Tolkien Reading Day 2014 is coming up and when would be a better time to list some of the more peculiar and odd facts related to Tolkien and his works. In the list below you will find mollusks, Harry Potter sequels and Nazi occultism. Hopefully something will surprise you.
1. Gollum was diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder in an article in the British Medical Journal
In 2004, six medical students and a lecturer in old age psychiatry published an article in the British Medical Journal where they attempted to diagnose Gollum’s problems. The article first examines Gollum’s mental state and notes that while “he shows no evidence of clinical depression, although he subjectively feels sad and is anxious to be reunited with his ‘precious'” there are “features of dissociation”. They also note that he suffers from paranoia, especially when it comes to Sauron and Samwise Gamgee.
The authors consider several possible diagnoses and begin with possible reasons to his physical symptoms. A brain tumor is seen as unlikely due to his longstanding symptoms. They go on to suggest that due to his limited diet he could suffer from B-12 deficiency, which can cause delusions as well as paranoia, and iron deficiency anaemia, causing loss of hair and weight. Now, if anyone needed motivation for a healthy diet with sufficient amounts of iron and B-12 I think this is it.
When diagnosing Gollum’s mental problems, the authors note that Gollum does not fulfill the criteria for schizophrenia but that “he fulfils seven of the nine criteria for schizoid personality disorder (ICD F60.1), and, if we must label Gollum’s problems, we believe that this is the most likely diagnosis.”
2. There is a Laan van Tolkien in a town in the Netherlands
There is an entire neighborhood in city of Geldrop in the Netherland with street names named after characters from Tolkien’s works. I envy them a little to be honest. Who wouldn’t want to be able to say “I’ll meet you at Erebor at 9 am”? Marcel over at the Tolkienist was able to find out that the guy who named the streets was a huge fan of Tolkien. Sometimes the explanation doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.
Geldrop may be the city which has received most Internet fame due to its naming convention but it is not the only city with Tolkien-related street names. There is a Gandalf’s Ride in Essex, a Rivendell Lane in Davis, CA, and a Theoden’s Court in San Jose, just to mention a few.
3. Unauthorized Chinese Harry Potter sequel based on the Hobbit
In 2002, a very much unauthorized and peculiar sequel to Harry Potter was published in China by an anonymous author. The title of the book was Harry Potter and Bao Zoulong and it primarily consisted of the text and narrative from the Hobbit. All character names had been changed apart from Gandalf’s (reason is unclear). In a first introductory chapter, Harry, Hermione and Ron are all transformed into Hobbits by a mysterious sweet and sour rain. After that, the book is almost a to the word copy of the Hobbit up until the very end where a chapter details how Harry becomes human again and returns to the Dursleys.
The book was quickly discovered and in November 2002 the Bashu Publishing House agreed to pay a $3,400 fine and publish a public apology China’s Legal Times.
Young-0 has translated the first and last chapter so you can find out how hilarious the plot is for yourself.
4. Mountains on Titan are named after mountains in Tolkien’s works
The astronomers responsible for naming geological features on Saturn’s moon Titan apparently felt inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien. Mountains and hills have been named after mountains and characters from Arda. Some examples are Angmar Montes, Doom Mons, Misty Montes, Bilbo Colles and Arwen Colles. See all of the names here.
5. There is a family of sea slugs called Smeagol
Smeagol is a genus of sea slugs of the family of mollusks called Smeagolidae. They exist in New Zeeland and Australia. The first of the species was discovered in 1971 and in 1980 it was named Smeagol manneringi in honor(?) of Sméagol. When I first read this I immediately though having a sea slug named after you isn’t much of an honor. However, F. M. Climo, who named the new order, family and species, wrote this in the New Zealand Journal of Zoology in 1980:
“The genus takes its name from the pallid, sometimes subterranean Tolkien character Smeagol (whose alternative name is Gollum), a pitiable humanoid who ultimately played a very important role in saving ‘Middle earth’ from evil forces. The slug described below is far more significant, phylogenetically, than its drab exterior indicates – hence the analogy.”
With that description it suddenly does seem like an honor.
On a similar note, biologist Leigh Van Valen named 20 fossil mammals he discovered after characters from Tolkien’s works. Among them are Bomburia, Mimatuta morgoth and Earendil.
