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Old 06-05-2002, 06:54 PM   #1
piosenniel
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Sting The Canon

I'm going to confess my ignorance here, since I've read only The Hobbit, The LOTR trilogy, The Silmarillion, and Roverrandom & have just started The Book of Lost Tales I.

What exactly is being referred to as 'canonical' when that word is used here?
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Old 06-05-2002, 07:44 PM   #2
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Sting

As I understand it, Hobbit, LotR and Silmarillion, as well as the HoME series (which I have yet to read . . .stupid exams/lack of money).

But I may be wrong, so wait a bit and see what the more knowledgeable post.
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Old 06-05-2002, 08:50 PM   #3
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The canon in a literary sense is commonly understood to mean the body of (published) works by an author. In Tolkien's case this becomes a little confusing - The Silmarillion was put together, so to speak, by his son, in the form of a complete narrative, based on a vast number of definitively 'unfinished' and sometimes obscurely linked drafts and notes. Unfinished Tales (which at various times contradicts the chronology or other aspects of The Silmarillion) is more of a collection of this kind of supplementary or draft material by Tolkien, again collated, edited and in some cases addended by his son Christopher.

However, as Tolkien himself never appears to have considered any of his major works (published or not) as definitive or final, and was constantly revising and revisiting, the notion of a set 'canon' representing the author is a little fluid. In conversational terms, I would assume the term to apply to all his published works as of now, or perhaps all that deal with Middle Earth.

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Old 06-05-2002, 11:03 PM   #4
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Sting

LotR. Everything else is debatable. LotR is also debatable.
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Old 06-06-2002, 12:18 AM   #5
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Sting

One of the reasons I asked was because I had asked,on another thread, a question about something from The Book of Lost Tales I & two respondents said this book was not canonical - see HERE

So, if someone could just clarify this issue, at least for this Board's purposes of reference, I would appreciate it

[ June 06, 2002: Message edited by: piosenniel ]

[ June 06, 2002: Message edited by: piosenniel ]
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Old 06-06-2002, 12:33 AM   #6
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With Middle-earth stuff there are many varying levels of canon. The most canonical is LotR, it is one of the things used to judge if something else is canon. The other thing is author's intent. I may not be very far off base if I were to say that BoLT is the least canonical work that has been published. By the end of his life Tolkien had abandoned or modified nearly every aspect of BoLT. In my mind The Silmarillion, parts of UT, and parts of HoME inhabit the same level of canon, just lower than LotR. After that, in the third level down, is The Hobbit and much of the rest of UT and HoME. Then the remainder of UT, HoME, and the majority of BoLT. Keeping in mind that the order after LotR is just my opinion, and subject to change.
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Old 06-06-2002, 06:15 AM   #7
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Sting

What about the Letters? So many times I've gone to the Letters when figuring out a question of interpretation. What "level of authenticity" is given to that?

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Old 06-06-2002, 08:34 AM   #8
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Sting

The term "canon" is probably both misused and overused in the context of Tolkien's work. Middle Earth related books published by Tolkien are generally considered part of the canon; i.e. LoTR, Hobbit, Road goes ever on and Tom Bombadil (with the last two given less emphasis due to "poetic license"). As someone else commented, Silmarillion was compiled, edited and in some places actually written by Christopher Tolkien. He accepted the daunting task of reviewing such of his father's drafts as he had found, picking and choosing between inconsistent or stylistically different versions, and editing/authoring to make the story flow with some degree of consistency. All this was done in the space of about 3 years after JRRT died in 1973. As Christopher later set out to review, edit and publish others of his father's writings he became aware that, in some places, he may have chosen poorly among drafts. He also revealed he himself had written segments such as the fall of Doriath. As a result, Silmarillion is not considered "canonical" as it may not reflect the tale as JRRT actually intended it to be. The same goes for UT which includes some of Tolkien's best writing which was left sadly unfinished.

HoME, which is the source of much of the debate, complicates matters greatly. In HoME we see many of the conflicting drafts and CT reveals places where he may have used early ideas instead of later ones. BoLT 1 and 2 are the very earliest of JRRT's Middle Earth writings. BoLT was begun around 1918 and much of the detail included was later superceded or omitted, and is the least canonical of the HoME series.

Although I am a member of the Canon project on this website, I am reluctantly leaning towards the view that there can be no real "canon" gleaned from Sil., UT and HoME other than might satisfy personal taste (sorry Lindil). If you want my view on degrees of canonicity (if that is a word), the books can be graded in this order: (1) LoTR; (2) Hobbit; (3) HoME 12 (made up of portions of what had been prepared for inclusion in LoTR appendices but were omitted primarily due to space constraints; (4) Sil., UT and HoME 5, 10 and 11(take your pick); (5) Tom Bombadil and Road Goes Ever On (some would place this as number 4); and (6) everything else. Letters is impossible to grade. Because Sil. was a constantly changing work, Letters discussing Sil. cannot be viewed as more authoritative than Sil itself (and UT, portions of HoME etc.). But letters addressing LoTR and Hobbit, to the extent they don't contradict anything which was published, are more "canonical".

[ June 06, 2002: Message edited by: Mithadan ]
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Old 06-06-2002, 08:56 AM   #9
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*dances a merry greeting to burrahobbit and Child of the 7th Age*

If I may be so bold as to speak up even though newly arrived at the Barrows,I would join this interesting discussion of canonicity.

