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PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2007 5:45 am 
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This will likely be one of the most disjointed, rambling, incoherent and (most likely) useless and unnecessary posts that I have made in my years posting about Middle-earth, etc. And yet I feel compelled to try to express this thought, unoriginal and perhaps even uninspired as it is.

I am struck by the serendipitous nature of how Tolkien's universe has continuously been expanding in how it has been exposed to the public. It has followed no one's plan, not Tolkien's himself, not his son Christopher's, certainly not Peter Jackson's or that of the various other artistic and commercial individuals that have been involved in this process, though all of them had some influence. I would tempted to argue, nonetheless, that it has followed some plan beyond the ken of all of them.

The first real exposure to Tolkien's universe (my apologies to Tom for not including the previous appearance of Bombadil) came more or less accidentally with the publication of the mostly unrelated children's book, The Hobbit. The framework of the mythology underpinning the universe already existed at this time, of course, but only inserted itself into that story in the most superficial of ways.

The unexpected success of The Hobbit caused Tolkien to be distracted from turning back to the legends of the Elder Days, because of the desire of his publisher for a sequel to The Hobbit. It is well documented, of course, how that sequel became subsumed by those old legends, so that the result, The Lord of the Rings, became instead a continuation and conclusion of those old legends. Yet despite Tolkien's desperate desire to have the full set of legends, from the creation myth of the Ainulindalë through the Wars of the Jewels and of the Ring, published together as one complete saga, circumstances (including Tolkien's own stubbornness) contributed to cause only the latter part of the tale, "the account, as it were, of its end and passing away before its beginning and middle had been told" (as Tolkien puts it in the Foreword to The Lord of the Rings) to be published.

And, of course, The Lord of the Rings became remarkably successful, far more then The Hobbit, and far beyond Tolkien's or anyone else's wildest imagination. And a large part of that success was due to the sense that that work gives to being a reflection of a universe of great depth. It is the "many glimpses of the yet more ancient history that preceded it" (to again quote from the Foreword) that gives it that sense of depth, and yet great mystery. I am certainly not the first person to assert that The Lord of the Rings would not have been nearly so successful (and perhaps not successful at all) if it had in fact been published as Tolkien had wished as part of the the greater history of his created universe.

But, of course, the great success of The Lord of the Rings opened up a market for the publication of the older legends (older both in terms of the time period they described, and in terms of when they were begun by Tolkien). But then it was that stubbornness of Tolkien's, combined with the very complexity of his unique way of creating, that conspired to continued to keep the older legends out of the public eye. Tolkien kept expanding his creation, and changing it, and adding different versions of the same tales, and he was never able to publish anything of the older legends during the period of the rest of his long life.

And there it would have likely stood, with his legacy largely standing on the success of The Lord of the Rings (and to some extent The Hobbit), but the bulk of the true nature of the universe that he created being largely unknown. Except for the curious nature of his youngest son, Christopher. Christopher long shared a great interest in his father's work, from the days of The Hobbit when as a child he was largely the intended audience, through the creation of The Lord of the Rings, a large portion of which was sent off to him in letters as he fought in World War II. He shared his father's love of language, and followed in his footsteps as Professor at Oxford. He was, therefore, well situated to act as his father's literary executor. After his father's death, he set out (with the help of Guy Kay) on the "difficult and doubtful task of preparing the text" of The Silmarillion for publication. And for the first time, much of that deeper world that is glimpsed in The Lord of the Rings is revealed, including the creation of the universe, it's cosmological structure, and the desperate history of the first born of the fathers of Men that fought by their sides in their hopeless wars against the original dark lord, of whom Sauron was but a servant.

Yet many people felt a certain disappointment with The Silmarillion. For all of its history and grandeur, it lacked the narrative depth that made The Lord of the Rings so compelling. Little did anyone know at that time, however, what a condensed and amalgamated version of the old legends the published Silmarillion was. We gladly accepted it as the "authorized version" but we hungered for more. That hunger was partly satisfied with the release of Unfinished Tales, which gave some snippets of the kind of narrative depth that we loved in The Lord of the Rings. But only snippets.

