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PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2016 7:48 am 
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Suppose you had the opportunity to prepare for publication a set of books ‘rebooting’ the way the ‘Silmarillion’ and related texts are presented to the world (though not pretending that HoMe, etc., don’t exist). How would you do it?

Here is what I would like to see:

1. THE FALL OF GONDOLIN and its Legendarium
The main section, fully illustrated, would be just Tolkien’s foundational ‘Fall of Gondolin’ tale, in the form as he read it aloud to the Exeter College Essay Club in 1920, essentially as published in BoLT II. Following as an ‘Appendix,’ in smaller type, the entire rest of BoLT I+II straight through, without commentary.

2. BEREN AND LÚTHIEN and its Legendarium
This would be ‘The Lay of Leithian’ as it stood in 1931. Following as an ‘Appendix,’ the ‘Silmarillion’—Ainulindalë, Quenta, Annals, and Ambarkanta—as it stood in the late 30s, falling back on the early 30s texts where necessary. Basically the best of HoMe III-IV-V without a blow-by-blow of revisions and without commentary but complete and seamlessly readable and without invention. In other words, the ‘Silmarillion’ as it was at the time that LotR was written.

3. THE CHILDREN OF HÚRIN and its Legendarium
This would consist of the ‘Silmarillion’ tradition as it stood in the 50s: Ainulindalë, Annals, Quenta, Narn, and Athrabeth. I would insert the later ‘Fall of Gondolin’ (from UT) between chapters 12 and 13 of the Narn. All the goodies you can find as part of the Quenta or Annals in HoMe X-XI would be in their place—Laws and Customs, Finwë and Míriel, Wanderings of Húrin. Again, it would be complete and readable texts that wouldn’t refer you to other books to fill in the gaps, and offered without commentary.

Your thoughts?


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2016 6:04 pm 
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I am not a Silm expert but did want to acknowledge the choice of subject.

I'd read all of it, but can't offer any substantial input.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2016 6:42 pm 
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I just wanted to acknowledge that I am working on a response, but it will take a bit of time for me to finish it.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2016 11:40 pm 
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I look forward to it!


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 17, 2016 12:53 am 
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Anything that would make the Silmarillion more interesting would be worth it. ;). And your plan does at least sound like it would achieve that.
However, I have not read HoME.

Am curious, why do you think this approach would be better?

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 17, 2016 4:40 am 
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My main goal would be to familiarize readers with Tolkien’s trilogy of long-form ‘Great Tales’ without asking them to delve into HoMe, which, in addition to its own daunting size and scope, requires you to first become an ‘expert’ (as one of you put it) in the frankly unexciting, summary-style 1977 Silmarillion. I am convinced that the average reader would be happy to read the Great Tales and not be bothered with the full Legendarium, just as the average reader is happy to read the LotR and doesn’t bother with the lore dump to be found in the Appendices. However, when you find the First Age come alive in your imagination through the Great Tales, you may become eager to ‘learn more,’ just as some readers of the LotR devour the Appendices.

In each of the three periods I have identified (let’s call them early, middle, and late), the Legendarium grew up around a signature Great Tale which Tolkien was working on in earnest. The most clear example is the middle period, in which the Quenta was indeed written explicitly as an appendix to give readers of The Lay of Leithian some background. He even submitted this pairing as such for publication in 1937 (it was rejected). This is also why the Tale of Beren and Lúthien is given so much prominence in The Lord of the Rings—because Beren and Lúthien was in his mind at the time as his definitive Tale. I think many readers would be interested to read the Tale and the rest of the “Books of Lore translated by Bilbo in Rivendell” exactly as Tolkien had them down when he mentioned them throughout the LR.

Going back to the early period, here we again see the pattern in which Tolkien first writes a Great Tale—The Fall of Gondolin—and then devises a history around it. Unlike in the middle period, here the rest of the tales are rather long form; however, none is quite so grand as Gondolin, and they all mention it and point to it in one way or another, so much so that IMO it makes the most sense to read it first. Anyone who has been impressed by the Ruth Lacon edition of the Tale of Gondolin can easily see the potential mass appeal in it. Additionally, I have long wanted a single-volume BoLT (with the commentary dropped); I really think it is an amazing work of literature that deserves to stand on its own with greats such as The Worm Ouroboros and The Well of the Unicorn.

In the late period, the central Tale is definitely The Children of Húrin, but that obviously has now been published as a standalone novel. So, in my third collection I would take a new approach; one, I think, appropriate to the Legendarium as it evolved in this late period. Here, The Silmarillion becomes no longer a parenthetical sketch of background stories, but the primary framework for a massive work. Parts remain in summary style, but wherever Tolkien cares to flesh out an episode, he does so, big time. Christopher Tolkien in 1977 apparently thought this fluctuating expansion and contraction to be unendurable, but, I have not found it so. In fact, I think you end up with a very natural setup-payoff pattern. (I have cobbled it together as best I could, and read it aloud.)


