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 Post subject: Tolkien Studies
PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 9:46 pm 
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AJ suggested a thread on this, and I agree it is a good idea. Tolkien Studies is an scholarly review published by West Virginia University Press, edited by renown Tolkien scholars Douglas Anderson, Michael Drout and Verlyn Flieger. The fifth volume has just been published, and I received my copy today. I will comment periodically on the various articles and reports, and I hope others will as well (from this, previous, and future issues).

The first thing I did upon receiving my copy of TS V was read the essay written by my friend, Jason Fisher, entitled "Three Rings for -- Whom Exactly? And Why? Justifying the Disposition of the Three Elven Rings." I was particularly interested in this essay not just because it was written by my friend, but also because it covers a subject that I find quite interesting.

I was not disappointed. The essay proves to be a scholarly little gem. Jason first sets up the difficulties involved in tracing the disposition of the Three Rings; laying out some of the intuitive misconceptions that some people have been subjected to. He then proceeds to lay out a strong, compelling case showing "that Tolkien eventually decided -- or intuited -- exactly where each of the Three Rings would best be bestowed." Along the way, he teased out some fascinating comparisons (none of which I am going to reveal, because much of the fun of reading the essay is having them spring up on you along the way. He then backs up his conclusions with a solid linguistic/philological analysis of the names. Finally, he concludes his analysis with an interesting sidebar about Tolkien's abandoned idea to have Galadriel give her (at the time unnamed) Ring to Aragorn, resulting perhaps in the people of Lebennin referring to him as the Lord of the Rings. For those of us who enjoy teasing out the intricacies and different pathways of Tolkien's unique creation, this essay is quite a pleasure.

Jason would be quited disappointed, however, if I didn't point out any quibbles that I had with the essay (I'm sure he is even now sharpening his claws waiting for Arda Reconstructed's release :P). I have two small ones.

First, he calls the first draft of the chapter "The Shadow of the Past" (originally called "Ancient History") "one of the oldest parts of the manuscript." Since he is actually following Tolkien's own lead here, Jason can hardly be blamed, but it simply isn't really true to call the first draft of that chapter "one of the oldest parts of the manuscript." In truth, Tolkien had drafted virtually all of what eventually was to become Book One (up through Rivendell) before he went back and wrote "Ancient History" and added it into the text after "A Long Expected Party", thus fundamentally changing the nature of the work with the addition of the true nature of the One Ring, and the development of the history of the rest of the Rings of Power.

The second is, I suppose, more of an observation than a quibble. Jason states, regarding the essay "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age" (printed in The Silmarillion), "But though the essay had been at least roughed out by the middle to late 1940s, Tolkien must have continued to revise it all the way through the galley proof stage of The Lord of the Rings (some time in 1954), and perhaps well beyond it, since we now that key elements included in "Of the Rings of Power" -- most significantly, the names of the rings -- were not decided until that time. Alas, I have to disagree that we can make this statement with any degree of certitude. It is equally possible that the essay was simply edited by Christopher Tolkien to add such elements as the names of the rings. As Jason points out, Christopher does not include a history of the development of that essay anywhere in The History of Middle-earth. So there is no way of telling how much of published version was written by Tolkien, and how much was editorial.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

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