Then Christopher made the critical decision to publish the oldest versions of the old legends, The Book of Lost Tales, and the Lays of Beleriand. That led naturally into the huge labour of full History of Middle-earth series. With the completion of that task (which I fully believe no one but Christopher Tolkien could have accomplished) the full depth of Tolkien's creation became available, for those willing to wade through the huge patchwork of material revealed. Not only was most of the various versions of The Silmarillion tale now available in their fuller depth, these legends were tremendously supplemented by the deep philosophical musings of such works as the Athrabeth Finrod Ah Andreth (and particularly its commentaries), The Laws and Customs of the Eldar, and The Shibboleth of Fëanor.

With the completion of the History of Middle-earth series (and with the upcoming publication of the Children of Húrin), a full appreciation of Tolkien's universe is possible. Fuller, I would argue, then would have been possible if Tolkien had succeeded in publishing the Saga of the Jewels and the Ring as one work, as he had originally wished. I am tempted to say Tolkien was meant to publish only the The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in his lifetime, and that then Christopher Tolkien was meant to publish first the condensed and somewhat unsatisfactory Silmarillion, followed by Unfinished Tales, then The Book of Lost Tales, The Lays of Beleriand, the rest of The History of Middle-earth, and The Children of Húrin. And that is, perhaps, an encouraging thought.

And, of course, the tale does not end their. These works have been supplemented by a remarkable body of interpretive works, led by such brilliant scholars of Tolkien's work as Tom Shippey and Verlyn Flieger (dare I hope that my own small work will eventually add to that glorious tradition?). And the universe that Tolkien created was further expanded in the world of cinema, first in a small way with Bakshi and Rankin/Bass' animated efforts, but then on a huge scale with Peter Jackson's wildly successful films. Whatever one thinks of those films (and I hope that whatever discussion this post generates, if any, does not turn to the comparative merits of the films) it cannot be doubted that they have greatly expanded the public's perception of Middle-earth. The lavish LOTR musical also contributes to that expansion, to some extent.

Finally, it is in the gaming world that this process seems to be taking the most revolutionary turn. Middle-earth games have existed for many years, but the new LOTR Online game is taking the process to new heights, allowing individuals to completely immersed themselves in Tolkien's Middle-earth. I myself am not a gamer, and with my 20th century dial-up internet connection, I'm not likely to participate in this latest development. But that does not stop me from appreciation the latest step in Tolkien's Expanding Universe.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2007 7:00 am 
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V wrote:
This will likely be one of the most disjointed, rambling, incoherent and (most likely) useless and unnecessary posts that I have made in my years posting about Middle-earth, etc. And yet I feel compelled to try to express this thought, unoriginal and perhaps even uninspired as it is.

Well V I have to politely disagree with that. :)

V wrote:
Whatever one thinks of those films (and I hope that whatever discussion this post generates, if any, does not turn to the comparative merits of the films) it cannot be doubted that they have greatly expanded the public's perception of Middle-earth.

I won't go into the comparative merits I just wanted to thank V for pointing out the the movies truly did attract some very big Tolkien fans (like me!)

V the Faithful wrote:
These works have been supplemented by a remarkable body of interpretive works, led by such brilliant scholars of Tolkien's work as Tom Shippey and Verlyn Flieger (dare I hope that my own small work will eventually add to that glorious tradition?).

Yes V I'm positive that your work will add to the greatness that is Tolkien's universe.[/url]


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2007 11:11 am 
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I mostly agree completely, although I would add a caveat. Not all that is added would, to my mind, necessarily constitute part of Tolkien's universe. Anything that is added for the love of money, and for the purpose of extracting it from the fans does not, IMO, belong to Tolkien's world, but it's a fine line to draw - the purpose of any new variety of Tolkien related things is hardly ever easy to determine, but when it comes to things issued by the entertainment industry I would be very, very careful before adding them to the universe of Tolkien's ideas.
(This is not to say that these things can't belong there - just that I would look twice before adding them.)

