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Dick Blackwelder (1909-2001) was an entomologist and zoologist, whose 1978 encounter with Tolkien's writings led to his amassing a huge collection of secondary materials on Tolkien and the compilation of A Tolkien Thesaurus (1990). Since Marquette already owned most of the manuscripts for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Blackwelder's bequest enhanced the Wisconsin university's already great importance for Tolkienian researchers. (Wayne Hammond's paper in the present collection discusses the importance of original manuscripts for the study of Tolkien's fiction and illumination of his life.)
In celebration of Blackwelder's own work and financial contribution on behalf of Tolkienian scholarship, and to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Lord of the Rings, a 2004 conference brought together many of the most prominent scholars in this field. Publication of the resulting 20 papers has been subsidized by the Blackwelder endowment, which no doubt helps to keep down the cost of this attractively produced book.
Readers interested in Tolkien's literary creativity will be interested in several essays. Paul Edmund Thomas shows that we owe Tolkien's publishers much gratitude, because their refusal to accept the Silmarillion materials as a follow-up to The Hobbit compelled Tolkien to conceive and to write The Lord of the Rings (in fits and starts). Thomas and the next essayist, John Rateliff, discuss the importance of the sense of antiquity (something Tolkien found basic in Beowulf) as central for Tolkien's fiction. (One would have appreciated a reference for his statement that Lord Dunsany was "one of Tolkien's favorite fellow fantasists.Read more ›
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