Charles Noad- Biographical Details. When I asked Charles Noad for a biographical note I received a typically self-effacing reply: "Charles Noad is a retired computer programmer and sometime proofreader. He read The Lord of the Rings in 1961 and has more or less stuck with it since. There isn't really terribly much beyond that to say, really, and I doubt if the Plaza's good readers would want a detailed life of Noad in any case." So I'm probably going to get into hot water for going what I most certainly do not believe is a bridge too far in adding some further information! The sometime proofreader comment hides the fact that Charles played a leading role in the proof-reading of the HOME Series - something of a Labor of Hercules, like the very editing of that series iteself. More recently Charles has proof-read John D Rateliff's The History of The Hobbit. Also he has for some time been responsible for providing expert bibliographical information for the Tolkien Society Charles' published articles/essays include: "The Natures of Tom Bombadil: A Summary," in Leaves from the Tree , ed. Shippey "Frodo and His Spectre: Blakean Resonances in Tolkien," in Proceedings of the J. R. R. Tolkien Centenary Conference, ed. Reynolds and GoodKnight, "On the Construction of The Silmarillion," in Tolkien’s ‘Legendarium’, ed. Flieger and Hostetter And, on a non-Tolkien related topic, Charles is a specialist in Soviet rocketry! So it is with gratitude and delight that I welcome him on behalf of the Plaza to review for us the following works on Tolkien: The Evolution of Tolkien’s Mythology: A Study of the History of Middle-earth. Elizabeth A. Whittingham
Tolkien, Race and Cultural History: From Fairies to Hobbits. Dimitra Fimi.
Arda Reconstructed: The Creation of the Published Silmarillion. Douglas Charles Kane
************************************************** ****************************** The Evolution of Tolkien’s Mythology: A Study of the History of Middle-earth. Elizabeth A. Whittingham. (Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy, series editors Donald E. Palumbo and C.W. Sullivan III.) McFarlane & Company, Inc., Publishers: Jefferson, North Carolina, and London, 2008. 200 pp. (ISBN 978-0-7864-3281-3) £24.95. Tolkien, Race and Cultural History: From Fairies to Hobbits. Dimitra Fimi. Palgrave Macmillan: Houndmills, Basingstoke, 2009. 216 pp. (ISBN 978-0-230-21951-9) £50.00. Arda Reconstructed: The Creation of the Published Silmarillion. Douglas Charles Kane. Lehigh University Press: Bethlehem, 2009. 269 pp. (ISBN 978-0-9801496-3-0) $65.00.
Critical response to The History of Middle-earth has been slow in coming. Up until recently only two volumes ? Tolkien’s Legendarium (2000), edited by Verlyn Flieger and Carl F. Hostetter, and Professor Flieger’s own Interrupted Music (2005) ? have seriously explored the implications of the series for understanding the development of Tolkien’s invented mythology. (I omit The Silmarillion: Thirty Years On, ed. Allan Turner (2007) which, while a fine collection, concentrates on the published Silmarillion as such, rather than the History.) But now, like buses, we have three more or less together.
In the first, Elizabeth Whittingham’s approach is to take a number of particular themes and then see how each evolved over the course of the writing of the ‘Silmarillion’ material. The chronological development of Tolkien’s writings is divided into six distinct stages: 1914–20 (earliest formulations, Book of Lost Tales), 1920–35 (Lays of Beleriand, earlier ‘Silmarillion’ material), 1937–38 (more developed ‘Silmarillion’ material with early Númenórean material, up until The Hobbit), 1938–48 (The Lord of the Rings, plus Notion Club Papers and later Númenórean material), 1948–59 (further development of ‘Silmarillion’ material), and 1960–73 (late writings and essays). Doubtless all such divisions of time are arbitrary but those selected here seem reasonable.
An introductory chapter discusses influences in Tolkien’s life ? his mother, his difficult childhood, his turn to Roman Catholicism, the early friendships in the TCBS (shattered by the Great War, and the direction this gave to his creative impulses), friendship with C.S. Lewis, the Inklings, domestic storytelling.
The myth of creation is examined first. As with all the themes considered in this book, the existing background in classical and biblical mythologies as well as Norse and Finnish, which may have had some degree of influence, greater or smaller, on Tolkien’s imagination, is reviewed. The Ainulindalë early became a distinct text, so allowing a clear line of evolution to be traced. However, there is a peculiar shift. Originally Ilúvatar first creates the Ainur, and then the world which is the manifestation of their Music. But in the 1940s version, an extra stage was added, one in which a vision only of the world as a manifestation of the Music is shown to the Ainur; Ilúvatar still has to create the now unformed, chaotic matter of the world which the Ainur then enter in order to shape it to their vision. This seems an unnecessary complication, but Tolkien undoubtedly intended it. Although the last direct work on the Ainulindalë took place in about 1951, the whole matter had by then become entangled with Tolkien’s shifting views on the overall physical structure of his imagined universe, a subject which is examined separately later in this book.
Next to be considered is the ‘Mythology of Divine Beings’. Following a survey of existing mythology and, appropriately, angelology, we learn how the Valar and their dwellings are described in some detail in the earliest writings, although this level of description, as with much else from this period, typically soon becomes terser. There is a process of winnowing and refinement at work here, although it is hardly clear if the earlier details were rejected or hidden. The violent gods Makar and Meássë are dropped, and so is the very word ‘gods’ as the Valar become more like angels than the gods of earlier mythologies. The process of integration and refinement is reflected in the matter of the lesser deities. In The Book of Lost Tales there were a whole host of them: ‘Nermir’, ‘Tavari’, ‘Nandini’, ‘Orossi’, brownies, fays, pixies, leprawns, and what you will. But these hardly survive the Lost Tales era. They are replaced by the Maiar, an order of spirits like the Valar, though of lesser native power. The Maiar became a convenient slot into which to place such beings as Melian and Sauron. Likewise the earlier Valar could breed among themselves; there were the Children of the Valar. But Tolkien dropped this idea ? although not stated in this book, presumably because for the Valar to breed would involve the creation of new Valar, but, since their number might be considered to be fixed from the beginning, that is no longer allowed. (But note that they can outbreed, witness Melian and Thingol.) Soon after, the earlier Children were reclassified as Maiar. Whittingham notes especially that the progressive refinement of the depiction of the Valar allowed for a greater equality between the sexes.
