Tolkien Collector's Guide

Jabberwocky Audiocassettes for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

Oct 21 - By Urulöké

Jabberwocky LOTR box web.JPG
In 1979 a company by the name of AVC Corporation (who have operated under the brand "Jabberwocky" and additionally "The Mind's Eye") recorded and produced audio dramatized versions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings for broadcast on National Public Radio.

The Lord of the Rings was dramatized by Bernard Mayes, while The Hobbit was dramatized by Bob Lewis. Both state a copyright of 1979.

Many collectors and Tolkien fans are aware of the Mind's Eye sets that have been released in wooden boxes, both on cassette and compact disc, but these were originally released for schools to use under the Jabberwocky brand. These Jabberwocky recordings are special in that they include booklets with the full scripts of the dramatizations, for students to read along with the recordings. Also included are teacher's supplements (one for each of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings) which include a biography of Tolkien, background material on how each story came to be published, and a long section of questions and follow up activities for teachers to do with their students after each "lesson".

Wayne and Christina mentioned on their blog back in 2012 that they had acquired one of the Lord of the Rings boxed sets. I have had the Jabberwocky Hobbit boxed sets for a very long time, but just the booklets for The Lord of the Rings - when Wayne and Christina posted about their acquisition, I started watching seriously for a set myself, and it took about five years to run across one. As you can see from the pictures, my set came from a school library with discreet markings on the books, cassette cases, and the box.

The Hobbit full set comes in six boxes, each with a book and cassette. Wayne Hammond's Tolkien Bibliography mentions that these come in two, four or six cassettes, but I have only personally run across sets with six. The OCLC WorldCat shows various sets from one to six cassettes, but with a lot of help from Wayne it seems like there are only two variants - a four cassette version (with longer playback times per cassette, and splitting chapters across cassettes) and the six cassette version seen here. The OCLC states that the six cassette version runs 270 minutes, and the four cassette version runs 285 minutes.

The Lord of the Rings set comes in a single large box, with the twelve cassettes (color coded to each volume), twelve books with the scripts for each cassette, and a thick 94 page Teacher's Supplement. (I sadly note that the Teacher's Supplement calls The Lord of the Rings a "trilogy" in multiple locations.)

Christina Scull writes a very thorough review of the differences between these recordings and the BBC recordings in Amon Hen #95 (available to download for free for Tolkien Society members from their website).

Ref: Hammond and Anderson, J. R. R. Tolkien A Descriptive Bibliography, p. 24
Ref: Scull and Hammond, The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, Reader's Guide Part I, p. 18.
Ref: "Middle-earth on Radio" by Christina Scull, Amon Hen #95, p. 10-13

Jabberwocky LOTR contents web.JPG

Jabberwocky FOTR web.JPG

Jabberwocky TTT web.JPG

Jabberwocky RotK web.JPG

Jabberwocky LotR Teachers Supplement web.JPG

Jabberwocky Hobbit Boxes web.JPG

Jabberwocky Hobbit boxes side web.JPG

Jabberwocky Hobbit part 1 web.JPG

Jabberwocky Hobbit Part 1 casette text web.JPG

Jabberwocky Hobbit Teachers Supplement web.JPG
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The Robinson-Watkins Stage Adaptation of The Hobbit

Oct 21 - By Urulöké

Hobbit Robinson Watkins cover.jpg

In my ongoing plan to document and share interesting items from my collection, today's entry is the program brochure for the 1984 production of The Hobbit, adapted for the stage by Rony Robinson and Graham Watkins, with design (of the production as well as the program book) by Paul E. Latham.

The program brochure is 16 pages long, on very thick card stock. It is designed to be cut apart and built into a small puppet stage, and includes fourteen stand-up characters to re-enact most of the story. In the introductory text, Paul says "During working on the scenery, costumes and effects, I evolved a pop-up style and then the idea came to me, to invent an actual Pop-up Book for children to re-create their own version of this stage adaptation of The Hobbit, using the brochure at home with their own very vivid imaginations, boxes of paint and plenty of fantasy."

Hobbit Theatre Instructions.jpg

Elve.jpg Unfortunately, typos abound in the brochure - including the very glaring "Tolkein" right on the front cover (spelled correctly in other places inside). Also, while "elves" is used correctly in the text, whomever was writing the material figured that the singular of elves is "elve", as seen here.

There are twelve photographs included of the performers in costume on stage, some in color and some in black and white - I can only assume from a dress rehearsal, if these brochures were made available to attendees, but perhaps the book was only produced after the play had run.

My favorite portion of the brochure is the map on the rear cover, which was also used as a backdrop on the stage for certain scenes. The creators of this play clearly had a lot of passion and loved the book itself, and from the descriptions given to the plot, did their best to stay as faithful as possible to the source material.

rear cover map.jpg

Ref: Scull & Hammond, The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, Reader's Guide Part I, p. 11.
Ref: Hammond and Anderson, J.R.R. Tolkien A Descriptive Bibliography, p. 24.
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1963 Tolkien signed manuscript letter

Oct 20 - By Trotter

If you would like to see the original letter, then please click on the link at the end of this post, we used to post images on this site from auctions, but the Tolkien Estate has asked that we don't do this, and we are very happy to comply with this request.

