Monthly Archives: December 2016

From Gondolin to Trollshaws: Glamdring, Orcrist and Sting

A Tolkienist's Perspective


© Warner Bros. & MGM Studios

Three Elven swords were forged in Gondolin during the First Age, and presumably lost after the fall of this city as recounted in The Silmarillion. Glamdring, Orcrist and Sting make their proper appearance in The Hobbit in the lair of the three trolls, some 6,462 years later and just under 1,900 miles away from their original place of forging.

How and when could these swords have been carried such a long distance through three ages of wars, plunder and cataclysmic events?

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Tolkien-related news



The following article has been sent to me.tolkiencilip

Recognition of Christopher Tolkien’s dedicated efforts as his father’s editor, acknowledgement of his scholarship that underpins this, as well as acknowledgement contribution of his father’s own towering status as a serious academic, which itself formed the foundation of his creativity, could hardly be recognised in a more appropriate way.

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An oath to uphold British Values?

Thanks to John Howson for another year of telling it as it is!

John Howson

Would I swear an oath to uphold British values? Well, I am not against the principle of affirming my loyalty to something or someone. At a young age I recited the cub and then the scout promises; later I made my marriage vows in public; I even swore the oath of allegiance when appointed as a magistrate and witnessed the attestation of a number of police officers before they could receive their warrant cards.

What troubles me is the nature of the term ‘British values’ as part of an oath of loyalty to serve in public life. To cite an example, I support the principle of the BBC as an embodiment of British Values, but, perhaps because of my age, prefer Radio 4 to Radio 1. But, I cannot pick and choose between the different parts of the organisation. This may be the case even more with a term like…

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James Hutchings; The new death

(Available online, details below)



Barnes & Noble:

Review by Sue Bridgwater

“44 stories.  19 poems.  No sparkly vampires.”  This is James Hutchings’ own description of his collection, although it could be described as 63 tales, fables, parables or fantasies; the poems are also narratives, and regardless of whether or not the narratives rhyme and scan, they have much in common with each other.

Hutchings’ work is steeped in irony and intertextuality and pun and contemporary references that will doubtless date, but which bring a smile or a laugh.  Here is one from ‘Everlasting fire.’

Often they would go to a McDonald’s (the only restaurant in Hell). There they would stare into each other’s eyes, needing no words (which is lucky, because the McDonald’s in Hell constantly have eight separate toddlers’ birthday parties happening at once).

Beneath this surface facility with comedy, however, lies a depth of imaginative creativity that hits one between the eyes all the more effectively for its contrast with the lighter tones.  Hutchings acknowledges some serious influences; Lovecraft, Howard, Ashton Smith, Dunsany.  I also detected a hint of Pratchett, a touch of King and soupcon of Jasper fforde.  But as Tolkien reminded us, each writer creates their own dish from the ingredients bubbling in the cauldron of story, and Hutchings’ deepest source of inspiration is the moral fable, the tale with a twist, the stories of ancient cultures that have always carried instruction and guidance for those few who have ears to hear.

The collection begins and ends with death – in fact, like many of the tales, the opening one is short enough to quote in full as a taster;

The God of the Poor

In the beginning of the world the gods considered all those things which did not have their own gods, to decide who would have responsibility and rulership.  “I will rule all flowers that are sky-blue in colour,” said the Sky-Father.

“I will listen to the prayers of migratory birds, and you all other birds,” the goddess Travel said to him. And so it went.

At last all had been divided, save for one thing.

“Who,” asked the Sky-Father “shall have dominion over the poor?”

There was an awkward silence, until the Sky-Father said,

“Come – someone must. Those with no gods will grow restless and cunning, and in time will cast us down, and we shall be gods no more.”

“Not I,” said blind Justice, and her stony face flashed a momentary smirk at the thought.  “Why not Fame or Fortune?”

“Darling I don’t think so,” said the sister goddesses together.

There was a long pause. The gods shuffled their feet and avoided one another’s gaze. At last a voice broke the silence.

“I will,” said Death.

In the middle comes the title story, and at the end the tale in verse of the death of the last human being, mythologically expressed.  I found every tale a delight; there are cats in a lot of them (definition of the Internet; a realm populated entirely by nude women and talking cats) which is an added bonus for some of us.  However, the main strength of these works is simply good writing.  Good storytelling in uncomplicated prose or verse styles with their roots in the oldest tales in the world.  I recommend this collection heartily, and look forward to more by Hutchings.