The complicated matter of the physical structure of the world is next discussed. A review of classical, Norse, Finnish and biblical cosmologies notes concepts relating to the different levels of creation and the home of the gods. The created universe of Tolkien’s mythology was for a long time a fairly small place: just the flat plane of the earth with the three ‘airs’ lying above it, and the sun, moon and stars as tiny, local phenomena. At the outer rim are the Walls of the World, and beyond them the Void. The scheme was refined in detail in the Ambarkanta of the late 1930s. Now the world is surrounded entirely by the Walls of the World as a sphere. The entry of the Atlantis-like continent of Númenor and its inundation provided a way of linking the old flat world of the mythology with the round world known to modern science and popular belief: when the great island of Númenor is drowned, the Valar bend back the edges of the world to make it round. This is perhaps an early sign of Tolkien’s concern to make his invented mythology more acceptable to a modern readership. One post-Lord of the Rings version of the Ainulindalë abandons the flat-world version of the mythology entirely, and has a round world within what might be called a pseudo-astronomical universe. But this would have meant abandoning much of the detail of the earlier mythology, such as the arboreal origins of the Moon and Sun. A new Ainulindalë of 1948 returned to the flat world model, but retained something of the implied astronomical vastness of the previous version. However, it introduced a new twist, as noted above, to the creation of the world of matter. Earlier, Ilúvatar had created the World as a manifestation of the Great Song, which the Valar entered into. Now, he shows the only a vision of the World; when the Valar go forth to govern the World they find that only chaotic matter exists, and they now have to form the world of the vision. This might have been credible, if complicated enough, when the world was still the tiny universe of the Ambarkanta, but the vastly increased scale of things makes a difference: the Valar seem ill-suited to the vastness of the new cosmology, which seems to reduce the entire earth to physical insignificance.
The Quenta Silmarillion contains references to the Sun and Moon as Maia-guided vessels, but a late-50s note considers that Arda is the Solar System, reflecting a move towards a quasi-astronomical universe. Other late notes explore the possibility that the Elves had from the Valar the true knowledge of the Round World, but that Men had misunderstood it, and their Flat-world ‘mythology’ reflected this. All in all, this was a matter that Tolkien never really satisfactorily resolved. (He actually touched on a fairly science-fictional concept, in The Notion Club Papers, which might have resolved the matter, i.e., the idea of alternative ‘pasts’ which at one point, such as the inundation of Númenor, merge ? but he did not develop it.) As with much of his work on aspects of his mythology, one gets the feeling that he never achieved a final resolution: the final concepts are final only in that they represent cut-off points.
Next, Whittingham reviews the ideas concerning death and immortality as they apply to Elves and Men. That the Elves are, in some sense, immortal, and Men are mortal, is basic. Elves, whatever might happen to them, dwell in the world until the ‘Great End’, but apparently not beyond the End. They can be killed but may be reborn in their children. Men, on the other hand, die soon enough anyway, but they will participate in the Second Music after the End. And this was the ‘basic model’ for a long time. In the Book of Lost Tales, the spirits of the Elves remain in the Halls of Mandos until they choose to be reborn in their children. But the spirits of Men come to the Hall of Fui, the spouse of Mandos. Thence they are sent to be made slaves of Melko, or to the wide plains of Arvalin, or to Valinor — to Hell, Purgatory, or Heaven one might say. This notion apparently was soon dropped, but the sense of a fundamental distinction between the fates of Men and of Elves remained a constant. Men abide for a time in the Halls of Mandos, then go beyond the World altogether, Mandos alone knowing where. This concept remained fixed thereafter. It was the Elves that continued to present a problem. Tolkien retained the notion of a purgatorial stay in Mandos, and that of rebirth, but also, in the Quenta Silmarillion, the idea that the Elves could take form ‘according to their own thought’, which suggests Vala-like self-incarnation. Laws and Customs Among the Eldar of the late 1950s had the concept that ‘houseless’ Elvish spirits might choose not to go to Mandos at all, or even join with Morgoth. Some late notes reject the idea of reincarnation altogether: now the body is to be remade from the spirit’s memory of it. Fimi also touches on the matter of Elf-Human interbreeding. (As far as this reviewer can see, Tolkien never considered this in detail. The fullest statement to be found comes in the late 1930s Quenta Silmarillion: in the words of Manwë on the fate of Eärendel, ‘Now all those who have the blood of mortal Men, in whatever part, great or small, are mortal, unless other doom be granted to them…’ (The Lost Road p. 326).)
Finally, the matter of the End of the World is reviewed. The amount of writing that Tolkien devoted to the ‘Great End’ is relatively meagre, but still has been a part of the mythology since the mention of the prophesied Second Music in The Music of the Ainur. In the earlier days of the mythology the final battle with Morgoth was still some time in the future, hence the term ‘Last Battle’ was of ambiguous connotation, but the recognition of the significance of the Silmarils allowed them to become the agents which precipitate the final battle against Morgoth, although with the further reflection that at the Final End they will be recovered and used to re-kindle the Two Trees. Also to be considered are the changes to this matter implied by the changes to the cosmology of the world. Tolkien doesn’t seem to have applied too much time to resolving the matter in his later years, although some mention is made of the concept of ‘Arda Healed’.
The foregoing is a bald summary of a great deal of detailed discussion. Nevertheless that discussion itself is in effect a compression of a lifetime’s writing and thinking about an invented mythology by its creator, and gives the impression of a speeded-up film. One gains a feeling of constant self-questioning, and unending attempts to answer those questions. A modern professional author of fantasy or science fiction likes to have the world he or she is composing a narrative about to have everything worked out in detail beforehand (a good modern example is Brian Aldiss’s Helliconia trilogy). But Tolkien wasn’t like that. The narrative came first, and the underlying metaphysics, the larger picture, had to be adapted (indeed, created) to justify it. But that is only part of the story. Tolkien was a niggler. Even if he had had everything worked out first, one can well believe that his own perfectionism, as well as his continual reworking of his legendarium as he ‘discovered’ more about it (for much of Tolkien’s creativity can be see as a voyage of discovery), would have been a constant factor. In so many ways Tolkien never achieved a final resolution of all of the problems and inconsistencies he saw in his own creation. Some of the ‘final’ resolutions which there are we have only because he ran out of time. All this is complicated by the fact that Tolkien did not devote equal attention to every aspect of his evolving mythology: on the one hand, just because something was never looked at again doesn’t mean Tolkien was happy with it; on the other, we don’t know that an early concept was abandoned.
While The Evolution of Tolkien’s Mythology covers ground which is hardly new to old readers of the History of Middle-earth, the perspective entailed in its approach, especially the chapters on the nature of the divine beings, the physical structure of the invented cosmos, and the fates of Elves and Men, concentrate the reader’s mind on the essential state of unfinishedness of much of Tolkien’s unique creation; and perhaps furnish something by way of an introduction to the History as a whole. Whittingham’s book is an informed and entertaining introduction to these issues.
Dimitra Fimi’s Tolkien, Race and Cultural History is a review of certain important influences on the formation and development of Tolkien’s invented languages and mythology ? and in particular exactly how Tolkien responded to those influences in the formation of many aspects of his invented world. As such it has a strong biographical basis.
Part I, on the beginnings of the mythology, shows how ‘Elf-centred’ it was. The Elves’ contrast to Men in terms of their deathlessness and immortality allows Tolkien to envision the human situation from outside. They carry the weight of Tolkien’s ‘sub-creation’, and yet in their beginnings they were very different from what they later became.
