The End of Bovadium

From Tolkien Gateway

"The End of Bovadium" (author's title),[1] also commonly referred to as "The Bovadium Fragments", is an unpublished story by J.R.R. Tolkien, possibly written in the early 1960s.[2][3]

In 1968, Tolkien included The End of Bovarium among those of his unpublished works that he had "no intention of publishing now (if ever), or of allowing them to get in the way of my proper work."[1] However, earlier Tolkien seems to have been of a different opinion. On 25 October 1960 Tolkien sought (through his secretary Elisabeth Lumsden) to publish what is believed to be this writing (since it was described as "a sort of satirical fantasy") in the magazine Time and Tide.[note 1][4] And on 24 August 1966 Tolkien lent Rayner Unwin the manuscript, who wrote to Tolkien already the next day, thinking that he "should publish it in the Oxford Magazine." Also Clyde S. Kilby was given a copy, being asked if the piece was worthy of publication.[5] Kilby would later (1976) recall that the story was:

[a] satire written long before and having as its main point the worship of the Motores, i.e., automobiles, and the traffic jams blocking the roads in and around Oxford. It was full of the inventiveness to be expected of Tolkien. Some of the characters are Rotzopny, Dr. Gums, and Sarevelk. I judged that it had two elements that would make it unpublishable. One was the more than liberal use of Latin, and the other the probability that a reader's eye would focus on its playfulness rather than its serious implications. Actually it was an early comment on the commercialization of our world.[6]

A few more details about the contents were provided in Humphrey Carpenter's summary dating from 1977, saying that the story "is a parable of the destruction of Oxford (Bovadium) by the motores manufactured by the Daemon of Vaccipratum (a reference to Lord Nuffield and his motor-works at Cowley) which blocks the streets, asphyxiate the inhabitants, and finally explode." Carpenter also notes that the theme of "motor transport" connects the story to Mr. Bliss.[2]

The writing is kept at the Bodleian Library (Department of Western Manuscripts, Mss. Tolkien, Series A, folder A62, pages 38-91),[7] which suggests that the manuscript consists of 53 pages.[8]

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  1. Tolkien had earlier published his poem "Imram" in the magazine Time and Tide (issue 3 December 1955. Cf. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Sauron Defeated, "Part Two: The Notion Club Papers", p. 296.