I’m happy to report that Mystic must be responding well to his various medications. Despite the distressing state of his nose, he seems to have regressed to kittenhood and has been having bursts of what non-cat-people would call ‘being naughty.’

He’s been dashing up and down the stairs, sadly (for me) pausing to deposit a smelly offering at one point thus giving me the delightful job of clearing up and scrubbing when he’s not done that for ages.

I’m glad he’s feeling better!



Mystic is not doing too badly now – under the influence of painkiller and antibiotic he retains his usual calm, and the eyedrops are zapping the eye infection.

All three cats are so much more settled and calm than they were six months ago, as their Best Auntie Jan remarked when she saw them again yesterday. In fact they were so calm they took very little notice at all of Auntie, or of Nice New Uncle Keith.

As soon as I wrote that, Mystic came up the stairs and demonstrated a high level of activity, just to prove me wrong. He’s wandering about looking either for something interesting to do or to eat, or maybe a forbidden spot to wee on! Apart from the wee idea, this is very encouraging.

Nevertheless, my heart sinks when I look at the erosion of his beautiful pink nose. I can only hope it proceeds slowly, but the decision still looms even though it may not be soon. Kindly thoughts for Mystic, please.

This is not his nose, but it must have looked like this before we met.




Best-laid plans went adrift today – instead of lunching in a writerly way with two other literary ladies, I had to make an emergency visit to the vet with Mystic.

For the third time since the Old Boys came to live with me, he was holding his left eye closed this morning, and when I gently opened it to check it was all flared up and red with infection.

He’s had a two-week antibiotic injection, has eyedrops to be administered thrice daily. This is familiar ground.

However, the vet and I got on to the subject of the skin cancer, since it seems unlikely to me that all this life eye trouble is totally unrelated to the left nostril erosion that’s visible on the outside.

The new erosion has progressed more rapidly than the one that was there six months ago, and indeed is bigger than the first one. So since cats in general, and Mystic in particular, are so uncomplaining about pain or discomfort, we’ve added a daily dose of painkiller just in case.

The vet mentioned a specialist cancer vet a couple of counties away, but I feel at Mystic’s age and with the condition being ultimately unbeatable, it would be harsh to keep driving him up and down the M5 regularly for treatment that won’t save him. I’d be glad of advice and comments from anyone who may have been in this situation.

I plan to continue with the nicest of food and lots of cuddles. Ironically, apart from the cancer his condition is superb, as is also true of Fluff and Felix – they all look so much better than when they first came home.

I’ll do my best.

Mystic waiting for Mum

Why You Should Never Live With A Literary Fiction Hero

Laugh till you drop alert!

Tara Sparling writes

I’m back! (Yes, I know you didn’t notice I was gone.) But it’s been a while. I went away to write a book. And despite every obstacle and distraction I merrily threw in my way, I did it. Wolf Music, a NaNoWriMo project, is a few chapters short of a novel just yet, but I did fulfil the brief by writing over 50,000 words between November 1st and 29th, and therefore will be blowing my own trumpet until the proper musicians on TV take over around Christmas.

Why You Should Never Live With A Literary Fiction Hero

To herald my return to Thursday blogging (which may also be Friday, Saturday, Tuesday, or Museday, depending on how contrary I feel) I have another in the Why You Should Never Live With… series. Unreliable Narrator here. Chick-Lit Heroine here. Cop From A Crime Novel here. Young Adult Protagonist here. And now we have the Literary Fiction Hero. Bless him or her. You…

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Pay differentials matter in the public sector as well

John Howson

The previous posts read by those who visit my blog are always interesting to monitor. On the day when the government is expressing its interest about the pay of bosses in private sector companies, I am not surprised to see a number of visitors to the post from this March when I discussed CEO’s pay in education. That post was written following a letter from The Chief Inspector to the then Secretary of State. At the end of the March post, I wrote:

Personally, I thought we were in an age of austerity and I set up TeachVac to offer a low cost option for recruitment to allow more money to be spent on teaching and learning. Frankly, this Report is disappointing news and I hope that there is an urgent review of salaries in education outside of those set by the STRB for teachers and school leaders. We need…

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