In later years Tolkien despised the images of fairies to be found in Victorian children’s literature (indeed going back to Drayton and Shakespeare) ? tiny beings who lived in flowers and sprouted antennae. Yet his early ‘fairy’ poems reflected exactly that perception. Think of ‘Goblin Feet’. But even here, there is a poignant sense of the fading, of the loss, of these beings from the world, which lasted all Tolkien’s life. The mentions of fairy-folk in the earliest poems of the mythology proper reflect this. The fading of the fairies from the Lonely Isle which later becomes Britain is one of the earliest themes. In the Lost Tales, Men and Elves are of about the same stature, but Men have in the time since grown bigger and more solid, while the fairies have dwindled and become more insubstantial. The one, it seems, is somehow responsible for the other. Thus Tolkien was here attempting to account for the fairies’ contemporary diminutiveness. The diminishment in size was soon lost from the mythology, but the ‘fading’ remained.
Fimi traces the use of elves and fairies not in the mythology but in the stories for his own children that Tolkien wrote. In The Father Christmas Letters they are small. In Roverandom of the mid-20s, we get a glimpse of them. And the elves of The Hobbit are still a bit like that even if not (apparently) diminutive. But of course, although these stories used elements of the developing mythology, they were none of them initially meant to be part of it, so perhaps Tolkien felt that he could retain the ‘childlike’ elves for his young readers. (To be frank, this results in some excruciating elvish dialogue, as in The Hobbit: ‘Just look! Bilbo the hobbit on a pony, my dear! Isn’t it delicious!’ ‘Most astonishing wonderful!’) Fimi examines the imagery of fairies in Victorian and Edwardian times, i.e., in Tolkien’s early life, when much of his imagination was formed against that background. The roots of this can be found in the Shakespeare revival of the late eighteenth century, and also the new folklore, with its fairy characters. Tolkien started writing in this period, so naturally he used fairies as they were presented, given his sentimentality and romanticism. ‘Goblin Feet’ reflects this. (Such terms as ‘goblins’, ‘fairies’, ‘elves’, ‘gnomes’, etc. were used loosely and interchangeably.) When he decided that ‘Qenya’ was the language of the fairies, some of its words reflected the ‘flower-fairies’, e.g. Nardi, a flower fairy, Tetille, a fairy who lived in a poppy. Peter Pan, which powerfully impressed Tolkien when he saw it in 1910, immediately preceded his earliest ‘fairy’ poems (only children see fairies, but as they grow up …). These fairies provided a starting point for Tolkien ? although as his own vision grew he spurned them.
Fimi shows how fairies fitted into three main strands of the young Tolkien’s interests: religion, a lost mythology for England, and language. The early TCBS saw itself as the nucleus of a reforming movement, ‘to drive from life, letters, the stage and society the dabbling in and hankering after the unpleasant sides and incidents in life and nature ...’ Tolkien seems to have envisioned the fairies as ‘higher’ creatures with a moral obligation to humanity. A religious connection might be found in the poetry of Francis Thompson, a Catholic mystic, whose Sister Songs involve fairy beings that could be seen as a manifestation of the God-created spirit of Nature ? and elemental spirits show up in The Book of Lost Tales, later regularized as the Maiar.
Tolkien decided to create a mythology for his own country (an Anglo-Saxon mythology at least), inspired primarily by the Finnish Kalevala. At this time there was what Fimi calls ‘a moment of pure English nationalism’ in which the pre-Norman Anglo-Saxon period was seen as a golden age. The Anglo-Saxons lacked a mythology compared with the Celtic peoples of the British Isles, but the fairies as portrayed in folklore offered a glimpse of a lost mythology, so they naturally came into Tolkien’s creation of one.
When it comes to the invented languages spoken by the fairies/elves, Fimi questions Tolkien’s often stated view that the languages came first and the mythology followed, largely to provide a pseudo-historical matrix within which those languages could evolve. She thinks that fairies/religion, and fairies in the ‘mythology for England’, came first. The earliest example of ‘Qenya’ comes after the earliest prose pieces of the mythology proper, The Voyage of Earendil the Evening Star, and Tolkien’s attempt to adapt the tale of Kullervo from the Kalevala (eventually the tale of Túrin). She reasonably concludes that language invention and myth-making began independently but rapidly became interconnected. But linguistic invention always remained of primary importance to Tolkien, and it was doubtless this creative primacy which came to produce a temporal primacy in his own mind.
Tolkien initially approached language on the purely aesthetic level of the sounds of words independent of their meaning. But the next step in a linguistic evolution is ‘phonetic fitness’, when a word sounds just right for its intended meaning. Later in life, Tolkien developed the idea of ‘inherent linguistic predilections’ which are tied in with one’s ancestry: such a thing is literally inherited ? as indeed could memory, as shown in The Lost Road and The Notion Club Papers. But Fimi thinks that some of Tolkien’s own linguistic predilections, by his associating certain values with them, give glimpses of a lost history, or religious associations.
But language-invention was nothing new when Tolkien first turned his hand to it. The notion of a universal language goes back a long time. The myth of a pre-Babel language (at least in the West) gave rise to attempts to re-create it ? or at least to construct a language which, going beyond the limitations and imperfections of existing languages, might be considered an ideal original language. Modern times saw a shift to the idea of international languages, to facilitate practical communication between peoples, Esperanto being the obvious example here. According to Fimi, 1880–1914 saw 145 such projects, so, in creating his own languages, Tolkien was very much in touch with his times, rather than being an exception to them. He knew Esperanto at 17. ‘Qenya’ might be seen as an attempt to produce such an ideal language. Noting that the early Qenya language contains a number of overtly religious terms, Fimi comments: ‘Although it is not clear here how these terms and phrases would be integrated in Tolkien’s nascent mythology, it is very tempting to associate them with the romantic plans of the TCBS for a moral cleansing of Britain and the re-establishment of beauty and holiness in the world’ (p. 98). Which might perhaps be as clear a statement of Tolkien’s original ‘project’ as we are ever likely to get.
Then there is the notion of language decay. The ancient Indo-European language was hypothesized as the ancestor of many modern languages of India and Europe, but as no examples survive it has had to be reconstructed, the reconstructed words being denoted by a preceding asterisk, *thus. This concept is linked with the abovementioned ideal languages in that they both entail a search for perfection. But even a perfect language decays over time with its use by short-lived speakers (a notion that itself goes back two millennia). This is reflected in the evolution of the languages of Middle-earth, especially in the Lhammas (and Lammasethan) of the late 1930s. Here a language is considered the more beautiful the closer it is to the primordial language of the Valar. Linguistic change speeded up after the destruction of the Two Trees. While they grew, change was very slow. But with the time measured by the Sun and Moon, it quickened in pace.
