One of the reasons I'm finding this so delightful is that the sense that Tolkien always gives of having written "pre-history" rather than myth was always one of the facets of LotR that I loved best. Perhaps because I studied History in college, and always felt that a good deal had gone on that we didn't know about and would probably never know about. After all, if man has been around for pushing a million years, as the anthropologists tell us, why couldn't there be any number of great civilizations that have been buried beneath the waves, or are at this moment frozen under Antarctic glaciers?
I also like the reminder that "catastrophism", the understanding that great climactic catastrophes have happened in times past and had enormous effects on the human population, is not the whacko theory it used to be, along with continental drift.
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