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 17, 2016 4:55 am 
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I would appreciate anything that would make those texts more accessible to people like me. Or at least approachable from a different angle, so that putting the two angles together might create something that looked three-dimensional to me.

I'm certainly not being dismissive here. The fault is with me. I tell stories for a living (partly), and I can't help but wish to experience Tolkien's legendarium as stories as I (with my prejudices) understand "stories." I think this approach would clear away some of the underbrush, so to speak, that fills much of HoME, and let the essence of what I would call "story" come through.

I think it would also provide pleasure and insight to people with higher tastes and more knowledge. :)

ETA: Ulmo, I have cross-posted with you. I think your approach is fascinating, speaking as someone who is not remotely a Tolkien scholar, but nevertheless a lover of the stories Tolkien told in full ("wherever Tolkien cares to flesh out an episode").

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2016 1:31 pm 
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Hi Ulmo. This is obviously a subject that I have given a good deal of thought to, as you might have guessed if you have read my book. Have you read the essay 'On the Construction of 'the Silmarillion' by Charles Noad, published in the great book Tolkien's Legendarim, edited by Verlyn Flieger and Carl Hostetter? Charles presents an outline for The Silmarillion as he believes that Tolkien might have intended it, which closely matches my conception. He suggest the following:

Quenta Silmarillion
Concerning the Powers
Ainulindalë
Valaquenta

The Great Tales
The Lay of Leithian
Narn I Chin Húrin
The Fall of Gondolin
Eärendil the Wanderer

The Later Tales
Akalabeth
Of the Rings of Power

Appendices
The Tale of Years
Of the Laws and Customs among the Eldar
Danweth Pengolold
Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth
Quendi and Eldar


Of course, Charles was talking about what he believed Tolkien would have done had he himself finished and published The Silmarillion. The problem with using this approach with the material as he left it, of course, is that some of the material is unfinished (including the primary text, the Quenta itself) or even unwritten (Eärendil the Wanderer). Still I would take a similar approach, using the most recent versions of the Quenta and filling in from the Annals only where necessary to capture Tolkien's latest version of the story, as best can be determined. I do have some sympathy to the approach that Christopher took in including the Ainulindalë and the Valaquenta first before the Quenta, but I think Noad's approach works as well. I would keep the Ainulindalë intact and not try to move some of it to the beginning of the Quenta. And I would leave the ending of the Valaquenta alone and include the full second prophecy as the ending of the Quenta. As for the Great Tales, I would like to see someone like Guy Kay work to finish the 1950's version of the Fall of Gondolin which is published in UT, based loosely on the full account in the original Lost Tale, but updated to match the tone and circumstances of the more modern tales. Similarly, the tale of Beren and Lúthien could be completed in fuller prose form based on what Tolkien left in the various versions, including the Lay of Leithian (perhaps liberally including excerpts from the Lay, as was used to such good end in the existing published Silmarillion, at Guy's suggestion). I don't think, however, that any attempt to create the Eärendil's never-written Great Tale should be made. Just use the three (including the Narn as Christopher has left it).

Charles also notes that the Notion Club Papers hints at a concept that could be used as framing devise that would relieve the concerns that Tolkien expressed about his cosmology, "that of two distinct pasts, the historical and the mythical, "secondary planes and degrees," merging at the fall of Atlantis/Númenor. Before that, the universe of the Ambarkanta was real. After, our astronomical universe, with its round earth, and solar system, and evidence of thousands of millions of years of past existence and thousands of lightyears' extension in space, is the reality. How the one can be antecedent to the other is simply left as an unfathomable mystery." As Charles says, "the framing devise of Aelfwine and Pengalob could thereby be preserved in its entirety and the Ambarkanta retained. The ancient myths of the Two Trees could be kept because they were, after all, a true description of reality" before the world was changed. I would therefore add the Ambarkanta as another appendix.

Ulmo, I applaud you for thinking outside the box. However, it seems to me that your approach is really just HoME rearranged, with the commentary removed. I don't think that the general reader is going to be attracted to multiple versions of the same stories, written in completely different styles. I would leave the various drafts and versions where they are, in the scholarly compendium with Christopher extensive (and to me fascinating) commentary, and attempt to present a work that comes as close as possible to what Tolkien would have released, had he had the time and energy to do so.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2016 1:40 pm 
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Although its a difficult problem, I would recommend opening with the Quenta and leave The Ainulindalë and Valaquenta as Appendices for those interested in learning more. Those first few chapters are, I believe, the reason most first time readers bounce off the Silmarillion. As has been shown by both "Lord of the Rings" and indeed "The Children of Húrin", readers are willing to jump into the story midstream and get glimpses of those "unexplained vistas". Indeed, I would recommend as full a retelling of the Quenta as physically possible, with editorial invention where needed. The Second Age and the beginning of the Third should be a separate volume, treated the same way. Fleshed out to as full a narrative as possible.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2016 2:56 pm 
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Al, I agree, and in fact while driving to work had plan to post the same thought (that first time readers often seem put off by the Ainulindalë and Valaquenta).

