Bilbo and The Silmarillion

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halfir 13/Dec/2006 at 02:44 PM
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Tolkien saw The Silmarillion as ’the work of his heart’ - a view not shared by his publishers, Allen & Unwin,  or indeed those by whom he attempted to get it published.

In a conversation with Dick Plotz  in November 1966, Tolkien told Plotz that:

’one of the snags delaying publication of The Silmarillion is its quasi-buiblical style, which Tolkien considers ’his best, but his publishers disagree. Another problem is that of finding a story line to connect all the parts. At the moment Professor Tolkien is considering making use of Bilbo again...perhaps The Silmarillion will appear as his research in Rivendell.’{Plotz quoted in Hammond&Scull The JRR Tolkien Companion and Guide- Vol.Chronology.}

In the event, of course, Tolkien did not live to see The Silmarillion published, and Bilbo never made his entry, even as historian, onto the stage of the creation of ME, but it’s interesting to note that Tolkien saw this as one possible avenue of The Silmarillion’s development.

Needless to say, Hammond&Scull have produced yet another masterpiece. This really is a must for Christmas for all serious Tolkien lovers..

geordie 13/Dec/2006 at 03:36 PM
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Blimey, halfir - up to p.679 already?

Let’s see - yes, that piece is taken from an article published in the US magazine Seventeen of January 1967 [rootles around for a minute] - here we are. p.92 - ah yes. Plotz is one of the better correspondents I’ve read regarding interviews with Tolkien - though as he says, Tolkien did’nt seem to like straightforward question and answer type talks; so the ’interview’ took more the form of a conversation.

It’s interesting to se that Tolkien had toyed with the idea of using Bilbo in some way as transmitter of the Silmarillion - in having The Silmarillion as his ’Translations from the Elvish’. In fact, that’s how I’ve always seen it. The three large leather bound books which he gave to Frodo [was it three? Can’t remember..]

Anyway; it’s interesting to note that in 1965 Tolkien took the opportunity to change the Foreword completely [the 1st ed, foreword is in Hammond-Scull’s other necessary book, LotR A Reader’s Companion]. Here Tolkien tells us [in effect] that the reason TH is different in style to LotR is that TH is Bilbo’s diary - and that Bilbo is not assiduous, nor an orderly narrator. He could’nt use B.B. as ’historian’ of The SIlm. with that description hanging over his head, so I guess that’s the reason - or part of the reason - for removing this passage from the Foreword in the 1965 revision.

And he gave a set of the new A&U revised ed. [1966] to Dick Plotz. plus a new ed. of TH, both of ’em signed. And Scull-Hammond note that a couple of days later, he writes to ask Rayner Unwin to send him copies to replace the ones he gave to Plotz!

Incidentally - nothing to do with the Seventeen interview; this is from memory, taken from Hammond’s Bibliography - consider the phrase Elen sila lumenn omentielvo. In the 1st ed, there was an ’m’ in ’omentielvo’, so - ’omentielmo’. Like that. But Tolkien decided for sound philological reasons to change the ’m’ to a ’v’. Omentielvo. so far so good. But. Mr. Plotz noticed this in the 1st Ballantine printing of 1965, and decided that it was a printer’s error. So he contacted Ballantine, who changed the lettering back to ’m’. And this state of affairs carried on until Tolkien spotted it, and stepped in. Can’t remember when that was - maybe after Plotz’s trip to Oxford.

And another thing - Tolkien was talking about a possibility of bringing out Silm as a series of short books; poss. beginning in the following year. And Plotz had spoken to ’Tolkien’s son’ - did’nt say which son; I guess Christopher. And this son had said ’I dont know what state Silm is in; I haven’t read it for about seven years’.

As halfir says - the Scull-Hammond is a must - a totally absorbing piece of work. I recommend it wholeheartedly.
halfir 13/Dec/2006 at 08:50 PM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

geordie: Informative as ever. Thanks so much. X(I can quite see why Tolkien would wish to change the Foreword given this thought regarding Bilbo and The Silmarillion.

And no, I’m not up to page 679, just being a butterfly and alighting on the gems on offer- which actually means I will have to alight on every page- what a magnificent work, they deserve a Nobel prize for diligence alone!