Fimi touches on the way that artificial languages can be written, i.e. imaginary alphabets. Calligraphy ran in Tolkien’s family, and his own invented alphabets go back to his schooldays. Although begun independently of the legendarium, they very quickly became subsumed within it (although he also maintained an interest in an improved English alphabet for most of his life). Again, improved alphabets have a long history, e.g. Francis Lodwick’s ‘Universall Alphabet’ of 1686. Of course, Tolkien’s own aesthetic preferences always played a large part in his created letter-forms.
So much for various of the seminally important matters of the early days of Tolkien’s invented mythology. Fimi goes on to explore certain themes pertinent to how that mythology developed. The Hobbit was not intended initially as a part of that mythology (despite using elements from it as ready-made background). However, when the Silmarillion as it then existed was rejected by Allen & Unwin, Tolkien began to work on the sequel to The Hobbit, which became, of course, The Lord of the Rings. And that indeed became (as did The Hobbit retrospectively) a part of the mythology. The important point here is that all this introduced a new mode of writing: ‘historical’ as opposed to ‘mythological’. (Also, publication of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings ‘fixed’ elements of the mythology, an approach which later caused problems.)
In fact, writing The Lord of the Rings either initiated, or heightened, a considerable shift in the way that Tolkien understood his own invented mythology: it had, he felt, to be accommodated to accepted reality in order to make it plausible to its readers in the modern world: especially plausible in the physical sense, which raised serious questions about the flat world; but also plausible in the religious sense, for it had to be at least consistent with Christianity (or, more so, with Catholicism). These questions were so difficult that Tolkien was never able quite to resolve them. And, importantly, it raised questions about the framework in which the various ‘parts’ of the ‘Silmarillion’ were to be presented. (We might observe that just as the Hobbits are a form of mediation for modern readers of The Lord of the Rings, so the very framework of the ‘Silmarillion’ could be understood to serve as a form of mediation for the invented mythology.) At first they were the writings of Eriol, or Ælfwine, of the 5th (or 11th) century, who voyages West to the Isle of the Fairies/Elves and hears their stories; Britain was, in some degree, part of that mythology in that it was initially the Isle itself (or, rather, what it became). The introduction of the matter of Númenor allowed for a transition from a flat to a round world. Tolkien moved towards making the whole mythology a ‘mannish’ affair: the Elves doubtless had true knowledge, but Men only remembered confused versions which went to make up their own mythology. Doing this, however, put even the Silmarils ? one of the oldest and most central elements of the mythology ? into some insignificance. The book of Eriol eventually became (to cut a long story short) the three volumes of material Bilbo had put together in Rivendell, mostly of Númenórean, i.e. mannish, origin. The Elves retained the true knowledge from the Valar, although they don’t, then, seem to have put any great effort into correcting Men’s mistaken ideas. (But, as noted, Tolkien did not adopt the concept of different, but convergent, pasts that he had explored in The Notion Club Papers.) But by this time the presence of the specific geographical connection with Britain had long since been abandoned; now, the tales were set in a vague ‘North-West of the Old World’.
Fimi discusses the sensitive topic of ‘race’ in Tolkien’s world. In his youth, ‘race’ was a fairly established notion; in the 1930s, partly as a response to Nazism, ‘race’ as a scientific concept grew untenable. Tolkien’s very early opinions reflect (alas) the ideology of his time. But he and they changed: his response to the request from the German publisher of a translation of The Hobbit in 1938, for an attestation of his ‘aryan’ ancestry, is well known (‘pernicious and unscientific race doctrine’), and ‘Nordic’ was a term he came especially to dislike: ‘it is associated … with racialist theories’ (see Letters, pp. 37, 375). Yet Tolkien’s own field of philology had helped to confuse language and race. The speakers of a particular language were historically some kind of unity, be it ‘nation’, ‘culture’, or ‘race’. In his classification of the ‘races’ (or kindreds or whatever) of Middle-earth, Tolkien did have a tendency to establish a hierarchy: Elves are at the top, divided by their relationship to the light of the Trees. Then, with Men, the Three Houses of the Edain, whose descendants are given gifts of wisdom and longevity as the Númenóreans, seem to be a ‘high’ group. We recall Faramir’s words: ‘For so we reckon Men in our lore, calling them the High, or Men of the West …; and the Middle Peoples, Men of the Twilight …; and the Wild, the Men of Darkness ….’ The matter of Orcs is difficult: they bear a disturbing resemblance to John Longdon Downs’ nineteenth-century description of those who suffered from the syndrome that came to bear his name. There is something of a tension between Tolkien’s own private views on ‘race’ and the ideology seemingly found in the mythology where, as Fimi notes, there exists a strict racial hierarchy ? with Orcs at the bottom ? yet we see later Middle-earth writings question the latter concept.
Fimi also notes that while Tolkien does much creating of languages and history, there is little in the material culture of Middle-earth that is described in detail: certainly not for the First Age, at least. But that shifted somewhat with the advent of the narrative historical mode. Even so, much ? details of pottery, domestic implements, economics, architecture ? isn’t there. But Tolkien certainly conceived the Rohirrim as being very like the ‘ancient English’ (or Anglo-Saxons) in this way. By contrast the Shire, in terms of its material culture, stands out as a glaring anachronism, with its pipe-smoking, umbrellas, kettles, etc. But such anachronism had its origins in The Hobbit, which was hardly conceived as a serious part of the legendarium to begin with, and was only subsequently admitted. (We should note that Tolkien had wanted to rewrite it entirely in the nineteen-sixties.) Fimi points out that to the extent that the Shire’s Old Mill is based on Sarehole Mill then perhaps it represented a false nostalgia, as Sarehole Mill was clearly connected to the Industrial Revolution (a dark satanic mill indeed!). Fimi notices some other aspects of material culture, e.g. cremation is used in association with evil characters (reflecting the Catholic Church’s attitude?); and the matter of linguistic consistency, e.g. the ‘Book of Mazarbul’ using English words written in Dwarf-runes. These problems were burdensome for Tolkien. As Christopher Tolkien noted (pointed out by Fimi), it wasn’t that Tolkien couldn’t finish The Silmarillion, it was that he couldn’t finish the post-Lord of the Rings Silmarillion: he was unable to satisfactorily integrate the mythical (old) with the historical (Lord of the Rings) aspects of his invented world. (If only he had had more time and energy!)
Fimi’s book is one of the most interesting and original analyses of Tolkien’s subcreation that has been published for a long time. It is also, lest anyone be put off by any implications of an over-academic tone in the foregoing, very clearly written. It should form part of the reading of any serious student of Tolkien. My only real qualm is that I cannot unreservedly recommend the book in its present form. The text is littered with any number of errata of various sorts, spelling, punctuation, grammar and the like. I do not blame Dr Fimi for these but rather the production processes of a publisher which has decided to forego the usual apparatus of sub-editing and proof-reading and then go on to charge an eye-watering price (the same as the Scull and Hammond Companion & Guide) for the book. Perhaps a reprint (and this book surely deserves to be kept in print) might afford an opportunity for the necessary corrections.
