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The Road Goes Ever On and On: Everything Tolkien - Book 2  

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Varnafinde
(@varna)
Princess of the Noldor and Royal Overseer of the Talk About Narnia forum Moderator

I was in a discussion in a different NWeb forum, and The Silmarillion came up.

It made me ask myself a question: What would have been different in The Lord of the Rings if The Silmarillion had been published before it?

After the success of The Hobbit, the publisher asked for more books about Hobbits. Tolkien tried to offer The Silmarillion, which he had written years earlier and which happens millennia before the events of The Hobbit, but the publisher wasn't interested - it was a very different story, and there were no Hobbits in it at all.

So Tolkien went back to Bilbo Baggins and the Hobbit world, and wrote LotR.

Parts of the Sil had to be edited because of new elements that had been introduced in LotR. Tolkien chose to respect published versions of his stories as canon (Gollum got some edits because of that), so when Galadriel was introduced as a great Elf-lady from before the Elves left Valinor to go to Middle-earth, she had to be described as such even in the Sil.

What if The Silmarillion had been in print (in an early version) when Tolkien continued writing about Hobbits? If Tolkien's personal canon had been that Finarfin only had 4 sons, Finrod and his brothers, and not a daughter called Galadriel as well? Would he only have put her in a different family, as an existing daughter of someone else (perhaps of Finarfin's brother)?

Are there other changes you are aware of that have got an edit in the final Sil because of LotR? Do you think they would have been different in LotR if a published Sil would have contradicted them?


(avi artwork by Henning Janssen)

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Posted : March 11, 2021 2:16 pm
Courtenay liked
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Friend of NarniaWeb

Ooh... I love your question here, @varna, but as I haven't ever managed to get through The Silmarillion, I can't answer it fairly!!

The only change I'm definitely aware of is Tolkien's excellent bit of "retconning" with The Hobbit, which of course was already published before he wrote TLOTR, as Tolkien developed the idea that Bilbo's ring was not a simple magic trinket but pretty much the most evil and dangerous artefact ever created in Middle-earth. The way The Hobbit was originally written, Gollum was completely willing to offer his magic ring to Bilbo as a prize in the riddle game. Obviously not consistent with what we later learn of Gollum and the power of the One Ring! So Tolkien pulled off the necessary changes to The Hobbit by explaining that it was based on Bilbo's own memoirs, in which he originally lied about how he got the Ring, but Frodo and Sam, after learning the real story from Gandalf (who had quite a job finding out the truth himself), wrote the more correct version...

I would love to read The Silmarillion and the rest of Tolkien's works some day, when I've got a lot more time than I have now, but in the meantime I'd also be very interested to hear of any other retcons in The Silmarillion too. (Which would naturally have been a lot easier to do to a book that hadn't yet been published than one that had been!)

Meanwhile, I just wanted to share this article I found yesterday, written by someone who's obviously a fan of both Tolkien and Lewis, as I found it quite thoughtful and moving: When God Makes You Small: The Beauty of Being Insignificant

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : March 16, 2021 5:54 am
Varnafinde
(@varna)
Princess of the Noldor and Royal Overseer of the Talk About Narnia forum Moderator

I agree about "The Beauty of Being Insignificant" being a moving and thoughtful article. I enjoyed it very much. Thanks for sharing! Hug  

The Hobbit retconning is a great example of changes that we know were made - probably the only major changes that Tolkien did to printed text (Sil changes were only done in manuscript). I have seen somewhere that he sent those necessary changes (in the form of a revised chapter) to his publisher as a suggestion for discussions, when a new edition of The Hobbit was coming up - but the publisher just printed it without any discussion Giggle .

I realise that my original suggestion for discussion of retconning was more complex than I had thought of. For an in-depth discussion, we need to know not only LotR and the printed Silmarillion - but also a lot about the manuscripts that show Tolkien's first ideas, befor the LotR was written. They are available in 3 or 4 different volumes of The History of Middle-earth, but I'm not sufficiently familiar with those (I haven't read all 12 of them yet Tongue ) to be any authority on different versions.

But Galadriel's story is one that I feel I have some knowledge about. Any mention of her at all in the Silmarillion is an addition to the first manuscripts - when The Hobbit was written, her father had only sons. In later versions she was written in, with a whole backstory (or backstories). There the name Galadriel was given to her by her husband Celeborn - the name that her father Finarfin gave her, was Artanis. There is the story of how she and her husband met each other, which is told in the final version of the Sil. Tolkien also started on a totally different version of that story, but it hadn't been sufficiently developed that Tolkien's son Christopher could use it when he edited the Simarillion for its first publishing, in 1977, four years after Tolkien's death.