Why place The Hobbit below LOTR and The Silmarillion, particularly since Christopher Tolkien edited his father's papers so extensively to produce it? The Hobbit is thoroughly Tolkien Sr.'s work.

I perhaps speak a form of heresy when I suggest that, as fascinating as [i]The Silmarillion[i/] is, it is apocryphal rather than authoritative.

Perhaps the confusion lies in distinguishing between consistency of the mythology and canonicity of authorial intent?

In my travels around Middle Earth, I have found that people who question an author's Letters are readers who deny an author any ....authority.

*curtsies respectfully and hopes her dance is not out of place, belonging as it does to the Old Forest*

Bethberry

Edit: *acknowledges the insightful post of Mithadan which I had not seen before I posted*

[ June 06, 2002: Message edited by: Bethberry ]
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Old 06-06-2002, 10:22 AM   #10
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Sting

Welcome to the Downs, Bethberry!! thanks for your comments.

And thanks, Mithadan, Child, and burrahobbit for your input. I now have some parameters within which to work. It would be interesting to hear Lindil's comments on what is canonical.
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Old 06-06-2002, 11:58 AM   #11
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Quote:
Why place The Hobbit below LOTR and The Silmarillion, particularly since Christopher Tolkien edited his father's papers so extensively to produce it? The Hobbit is thoroughly Tolkien Sr.'s work.
You answer your question about as well as I could have a bit farther down.

Quote:
Perhaps the confusion lies in distinguishing between consistency of the mythology and canonicity of authorial intent?
When The Hobbit was being written Tolkien wasn't sure that he wanted it to be a part of his mythologies, and so it includes much that otherwise shouldn't be in Middle-earth, such as giants in the Misty Mountains throwing rocks down the mountainside and a different characterization of orcs/goblins.

That being said, I think that I like Mithadan's order better than mine.
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Old 06-06-2002, 01:25 PM   #12
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Welcome to the Barrow-Downs Bethberry!
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Old 06-06-2002, 09:06 PM   #13
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Sting

Some* would place The Road Goes Ever On at number 2, and follow it with A Guide to Names in LotR (or consider them even equal to LotR).
*'Some' refers to myself. [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]
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Old 06-06-2002, 09:18 PM   #14
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Quote:
When The Hobbit was being written Tolkien wasn't sure that he wanted it to be a part of his mythologies, and so it includes much that otherwise shouldn't be in Middle-earth, such as giants in the Misty Mountains throwing rocks down the mountainside...
If one of the laity can pipe up here, I'm still not convinced that Tolkien didn't make a veiled reference to the Stone Giants in LoTR as well.
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Old 06-06-2002, 10:02 PM   #15
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Boots

Thank you, Mithadan. Mae Govannen.

Your project is as challenging as any ring-bearer's. I hope you have an Old Tom to scare away any post-modernist nay-sayers.

May you find the larger way.

Bethberry
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Old 06-06-2002, 10:25 PM   #16
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Sting

This is very interesting. Why were vols. 5, 10, and 11 of HoMe considered "more canonical" than the others? (omitting 12 and 1 and 2 which have already been discussed as special cases)

Why was Road Goes Ever On placed so relatively low? I know there are some ideas in the notes where Tlkien seems to stick his neck out further on some issues like the Vala. Is this why?

Welcome Bethberry. Glad to meet you.

[ June 07, 2002: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]
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Old 06-07-2002, 06:54 AM   #17
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Sting

HoME 5, 10 and 11 contain the last versions of the Sil that were written by Tolkien. I have heard that Christopher may have relied more heavily on the HoME 5 versions in his editing of that work. Road is rated somewhat lower (by me) because it contains Bilbo's poetry rather than "lore". It could be subject to debate whether some of the information in the poem itself is subject to poetic license. Some have criticized Tolkien's notes in Road as not entirely consonant with other writings. Just goes to show what a thorny mess the whole issue of canon is.
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Old 06-08-2002, 02:42 AM   #18
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Sting

To most of us lowly fanfiction writers, the canon is simly: The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion, and the other stuff can be used too, but nobody understands them, so why bother? :-) Seriously speaking, I haven't got any point.
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Old 06-08-2002, 09:53 AM   #19
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Sting

The last humorous post actually raises a serious point. Exactly who is "canon" important to? Presumably, if you are trying to do the kind of project as you guys are doing on the Silm, it's very, very important since so many editing decisions would stem from it. And if you are doing scholarly writing for an academic journal, it would bear some relevence.

But the latter point isn't even %100 true. The book of essays Tolkien's Legendarium certainly has articles in it which cite heavily off the books that are lower down in the canon. And these essays are pretty highly thought of. (At least that's what T.A. Shippey says.) (I'm especially thinking of the great article on the role of Elf-friends.)

But what about the "average" Tolkien fan (whatever that means). To tell the honest truth, if I read something that speaks to me, I don't always look to see where it stands in terms of "canon".

Now, I'm no expert on HoMe and these other pieces, but as I learn more I find that I really like some of the later writings, precisely because Tolkien seems willing to push himself further on some issues, be more explicit, than he is in LotR. I'm talking about things like the notes in the Road Goes Ever on, writings in Morgoth's Ring like Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth, the osanwe-kenta stuff in Vinyar Tengwar, and the article on Galadriel in UT.

However scholars rate these pieces, I'm personally always going to think of them as the most fully developed and truest expression of some of Tolkien's ideas. And I suspect there may be others who feel this way too.

So where does that leave "canon"?

