Folklore

Celtic Myth in Contemporary Children’s Fantasy in the 2018 Mythopoeic Awards Finalists!

I have just found out that my latest monograph, Celtic Myth in Contemporary Children’s Fantasy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), has been shortlisted for the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Myth and Fantasy Studies!

The Mythopoeic Awards are divided into four categories, two for fiction, and two for scholarship:

  • The Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature is given to the fantasy novel, multi-volume novel, or single-author story collection for adults published during the previous year that best exemplifies “the spirit of the Inklings”.
  • The Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature honors books for beginning readers to age thirteen, in the tradition of The Hobbit or The Chronicles of Narnia.
  • The Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies is given to books on J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and/or Charles Williams that make significant contributions to Inklings scholarship.
  • The Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Myth and Fantasy Studies is given to scholarly books on other specific authors in the Inklings tradition, or to more general works on the genres of myth and fantasy.

My first monograph, Tolkien, Race and Cultural History: From Fairies to Hobbits (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) received the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies in 2010 and it’s a great honour to be shortlisted again, this time for the Myth and Fantasy Studies category.

I am in really excellent company, alongside books by colleagues Farah Mendlesohn and Mark J.P. Wolf. I actually contributed two entries in Wolf’s edited collection in this shortlist: one on Tolkien’s Arda, and one (co-authored with Andrew Higgins) on Invented Languages.

The winners of this year’s awards will be announced during Mythcon 49, to be held July 20-23, 2018, in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

Here’s a link to the announcement the Mythopoeic Society website: http://www.mythsoc.org/news/news-2018-05-21.htm

And here’s the full short list:

Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Myth and Fantasy Studies

Byrne, Aisling, Otherworlds: Fantasy and History in Medieval Literature (Oxford Univ. Press, 2016)
Fimi, Dimitra, Celtic Myth in Contemporary Children’s Fantasy: Idealization, Identity, Ideology (Palgrave MacMillan, 2017)
Levy, Michael and Farah Mendlesohn, Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2016)
Sanders, Elizabeth M, Genres of Doubt: Science Fiction, Fantasy and the Victorian Crisis of Faith (McFarland, 2017)
Wolf, Mark J.P., ed., The Routledge Companion to Imaginary Worlds (Routledge, 2017)

Forthcoming talks and lectures: Glasgow, Kalamazoo, Essex, Oxford and North Wales

The next few months are going to be a bit hectic! If you are attending any of the conferences or events below, don’t hesitate to come and say hello!

26-27 April – Keynote for GIFCon (Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations) 2018: ‘In the blood and in the landscape: escaping (into) the “Celtic” past in contemporary children’s fantasy’

10-13 May – paper for Tolkien sessions at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Michigan: ‘“Queer” Border, “Hidden Kingdom”: Perceptions of Wales in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Work’

24 May – seminar for the Centre for Myth Studies (University of Essex), Myth Reading Group: ‘“The Battle of the Trees”: from medieval Welsh legend to modern fantasy’

5 June – panel discussion on “Mythopoeia: Myth-creation and Middle-earth” for the Bodleian Library’s “Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth” exhibition, alongside Professor Dame Marina Warner, Professor Verlyn Flieger, and moderated by Professor Carolyne Larrington. You can book tickets here: https://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/whatson/whats-on/upcoming-events/2018/june/tolkien

23 June – public lecture for the Story Museum and Royal Entomological Society exhibition “Insects Through the Looking Glass” titled: ‘Wings, Antennae, and Stings: Tolkien’s Creepy Crawlies’. This is a free event, but please book via this link: http://www.storymuseum.org.uk/whats-on/wings-antennae-stings-tolkiens-creepy-crawlies/

20-22 July – course for Tŷ Newydd (the National Writing Centre of Wales) on ‘(Re)telling traditional narratives: myth, legend, fairy tale’, alongside Catherine Fisher

In-between the above, I will also be in Leeds on 1st July for the Tolkien Society Seminar, and then will remain in Leeds from the 2nd till the 5th of July for the Tolkien sessions I have organized for the International Medieval Congress.

Beren and Lúthien: Some First Thoughts (and radio interview)

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Beren and Lúthien, edited by Christopher Tolkien, was published yesterday. The book is an attempt by Christopher Tolkien to extract one of the most beautiful, moving, and personal stories of his father’s ‘legendarium’ into a standalone book, allowing the story to shine on its own, as well as showing its development over time. The books is accompanied by stunning illustrations by Alan Lee.

I was interviewed about this new book on BBC Radio Wales this morning by Felicity Evans, on Good Morning Wales. I first talked about the personal significance of the story for Tolkien: seeing his young wife, Edith, dancing in a woodland among white flowers near Roos in East Yorkshire became the heart of the tale of the mortal Beren falling in love with the immortal Lúthien. Michael Flowers’ research has added a lot to our understanding of this personal connection and the imagery of this scene – see here for his excellent blog post, including photographs from the location where Edith danced.

I actually found it very moving that Christopher Tolkien dedicates this book to his own wife, Baillie Tolkien, especially as he says in the preface that – at 93 – this may well be the last book of his father’s work he will edit. He also mentions hearing the story of Beren and Lúthien orally from his father in the early 1930s and refers to the famous letter his father sent him a year after Edith’s death, saying that his wife “was (and knew she was) my Lúthien” (Letter #340). Famously, the names Beren and Lúthien are inscribed on the gravestone where Tolkien and Edith are buried (Wolvercote Cemetery, Oxford).

In my interview I also referred briefly to the creative reshaping of myth and legend in this tale: the union of a fairy woman with a mortal man (a widespread motif in European folklore), and the reversal of the Orpheus myth (Lúthien wins back Beren from the Halls of Mandos, as opposed to Orpheus getting back Eurydice from the Underworld). But there are, of course, many more such examples: Lúthien’s imprisonment in the tree-house brings to mind the tale of Rapunzel, and the hunt of Carcharoth resembles the hunt for the giant boar Twrch Trwyth in the Welsh Mabinogion. The interview then moved towards Tolkien’s popularity and the reasons why fantasy literature is flourishing recently.

You can listen to the interview here: