Monday, July 20, 2009

The Mythopoeic Award

So, last night at the awards banquet at Mythcon, THE HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT won this year's Mythopoeic Award. These awards are given out each year by the Mythopoeic Society, a group devoted to celebrating the work of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Charles Williams. There are four awards in all; the one I won is the Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies, with the others being the Fantasy award (for the year's best fantasy novel), the Children's Literature (actually, Young Adult) award, and the non-Inklings fantasy scholarship award. Here's a link to all four of this year's winners:

And here's another link listing the five finalists. Scroll down to the end to get the 2009 nominees; as you can see, there was stiff competition:

This is quite an honor -- previous winners include such works as Garth's TOLKIEN & THE GREAT WAR, Shippey's AUTHOR OF THE CENTURY and ROAD TO MIDDLE-EARTH, Verlyn's A QUESTION OF TIME, Wayne & Christina's ART & ILLUSTRATOR, Doug's THE ANNOTATED HOBBIT, and others going all the way back to Kocher's MASTER OF MIDDLE EARTH and beyond. I've actually contributed to works that won the award before, in 2002 (TOLKIEN'S LEGENDARIUM) and 1997 (THE RHETORIC OF VISION), but this time I'll get the actual award -- a statue of a lion, unofficially known as an 'Aslan' -- to put on the mantle by my grandfather's clock.


ahem. let me repeat that.


Finally, while I wasn't able to attend this year's Mythcon, here's my acceptance speech that I would have delivered if I'd been there.

"Thag you very buch."

If I were as laconic as Mr. Baggins himself at the celebrations in Lake Town, I'd just stop there and be done with it. But, as the nine-hundred-plus pages of my History of the Hobbit suggest, such is not the case.

And so, on this festive occasion, I would like to thank the Society, and the Awards Committee, and Mythcon itself for this very great honor. I wish I could be among you to accept this award in person. Having first joined the Society more than thirty years ago—in the same year in which Roger Lancelyn Green and Walter Hooper shared the award for their then-new biography of C. S. Lewis—I honestly never imagined then that a decade later I would attend my first Mythcon. Or that two years after that I would help run another, or that I would present chapters from this book at two other Mythcons, much less one day receive this award.

I had originally thought of taking this opportunity to thank all the people who helped me on my book. But on second thought this might, like Bilbo's 'eleventy-first' party speech, drag on a bit for those esteemed Mythconners at this banquet, especially since it would be in the form of a person, who isn't here, thanking other people, who are also not here.

I do want to seize this opportunity, though, to thank one person whose acknowledgement inadvertently got left out from the original (UK) printing of my book. David Bratman's name should have appeared among those people before whom I presented earlier drafts of various chapters from this eternal work-in-progress from time to time, since I benefitted greatly from his encyclopedic knowledge and attention to detail. Even though this was fortunately fixed in time for the American edition, I still wanted to thank him here and now.

As for my book itself, what can I say that I have not already said, at length, within its pages? I took as my inspiration C. S. Lewis's words to J. R. R. Tolkien, back around the spring of 1936, that there were too few of the sort of books they liked to read in the world and that they needed to write some themselves. This is essentially what I have done: written the book I'd like to discover on a bookstore's or library's shelf. For a time I feared that I was the only one who would want to read it. This award has quelled those fears.

After he plowed through The History of The Hobbit, Charles Noad wrote "surely nothing remains to be said." Happily he was wrong. Trying to get to the bottom of a Tolkien story is like staring into an ent's eyes: deep wells very much in the present but filled with the memory of ages. But who wouldn't drink deep of that well, given the chance? So: the work goes on. And so my thanks for this encouragement, and this honor. Thank you very much.

—John D. Rateliff

Sunday, July 19th, 2009.


David Doughan said...

Congratulations, John! Well deserved.

AM Smith said...

The heartiest of congratulations, John. It was a very well-deserved award and a fantastic pair of books.

The metaphor of an ent's eyes for Tolkien's work and Tolkien scholarship is probably the most apt description I've ever read.

Keep up the great work.

Doug Kane said...

Congrats, John! I was very glad to hear your name called. It is a most well-deserved honor. I'm just sad that you weren't there to accept the award in person.

Colin McComb said...

Incredibly awesome, John. Congrats!

David Bratman said...

You're welcome, John. And congratulations!

(I said that at the time, too. But alas, you were not there at the time; only your acceptance remarks were present to cheer us.)

Bruce R Cordell said...


You are a wonder!