I know this sounds funny, but is "canon" really something we can define when we're still so close to Tolkien's life? If we assume LotR is going to last and become a "classic", don't we have to get some perspective on his writng before we can make definitive statements on canon--although I do understand anyone doing an editing job has to make some practical decisions about what to include.

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Old 06-13-2002, 03:28 PM   #20
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Sting

Mithadan tipped me off to the thread here, so I thought I would take a peek....

"What exactly is being referred to as 'canonical' when that word is used here?"
There is no one answer. Almost everyone agrees on LotR/Bombadil/Guide to names and places, most would also consider the Hobbit and Silm.

I will say that for myself who had the good fortune [?] to read Silm, UT and BoLT has they came out Canon became an early and curious question that could not hope to be answered till the HoME series was completed [ and now even that must be revised a bit in the light of the gems being supplied by CRRT to the Vinyar Tengwar journal }.

I left off serious M-E study from Lays till 2000, and when I came back the whole world had changed!!!

For younger folks [ or newer older readers!] the lines of division between HoME, Silm and UT must seem considerably thinner than to us elder ; ) readers.
For a decade or so Silm was indisputibly cannonical in all but the most obscure and highly placed circles.
The passing references in UT where not enough to despoil the idea that CRRT had done anythong other than a masterful job of creating the Silm.

Now we see however, esp w/ HoME 4, 5 and 10-12, that CRRT himself admits errors [ Gil-Galad's parentage being the most glaring ] , and that CRRT even has come to believe a canonical version or i should say final version of the Silmarillion was impossible, and wished he had not tried.

I for one am very glad he did, otherwise the lacuna posed by the Turin/Doriath material might never have been filled by anyone w/ the name of tolkien and a senitivity to M-E.
personally i wish he had been even bolder and done as Brian Herbert has and really made the world his own.
but alas we are left w/ a myriad of cannonical confusions to which I also believe there is no perfect solution.


One can be interested in the question for a few reasons that I am aware of:

  • desire to know which idea and writings are the latest
  • desire to know which ideas were rejected by JRRT
  • have an insane desire to create a seamless continuum of 1st - 3rd age writings that omit no detail of story but still reads beautifully, and have yet to be committed to an asyluml
  • would like to be able to read the 'real' Silmarillion to one's kids w/out a byzantine cross-referencing of the Silm, UT and HoME 2-5 ,Home 10-12 and an assortment of Vinyar tengwar issues.
  • One wants to write fanfiction based on the 'real' version

Ironically enough last I heard the Silmarillion as pub. by CRRT is official canon here at the downs [ in terms of the encyclopedia] kind of ironic huh?

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
anyway can there be a definitive canon of writings ?
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
probably not - only CRRT in my opinion had the authority and means to do what he tried to do w/ ' the Silmarillion'. The only other possiblility [which I consider only somewhat less likely than ever seein an honest president in the white house again] is that a group of legendariumists [ a large number, say at least a few dozen if not at least 1 gross] get together and debate and vote and then re-edit. Only time can tell whether their decisions and productions would be taken seriously [ it would of course probably succeed only in producing bitterly opposed camps and even possibly law suits!] .

I confess to being at one time crazy enough to try and engineer a form of the above mentioned council. unfortunately most of the Tolkien world seems wiser than me and realized, silently it would seem the futilility of the project, and declined to waste precious mental energy, and who can blame them there are too many tid-bits o trivia to query , not too mention polls on 'one's favorite tolkien inspired death metal' and Balrog Wings /Bombadillian debates. that aside aside, there does not seem to be the time or patience for a concilliar canon. What can be done then?
Well most legendariumists have come to the intelligent conclusion that to worry their little heads about is pointless, why i will just enjoy the stories and get on w/ my life!

others will attemt to form a fripp might say 'small, mobile and intelligent units' that work on the myriad of issues and texts irresepctive of their place in legendarium history. there a re a stunning number of such works on the Silmarillion: Canon, Drafts and Theories forum.
And a couple of people are still laboring at odd and irregular intervals to create new texts according to dictates that each group must decide on.
perhaps the term 'sub-canon' is appropriate. [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

Why can no canon be decided upon a few might ask ?
:
1. tolkien fans have other priorites 2. CRRT decided against trying a second time. 3. JRRT left such a mass of semi and/or unresolved thorny issues [ creation of the Sun and moon, nature of orcs, galadriel, the 2nd doom of mandos, who is the compiler < BB or Aelfwine or a combination> number of balrogs [ forget the wings!], not too mention the fact that he left Turin and Doriath in tatters along w/ a tantalizing bit on hurin's wanderings.

So in short I will sayy that in all liklihood we will all be given the task of deciding our own canon!

A sort of Protestant legendariumism, being Orthodox myself , I like the idea of councils better , but hey
as child o' the 7th age said:
Quote:
Now, I'm no expert on HoMe and these other pieces, but as I learn more I
find that I really like some of the later writings, precisely because Tolkien
seems willing to push himself further on some issues, be more explicit, than
he is in LotR. I'm talking about things like the notes in the Road Goes Ever
on, writings in Morgoth's Ring like Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth, the
osanwe-kenta stuff in Vinyar Tengwar, and the article on Galadriel in UT.
To myself also these writings are among the most precious [ I would also throw in laws and customs, the Druedain and the later Turin] in the whole of the legendarium, and I would love to see them receive their due place in the ' Silmarillion'.

sorry for the ramble!!