It will probably have occurred, however transiently, to many of those who read first the published Silmarillion and later The History of Middle-earth to ponder exactly how the one is related to the other. Plainly, the former could be described in brief as a selection and synthesis of the multitude of texts published in (mostly) the latter; but, equally plainly, the prospect of examining each paragraph, each sentence, even, sometimes, each separate word, of The Silmarillion and pinning down its place of origin in the History would surely be viewed as a labour so daunting that none but the most extraordinarily devoted reader would even think of attempting it. One imagines that it would be the kind of task appointed to a Ph.D. Eng. Lit. student at a mid-western university at some time well into the twenty-first century. Scull and Hammond made a first cut at the matter in the entries for the separate chapters of The Silmarillion in their Tolkien Companion, but this task has now been accomplished by Douglas Kane in Arda Reconstructed at an unprecedented level of detail. The Ainulindalë and the Valaquenta has each its own chapter devoted to a detailed exploration of where the wording comes from as have the Akallabêth and Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age, and each of the 24 chapters of the Quenta Silmarillion is similarly examined. For each such section of the Silmarillion Kane presents a paragraph-by-paragraph tabulation of where each paragraph, indeed, each part of each paragraph, comes from, and, in particular what was done with it in the process. One shudders to think of the labour involved, but in those terms at least this book is an extraordinary accomplishment.
However, this is much more than a tabulation of sources. In these discussions of the decision-making that Kane discerns in the redaction of the various source-texts in the published Silmarillion, he takes a distinctly judgemental attitude on how each part of it as edited by Christopher Tolkien was constructed, and it is precisely in such comment that the book enters a realm of controversy. Kane finds much to criticise. He considers that there is far too much in the way of omission of interesting and significant detail and on the whole rather too much editorial interference, very often, it would seem, in defiance of Tolkien’s own plainly expressed wishes. The phrase ‘unfortunate omission’ crops up often. Such comment, indeed, sometimes appears to take on a tone of condescension or even personal resentment — doubtless unintentionally, but that is how it may seem to some readers.
Given the enormous number of specific points on the origin and transformation of source-texts in the compilation of the published Silmarillion, it will hardly be a surprise to any reader who has got this far that I have not ventured to check them. I doubt if I have that long a lifetime left to me and, besides, it would have greatly delayed the completion of this review (even longer than it has already been!). Generally I have taken them on trust. However, I did chance to take a look at one specific detail, and found that it wasn’t quite what it seemed. On page 204, Kane notes: ‘Christopher mentions in a commentary listed under “§§287 ff.” that the Grey Annals was practically the only source used from the Battle of Tumhalad through the end of the chapter [in the published Silmarillion] on Túrin (WotJ, 144). However, a close comparison reveals that the Grey Annals are followed beginning with §277, ten paragraphs earlier than Christopher stated.’ But, the Grey Annals may indeed be followed from §277 for the basis of the chapter on Túrin, but they weren’t practically the only source from §277 as they were from §287. There’s a slight difference.
On the basis of his examination of the myriad editorial decisions made by Christopher Tolkien, Kane’s main ‘charges’ may be summarised as follows: (i) elimination of philosophical material; (ii) condensation or elimination of much source material; (iii) loss of framework; (iv) not sticking to Tolkien’s declared intentions; and (v) downgrading of female roles.
Considered overall, Kane certainly demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that Christopher Tolkien exercised a significant degree of editorial freedom in his task. But it is a matter of debate whether, given the circumstances of the book’s origin in the form it took, he exercised it wrongly. I would concede that the The Silmarillion as published is problematic, but I think that this arises from the decision to publish the book as a ‘finished’ text (or series of texts) rather than the very large, scholarly tome that was originally, it seems, intended. This entailed the making of a somewhat ‘artificial’ text, with all the myriad inconsistencies, side-issues, uncertainties of author’s final intentions, and so on, in the original texts smoothed out and minimised. I shall return to this point. Perhaps it should be noted here that Kane now and then appreciates the difficulties of the task and approves of the editorialising: thus, on page 168, discussing the uncertain matter of the ancestry of Gil-galad, Kane concedes that ‘In cases like this, Christopher was truly between a rock and a hard place.’
I personally find the philosophical (although I should prefer the term ‘metaphysical’) issues concerning Tolkien’s invented world both endlessly fascinating in themselves and, indeed, necessary for attaining any real understanding of that world, yet I can appreciate that such passages could have been rejected for inclusion in a finished narrative on the grounds that they might not be deemed suitable for the general Tolkien-reading audience — as opposed to the more rabid Tolkien fans — for whom the book was perhaps intended as a piece of commercial publishing. It should be borne in mind that the very decision to produce a finished narrative rather than a scholarly tome says something about the presumed expectations of the readership. There is also the consideration that Tolkien’s philosophical ideas (see the review of Whittingham above) were evolving all the time, and to incorporate them into the text of the published Silmarillion could be seen as giving them a greater degree of definiteness than they merited.
Similar reasons probably also apply to the elimination of much material. Presumably it was felt that the editorial adjustments necessary to achieve a finished-seeming text justified such a degree of editorial freedom, a degree which further reflection over the years and decades since may have rendered unwarrantable. Considerations of pacing and of the space available in the projected single volume might well apply here. Naturally, this reviewer speaks as someone who would in any case want the fullest possible Silmarillion, and I would certainly have preferred it that way, even within the context of the ‘synthetic’ nature of the work produced at the time. Much seems to have been sacrificed to achieve a level of consistency proper for a finished narrative.
The loss of framework is a complex issue (see earlier reviews, again). As noted, the early framework, with the ‘Silmarillion’ material being a retelling by the Old English traveller Ælfwine/Eriol of the tales he heard on the Lonely Isle, seems to have been jettisoned at about the time when concerns to give his mythology a credible cosmology began to press upon Tolkien’s mind, although some late writing still involves this interlocutor. But with the transformation of the ‘Silmarillion’ material to the ‘three large volumes’ of Bilbo’s writings compiled by him at Rivendell, the idea of any sort of framing device seems to have fallen by the wayside. (I imagine that had the idea of the compilation of the original ‘Silmarillion’ by Bilbo’s hand been sustained, then there would exist somewhere a draft of an introduction ‘by’ Bilbo Baggins explaining the circumstances in which he brought together the material; but such seems not to be the case.)
The matter of keeping or not keeping to Tolkien’s intentions is, peculiarly, intimately connected with the task of producing a ‘finished’ Silmarillion. Had the scholarly tome originally intended been produced then the matter would not have arisen: Tolkien’s notes about his intentions would have simply been given along with the other textual material (as is done in the History); but producing an apparently completed work is not a mechanical process and requires creative judgements about processing the text. I’m not sure myself that I care for every one of these but, again, given the nature of the product, perhaps we should hardly be surprised. The instances of not keeping to Tolkien’s intentions seem largely to be concerned with chapter-breaks, since they are adjusted in several places from where they appear in the manuscripts of the Quenta. Others were doubtless not taken on board for, again, the sake of consistency (as it was understood at the time). Another consideration may be the fact of Tolkien’s constantly changing intentions in themselves. Can we really regard all late changes as being equally definitive?