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2007 11:21 am 
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This is something we touched on yesterday over IM, but its a tricky line to draw. For example what if a fan expands the universe, then subsequently makes money off it? Say for example Barbara Stracheys "Journey's of Frodo", or Karen Wynn Fonstadts "Atlas of Middle-Earth". Does the fact that they madde money negate their quality? Of course, the same is also true of the Movies. Primarily, they were made for money, not for love of Tolkien. Also Howard Shore's score, while obviously crafted with love, was a commisionned work.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2007 12:21 pm 
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Quote:
This is something we touched on yesterday over IM


That's what I was thinking of, too. :D

Yes, it's definitely tricky.
I wouldn't say that subsequently making money with it negates the quality. For me, the question would be the ideas it was first made with.
Did the author think "wow, this is great stuff, I want to work with it" or did they think "there's a zillion people out there who like that stuff, let's see, what can we produce that they'll buy"?
I know that it's probably hardly ever possible to determine that, but I like to imagine that you can somehow feel whether the heart is in it, and that attitudes to marketing and revenue give additional clues.

In the case of the movies, it's probably a bit of both, I'd say. The producers may have hoped for the revenue, but if the eyes had only been on the gain, a cheaper and less risky version could have been produced (esp given that, AFAIK, the movies didn't come at a high tide of Tolkien fandom - they created the tide) - so, I'd say that PJ's motives were the love of the topic (whether that's the same as love of Tolkien is another question ;) ) more than the hope of extracting money from the fans.

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but being a cheerful hobbit he had not needed hope, as long as despair could be postponed.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2007 1:09 pm 
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Well, if thats the case I think the same is probably true of the game. There are 2 motivating factors. Firstly, it has to make money, secondly it has to appeal to the fans, cause they're a large chunk of the target audience. As a result, they hired a bunch of fans to make the game, since they best know what will appeal. How succesfully they have pulled it off remains to be seen, but what I've seen so far has certainly encouraged me. There has been a genuine attempt to make a LotR MMORPG, and not just World of Warcraft with a Lord of the Rings look and feel. Obviously, it has to work as a game also, which means that you can't have all the Elves being superhuman since nobody would play as any other character. Also, because there were only 5 wizards, you don't get to play as one. Still, they're tried to stay true to "the lore".

Anyway, this isn't meant to be a review of the game. Lets take the Movie Universe and look at that. The Sideshow Weta stuff is obviously intended as a cash in, but the quality is very good. No cheap knock-offs there. Where does that fit in? Or the "Complete Recordings" sets?

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2007 3:25 pm 
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It's interesting that you guys have focused in on the last paragraph, which was mostly a throw-in (and which I almost removed to avoid distracting attention from my main point). Still, you discussion fits into my main point, such as it is.

hobby wrote:
Not all that is added would, to my mind, necessarily constitute part of Tolkien's universe. Anything that is added for the love of money, and for the purpose of extracting it from the fans does not, IMO, belong to Tolkien's world


As I acknowledged in my original post, there is certainly a commercial interest that is a driving force in the expansion of Tolkien's universe, as well as an artistic one. After all, Tolkien himself sold the film rights because he needed the money. But those commercial forces have contributed to the expansion of that universe (whether one appreciates those aspects or not). To say that they do not constitute part of Tolkien's universe is to beg the question. One could just as easily say that The Silmarillion does not constitute part of Tolkien's universe because of all of the changes (and in some points major additions) that Christopher made. But as I said earlier, this process goes beyond Tolkien himself (obviously, since it has continued long after his death).

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2007 4:51 pm 
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I agree with superwiz: Voronwë, your post was far from being "disjointed, rambling, incoherent...[or] useless". Quite the opposite in fact. That was an impressively concise summary. Also, I appreciate your consideration of my feelings--I presume you're referring to the 1934 publishing of "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" in the Oxford Magazine (I think I got the names and dates of that right)--but Tom's adventures presumably had a very small audience so even I do not consider it Tolkien's first published work about Middle-earth. :)

As far as LOTR Online, while acknowledging that this has come to the market largely because of the commercial success of Peter Jackson's films, I'd like to point out that the original name was Middle-earth Online, and that the game was initially in development well before Jackson's movies, and even before the release of such popular MMORPGs as EverQuest, World of Warcraft, etc.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2007 5:04 pm 
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Thanks for your kind words, Tom (and S'wiz, as well). Fortunately, it did come out more coherent then I had feared. :)

And yes, I was referring to the original publication of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (I think you are correct on the dates and names). You express very well why I do not include it.