Autograph Letter Signed [ALS]; Typed Letter Signed [TLS]

"I merely tried to write a story that would be 'exciting' and readable, and give me a scope for my personal pleasure in history, languages, and 'landscape'—and trees...

"The characters arise largely out of the necessities of narrative: they seem to walk on unheralded in any 'dramatic personae' or bill of performance: Maggot, Bombadil, Boromir, Faramir, Denethor, Galadriel, Theoden, Eowyn, Saruman, etc..."


The first letter - a typed letter signed on Tolkien’s Oxford stationery - is dated 16th December 1963 and is a response to a letter from Baronne Baeyens of Bonn, German. In this short letter, Tolkien expresses thanks for her letter, rejects allegorical interpretations of The Lord of the Rings, and admits feeling sympathy for Gollum. It reads in full:

Dear Baronne Baeyens,

Thank you very much for your letter of 28th September. I am sorry to have been so long in answering it, but I am very busy and not in good health.

Your letter gave me great pleasure, and I was glad to hear that you enjoy my books. I was particularly pleased that you find allegorical interpretations of The Lord of the Rings unnecessary; it was simply meant to be a history as it appears.

Please give my best wishes to your son, whose sympathy with Gollum agrees with my own. 

Yours sincerely,

[signed]JRR Tolkien

Something, however, struck Tolkien about Baeyens letter and upon reflection, it spurred him to write much more. In this long (four full sides), handwritten letter, Tolkien addresses some of the most critical topics associated with his writing. Over the course of the letter he:

-insists that The Lord of the Rings is “in no way an ‘allegory’”, but “mythical-historical” based on “deeply rooted ‘archetypal’ motifs”

-reveals his motivations for writing The Lord of the Rings (“I merely tried to write a story that would be 'exciting' and readable, and give me a scope for my personal pleasure in history, languages, and 'landscape’”)

-bemoans certain analyses of The Lord of the Rings that focus on symbolism (“they miss the point and destroy the object of their enquiry as surely as a vivisectionist destroys a cat or rabbit”)

-addresses religious “alignment” of The Lord of the Rings

-notes that he plans to produce another book about the same world

-explains the purpose and nature of the verses in The Lord of the Rings

-admits finding “very moving... the place where Gollum [is] on the brink of repentance”

-and in perhaps the most interesting section, in a detailed explanation of the origin of the character Stryder/Aragorn he provides wonderful insights into his method of creating characters.

The letter reads in full:

Dear Madame,

I enclose a merely secretarial letter. I am obliged to leave a large part of the letters to a part-time secretary; but I always re-read them before sending any reply, and I felt that your most charming and interesting letter deserved a personal note, though it must be briefer than it should be.

I much appreciate your perception that my story is in no way an 'allegory'—in any sense of that elusive and misunderstood word; but mythical-historical. It is—for those who like the story (many dislike it, and many think it silly and childish)—the taking up of several deeply-rooted 'archetypal' motifs, such as the broken sword, the hidden King, and so on, that gives the tale its moving quality, and the putting of them into an entirely new setting, carefully devised, that gives the sense of 'reality.'

But that is, of course, for me, as much as for any reader or critic, an afterthought. I did not set out to do this. I merely tried to write a story that would be 'exciting' and readable, and give me a scope for my personal pleasure in history, languages, and 'landscape'—and trees. I feel that I was helped and 'protected' (if I may say so) by being unlearned except perhaps linguistically, and in having absorbed early, so that they had descended down into the fertile 'leafmould' of the mind beyond the reach of chemical analysis, myths and fairy-stories. I have never found books on myths and symbolisms attractive, even when I have occasionally been obliged to consider them professionally. For me they miss the point and destroy the object of their enquiry as surely as a vivisectionist destroys a cat or rabbit—whatever validity and usefulness the result may have on their own plane. I have been treated to analyses of my tale which affect me as much as would, after enjoying a good meal in good company, not perhaps a cook's practical recipe, but a chemical analysis of the ingredients and physiological descriptions of the action of the digestive organs: not to add pulling the cook also to pieces to find out how he worked. Alas! there are so many people who cannot 'enjoy' anything. And still more who cannot distinguish between allegorical intention, and 'applicability' (by the reader).

It would, of course, have been destructive of the 'historicity' of an imaginary period in the remote past, if alignment with religions or religious organizations now existing were clearly perceptible. But I am in fact a Roman Catholic—not by inheritance from my German protestant ancestors in Saxony.

May I say that I am greatly pleased by your liking for my verses. They are seldom mentioned by readers or critics (and if referred to are usually discussed with a shrug or a grimace). Few people at present seem able to see any virtue in verse that is not subjective, and if possible filled with a grievance. I think it escapes most readers that the verses in the book have little or nothing to do with J. R. R. T. or his views of the world or of himself or even with his personal taste: they amused him, of course, as exercises in different styles and metres, but in intent they are 'dramatic': the kind of things that the characters themselves might be supposed to write or to like.

