Tolkien Gateway


AuthorJ.R.R. Tolkien
EditorChristina Scull & Wayne G. Hammond
IllustratorJ.R.R. Tolkien
PublisherHarperCollins (UK)
Houghton Mifflin (US)
Released5 January 1998 (UK)
15 April 1998 (US)
SeriesTales from the Perilous Realm

Roverandom is a short children's story by J.R.R. Tolkien published posthumously in 1998. Originally told in 1925 - and written down in 1927 - the story tells of the adventures of the dog Rover who is turned into a toy by the wizard Artaxerxes. Rover goes on adventures to the moon and the bottom of the Deep Blue Sea on his quest to undo his bewitchment.

Tolkien wrote Roverandom for his second son, Michael, to console him for the loss of his own little black-and-white toy dog on a beach in Yorkshire.


[edit] History

In early September 1925, the Tolkien family (then Ronald, Edith, John, Michael and a one-year-old Christopher) went on holiday to the seaside resort of Filey in Yorkshire. Although Tolkien had holidayed there previously in 1922, Tolkien described Filey as "a very nasty little suburban seaside resort".[1]:146 During the holiday, Michael lost his beloved black-and-white toy dog on the beach; although the family searched for it, the toy dog could not be found.

To console his son, Tolkien created the story of Roverandom to explain the adventures of the dog. Tolkien wrote the story down, based on his own oral version, in 1927 and also provided a number of illustrations which have since been published.[2]:77-83 A few years later, Tolkien submitted Roverandom for publication to George Allen & Unwin in 1936 and although the book was described by Rayner Unwin as "well written and amusing" it was never considered for publication, perhaps as a result of a desire for a sequel to The Hobbit.[3]:xvii

The popularity of Roverandom led to Tolkien creating other stories for his children, including Mr. Bliss.[1]:216 ff And whilst each of these tales remained distinct and separate, Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull have noted a number of similarities and crossovers with Roverandom. These include points of convergence with The Book of Lost Tales and The Silmarillion[4] in both the great whale Uin and the geography of "the Shadowy Seas", "the great Bay of Fairyland beyond the Magic Isles" where Roverandom then saw "in the last West the Mountains of Elvenhome".[3]:73-4 They also note the similarity of not just the spiders of the Moon and those in The Hobbit, but that Tolkien also recycled several elements of his drawings in his illustrations of The Hobbit, including the dragon, the spider and the mountainous landscape.[2]:81

Roverandom was finally published by HarperCollins on 5 January 1998, edited by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, over 70 years after it was first written.[5] Since 2008, Roverandom has also been included in the collection Tales from the Perilous Realm.[6]

[edit] Description from the publisher

An unpublished full-length story written and illustrated by the author of The Hobbit.

In 1925, while the Tolkiens were on holiday at Filey in Yorkshire, four-year-old Michael lost his beloved little lead dog on the beach. To comfort him, J.R.R.Tolkien wrote Roverandom, a story about a real dog, Rover, who is turned into a toy by a wizard. When dropped on the beach by a small boy, the toy is transported to the moon along the path of light the moon makes when it shines over the sea. The Man in the Moon renames him ‘Roverandom’ and gives him wings.

Roverandom and Moondog set out on a series of adventures, encountering the Great White Dragon and other moon fauna like giant spiders and dragon-moths. Finally, back on Earth, Roverandom travels under the sea inside Uin, oldest of the whales, to ask the wizard who changed him into a toy to undo the spell.

J.R.R.Tolkien was a prolific storyteller to his children, though few of his early stories survive. Roverandom was a particular favourite, so much so that Tolkien wrote it out and even illustrated it himself. But for over 70 years it has remained unpublished. Bearing many of the hallmarks which were to make The Hobbit such a classic ten years later, this delightful book is finally published together with Tolkien’s own paintings and drawings. Introduced by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull, authors of the acclaimed J.R.R.Tolkien: Artist & Illustrator, this book is destined to become a classic and will be welcomed by Tolkien fans of all ages.[5]

[edit] Plot

Edge of the World by Alan Lee

Rover, a black and white dog who lives with old lady and a cat named Tinker, is playing in the garden with his yellow ball when a wizard comes along and picks it up. When the wizard, Artaxerxes, refuses to give the ball back Rover bites his trousers; in retaliation, the wizard turns Rover into a small toy dog and transports him into a toy store. Placed in the window of the shop, Rover is sold for a sixpence to a woman who gives Rover to her second son (boy Two). The next day, Rover is taken to the beach by boy Two but falls out of his pocket when startled by a seagull. The boys (and their father) search for the toy dog but they can't find him. As the tide comes in, Rover is turned back into a real dog (but not his normal size) by Psamathos Psamathides, an ugly sand-sorcerer who is the oldest of the Psamathists.

