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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 3:04 am 
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Ah, using my own words against me! I confess that you are correct, Carl, I am not one that has greatly missed the lack of a "framework" in The Silmarillion. However, many people have indicated that they do miss it. And, of course, Christopher himself explicitly states "The published work has no 'framework', no suggestion of what it is and how (within the imagined world) it came to be. This I now think to have been an error." (BoLT1, 5.) Bilbo's "Translations from the Elvish" seems to be obvious device for such a framework, and as I discuss in the book (quoting Scull and Hammond), Tolkien himself did indicate that such was his intention (see AR, 261).

So while it is true that adding that simple device would not have made much difference to your enjoyment of the book, or mine, it would likely have pleased many other people, it would have addressed something that Christopher in hindsight concluded was an error, and would even have been in accordance with Tolkien's own intentions. That is what I meant by saying that it would have been helpful.

Can I say that I am thrilled to see you here? I expect that this will be the first of many occasions that you hold me accountable, and I expect that many of the future occasions will be more challenging to respond to.

I look forward to it!

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Before HoME raised the Transmission question that is being discussed in this thread, I always just assumed that the Silmarillion was essentially Bilbo's Translations from the Elvish although I did wonder why The Sil was so short - Bilbo gave Frodo 3 books of lore in Rivendell under this title. I never really thought about a "theory of transmission" or a framework. Still, the discussion in this thread is very interesting.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 1:37 pm 
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Exactly so, "Húrin". Most everyone, I'm sure, like myself and you, simply presumed The Silmarillion to be part of Bilbo's "Translations from the Elvish".

Doug, yes, of course, I'm aware of Christopher's expressed regrets in this case. But I think he is being too hard on himself. As he goes on immediately to say, his father himself never worked out to his own satisfaction just what the frame and/or mode of transmission ought to be (that is, after the completion of The Lord of the Rings created the whole necessity of bringing "The Silmarillion" into consistency with it). Christopher would have had to create the frame and/or transmission story himself, and I can certainly understand his decision not to do so to little or no purpose, as presumably he judged it then, and as I judge it still. I do not see what "help" would be provided by an explicit frame and/or mode of transmission. I did not feel any lack of it then, nor do I now.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 2:06 pm 
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Fair enough, Carl. I honestly don't disagree with you there, and I don't really make the point in the book that Christopher should have adopted this devise, just that it was a possibliity that his father had considered. What I do say is that irregardless of whether this devise had been adopted, I wish he had preserved more of a sense of the book being a compendium of different sources. Though I do recognize (and I hope this comes through somewhat in the book) what a difficult and challenging position he was in.

One of the things that I most admire about Christopher (and there are many) is that by putting out the HoMe series, he opened himself up to questions and criticisms of the published Silmarillion, but he didn't let that stop him. Needless to say, conversations like this one would be impossible if he hadn't put his responsibility to his father's legacy first. A more ego-driven person would never have put himself in such a position. (I'm not saying this very well, but I hope my point comes across nonetheless).

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Last edited by Voronwë the Faithful on Tue Mar 24, 2009 2:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Tolkien's intentions
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 2:07 pm 
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As for Tolkien's stated intentions: you, Doug, seem to treat them as far more absolute and determinative than warranted. I can point to several cases in the late linguistic papers alone where he wrote "final decision" against some point of grammar, only to have then almost immediately completely reworked the point a few pages later. Many such stated decisions and intentions were in fact transitory, merely a record of Tolkien having convinced himself of some point or solution at that moment, which he could and not infrequently did then go on, sooner (sometimes very soon) or later, to set aside. (Indeed, the writing of such statements often seems to be merely one more effort at making himself take a decision, when in fact he is still reluctant to do so.)

My point being, that Tolkien's intentions, even his explicitly stated and forcibly asserted intentions, were not necessarily unchanging or absolute until and unless he fulfilled them himself, in print (and not necessarily even then, as changes even to published works attest).


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 2:27 pm 
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Again, fair enough. You are certainly in a better position than most to judge these things, having had more of an opportunity than most to study Tolkien's manuscripts.

