5090Re: Big research projects (was: Lawsuit about Tolkien)
- Feb 12, 2002NOTE: I am trying to snip liberally for the sake of brevity, such as
I am able to contrive at this late/wee hour.
--- In mythsoc@y..., "David S. Bratman" <dbratman@s...> wrote:
> Clarification (the misapprehension is understandable): my
> chronology is not of the Inklings' works, but of their lives.
> Specifically, of their mutual interactions (not the entirety of
> their lives). My scholarly interest here is in the Inklings as a
Sorry. My mistake. I was stealing time from work.
> Clarification requested: it's not clear to me from your description
> what exactly you're writing, in either of your two projects. A
> basic history textbook, in the first case? A series of
> ethnographic/historical encyclopedia-style articles, in the other?
Since the first project is shelved, perhaps permanently, I don't mind
discussing it. The second project, unfortunately, is not mine to
explain. I was approached for the second project by a gentleman who
has worked with Dean Koontz and Stephen King, and who wanted to
recruit a team of people to do a book about Middle-earth. We have a
proposal which is being refined and will be submitted to a major
publisher. Some outside opinions have been sought, and are being
sought, in the hope that the project will be pitched with as much
support from inside the Tolkien community as possible (and I realize
that most of the people on this list have not heard about this
project before -- many of you would certainly qualify among those
whose opinions would be helpful, but I am not soliciting the
opinions, except where I may have some contact with people).
Anyway, that project is one where I've been asked not to disclose the
details or even the general concept, beyond the fact that it is
a "history" book and it will be quite unlike anything previously
published in the Tolkien field. It is a reference work for the
pseudo-history, not a literary analysis of the mythology.
I dare not say more.
The ORIGINAL project was basically a collection of essays on the
various kingdoms, tribes, peoples from the return of the Noldor up
through the Fourth Age (as much of it as could be documented). Each
essay was accompanied by end notes explaining most of the obscure
details (types of weapons used by soldiers, who was married to whom,
movements of peoples, where all this stuff could be found, etc.) and
in some cases explaining some of my reasoning (why I picked one
interpretation of the texts over another). Each essay was concluded
with a chronological table showing the years in which significant
The essays discuss -- as much as possible -- economics, law, social
customs and anything else which Tolkien might have made reference
to. Rarely used names were thrust to the forefront of the narrative
(such as Marachians for the House of Hador, Beorians for the First
House, etc.). It's a history text, straight forward, a bit dull in
places, perhaps. It covers geography and occasionally delves into
motives of various movers and shakers, as well as potential
consequences. I had also planned to include about 30 illustrations,
maps, although I never was able to find an illustrator who could draw
exactly the kind of maps I wanted.
Some portions of that history project have been published in small
ways. I submitted my "History of the Kingdom of Hithlum" to the
journal OTHER HANDS a few years ago. I later on wrote an essay about
the peoples of the Second Age for that journal but based it on the
history book's notes. (I think both those pieces were picked up by
one or more other small journals, but I don't recall the details).
And last year, when I was pressed for time after I moved to Texas and
took a job, I published on Suite101 what was to be one of the
appendices. This was the three-part "History of the Last Alliance of
Elves and Men", which originally was solicited by the Arda journal's
last editor. He never finished the volume he was working on, and
though I had decided early on to make that account an appendix in the
history book, it worked out well enough as a Suite101 essay.
I suppose that, if I ever give in to my readers' requests and publish
a sequel to Visualizing Middle-earth, I could include the Last
Alliance essays. I did submit a proposal for a sequel to a small
press, but I don't think it included those three pieces.
Just off the top of my head, I had a chapter devoted to the Noldor in
the First Age, a chapter for the Sindar in the First Age, a chapter
for the Noldor in the Second Age, a chapter for the Sindar in the
Second Age, a chapter for the Edain in the First Age, a chapter for
the Edain the Second Age (mostly Numenor, but not entirely so), and
chapters for Arnor and Gondor, as well as chapters on the Dwarves and
I based two other Suite101 essays, "Them Dwarves, Them Dwarves"
and "Them Dwarves, Them Dwarves, Part II" on my research for the
I spent about two years working on that project. When Chris Zavisa
approached me about the current project, I showed him the proposal
for the original history book. A small press had actually expressed
an interest in it a few years ago, but then went out of business.