6. Swedish translator accused Tolkien fandom of Nazi occultism
The Swedish translation of the Lord of the Rings was made by Åke Ohlmarks. It received mostly positive reviews at the time but has later been widely criticized. His translation was profoundly different from Tolkien’s original style with elaborations and own expressions added to the text. It also had blatant errors and inconsistent translations of names.
Tolkien himself strongly disliked the translation. Together with the Dutch translation it ultimately led him to write the Guide to the Names in The Lord of the Rings to avoid similar mistakes in the future. When the Silmarillion was to be released in 1977, Christopher Tolkien wrote to the publisher that he would only allow a Swedish translation if it was not influenced by Ohlmarks at all. Enraged by the criticism, Ohlmarks became openly hostile towards the Tolkien Estate and Tolkien fandom in general. The hostility escalated in January 1982 when Ohlmarks blamed members of the (Swedish) Tolkien Society for a fire in his home.
After the fire things definitely took a bizarre turn. In 1982, Ohlmarks published the book ‘Tolkien and the Black Magic’ where he accused the Tolkien family and the Tolkien fandom of Nazi occultism, sex orgies and ritual murders among other things. Ohlmarks died two years after the publication of the book.
The back cover of the book reads (translated from Swedish):
“It has come to attention that, especially during the last years, the multitude of Tolkien societies (thousands in America, and not a few in Sweden) have degenerated to a kind of KU-KLUX-KLAN with a worship of open violence, crude orgies, alcohol and drug abuse. Murders have been commited, recurrent cases of assaults, kidnapping and desecrations of churches and sacraments.
Åke Ohlmarks, the man responsible for the translation and introduction of Tolkien in Sweden and who is also internationally recognized as one of the foremost experts on Tolkien, reveals in this uncanny book how far it has evolved even in our contry.”
A new Swedish translation of the Lord of the Rings, by Erik Andersson, was published in 2005.
7. The Beatles wanted to turn the Lord of the Rings into a movie
Many attempts at turning the Lord of the Rings into a movie have been made over the years. One previously unknown attempt was unearthed when Paul McCartney met Peter Jackson at the Academy Awards in 2002. Paul McCartney told Jackson that the Beatles had approached Stanley Kubrik about a possible adaption of the Lord of the Rings. Their adaption would star Paul McCartney as Frodo Baggins, John Lennon as Gollum, Ringo Starr as Sam Gamgee and George Harrison as Gandalf.
CNN wrote in 2002 that Peter Jackson had told Wellington’s Evening Post “It was something John was driving and J.R.R. Tolkien still had the film rights at that stage but he didn’t like the idea of the Beatles doing it. So he killed it.”
Since J.R.R. Tolkien sold the film rights to United Artists in 1969 the Beatles must have approached him about their idea before that. It was probably good that their adaption never was realized but I can’t help but wonder what the music would be like. Would there have been a Ballad of Frodo and Sam?
8. There is an alternative account of the Lord of the Rings from Mordor’s perspective
There is a fascinating book titled The Last Ringbearer, written by the Russian author Kirill Eskov and published in 1999, which offers an alternative perspective of the story in the Lord of the Rings. The main idea is that the original account of the War of the Ring was “written by the victors” and that Mordor was in fact a rather peaceful country.
Instead of recapping the story here, I encourage you to read it. The book has been made available in English translation for free, with blessings from the author, and you can download it here.
9. The Hebrew translation of the Hobbit was made by Israeli prisoners of war
Ten Israeli prisoners of war held in Abaseyar prison in Egypt for three years made one of the first Hebrew translations of the Hobbit. They passed the time studying math, physics, and chemistry. One of the prisoners, Rami Harpaz, told the Jerusalem Post he had read 304 books while in captivity. One day they got a package from family in America containing the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. Harpaz said to J. Post that “We enjoyed the books so much that we decided to translate them for others”.
After four months the prisoners had translated the Hobbit. They were released in 1973 and the translation was published in 1977.
Read Harpaz entire account of what happened in the Jerusalem Post.
While writing this blog post I discovered that Google Maps still has that nice Easter egg when you search for walking directions from the Shire to Mordor. However, I wasn’t able to find it in the new version of Google Maps which is a pity.