But I don't think that it is really true that I linger very much on Tolkien's stated intentions terribly often, mostly because they are rarely reported in HoMe and the other materials that I had to work with. But I do say on several occasions that it appears that Christopher used older material to replace what seems to be the most recent versions of some portions of the story, and I question some of those decisions. I know from our previous discussion at Mythcon a couple of years ago that you pretty strongly disagree with my views about this, and I am quite sure that your opinion has not changed.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 2:47 pm 
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Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
I wish he had preserved more of a sense of the book being a compendium of different sources.


I presume that you feel doing so would have made The Silmarillion in some way a better book than it is.

Perhaps you feel that it would have better reflected Tolkien's intentions. If so, I disagree. If by "different sources" you are referring to different versions of the tales as written by Tolkien over the decades, i.e. to the mass of manuscripts Tolkien left behind, I think there is no question that Tolkien himself would have presented the book as explicitly or detectably a selection from this mass of manuscripts (after all, had he ever entertained such a notion, he could have done this himself at any time). And if by "different sources" you mean sources within the fictive world, e.g. Mannish vs. Elvish, then we are left again to confront the fact that it is not at all clear which of the shifting explanations to pick, and we are also left again with the fact of the unfinished state of so much of the material. The only firm intention I can see in all this was that Tolkien obviously intended to bring "The Silmarillion" to a finished, coherent form (since he never stopped trying to do so): and when he recognized that he would not live to do so, he then intended for Christopher to do so, if he could and as he saw fit. To my mind, The Silmarillion fulfills both intentions as well as could be done.

Or perhaps you feel that it would have made The Silmarillion more successful as a literary work, more popular with readers and/or with critics. Again, I disagree. I remember very well that the earliest and most common criticism of The Silmarillion was, essentially, that it wasn't another Lord of the Rings. What readers and critics then both expected was another monumental work of narrative romance, and they faulted both the work and Tolkien himself for not satisfying that expectation. Certainly, presenting The Silmarillion as even less coherent and cohesive, as in fact a hodge-podge of (fictive) manuscript sources -- or worse, interrupting it with notes and explanations (either editorial or "within the frame" as from Elvish or Mannish scholars) would hardly have stood the work in greater favor with (the vast majority of) readers and critics!

Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
One of the things that I most admire about Christopher (and there are many) is that by putting out the HoMe series, he opened himself up to questions and criticisms of the published Silmarillion, but he didn't let that stop him.


Absolutely. And I for one am deeply grateful to have been given by him what I consider the best of both worlds: a coherent, consistent narrative presentation of The Silmarillion, and a complete record of "The Silmarillion" in all its development. It is great good fortune that we have either of these. That we have both -- that a man should have devoted so much of his life both to fulfilling his father's intentions and to untangling, transcribing, editing, and commenting on so vast a manuscript legacy (as he was in no way required to do); and that a popular publisher should have been willing to publish such a vast amount of scholarly and at times frankly esoteric material (which can have brought neither editor nor publisher any great remuneration) -- is nothing short of astonishing. As I know you appreciate.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 3:19 pm 
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Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
You are certainly in a better position than most to judge these things, having had more of an opportunity than most to study Tolkien's manuscripts.


True, but I don't think it takes much imagination to see that this is the case even just from the published works; indeed, even just from knowledge of the creative process, which often runs afoul of both human indecisiveness and of the realities of existence (particularly when that process is so very protracted). The History of Middle-earth is in large part a record of Tolkien's unceasing dissatisfaction with his own work, each stage of which represented an intention at that time.

Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
I don't think that it is really true that I linger very much on Tolkien's stated intentions terribly often


Maybe so; I haven't read very far in your book yet. But I was in fact responding (only) to the specific statement about Tolkien's intentions that you made in the post to which I responded.

Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
I do say on several occasions that it appears that Christopher used older material to replace what seems to be the most recent versions of some portions of the story


Which is odd only if one believes that "latest" always equals "best"; but that is a questionable heuristic on its face, and one that begs the question of "best" in what regard.

Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
I question some of those decisions.


Which is every critic's prerogative. But if one questions such decisions for publication, then it behooves one to make the best case one can for the decision, even if ultimately one then goes on to disagree with it. Otherwise, you risk giving the impression that a) you think the editor merely arbitrary and capricious, and b) that it was simply too much bother to even try to understand what informed an editorial decision.

Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
I know from our previous discussion at Mythcon a couple of years ago that you pretty strongly disagree with my views about this, and I am quite sure that your opinion has not changed.


My opinion was that in criticizing Christopher's editorial choices (which after all it is not necessary to do, though it is certainly your prerogative to do so, but with attendant responsibilities per the above), you took very little account of Christopher's own editorial goals and purposes and made far too little effort to consider how they might explain the changes and choices that you decried. It's true that I haven't seen anything yet in your book that changes this opinion, but like I said I'm not done with it yet.

To be clear: The work you have done in cataloguing the sources used and changes made to produce the published Silmarillion was clearly a massive effort and just as clearly of great importance and value to Tolkien scholarship and criticism. For that you are certainly to be lauded greatly and unreservedly, and I do so. But in going beyond that, to questioning and evaluating changes -- which again is certainly your prerogative to do -- you bear a responsibility to give Christopher his due, by making a serious and sustained effort to discern and present what his own editorial goals and practices were, and how they might explain the changes; and that I did not see in your Mythcon presentation, nor have I seen it yet in your book (instead, I have noticed a great number of phrases like "I can't imagine why...."...).


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 4:55 pm 
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Aelfwine wrote:
If by "different sources" you are referring to different versions of the tales as written by Tolkien over the decades, i.e. to the mass of manuscripts Tolkien left behind, I think there is no question that Tolkien himself would have presented the book as explicitly or detectably a selection from this mass of manuscripts (after all, had he ever entertained such a notion, he could have done this himself at any time). And if by "different sources" you mean sources within the fictive world, e.g. Mannish vs. Elvish, then we are left again to confront the fact that it is not at all clear which of the shifting explanations to pick, and we are also left again with the fact of the unfinished state of so much of the material.


As I say in the book, I definitely think that Christopher made the right choice in creating a coherent single narrative, rather than proceeding with his original plan to present sort of a "mini-HoMe" approach. But I don't think that it was necessary to pick between different sources. I think that Verlyn Flieger's answer to the question of "who's myth is" it -- that it the myth of whoever is talking at the particular moment -- is the best answer, and that the lack of clarity would not have been such a bad thing. I regret losing such details as Pengolod describing seeing Yavanna in the image of a tree, and I think that the work would have been "better" had such details been retained (though I really can't say what effect it would have had on the opinions of readers or critics). I think that things like that would be analogous to Gandalf talking about wishing to use the palantír to see the unimaginable hand and mind of Fëanor at work. The fact that we don't actually know who Fëanor is when we read that (or at least we didn't until the Silmarillion was released, other than the very brief statement in the appendix) doesn't really matter. Things like that contribute to the sense of unexplored vistas that help make LOTR so charming, and I don't think it would have been a bad thing for The Silmarillion to have had some more unexplained vistas of its own.

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But if one questions such decisions for publication, then it behooves one to make the best case one can for the decision, even if ultimately one then goes on to disagree with it.


I have certainly attempted to do so as much as I am able. To the extent that I have failed to do so, it is due more to my own lack of ability than lack of desire to understand those decisions. Which is one reason why I created this forum, so that the discussion can go beyond my book, and others who perhaps have a better sense of why those decisions were made can have their say.

(Thank you, by the way, for your kind words about the effort of the cataloguing of sources and changes, and the value of that work. That means a lot to me.)

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 6:46 pm 
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I suppose I should toss this one to Carl, from the perspective of one pretty much in agreement:

Why do you think Christopher used the older Annals version of the Death of the Trees, rather than the later LQ2 text? That's probably the one major editorial decision for which I can't at least come up with a decent guess as to "Why?" I think I understand pretty much all the others, and agree with most of them.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 8:48 pm 
Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
I don't think that it was necessary to pick between different sources.


Well, certainly it was not necessary -- Christopher could have chosen any number of approaches, or no approach at all -- but it was certainly justifiable and coherent for Christopher to decide to remove the frame (or rather, candidate frame_s_), given the circumstances. And whatever else Christopher could have chosen to do, or whatever anyone else thinks he ought to have done, I don't see where Christopher's choice was, or is, inherently inferior to any other option.

Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
I think that Verlyn Flieger's answer to the question of "who's myth is" it -- that it the myth of whoever is talking at the particular moment -- is the best answer, and that the lack of clarity would not have been such a bad thing.


I wouldn't have called it "bad" either: it was certainly a valid option for choice (though not without its own attendant problems). (But it would certainly not have helped the book with the vast majority of readers or critics to do so, either, for reasons already explained, i.e., they were expecting another LotR). But neither was choosing to remove the frame "such a bad thing": I never felt its lack, and still don't.

Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
I regret losing such details as Pengolod describing seeing Yavanna in the image of a tree, and I think that the work would have been "better" had such details been retained


Christopher obviously did not feel it either necessary or "better" to fit every detail he could extract or rescue from other sources into the constructed work (and why should he?). As much as we like having those details, it was clearly not Christopher's purpose in The Silmarillion to provide every detail for its own sake. Rather, his chief goal seems to have been (as seems to have been his father's chief goal as well) only to achieve, as much as possible, a unified and coherent narrative, not just in details of plot, names, characterization and other "internal" points (which aspect you detail well), but also in literary tone and style (which aspects I have seen no consideration of -- yet -- in your work), from a mass of more or less disjoint and inconsistent materials of widely varying tone and style. Retaining every possible detail from whatever source is no necessary part of that goal, and in fact it is not hard to see how attempting to do so could work against it.

And isn't it wonderful that we haven't in fact "lost" any of these details? They just didn't make it into the constructed Silmarillion.

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I don't think it would have been a bad thing for The Silmarillion to have had some more unexplained vistas of its own.


I don't think Christopher ever thought it would have been "bad", either (nor do I think it is "bad" not to have them more of them): it was simply not Christopher's goal to provide them all, or otherwise retain every possible detail.

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I have certainly attempted to do so as much as I am able.


Your (frankly rather fierce) rejection of what was very plainly Christopher's reason for excluding "Laws and Customs" and other parts of "Finwë and Míriel" from The Silmarillion, for example, doesn't reflect this attempt. Given the sort of work that Christopher (I think plainly) wanted to achieve in The Silmarillion, it was a perfectly reasonable, natural, and even obvious choice; so dismissing the obvious reason for it as "unacceptable" (I believe you said "I cannot accept the argument" etc...) is uncharitable, to say the least.

It is obvious even just from Morgoth's Ring itself) that this material was just one of a rash of such digressions on philosophical matters in Tolkien's later draftings (in which he was actually habitually more digressive). But the fact that these digressions arose in the course of reconsidering and revising the narratives of "The Silmarillion" does not mean that they must or even should be presented as part of, or even with, that narrative, any more than, say, the fact that Tolkien entered into a long philological digression on Eldarin number systems in the course of an essay on the rivers and beacon-hills of Gondor means that that digression ought to have been published in Unfinished Tales simply because that essay was used for that work. It is one thing to argue that such digressions could have been included in a different sort of work; but it is quite another to fault Christopher (and vehemently) for not including it in the sort of work he chose to produce.

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(Thank you, by the way, for your kind words about the effort of the cataloguing of sources and changes, and the value of that work. That means a lot to me.)


Praise due for what is praiseworthy. On this account, I say yay Doug!


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 8:50 pm 
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That last post was by me (Carl, "Aelfwine"), if there was any doubt. (Didn't realize until after I posted that I wasn't logged in!)


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 10:26 pm 
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You are entitled to form your own opinions, "vison", but your are not entitled to form your own facts. I nowhere accused Doug of malice, only (in short) of sloppy scholarship. (Only if I thought he was being knowingly and deliberately sloppy could I accuse him of malice, and I don't think that.)

It's disappointing that you take the opportunity of response only to a) totally ignore my point, which involved method, not intent; and b) to cast aspersions on Christopher Tolkien; but I won't otherwise comment on them. If you have any comments or questions regarding what I actually wrote, though, I'll be happy to respond to them.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 12:02 pm 
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Yov, I'd be very interested in reading your impressions, as a Non-Initiate in the Mysteries of HME. It had occurred to me that V's book might appear differently to someone who hasn't imbibed the Twelve Tomes, and I catch a whiff on other boards of a hint of anger, a bit of indignant 'we wuz robbed!' from folks who are really for the first time running into the 'constructed' nature of the 1977 text. Although Vor certainly emphasises the necessity of CT's having done so, given the papers he inherited, still without having read HME one might not have absorbed deeply the chaotic and incoherent state of JRRT's papers at his death. Heck, even HME gives a false impression of orderliness, with its neatly typeset and annotated Texts which in reality are often illegible palimpsests, and two or even three 'texts' may be layers of emendation on a single page!


