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Old 07-28-2020, 10:52 AM   #1
William Cloud Hicklin
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Oversight, or changing conceptions?

We know two things about Tolkien as a world-builder. 1) that his thinking developed over time and he continued tinkering with his creation; as CT said "No work of my father's could truly be said to be 'finished' until it was physically taken out of his hands.'" 2) that as meticulous and convincing as Tolkien's craft was, he did make mistakes, most of which are well known to geekdom (Sam's two birth-years, anyone?)

And then we have this, from Appendix A (both editions): "There were three unions of the Eldar and the Edain: Luthien and Beren; Idril and Tuor; Arwen and Aragorn."

But what about Mithrellas?

Either Tolkien simply goofed, or he hadn't thought through his early quick comment about Imrahil, or there's a way to make it all reconcile- but again, at what stage of the mythos? It's easy enough to say Mithrellas was 'only' a Sylvan elf and thus not Eldarin, in other words an Avar, which certainly is what the Elves of Mirkwood and arguably the 'natives' of Lorien originally were; but it seems that Tolkien upgraded the Elves of Lorien and Mirkwood to Nandor (= Eldar) at a fairly early date, again arguably even before the LR depending on an obscure passage. So that's no dodge.

Unless one wants to suggest that Tolkien when he was being loose seems often to have used "Eldar" to mean "Elves of Beleriand and Aman."
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Old 07-28-2020, 12:47 PM   #2
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It is possible that Tolkien viewed the Mithrellas tale as "legendary" though perhaps likely. Or this question may turn on Tolkien's intent when he used the word "union." The three "unions" appear to have extended beyond mortality (not sure how to phrase this simply). Luthien took the fate of Men. Tuor was deemed to be of Elven-kind (or, alternatively, they are both sleeping on one of the Shadowy Islands), and if so this was only done with the approval of the Valar. Arwen also assumed the fate of Men. They were not parted by death.

Mithrellas was not bound by the fate of Men. She may actually have left her "spouse." So they were separated by the Man's death, unlike the others.
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Old 07-28-2020, 01:46 PM   #3
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Also, from that same tale: why Imrazor "the Numenorean?" This was almost two thousand years after Numenor had ceased to be; and I would suggest he wasn't any more of Numenorean descent than any other aristocrat of Gondor.
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Old 07-28-2020, 03:04 PM   #4
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According to The Lord of the Rings, first and second editions, the Silvan Elves of Mirkwood and Lorien were not Eldarin, nor their languages Eldarin (Appendix F).* Also according to The Lord of the Rings, the Eldar are those Elves that crossed the Sea plus the Sindar only.



Thus for me, Mithrellas is:

A) not Eldarin (not a "High Elf" first edition**)
B) part of a legend in any case


And Tolkien's footnote to the second edition about Sindarin being spoken in Lorien can, in my opinion, be taken to mean that some Elves also spoke Sindarin in Lorien, but with an accent.


In my opinion a measure of oversight and changing conceptions are involved here, but for me, what matters in the end is the picture that Tolkien himself drew. For some reason, Tolkien's posthumously published ideas about the Nandor being "Eldar" seem to have overshadowed Tolkien's published conception of what the term Eldar referred to . . .

. . . but not for me


__________

*In draft texts Tolkien employs the term Avari but does not ultimately publish it, opting for "West-Elves" (Eldar), and "East-elves" (which need not mean Avari).


**The union of Eldar and Edain is a revision from the first edition, which had "High Elves and Men" rather.

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Old 07-28-2020, 03:58 PM   #5
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I'm not disposed to impose a rather artificial bright line of Publication as the be-all of 'canonicity,' especially since there are mistakes and inconsistencies even in the works that were published in Tolkien's lifetime.* In any event, if that is the line then it's impossible to talk about ""Nandor" or the definition of "Eldar," since all of that only appeared in print after his death. For that matter, so did Mithrellas.