[ June 13, 2002: Message edited by: lindil ]
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Old 06-14-2002, 12:15 AM   #21
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Tolkien

Lindil --

I really wanted to thank you for taking the time to provide such a thoughtful post. I made a copy of it on my printer to save in a notebook where I keep things that seem particularly helpful. And I will make sure to look at those other later writings of Tolkien which you cited as being personal favorites in addition to the ones I was familiar with.

I can definitely see how useful it would be to have a conciliar body define what canon is. (I am a medieval historian, and your words reminded me of the conciliar movement within the Church in the 14th century!) But, knowing how many academics are, I think you are right--it would be an impossible task to get such individuals to agree to meet, let alone to actually come to an agreement on the literature itself.

Too bad. What that means, I think, is that the battle may, by default, be fought out on a smaller scale in projects such as your own as well as in scholarly articles in journals and monographs. I know that two of the articles in Tolkien's Legendarium, for example, dealt with the question of the Elf-friend narrator/compiler.

The biggest problem is that it will take a long, long time, if ever, for any kind of concensus to be achieved.

I guess there is no possibilty of using an existing group like the Mythopoeic Society or the Tolkien Society to try and sponsor something like this. (Probably not.)

sharon
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Old 06-14-2002, 12:40 AM   #22
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Sting

My Own Personal Canon Law a la Tolkien:

If it's got JRR Tolkien's name on it as being the author, and if I enjoy it, it's canon. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

Sure, it might make for a pleasant afternoon with a cup of tea under a nice shade tree in the summer to wonder once in a while how much Christopher had a hand in things. And musing about various ambiguities or inconsistencies can be good for broadening one's horizons in appreciation for a myriad of imaginative alternative scenarios and possibilities ... but as for outright settling such matters, I'd rather just allow Tolkien the leeway to which poetic licence entitles him.

Just my leisurely two pieces of mithril,

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Old 06-14-2002, 10:48 AM   #23
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Sting

Lindil - thank you for taking time to give your thoughts on the subject. That was a very clarifying post on a somewhat slippery subject, as I have learned.

One of the reasons I originally asked the question was that I had seen a fair number of posts in discussions where a respondent would use the word 'canon' to validate his position or invalidate another's. I wanted to see the yardstick by which such replies were being measured.
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Old 06-14-2002, 11:51 AM   #24
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One of the reasons I originally asked the question was that I had seen a fair number of posts in discussions where a respondent would use the word 'canon' to validate his position or invalidate another's. I wanted to see the yardstick by which such replies were being measured.
Point of Note: Sometimes when someone is on the losing end of a debate, they'll inject a question of canon to try and divert the argument into a discussion of (for example) whether the comment about Glorfindel's hair color is really canonical, or if Tolkien was just having a bad day when he wrote that bit about Balrog wings.

This usually only leads to further confusion on the part of everyone. So I guess that the answer to your question is that the "yardstick" itself is rather murky.
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Old 11-01-2016, 07:23 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Nerwen
*whimpers*
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheGreatElvenWarrior View Post
Ahem, I'll back down. I don't mean to start a fight, now.
So a perfectly good canon debate goes out with a whimper?

Aww. Especially after you raised a good point: it's confusing to know which First Age endings/bits are canon and which aren't... because so much of it wasn't published by Tolkien himself.

The confusion stems, in part, from the incanonosity of it all! If you want First Age canon, I refer you to Strider's tale of Tinúviel (on topic! in the thread this was lifted from) in A Knife In The Dark, for example, or section I of Appendix A, The Numenorean Kings (especially the revised, second edition. It begins: "Feanor was...").

Anyway it's not a fight, despite this...
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Old 11-01-2016, 07:29 AM   #26
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From 2002? 14 years ago?

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Old 11-01-2016, 07:31 AM   #27
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It had the best title (in my opinion) of already existing canon debates.

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Old 11-01-2016, 08:02 AM   #28
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The whole thing becomes a mess largely because Tolkien himself futzed around for nearly 20 years after the LR was published and never got the Silmarillion finished. Therefore it's hard to tell what he considered "done" (and even then of course he would still go back and change things). It's easy, but in my mind misleading, just to draw a bright line distinction between 'published' and 'unpublished'; confusion and uncertainty are part of Tolkien studies, not something to be airbrushed out of the picture. (Was Celeborn a Danian, a Sinda, or a Teler? All three).

There are a couple of cases where it's fairly safe to say the work was "finished" and in Tolkien's mind ready for publication, whenever the rest of the volume was done. These would include the Akallabeth, which T was willing to leave unaltered once done and which CT hardly had to edit (the only significant change was Fionwe > Eonwe); Ak also happens to be fully consonant with the LR appendices.

Things get a lot messier when it comes to the First Age, especially the early (pre-rebellion) and late (post-Turin) portions: the former because Tolkien decided in the late 50s on a massive cosmological upheaval, and the latter because he just never got around to it.
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Old 11-01-2016, 09:46 AM   #29
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The whole thing becomes a mess largely because Tolkien himself futzed around for nearly 20 years after the LR was published and never got the Silmarillion finished. Therefore it's hard to tell what he considered "done" (and even then of course he would still go back and change things).
Agreed, and exactly because of this last thing, in part, there is no "done" until something's been authorized by Tolkien to go to print, at which point he knows it's in the hands of a "present and future" readership.

