John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, father of the middle Earth stories, had this incredible monogram made by himself : Putting his Initials in a typographic art, he used that symbol to sign some of his original artwork.
If you want more explanation about the logo, let's go inside the drawing !
1.Let's do some Fun fonts monogram with J J R T letters
I've tried to do the same work that tolkien did when building up his monogram.
I've used the -Ringbearer- font you could find here, and stacks the 4 letters one on each other :
The second "R" is in Russian mode and the result is pretty close to the Tolien symbol except for the 2 packs of four dots and the flame on the top of it. So what does they mean and is there something more than his initials ?
Based on this Reddit chat, there are several options :
- Tolkien loved calligraphy and could explain all this
- He got inspired by the chinese symbol shú but no explanations for the dots
- This is not the monogram used by Tolkien
Based on this second chat here, there are thoses others proposals:
- In runes, words are divided by dots (but it's not written in runes !)
- the full evolution of the symbol 1906-1936
- the dots are flower petals
- The dots may comes from the four separators between each letters : J.R.R.T. - but why two sets of 4 dots ?
2.History of the tolkien Monogram
I've done investigations with looking at the books editions and Tolkien's illustrations to retrace the history of this monogram as the Monogram did evolve from 1906 to 1937, followed by 30 years without monogram modification and some evolutions made by publishers after his deathIt all started with the drawings made by JrrTolkien he signed with his own sigature and it started in 1906..
1906, first monogram signature of tolkien
Tolkien is aged 14 when he draw this sketch of Lyme Regis Harbour. The monogram is a simple J without dot, R and T.
1910. Signed with full name Ronald Tolkien !
Tolkien is 18 and have a huge passion for landscape drawing. Here is a signature of him without monogram but simply Ronald Tolkien ! (source)
1911.Rolls Royce style for a farm drawing
This farm is known as lamb's farm (source), later baptised as phoenix farm. There is another drawing made of this farm in 1913.
the tolkien monogram features a double R, a bigger R and a smaller R, just like Rolls Royce logo which also appears in 1911 !
1912.Sketchbook and double R
First apparition of the double R in a mirror effect. The lower part of the monogram is symetrical and the J got it's point on it.
1912.Tolkien in Love - The monogram evolution
1912 is a very special time for Tolkien : he fell in love with Edith in 1908 and wasn't allow to see her for years otherwise he would have to cancel his studies at Oxford.
He waits for his majority birthday (21) to make his wedding proposal to Edith. Source
1913. Tolkien is in love : grown up, new family and financial stability
Tolkien asked Edith, she says yes and a page is turned : This is the end of his irresponsible student life.(source). The monogram did evolve and we can notice the first appearance of the 4 dots in the signature, wich are also in the text of the drawing as a separator.
What the 4 dots means in Tolkien's Runes
Tolkien started studying Finish Langage as he wants to read the "Kevala" : a Finnish oral folklore and mythology.
The Tolkien's Tengwar language he created give an accurate meaning of the four dots (source) : In the King’s letter documents, four dots in a diamond formation are used to indicate a strong pause as punctuation.
The appearance of the four dots in tolkien's life match the time of big changes in his life : his wedding with Edith, not a student anymore able to earn his life, the joy of a young man !
1913. Four dots twice in the Tokien monogram
Another version of the happy young man signature with the apparition of a second dots pack. This symbol is really connected to Tolkien's personnal life : his wedding's to come.
Theses two symbols may represent Ronald and Edith, their union, the King and Queen finally come together.
1914. the book of Ishness tolkien monogram
A very symetrical monogram in an illustration of the first text about the middle earth genesis.
A strong pause to come with the following years with first world War, Tolkien getting married before his departure to WWI. I will turns back in 1916 in U.K for health recovery.
1926. Tolkien monogram in 1926
Tolien had time for writing just after WW1, during his health recovery. He start to write the hobbit and mend up his monogram. A flame could be seen here over the "J", one of the rare apparition of the flame on all his monogram versions.
1937. Tolkien monograms in the Hobbit
Theses are pictures found in the "Hobbit" first edition, published in 1937. A first example inside the hobbiton illustration :
We also find several distinct others monogram, such as on the map "wilderland".
the trolls shows an interresting version with a dot on the top of the "J"
And a tiny monogram found on the dustcover of the book : we are getting closer to the modern monogram !