When Rover wakes up he is met by a seagull named Mew. Mew is Psamathos's postman and flies Rover around the beach before taking him to a great cliff with hundreds of other black-backed gulls. After collecting various messages, Mew took Rover along the moon-path flying over the Isle of Dogs (a home for lost dogs with bone-trees) and passing the edge of the world to reach the moon. Atop of a tall white tower, Rover and Mew meet the Man-in-the-Moon who gives Rover wings so Rover can play with the Man-in-the-Moon's dog (also named "Rover"). The Man-in-the-Moon renames Rover "Roverandom" and Rover stays with the Man-in-the-Moon and goes on many adventures around the moon. On one of their adventures, Roverandom and the moon-dog accidentally journey into the shadowy edge of the dark side of the moon and seek refuge in a cave; the cave turns out to be the lair of the Great White Dragon. The Great White Dragon used to live on Snowdon and damaged the Three Islands but now, residing on the moon, was determined to turn the moon red and chase the dogs. However, as they came close to the Man-in-the-Moon's tower the dragon was hit by a great rocket - the black splodges on his body caused him to be renamed the "Mottled Monster".

The Man-in-the-Moon takes Roverandom to the dark side of the moon (where everything is in reverse) but going down a hole right through the middle of the moon. After meeting two spiders, they follow a long grey path to a valley filled with children. Sliding down the black cliff-edge into the valley, Roverandom discovers that the children in the valley are all dreaming. After seeing a yellow ball, he meets boy Two again - the boy Two talk and play together until boy Two suddenly disappears when he wakes up. Returning to the white side of the moon, Roverandom looks into the Man-in-the-Moon's telescope to see the boys on the beach and Artaxerxes waiting outside his house. Although Roverandom likes being on the moon, he longs to return to the world and be with boy Two; the Man-in-the-Moon says that this is now possible as Artaxerxes has married the daughter of the Mer-king and is living at the bottom of the Deep Blue Sea. After saying goodbye to the Man-in-the-Moon and Moon-Rover, Mew collects Roverandom and takes him back to the world.

When back in the cove, Psamathos says he will return Roverandom to his normal size and he can go and live with the old lady (to whom he rightfully belongs, not boy Two), however, Psamathos's magic fails against Artaxerxes' bewitchment. Roverandom goes to see Artaxerxes as the bottom of the Deep Blue Sea and is taken there in the mouth of a giant whale named Uin. Artaxerxes is very busy as the Pacific and Atlantic Magician (PAM for short) and ignores Roverandom's requests. However, he gives Roverandom webbed feet so he can play with Mrs Artaxerxes's mer-dog "Rover". After Artaxerxes fails to deal with the Sea-serpent (who is woken up thanks to Roverandom), the mer-people ask Artaxerxes to leave; Artaxerxes leaves with Roverandom, and agrees to turn Roverandom to his normal size, as Roverandom was the only person to have been polite to the wizard.

After returning to the England (but not Psamathos's cove), Artaxerxes restores Roverandom to his normal size. Roverandom is sent to walk home all by himself but when he gets back to the old lady's house he discovers boy Two playing in the garden with his yellow ball: the old lady was the grandmother of boy Two. Afterwards, Roverandom lives with boy Two in the house by the beach and over many years became good friends with Psamathos.

[edit] Characters

The Mottled Monster by Alan Lee
  • Rover - later known as Roverandom - is a black and white dog who is turned into a toy by the wizard Artaxerxes. The story follows his adventures to the moon and back.
  • Artaxerxes, a 2,000-year old wizard from Persia who mistakenly ended up in Pershore. He is an old man with ragged trousers and a green hat who turns Rover into a toy for not saying "please" and biting his trousers. He becomes the Pacific and Atlantic Magician (PAM) after he marries a daughter of the Mer-king.
  • Psamathos Psamathides, the head of the Psamathists, a fat and ugly sand-sorcerer who transforms Rover from a toy into a small "fairy-dog".
  • Man-in-the-Moon, the greatest of all magicians, who lives in a white tower in the moon. He renames Rover "Roverandom" and gives him wings.
  • Mew, a black-backed gull who is Psamathos's postman. He takes Rover to and from the moon.
  • Uin, a giant whale who transports Roverandom to and from the bottom of the Deep Blue Sea.
  • Great White Dragon, a resident of the moon who chases Roverandom and the moon-Rover. Following his encounter with the Man-in-the-Moon he is renamed the "Mottled Monster".
  • Rover, the moon-dog, the Man-in-the-Moon's flying dog.
  • Rover, the mer-dog, Mrs Artaxerxes's underwater dog.
  • Tinker, a large black cat who lived in the same house as Rover.
  • Boy Two (representing Michael Tolkien), the owner of toy-dog Rover who encounters Roverandom on the dark side of the moon.