It's not like Tolkien said in 1966 "OK, this is all I'm going to publish, everything else is just unreliable background stuff not to be taken seriously." He was, in his own mind anyway, trying to drive The Silmarillion towards a published form, which he died before completing. But he was stuck in a software developer's conundrum: how to upgrade the product while maintaining backwards compatability.

Where it comes to First Age matters, I would give precedence to QS/Annals materials over the LR appendices. This was, to Tolkien, THE account of the Elder Days, to which the LR just alluded in places, with some quicky sketches in the Appendices. While it's true that Tolkien in his later years had more freedom to alter the FA materials, post-66 he did surprisingly little of it; and the 2nd Ed LR was, at least in theory, altered to conform to TS as it stood at the time.

It's also the case that T was quite capable of retaining the same text while changing meaning out from under it. There is no question whatsoever that when he wrote the Lorien chapters the Elves of Lorien spoke their own Silvan language; the idea that it was just accented Sindarin was a later ret-con. (For that matter, Sindarin itself in the LR was a ret-con; the language at the time of writing was Noldorin).

______________
*For example, your own citation of "High Elves" was clearly a published mistake on Tolkien's part, since Luthien was not one and never was. Also the "House of Finrod" mistake which stood for years in LR printings.
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Old 07-28-2020, 04:25 PM   #6
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While totally accepting your point about publication not being the be-all and end-all, I think it's unfair to ask Appendix A to use a different definition of 'Eldar' to the one provided in Appendix F (which specifically excludes the population of Lorien). They're in the same book, after all!

Given Tolkien's known obsession with keeping the published material accurate, my guess is he just forgot he'd specified the Lorien elves as non-Eldar. Alternately, we can go back to your original proposal: 'Eldar' had variable meaning. Wasn't it originally applied to all the Quendi, and then purloined by the Elves of the March? I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Edain started using it as shorthand for 'Elves once of Beleriand'.

As for Imrazor... it's because Gondorians are racist. No, really! 'Numenorean' is used as a synonym for 'Dunadan' (by Bilbo, I think?), so what the name really means is 'he was a proper Gondorian, not one of the lesser races'.

In fact, I see that UT specifically says of Mithrellas that she was 'of the lesser Silvan race (and not of the High Elves or the Grey)', so the 'lesser race' idea is right there. What's the most convenient term for 'Noldor + Sindar'? I don't know a better one than 'Eldar'.

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Old 07-28-2020, 11:37 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
I'm not disposed to impose a rather artificial bright line of Publication as the be-all of 'canonicity,' especially since there are mistakes and inconsistencies even in the works that were published in Tolkien's lifetime.*
Yet I'd say Tolkien himself considered already published material as canon -- which doesn't seem artificial to me, but sensible when one is building a Secondary World. It's not even a Tolkien issue. It's a writer's issue.

And even when Tolkien decided to make a change -- if he is "knowingly" altering something already in print (like the way Bilbo came by the One, for instance) -- I submit that he's treating already published texts as canon. In other words, text already in print is simply not the same animal compared to texts that can be changed over and over again without undermining the world of Middle-earth.

And if Tolkien thinks a given already-in-print alteration "needs" to be, why does he often invent an internal reason for the seeming inconsistency? You don't need to do that if you are altering something that no one has read about yet. Different animals.

And I know Tolkien desired purposed inconsistencies within his legendarium, but that is about art and choice -- it's not about the simple fact that private texts exist -- texts that readers only now know about due to Christopher Tolkien's decision to publish them -- which is not a negative comment in any way concerning his choice to publish these papers.

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In any event, if that is the line then it's impossible to talk about ""Nandor" or the definition of "Eldar," since all of that only appeared in print after his death. For that matter, so did Mithrellas.
I can talk about anything Tolkien wrote while considering what he published as canon. And not that you said otherwise, but I can add to the canonical world of Middle-earth with posthumously published texts.

