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Old 05-24-2015, 04:19 PM   #1
Mithadan
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Tolkien Why do you read HoME?

(For those posting in Questionable Thread Titles, I'll propose my own repartee: Because it's not on television).

For those of you who actually read HoME, and I recognize many do not, why do you engage in this exercise? HoME is difficult. Some of it is archaic. It is certainly highly redundant. It is long. Many would argue that it is overly scholarly and inaccessible.

Yet, when I learned that these message boards would be "reborn" (I still haven't figured out what to call it, given the barrow theme here), I did not pick up LoTR, the Hobbit, or even the Silmarillion. Strange, perhaps, because I have not read any of them in a few years. Instead, the first book I grabbed was Morgoth's Ring, Home X. I got to thinking about my motives for doing so and, generally, why I read HoME, which is what prompted this thread.

HoME and I have a very long and changeable history, that I would be delighted to convey in detail. But first I'd like to hear your thoughts.
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Old 05-24-2015, 07:01 PM   #2
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I remember seeing The Book of Lost Tales 1 when it was first released, when my father got it from a book club to which he belonged. Though I was well familiar with The Hobbit and LOTR by that time, Lost Tales was incomprehensible, as I hadn't even read The Silmarillion then. Although I have, of course, broadened my Tolkien horizons since by reading the Silm and Unfinished Tales many times over, I haven't had any real desire to pick up Lost Tales again, nor any of the HOME series dealing with First and Second Age matters.

I have actually bought the four HOME volumes about LOTR though, and I find them quite illuminating. Knowing Tolkien's early ideas for the story really does give me an appreciation for the eventual 'finished' product. Also, I've found the answers to some questions I've had.
For instance, I had wondered if Gollum hadn't really committed suicide, consciously or not, when he 'slipped' into the Crack. I found Tolkien had considered and rejected that very idea.
Another interesting tidbit is seeing that in an early concept Tom Bombadil and Farmer Maggot were some sort of kindred spirits, and that Maggot wasn't a pure Hobbit.

Of the other HOME books, the only one I have read (though I don't own) is The Peoples of Middle-earth. There's some good stuff in there. I might eventually get the whole series, but my money miserliness is holding me back. Them things don't come cheap.
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Old 05-24-2015, 10:17 PM   #3
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I read them because there is extra information there that to some degree can be seen to expand on the history of LotR. Unfinished Tales for instance is one of my favorites. You read about Isildur's final days, about the great Steward Cirion and the history of the Rohan/Gondor alliance, there are things about Aragorn's people, what the Nazgul were doing when they looked for the Ring, there is stuff in there about the Palantir used by Aragorn, Denethor, Saruman, and Sauron in LotR, and some First Age stuff with Hurin and Tuor.

In Morgoth's Ring there's stuff about Elvish society, Morgoth's transformation and motives, and some old Edain lore about how they had a dark past with Melkor before reaching Beleriand.

I also like The Lays of Beleriand with the 2 big poems there, another rendition of the Children of Hurin, and one with Luthien.
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Old 05-25-2015, 09:59 AM   #4
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One thing that has stood in my way regarding reading the whole HOME series, is a uneasiness in knowing too much about how the sausage is made, so to speak.

I wonder if enough inside info on the shifting conceptions and ideas Tolkien had for the lengendarium might in time rub off some of the magic of the stories themselves. I know that for a lot of people, that's simply a non-issue. But I think back on a certain movie, where the late, great Robin Williams dismisses an English textbook's author's attempts to rate the quality of poetry but analyzing its rhyme and meter rather than emotional impact. Perhaps that's an imperfect comparison, but it almost feels like the same thing.
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Old 05-26-2015, 01:30 AM   #5
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Apart from the wealth of new information and background details which Belegorn mentioned, I think the main appeal of HoME for me is the chance to watch a great creative mind working on and reworking a complex subject matter throughout his life, every stage showing qualities which were lost or yet undeveloped in others. From the primitive mythology of BoLT with its unchecked and sometimes tongue-in-cheek joy of invention to the metaphysical depth of the late essays in Morgoth's Ring and War of the Jewels, every phase has its unique charm, and it's great that Christopher Tolkien has made them all available for us to study and appreciate.