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 12:09 pm 
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I'm in the middle camp Soli. I've read the first 5 or 6 volumes of HoME, in patches. So much of V's work is related to stuff I haven't read yet. Sure, the BoLT material is relevant, but I suspect most of the material is in War of the Jewels and the other later volumes. I'm enjoying it as a sort of "Cliff Notes" highlighting things I'd be interested in reading later.

In that way its actually working as an "Idiots guide to the HoME" and is also helping to encourage further study. Which is a good thing!

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I fall into the same camp as Al - I only got as far as the first 3 or 4 books of HoME years ago, then lost interest. :(

Once I receive my copy of AR I hope my interest will be reignited and my understanding deepened!

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 3:29 pm 
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solicitr wrote:
Yov, I'd be very interested in reading your impressions...


My impressions on what? V's book? If so... well, despite having read LOTR half a dozen times and the Sil twice and despite being quite happy for and admiring of V's publication... to be honest, I just don't care. :blackeye: I just never had the slightest interest in "studying" Tolkien or his works. With a few exceptions, I generally prefer to not delve into the "background" of art or artists I like. I prefer to take art as is and let it speak for itself.

So, while I emphasize my admiration for V (seriously!!), I don't expect I'll ever read his book or HoME, Tolkien's letters, or any of that other stuff. But I'll probably try to read Sil again sometime this year.:)


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 5:04 pm 
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yovargas wrote:
solicitr wrote:
Yov, I'd be very interested in reading your impressions...


My impressions on what? V's book? If so... well, despite having read LOTR half a dozen times and the Sil twice and despite being quite happy for and admiring of V's publication... to be honest, I just don't care. :blackeye: I just never had the slightest interest in "studying" Tolkien or his works. With a few exceptions, I generally prefer to not delve into the "background" of art or artists I like. I prefer to take art as is and let it speak for itself.

So, while I emphasize my admiration for V (seriously!!), I don't expect I'll ever read his book or HoME, Tolkien's letters, or any of that other stuff. But I'll probably try to read Sil again sometime this year.:)


I am more or less in this camp, myself. Except that I have read Voronwë's book now, once through, and intend to give it a reading or two with The Silmarillion in the other hand. I am going to do this not merely because I am impressed with Voronwë's scholarship and hard work, but because I am, after all, mildly interested in The Silmarillion.

At the risk of offending those who do not think as I do - and you guys all know how little I like controversy . . . :D . . . I will say that I think it might have been a good idea for Christopher Tolkien to have burned all his father's papers and to have left us with only what work was completed by Tolkien to his own satisfaction.

When I bought The Silmarillion, I was under the impression that I was buying a book by JRRT, and that it was more of the Middle Earth that had thrilled and enchanted me in LOTR. I was quickly disillusioned. The names were the same, but the flavour was different.

And why wouldn't the flavour be different? Tolkien didn't write The Silmarillion. Had he written it, he would have, perhaps, turned all those notes and ideas and plans and descriptions into another masterpiece. But he didn't, and those papers and that book are still what they were: his notes, his ideas, and plans, half-formed and nebulous.

This is obviously fascinating to Voronwë and other Tolkien scholars. I can understand the fascination, it is like seeing "the hand of Fëanor at work". But it is, in my view, an academic interest not closely related to the actual pleasure of reading LOTR.

Other authors have died and left unfinished work; their heirs and literary executors have often gathered it all up and published it. These publications are of great value to those who study any given author - just as Tolkien's papers are of interest to those who study Tolkien. This is where Voronwë's book will prove invaluable, I'm pretty sure of that.

Yet, for me, I'm not likely to go any further. LOTR is perfect as it is, and arcane information will not make me like it more, or understand it more, or appreciate it more.