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2016 4:50 pm 
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Great posts, especially Voronwë’s long one. Thanks! I definitely need that Tolkien’s Legendarium book, as well as Arda Reconstructed. Well, maybe I’ll see if I can borrow them from a library.

I have little more to add to the conversation other than to reiterate my own preferences—less editorial invention, not more, etc. It is true that deluxe, readable copies of “HoME rearranged” are exactly all I desire. To me, the key to enjoying the First Age is just to enjoy the writings we have in the form we have them. “What could have been” is awesome, but the actual texts we possess are even better, because they exist and they are absolute gems. I don’t see why The Fall of Gondolin or The Lay of Leithian need to be reworked into the mode of the Narn in order to be enjoyed. (Even just between Hob, LR, and the LR Appendix he employs three different modes.) Those stories as they stand are the real deal, and it’s a shame more people don’t experience them, or only experience the summaries in Sil’77—which even tell you that the full stories exist and that you should go read them!

If you look at the Conan stories, and the way they are repackaged constantly—attractive and faithful Howard-only collections, cheap paperbacks completed and fleshed out by de Camp and Carter, pastiches and comic books—you get the best of all worlds; so, I don’t see any reason we couldn’t both all what we want! The Children of Húrin (2007) opened that Pandora’s Box (it is all material that has been in print since 1980), and IMO the latest books are really scraping the bottom of the barrel, so, really anything goes, at this point.

I would love to see a standalone Númenor Cycle book, to include The Notion Club Papers, Akallabêth, The Mariner’s Wife, and Tal-Elmar (in that order?). I would put The Lost Road in as an appendix—it is greatly inferior to The Notion Club Papers, but, it gives a lot of insight into where the story was headed. I wouldn’t say Númenor is neglected, exactly, but it deserves to be treated as a major work in its own right, and not as a bit tacked on the end of The Silmarillion.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2016 1:14 pm 
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http://www.tolkiensociety.org/2016/10/n ... d-luthien/

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Quote:
A compilation of all versions of Tolkien’s tale of Beren and Lúthien will be published next year, HarperCollins has announced.


Edited by Christopher Tolkien and illustrated by Alan Lee, Beren and Lúthien will bring together material scattered throughout the 12-volume History of Middle-earth series.

The earliest version of the tale of Beren and Lúthien was written in 1917, when Beren was an Elf not a Man and the equivalent of Sauron was a large evil cat.

The story underwent considerable revision throughout Tolkien’s life, and was reworked in both prose and poetry. The new book will demonstrate this evolution in full.

Beren and Lúthien will be published 100 years since Tolkien’s wife Edith danced for him in a small woodland glade filled with hemlocks in East Yorkshire, an event he later acknowledged was the inspiration for the meeting of the immortal Lúthien Tinúviel and the mortal Beren in the glades beside Esgalduin.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Beren and Lúthien will be published in May 2017.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2016 1:38 pm 
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Wow, that came out of nowhere.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2016 2:31 pm 
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I totally called it! :rofl:


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2016 3:02 am 
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I think that might be worth a pre-order :) .

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2016 4:55 pm 
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Hey everyone, long time no see.

Voronwë the Faithful wrote:
Quenta Silmarillion
Concerning the Powers
Ainulindalë
Valaquenta

The Great Tales
The Lay of Leithian
Narn I Chin Húrin
The Fall of Gondolin
Eärendil the Wanderer

The Later Tales
Akalabeth
Of the Rings of Power

Appendices
The Tale of Years
Of the Laws and Customs among the Eldar
Danweth Pengolold
Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth
Quendi and Eldar


You are of course more familiar with the source texts and Tolkien's original intentions than me. However, the prospect of putting Ainulindalë after the Quenta makes me uneasy. The Ainulindalë is a beautiful and widely-beloved text, and quite important for staging everything. Isn't just jumping straight into Of the Beginning of Days kind of abrupt?

And is it the Ainulindalë that really puts people off, or the other early stuff? I would blame Valaquenta and some parts of the early Quenta before it. As otherworldly as it is, Ainulindalë still tells a narrative story. The Valaquenta is basically an extended even if often beautiful list, and Quenta chapters like Of the Eldar and Of Beleriand and its Realms (could at least part of that be moved to an appendix?) can be a slog.

I can understand moving the Valaquenta to the back though. On the other hand, then you have the problem of the early Quenta being dominated by strange-named Valar of which the reader has never heard. But I guess that's how reading mythology sometimes is, and it's a little too encyclopedic for many first-timers.

Also, I hope the Wanderings of Húrin would make it into a hypothetical "full Silmarillion." Maybe even Aldarion and Erendis too?


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2016 6:14 pm 
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Hi, k_z, nice to see you here! Remember that the list that you quoted from me is actually me quoting Charles Noad who in turn was stating what he believed Tolkien would have done. As I went on to say in the post above, "I do have some sympathy to the approach that Christopher took in including the Ainulindalë and the Valaquenta first before the Quenta." Personally, I don't fine either off-putting at all, though I wish Christopher/Guy Kay and kept both of them intact. But I do understand that others find them less appealing.

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