HistoryToday.com has published the fascinating story of a golden ring from Roman Britain and of two Pembroke College, Oxford, professors who were part of the effort to trace its origins. What’s intriguing about it, at least for serious readers of fantasy fiction, is that these two professors were R. G. Collingwood, archaeologist and dean of metaphysics, and J. R. R. Tolkien, he-who-needs-no-introduction. From the article ‘The Inspiration for Tolkien’s Ring:’

So how much did this story of a lost Roman gold ring influence Tolkien’s fiction? Silvianus loses his gold ring at Lydney, as Gollum lost his under the Misty Mountains. Silvianus believes his ring has been stolen by someone whose name he knows – Senicianus – just as Gollum thinks his ring has been stolen by Bilbo Baggins. Silvianus curses by name the person he suspects. Similarly, when Gollum works out that Bilbo has found and kept his ring, he cries out in rage: ‘Thief, thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it forever!’ Both Gollum and Silvianus know the identity of the persons they regard as thieves who have stolen their gold rings and both declare these names with maledictions.

However the relationship between Tolkien and Collingwood may have gone deeper. Collingwood’s developing approach to the philosophy of history may have appealed to Tolkien, who once declared that he much preferred history ‘true or feigned’. From 1926 onwards Collingwood was working on the theories that would become his book The Idea of History, in which he proposes the importance of objects as vectors for understanding and imaginatively recreating given historical events – pure gold ring territory.

Do read the whole thing.  My only quibble is the authors’ assertion that the years 1928-1929 were the years in which the form of The Hobbit was taking final shape.” Tolkien doesn’t begin the composition of The Hobbit until 1930 according to the accepted history and writes more than half of it in the months just before publication in 1936 and 1937. That would be the year that he read Williams’ Place of the Lion, a ring composition, when his and CSL’s ideas of what was possible in modern day story telling was re-shaped (re-forged?). For more on that pivotal year, see Bruce Charlton’s notes online in ‘The Notion Club Papers.’

Still, this is a fascinating link, especially given the presence of Collingwood, about whom more after the jump!


Another Insurgent trailer released today, along with a “Sneak Peak” that includes commentary from the actors, director and Veronica Roth herself. As much as I am looking forward to the film and want it to succeed, there are more than a couple of elements that are making me a bit wary about getting my hopes up for something that was as good an adaptation as the first movie. [click to continue…]


Hunger Games: Dr. Amy H. Sturgis on the Dystopian Tradition

by John 15 January 2015

Share Wonderful opportunity for Hunger Games fans who are students — Dr Amy H. Sturgis, Potter Pundit and All-Around Literary Lioness, is offering a free lecture series this Spring! Read what she sent me about it: On the weekends of March 28/29 and April 11/12, I’ll be offering a free interactive, multimedia lecture series – hotel [...]

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Shared Text: Dilbert Wand Lore and Dementor Pizza Delivery

by John 15 January 2015


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Blessed Feast of Nativity: Chanting from an Orthodox Convent

by John 9 January 2015

Share The nuns of the St Elizabeth the Grand Duchess Convent in California have recorded a CD of their Christmas chanting. To learn more about it, click here.

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Santa’s Mail Bag and John’s Answers for a Christmas Post

by John 7 January 2015

Share Merry Christmas, Serious Readers! Here are some letters and responses for your joyous Noel! Dear Mr.Granger, I’ve just read your book Harry Potter’s bookshelf and I want to share some opinions with you. Besides, I hope I can get some advice for reading. I’m N—–, a senior high school student from China. Before reading [...]

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Hobbit Movie Thoughts: The Magic of Imagery

by Elizabeth 1 January 2015

Share Generally, when there is a new film based on a book that we study here, either I or Louise Freeman puts on the gloves and slogs into the fray to present thoughts on what was good, what was true to the book, and what was just plain awful. After five films, Peter Jackson’s forays [...]

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2015 Hogwarts Professor Resolutions: Reading 75 Books?

by John 31 December 2014

Share I’m a sucker for New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve heard at least as often as you have that very few people keep the vows they make at the end of December — as few as 12% have success according to one study (that’s an almost 90% fail rate, of course!) and I’m betting it’s lower [...]

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Christopher Mitchell, Stratford Caldecott: Requiescat In Pace

by John 29 December 2014

Share 2014 was a year that I will remember in large part because of the sudden death of two men, Christopher Mitchell, longtime director of Wheaton College’s Wade Center who had moved to Biola’s Torrey Honors Institute, and Stratford Caldecott, a Research Fellow at St. Benet’s Hall, Oxford, the editor of the Humanum Review, and co-editor of Second [...]

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LOTR Iconographic Illustrations from Sergey Yuhimov

by John 28 December 2014

Share It’s that time of year when you wait for your spouse as s/he shops for diced tomatoes or umeboshi paste by hanging out at the illustrated calendar rack and flipping through the pictures. Sadly, unless you’re a cat lover, a goner for anything to do with covered bridges, or someone who still dreams of [...]

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