And I think the definition of Eldar is rather clear in The Lord of the Rings. Plus the legend of Elvish blood in the line of Dol Amroth seems clear enough too . . . so here I have no problem speaking of Mithrellas, as it doesn't contradict author published text obviously . . . noting too, that in some versions of the legend, the Elf was Nimrodel herself.

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It's not like Tolkien said in 1966 "OK, this is all I'm going to publish, everything else is just unreliable background stuff not to be taken seriously."

Of course not. Nor am I saying that.

But what Tolkien did note, for example, was that he could not make ros a Beorian word after realizing it was noted as a Sindarin word in the Appendices, and thus he tossed out a few pages of nice, late "lore" because of a detail in the Appendices that many folks might not even read.

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Where it comes to First Age matters, I would give precedence to QS/Annals materials over the LR appendices. This was, to Tolkien, THE account of the Elder Days, to which the LR just alluded in places, with some quicky sketches in the Appendices.
It certainly is more detailed. But what if contradictions occur?

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Christopher Tolkien wrote: "It was the "moon-runes" that Elrond declared (at the end of the chapter A Short Rest) to have been invented by the Dwarves and written by them with silver pens, not the Runes as an alphabetic form -- as my father noted with relief.

I mention all this as an illustration of his intense concern to avoid discrepancy and inconsistency, even though in this case his anxiety was unfounded." Christopher Tolkien, note 8, Of Dwarves And Men, The Peoples of Middle-Earth
Discrepancy and inconsistency with what? Why would Tolkien be intensely concerned to avoid inconsistencies with a text no one had ever read, or will read? He's reasonably concerned rather with unwanted inconsistencies in print.

And why, for example, do you think Christopher Tolkien's opinion is that his father would surely have felt bound by Celebrimbor the Feanorian?

Quote:
It's also the case that T was quite capable of retaining the same text while changing meaning out from under it. There is no question whatsoever that when he wrote the Lorien chapters the Elves of Lorien spoke their own Silvan language; the idea that it was just accented Sindarin was a later ret-con. (For that matter, Sindarin itself in the LR was a ret-con; the language at the time of writing was Noldorin).
I realize that we have ret-cons, and as I stated in my post above, I think both oversight and changing conceptions play a part here. That said, I'm not at all sure Tolkien's footnote was the best way to go here . . .

. . . but I accept it, as it's published by the author

And if it hadn't been, would it be a necessary "fact" that the East Elves of Lorien spoke Sindarin with such an accent that Aragorn and Boromir couldn't understand the songs about Mithrandir? Or, since it is published, is there any way I can interpret the footnote that for me, seems less jarring given the text that was never revised in both Appendix F and the tale proper?


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For example, your own citation of "High Elves" was clearly a published mistake on Tolkien's part, since Luthien was not one and never was.
Depends upon how "High Elves" is defined

Quote:
Also the "House of Finrod" mistake which stood for years in LR printings.
Well, we know Felagund was Inglor at the time, and I'd rather say that the "mistake" here is Tolkien changing the name of Finrod to Finarfin for the second edition -- especially given the reason he objected to this Elf being called "Finrod" -- having a Sindarin name, as noted in PE17.

In short: in my opinion Tolkien created an unnecessary inconsistency between the first and second edition here, as Finarfin remains a Sindarized name according to The Shibboleth of Feanor.

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Old 07-29-2020, 07:36 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
Given Tolkien's known obsession with keeping the published material accurate, . . .
I like this start

Published material. I don't know about obsession, but a sensible obsession if so. This goes for small details like the colour of Kili's hood, as well as major ideas, history, characterizations . . .

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. . . my guess is he just forgot he'd specified the Lorien elves as non-Eldar.
I agree that it certainly seems so, at times . . . but that said, in at least one instance, it seems odd to me that Tolkien should (second edition) add the Lorien footnote at the end of the very sentence that states that the languages of these East-elves are not Eldarin, with the previous sentence distinguishing the East-elves from the West-elves -- with the West-Elves stated to be Eldar!