I may come up with one or two other points as well, I'll think about it - and if anyone else has suggestions or questions, feel free to share.


(avi artwork by Henning Janssen)

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Posted : March 21, 2021 4:39 pm
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johobbit
(@jo)
SO mod; WC captain Moderator

Whoa, lots to think on there ^ !

Happy Tolkien Reading Day, 2021. The theme this year is on Hope and Courage. The first passage that leaps to my mind is from The Return of the King. This is one of my most beloved quotes in the entirety of The LotR. I still get goosebumps when reading this beautiful section. ♥

'Now you go to sleep first, Mr. Frodo,' he said. 'It's getting dark again.' ...

Frodo ... was asleep almost before the words were spoken. Sam struggled with his own weariness, and he took Frodo's hand; and there he sat silent till deep night fell. Then at last, to keep himself awake, he crawled from the hiding-place.... The land seemed full of ... noises, but there was no sound of voice or of foot. Far above the Ephel Dúath in the West the night-sky was still dim.... There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master's, ceased to trouble him. He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo's side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep untroubled sleep.

The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 2, The Land of Shadow

7,237 posts from Forum 1.0

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Posted : March 25, 2021 8:04 am
johobbit
(@jo)
SO mod; WC captain Moderator

I can't seem to properly edit my post above, so have had to resort to *ahem* double-posting.

I just read a marvelous, thoughtful, insightful little piece by Laura Schmidt, the archivist at the Marion E. Wade Centre in Wheaton, Illinois. I met her when we toured the Wade Center before the 2013 MN Moot, and was very impressed with this knowledgeable and caring lady. Plus, she treated us like royalty!

Here is the article, "Wounds that Never Fully Heal: an Easter reflection on Frodo Baggins.

7,237 posts from Forum 1.0

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Posted : March 25, 2021 8:28 am
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Friend of NarniaWeb

@jo That's really beautiful, thank you!

I had no idea it was Tolkien Reading Day today, but it made sense when I followed the link to find out why. I had in fact just been thinking a lot about The Lord of the Rings, as I was reading some interesting discussions on another website about how the Ring was destroyed by Gollum falling into the fires of Mount Doom seemingly "by accident", and whether or not that's a let-down of an ending (of course it's not!!!)... so I have been doing some Tolkien reading, of a sort, after all!

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : March 25, 2021 3:59 pm
daughter of the King
(@dot)
Princess Dot Moderator

Just in time for Tolkien Reading Day (Happy Gondorian New Year!), a shiny new edition of LotR has been announced. It is apparently the first time it will be published with Tolkien's illustrations since the original publication. I already have the 50th blue boxed edition and the boxed set illustrated by Alan Lee, but . . . we still wants the precious. Tongue  

Narniaweb sister to Pattertwig's Pal

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Posted : March 25, 2021 7:47 pm
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Friend of NarniaWeb

@dot Preciousssssssss indeed! Grin Is this really the first time TLOTR has been published with Tolkien's illustrations? I just had it vaguely in my head that that's been done before, but apparently not.

I went to the 2018 exhibition (in Oxford) that's referred to in the announcement you linked to and it was SOOOOO GOOD — I was aware of some of Tolkien's artworks, as we had a book of them at my high school library (which I had out on loan for weeks, if not months!), but to see so many of them together, and the scope of his talent, was really something else. Absolutely wonderful. I'm glad his art is now being appreciated more and more widely!

As for buying this new edition, I'm planning a move overseas (probably later this year) and I do not need any more books — I'm telling myself I DO NOT need any more books (especially heavy hardcovers) — but one of these days I may have to... Wink  

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : March 26, 2021 7:11 am
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Friend of NarniaWeb

I think I posted about this a while ago when I first heard of it — there was a campaign some months ago to purchase Tolkien's former home in Northmoor Road, Oxford, in order to set up a literary centre dedicated to him. Unfortunately they weren't able to buy the house, but I've had an update from the campaign's mailing list to confirm that they're still planning to go ahead and create a Tolkien literary centre somewhere else in central Oxford instead, once all the COVID restrictions are lifted. In the meantime, they're running online events, with a fantasy writing course starting on the 20th!

I don't have the time or the creativity for that right now, but just thought others here might be interested. Smile Here's the website with more details. (Hope this is OK to post here — I have no personal connection with this organisation and I'm not benefiting financially from them in any way.)

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : April 11, 2021 3:20 am
coracle
(@coracle)
NarniaWeb's Auntie Moderator

I've just begun my annual reading of LOTR. 

In the descriptions of Bilbo's party, the fireworks are all described as imitating aspects of nature - birds  butterflies, leaves opening on trees etc. The last is the depiction of a dragon flying from the Lonely Mountain. Tolkien says it passed the hobbits "like an express train". 

