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Old 11-25-2023, 03:28 PM   #1
Arvegil145
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Question How many 'Great Tales' were there?

There seems to be a general consensus among Tolkien fans that there were 3 'Great Tales' (with good reason, I might add; see Atanatarion):

1) The Tale of Beren and Luthien (i.e. The Lay of Leithian)

2) The Tale of the Children of Hurin (i.e. the Narn)

3) The Fall of Gondolin and the voyages of Earendil (which are actually grouped together by Tolkien in most cases, I believe)


However (and this has been bugging me for quite some time), I distinctly remember Tolkien laying out 4 'Great Tales' somewhere - but I can't remember where!

My best guess is that the 4th tale had something to do with either the 'Wanderings of Hurin' or most likely with Dior and/or Nauglamir.

Someone please help!
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Old 12-01-2023, 09:59 AM   #2
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The fouth tale would be Tale of Eärendil. It is mentioned, at least, in the letter a Milton Waldman.
But the Memorandum printed in the Section I of Miths Transformed is stated that there were three mixing TFoG with the Tale of Eärendil.
With a structure mixing again the two tales of the House of Hador.

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Old 12-01-2023, 11:24 AM   #3
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However, the Lay of Earendil was never written. Not even sketched, aside from some cryptic jottings from the Lost Tales era.
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Old 12-01-2023, 12:47 PM   #4
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Yes. Pity.
It would have been a great one the whole Narn en-Êl.
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Old 12-02-2023, 12:32 PM   #5
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Yes - like I said in my original comment, Tolkien seems to have (more often than not!) considered the stories of Tuor and Earendil as two parts of one great tale.


But my original question was about Tolkien's explicit statements about the 4th 'Great Tale' (which wasn't that of Earendil!), and where to find it, because it does exist, I just...don't know where to find it, but I'm 100% sure that there is such a statement.
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Old 12-03-2023, 07:40 AM   #6
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The fourth Tale would be the Tale of Earendel. And is stated in the refered letter. Possibly I,m mistaken but I think is the only time the Professor wrote about.
CT possibly said something in one of his prefaces/comments but I can't find it.
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Old 12-03-2023, 11:58 PM   #7
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Thumbs up How many 'Great Tales' were there?

However, the fourth tale you are referring to might be "The Nauglafring" or "The Nauglamír." This story involves the fate of the Nauglamír, a famous necklace created by the Dwarves, and its connection to the tragic events surrounding Dior, Thingol's heir, and the fall of Doriath. This tale is somewhat interwoven with the other stories and is not always treated as a separate narrative, but it is a significant part of the broader legendarium.
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Old 12-04-2023, 07:11 AM   #8
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The only thing I can bring to mind is from way back in the Book of Lost Tales, and it kind of feels like everyone is right: the "Fourth Great Tale" is both Earendil and the Nauglamir.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BoLT II
There is no doubt that [the earlier of the two schemes] was composed when the last Tales had reached their furthest point of development, as represented by the latest texts and arrangements given in this book. Now when this outline comes to the matter of Gilfanon's Tale it becomes at once very much fuller, but then contracts again to cursory references for the tales of Tinuviel, Turin, Tuor; and the Necklace of the Dwarves, and once more becomes fuller for the tale of Earendel. This scheme B (as I will continue to call it) provides a coherent if very rough narrative plan, and divides the story into seven parts, of which the first (marked 'Told') is 'The Nauglafring down to the flight of Elwing'.

This sevenfold division is referred to by Littleheart at the beginning of The Fall of Gondolin: 'It is a mighty tale, and seven times shall folk fare to the Tale-fire ere it be rightly told; and so twined is it with those stories of the Nauglafring and of the Elf-march that I would fain have aid in that telling...'

If the six parts following the Tale of the Nauglafring were each to be of comparable length, the whole Tale of Earendel would have been some-where near half the length of all the tales that were in fact written; but my father never afterwards returned to it on any ample scale.
This scheme would make the fourth Great Tale the Tale of Earendil, but that tale starts with the Nauglamir and the falls of Doriath. Over the course of the Nauglamir story, it also weaves together all three of the previous Great Tales: Turin's father brings about the doom of Tinuviel's family, and sends her granddaughter off to meet Tuor's son. The end of the Tale of the Nauglafring notes this explicitly:

Quote:
Originally Posted by BoLT II
Now was naught left of the seed of Beren Ermabwed son of Egnor save Elwing the Lovely, and she wandered in the woods, and of the brown Elves and the green a few gathered to her, and they departed for ever from the glades of Hithlum and got them to the south towards Sirion's deep waters, and the pleasant lands. And thus did all the fates of the fairies weave then to one strand, and that strand is the great tale of Earendel; and to that tale's true beginning are we now come.
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Old 12-04-2023, 11:39 AM   #9
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This is the passage I refered to from the Letter Nº131, He was talking about the Tale of Beren and Lúthien:

There are other stories almost equally full in treatment, and equally
independent and yet linked to the general history. There is the Children of
Húrin
, the tragic tale of Túrin Turambar and his sister Níniel – of which
Túrin is the hero: a figure that might be said (by people who like that sort of
thing, though it is not very useful) to be derived from elements in Sigurd the
Volsung, Oedipus, and the Finnish Kullervo. There is the Fall of Gondolin:
the chief Elvish stronghold. And the tale, or tales, of Earendil the
Wanderer
. He is important as the person who brings the Silmarillion
to its end, and as providing in his offspring the main links to and persons in
the tales of later Ages.

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Old 01-19-2024, 10:34 AM   #10
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Maybe you're thinking of a note to The Shibboleth of Feanor.

"As is seen in the Silmarillion. This is not an Eldarin title or work. It is a compilation, probably made in Numenor, which includes (in prose) the four great tales or lays of the heroes of the Atani, of which "The Children of Hurin" was probably composed already in Beleriand in the First Age, but necessarily is preceded by an account of Feanor and his making of the Silmarils. All however are "Mannish" works."

JRRT, note 17.
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Old 01-19-2024, 08:25 PM   #11
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The four tales are also discussed by CRRT in the introduction to Children of Hurin. He cited correspondence to Waldman though not by name if I recall. The 4 were Beren and Luthien, Hurin and Turin, Tuor and the fall of Gondolin, and the “voyages” of Earendil.
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