And for me, West Elves fits well with Appendix F with respect to Eldar meaning the Elves of the Great March who crossed the Sea, plus the Sindar only -- and I note the following from the List of Names from Christopher Tolkien's The Children of Hurin

Quote:
Eldar -- The Elves of the Great Journey out of the East to Beleriand.
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Old 07-29-2020, 08:10 AM   #9
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" and I'd rather say that the "mistake" here is Tolkien changing the name of Finrod to Finarfin for the second edition"
Except he didn't. My Second Edition has "Finrod," bold as brass. The correction to "Finarfin" was posthumous, in 1976 (originally only the UK edition; the change wasn't made to the H-M until the Anderson revision in 1987,* and in the Ballantine never). As for the names being "Sindarin"- why shouldn't they have been? Tolkien was very consistent in all the First Age texts in using what were originally Noldorin name-forms, and came up with a nifty ret-con for why the same forms (now "Sindarin") were used in later histories.


And there we have a decent example of things being changed out from under the published text of the LR in the background, and the LR being altered to suit. Another one would be the omentielmo/vo alteration. The primary vehicles of Tolkien's creative thought regarding the Elder Days were always Quenta Silmarillion and the Annals, and the occasional allusion in the LR merely the moon's reflection of the sun's light. I think it's worth drawing distinctions between works that were definite revisions or wholesale replacements of earlier works, that is, the earlier works were definitively rejected; a handful of later writings actually marked "official and final;" later writings which betray inconsistencies with earlier writings, and leave us little to go on as to how (or whether) T would have resolved them; and mere sketches,. notes and jottings. Not all HME/UT texts exist on the same plane! The late sketch of the line of Dol Amroth falls into that last category, I fear: half-baked musings, and subject also to the same issues that apply to all Bournemouth writings.

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Old 07-29-2020, 01:35 PM   #10
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Except he didn't. My Second Edition has "Finrod," bold as brass. The correction to "Finarfin" was posthumous, in 1976 (originally only the UK edition; the change wasn't made to the H-M until the Anderson revision in 1987,* and in the Ballantine never).
Yikes. I've had it my head for years that Tolkien changed it for the revised edition! Although Christopher Tolkien writes [Unfinished Tales, note 20, The History of Galadriel and Celeborn] . . .


"Before the revised edition of The Lord of the Rings was published in 1966 my father changed Finrod to Finarfin, while his son Felagund, previously called Inglor Felagund, became Finrod Felagund. Two passages in the Appendices B and F were accordingly emended for the revised edition -- It is noteworthy that Orodreth . . ."

. . . according to Hammond and Scull, as you say, the change wasn't seen in print until after Tolkien's passing.


Quote:
As for the names being "Sindarin"- why shouldn't they have been? Tolkien was very consistent in all the First Age texts in using what were originally Noldorin name-forms, and came up with a nifty ret-con for why the same forms (now "Sindarin") were used in later histories.
In Words, Phrases and Passages (PE17) Tolkien notes that Finrod should not have a Sindarin name because he stayed in Aman. And in Tolkien's "ultimate" conception of the name Finarfin, it's characterized as a Sindarization of Finwe Arafinwe in any case, and JRRT explains why, even though he remained in Aman.

Or as I might be soon writing: as Finrod stayed in Aman

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And there we have a decent example of things being changed out from under the published text of the LR in the background, and the LR being altered to suit.
Well, is what we have here an authorized alteration?

And by that I don't mean -- is this change evidenced in posthumously published accounts -- I mean does the choice to alter already published text here come from JRRT himself (but the change didn't, for whatever reason, end up in the revised edition until after Tolkien's passing)?

And if it's not authorized, how does this stand alongside Christopher Tolkien's choice to "alter" (or at least leave out) the detail of Celegorm's golden hair due to what is said in the Appendices -- if I recall correctly, CJRT notes that this decision was based on a statement in Appendix F with respect to the dark-haired Eldar/Noldor?