As for the value of Tolkien's thought as a "philosopher"? Here is where I part company with Voronwë and many others, such a severe parting that if I was to go on in this strain, I would be sure to start a war.

Well done, Voronwë, and I hope the controversy - surely a fairly mild, sedate, scholarly sort of controversy - helps your book get the attention it deserves. I know you well enough to be convinced that if ever an author was the centre of controversy, you are the author whose views are sincere and not published just for the sake of a fuss.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 5:56 pm 
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When I bought The Silmarillion, I was under the impression that I was buying a book by JRRT, and that it was more of the Middle Earth that had thrilled and enchanted me in LOTR. I was quickly disillusioned. The names were the same, but the flavour was different.

And why wouldn't the flavour be different? Tolkien didn't write The Silmarillion. Had he written it, he would have, perhaps, turned all those notes and ideas and plans and descriptions into another masterpiece. But he didn't, and those papers and that book are still what they were: his notes, his ideas, and plans, half-formed and nebulous.



Oh, no. No no no no no no no. No, no, NO.

:x :x :x :x :x :x :rage:

JRR Tolkien DID write The Silmarillion. What you read, 90% of it, is his words, his sentences, his paragraphs. The fact that those paragraphs had to be brought together from different texts does not alter the fact.

The flavor is *exactly* the flavor JRRT wrote into it. The legendary or Biblical style is that of the original texts; the Silmarillion was never, ever, ever going to be a novelistic 'romance' like the LR. The Ainulindalë and Valaquenta, which I imagine 'disillusioned' you right from the start, are virtually 100% just as JRRT wrote them and intended to publish them.

The Sil is NOT, most emphatically not, something CT "wrote" from "notes and plans," like a Brian Herbert. JRRT wrote the Quenta Silmarillion, complete, up through the birth of Túrin. He wrote the Annals, complete, up through Túrin's death. He intended to have them published together with LR, and it was only Unwins' declining to do so which caused their abandonment. Those texts are the ones JRRT wrote for publication. They were not 'notes,' 'plans', 'sketches', 'outlines' or anything else but polished narratives. But, being Tolkien, he couldn't prevent himself rewriting them. And rewriting and rewriting until he had made hopeless tangles..... but it's nonetheless HIS writing.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 6:25 pm 
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Oh, sure.

A dictionary is full of words. Does that make it literature?

The "best" parts of the Silmarillion are those that JRRT did actually write, as in, string together complete sentences and paragraphs. But it is not a coherent whole and I am convinced that had he undertaken to complete it, it would have been quite different. Better? I don't know, who could know?

I am not complaining about the "Biblical" style, and am, you know, actually capable of figuring that out for myself. Just so you know, you know. I mean, I did see what the guy was driving at. :D However, it is not scripture to me, nothing even remotely like it, and his intention to make me see it as scripture, biblical, reverent, whatever words you want - IF that was his intention - does not make me see it that way. Or, rather, to be more accurate: I am not a "fan" of scripture from any source, infinitely preferring myth. So, IF Tolkien's intent was to "create a myth for England", he did not create a myth I can accept as such. It is too self-conscious, too obviously "created", IMHO. Parts of it are wonderful, but as either literature or myth, it fails to excite me.

I also quite cordially dislike (to use his expression) overt religiosity and moreover do not find Tolkien's spiritual beliefs (if that is what he was expressing in The Silmarillion) particularly interesting or moving, but rather as exactly what a man of his sort would believe, and not at all what a woman of my sort cares about.

Has it ever wondered you why he put it aside to write LOTR? Though we are told, over and over again, that he regarded it as his "real work" and of much more importance than anything else he ever wrote? He could never be satisfied with it, writing it over and over, revising, polishing, honing, tuning, etc., and what did he end up with? Or, rather, what did WE end up with?

I think it is tragic that he did not see what his masterpiece was. His "real work" is obviously fascinating to many, including you. But not to me. A friend of mine who makes her living as a literary critic - imagine! - once infuriated me by saying that an author is probably the worst guide to his work. I argued with her, we went toe to toe and tooth and nail, and while I didn't admit it quickly, I have come to see that she is right. As in, correct.

LOTR is an organic whole. There are few signs of struggle in its style, it flows beautifully, smoothly, completely. It is, in other words, a well-written novel.

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