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It's easy, but in my mind misleading, just to draw a bright line distinction between 'published' and 'unpublished'; confusion and uncertainty are part of Tolkien studies, not something to be airbrushed out of the picture. (Was Celeborn a Danian, a Sinda, or a Teler? All three).
It's easy, but I don't agree it's misleading nor that it brushes away complexity (nor is it meant to). The "canonical" answer to your question is Sindarin. But that doesn't erase the complexity found in the posthumously published texts. And when Christopher Tolkien argues that his father surely would have felt bound by previously published text regarding Celebrimbor the Feanorean, anyone can agree or argue with even that... because in the end even Christopher Tolkien can't be certain...

... but what we can be certain about is what Tolkien himself chose to publish (in the case of Celeborn the Sindarin Elf, published twice in two different sources; in the case of Celebrimbor the Feanorean, the revised second edition), versus what JRRT was writing or musing about in private, unfinished papers and notes; and perhaps (or arguably) he was only even musing about something due to forgetting what already had been in print, or maybe because in private texts he was simply free to muse.

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There are a couple of cases where it's fairly safe to say the work was "finished" and in Tolkien's mind ready for publication, whenever the rest of the volume was done. These would include the Akallabeth, which T was willing to leave unaltered once done and which CT hardly had to edit (the only significant change was Fionwe > Eonwe); Ak also happens to be fully consonant with the LR appendices.
Upon what do you base "willing to leave unaltered" though, and what other works are you referring to? We might agree that something looks like it's generally "done", yet we don't know if Tolkien might have had an inspirational wrench to toss in, for example, a "last minute" change of a detail... or ten. Tolkien himself might not have plans to revise something... until he sits down, just to fix a few phrases here or there, to polish things up before sending a final version to his publisher.

Did Feanor have seven sons? If so, did all seven live in Middle-earth after the burning of the ships at Losgar? Seemingly simple facts are not always so easy with Tolkien, and I have no problem with things being complicated. Actually I think the web too often simplifies certain "facts" when presenting them, when what we really have is opinions about canon lurking behind them, or just a jumbling-together of popular ideas, despite the complexity of the existing texts.

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Things get a lot messier when it comes to the First Age, especially the early (pre-rebellion) and late (post-Turin) portions: the former because Tolkien decided in the late 50s on a massive cosmological upheaval, and the latter because he just never got around to it.
Agreed in general, although I would add that (I think) Tolkien decided to embrace the old concepts as mostly Mannish ideas, and "upheave them" by peppering in Western Elvish contradictions.

But would we be arguing First Age canon if Tolkien had finished and published his Silmarillion?

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Old 11-01-2016, 11:14 AM   #30
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But would we be arguing First Age canon if Tolkien had finished and published his Silmarillion?
Well, of course not.

The thing is, we know that T was willing on occasion to contradict published material, and then regularize the change in print: vide Finrod > Finarfin and Inglor > Finrod.

For that matter, even the published "canon" is not necessarily consistent. Were we to take the Lorien chapters alone, Celeborn would clearly be a Danian (Nando by the later system); he had become a Sinda by the time the Appendix was written but the main narrative was never revised to match, and you have to kinda squint to make the retcon look consistent. See also TRGEO version of Celeborn/Galadriel, especially the "ban."
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Old 11-01-2016, 02:20 PM   #31
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The final 1,078,564 words on the subject.
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Old 11-01-2016, 04:15 PM   #32
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Well, of course not.
Well, as obvious as the question admittedly was, here's another, what does that say then, about author-published work being canon?

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The thing is, we know that T was willing on occasion to contradict published material, and then regularize the change in print: vide Finrod > Finarfin and Inglor > Finrod.

For that matter, even the published "canon" is not necessarily consistent. Were we to take the Lorien chapters alone, Celeborn would clearly be a Danian (Nando by the later system); he had become a Sinda by the time the Appendix was written but the main narrative was never revised to match, and you have to kinda squint to make the retcon look consistent. See also TRGEO version of Celeborn/Galadriel, especially the "ban."
To me this is noting inconsistency within canon, which affects canon not at all. The first edition Hobbit was notably changed, as well as described by Tolkien as Bilbo's inconsistent version. Bilbo's not Tolkien's; the canon contains at least two versions of the same story. And if we want "closer to the truth" we can follow the lead of internal characters like Gandalf.

As for Celeborn canon, the reader is free to hold up, for comparison, various descriptions, in effort to find out/interpret/discern the "truth" of a thing. For example the suggestion within the chapter The Mirror of Galadriel versus two direct statements that tell the reader, clearly and easily, that Celeborn was one of the Sindar. We can squint if we know the "posthumous reality", or wink knowingly, though on the other hand, for all we know Tolkien felt no need to revise certain statements here, since a Sindarin Celeborn can (arguably) work well enough... and even if a given someone thinks a Sindarin Celeborn doesn't work well enough, the canon remains -- sometimes it's grey instead of black and white.

... like Celeborn the "Grey" [I know WCH knows, but Sindar means "Greys or Grey Ones"]. Okay bad pun, moving on.

Did a Troll really bake bread for a Hobbit named Perry-the-Winke? To my mind it's canon whether it happened or not, 'cause Tolkien published it as part of the (imagined) real texts from which he translooted stuff (verb tense: "past afflicted" of translate).
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Old 11-01-2016, 04:34 PM   #33
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The final 1,078,564 words on the subject.
Actually the first post in that thread [yours] at least, seems to me to be more about interpretation, possibly touching upon the notion of "Death of Author" maybe? I'll read it again.