Eltara 16/Dec/2006 at 09:21 AM
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Hmm Bilbo and the Sil?? Interesting to know that Tolkien had thought of that....though I think the way the Sil turned out worked just great. I love the Sil because there are so many loose ends leaving your imagination tons of room to run wild and at the same time it adds even more substance to the whole wonderful world of Middle Earth.

elendil88 17/Dec/2006 at 08:41 AM
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I havent read the Sil yet, is it any good. How does it relate to LOTR. I have seen that many people think it is the best book. I have it, yet i just havent got round to reading it. Does it follow on from LOTR or does it come before, or does it not really matter in which order  you read it.
geordie 17/Dec/2006 at 12:13 PM
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I don’t think Silm is better than LotR, though it is very good. It’s a long history, beginning with the creation of the world; and telling the tales of peoples in the world from earliest times. It’s meant to be written from the Elves’ point of view. Not many laughs. No hobbits. But there are many moments of sheer beauty, and terror. I like it.
Kaulargorn 17/Dec/2006 at 12:26 PM
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They are very different books. I like more the Silmarillion in general because in their there are many great stories and major events but you get more attatched to the LotR which is actually because the story is developed in great depth by Tolkien. In Silmarillion, although there are so many great stories, Tolkien doesn’t have the time to develop deeply in very interesting stories but the quantity is bigger
Tenharien Calmcacil 17/Dec/2006 at 02:09 PM
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OMG, I fianlly got the the Simarillion! My Girl got it for me for christmas. And incase your wondering, i opened it because she is going to ohio for christmas and she wanted to watch me open it , lol. Anyhow i cannto wait to read this book .It looks amazing. Fianlly i will actually get to read word for word and not skim the damn thing in 15 mins(long story).
Janskin 17/Dec/2006 at 04:15 PM
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I have yet to be able to get through the Silmarillion...I’m too used to the story style of the Rings trilogy, and just can’t get into the history. It just all seems so dry and boring to me...
halfir 17/Dec/2006 at 06:02 PM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

I’m too used to the story style of the Rings trilogy, and just can’t get into the history

You are by no means alone in  your view.

However, we must remember that Tolkien never actually finished The Silmarillion in a form that he had readied for pubication, and CT has done a masterful job in providing us with the edition that he did.

For me, The Silmarillion is at the same time rhapsodic and dull, moments of great beauty, power, and grandeur, interspersed with  episodes of tedium. It is not a favorite Tolkien work of mine, although I understand its significance as the foundation stone of the legendarium, but it is episodic rather than flowing, , somewhat inchoate, and certainly lacks the controlling storyline of LOTR.

Maiarian Man 17/Dec/2006 at 09:44 PM
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In the Myths Transformed section of HoME X we see that Tolkien has essentially changed his mind about the internal history of the Silmarillion text. On one account (given in the first Myths Transformed text), Tolkien sketched out the possibility that the flat-earth cosmology presented in the Silmarillion is not problematic because it is the work of men, and not Elves--the latter of whom would know that the world was round from the beginning, as Tolkien later decided it was). This means that the Silmarillion becomes a Numenorean tradition, rather than an Eressean tradition written by Pengolodh and Rumil et. al. Accordingly, we need a new method by which the stories come down to the modern day. The old story of Aelfwine coming to Eressea, which is preserved in the last narratives of teh Silmarillon dating from the 1950s, will no longer do. If the texts are Numenorean, they have to be handed down among generations of people living on Middle-earth. (One might suppose that there is a second, Elvish version of teh stories, but that doesn’t help us. Tolkien clearly thinks that what we have today is a mannish set of legends, not something written by Pengolodh). Thus, Tolkien writes: "What we have in the Silmarillion etc. are traditions . . . handwritten by Men in Numenor and later in Middle-earth (Arnor and Gondor) . . ."

He writes in another note: "The three Great Tales must be Numenorean, and derived from matter preserved in Gondor." And in the abandoned typescript of the Annals of Aman, Tolkien began with a n addition to the typical ascription of the work to Rumil: "Here begin the ’Annals of Aman’. Rumil made them in the Elder Days, they were held in memory by the Exiles. Those parts which we learned and remembered were thus set down in Numenor before the Shadow fell upon it."

With this in mind it would be unsurprising if Bilbo, or at least the Red Book, was the work through which the Silmarillion is supposed to come down to modern times. However, it is hard to see how Bilbo’s Translations from Elvish, composed from research at Rivendell, would rely upon Numenorean/mannish traditions (perhaps from Arnor, though why not just use the Elvish histories? And in one of the above notes, Tolkien explicitly mentions Gondor, not Arnor--but that is minor point that is easily changed to accomadate Bilbo). Nevertheless, this is perhaps the groundwork for Tolkien’s desire to include Bilbo in the authorship of the Silmarillion.
elendil88 18/Dec/2006 at 12:41 PM
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thanks geordie, i will certainly get down to reading it. although i am a part of gondor, i just think that the elves are so beautiful and almost perfect. i look forward to reading it so that i can take part in your advanced discussions. thankyou!
geordie 18/Dec/2006 at 01:44 PM
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elendil88 -