News Archive from 1996

Holiday Gift Ideas
Posted on December 1, 1996

by Eleanor M. Farrell

That nip in the air hints that the holiday season is approaching: a time for festive gatherings of friends and family, religious observances, and -- dear to every hobbit's heart -- an exchange of gifts. Since Polar Bear is too busy wreaking havoc at the North Pole, here are some suggestions to help shoppers find something to suit the tastes of any fan of the Inklings and fantasy literature.


One can never have too many books (even if one doesn't have enough space... and who does?!). Tolkien fans will be aware of the publication of the last in the History of Middle Earth series edited by Christopher Tolkien: The Peoples of Middle Earth, published by Houghton Mifflin. Another wonderful book for anyone who has enjoyed J.R.R. Tolkien's works is this year's Inklings Scholarship Award winner from Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull, J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator. The other 1996 winner (for Scholarship in Myth and Fantasy Studies), From the Beast to the Blonde by Marina Warner, is an excellent volume of literary and feminist criticism on fairy tales, and is available in both trade paperback and hardback editions.

In the fiction category, why not encourage your friends to read the best of new fantasy literature? Most of the recent Mythopoeic Fantasy Award winners, including the 1996 honoree, Waking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand, are available as mass market paperbacks. Check out the list of MFA winners and pick up an armful to stuff someone's Christmas stocking! And, of course, there seem to be innumerable new editions each year of The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, and other favorites. (Hey! What about Charles Williams??)

Information on books is easy to find on-line! Try BookWire for resources and links on titles, authors, awards, bookstores, and just about anything else you can imagine. Probably the most comprehensive site for on-line book shopping is Books; if it's in print, they probably carry it, and give discounts on many of their titles.


Most of us live in places with walls, so we need calendars, right? The 1997 J.R.R. Tolkien Calendar has art work by John Howe. To give you an overview of the calendar's successes (and failings), read the Tolkien calendar review by Society artist and critic Paula DiSante. Another artist well-known to Mythopoeic Society members, Patrick Wynne, has done some of his best work for the 1997 Celtic Calendar. The Celtic year begins on November 1st, but don't let that stop you: the beautiful illustrations, centered around a "transformations" theme, will not become out of date!


Two new albums of Tolkien's music have been released (and maybe more...). The Starlit Jewel from Avalon Rising features songs from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, set to music by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Avalon Rising members Margaret Davis and Kristoph Klover; check out The Starlit Jewel review by Paula DiSante. Avalon Rising performed many pieces from their recording at Mythcon XXVII in Boulder, Colorado. I have also seen a listing for a CD titled Songs from Middle-earth from The Hobbitons (Dutch Tolkien Society), which can be ordered through Thornton's in Great Britain.


Dueling Shadowlands! Two film versions of the play based on C.S. Lewis' relationship with Joy Davidson are available on video, as well as the productions of Narnia stories shown on PBS stations. I won't saw myself off any limbs by recommending any of the Tolkien film adaptations, but for anyone who is interested in film in general and more -- ah, esoteric -- offerings, I recommend a virtual trip to Le Video, San Francisco's premiere video rental source, for information on the wide variety of fantasy-related movies available. (They also do mail-order rentals, for people who live in more culturally deprived parts of the country!)


Celebrate the holiday atmosphere and take someone out to a movie, play, or musical performance. Films are a universally popular and easy entertainment. OK, so a live-action version of The Lord of the Rings isn't one of the season's new offerings (and probably just as well!); but literature fans can enjoy new movies based on the works of Thomas Hardy (Jude, based on the book Jude the Obscure), Henry James (Portrait of a Lady, from New Zealand director Jane Campion, who also directed the award-winning film The Piano), Arthur Miller (The Crucible), and William Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet, with a contemporary setting from Strictly Ballroom director Baz Luhrmann, and a spirited version of Twelfth Night from Fine Line Features). The most comprehensive listing of web sites for individual films and production companies is that on the Yahoo! directory. New listings are always being added!

Going to a live performance -- a play, a concert, or a ballet -- is a rare treat for most of us. The holidays are a good excuse. Even many small communities host holiday productions of The Nutcracker ballet or A Christmas Carol, and check local papers for play versions of The Hobbit, The Wizard of Oz or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, other popular offerings particularly for children's theater groups. If you live in or near a city, the possibilities are even more promising. Last year I subjected my holiday guests to local San Francisco productions of Gawain and the Green Knight (including some verses in Middle English!) and a wonderfully mythopoeic Noh version of A Christmas Carol. This year a local troupe is performing the entire collection of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, with a new play every few weeks. Lots of information on local theater and musical events can be found on-line. Yahoo! hosts web pages for several major cities, and many area newspapers publish events, news, and other information on the web. Try a little seasonal surfing!

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