But I need more time to give my opinion on the rest.

Time!Time!

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Old 11-01-2016, 05:46 PM   #34
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The thing is, we know that T was willing on occasion to contradict published material, and then regularize the change in print: vide Finrod > Finarfin and Inglor > Finrod.
Okay, and what then is the truth according to canon (under my easy definition)?

Text was changed, no doubt, but at the moment I'm not certain that there is anything necessarily in conflict between the first and second editions here. Conflating editions one will find that there's a royal House of Finrod, and a royal House of Finarfin -- which could be references to the same house/clan, one being in a larger context perhaps. And we could say that Finrod Felagund was the son of an Elf named Finrod, thus making Galadriel Finrod's daughter as well, as she is noted as sister to Felagund [there's no Elf named Inglor unless one counts Gildor Inglorion of the House of Finrod].

Sure, when we know and plug in the posthumously published details here we have a very different answer, one according to what Tolkien "intended" (intended for a given time at least). Finrod Felagund did not have a father named Finrod (although it would be acceptable if he had), his father's name was really Finarfin. And when Tolkien made this change, he arguably should have been consistent with "House of Finarfin"... but here again, does anyone know Tolkien thought House of Finrod (Gildor again) was overly problematic where it appears? Did he miss it in revision? I would say probably, but it's not a great problem from my perspective, especially as Finrod came to Middle-earth, not Finarfin.

Due to posthumously published papers we know what went on behind the scenes here, but I propose that Tolkien would still (if given the chance) seek out an internal answer, even if it was as (arguably) "feeble", like a scribal error (of an internal character), of his error as "translator" (not author), and perhaps even a printer's error, considering these F-names and such. What's strange is, the only reason that I'm aware of for why Tolkien switched the name Finrod, did not, in the end matter (see WPP, PE17, though Finarfin became a Sindarization in any case, even though this Elf never went to Middle-earth). It was, arguably, an unnecessary change to an already published detail.

Anyway I doubt you will find anyone seriously contesting the "fact" that Galadriel and Finrod Felagund belonged to Nos Finarfin...

... not even me. Well not today... maybe

And anyone who cared nothing of the revisions, or any of the posthumously published stuff, would still likely choose [as internally "true"] the revised second edition over the first in this matter, assuming that a "correction" of some kind had been implemented... for some reason.
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Old 11-01-2016, 06:17 PM   #35
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Well, as obvious as the question admittedly was, here's another, what does that say then, about author-published work being canon?
Ah- but in that case we would be talking about author publication of the very work in question. Canonicity debates, with very few exceptions, always swirl around the First Age material precisely because T never published any of it. We don't have arguments over LR canon, other than noting internal inconsistencies which really isn't a canonicity issue at all.

----------------------------------------------

I would submit the following classes of "canonicity:"

Class I: Published and never subsequently contradicted either in or out of print. Exemplar: almost all of the LR, almost all of The Hobbit save Chapter 5.

Class II: Published but subsequently contradicted in print, and the original publication revised to match. Exemplar: Hobbit Chapter 5.

Class III: Published but subsequently contradicted in unpublished material, then publication revised to match. Exemplar: Finrod > Finarfin.

Class IV: Published but subsequently contradicted in print, no revision. Exemplar: Galadriel's Ban in LR vs RGEO.
Class IV-A: "Ghosts" remaining in the LR narrative subsequently contradicted by the Appendices, written years later. Exemplar: Celeborn's origin.

Class IV-B: Internal contradictions in a published work, remains of earlier drafts overlooked in revision. Exemplar: Sleeping without fear in Caras Galadhon "for the first time" since Rivendell.

Class IV-C: Internal contradictions in a published work, dormitat dulce Homerus. Exemplar: Gimli's wood-cutting axe.
Class V: Unpublished, not contradicted by any published or subsequent unpublished material. Exemplar: Akallabeth
Class V-A (strongest): Unpublished, consistent in part with published material where parallel, uncontradicted elsewhere, result of development over multiple texts. Exemplars: Beren & Luthien (1937); The Quest of Erebor; Akallabeth again.

Class V-B: Unpublished, consistent in part with published material where parallel, uncontradicted elsewhere, one-off. Exemplar: The Battles of the Fords of Isen

Class V-C: Unpublished, neither confirmed nor contradicted by other material. Exemplar: The Wanderings of Hurin.
Class VI: Unpublished, contradicted by other unpublished material.
Class VI-A: Unpublished, contradicted only by earlier unpublished material. Exemplar: the "Long Tuor."

Class VI-B: Unpublished, superseded by later unpublished material. Many examples.
Class VII: Unpublished, superseded by later published material. All drafts of published material &c.

Class VIII: Unpublished, contradicts previously published material. Exemplar: Celeborn-as-Teler.

Class IX: Material by CT which contradicts JRRT material. Exemplar: the Fall of Doriath material in The Silmarillion.

Class X: Material by others which contradicts or makes spurious additions to JRRT material. Exemplars: Peter Jackson's movies, fan-fic.
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Old 11-02-2016, 04:31 PM   #36
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But a note on the word 'canon' now -- I think we are working through something of a shibboleth. A canon is not a group of set or finalised texts: every canon is always in motion, being changed, being reinterpreted, etc. Even the Biblical canon was arrived at in historical time (at the Council of Nicacea) and continues to be reworked to this day (some Bibles have the apocrypha in a separate section, some do not). The 'canon' of American literature didn't use to include writers like Mark Twain (too childish) or Toni Morrison (too black): but as American society changed, so did the canon, and now just try finding any course or program in American Lit anywhere in the world that doesn't include both these writers.
Yet these changes still appear to me to be an attempt to define a group of "finalized" texts, and in any case the matter of a single author who produced a handful of works (Middle-earth based) should not nearly be so complicated as the "canon of American Literature" in my opinion, or of such Biblical proportions.

