R overandom is an early fantasy of Tolkien 's, first told orally in to his children while on holiday, and subsequently polished over a number of drafts. In or '37 it was submitted to George Allen and Unwin, where it was assessed by the chairman's young son as 'well written and amusing'. But by The Hobbit was already a great success: Tolkien's creatures had begun their long march into the communal consciousness, and have since clambered on their hairy little feet all the way to the top of Waterstone's recent list of the great books of the century. Understandably, Tolkien 's publishers wanted more about hobbits, rather than a story about a dog enchanted by a wizard, who travels to the moon and under the sea in his efforts to be released from the spell. The most striking thing about Roverandom is nothing to do with the tale itself, but the timing of its publication.
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R overandom is an early fantasy of Tolkien 's, first told orally in to his children while on holiday, and subsequently polished over a number of drafts. In or '37 it was submitted to George Allen and Unwin, where it was assessed by the chairman's young son as 'well written and amusing'. But by The Hobbit was already a great success: Tolkien's creatures had begun their long march into the communal consciousness, and have since clambered on their hairy little feet all the way to the top of Waterstone's recent list of the great books of the century.
Understandably, Tolkien 's publishers wanted more about hobbits, rather than a story about a dog enchanted by a wizard, who travels to the moon and under the sea in his efforts to be released from the spell. The most striking thing about Roverandom is nothing to do with the tale itself, but the timing of its publication. The book misses the Christmas market almost on principle, as if making a point. How many children's stockings have bulged over the years with Tolkien 's other non-hobbit texts, insipid stuff such as Farmer Giles of Ham or The Adventures of Tom Bombadil?
A January issue for Roverandom announces an indifference to the seasonal regression of taste which makes people choose sweeter music at Christmas than at other times, brighter colours, simpler stories. Roverandom has been edited and annotated to within an inch of its life.
The wife-and-husband team of Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond tease out a handful of allusions to myths and Eddas, but also explain where 'the Back of Beyond' is located, and when 'teatime' might be expected. Tiny quibbles are glossed with the thoroughness of footnotes to Shakespeare, though if you don't already realise that to be called Rover 'after' another dog can mean either 'in honour of' or 'later than', then you are unlikely to enjoy the passage, even with the explanation.
Scull and Hammond suggest various anticipations of the mature Tolkien in Roverandom, not always convincingly. It is more in the illustration than the text, for instance, that the White Dragon on the moon here resembles Smaug in The Hobbit. Not every bleak landscape need foreshadow Mordor, nor every unfriendly spider be a sketch for Shelob. The invention in Roverandom is short-winded and the characterisation rudimentary. In his descriptions Tolkien brings off the occasional effect worthy of epic the rising sun 'red as if he had been drinking hot wine' , but more often he looks back to the fin de siecle for his poetic palette: 'The moon rose up out of the sea, and laid the silver path across the waters that is the way to places at the edge of the world and beyond, for those that can walk on it There are sparks of humour in the story, of a schoolmasterly sort, as when a wizard from Persia, having lost his way, asks for directions and ends up in Pershore instead.
Pleasingly, dogs in Roverandom establish friendship by exchange of insults, so that a string of derogatory remarks is followed by the comment: 'From which you can see that they rather took a fancy to one another at first sight. In one uncharacteristic sentence there is a hint of apparently dissimilar writers active in the Twenties: 'Magicians and wizards are few and far between, and they know one another very well, and keep an eye on each other's doings too, not always being the best of friends in private life.
In Powys's books, though, the shaman of Dorset attaches his pantheism to real landscapes, while when she wrote about fairies late in life, Warner avoided an overarching cosmology, preferring to invent a number of separate elfin societies with different codes and ways of life.
Tolkien would hardly have been the writer we know if he had explored this tone of voice, and developed the presence of a narrator rather than eliminating it. But to produce his best work he seems to have needed the intricate framework of warlocks and elves, spells and prophecies, a trellis of cosmology to support the tendrils of his fullest fantasy.
The Hobbit remains a masterpiece of narrative and a classic rite-of-passage story. By the time of The Lord of the Rings, the rites of passage are those of an entire cosmos, and the attempt to create a complete and consistent world tends to reveal more sharply what is absent from the vision: variety, humour and, above all, sexuality.
The editors make much of the implied existence at this early period of what they call Tolkien's legendarium, his personal mythology of Middle Earth and beyond. In fact, at this stage Tolkien 's fantasy is hardly freestanding. There are obvious debts to Lewis Carroll in the absurd flora and fauna of the moon and even to E Nesbit one character, a sand-wizard, was originally called a Psammead, like the surly fairy in Five Children and It.
The editors detect a prophetic Green consciousness in Tolkien's complaints about litter, but Roverandom isn't altogether hostile to the modern era. There are references to the News of the World and to Heinz foods or at least to '57 varieties'.
The underlying cosmology of the story is, if anything, one of its least satisfactory aspects. The moon is a properly astronomical body, but the earth is flat and edged with waterfalls. The relative positions in the hierarchy of being occupied by wizards, mermen and colossal sleeping sea-serpents is confusing, perhaps even undecided by the author. Roverandom was originally made up to console Tolkien 's middle son Michael, rising five in the summer of , for the loss of a favoured toy, a black and white dog which was left on the beach and never found again.
Losses are made good in fantasy, and the fictional Rover contrives to return to Michael who appears under the name of 'little boy Two'. In fact, Michael gets back more than he lost, since he knew Rover only in his spellbound form as a toy, but has him returned as a live animal. But if Tolkien 's story is consolatory in origin, it is also didactic. Rover falls foul of a wizard in the first place because he doesn't say 'please'. He doesn't ask nicely. In the course of the story his manners are chastened by his mild ordeals, and when he returns to canine form he is a reformed dog: 'After he had run a mile in circles for joy, and nearly barked his head off, he came back and said 'Thank you!
The editors don't try to establish whether the tale of Roverandom had a reforming effect on Michael's manners, if indeed they were defective. In either event, most admirers of Tolkien will want to turn down this chance, with politeness and the proper 'thank yous', to explore his imagination before it came into its own. Topics JRR Tolkien. Classics reviews. Reuse this content. Most popular.
Roverandom is a novella by J. Tolkien , originally told in , about the adventures of a young dog, Rover. In the story, an irritable wizard turns Rover into a toy, and Rover goes to the Moon and under the sea in order to find the wizard again to turn him back into a normal-sized dog. The author wrote Roverandom for his son Michael to amuse him upon the loss of his favourite toy, a little leaden dog which he lost on a beach of grey shingle stones the same size and colour as the toy. The work is in tone a children's story, but contains many allusions and references in the manner of Farmer Giles of Ham. It was submitted for publication in after the success of The Hobbit , but was not published for over sixty years, finally being released in Roverandom was included in the collection Tales from the Perilous Realm from its reprinting onwards.
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