Thank you for pointing out that the development of LOTR Online has been such a long process. It highlights the fact that commercial forces were not the only factors in this particular endeavor, and that it was clearly driven also by a love of Tolkien's uniquely created universe, and a desire to develop a new way of experiencing it.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2007 1:59 am 
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I thought your "essay" for lack of a better word was very well done, Voronwë!

It got me thinking about my own experience with Tolkien. I started small, reading The Hobbit when I was younger. But I never made the leap to Lord of the Rings until right before the movies came out. Universe expands a little. Then, my mother gave me copies of The Book of Lost Tales I and II. Bigger still. Onto the Silmarillion I went. And now I'm working through parts of the HOME books. I have also read the Letters, the Carpenter Biography and several related books. With each book my appreciation and understanding of Tolkien expands and grows.

And yes, the pursuit of the $ and captive audience with a short attention span has caused many books etc to be published that probably ought not have seen the light of day. (How's that for a run-on sentence! :rofl: ) I have enjoyed seeking out the treasures to be had. I look forward to adding your book into my already crammed Tolkien bookcase.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2007 2:54 am 
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Hi Andreth! :)

Very interesting that you read The Book of Lost Tales before reading The Silmarillion. I don't imagine there are many people that have read those works in that order. It must have given you a unique perspective, seeing how the tales started out before seeing the "final" version. I'm sure that I would have found the language of The Book of Lost Tales quite daunting if I hadn't read the Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales first.

Thank you for your kind words. I too hope you will be able to add Arda Reconstructed to your crowded Tolkien bookcase some day. :)

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2007 4:03 am 
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I think my mother assumed I had a copy of The Silmarillion. It was rather interesting reading to be sure. I read alot during my first semester of nursing school. During class. :oops:

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2007 11:33 pm 
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There is an interesting comment by Rayner Unwin in his short essay "Early Days of Elder Days" in the book "TOLKIEN'S LEGENDARIUM Essays on The History of Middle-earth" which bears on this subject. He suggests that if The Silmarillion had been published when Tolkien first submitted the result might have been that The Lord of the Rings would never have been written. He says:

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If "The Silmarillion" had been published and failed to achieve immediate success, it would in all likelihood have been engulfed and forgotten during the war and have had to wait as long as Eddison's book [The Worm Ouroboros] for gradula recognition. Against this scenerio would Tolkien have felt any encouragement to start writing The Lord of the Rings?


It's hard to argue with that logic.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2007 8:47 pm 
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VtF...if I may be bold enough to call you by that. I found your observations totally cohesive and well thought out. Consider me in line for your .... book? Would that be...Arda Reconstructed: The Creation of the Published Silmarillion???? Did some internet checking, just to let you know.

Regards the expansion of Tolkiens universe (Tolkienverse) good/bad? Correct or not? I think that it HAS grown exactly as you wrote in your first post. There are those who think that anything not purely J.R.R. Tolkien is NOT Tolkien. I beg to differ. Without Christopher's hard work (regardless of the motivation, which I think to be sincere or he could be cashing in on all low hanging fruit that is made available to him, I am certain) we would not even have The Silmarillion and so forth.

Like many others, I first read The Hobbit, late sixties and then LotR's. The Silmarillion came about ten years later, if I recall correctly. While The Hobbit was an easy read.....I was in my late teens at the time, LotR's really did it for me. The first full length, three volume fantasy that I had ever read. I was eager to jump at reading The Silmarillion, to expand my own personal universe. I was shocked to say the least.

I had assumed that The Silmarillion would be similar to LotR's, just what happened before....well it IS. But not told in the same way. Of course, not written in the same fashion, by the same person. A collection of what Tolkien had written prior to his death, compiled by Christopher, with the forward by Guy Kay...I think I have that correct.

I am long winded today, not sure if "I" am rambling mindlessly or actually writing substitive paragraphs....*sigh* I am meaning to say that I think it is great and good that the Tolkienverse keeps expanding. I do think that the most recent level of games came as a direct result of the huge success of the PJ movies...but so did this website and others that I can think of.