(As for the matter of Robbie Williams and literature textbooks vs Walt Whitman, much as I love Dead Poets Society I can't help feeling that the dichotomy it presents there is bogus. Rhyme and metre are only dull if you fail to realize their function in delivering the impact, emotional or other, and pure emotional content without a convincing form has no punch. For me, a poem or novel doesn't lose its appeal by studying how it does its job, I'd rather say I learn to appreciate it on an additional level.)
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Old 05-26-2015, 09:34 AM   #6
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One thing that has stood in my way regarding reading the whole HOME series, is a uneasiness in knowing too much about how the sausage is made, so to speak.
I wonder if enough inside info on the shifting conceptions and ideas Tolkien had for the lengendarium might in time rub off some of the magic of the stories themselves. I know that for a lot of people, that's simply a non-issue. But I think back on a certain movie, where the late, great Robin Williams dismisses an English textbook's author's attempts to rate the quality of poetry but analyzing its rhyme and meter rather than emotional impact. Perhaps that's an imperfect comparison, but it almost feels like the same thing.
On the contrary, being a cook I wanted to know the recipe.

But then, I loved The Silmarillion perhaps more than LotR or The Hobbit. The ancient tales and the eccentric rhythms of Tolkien's "High English" attracted me much like reading Bulfinch's Mythology drew me to the Mabinogi, the Eddas and Le Mort d'Arthur when I was very young. I find the language entrancing and the arcanity of the wording and grammar lends an authenticity to the fiction.

So delving into HoMe was a linguist's labor of love. To appreciate Tolkien is to know that every word has been mulled over and accepted or rejected based on its etymologic significance. To see the building blocks of world creation is fascinating in and of itself, of course, but the added insight into the Istari and various other pieces of archaeological information gleaned while digging through the skeleton of the mythos proved very rewarding.

In regards to how "Robin Williams dismisses an English textbook's author's attempts to rate the quality of poetry but analyzing its rhyme and meter rather than emotional impact", I can only say that I am in utter awe of Shakespeare's ability to create divine and superbly impactful dialogue in iambic pentameter. It is a thing of beauty and incredibly hard to do with such sublimity.
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Old 05-26-2015, 02:31 PM   #7
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Some of it is archaic. It is certainly highly redundant. It is long. Many would argue that it is overly scholarly and inaccessible.
I suspect that is part of the reason why I read it.

Like Belegorn I also read it for the insights into Middle earth's history. I am an utter and pathetic sucker for in-world history, lore, and world building. I rate the fiction that I read on the basis of how good the world building is (if there is a nerdier standard than that, I want to know what it is).

Tolkien is at the top in this regard, by a long way in many aspects. Reading much of HoME is just a delight in this regard.
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Old 05-26-2015, 02:54 PM   #8
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The Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth in Morgoth's Ring is a great piece of writing that gives a glimpse on how Elves and Women felt about their different fates. It's such a sad yet beautiful work.
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Old 05-26-2015, 06:07 PM   #9
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I haven't actually read HOME, but I want to read the First Age volumes - does that count?

I've tried reading the LOTR ones (the only ones I found in my library), but I ended up just skimming them for either bits of story that I like best or Tolkien's own sketches and writing. Basically, I picked out the berries from the pie. Why? Because I like tidbits like that. But I'm not patient enough to go through CJRT's methodical recounting. Some of it is really interesting, and I actually love reading about that stuff when other Downers post about it in their own words, but reading HOME sometimes feels like you're reading an encyclopaedia. This means, it is generally interesting, but often not in the best format.

However, I'm more into the First Age than the Third, and I think it's the Age with more mystery and more corners to explore and stories to fill. I imagine that I would be more interested in encyclopaedically delving into that. Also, some of it is completely unused stuff, either notably different stories from The Sil, or something else entirely. So I would still want to inspect those books.
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Old 05-26-2015, 08:22 PM   #10
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I'm more or less of the same mind as Morthoron. While I respect the attitude that Inziladun has expressed, and that I think many people would agree with, about 'not seeing how the sausage is made', I must say that to me that is a wholly alien way of thinking. I find that when I like a piece of art, learning more about it can only lead to my liking it more, never less.

For me, the kind of study that HoMe allows only enriches and deepens my appreciation of Tolkien's work. Now, part of that may just be that I like studying things; and undoubtedly part of my enjoyment of HoMe is a kind of academic enjoyment of having a large body of interrelated texts laid out in a clear and scholarly manner. And then there's the (related) enjoyment of studying it as a history - one which has the unusual property of existing in two dimensions of time (i.e. the internal chronology of Middle-earth and the external chronology of Tolkien's life and writing).

