Michael Tolkien

Appendix 1  WISH (based on Florence Bone’s The Rose-coloured Wish (1923))


1.) Some Superficial Assumptions


a.) Since my name has become associated with The Rose-Coloured Wish I have come across the rather naïve suggestion that that F.B.’s story inspired Tolkien’s ring saga or at least influenced it. To my almost certain knowledge JRRT did not know F.B.’s stories. The surmise, which shows no awareness of the complex background to Tolkien’s fictional output with its vast history of the Ring, seems to be based on several salient features: this tale turns on obtaining a ‘lucky ringlet’ with power to fulfil wishes, benign or malign; it is in the hands of a sour, stunted, malevolent figure; the setting for the adventure to seize this ring for the safety and well-being of farmers, foresters and their families and flocks, is distinctly alpine.

b.) That setting, which I have retained and developed in my version, generated equally absurd speculation.

      My wife, who illustrated WISH throughout, made a selection from her original sketches and paintings of the Lauterbrunnen valley in the Bernese Oberland as a model for the cover illustration. When it appeared on the internet there was delight of an almost detective-like discovery in many quarters that she had based her work on Tolkien’s own painting of Rivendell.

      It’s quite possible, of course, that both artists were inspired by the same Swiss valley. But this is a different matter, and of far more significance than an assumed copying process. And it would involve establishing some careful details about Tolkien’s itinerary during his visit to Switzerland and sojourn at Grindelwald: did he ever view this valley from Wengen as did my wife and I in all its moods during our many summer holiday visits there?

    Arguably, in any case, Rivendell feels both in Tolkien’s picture and how it is described in The Hobbit, an altogether more intimate and sheltered place than the vast glacial valley, and the mountains are a more distant prospect, whereas they loom up over and dominate the Lauterbrunnen Valley.


2.) Dimensions added to Florence Bone’s material that may relate to Tolkien’s fiction


i) The sense of a long pre-history, which is dimly grasped. The geography and people are integral with this.

ii) A sought-after enchanted object has the capacity to dominate and corrupt its owner, and yet over others it may have no influence at all. And it may become a source of disinterested self-denial.

iii) An anti-macho view of heroism. Kindly wisdom has the edge over assertiveness.

iv) Principal places and landmarks have a linguistic relationship and layers of meaning.

v) The journeys, which form the main narrative threads, are given geographical clarity that can be mapped either literally or at least in the reader’s mind, and there is a realistic time sequence and duration.

vi) The setting may be in no specific era but it is rooted in a world recognisable as ours with all its flora and fauna and the physical challenges and sudden contrasts of thickly forested, isolated mountainous terrain.

vii) Orderly and harmonious day to day life in communities is fragile in a world dominated by greed, ambition and the use of deceit or violence to fulfil such desires.

viii) There is a link between spiritual death and the desecration of the natural world.

ix) There are figures who are ‘outside time’ yet very much part of the unfolding of the physical world, from the processes of which they derive their wisdom and authority


3.) Not inspired by a grandfather’s reading


Another illusion that has developed from an unknown source, is that my grandfather read Florence Bone’s tales to me, whereas there is no evidence that he ever encountered her work. If he did he neither mentioned it or read it to his children or grandchildren. As my preface suggests, it was my mother who read FB’s The Rose-Coloured Wish to me, and in fact I did not know of the existence of The Other Side of the Rainbow (the source of my RAINBOW)  until 2007. Even then I was uncertain for another two years as to whether it  could or would lead me into an engaging tale of my own.