1938. Conversation with Smaug, last handwritten jrrt monogram version
A very interresting version here with a picture of the 1938 colored edition of the hobbit, featuring a new monogram in "conversation with Smaug"
This is as far as i found on the web, the last version of the monogram handwritten by Tolkien and it actually is very close to the modern monogram we all know :
The border of the "T", the down part of the "J" finishing in a teardrop.
1957-1960 Unsigned artworks
The two pictures ahead are artworks drawn by Tolkien in the 50's. Both are not signed and don't mention any monogram. He seems to not use the monogram in his late years.
1973 - 1979. The calendars serie of pictures
Unfortunately, all the pictures of this book are dated of 1937 or 1938 with few drawings of the 60's without any monogram signature. (pdf document here ).
1976,First appearance of the JRRT Monogram in the books
1976, three years after Tolkien passed away, the modern version of the Tolkien monogram appeared on the title page of the Book "Drawings by Tolkien: Catalogue of an Exhibition of Drawings by J.R.R. Tolkien" - Oxford: Ashmolean Museum - London: National Book League. - ( source on this forum )
This is the first time a monogram appears on a book and not on Tolkien's pictures : this was the Tolkien's signature for his drawing not for his books.
The picture shows a first version made by a graphic Typo designer (computer was still at pre-historic age)
This is a mirror view : The "J" is on the wrong side and dots packs are on the top left and down right side. It looks like the monogram was printed in reverse ! Tolkien choices or Publisher choices or a mistake...?
It's also a logo designed after his death by s graphic designer. They may have been inspired by the following monograms of tolkien to design this one :
- "Conversation with smaug" for the general shape of the logo
- "Grownupishness" for the dots packs
- "Pageant house gardens" for using twice the dot packs. But still don't see the choice for placing the dot packs.
- "The trolls" for the design of the flame on the J
1980. Unfinished tales, first edition.
Remove the dustcover of the book and it will appear ! Here is the monogram without the 2 packs of 4 dots, but printed on the correct side : The J is on the correct side !
The Tolkien Estate and Editors were still working together on the new Monogram and this time, it wasn't printed in reverse mode. They deliberately forget to put the packs of Dots !
1981.First edition of the unpublished Tolkien Letters : here it is !
Published in 1981, the Designer has been asked to add something more to the Monogram and got inspired by the packs of dots Tolkien used in 1913. This is the final version of the monogram since then : I've matched some of theses published in 90's 2000's and 2000+ and they all match perfectly this model.
Now that we know a little bit more about the evolution of this monogram we can go further and see what all the runes means !
3. Runes written all around the Tolkien logoDo you remember the ring, the one that when placed in a fire show inscription in the "Black Speech" language, well this inscription on the inner side of the One ring is represented all around the JRR Tolkien logo, a sort of Sauron Poem :
Ash nazg durbatulûk,ash nazg gimbatul,
Ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul - Sauron -
For the non-fluent in black language :
One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them,
One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them - Sauron -
The Original Author, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien wrote it near his fireplace cottage while smoking his pipe..
Now, let's have a look at the next Runes of the Poem :
The One ring and the others
The runes told the story of the rings origins : the Rings for all the Kings and Lords of the midlle Earth and the One which control all of them.
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie,
The Story around the One Ring
Gandalf was suspicious of the Ring, and later forced the real story from Bilbo.
Frodo chased by the black riders
After the Council of Elrond, the fellowship is founded.
To help the Fellowship to escape from the moria, Gandalf fought the Balrog
The fellowship lost Gandalf but escaped from the doom
Meanwhile, Saruman raise an Orc Army in Isengard
The Orcs of Isengard, an army born from the deep pits around Saruman tower : a large numbers of powerful warrior Orcs called "Uruk-hai".
Treebeard, leader of the Ents fight back
Treebeard, leader of the Ents, seeing that the Orcs would destroy his forest of Fangorn, led an army of trees to Isengard, destroyed and flooded it.
The eye of Sauron can see everything
Gandalf the white is back at the helm deep battle
Meanwhile in Gondor, the sword is reforged
Narsil was a longsword used by his Isildur to cut the One Ring from Sauron's hand during the battle of the last alliance. The shards of Narsil were reforged by the Elves.
The end of Sauron, gollum and Frodo's finger
Gollum attacks the invisible Frodo, and bite off his finger. So happy to get his precious back, Gollum loses his balance and falls into the lava.
The Ring is destroyed, Sauron's power as well and Middle finger of Frodo as well...