But as much as I love it for those reasons, I think the main thing that I prize about HoMe is simply its literary value - or rather, the literary value of many of the texts it contains. Simply put, it contains a lot of great writing: a lot of great characters, vivid scenes, compelling stories, and beautiful turns of phrase. I can see that if one were not interested in it from the academic side, one might find Christopher Tolkien's (excellent) commentaries difficult to get through, but I think that even in that case, there's enough literary value there that it's worth 'picking out the berries', as Galadriel puts it.

Some of my favourite berries:

- The later 'Tuor' and 'Turin' (UT)
- Aldarion and Erendis (UT)
- The vivid descriptions of the Valar and the 'mythological' portions of the Legendarium in the Book of Lost Tales (HoMe I)
- The Lay of Leithien (HoMe III)
- The little poem 'Winter Comes to Nargothrond', which for all its brevity is one of my favourite pieces of verse, ever (HoMe III)
- The Notion Club Papers (HoMe IX)
- The Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth (HoMe X)
- 'The Wanderings of Hurin' (HoMe XI)

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Old 05-29-2015, 02:45 PM   #11
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At the risk of sounding old (I'm really not that old... really) Tolkien and I go back to about 1971 when I first read The Hobbit with LoTR to follow shortly thereafter. Of course, back then there was no internet. The publication of The Silmarillion and later of Unfinished Tales received broad press coverage. I purchased each on the days they were released.

I didn't love The Silmarillion at first. It was a bit too much like a history book to me. It took another read or 2 to really begin the appreciate it. Unfinished Tales I liked more. The First Age pieces were more like how I envisioned The Silmarillion to be. The balance was more like a novel than history so I appreciated it more on the first read. I later came to like The Silmarillion as much as LoTR. I had no problem with the shadowy distant history being revealed.

Lost Tales flew under the press' radar, at least so far as I knew. I stumbled upon volume one in a bookstore. I found the style and quality of the prose to be less than Tolkien's later work. I almost didn't buy volume 2, but did and was glad I did so. It was worth it for the fall of Gondolin alone. I also enjoyed the idea of the faring forth and the prophecy of Mandos.

You see, I didn't conceive of Tolkien's writing to be a lifelong effort of editing and rewriting at that point. And I had no real interest, then, in the evolving development of his tales. I liked The Hobbit, LoTR and the Silmarillion at that point and had hoped that Tolkien had more substantially finished work about Middle Earth.

I didn't know anything more about HoME until around 1997 when I stumbled upon a copy of Lays of Beleriand and later The Shaping of Middle Earth at airports. I liked Lays very much, though it was slow going. It showed where Tolkien intended to go with his tales. Shaping I liked less. Again, I was not highly interested in the step by step evolution and found it to be generally redundant. I felt similarly about the Lost Road.

I skipped the History of the Lord of the Rings entirely at that point and moved straight on to Morgoth's Ring. Again I skimmed the early sections about the Annals and the later Silmarillion. However, the Athrabeth and the balance of the book was fascinating to me. It was fresh and new material.

By this time I had found the on-line Tolkien world and this message board. Morgoth's Ring and the War of the Jewels I treated as an education and as material for posts. Peoples of Middle Earth was also a winner for me. Again, it presented new or merely hinted at material. By this time, I had completely gotten over any reservations about "historical" Middle Earth.

I've gone through most of HoME at least twice and my favorite volumes more so. I now appreciate the evolution of Tolkien's writing, though I have given up on achieving any vision of what the final version of The Silmarillion might have looked like. I still keep my eyes open for fodder for posting here (wishful thinking?).

Even now, HoME sometimes surprises me. I mentioned in my opening post in this thread that when I heard that the Downs was going to be resurrected, the first book I picked up was Morgoth's Ring. I read it carefully, not skimming the Annals of Aman and the versions of the Silmarillion and noticed something. The prose, particularly in Annals was beautiful. Much better than the early versions and in many cases superior to what is found in The Silmarillion.

So why I read HoME has evolved over the years. I went from hoping for new stories, to looking for details missing from the published "canon" works, to looking for hints regarding what the Silmarillion should have been, to looking for information to post, to appreciating both the prose and the breadth of Tolkien's conception.
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Old 06-02-2015, 05:32 AM   #12
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You started a good thread, Mithadan. I certainly agree with your reasons that HoME is 'difficult. Some of it is archaic. It is certainly highly redundant. It is long. Many would argue that it is overly scholarly and inaccessible'. But I agree with Kuruharan in that they are part of the reason why I read it. I'm one of the people who has bought all 13 volumes, the last being the general index.

