Tolkien Reading Day 2011

Last night I dreamed that I wrote The Lord of the Rings. I was Tolkien in my sleep.

(Apologies to Tim Vine.)

My contribution to Tolkien Reading Day has been a bit unexpected. See, in 1943, the Pope decided that the Catholic Church needed a new translation of the Bible; this was to become the Jerusalem Bible, with the English version being published in 1966. One of the contributers to this was JRR Tolkien. His involvement was limited due to time constraints, but he did manage to translate the book of Jonah.

Having read this version, it’s hard to separate the ‘literary’ aspects from the fact that it’s such a well known story, but one bit jumped out at me as having Tolkieny vibes; Jonah’s been swallowed by a big fish (not a whale!) and now he’s praying to God, outlining his situation (it’s chapter 2, verses 6 and 7 for any reference hunters out there):

“The waters surrounded me right to my throat,
the abyss was all around me.
The seaweed was wrapped around my head
at the roots of the mountains.
I went down into the countries underneath the earth,
to the people of the past.
But you lifted my life from the pit,
Yahweh, my God.”

So Tolkien helped translate the Bible, which I think is pretty cool. It’s a pity I haven’t got time to go into the theory that Shakespeare worked on the King James translation…

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