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Martin Simonson – Studies in Spanish on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien

The following is an overview of the first forty-five years of studies on Tolkien published originally in Spanish, and studies by scholars from the Spanish-speaking world written in English. Not all works are mentioned; the focus falls on the most influential studies and other types of academic research which have contributed in important ways to a greater understanding of Tolkien’s work. In parallel to this, the sequence of publications of the Spanish translations of Tolkien’s most important works are highlighted for context, as are the studies translated from English that have had the greatest impact on the research carried out in Spanish.

Apart from the first, polemic 1964 translation of The Hobbit by Teresa Sánchez, the first book by J.R.R. Tolkien to be translated into Spanish was The Lord of the Rings, which was published between 1977 and 1980. This is not only Tolkien’s most widely read work in Spanish, but also the one which is most often studied by Tolkien scholars in this language. One of the very first qualified comments on the book appeared as early as 1976, when the well-known writer and philosopher Fernando Savater authored a collection of essays on the impact of the literature he read in his youth. The book, La infancia recuperada (published in English translation in 1982 as Childhood Regained: The Art of the Storyteller), Savater devotes a perceptive chapter to Tolkien, in which he highlights, among other things, the moral dimension of the natural world of Middle-earth.

The 1980’s saw the publication of two general studies on Tolkien and his works: on the one hand, Julio César Santoyo and José Miguel Santamaría’s Tolkien (1983), and, on the other, José Miguel Odero’s J.R.R. Tolkien. Cuentos de hadas (1987). Santoyo and Santamaría were based at the University of the Basque Country in Vitoria, while Odero lectured at the University of Navarra in Pamplona (both in the northern part of the country). These authors had a certain impact on the future of Tolkien scholarship in Spain, not the least since they went on to supervise MA and PhD dissertations on Tolkien written by scholars of the next generation, and to translate some of Tolkien’s works. Following these first studies, in 1994—well after the publication of the translation of The Hobbit (1982), The Silmarillion (1984), and the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings (1987)—Santoyo and Santamaría translated a collection of Tolkien’s most important short works, including the landmark essay ‘On Fairy-stories’, under the title Árbol y Hoja

1991 saw the foundation of the Spanish Tolkien Society, which contributed with publications on Tolkien and his works in Spanish through the society’s offical fanzine, Estel, in the coming years. Several selections of the articles published in Estel in the 1990’s were later gathered in another journal run by the Society, Nolmë, under the main editorship of Helios de Rosario and Ricard Valdivieso. Four issues of the latter publication were published between 2007-2010, one of which (issue 2) was also translated into English. The Spanish Tolkien Society also organizes an annual essay contest called ‘Aelfwine’. Another important later contribution made by the Tolkien fandom was the translation, carried out by people of the Tolkien List on Yahoo Groups (which included members of the Spanish Tolkien Society as well as Latin Americans) of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (2005). 

Beginning in the early nineties, Minotauro published several books by and about Tolkien, the most important of which were Carpenter’s biography, Tolkien’s Letters, and the volumes of The History of Middle-earth, edited by Christopher Tolkien. The interest in Tolkien’s work continued to be fuelled in the later years of this decade by the translations of Unfinished Tales and The Monsters and the Critics in 1998, and a book on Elvish, La lengua de los elfos (The Language of the Elves), written by Luis González in 1999. In the academic sphere, Margarita Carretero wrote a PhD dissertation entitled “Fantasía, épica y utopía en The Lord of the Rings: análisis temático y de la recepción” (“Fantasy, Epic and Utopia in The Lord of the Rings: An Analysis of Themes and Reception”), which was published by the University Press of Granada in 1996.

The originally Argentinian publisher Minotauro, which had relocated from Buenos Aires to Barcelona in 1977, was bought by the Spanish media group Planeta in 2001, and now began translating international scholarship on Tolkien, notably works by Joseph Pearce and—crucially—Tom Shippey. Shippey’s The Road to Middle-earth immediately became an inescapable point of reference for future Tolkien scholars in Spain. The book was magisterially translated by Eduardo Segura, who in the first decade of the new century would become a central figure in Spanish scholarship on Tolkien. Segura’s 2001 PhD thesis, a narratological study of The Lord of the Rings supervised by José Miguel Odero, made up the core of his perceptive study El viaje del Anillo (The Journey of the Ring), which was published by Minotauro in 2004 (the book was re-issued in 2016 under the same title by the University Press of Granada). Prior to this, in 2003, Segura co-edited a selection of essays entitled Tolkien o la fuerza del mito (Tolkien, or the Power of Myth), which included works by well-known international scholars such as Colin Duriez, Carl Hostetter, Tom Shippey, Patrick Curry and Wayne Hammond, among others. Segura himself contributed to this volume with an article on the narrative evolution from The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings. Together with Thomas Honegger, Segura also co-edited an anthology of essays in English, with contributions by Spanish scholars such as the mentioned Margarita Carretero, Miryam Librán Moreno and Martin Simonson (apart from Segura himself), which was published as Myth and Magic: Art According to the Inklings by Walking Tree Publishers in 2007. That same year, Fernando Cid Lucas edited another collection of essays on Tolkien by Spanish scholars entitled Quince caminos para seguir a Tolkien (Fifteen Roads in the Footsteps of Tolkien), touching upon a wide range of aspects of the legendarium.