I understand you, Inziladun, when you say you are uneasy in knowing 'too much about how the sausage is made', although I would agree with Pitchwife when the latter says 'For me, a poem or novel doesn't lose its appeal by studying how it does its job, I'd rather say I learn to appreciate it on an additional level'.

I agree with you, Aiwendil, in that I also have at times picked out the parts that are 'great writing', and have ignored Christopher Tolkien's excellent commentaries.

The volumes I bought in the order of 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 12, 10, 9, 11, 2, 6, 8 and 13.

I didn't, however, read them in that order. I read Volume 1 much later, after I began to read the others. I was particularly entranced with the verses in Volume 3, and laughed at C. S. Lewis' 'criticism' of The Lay of Leithien. Also, I wanted to know about the story of the Appendices in LotR, as well as the dropped last chapter, all revealed in Volumes 12 and 9. There were also the issues in Volume 10 of the evil of Morgoth, the laws of marriage among the Elves (which had political implications), and Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth, which was very moving. There was then The Wanderings of Húrin, in Volume 11, followed by filling in the corners.

Looking back, I first wanted to read the books to find out some of the background to what I had already read, particuarly in The Silmarillion. Christopher Tolkien had made me aware of the work his father had left unfinished, of which I had had a taste in Unfinished Tales; so I wanted to know the unfinished pieces themselves, and the context of the life of their author from which they emerged, then the efforts by his heir to produce a coherent narrative.

I then realised, before I got to the end, and before Christopher Tolkien mentioned it, that my going through the volumes (in my own particular order) was a disorderly reading of a biography of Tolkien himself. It made me appreciate how he was able to produce (and in certain cases publish) so much work against a background of a career and raising a family.

In the last number of years, I've been writing on Tolkien, so have been using HoME as a source of research materials, both the pieces inside themselves and CT's commentaries on them. I've also been rereading some pieces for the sheer enjoyment of doing so.
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Old 06-02-2015, 08:32 PM   #13
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HoME was for me a must-read. I didn’t like The Silmarillion much when it first came out, but the Book of Lost Tales, the first two volumes of the HoME series, gave me much of what I then felt I was missing in The Silmarillion.

The writing was fuller and more detailed and more poetic, with even bits of real poetry, at least more than in the published Silmarillion. That it was more archaic in style did not bother me at all. I was used to reading archaic prose, such as Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur, the fantasy novels of William Morris, the fantasy novels of William Hope Hodgson, and various other works, so that archaic English hardly registered with me as being archaic.

I felt that Christopher Tolkien ought to have merged the text of the Book of Lost Tales into the published Silmarillion.

Years later I realized why this was impossible, at least for someone so fixed on putting out the work of his father and only the work of his father with no additions or changes. The very names no longer fitted. The Gnomish language used for the seven names of the city of Gondolin no longer fitted with Sindarin as revised. True, readers would mostly not pick up on such apparent ephemera, but much of the charm of Tolkien’s work is the feeling that came through that Tolkien had cared deeply about such apparent ephemera. That it did matter.

So what we have is what is possible: the record of what Tolkien thought years before The Silmarillion was published, somethling that Christopher Tolkien himself did not think was possible, until he found himself forced to defend the position that the published Silmarillion was indeed mainly his father’s work and not mainly something quickly cobbled together by himself and an assistant, really their invention.

And HoME was an immense publishing success. Originally published only in hard-cover only for hoped-for specialists, it proved popular enough to unexpectedly jump into paperback and to reach twelve volumes, to stay in print and stay in print. In 2000–01, the twelve volumes were republished in three limited edition omnibus volumes. Non-deluxe editions of the three volumes were published in 2002.

The HoME series seems to me to have been possibly more of a publishing success than most fantasy books.
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Old 06-03-2015, 01:35 PM   #14
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The HoME series seems to me to have been possibly more of a publishing success than most fantasy books.
This is either high praise for the quality of Tolkien's early work and ruminations or a stinging condemnation of the fantasy out there.

Or maybe it says more about us the fans...
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Old 06-04-2015, 05:18 AM   #15
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In the early seventies I had the psychedelically-bordered map of Middle-Earth on my wall, and I used to gaze with great longing at the Ered Luin. There was an elvish air about them, sketched, hinted at, remote and unknown and wreathed in mystery.

