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11730Re: [mythsoc] Silmarillion - HoME

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  • David Bratman
    Mar 11, 2004
      At 09:09 PM 3/11/2004 -0600, Jay Hershberger wrote:

      >Interesting discussion! Pearce never for a moment implied that the HoME
      >should be excluded from any study of Tolkien's literary thought or
      >creativity. He simply stated that when studying what "happened" in Middle
      >Earth (person, place, thing, event, etc.) we should be cautious and view the
      >HoME as secondary (he did not mean secondary source vs. primary source in
      >the sense of scholarly citation). It is appropriate to rely instead upon
      >the H, LOTR, and the S as authoritative to determine what actually happened.

      Ah, I wondered if that's what you meant. But since it's outside of
      Pearce's scholarly specialty, I thought I might be on the wrong track.

      I would say this. For the limited purpose of studying what the Hobbits and
      Men of the Third Age knew about the Elder Days, then yes, I would use _The
      Silmarillion_ as an authoritative statement of facts. Look on it as a
      copy, or a partial copy, of Bilbo's "Translations from the Elvish." But in
      that respect it is filtered through Christopher Tolkien's understanding,
      and so this should be followed with the kind of caution you wanted to apply
      to HoME.

      Part of what kept Tolkien working on the Silmarillion papers all those
      years was the need to make the "facts" of the Elder Days fit what had been
      stated in LOTR. _The Silmarillion_ as edited by CT consists of texts and
      versions he selected so as to maintain that consistency, and internal
      consistency, as well as possible.

      What it is unrepresentative of to the point of being highly misleading, is
      of what his father actually wrote, and the way he worked. It was in part
      to illustrate those points that CT embarked upon HoME; it was also to
      demonstrate that the apparent finality of _The Silmarillion_ was artificial
      and tentative.

      I'll give one specific example of where _The Silmarillion_ appears to be
      definitive, but HoME shows that this is only one stage in a continually
      evolving conception: the origin of orcs.

      >Pearce believes that Tolkien
      >was a perfectionist. Hence the Silmarillion was not finished when he died.

      "Perfectionism" sounds like endless niggling. This wasn't the problem.
      Tolkien had in fact set himself some problems in presenting the Elder Days
      material that were essentially unsolvable within the framework he had built
      for himself.

      >But unlike some literary figures, he never consigned unpublished manuscripts
      >to the flames or the river. He was, as many elderly folks are, a sort of
      >"pack rat" and kept everything. Perhaps he continued to refer to the early
      >manuscripts for ideas, refreshment of memory, etc.

      He was hardly elderly when he first saved the notebooks he'd begun writing
      at the age of 25. He kept his older material partly for reference, partly
      because it contained material that had independent value despite the fact
      that it no longer fit his mythology, and partly simply because, as he once
      said, he wrote in his own lifeblood. One doesn't casually chuck away one's
      writings if one feels that way.

      >How is CT's edition of the
      >Silmarillion different than the HoME? He compiled and edited the final
      >versions, best versions, most clear versions, or whatever, of the
      >mythologies as they existed at the time of JRRT's death, and produced "The
      >Silmarillion." Is the S a distillation of the manuscripts and papers that
      >make up the HoME? If so, then why would we regard the S as being more
      >authentic than the manuscripts of the HoME?

      The answer to your first question is "Yes, that's pretty much it." The
      answer to your second question is, "We don't. It has superior value only
      for the limited purpose described above, and for any other value of reading
      a simple consistent narrative."

      Ralph Ellison left a vast array of complex interconnected fictional
      fragments of various lengths. His executors carved a fairly self-contained
      internally-consistent novel out of this, and published it as _Juneteenth_.
      Very approximately, this resembles what happened with Tolkien and _The

      - David Bratman
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