I hope that Tolkienverse continues to expand. It is like watching television, if you don't like what is printed, don't get it. Personally, I like it all, but love some, like some more than others...and some were interesting time spent.

Voronwë....please, I would love to know more of your efforts. I assume I am a late comer in finding out that "one of our own"...(again, excuse the assumption) has something to offer. *raises hand* Please keep us informed as to the when?

Thank you for a great read!!


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2007 9:12 pm 
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Hi rwhen. :) Thank you for your kind comments. I would very glad to have you call me VtF, Voronwë, or any one of the half-dozen or so other nicknames that people seem to have for me around here. And I very much hope that you would consider me "one of our own"; hopefully you don't mind if I consider you one of our own, as well. :)

As for Arda Reconstructed, you can learn more than you possibly could want at this thread in the Red Book forum. You can also read the original thread in which the project started here. Meanwhile, I'll give you a brief synopsis of where things are at. When I finished going through the entire text of the Silmarillion, paragraph by paragraph, tracing the source material as much as I could, and detailing every change, omission and addition that I could no matter how large or small, I sent out a query and sample chapter to a number of different potential publishers. One expressed interest in seeing the full manuscript, and then sent it to a reviewer. The reviewer expressed the opinion that while it was an important subject, the manuscript was not publishable in its current form. He suggested moving all of the paragraph by paragraph tracing of source material out of the text and into table form, and removing all of the tiny details to focus on the major changes and omissions. He also suggested bolstering my own commentary about the changes. I have been diligently working on those revisions, which fortunately are nearing completion. Then I will send the revised manuscript back to the potential publisher, who will have the same reader review it. I am hopeful that the revisions will be satisfactory, but there is no guarantee. I personally am much happier with the revised work, however.

I also presented a paper on my work at the recent annual conference of the Mythopoeic Society. You can read about that here.

I bet that's a lot more information than you were expecting in response to your question. :)

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2007 9:25 pm 
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Absolutely NOT too much. I am unsatable...(is that a word?) "Can't get enough of that funky stuff!!". So, it will take me a bit to get through the three sources you have left me, and I WILL read them. I will comment in the appropriate places.

Regards your resubmission. You have gone farther than the most who are trampled and left for dead on the trail of publication efforts. I will be sending some good vibes out your way for acceptance. Keep your chin up and be proud of your efforts on the re-write.

*off to check out links now*

Thanks again!!


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2007 11:05 pm 
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I think what sets Tolkien's works apart from many others is the overwhelming grass roots/cult following he had for many years.

His works were not an overnight success, but were a steady ever growing phenomenon, due in large part to the faithful fans he had acquired over the years.

His foundation of loyal followers is widely spread and solid.

The antithesis would be J K Rowling, who achieved nearly instant success.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2007 12:09 am 
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I'd turn that around the other way, Holby: I think what sets Tolkien's works apart is that they deserved that kind of interest.

I wouldn't call it cultish, either, as it was centered around the books themselves, rather than the man who wrote them. Tolkien resisted celebrity, at least in the sense of being a public figure, pretty successfully.

Rowling deserves her overnight success, in my view, but I don't think Tolkien would have envied her a bit. And I think one of the virtues of his work is that it is not exactly so simple to find one's way in. I'm still trying to grow into the Silmarillion, myself. :P

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2007 12:17 am 
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I wasn't in any way inferring who deserves what, merely stating the different paths to popularity.

I used the world cult for lack of a better term.
I was using it in the sense that early on, Tolkien was not mainstream and was not widely accepted by literary critics.

He had a grass roots culture that grew and spread.
I attribute that following in no small part to the culture of the 60's.

Damned hippies. :P

Rowling on the other hand sold millions of books very quickly and became a phenomenom. The movies followed shortly and the whole Harry Potter world exploded. A far different path than Tolkien.

I am in no way saying she didn't deserve what she got, nor Tolkien for that matter.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2007 12:52 am 
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rwhen:

It should be understood, however, that the fact that The Silmarillion is 'told in a different way' is JRRT's doing, not his son's: while CT certainly did an enormous amount of 'selecting and arranging' to piece together a coherent narrative, the text itself is (almost) all in the Professor's words: the distant, 'mythological' focus is the mode Tolkien himself employed, not a product of his son's editing.


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