I was also interested in your remark on 'Stryder.' I do not (consciously) formulate characters. Whatever may really happen, this sensation is rather that of someone getting to know strangers and observing, often with surprise and sometimes with alarm, their revelations of themselves—which one is helpless to alter. In writing so long and interwoven a story one's main conscious concern is technical: keeping the story going (more or less in crescendo) and the separate threads coordinated. The characters arise largely out of the necessities of narrative: they seem to walk on unheralded in any 'dramatic personae' or bill of performance: Maggot, Bombadil, Boromir, Faramir, Denethor, Galadriel, Theoden, Eowyn, Saruman, etc. The origin of Aragorn was a vivid picture, that arose early, of the inn-scene and a shrouded ambiguous figure sitting aloof. I knew no more about him than did the hobbits, and was alarmed (because of the work entailed) and astounded as slowly the revelation of the majesty of lineage, the greatness of his labours, and the weight of his doom unfolded. But looking back, I can see that his character, as seen in behaviour, in his tremendous circumstances, owes a great deal to people, and a man in particular that I have known. Of the 'perilous' kind, that I find in a way most attractive. I mean those interiorly large and powerful, in whatever bodily form they appear, and whatever veils of gentle manner they may (as a rule) wear. They often surprise you, because sharp facets of word or deed may suddenly show that only long knowledge could relate to their centre. They cannot be taken for granted. If you become slack, after (say) much experience of their kindness, and treat them as if they were something soft (like india rubber), you find that what is only insulation covering a live wire connected with a dynamo—and you get anything from a smart titillation to a severe shock. The man I think of would have spoken just in the way Aragorn did, in the House of Healing, to Merry (III 146). And (with more shock) as A. did to Gimli (III 53).

Please give my best wishes to your son. He is of course right and perceptive to pity Gollum. I find still very moving to me the place where Gollum on the brink of repentance is cast back by the brusque and understandable ([???] very perceptive) loyalty of Sam.

The drawing I am grateful for. It is more than ‘amusing’. I have written quite a lot, after all.

Yours sincerely,

[signed]JRR Tolkien

TLS: One sheet (7x9 inches) of Tolkien’s Oxford letterhead; typed on one side. ALS: Two sheets (7x9 inches), written on four sides; first sheet with Tolkien’s Sandfield Road, Oxford address blind-stamped at top. All pages with small rust mark and pin-holes from a former staple. Usual folds (but faint). Housed in custom folder. Fine condition.


Price: $48,000 USD ... s-typed-letter-signed-tls
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BBC Radio 3 The Essay Mirkwood

Oct 20 - By Trotter

There’s a shadow creeping across the forest in the works of JRR Tolkien. Nature may be incorruptible but the creatures of the forest cannot withstand the relentless march of evil. Slowly but surely the songbirds are replaced by giant spiders, black squirrels and rampaging goblins. Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough is joined by Mark Atherton from Oxford University for a walk through Tolkien’s forest, uncovering the influence of Anglo-Saxon legends and Middle English poems in the creation of Middle Earth.
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Practical English - 1967 Article on Tolkien

Oct 14 - By Urulöké


In 1946 Scholastic started publishing Practical English as a weekly magazine for schools to use for learning proper grammar, writing, and other communication skills. They usually have a main article of a few pages and other regular columns, along with quiz materials, and lots of advertisements and short articles targeting teens - for the issues seen from the mid-1960s, the magazines read like a combination of "Seventeen" or "Ms." magazine combined with a school english textbook.

In the March 17, 1967 issue of Practical English, the four page cover article is titled "Desirers of Dragons" (written in runes), written by Julia R. Piggin and illustrated by Tom Eaton. It is followed by the poem "Bilbo's Song" (from The Fellowship of the Ring) with a full page illustration also by Eaton.

The article covers (in typical teen-magazine depth) a bit of biography, publishing history, philosophy and background for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and some background on the Tolkien Society of America and Dick Plotz in particular.

Also illustrated in the article are "The Last Homely House East of the Sea", "Treebeard, Merry, Pippin", "Sauruman of Orthanc", "The Three Ancient Elf-Towers West of the Shire", "An Orc of Mordor", [Untitled - Frodo and Sam in Mordor approaching Mount Doom], and [Untitled - Tree in front of path to mountains - paired with "Bilbo's Song"].

The April 28, 1967 issue of Practical English, in the "Say What you Please" letter column, a few corrections to the article were printed. In addition, the editors provided a description of what was illustrated on the front cover (above) of the March issue.

"About the cover: The two at right are just two elves - the man wears the signs of the House of Feänor on his tunic. Tom Eaton says he thinks of elves with very dark gray eyes. The man with Éowyn is Aragorn, and the winged helm is worn by Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth."

Tom Eaton sadly passed away in 2016. After working at Scholastic for many years, he did illustrations for the Boy Scouts magazine Boys' Life for three decades.

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