The alleged downgrading of women’s roles appears to bother Kane greatly as it is repeatedly referred to. At one point he even says, in regard the alleged downgrading of the role of one leading female, Ungoliant (!), that it ‘leaves the unfortunate impression that Christopher finds it difficult to accept such a primary role for a female character’ (Kane, p. 98). But this won’t do. Given the myriad of minor editorial omissions made by Christopher Tolkien, it seems specious to try to make such an accusation by singling out those particular omissions which happen to affect female characters as statistically significant. (I must admit that when first reading the particular passage discussed, in Morgoth’s Ring, with the revision to the roles of Ungoliantë and Morgoth in the destruction of the Two Trees, I could see no reason why the published Silmarillion had omitted it. But that’s nothing to do with an apparent downgrading of female characters.) On the main point, I suggest that a scotch verdict is the most that could be returned here.
As I read further into the present work I found myself unable to engage with it as fully as I might. There is a reason for this. I hope that the good readers of Plaza (most of whom, I suspect, are a good deal younger than this writer) can bear a little bit of autobiography so far as it bears on the history of Tolkien fandom. It is now difficult to fully recall the degree of expectation with which The Silmarillion was awaited among at least some Tolkien fans, and even more difficult for relative newcomers to Tolkien to envisage it. The knowledge that such a work in fact existed and that Professor Tolkien was working on it began to leak out in the mid-60s (notably in Henry Resnik’s landmark article ‘The Hobbit-forming World of J. R. R. Tolkien’, Saturday Evening Post, 2 July 1966). There were hopes that Professor Tolkien might bring it out in his lifetime, but it was not to be. When one enquired of Allen & Unwin in those days one would be told by Joy Hill that the Professor was working on it but that they didn’t know when it would see the light of day. When Tolkien died without completing the work, the publishers stated that Christopher Tolkien would bring out an edited version: expectation reached new heights. The book was awaited with what Humphrey Carpenter called a ‘gruesome anticipation’. I can recall Rayner Unwin at the Tolkien Society’s 1974 Annual Dinner standing at the top table saying that the manuscripts of The Silmarillion, packed into box-files, together in a row, were about as long as the table he was standing at (roughly 8 feet, I estimated: big enough). In fact it would be pertinent here to recall a few other remarks of his. He described the state of the book as ‘inchoate’, although far from completely disorganised, and that it was being assembled and collated by Christopher Tolkien. When completed, the ‘literary’ version of the book, as he called it, should be about the same size as one of the volumes of The Lord of the Rings. He noted that there might conceivably one day be a variorum Silmarillion, but that must lie far in the future. He also remarked that ‘since Tolkien’s last revisions of “The Silmarillion” were not complete, the “last-but-one” version will most likely be published.’ (See ‘Annual General Meeting of the Tolkien Society’, Charles E. Noad, Mallorn 8, 1974, pp. 20-26. Little did I think that I should be citing Rayner’s remarks on the this matter half a lifetime later.)
And of course we had The Silmarillion itself late in 1977. Perhaps disappointing in its brevity, at least we now had it. But then came Unfinished Tales and finally the monumental History of Middle-earth. As might be supposed, this reviewer paid a considerable amount of attention to the History, one main effect of which was to bring about a shift in the centre of gravity of his interest: the History was the Silmarillion, so far as it was achieved by its author. The 1977 version became a work of lesser importance, a somewhat secondary and, to a degree, synthetic assemblage. In fact it’s a long time since I’ve read it. And this detailed exposition of how it was edited from the underlying source-texts for that reason does not hold my attention or concern as it otherwise might.
The fundamental problems, I believe, with the published Silmarillion lie in the fact that a ‘literary’ version was decided on in the first place. Apparently the idea of Guy Gavriel Kay, it was accepted, and the finished version was accordingly produced. In his speech at the 1987 World Science Fiction Convention, Kay said that the initial idea had been to produce a large, scholarly tome, in which the latest version of any particular chapter would have been given, together with extensive appendices and editorial apparatus showing how it had evolved from earlier versions. This would have resulted in a massive volume, some 1300 printed pages long, say (about the size of the Scull and Hammond Reader’s Guide to Tolkien), and two chapters in this style had already been produced when Kay arrived. However, Kay felt strongly that what was needed was a straightforward narrative, shorn of academic apparatus, which advice was eventually adopted by Christopher Tolkien. This approach was tried with ‘The Coming of the Elves’ where it was felt to work so well that Kay’s approach was thereafter adopted. (‘A Tower in Beleriand’, Charles E. Noad, Amon Hen 91, May 1988, pp.16-18.) It may indeed have worked well, but such a procedure served to give a finished appearance to what was very often disparate and unfinished material.
The point of rehearsing this detail is that the decision to produce The Silmarillion as a narrative was a relatively late one, very possibly, with hindsight, not the best one in the longer term, although if it was a fault it was a fortunate one, as it surely enabled the later publication of the ‘Silmarillion’ material at an even greater level of detail than originally conceived, in the form of the History, something which the initial publication of a scholarly volume would very likely have precluded. But I feel that the decision to produce a narrative Silmarillion rather than a scholarly one had certain consequences.
The process of producing a finished narrative requires a slightly different set of skills than those required for producing an edited text of initially ‘inchoate’ papers. The latter needs a great deal of analytical intelligence together with specific skills in understanding the relationships between texts, the ability to decipher handwriting sometimes verging on illegibility, a sensitivity of judgement, and the like, qualities which, I feel, any reasonable judge would concur that Christopher Tolkien abundantly displays in The History of Middle-earth. But producing a finished narrative from the results of having edited the texts into legibility and comprehensibility is a slightly different matter. It requires, or at least may require depending on the state of the material being edited, a degree of creativity. Here I think is where Guy Gavriel Kay enters the picture. Starting with The Fionavar Tapestry (1985-6), Kay has shown himself to be one of the leading authors of literate high fantasy. He is a full-fledged professional writer of fiction in a way that Christopher Tolkien isn’t and even his father wasn’t. (To digress: J.R.R. Tolkien was a professional when it came such things as, for example, the evolution of vowel-sounds in West Midlands Middle English — and much else. In that kind of study he was one of the most learned people on the planet. But as a writer of fiction I have always considered that he belonged in the ‘(very) gifted amateur’ category. He was indeed creative, but not in a professional have-it-all-wrapped-up-by-the-publisher’s-deadline kind of way. What he produced in the way of fiction (and non-fiction) was, of course, of an extraordinarily high standard — or you wouldn’t be here reading this — but it was often written slowly and with great effort.) Given that it was Kay’s idea to produce a finished narrative rather than a scholarly version (indeed, he has since gone on record as being against the publication of Tolkien’s unfinished texts in the History), I would submit that the published Silmarillion owes a good deal in the matter of editorial decision-making to his input. Let me be clear here. I am not saying that we can lay all the presumed ‘failings’ of the published Silmarillion at Kay’s feet, thereby removing all responsibility for its apparent ‘defects’ from Christopher Tolkien. But I am saying that the presence at a critical juncture in preparing the publication of the ‘Silmarillion’ material of this creatively gifted young man had a significant effect on the shaping and editing of that material. One would like to know more.
