The Lord of
There lived, ‘in a hole in the ground’
A hobbit, who journeyed and found
A most precious Ring;
Though a small, shiny thing,
Made its author pound after rich pound.
And that writer, John Ronald Tolkien,
Was employed in the languages scene.
So if that is you,
And you want more cash too,
Listen in for a while, you might learn.
For John Ronald worked as a linguist
(Though he might say ‘I’m a philologist’);
But the mountain he made
Was not employer-paid
But on weekends and eves. Get the gist?
Here’s the story: he sat down to work
And the task for the day was to mark
Some exam scripts quite dull
Which left JT full
Of dank thoughts, depressive and dark.
So he scribbled that First Famous Line,
The one that will live for all time.
After which: one fine day,
Lo, it’s Gandalf the Grey!
And the action takes on a new shine:
13 Dwarves, as Tolkien relates,
Turn up at Bag End rather late;
They sketch out their plan
Then break out in song:
‘Chip the glasses and [crack!] crack the plates!’
And the hobbit, whose name as you know
Is Baggins (and first name Bilbo)
Is hired as a thief
Though Thorin, the chief,
Is unsure why the hobbit’s in tow.
Then Big T, son of Thrain, Son of Thror,
Leads his band of Dwarves to Erebor
Through the Mountains the Misty
Because he was pissed: he,
Like all Dwarves, perhaps, wanted more.
There’s a dragon, some wolves, eagles feathery,
Some madness, some bravery exemplary.
But everyone’s male!
Not a single female!
Is it fit for the 21st century?
Plus Gandalf pulls all of the strings:
When the dwarves sadly get themselves in
A spot of deep trouble
And things start to wobble
He’s there, on a prayer with a wing.
Now The Hobbit just flew off the shelves;
They loved Hobbits, and wizards and
Ron began ‘Hobbit 2’
Which just grew—and then grew!
(And contained a few women as well).
This book became quite a big thing;
Entitled The Lord of the Rings,
There was nothing comparable—
And nothing more profitable
For Allen and Unwin: Ker-ching!
(We could go on: Mrs Tolkien
Who’s rarely heard and rarely seen;
But remember: she’s Luthien,
So perhaps she’s, in fact, the main theme.)
We’ve been, reader, somewhat distracted
By the plotline that I’ve just redacted
This poem’s main focus
Is the cash hocus-pocus:
Linguistics as a financial tactic.
’Cause of course the success of this stuff
And the fact JRR wrote so much
Was the linguistic mythery
Behind the wordsmithery
Which lent it its uncommon touch.
The readership loved the dark plot
But the zing factor added on top
Was the odd bit of speech
In a lang exotique:
Yes, the readership liked that a lot.
So let us return to JT
And ponder how it came to be
That this bookish lad
Made cash by the wad
With a kid’s book plus dark trilogy.
As a youngster he got quite Germanic
With some add-ons, the Welsh and Finlandic
Then started fictlanging
(As we might say) adding
Some culture to make it organic.
Yes, John Ronald’s fictlangs were rounded:
The forms and their functions were grounded
In a great, ancient tale
Of Elven betrayal,
A mythopoesis unbounded.
But therein of course lies the blemish:
None of these fictlangs got finished!
But the story still stood
As all good stories should
Its glory and fame undiminished.
And so to arrive at the rub,
The bottom line, pith, crux, the nub:
If you wanna make cash
In the linguistics bash
Join the JRRT club:
Use your knowledge of form and phonology
To fictlang. And make no apology
If the ‘i’-s don’t have dots
And the ‘t’-s aren’t quite crossed;
Then wrap it all up in mythology.
Not everyone can create a con-
-Lang, be it Na’vi or Klingon;
But we can write a book
About trolls and good luck
With some fictlangy frills simply added on.
So if you can no longer see
The aim of your ling PhD,
Just take the Tolk-trail:
Create your own tale,
And spice it up quasi-fictlangically:
You just make up a lost past behind it,
A magic thing, someone to find it;
Add in that fictlang;
String the reader along and
The publishing houses will bind it!