Have you ever noticed this description, and did you think it out of place in a rural world with  no mechanical transport?

There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.

"...when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards."

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Posted : May 3, 2021 1:57 pm
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Friend of NarniaWeb
Posted by: @coracle

Have you ever noticed this description, and did you think it out of place in a rural world with  no mechanical transport?

I don't recall ever noticing it myself, until I found it pointed out somewhere as a mistake Tolkien made! I guess one could take it as Tolkien addressing his readers in our modern world, most of whom do know what an express train sounds like. I suppose that's how I always thought of it before. But from an "in-universe" perspective, it IS out of place — especially since Tolkien's literary conceit is that he's translating this story from the memoirs of the hobbits themselves, and they definitely wouldn't have used that description!!

I've tried searching for the passage online and haven't found much commentary on it. I'm guessing maybe that description is an accidental "leftover" from Tolkien's original intentions to write a sequel to The Hobbit, which started out in much the same spirit of telling a story to children — describing a dragon as passing "like an express train" is the kind of simile young readers can easily grasp — and then the tale "grew in the telling", but he never picked up that that line could do with being changed... who knows?

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : May 3, 2021 2:23 pm
Varnafinde
(@varna)
Princess of the Noldor and Royal Overseer of the Talk About Narnia forum Moderator
Posted by: @courtenay

Is this really the first time TLOTR has been published with Tolkien's illustrations? I just had it vaguely in my head that that's been done before, but apparently not. 

She said it is "the first time it will be published with Tolkien's illustrations since the original publication" - so the first edition probably had his illustrations, but they haven't been used again since then. 
 
It's great that they are appearing again now!
 
Posted by: @courtenay

I'm guessing maybe that description is an accidental "leftover" from Tolkien's original intentions to write a sequel to The Hobbit, which started out in much the same spirit of telling a story to children — describing a dragon as passing "like an express train" is the kind of simile young readers can easily grasp — and then the tale "grew in the telling", but he never picked up that that line could do with being changed... who knows?

I think that's a very good guess. The Hobbit wasn't a "translation" of old texts, it could more easily use modern terms. And the "second Hobbit book" certainly grew in the telling ...

 


(avi artwork by Henning Janssen)

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Posted : May 4, 2021 1:22 am
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Friend of NarniaWeb
Posted by: @varna

She said it is "the first time it will be published with Tolkien's illustrations since the original publication" - so the first edition probably had his illustrations, but they haven't been used again since then. 

It didn't — I've seen early editions of LOTR and they don't have any illustrations. I've read elsewhere that Tolkien wanted his very detailed illustrations of three pages from the Book of Mazarbul to be included as colour plates — the only practical way in those days of including full-colour pictures in a book that was otherwise mainly text — but was told it would be too expensive.

I've just found a Guardian article that clarifies things a bit:

JRR Tolkien's own illustrations appear in Lord of the Rings for the first time

It looks like "the first time since the original publication" means "the first time EVER", in this case. This article mentions that "Just two of Tolkien’s illustrations were included in the original edition of The Lord of the Rings – the Doors of Durin and the Inscription on Balin’s Tomb." Which of course are the ones we're all familiar with and are simply line drawings or lettering.

Posted by: @varna

I think that's a very good guess. The Hobbit wasn't a "translation" of old texts, it could more easily use modern terms. And the "second Hobbit book" certainly grew in the telling ...

Well, The Hobbit WAS supposedly a translation of Bilbo's own memoirs, but I don't think Tolkien had thought that out in full when he first wrote it. It turned out to be a useful device later, though, when he realised that the story as originally written — in which Gollum is perfectly willing to give the ring to Bilbo as a prize if he wins the riddle game — wasn't consistent with what he was now envisioning the One Ring to be in the sequel. I remember posting an article about that further up the thread. Basically, by making it that The Hobbit was taken from Bilbo's memoirs but he wasn't honest at one point (already under the evil influence of the Ring), Tolkien was able to do a very neat "retcon" on that part of the story, explaining that Gandalf later found out the truth about the Ring, and Frodo and Sam wrote it down and corrected the untruthful part of Bilbo's account. Hence the change to later editions of The Hobbit, making the story consistent with Gollum's attitude towards his "Precious" in The Lord of the Rings! Wink  

There's another passage early in LOTR that I've seen pointed out as something probably left over from when Tolkien was still writing a fairly lighthearted "second Hobbit book", rather similar to the "express train" gaffe. It's another one I never stopped to think about until I saw a mention of it somewhere online recently! I've found a little article on it: The Hobbit and the Fox

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : May 4, 2021 1:59 am
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