Yet the decision was made to go ahead with a narrative Silmarillion. That that should have entailed problems is scarcely surprising. And frankly there seems little profit in picking it over to make egregious-seeming value-judgements on Christopher Tolkien’s editing. Given the ‘inchoate’ state of the manuscripts perhaps we should be grateful for what we have. I have the impression that Kane underestimates the daunting complexity of the task facing Christopher Tolkien when confronted by the mass of ‘Silmarillion’ material. As he says at several places in the History (which Kane duly notes), he was not aware of every last piece of manuscript material, or he was unaware of a slip by Tolkien himself, or did not perceive the significance or correct interpretation of a passage of particular words, or misread them, or misunderstood the relations between texts. In connection with the published Akallabêth, he remarked, ‘a number of editorial changes were made, for various reasons, but mostly in the quest (somewhat excessively pursued, as I now think) for coherence and consistency with other writings’ (The Peoples of Middle-earth, p. 142). Doubtless this could be applied to much in the published Silmarillion.
There is one point where Kane attempts a justification for a book such as this one. He notes (Kane, p. 216) that in The Road to Middle-earth Tom Shippey cites ‘Thingol’s death in the dark while he looks at the captured Light’ (of the Silmaril) as an example of Tolkien’s genius for creating compelling images. However, ‘Thingol’s death in the dark recesses of Menegroth was completely an invention of the editors’, hence ‘The fact that as renown[ed] a Tolkien scholar as Shippey would have this kind of mistaken impression is a strong indication of the need for a work like the present one.’ Well now, catching out Shippey must count as pretty neat, but one might admire the editors for so well creating, out of the requirements of the reconstructed narrative, so Tolkienian an image. It must prove something.
Since my own modest efforts are taken to task (quick, pass the smelling salts!), in the matter of my essay ‘On the Construction of “The Silmarillion”’ in Tolkien’s Legendarium (details at the head of these reviews), I hope it will not be taken amiss if I take the opportunity to respond to those criticisms in this forum. Given that the ‘Silmarillion’ material that Tolkien produced over his lifetime was never a single narrative but rather a series of distinct textual units, in that essay I attempted to delineate which specific textual units might have gone to constitute The Silmarillion had Tolkien had the time, energy and inclination to bring it to completion.
Kane states on page 27: ‘In discussing what actually was included in the published work, Noad notes that “what was published consisted of the Quenta Silmarillion, filled out where necessary and finished with passages for the various Annals and narratives, together with the Ainulindalë and Valaquenta, supplemented with the Akallabêth and Of the Rings of Power.” However, my closer analysis reveals that Christopher did more than “fill out where necessary and finish” with passages from the various annals. Indeed, as will be seen, a large percentage (probably even a majority) of the material published as the Quenta Silmarillion was actually taken from the Annals of Aman … or the Grey Annals’. (My quoted statement is from p. 65 of my essay. Note that ‘for the various Annals’ was ‘from the various Annals’ in my original draft. I failed to notice this misprint.) But my observation on how much the existing Quenta was ‘filled out’ carried no indication of percentage. That the Annals were of primary importance for a published Silmarillion I made quite clear (as noted indeed already by Christopher Tolkien): ‘Because they had already gone a good way towards becoming narrative prose, sometimes almost exactly the same prose as in the Quenta, it may be that Tolkien was considering abandoning the Annals as such, using what there was of them as a “constituent draft text” for “The Silmarillion” as a single work (X, 291)’ (‘Construction’, p. 58).
Kane objects, on pages 249-50, to my suggestion for the inclusion of Eärendil the Wanderer as the fourth Great Tale of the ‘Silmarillion’ tradition: ‘He actually includes an unwritten fourth Great Tale, called “Eärendil the Wanderer,” based on a brief reference in a note to the Shibboleth of Fëanor to “the four great tales or lays of the heroes of the Atani” (PoMe, 357 n. 7). Noad does not state what evidence he bases this suggestion upon, but Tolkien did mention the possibility of whether the long Númenórean versions of the Great Tales (Beren and Lúthien, The Children of Húrin, The Fall of Gondolin and The Rising of the Star, suggesting that he did want to include Eärendil’s story) should be given as appendices to the Silmarillion (MR, 373). However, this was posed as a question, not a definitive statement of intent, and I am not convinced that such an action would have been practical, particularly given the length of the versions of two of the Great Tales in the published text. The publication of The Children of Húrin as a separate, stand-alone work certainly supports that concern. To have included that work with the Quenta would have resulted in far too much duplicated material in one work. And the same is true of the tale of The Fall of Gondolin, if it had been included in the published text at anywhere near the same scale as the other two.’
There are two points to consider here: (i) the validity of my suggestion for the tale of Eärendil as a separate entity, a ‘Great Tale’ in the ‘Silmarillion’ tradition such as that of Beren and Lúthien, which Tolkien at least contemplated even if he never got around to writing; and (ii) whether or not the ‘Great Tales’, had they existed as finished pieces, should have been included in a published ‘Silmarillion’. Regarding the first, the reference in Morgoth’s Ring is to a note headed ‘Memorandum’ in which Tolkien states that ‘The three Great Tales must be Númenórean’, and gives as the name of the the third (‘2(b)’ as he, in fact, refers to it) Narn e·Dant Gondolin ar Orthad en·Êl, Sindarin for ‘Tale of the Fall of Gondolin and the Rising of the Star’. The matter of Eärendil goes back to the earliest days of the invented mythology, and certainly Tolkien saw it as the culmination of the tales told beside the Tale-fire in the Lost Tales: at the end of The Nauglafring: The Necklace of the Dwarves, Ailios says ‘And thus all the fates of the fairies weave then to one strand, and that strand is the great tale of Eärendel; and to that tale’s true beginning we are now come’ (The Book of Lost Tales Part 2, p. 242). It is called ‘the greatest of the stories of the Gnomes’ (ibid., p. 144), and in his letter to Milton Waldman of c.1951, Tolkien thinks of it as a distinct entity: ‘There is the Fall of Gondolin: the chief elvish stronghold. And the tale, or tales, of Earendil the Wanderer’ (Letters, p. 150). So I think there can be no question that Tolkien contemplated the telling of the tale of Eärendil on an extended scale. The only uncertainty is whether it would have been included as part of The Fall of Gondolin or as a separate piece. Given that the unfinished revision of The Fall of Gondolin, published as Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin in Unfinished Tales (1980), expands some 11 pages of the original version (BoLT2, pp. 149-160) to 34 pages to the same point in the revision (Unfinished Tales, pp. 17-51), then a complete revised Fall might have occupied around 150 pages; and further, given the probable length of the tale of Eärendil (see the extensive ‘schemes’ in BoLT2, pp. 252-61), and given all that is supposed to happen in it, then I think it reasonable to conclude that considerations of length alone would make it a separate text. As for not stating what evidence I base the suggestion upon, I am not sure what is meant. In my essay I quote from the letter to Waldman in which Tolkien discusses the ‘stories almost equally full in treatment [as Beren and Lúthien], and equally independent and yet linked to the general history (‘Construction’, p. 54); I also quote the note from Morgoth’s Ring, already discussed (ibid., p. 60): what more is needed?