I've collected most if not all of HoME, and have opened each book, and read a fair amount if not all of most of them. But the tale (and poem) I return to again and again is The Cottage of Lost Play. There is an innocence and mystery about it, and about Kortirion; a dreamy longing, sensucht, what could be, like the misty Ered Luin on the far western edge of the map. It is that that I love the most about Tolkien. And when LOTR feels too finished and packaged and done, and I want the mystery and the desire again, I can go to the cottage by the shore, or to Kortirion, for the hint of something ancient and filled with longing
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Old 06-04-2015, 09:19 AM   #16
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In the early seventies I had the psychedelically-bordered map of Middle-Earth on my wall, and I used to gaze with great longing at the Ered Luin. There was an elvish air about them, sketched, hinted at, remote and unknown and wreathed in mystery.

I've collected most if not all of HoME, and have opened each book, and read a fair amount if not all of most of them. But the tale (and poem) I return to again and again is The Cottage of Lost Play. There is an innocence and mystery about it, and about Kortirion; a dreamy longing, sensucht, what could be, like the misty Ered Luin on the far western edge of the map. It is that that I love the most about Tolkien. And when LOTR feels too finished and packaged and done, and I want the mystery and the desire again, I can go to the cottage by the shore, or to Kortirion, for the hint of something ancient and filled with longing
Mark's comment here hits it right for me as well. BoLT 1 and 2 are fascinating reads for me. Although I've read the scholarly apparatus, I usually just skip it to enjoy Tolkien Sr's storytelling.

I've dipped in and out of the other volumes, some I haven't read yet, but largely the attraction of HoMe to me is either the enjoyment of Tolkien's early writing or the acquisition of context/information to help understand the other texts. It really is a privilege and a joy to be able to see how Tolkien's writing was created.
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Old 06-04-2015, 10:00 AM   #17
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I've dipped in and out of the other volumes, some I haven't read yet, but largely the attraction of HoMe to me is either the enjoyment of Tolkien's early writing or the acquisition of context/information to help understand the other texts. It really is a privilege and a joy to be able to see how Tolkien's writing was created.
I don't want to leave the impression that I'm totally opposed to reading HOME.

Like Bêth, what I have read (mostly regarding, as I said before, the writing of LOTR), has shed some light on that work, and allowed me to see some parts of the finished product in a new light.

Perhaps my fear of falling prey to Gandalf's warning about not "breaking a thing to find out what it is" is groundless, and one day I'll delve into the writing histories more deeply.
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Old 06-04-2015, 04:41 PM   #18
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This is either high praise for the quality of Tolkien's early work and ruminations or a stinging condemnation of the fantasy out there.

Or maybe it says more about us the fans...
It was not intended to say any of those things. I don’t know how to find out exactly how much volumes of the HoME series have sold compared to other books. But indication of high sales alone would not impress me. I am not much impressed by such statistics.

I have read many best-sellers and many obscure items and have not found myself pushed to read more best-sellers because they were, to my taste, generally superior to the other works. I read what I think will please me, which is not necessarily what will please others.

I liked the HoME series, and that was sufficient reason to read them, regardless of what others might think. I do not particularly like, as examples, writing by Terry Pratchett and Robert Jordan. I do like, mostly, writing by Neil Gaiman and the new novel by Eowyn Ivey, to name some popular works. I loathed Star Trek. I loved Doctor Who and Babylon 5. I loved Planet Toilex, not mentioned now anywhere on the Web, save in this post. I also loved the non-mentioned television series “The River Margin” and the barely remembered series “It’s A Man’s World” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_...28TV_series%29 ).

In short, I like what I like, and think it fortunate for me when a forum turns up devoted to one of my interests and when a series of books that I happen to like has proved as popular as the HoME series has. It does not surprise me that most of my individual other likes are not shared, or that most individual other likes and dislikes of others on this forums are likewise mostly not shared with others.

Last edited by jallanite; 06-05-2015 at 02:22 PM. Reason: Changed Babylon 13 to Babylon 5.
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Old 06-04-2015, 07:31 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by jallanite View Post
It was not intended to say any of those things. I don’t know how to find out exactly how much volumes of the HoME series have sold compared to other books. But indication of high sales alone would not impress me. I am not much impressed by such statistics.

I have read many best-sellers and many obscure items and have not found myself pushed to read more best-sellers because they were, to my taste, generally superior to the other works. I read what I think will please me, which is not necessarily what will please others.
I was being semi-facetious and hold to similar principles myself.