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I think the attempt here to determine a final set of 'canonical' texts for Middle-Earth is doomed to failure (as is becoming perfectly clear). I think the list of canon provided by Mark 12:30 above is about as close as we're going to get.
Ahh, but let's look again at Mark's post below. Maybe we aren't doomed just yet.

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The real issue is, I think, what is it do we want to accomplish by the act of making some texts 'canonical' and others not.
Great question! My admittedly poorly expressed and simplified answer starts with the desire to engage with the writer/artist/subcreated-world; and perhaps especially readers dealing with fantastic subcreation naturally want to know the story. It's part of the joy of reading, and when there is confusion (or seeming confusion), as Sam's Elanor might say at some point: "is it true?" Yet we don't know what is true about Celeborn (to continue the example), as arguably his clan hints at his history (even when employing posthumously published texts to fill out that history), and so if Celeborn is a Nando, and a Teler, and a Sinda all at once, then in another sense he is none of these things...

... and a false sense of contradiction is injected, where none was intended by the artist/writer/subcreator. And Elanor, naturally, still wants to know what the story is.


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My position, in brief: the search for the 'canon' of Middle-Earth is futile at best, misleading at worst, for it maintains the fiction of an authorially established 'truth' when what we should be doing is looking at all available texts and evaluating, thinking about and arguing about each of them on their own merits (as well as how they relate to one another) without worrying about if they do or do not 'fit' into some idealised (and wholly imaginary) Canon of Truth (which will only ever really be the truth-as-imagined-by-the-person-putting-forward-the-canon).
Yet you/we can look at all available texts, think about them and discuss them on their own merits, without worrying about if they fit into the canon or not. I don't think anyone would claim that canonicity must lurk over every discussion to the effect of weeding out opinions and ideas. Anyway, looking at Mark's post that you referred to, but here with my emphasis [makes me think Mike Myers from View from the Top, something like: don't put the emphAsis on the wrong syllable]:


Quote:
levels of 'canonicity' for original Tolkien work:

(A) Tolkien's Original published works in his lifetime. Most agree on this.

(B) Tolkien's Original works whether published or not. Hotly debated in terms of timeline and "final word".

(C) Letters. Also hotly debated. C7A: Use to clarify author's intent when stated.
Over the years I have found that most do agree that anything Tolkien himself published, or approved for publication in his lifetime, is canon. And like Mark I have to say "most", because in my experience there are some who do not hold The Hobbit as canon. I think that's, yet again, a matter of inconsistency within canon rather; and anyway, it appears that the "translator" himself considered even the first edition Hobbit canon.

But what folks often enough don't agree on (in canon discussions) concerns the posthumously published works, which of course includes the letters. Again, what does that say about finding an all agreed upon canon? Is the line in the collective sand becoming clearer? Can I try to say something by rather annoyingly putting it in question form?


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He clearly was not writing them as part of a 'canon' - which is the point. Tolkien probably wouldn't have thought of some (any?) of his writings as 'canonical' & others as not.
But for instance, Tolkien did actually reject an idea because it conflicted with something already in print. And not only do we have a neat example (ros), we have Christopher Tolkien illustrating his father's worry about this late in life. I say: of course Tolkien had to mind what's already in print, and can't we use "canon" for this? Tolkien had to mind the color of Boromir's boots, or had to mind keeping a character "consistent" [by the writer's measure anyway] throughout the work, and plenty of stuff in between and all around!

And even when Tolkien consciously decides to inject an inconsistency, I argue that this concern is still there, very arguably illustrated by the author's attempts to keep things internal, to smooth the inconsistency in an internal way: again, Bilbo wasn't telling the whole truth about Gollum and the Ring, but that is his version nonetheless, and notably, it's also found in "Red Book related" writings. It remains canon.

To my mind Tolkien is quite aware of what this dance is about. In my opinion this is part of the "Elvish-craft", part of casting the spell on the reader, part of the art of writing and the joy of reading.

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I would say that he wouldn't consider any of the letters in that way. We can't even know if he was being serious in all of them.
Agreed. Tolkien letters were never in the hands of a readership at large while he was alive -- the letters were never meant for a readership at large, and were never going to be published, from Tolkien's perspective. To me it seems bordering on silly for Tolkien to feel he needed to mind what he had written to one person, a number of days, months, years, decades ago, if a new and/or better concept came to mind.

How folks employ the letters today is another matter, and some do appear to take the "Death of Author" stance.


Quote:
Obviously, we have to make a clear distinction between what Tolkien himself produced (to the extent that we can separate it from Christopher's contributions), but once we start trying to pigeonhole certain of Tolkien's writings as 'canonical' & other writings as not, we will not find any clear demarcation lines to help us, because Tolkien didn't think about his writings in that way.
I disagree here, Not only did Tolkien think of already published text differently than private writings, but to me it's only reasonable that he do so. For example, Tolkien cannot (as he himself says) make ros a Beorian word because "canon" already notes that ros is a Sindarin word -- most of this fails, he noted, meaning the ideas that went along with Beorian ros too. But actually, in my opinion, Tolkien can make ros a Beorian word, if he really wants to -- but the distinction for me is that the new idea, whether taken up or not into "canon", is compared to a different animal, a different animal compared to something he wrote last year/last month/yesterday, in some story or note that no has ever seen, and only will see if he allows it.

