Re: Query: the pre-Cambrian layer
- --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, John Garth
> In fact, I also have something to say on this matter in myMy bad! I had intended to reference Mr Garth's published
> endnotes to _Tolkien and the Great War_ (p. 355), where I
> refer to the framing tale by its English title:
comments, which my own slender observations are merely meant to
supplement; but somehow neglected to do so.
Tolkien said, "I find it only too easy to write opening
chapters" [_Letters_ no. 24]; and he was being truthful: the first
chapters of both _The Hobbit_ and _LR_ languished for a long time
before being carried forward, and we have the abandoned openings
of _The New Shadow_ and the _Farmer Giles_ sequel. There is also
the trunk of _The Lost Road_, where JRRT leaped ahead to the parts
he was really interested in, the Anglo-Saxon episode and the Fall of
It seems to me that it was especially characteristic of Tolkien
to envision a midpoint or endpoint for a story; to start writing
the story from the beginning towards that point; and in the event
never get there.* This happens *three* times in the _Lost Tales_
(yes, this has a linguistic reference: bear with me). In the
first instance, there was the Eriol-story, intended to bring
about the preexisting identification of Tol Eressea with
England. "_Mar Vanwa Tyalieva_" was the beginning, probably his
first prose narrative - but he never reached the already-imagined
end, either as envisioned or in the modified Aelfwine-form.
Also from the pre-Somme period was the idea of Earendel and his
voyages, which never reached narrative form then or later (save
the _Qenta Noldorinwa_ epitome). I have little doubt that the
"Fall of Gondolin" was the first actual Tale written precisely because
it begins the story of Earendel, with his parentage and birth.**
The title of the first text was "Tuor and the Exiles of Gondolin (which
bringeth in the great tale of Earendel)". But then came Tinuviel,
quite likely for personal reasons- and the Earendel story was
never resumed, notwithstanding the many promises in the frame-
But I believe that the "essential historical fact" (EHF) of Tolkien's
conception as he lay in his hospital bed, already present in the
"Fall of Gondolin", was mandated by the "essential linguistic
fact:" the new language Gnomish and the need to explain its
divergence from Qenya. The EHF was of course the "exile and
thraldom of the Noldoli," which I strongly suspect were in the
initial conception nearly coextensive. This was the point toward
which Tolkien was driving when, armed with the "Valinorean"
elements of the proto-mythology, he wrote the long continuous
sequence from "The Music of the Ainur" to "The Tale of the Sun and
Moon". But of course he never reached his goal - all we have are
the outlines published under "Gilfanon's Tale". This conception
would of course be preserved, but the expanding mythology would
eventually make it untenable: the ages before _Nirnaeth Arnoediad_,
and before the Return of the Noldor, would so stretch out, and
the element of thrall-Noldor so diminish, that out of necessity
Tolkien made the Great Linguistic Shift, Noldorin > Sindarin.
And so Tolkien was being absolutely truthful when he called his
mythos "linguistic in inspiration:" beyond even the perceived
need for tongues to have a "history" in which to live, I submit
that the core of the entire _legendarium_ was Tolkien's need to
explain the relationship of Eldarissa and Noldorissa.
* cf also the _Narn i Chin Hurin_, where Tolkien wrote the end
before starting from the beginning, and never quite bridged the
gap. I suspect he wrote the Brethil section first because the
basic story-points in his conception of the _Turinssaga_ were the
Sigurd-element (Glaurung) and the Kullervo-element (Nienor).
** Perhaps also because it was an outlet for the inner tension
between JRRT's horrific experiences and his romantic spirit. In
the "Link to the Tale of Tinuviel" he wrote, "'Aye, often enough,'
said Eriol, 'yet not to the great wars of earthly kings and
mighty nations, which are cruel and bitter, whelming in their
ruin all the beauty both of the earth and of those fair things
that men fashion with their hands in time of peace - nay, they
spare not sweet women and tender maids, such as thou, Vëannë
Melinir, for then are men drunk with wrath and the lust of blood,
and Melko fares abroad. But gallant affrays have I seen wherein
brave men did sometimes meet, and swift blows were dealt, and
strength of body and of heart was proven."
- In looks to me that the Gnomish noun _saib_ a "boat", according to the Gnomish
Lexicon, p. 66, should read "boot" instead. It comes from the root Sayap- and
in the Qenyaqetsa p. 82 from it we have Eldarissa _saipo_ "a boot".
Funny that in Ety. the translation from the related root SKYAP- was also misread
"shore", instead of "shoe".
[I have checked my photocopies of the GL ms., and yes the gloss of
_saib_ should read "boot". Thanks for catching this! It also appears that
the root SAYAP cited in this same entry has a dot over the Y, though this
is not indicated in the published text. -- PHW]