Kingship, Priesthood, and Prophecy in The Lord of the Rings

Professor Barry Gordon photographed in 1987

Professor Barry Gordon photographed in 1987

We were recently delighted in being able to track down an elusive and important hitherto unpublished paper on Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings written many years ago by the late Professor Barry Gordon, Professor in Economics here at the University of Newcastle.

We received an enquiry from a scholar in the United Kingdom who was trying to track down the article entitled “Kingship, Priesthood and Prophecy in The Lord of the Rings”. He believed the article may have been unpublished.

We checked our library and archival listings, including four boxes of unaccessioned material with no luck. So we hoped to be able to get in touch with Professor Gordon’s family to see whether they could help.

We were fortunate to make contact with his wife, Dr Moira Gordon who kindly tracked down the original manuscript of not one but two versions, and transcribed them for us in order to complete the enquiry. She also kindly provided her permission for us to upload the article onto our library catalogue and Cultural Collections blog.

Our Newcat catalogue entry for the electronic article is located here:

http://library.newcastle.edu.au/record=b2474576~S16

Author: Gordon, Barry
Title: Kingship, priesthood, and prophecy in The Lord of the Rings [electronic resource] / [written by Barry Gordon ; transcribed by Moira Gordon]
Edition: [Version 3, 1967]

View or Print: Kingship, Priesthood and Prophecy in The Lord of the Rings [Version 3]

View or Print: Kingship, Priesthood, and Prophecy in The Lord of the Rings [Version 2]

Subject: Tolkien, J. R. R. (John Ronald Reuel), 1892-1973.
Lord of the rings — Criticism, Textual
Redemption in literature
Fantasy fiction, English — Criticism, Textual
Fiction — Religious aspects — Christianity

Electronic version created 05/05/2009 by Dr Moira Gordon.
Other Auth: Gordon, Moira

Relating the history of the article, Dr Moira Gordon writes (Email, 8 May 2009):

To the best of my knowledge Barry’s article “Kingship, Priesthood and Prophecy in The Lord of the Rings” was not published, although one draft of this article may have been circulated as a paper given to the Newcastle Theological Society some time around 1964.   There are manuscript copies among Barry’s papers.  I have located two carbon copies of drafts, which could be regarded as presenting three versions of his paper, as I will explain.

What appears to be the earliest typed manuscript dates from around 1964.  This paper is quite long (over 5000 words) and, from correspondence also found during my search, it seems to have been submitted for consideration for publication to a journal edited from the University of Keele (in England, from where I have a letter signed by W.J. Harvey who recommended sending it to Modern Fiction Studies).  This advice appears to have been followed, as there is a letter from Maurice Beebe at Purdue University (then editor of Modern Fiction Studies) dated June 24, 1964.  Because of its length and publication queues at that time, neither of these journals accepted the paper for publication.  The paper also appears to have been sent to PMLA, for which Patricia M Spacks read the manuscript in June 1965 and suggested it was more appropriate for “a theologically oriented journal such as Religion in Life”.  The copy I have contains a few hand-written alterations made by Barry Gordon, giving what could be regarded as a second version.  It is this version which I have converted to an electronic file.

Paul Fromer, the editor of HIS, magazine of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, (Chicago) wrote to Professor Gordon in January 1967, saying “it has come to me indirectly that you wrote an article on Tolkien entitled “Kingship, Priesthood and Prophecy in The Lord of the Rings” and inviting him to send a copy for possible publication.  The second of the manuscripts which I have appears to be the version sent in response to this request.  This draft is considerably shorter.  The three core sections of the article are unchanged.  However, in this draft a much tighter introduction replaces the longer introduction and the first section of the earlier draft, and a long final section is deleted.   Subsequent correspondence from Mr Fromer indicated that this 3800 word draft substantially exceeded their usual 2000 word limit for articles and expressed the hope that Professor Gordon would reduce the paper to fit into this limit.  I have found no evidence that this was ever done.

In searching through Professor Gordon’s papers I have not found any evidence that he sent a copy to Professor Tolkien, although it is possible that he may have done so.  I do know that Miss Rhona Beare, who was at one time a member of the Classics Department at the University of Newcastle (Professor Bernie Curran would remember her), did correspond with J.R.R. Tolkien and, in the draft of another article which Barry was working on, “J.R.R. Tolkien on Death as the Gift to Men”, Barry quotes from a letter she received from Tolkien in 1958.

The quality of both of the carbon copies which I have is extremely poor.  However I re-typed these into electronic files, and will forward these to you.  The original pages are folio length and I have not attempted to reproduce them.  Nevertheless, as a result of the type-face which has been used, the paging is broadly similar.   I am sure that Barry would be only too happy to have his work used, with the appropriate acknowledgement.

October 2009 Update

The online version of “‘From Mirrored Truth the Likeness of the True’: J.R.R. Tolkien and Reflections of Jesus Christ in Middle-Earth” by Jonathan Padley and Kenneth Padley has been published and is located here:

http://english.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/efp032v1.pdf

Gionni Di Gravio

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