Regarding Kane’s second objection (I shall try to be briefer here), I think that the quotations already given answer the point. I cannot see the validity of the objection that the inclusion of the Great Tales (had they been completed) in a published Silmarillion would have involved too much repetition of material, that is to say, the extended accounts in the Great Tales would have repeated material already in the Quenta. The Quenta is an epitomising account, a ‘brief History’ (ibid., p. 42, citing The Shaping of Middle-earth, p. 77), a ‘history in brief drawn from many older tales’ (ibid., p. 47, citing The Lost Road, p. 201). The accounts of Beren and Lúthien, and of Túrin, and so forth, as given in the Quenta would have been fairly brief; the existence of the greatly extended versions in the Great Tales would surely have been no great hardship to the prospective readers of a full Silmarillion. The fact that Tolkien put the matter of the inclusion of the Great Tales as a question (‘Should not these be given as Appendices to the Silmarillion?’) simply means that he was not altogether certain where they should fit in, rather than their existence.
Going back for a moment to the tale of Eärendil, I should perhaps add that I have a personal motive for wanting to see it in a full Silmarillion. I can still recall the magic of Bilbo’s song at Rivendell when I first read The Lord of the Rings all too many years ago. I wanted very much to know more about his voyage to the West and then his sailing the skies (and still do!). And yet, as we now know, Tolkien never supplied an extended prose account of the matter. All we have are scraps and epitomes and one or two occasional late glimpses. Thus, in the very late essay, ‘The Problem of Ros’, ‘It is said that before Manwë he [Eärendil] spoke the errand of Elves and Men first in Sindarin, since that might represent all those of the suppliants who had survived the war with Morgoth; but he repeated it in Quenya, since that was the language of the Ñoldor, who alone were under the ban of the Valar; and he added a prayer in the Mannish tongues of Hador and Bëor, pleading that they were not under the ban, and had aided the Eldar only in their war against Morgoth, the enemy of the Valar’ (Peoples, p. 370). I feel that the revision of The Fall of Gondolin was one of the finest things Tolkien wrote, and Christopher Tolkien was right to call its incompletion ‘grievous’. How much more grievous that Tolkien didn’t carry it to completion and crown the legendarium with the tale of Eärendil!
Kane also questions my other inclusions in a ‘complete’ Silmarillion: ‘Noad also suggests that the following texts would have been included by Tolkien as appendices: The Tale of Years; Dangwith Pengolod; Of the Laws and Customs among the Eldar; Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth; and Quendi and Eldar”. However, he again gives no evidence to support why he believes these texts would have been included, but that other texts (such as, for instance The Shibboleth of Fëanor, The Problem of Ros, or Of Dwarves and Men) would not have been included’ (p. 250; I give this passage as printed: it requires several sics). One would never guess from this passage the confessed speculativeness of my original essay. For those who don’t have their own copy of Tolkien’s Legendarium, the aim of my essay was, given that the published Silmarillion wasn’t a single continuous narrative but consisted of five distinct texts, and given that the thirteen subsequent volumes of Unfinished Tales and The History of Middle-earth provide a plethora of such texts in varying degrees of completion, revision, abandonment or transformation, it seemed to me a very fair question to ask which of these texts would have found their way into the form the Silmarillion would have taken had Professor Tolkien, in the best of all possible worlds, found the time and energy and inclination to bring it to its full efflorescence. That a ‘complete’ Silmarillion would have been constituted as an assemblage of texts is beyond question. The only difficulty is deciding just which texts. The principal criterion I adopted was that such texts represent some piece of lore that originated in ancient time, just like the pieces in the published Silmarillion. Certainly many of the pieces I list as constituting a full Silmarillion are not explicitly labelled for inclusion by Tolkien, but if they were not meant for inclusion in a work that was plainly intended to be a compilation of such texts, then why on earth did Tolkien write them? Thus he notes: ‘... the legends of the First Age (which I hope to publish as The Silmarillion)’ (Letters, p. 345); ‘There is a lot of unfinished material [among my papers], but everything belongs definitely to the Silmarillion or all that world’ (ibid., p. 355). It might also be asked: if these pieces were not intended to go into the Silmarillion that Tolkien intended then where were they meant to go? That they were artistic creations presented as ancient texts of relevance to his invented mythology is unquestionable. Where else could they have gone except into some form of The Silmarillion? Having said that, it is not beyond conceiving that Tolkien might have considered a kind of supplementary volume to The Silmarillion (rather like the ‘accessory volume’ to The Lord of the Rings mooted at the end of the Foreword to the second edition of that work) into which some material could be placed; but if he did we have no knowledge of it.
As for the non-inclusion of ‘The Shibboleth of Fëanor’, ‘The Problem of Ros’ and ‘Of Dwarves and Men’, these pieces were plainly notes to himself that Tolkien wrote in order to solve a problem or to gain perspective on a particular matter. They certainly do not fit into the category of ‘ancient texts’ we have been discussing and so were not explicitly discussed in my essay. They are of course of enormous fascination in themselves, and it is good to see them in the History, but the only way that they could have been published as part of The Silmarillion would have been, say, as part of an extended ‘Afterword’ in which Tolkien reflected on how he came to write the book in the first place and on the various associated problems that arose over time. (Come to think of it, that would have been an interesting piece of writing!)
I should apologise for taking up so much space in defending my own position as opposed to Christopher Tolkien’s, but this seems an appropriate forum for answering the charges made. At least I can speak with somewhat more authority on the matter.
Arda Reconstructed is an important and thought-provoking work and raises serious questions about the treatment of unpublished — and unfinished — literary material. Even if one by no means agrees with all of its answers, it merits a place on the shelf of the more serious explorer of Tolkien’s imagined world.
Charles E. Noad
Last edited by Faldras; 31/Mar/2013 at 01:38 PM.
He that would foil me must use such weapons as I do, for I have not fed my readers with straw, neither will I be confuted with stubble.