However, just to explore the idea, if something is valuable intrinsically but nobody knows about it...is it valuable? Tree in the forest type of question I suppose.

I am reminded of the part in Candide where during his stay in Paris Candide dined with The Man of Taste who had written a play that had never been outside of the bookseller's shop but Candide was quite taken with him.
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Old 06-10-2015, 09:45 AM   #20
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In my case it was simple, although I would have snapped up the BoLT anyway, being enamored of Sil and UT: I had had, for years, a burning desire to read the original Fall of Gondolin. The news that it would see print was a frubjous day.
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Old 07-08-2015, 06:39 AM   #21
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My favourite part is the Shibboleth of Feanor, with all it's little tidbits about the various members of house Finwe.

And I absolutely adore the "Round World" version of the mythology. I wish Tolkien would have been able to come up with some solution to the problems it would cause with the rest of the Mythology and properly implement it.
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Old 07-09-2015, 03:36 PM   #22
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And I absolutely adore the "Round World" version of the mythology. I wish Tolkien would have been able to come up with some solution to the problems it would cause with the rest of the Mythology and properly implement it.
My thought is that JRRT solved this by recasting Quenta Silmarillion as a mostly Mannish tradition, and he was going to give the Round World point of view in other accounts (or notes), for comparison.

Oddly enough (or ingeniously enough, I think) in my opinion a main "other" source being the confused mannish tradition of the fall of Numenor (The Drowning of Anadune). In it Men confuse the Elves with the Valar for instance, or certain points of geography, or don't all believe what the Elves teach... but the tradition includes that the Western Elves teach the World was always round (believe it or not, Men of Numenor)...

... the King of Numenor even wants to test this teaching by sailing East to get around the ban! But it never happens, and other stuff happens. Or you have the Elvish account of the Awakening of the Quendi, where (despite being a fairy tale mixed with counting lore) the Sun already exists before the Elves awake. Possibly too, the account of the Death of Feanor's youngest son... if that was to stand as a variant Elvish telling of the matter of Losgar (outside of the main QS text), it at least implies the Sun already existed, if I recall correctly.

Thus no need for a completely Elvish Silmarillion, with its always round worldedness and early existing Sun. That's why I think Myths Transformed was abandoned, even though the Dome of Varda made it into a later "LQS" text.

My opinion anyway.
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Old 07-21-2015, 08:31 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Galin View Post
My thought is that JRRT solved this by recasting Quenta Silmarillion as a mostly Mannish tradition, and he was going to give the Round World point of view in other accounts (or notes), for comparison.

Oddly enough (or ingeniously enough, I think) in my opinion a main "other" source being the confused mannish tradition of the fall of Numenor (The Drowning of Anadune). In it Men confuse the Elves with the Valar for instance, or certain points of geography, or don't all believe what the Elves teach... but the tradition includes that the Western Elves teach the World was always round (believe it or not, Men of Numenor)...

... the King of Numenor even wants to test this teaching by sailing East to get around the ban! But it never happens, and other stuff happens. Or you have the Elvish account of the Awakening of the Quendi, where (despite being a fairy tale mixed with counting lore) the Sun already exists before the Elves awake. Possibly too, the account of the Death of Feanor's youngest son... if that was to stand as a variant Elvish telling of the matter of Losgar (outside of the main QS text), it at least implies the Sun already existed, if I recall correctly.

Thus no need for a completely Elvish Silmarillion, with its always round worldedness and early existing Sun. That's why I think Myths Transformed was abandoned, even though the Dome of Varda made it into a later "LQS" text.

My opinion anyway.
That's well and good if you are interested in Mannish Legends. I am not.

I'd rather have a Silmarilion that would recount the "actual" history of Middle Earth. To me it seemed more a "cop out" because Tolkien might have been afraid that he was no longer up to the task of restructuring the Legendarium in such a significant way.
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Old 07-21-2015, 10:50 PM   #24
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That's well and good if you are interested in Mannish Legends. I am not.

I'd rather have a Silmarilion that would recount the "actual" history of Middle Earth. To me it seemed more a "cop out" because Tolkien might have been afraid that he was no longer up to the task of restructuring the Legendarium in such a significant way.
I think such an approach risks treating this fiction as too "real". Ultimately I think the major concern is that the "actual history", which might be better understood as a "version more cohesive with modern scientific knowledge", would not retain the original poetic qualities of the old story. It might have a new one, but it would be different.

