Episode 39
June 6, 2022

These Aren’t My Questions, I Translated Them

Hosted by Jared Pechaček, Ned Raggett, and Oriana Schwindt

Jared, Oriana and Ned talk about Jared’s choice of topic: the Red Book of Westmarch. It’s hinted at at the end of The Lord of the Rings when Sam reviews some title pages – a device carried over into the Jackson movie adaptations – but the appendices and part of the introduction both make it clear that the published story is meant to be a translation from Bilbo and Frodo’s own handwritten memoirs, covering The Hobbit as well, and thus Tolkien in this conceit is not the author of the text but its translator and editor instead. It fits within Tolkien’s own life as an academic and an interpreter and presenter of texts, as well as being part of a lengthy tradition in numerous societies over millennia where writers employ the creative tool of claiming their work as that of others, be they found documents, unearthed manuscripts, discovered letters and so forth. It’s something that many readers may simply find an intriguing amusement when it comes to The Lord of the Rings, but it does introduce further questions about perspective and authorial intent worth the consideration. How does framing the story through the lens of certain participants only shape what we might consider a ‘true’ history of the events of the book, and what would it mean if other perspectives were shared instead? What other times had Tolkien used this framing in his own creative work as a way to present a tale in a different context, and with what intent? Is Tolkien’s work in fact the first postmodern fantasy as such, a self-conscious creation that plays with tropes even as it also establishes new ones in turn? And just what are all those memes about how the main protagonist of the story is really a Maura Labingi about?

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Show Notes.

Jared’s doodle. Who wouldn’t want the real Red Book of Westmarch?

Aw, crypto turned out to be a hype scam market, who knew. (Everyone with sense, of course.) As for Lonely Ape, puh-leez.

Do check out Oriana’s other podcasts! American Grift and Mission: Recall, both great.

The bit from John Howe in Empire – we’ll talk about the issue covers that were released next episode.

Reports from the Amazon promo event for the hyperfans are…to be expected. (Again, the ones with the cautious optimism are the ones we appreciate more over the raves.)

The LOTR on Prime tweet confirming Tyroe Muhafidin as ‘Theo’ aka the one with the broken blade.

IGN speaks with the scientist who named the most distant star yet found in the universe Earendel.

Alan Lee in LitHub on illustrating The Lord of the Rings.

Den of Geek tries once and for all to untangle the whole rights question. It’s still unclear.

Tolkien Gateway’s entry on the Red Book of Westmarch.

We don’t quite use the term in the episode but the concept of the frame story, as discussed on Wikipedia, is a broader category that can include the kind of stories where authors are presenting works they’ve supposedly found and presented rather than simply written. A key example as Jared discusses would be the epistolary novel, and don’t forget the unreliable narrator.

Maura Labingi! It is Frodo’s real name.

Postmodernism in fantasy is a thing and has been discussed in various ways – back in 2010 Brandon Sanderson and Jeff VanderMeer had an exchange on the matter.

Thomas Pynchon’s written some good work. Or found it, if you will.

The Red Book of Hergest, Tolkien’s real-world model.

Our Farmer Giles of Ham episode. And our Nature of Middle-earth one.

How well known was David Foster Wallace for footnotes? This should give you an idea.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell definitely has a LOT of footnotes.

The Message Bible, as not recommended by Jared.

The Book of Mazarbul in Tolkien Gateway, including Tolkien’s own created pages from it, planned as a possible inclusion for the initial printing of The Lord of the Rings.

Laurence Sterne, literary badass.

John Darnielle interviewed by the New Yorker. (We highly recommend Devil House.)

The Manuscript Found in Saragossa, and its 1965 Polish adaptation for film, The Saragossa Manuscript.

We forgot to give Nate Thatcher a mention in the episode but he was the listener who pointed us to the lecture Jared mentions watching, Michael Drout’s “Lord of the Rings: How To Read J. R. R. Tolkien.”

The Cats of Queen Berúthiel! And that’s about all we know.

Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson – worth a read!

The 1987 US one-volume edition of The Lord of the Rings designed to look like a Red Book of Westmarch, part of a series of such editions.

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