Quote:
Another one would be the omentielmo/vo alteration.
Here it seems that Tolkien couldn't help himself tinkering with an element of his languages, and gave in to stepping on already published text . . . and invented an internal reason for it.

He's treating author-published text differently than his private texts, as well he should in my opinion. All the Quenya pronouns hidden away in Tolkien's desk drawer can be altered without a thought of creating "inconsistency" . . . except if one is published, and later Tolkien changes his mind about that one.

Quote:
The primary vehicles of Tolkien's creative thought regarding the Elder Days were always Quenta Silmarillion and the Annals, and the occasional allusion in the LR merely the moon's reflection of the sun's light.
Again, this seems to be a matter of detail.

Quote:
I think it's worth drawing distinctions between works that were definite revisions or wholesale replacements of earlier works, that is, the earlier works were definitively rejected; . . .
I agree. I do this, and draw other distinctions you mention too.

Quote:
a handful of later writings actually marked "official and final;"
What works are these? I don't recall the wording here.

In any event, in Unfinished Tales Christopher Tolkien points to the fact that Galadriel's actions could still be "transformed radically" for example, "since the Silmarillion had not been published" -- and we could echo this for so very many ideas that had not been published.

And flipping this coin, what other distinction would Tolkien himself be very naturally aware of? The one that stopped him from claiming ros was a Beorian word, or led Christopher Tolkien to give his opinion that Celebrimbor would have remained a Feanorean. Publication of course. CJRT also wrote (my emphasis here):

_____

"It may be suggested that whereas my father set great store by consistency at all points with The Lord of the Rings and the Appendices, so little concerning the First Age had appeared in print that he was under far less constraint. I am inclined to think, however, that the primary explanation of these differences lies rather in his writing largely from memory. The histories of the First Age would always remain in a somewhat fluid state so long as they were not fixed in a published state; and he certainly did not have all the relevant manuscripts clearly arranged and set out before him."

Foreword, The Peoples of Middle-Earth
_____



Ursula Le Guin did some fancy dancing with Earthsea, for example. But she herself published the later books of course, leaving no question as to whether she truly wanted to shine such a new light on Earthsea.

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Old 07-30-2020, 10:39 AM   #11
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Well, to give the question its own post . . . again, Christopher Tolkien, Unfinished Tales, note 20, The History of Galadriel and Celeborn:


Quote:
"Before the revised edition of The Lord of the Rings was published in 1966 my father changed Finrod to Finarfin, while his son Felagund, previously called Inglor Felagund, became Finrod Felagund. Two passages in the Appendices B and F were accordingly emended for the revised edition -- It is noteworthy that Orodreth
. . ."
So here, emended for the revised edition, which I took to mean the revised edition of the first sentence. Also:

Quote:
"The names Fingolfin and Finarfin are thus spelt in B, but in A Fingolphin and Finarphin (see. p. 265 note 10). In the Second Edition of The Lord of the Rings (1966) Finarphin was spelled thus, later changed on my suggestion to Finarfin (Appendix F, Of the Elves)."

Christopher Tolkien, commentary, The Later Quenta Silmarillion (II), OfThe Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor
And so I thought that Finrod had still been altered by Tolkien himself for the second edition, although to Finarphin. And now that I'm paying more attention to what Hammond and Scull wrote in their Reader's Guide to The Lord of the Rings
. . .

Quote:
As first published, "Finarfin" read "Finrod". In the Allen & Unwin three-volume paperback edition (1974) "Finrod" was changed to "Finarphir" (first and second printing), then to "Finarphin" (third printing, 1975), and finally "Finarfin" (fourth printing, 1976), as Christopher Tolkien determined the name to be used in The Silmarillion (1977)."
So my question is . . . what? Or am I missing something? Or . . . huh?