I don't think the original version of the story being treated by the author in later years as a "Mannish legend" diminishes from its potential meaning. For me at least the meaning is more important than what is "true" according to the internal narrative. It's all fiction at the end of the day, even fiction within fiction. It's not like one version is actually "true".
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Old 07-22-2015, 01:14 PM   #25
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(...) I'd rather have a Silmarilion that would recount the "actual" history of Middle Earth. To me it seemed more a "cop out" because Tolkien might have been afraid that he was no longer up to the task of restructuring the Legendarium in such a significant way.
I think Christopher Tolkien is correct about JRRT's thinking, in a period before his father had even finished The Lord of the Rings.

Quote:
"Where could such ignorance of the Elves be found but in the minds of Men of a later time? This, I believe, is what my father was concerned to portray: a tradition of Men, through long ages become dim and confused. At this time, perhaps, in the context of the Notion Club Papers and of the vast enlargement of his great story that was coming into being in The Lord of the Rings, he began to be concerned with questions of "tradition" and the vagaries of tradition, the losses, confusions, simplifications and amplifications in the evolution of legend, as they might apply to his own -- within the always enlarging compass of Middle-earth.

This is speculation; it would have been helpful indeed if he had at this time left any record or note, however brief, of his reflections. But many years later he did write such a note, though brief indeed, on the envelope that contains the texts of the Drowning of Anadune:

"Contains very old version (in Adunaic) which is good -- in so far as it is just as much different (in inclusion and omission and emphasis) as would be probable in the supposed case:

a) Mannish tradition
b) Elvish tradition
c) Mixed tradition"


note by JRRT loosely dated to "sometime in the 1960s"
Now granted the note itself dates from the 1960s specifically, but the texts that inspired Christopher Tolkien's comments here are much earlier, again, dated to before The Lord of the Rings was even completed.

For myself I think Quenta Silmarillion as a mostly mannish affair was a natural enough resolution.

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Old 07-24-2015, 04:27 PM   #26
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Well, Tolkien himself couldn't make up his mind about it; this can be seen in the 'round-world' Downfall of Anadune and related papers ca 1945-6 which were later explicitly rejected in the 'flat-world' Akallabeth. There are elements of the Appendices dating from around 1949 which greatly suggest the round-world story, and others which entered circa 1954-55 which are flat-world.

I don't think Tolkien felt up to the massive work of recasting the fundamental cosmology, in effect jacking up the house and replacing its foundation; while the idea of a distorted Mannish version has appeal, it also has problems for whatever fictional theory of transmission Tolkien might have decided on. Bilbo's "Translations From the Elvish?" Bilbo had direct sources of information in Elrond, Glorfindel and sometimes Gandalf to set him straight. Akallabeth written by Elendil? Elendil personally lived through it and would have known the form of the Old World. Surviving Gondorian manuscripts? Don't fit especially well as a co-transmission with the memoirs of two Shire-hobbits.

I'm not saying the problem was intractable, but Tolkien certainly never worked it out, and CT wisely kept silent.

In any event, whatever Tolkien's intentions for transforming the cosmological myth, his ideas were only notes and jottings that never received narrative form, and CT would not have been justified, I think, in replacing the completed QS and AAm texts with material of his own devising "based on" notes and jottings.
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Old 07-24-2015, 08:00 PM   #27
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Galin, can you please provide the source of your CRRT/JRRT quote? I find this topic interesting and I know of a related quote from JRRT that I will dig up, but the question of timing of JRRT's intentions is relevant.
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Old 07-25-2015, 08:09 AM   #28
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Galin, can you please provide the source of your CRRT/JRRT quote? I find this topic interesting and I know of a related quote from JRRT that I will dig up, but the question of timing of JRRT's intentions is relevant.
It's from HoMe IX, the third section, 'The Drowning of Anadune'.
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Old 07-25-2015, 09:23 AM   #29
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Sorry about the lack of source Mithadan. And thanks Aiwendil! Also there is an *error* in my quote above, as C should say: Mixed Dunedanic tradition (not simply "mixed tradition")

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I don't think Tolkien felt up to the massive work of recasting the fundamental cosmology, in effect jacking up the house and replacing its foundation;...
Perhaps. But I wonder if maybe he just didn't like the new ideas (as brief as they are, in a sense) as much as the old ones. Add that to the idea that the Silmarillion need not be "Elvish" as told to an Anglo-saxon upon Tol Eressea...