In 2006, Martin Simonson, a Swedish scholar based at the University of the Basque Country, presented a doctoral thesis supervised by Eduardo Segura about the interaction of different literary genres in The Lord of the Rings. The thesis, originally written in Spanish, was adapted and published by Walking Tree Publishers in 2008 as The Lord of the Rings and the Western Narrative Tradition. This book was followed, shortly afterwards, by an edition of Eduardo Segura’s collected essays on Tolkien, entitled J.R.R. Tolkien: Mitopoeia y Mitología. In these years, Simonson (a researcher and lecturer of comparative literature at the University of the Basque Country) and Myriam Librán Moreno, a scholar of Classics based at the University of Extremadura, published articles in the American journal Tolkien Studies, on the influence of Classical and nineteenth-century literary sources on Tolkien’s works, respectively. Various courses on Tolkien were also organized at the Spanish universities of Alicante and Illes Balears, as well as the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona.

A ground-breaking book of the 2010’s was “El Tío Curro”: La conexión española de J.R.R. Tolkien, de José Manuel Ferrández (first published in 2013), which outlines the role of Father Francis Morgan—a member of the well-known Spanish Osborne family—in Tolkien’s early life. (The book was translated into English and published by Luna Press as “Uncle Curro”: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Spanish Connection, in 2018.) A more controversial, if less original study, which interprets The Lord of the Rings as a Christian allegory, was published by Diego Blanco in 2016 under the title Un camino inesperado: desvelando la parábola de El señor de los Anillos (An Unexpected Road: Revealing the Parable of The Lord of the Rings). The book was favourably received by many Catholic readers. We should also mention José María Miranda’s original and thought-provoking study of the role of law and order in Tolkien’s invented world, El derecho en Tolkien (Law in Tolkien), which was first published in 2017. (A revised and expanded English version of this book is currently being prepared by Walking Tree Publishers.) Finally, a fourth book on Tolkien in this period was Martin Simonson’s El Oeste recuperado: La literatura del pasado y la construcción de personajes en El Señor de los Anillos (The West Regained: The Literature of the Past and Character Development in The Lord of the Rings), published in 2018. 

As for studies published in English by Spanish scholars, Simonson edited an international anthology entitled Representations of Nature in Middle-earth for Walking Tree Publishers in 2015, which used a mainly ecocritical lens for the analysis of Tolkien’s works. Various articles by the researchers Helio De Rosario and José Manuel Ferrández were also published in international journals such as Tolkien Studies, Mallorn and Mythlore, and by Eduardo Segura in Hither Shore. Ferrández has specialized in the formative years of Tolkien and his connection with Spain, while De Rosario centers more on linguistic matters. Segura’s research has touched upon many different aspects of Tolkien, but mainly, perhaps, on the spiritual aesthetics present in his works, and the film adaptations. The latter theme was thoroughly explored in the book El Señor de los Anillos: del libro a la pantalla [The Lord of the Rings: From Book to Screen], edited by Segura and Alejandro Pardo of the University of Navarra, with contributions by various Spanish scholars and a foreword by Tom Shippey.

The 2010’s saw the appearance of a number of posthumous publications related both to the legendarium and to other aspects of Tolkien’s career as a writer and scholar. These works doubtlessly contributed to the steadily growing appreciation, in the Spanish-speaking world, of Tolkien as an important twentieth-century writer. Following the translations of The Children of Húrin and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, Minotauro published translations of The Fall of Arthur; Tolkien’s version of Beowulf with the corresponding comments and notes; The Story of Kullervo; Beren and Lúthien and The Fall of Gondolin, soon after the original works came out in English. Garth’s seminal biography Tolkien and the Great War was also made available to a Spanish-speaking readership in these years. 

