn't got much of it either, but the Kalevala does take an interest in abandoned children, sad hearts, ruined families. One can see why Tolkien responded to that. Pieter, is it OK if I take one more question. My typing really is going to pieces now...

Tommyboy: If Tolkien were alive today, what would be the one question you would ask him?

Tom Shippey: blimey, what a stumper! Maybe, look, Tollers, do you mind if I call you Tollers (I expect he would), what was the big idea with the Lost Road sequence. How were you going to develop it? Like The Path of the King, maybe? And King Sheave: how does he relate to the Heremod issue? That's about three questions, but they're related, sort of.

Pieter Collier: that are nice three questions! Thanks so much Pr. Tom Shippey for having participated in this release event! We are very thankful that you made some time free to answer our questions! It was an honor to have you here with us!

Kazul: You said you enjoy epic verse, I was wondering how you felt about Stephen Kings successful Dark Tower series drawn from Robert Brownings Childe Rowland? Do you feel this is a good way to bring epic verse to today’s readers?

Tom Shippey: I have to go, I can hear dinner's ready. Pieter, thanks for the invitation and I hope it's been helpful. And last word: King, like Shakespeare, blew it. The real Dark Towers story is yet to appear... Over and out.

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