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Old 03-04-2003, 09:33 PM   #33
Late Istar
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,129
Aiwendil has been trapped in the Barrow!

I'd very much like to give input and insight on the project.
Great! It sounds as though you'd have some insightful and helpful things to say.

Warning: the following began as a simple answer to your questions, but took on a life of its own. I'm sorry to answer you with such an abstract and pedantic essay, and I certainly hope I don't scare you off. Anyway, some people may be interested in my musings.

You are very correct, I think, about the presence of a translator and a feel of authenticity being very important to Tolkien's works. Or to put it another way (as you in fact do), his Legendarium is multi-lateral. There is on the first level the "true" history, on the second the early written accounts, on the third the transmission to modernity, and on the fourth the translation in modernity. Of course, the third and the fourth tend to be somewhat conflated, or perhaps glossed over, even by Tolkien - nowhere do we learn how he was to have come by these ancient manuscripts. The point, nonetheless, is well made and well taken.

I agree that in the preparation of any purportedly "authentic" documents, it is essential to bear fully in mind the distinction between 1 and 2 - that is, to remember that the work at hand is not an accurate history, but rather a document from a supposed historical period. This would certainly be the case if someone were to prepare a work intended to be the veritable "Quenta Silmarillion" - as Christopher did; or if someone really wanted to write Bilbo's "Translations from the Elvish".

But I must here say two things. First, the preparation of such a document is not the goal of this project. Second, regardless of that, I don't think I see how we have glossed over the multi-lateralism.

On the first point: this project, as I have understood its purpose from relatively early on, is not the creation of a supposed ancient document. If we were preparing an "authentic" Quenta Silmarillion, we would have to be going about things quite differently. For one thing, we'd have to leave out all the long versions - long versions for the inclusion of which the project was specifically designed (well, it was designed for this among other things). Nor can the goal of the project be the creation of, say, the Atanatarion, or some other collection of the full-length stories, simply because there is at least one full length story that we don't have, and will never have - the story of Earendil. I have said it many times before - the purpose of this project is not to create a work of any literary merit.

What, then, is the purpose? Well, I'd put it this way (and this may sound a bit odd): it is to create an account, accurate in its details and as detailed as possible, of the fictional world-history defined by the the writings of the Numenoreans, which are themselves part of another fictional world-history. The first fictional world history I mentioned, call it F1, is a sub-creation within the sub-creation (F2) of Arda. F2 corresponds with your "layer 1" and F1 with your "layer 2".

In other words, we are making the simplifying assumption that the history told in the Quenta Silmarillion is exactly the "true" history (or to put it another way, we are defining as "true" the Quenta Silmarillion). Starting from there, we are writing an accurate account of that "true" history (which may or may not be the F2/layer 1 true history).

You may ask why it is this history, F1, that we are interested in, rather than the true history of Arda, F2. I think the reason is simple: we have very many documents describing F1 (we need not worry about the fact that that set of documents is internally contradictory). We have relatively few documents describing F2, and even in those that do describe it, there is confusion and conflation between F1 and F2. In other words, when people think about the events in Tolkien's history, they think of those written down in such things as the Silmarillion, the Grey Annals, etc.; they do not think of "real" events that are merely described (imperfectly) by the Silmarillion, Annals, etc.

So the simplifying assumption behind this project as well as behind almost all discussions of the Legendarium is that F1=F2; layer 1 = layer 2. Note that even while making this assumption, we do still recognize that there is a difference; we simply ignore that difference in order to make possible a discussion of the events.

Of course, there are times that, in the context of trying to sort out contradictions among texts describing F2, that we run into texts that deal with F1 and the distinction between F1 and F2. These can be problems. It seems that the best solution we have is to keep pretending F2 is "true" and take it over F1. This is a problem that has come up in the recent Aelfwine/Rumil/Pengolodh discussions, though I think there the problem is quite soluble.

This leads to my second point above: despite this simplifying assumption, I'm not sure how we have glossed over any specific cases of the multi-lateral distinction. If you were going about this, conscious of the distinctions you mentioned, what would you have done differently? We have, in fact, struggled to retain all the references to authorship which we have come across.

As for the Myths Transformed material: if the philosophy behind the workings of this project were to be boiled down to one prime axiom, I think it would be "latest conceptions are followed, wherever they can be incorporated without creative writing". Of course, our principles are much more complex than that (see the principles thread), but that is the basic idea behind all of them. Very early on, there were indeed proposals for the inclusion of Myths Transformed. But in its current incarnation, the project must reject the later cosmology. This is simply because there is no way to incorporate it into the existing writings without doing some very significant creative writing.

Of course, there is a more subtle distinction here than simply round earth vs. flat earth. As I think I said in another post, there are really 3 options: 1. Round earth Silmarillion; 2. Flat earth history; 3. Round earth history but Flat earth Silmarillion. (There is also theoretically a fourth option: Flat earth history and Round earth Silmarillion - but that's, of course, completely psychotic.)

The third version may have been what Tolkien finally settled on - it's hard to say. In that version, F2/layer 1 follows the round earth cosmology while F1/layer 2 is the incorrect flat earth account written by the Numenoreans. But consider: the purpose of the project is to write the history of F1/layer 2, not of the "real" Arda. So for our purposes, option 2 and option 3 become almost identical. In fact the only remaining discrepancies between them appear if we try to include some reference to authorship - as in the case of the Pengolodh/Aelfwine business. Of course even there, as the current solution shows, it is possible to make the writing ambiguous and retain the identity between 2 and 3.

Your last question is whether we really consider the Silmarillion a work of the Elves and not of the Dunedain. The answer would have to be "no". There is no question that the Silmarillion was the work of the Numenoreans/Dunedain/Bilbo, regardless of how one deals with the above issues. I can't think of anything that might have given you the impression that we consider it an Elvish work.
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