In response to this sustained program of publications by and about Tolkien, the 2010’s would see an increase in Spanish scholarship on Tolkien, frequently under the auspices of doctoral and postdoctoral research undertaken at different Spanish universities. The departments of English at the University of Granada and the University of the Basque Country, as well as the CEU University of San Pablo in Madrid, the University of Francisco de Vitoria and the University of Zaragoza, contributed to this trend, hosting a series of conferences on Tolkien and the Inklings. The annual international conferences on the Inklings at the University of the Basque Country proved particularly influential in stimulating an interest in postgraduate research on Tolkien, attracting students from different parts of the country, and a new generation of Spanish Tolkien scholars gradually emerged. Rafael Pascual, a specialist in Old English based at the University of Oxford (originally from Granada) and co-translator of The Fall of Arthur, and Andoni Cossio, a doctoral researcher of the University of the Basque Country centering on the role of trees and forests in Tolkien’s work, have both published ther findings in prominent international academic journals. In parallel, several PhD theses on different aspects of the works of Tolkien have been successfully defended across the country—at the University of León, the University of Vigo, the Universidad Autónoma of Madrid, the University of Santiago de Compostela and the University of the Basque Country, to name a few.

The popular and scholarly interest in Tolkien does not seem to abate in the present decade. In 2021, a collection of translated essays entitled J.R.R. Tolkien y la Tierra Media (J.R.R. Tolkien and Middle-earth) featured contributions by renowned international Tolkien scholars such as Tom Shippey, Verlyn Flieger, Thomas Honegger, Patrick Curry, Dimitra Fimi and Nick Groom, alongside the work of Spanish scholars Eduardo Segura, Jaume Albero, José Manuel Ferrández and Martin Simonson. Tolkien studies are also beginning to take off in Latin America. For a few years now, the Tolkien Societies of Colombia, Chile, Peru, Argentina and Mexico have been particularly active in promoting Tolkien’s works by means of publications, international conferences, periodical lectures and interviews. As for studies in English, Walking Tree Publishers is currently preparing a volume dedicated to Iberian scholarship on Tolkien; contributions to this volume include essays by Alejandro Martínez, Andoni Cossío, Amaya Fernández and Martin Simonson (all based at the University of the Basque Country), as well as Mónica Sanz, a philologist, Tolkien fandom specialist and member of the standing committee of the Spanish Tolkien Society. Without doubt, all these initiatives, publications and outlets for academic research in the Spanish-speaking world have contributed to consolidating an interest in the legacy of Tolkien as a writer and scholar.

Bibliographical references

Blanco, Diego. Un camino inesperado: desvelando la parábola de El señor de los Anillos

Ediciones Encuentro, 2016.

Carretero, Margarita. “Fantasía, épica y utopía en The Lord of the Rings: análisis 

temático y de la recepción”. Universidad de Granada, 1996.

Cid, Fernando (ed.). Quince caminos para seguir a Tolkien. Diputación Provincial de 

Cáceres, 2007.

Ferrández, José Manuel. “El Tío Curro”: La conexión española de J.R.R. Tolkien. Luna 

Press, 2018.

González, Luis. La lengua de los elfos. Minotauro, 1999.

Miranda, José María. El derecho en Tolkien (2017). Ediciones Cinca, 2017.

Odero, José Miguel. J.R.R. Tolkien. Cuentos de hadas. Eunsa, 1987.

Santoyo, Julio César and José Miguel Santamaría, Tolkien. Barcanova, 1983.

Savater, Fernando. La infancia recuperada. Taurus, 1976.

Segura, Eduardo. El viaje del Anillo. Minotauro, 2004.

Segura, Eduardo, and Guillermo Peris (eds.) Tolkien o la fuerza del mito. Libros Libres, 

2003.

Segura, Eduardo, and Thomas Honegger (eds.). Myth and Magic: Art According to the 

Inklings. Walking Tree Publishers, 2007.

Segura, Eduardo and Alejandro Pardo (eds.). El Señor de los Anillos: del libro a la 

pantalla. PortalEditions, 2012.

Simonson, Martin The Lord of the Rings and the Western Narrative Tradition. Walking 

Tree Publishers, 2008.

Simonson, Martin and Eduardo Segura (eds.). J.R.R. Tolkien: Mitopoeia y Mitología

Simonson, Martin (ed.). Representations of Nature in Middle-earth. Walking Tree 

Publishers, 2015

Simonson, Martin. El Oeste recuperado: La literatura del pasado y la construcción de 

personajes en El Señor de los Anillos. Peter Lang, 2018.

Simonson, Martin and José R. Montejano (eds.). J.R.R. Tolkien y la Tierra Media. 

Jonathan Alwars, 2021.