[edit] Reception

Most reviews from the general press offered modest praise, with more enthusiastic acclaim from Tolkien aficionados; reviewers particularly lauded Tolkien's descriptive ability. Tolkien scholar David Bratman praised Roverandom saying "Mum is not the word for Roverandom: this book can be enjoyed by anyone who loves The Hobbit, from the most abstruse Tolkien scholar to intelligent children of perhaps age 8 or 10." Although admitting that this was a less-polished work by Tolkien, Bratman did confirm that "Some of the best writing is in lyrical descriptions of the moonscape and seascape."[7] Jessica Yates, writing in Books for Keeps, pointed out the connections between Roverandom and both The Silmarillion and other children's stories from the 1920s. Yates concluded that Roverandom is "a jolly good children's tale" with a "scholarly and most useful introduction".[8]

Writing for January Magazine, David Grayson also praised the descriptions - particularly the "sense of awe" - of Roverandom's world and felt this would be a good book to introduce children to Tolkien. However, Grayson also made clear that this was a "mediocre tale".[9] Trent Walters felt that the editorial content was "tastefully done" and summarised the book: "Whether Roverandom will become a classic or not is up to the future generations of young readers and what they remember loving and what they choose to read to their own kids. But, if you're just looking for an unalloyed, unmolested good time to read aloud to your children (or your make-believe children), call up this book."[10]

Daniel Offer of Fantasy Book Review offered cautious praise of Roverandom giving it a 7/10 score: "While Roverandom will probably never be listed among the great classics, this theme rings true, making the book a valuable addition to any library." But Offer did caution that "The book is probably not so compelling that you will be unable to put it down, and it probably won’t be one that you reread every year. [...] The doggy protagonist seemed rather flat, and was much less interesting than the things he saw and the things he did." Offer summed up the book as "charming".[11]

Adam Mars-Jones, writing in The Observer, mirrors Bratman's praise of Tolkien's descriptions: "In his descriptions Tolkien brings off the occasional effect worthy of epic". However, Mars-Jones was overall more scathing as he criticsed the book for being edited "to within an inch of its life" whilst the characterisation was "rudimentary" and that the flat-Earth cosmology was unsatisfactory. He concluded that "most admirers of Tolkien will want to turn down this chance".[12] A review in The Telegraph, titled "Completists always prove willing buyers", argued that the story might not be strong enough in its own right,[13] whilst Kirkus offered the most strident warning: "The story was rejected by Tolkien's publisher in 1937 and has lain neglected ever since. With good reason. [...] Even for Tolkien scholars, these are awfully thin bones to pick over."[14]

Average readers' scores for Roverandom are fairly consistent in moderate praise. On Google, average readers' scores are 4.12/5 (8.24/10),[15] and the average score at Goodreads is 3.83/5 (7.66)[16] which was mirrored by users on Amazon who have given Roverandom an average score of 3.87/5 (7.73/10).[17]

[edit] Publication history

HarperCollins 1998 hardback  
HarperCollins 1998 paperback  
HarperCollins 2002 paperback  
HarperCollins 2013 pocket hardback  

[edit] See also

[edit] External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography
  2. 2.0 2.1 Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist & Illustrator
  3. 3.0 3.1 J.R.R. Tolkien; Christina Scull, Wayne G. Hammond (eds.), Roverandom
  4. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. lxxii
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Roverandom", (accessed 1 June 2014)
  6. "Tales from the Perilous Realm Cover Revealed" dated 1 July 2008, Tolkien Library (accessed 1 June 2014)
  7. David Bratman, "Reviews: Roverandom" dated 1 April 1998, Mythprint (accessed 26 May 2014)
  8. Jessica Yates, "Review: Roverandom" in Books for Keeps, March 1998
  9. David Grayon, "A Forgotten Tolkien Tale", January Magazine (accessed 26 May 2014)
  10. Trent Walters, "Roverandom", SFSite (accessed 26 May 2014)
  11. Daniel Offer, "Roverandom by JRR Tolkien", Fantasy Book Review (accessed 26 May 2014)
  12. Adam Mars-Jones, "Hobbit forming" dated 1 January 1988, The Observer (accessed 26 May 2014)
  13. "Completists always prove willing buyers" in The Daily Telegraph 9 May 1998, p. A4
  14. "Roverandom" dated 1 February 1998, Kirkus (accessed 26 May 2014)
  15. "Roverandom", Google Books (accessed 26 May 2014)
  16. "Roverandom", Goodreads (accessed 26 May 2014)
  17. "Customer Reviews - Roverandom", (accessed 26 May 2014)
Tales from the Perilous Realm
Farmer Giles of HamThe Adventures of Tom BombadilLeaf by NiggleSmith of Wootton MajorRoverandom (since 2008)