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Old 07-30-2020, 02:04 PM   #12
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I don't really disgree with anything you are saying, aside from the general comment that I dislike bright lines and pigeonholes, which often create an artificial impression of definition where there is none, rather like a blurry picture digitally "sharpened". The best we can do is evaluate and compare unpublished material on a case by case basis, and giving some pieces great weight and others little to none.

I don't think personally that "Finarfin" in Appendix F was a mistake, no matter whether it was the father's intended revision or the son's alone: clearly in his work on the First Age Tolkien had changed his mind about the character's name, as he did on many, many other occasions; and it's explicit that Finarfin is a Sindarization of Arafinwe which was the form used in Middle-earth when referring to him, even if he never used it himself.* One can't really see the compiler of QS writing "The sons of Finwe were Feanor, Fingolfin and Finwe Arafinwe."

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Old 07-30-2020, 02:10 PM   #13
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Well, to give the question its own post . . . again, Christopher Tolkien, Unfinished Tales, note 20, The History of Galadriel and Celeborn:




So here, emended for the revised edition, which I took to mean the revised edition of the first sentence. Also:



And so I thought that Finrod had still been altered by Tolkien himself for the second edition, although to Finarphin. And now that I'm paying more attention to what Hammond and Scull wrote in their Reader's Guide to The Lord of the Rings
. . .



So my question is . . . what? Or am I missing something? Or . . . huh?



H&S know their bibliographical stuff, and I'm inclined to take their word for it barring very strong evidence contra. My guess is that not all the revisions Tolkien "prepared for" the 1966 edition actually made it into print, at least at that time.

And although CT is a praiseworthy scholar and editor, his memory is not always perfect; he could very well have forgotten or been unaware that while "Finarphir" may have been the reading of his copy of the 2nd ed., earlier printings still read "Finrod." I can testify that the H-M 14th printing (ca 1976), which as I said above used the 1966 plates unchanged, reads "Finrod."
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Old 07-30-2020, 04:14 PM   #14
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Thanks for the replies WCH.

I don't own "J.R.R. Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography" and had just assumed, though based on certain descriptions, that this change showed up in Tolkien's lifetime.

And when I said I thought Tolkien was "mistaken" I only meant in the sense of creating an inconsistency between first and second editions -- especially after seeing WPP and knowing JRRT's seeming reason to change Finrod (as the name of the Elf who stayed in Aman) had become a non issue . . .

. . . in other words, my choice of "mistake" is very much based on my approach to canon -- I favor the approach, even from JRRT himself I mean, that the tales of the First Age keep in step with already published text (what little there is of it concerning the First Age anyway, relatively speaking) -- unless an "internal inconsistency" is desired of course.


And while I like the alliteration in Finrod Felagund, I have no problem with Inglor Felagund too.


But as I've derailed the thread about canon, I'll shaddup now

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Old 07-31-2020, 11:28 AM   #15
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Last bit on Finrod: Tolkien changed his mind. Why? Not entirely sure, but probably related to his development of the family's Quenya names and the notion that Finwe would have given all his sons similar -finwe ones. "Findarato" just didn't fit the pattern, so it was moved down a generation. Tolkien's prerogative. Who are we to tell him no? While he had never planned a 2d Ed, the necessity fell on his head and he decided to take advantage of the opportunity to bring LR into line with post-1953 developments in the First Age material. Note also that the following year in The Road Goes Ever On, what he has to say about Galadriel doesn't really square with the LR at all points, either, unless you use a shoehorn and a hammer.

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Back to Mithrellas- it seems the best explanation to force a fit is to say, yes, used loosely "Eldar" just means those who made it to Beleriand. Maybe not even the Laiquendi. But I still suspect that when Tolkien wrote Appendix A he had simply forgotten what he said about Imrahil's ancestry almost as a throwaway line ("At length they came to the Prince Imrahil, and Legolas looked at him and bowed low; for he saw that here indeed was one who had elven-blood in his veins.") Remember, the full Mithrellas legend was written much later.
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Last edited by William Cloud Hicklin; 07-31-2020 at 11:31 AM.
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