Quote:
... while the idea of a distorted Mannish version has appeal, it also has problems for whatever fictional theory of transmission Tolkien might have decided on. Bilbo's "Translations From the Elvish?" Bilbo had direct sources of information in Elrond, Glorfindel and sometimes Gandalf to set him straight.
I've heard this before, but to my mind getting everything straight isn't the point. Bilbo is translating a particular work. He and Glorfindel might know about its inaccuracies, but that's no reason to alter a work of antiquity. Especially (I think) if one is a Hobbit! I don't find this problematic at all, especially given that the "truth" of the big questions will be in some part of Bilbo's translations, if not in others.


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Akallabeth written by Elendil? Elendil personally lived through it and would have known the form of the Old World.
Well (in DA) upon learning that the world was like an apple, even the King of Numenor wanted to test the theory by sailing East, but he never got the chance. Moreover, we don't really have Tolkien drawing the final picture here for us: he could easily have stamped "mixed dunedanic tradition" on Akallabeth, instead of Elendil.

Quote:
Surviving Gondorian manuscripts? Don't fit especially well as a co-transmission with the memoirs of two Shire-hobbits. I'm not saying the problem was intractable, but Tolkien certainly never worked it out, and CT wisely kept silent.
Granted you are not saying that the problem was intractible, but here again I find nothing very problematic about sources hailing from Gondor as well as Imladris.

I dunno, that seems natural enough to me.
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Old 07-25-2015, 10:04 AM   #30
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Here is at least a conceptual framework to play with: Bilbo was working in Rivendell making use of Elrond's library. But there was a problem here- the Elves don't write "history" in the way we mortals understand it. Being immortal, their requirements were different and they were much more inclined towards poetic recastings of things commonly known (among themselves), stuff even more obscure to an outsider than Bilbo's mock-elvish Earendil poem was to us pre-Sil LR readers.

The "Elvish" Bilbo translated, then, was not works by Elves but rather Dunedainic works in Sindarin, those surviving books from the royal library at Fornost which had been committed to Rivendell for safekeeping: histories written by Men which were far more comprehensible to Bilbo's mortal mindset. (According to this theory, even the Annals would not have been contemporaneous Elvish records a la medieval chronicles, but a Numenorean or Dunedainic reconstruction of the timeline of the Elder Days.)


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Old 07-28-2015, 11:35 AM   #31
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Yes I think translations from the Elvish by B.B. can refer to the Elvish languages, not necessarily to Elvish accounts, although I do think even one more purely Elvish account can be employed to offset certain (mis)conceptions in an indirect sort of way. And as I say, for me part of the genius of The Drowning of Anadune is that it's a Mannish account that yet serves to reveal the teaching of the Western Elves. Interestingly, in a late note:


Quote:
'All peace and all strongholds were at last destroyed by Morgoth; but if any wonder how any lore and treasure was preserved from ruin, it may be answered: of the treasure little was preserved, and the loss of things of beauty great and small is incalculable; but the lore of the Eldar did not depend on perishable records, being stored in the vast houses of their minds. When the Eldar made records in written form, even those that to us would seem voluminous, they did only summarise, as it were, for the use of others whose lore was maybe in other fields of knowledge*, matters which were kept for ever undimmed in intricate detail in their minds.'

*Author's footnote

'And as some insurance against their own death. For books were made only in strong places at a time when death in battle was likely to befall any of the Eldar, but it was not yet believed that Morgoth could ever capture or destroy their fortresses.'

JRRT Shibboleth of Feanor
Quote:
WCH wrote: (...) (According to this theory, even the Annals would not have been contemporaneous Elvish records a la medieval chronicles, but a Numenorean or Dunedainic reconstruction of the timeline of the Elder Days.)
Another instesting description belongs to a typescript of one version of the Annals. For those who have not read HME...

Quote:
'Here begin the 'Annals of Aman'. Rúmil made them in the Elder Days, and they were held in memory by the Exiles. Those parts which we learned and remembered were thus set down in Númenor before the Shadow fell upon it.'

Morgoth's Ring, note to Annals of Aman*
In my opinion The Tale of Years was going to supersede the Annals (which themselves had grown fuller in parts and more like Quenta Silmarillion) but in any case, although I'm not sure this is necessarily how Tolkien would have finally worded it, Numenor is in the mix...

... as again in material later published by JRRT in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil:

Quote:
'... No. 14 also depends on the lore of Rivendell, Elvish and Númenorean, concerning the heroic days at the end of the First Age; it seems to contain echoes of the Númenorean tale of Túrin and Mim the Dwarf.'
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