It's not the same simply because the art of subcreation will not be undermined in any way. Inconsistencies and purposed inconsistencies are weighed, but yet if the Red Book never numbered Feanor's sons, Feanor can have seven, or five, or however many sons Tolkien wills it; and he can change Amras to Amros without a thought that any foundations of Middle-earth might stir.

Christopher Tolkien notes (Unfinished Tales, The History of Galadriel and Celeborn): "It may be noted that Galadriel did not appear in the original story of the rebellion and flight of the Noldor, which existed long before she did; and also, of course, that after her entry into the stories of the First Age he actions could still be transformed radically, since The Silmarillion had not been published."

Of course! And the other side of that coin would seem to be, what had already appeared in publication is a natural concern as far as transformation goes, radical or not.

By the way, JRRT actually did change Amras to Amros. So what's this character's real name according to canon
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Old 11-03-2016, 12:20 PM   #37
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Of course, what may have been in Tolkien's mind as much as anything was simply that published matter couldn't be changed, at least not easily (neither the Hobbit revisions nor the LR second edition were exactly planned), at least as much as reflecting the completely fictional "underlying truth."

OTOH, T loved to play Patience (Solitaire), and I think part of the "game" to him was working around the constraints of the cards as dealt, even though he had dealt them himself.

---------------

NB: I agree that a younger, more flexible Tolkien could have saved Beoran ros, simply by positing that Gondorian Sindarin was a "medieval" rather than a "classical" Sindarin, which like Latin in the ME had absorbed some vernacular loan-words. Ros' acceptance into Dunedainic Sindarin would have been all the more easy given that every Numenorean knew the name of their founding King. T of all people knew that living languages are never static!
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Old 11-04-2016, 07:58 AM   #38
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Of course, what may have been in Tolkien's mind as much as anything was simply that published matter couldn't be changed, at least not easily (neither the Hobbit revisions nor the LR second edition were exactly planned), at least as much as reflecting the completely fictional "underlying truth."
Agreed. And as I would put it, when doing this Tolkien is essentially drawing the line between canon (what he himself had published for a readership at large) and everything else. And even when he decides to alter what Frodo said to Gildor (second edition) he is still aware of this line in the sand, and of course why it exists [and in WPP he again tries to come up with an internal explanation for Frodo's "mistake"].

Quote:
OTOH, T loved to play Patience (Solitaire), and I think part of the "game" to him was working around the constraints of the cards as dealt, even though he had dealt them himself.
Agreed again, as I think the matter of Glorfindel shows -- not only could Tolkien have simply changed the name of the Gondolinic character, but at one point he acts like he needs to stick to the "fact" that Gondolin was mostly populated by Noldorin folk, which itself was the older and seemingly "rejected" idea in any case, given that he had later added plenty of Sindar into the Gondolin mix! Memory glitch in my opinion, but it goes to the point I think. Although even in the late text, if "most" of the Gondolin Elves were Noldorin -- say if Tolkien was actually going back to the old idea here, which I doubt -- most still isn't all in any case.

And maybe it's the back of the same hand, as the matter of Glorfindel shows -- when Tolkien realizes he "cannot" make the Rivendellic Glorfindel one of the Sindar due to what was published.


And agreed for a third time about ros. I'm not sure why even an older Tolkien didn't try the path of loan word here... though I say this with the reservation that: I am no linguist, and he... well, he is JRR Tolkien!

If loan-word does work, perhaps Tolkien didn't think about the matter for very long, for whatever reason.

Edit: actually I think the old idea about Gondolin was that its folk were all Gnomes/Noldorin... ah my pedantry, even I'm not safe from it!

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Old 11-05-2016, 08:50 AM   #39
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Yes, the original story was that Gondolin wasn't founded until after the Nirnaeth by Turgon's regiment fleeing the battle,* all of them of course Gnomes. The new story arose pretty 'late'- IIRC not until the Grey Annals ca. 1951-2 - where Gondolin had been founded long before by Turgon's mixed-race people from Nevrast.

That however runs into the problem of language- why would the people of Nevrast not have followed the rest of Beleriand in speaking Sindarin save the Noldor among themselves? Probably because in the GA as written the old linguistic system was in place, where the language we know as "Sindarin" was still "Noldorin." (It's really sort of a wonder to me that Tolkien covered his tracks in the Lord of the Rings so well that nobody even suspected that a Great Linguistic Shift had occurred between its writing and its publication)

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*So where did the women and kids come from?
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Old 11-07-2016, 08:29 PM   #40
William Cloud Hicklin
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William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Okay- how would you class the "canonicity" of this very interesting excerpt from a 1965 letter.... not by Tolkien, but by his secretary apparently in consultation with him:

Quote:
Is there going to be another book? Professor Tolkien is hoping to complete for publication another work, called the Silmarillion, an account of the history and mythology of the First and Second Ages and the early part of the Third Age as it has come down through the Numenoreans, but he is kept from it by other matters....


[Just incidentally, the secretary was the future Mrs. Christopher Tolkien, and the typewriter the same one CT would use for many years including his early letters to me]
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