While he agreed that the research covered what he wanted, he
explained his concept to me more fully and I decided it would be
better to write an entirely new text to fit with his design better.
The rough draft for the proposal simply blew my socks off. I only
wish I could speak about it in greater detail, but I have to let the
wheels turn and see what comes back.
And though I have not said to whom the proposal will be submitted, it
is not necessary for anyone to provide me with names and addresses,
or warnings. Let it suffice to say that someone of greater stature
than I, who has already worked with the Tolkien Estate, is involved
with the project. I doubt we will try to go forward with anything
that would be opposed by the Estate, but they have not (to my
knowledge) seen the proposal yet.
Actually, I'm not sure how far along it has advanced. My work for
the proposal is finished and I'm now working on the primary text. So
I am out of the loop, except for occasional "Oh, by the way..." news
> >THE BOOK OF LOST TALES ... served as a model for parts of the
> >various Silmarillion texts, and Christopher mined it for material
> >he felt was required to complete "A" Silmarillion text.
> My impression, without having specially studied the matter, was
> that the 1977 Silmarillion text was constructed out of post-LOTR
> material with considerable back-up taken from the late 1930s
> Silmarillion texts, but that nothing was taken by CT from the Lays
> (except for one quote) or BLT. But perhaps I am mistaken.
That's a reasonable summary for what Christopher devoted MORGOTH'S
RING and THE WAR OF THE JEWELS to explaining, but he had to draw
upon "The Fall of Gondolin" directly for some parts in "Of Maeglin"
and "Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin".
>>... Nor do Kortirion, the half-elven Beren, or the evil
> >Tinwelint [belong in Middle-earth].
> Indeed they don't, but the question of where to draw the line is a
> vexing one. Working from just what you call the "credible history"
> viewpoint, I've seen at least four canons used:
> 1) The Hobbit (revised), LOTR, and the 1977 Silmarillion are
> canonical; everything else is not. This approach has been hotly
> defended by some on the old Tolkien Bitnet list. It seems to me
> unnecessarily limiting.
Technically, I don't work from a single canon. I have found it
impossible. But, generally speaking, I try to work from this one:
The 2nd edition of THE LORD OF THE RINGS, as updated with final
corrections (the "Douglas Anderson edition", as some put it).
The 3rd edition of THE HOBBIT, as presented in THE ANNOTATED HOBBIT
(although Anderson suggests there is a technical fourth edition,
THE ROAD GOES EVER ON, 1st edition (does not include "Bilbo's Last
THE ADVENTURES OF TOM BOMBADIL
and portions of UNFINISHED TALES. I have lately begun to draw upon
much of the pre-publication material intended for the appendices
which Christopher published in THE PEOPLES OF MIDDLE-EARTH.
A complete consistency cannot be achieved, if one seeks to include
all relevant material. Middle-earth, from the time Tolkien decided
that LoTR would be more than just a sequel to THE HOBBIT, went
through what I have identified as three phases of development (and a
fourth one was planned, started upon, but never brought to
1) Initial composition, the 1st edition (1937-48, 1950-52)
2) Post-LoTR texts, including material intended for and eventually
used in THE SILMARILLION, but also including some of the UNFINISHED
TALES texts (mid-1950s to early 1960s)
3) Ace Books-inspired revisions. The 3rd Edition HOBBIT and 2nd
Edition LoTR, in my opinion, introduced changes which Tolkien felt
were needed to justify the new copyright, and which probably
reflected or launched his third phase of development. This last
phase is the most difficult to document, but includes some of the
later material in UNFINISHED TALES, MORGOTH'S RING, and THE WAR OF
That more-or-less coincides with your second option.
I cannot accept the inclusion of everything. It's bad enough when
Tolkien stops what he is doing in Middle-earth and starts over. But
to bring in the earlier Silmarillion mythology and the Lost Tales
mythology is, in my opinion, completely absurd. Some people just
don't see any reason to distinguish between the England-based stories
of BOLT and the 1960s material, and I've given up trying to explain
the innumerable differences to them.
If this point of view arose originally from the literary analysts, I
should just point out that I've often disagreed with them on many
> 4) Some of the contradictory material but not others, your
> approach. For my part, whether I'd find a comprehensive work on
> the subcreation, written from this viewpoint, to be useful would
> depend on how the dividing line was justified. What's the
> difference between accepting the different origins of (say)
> Celeborn, as described in Unfinished Tales, as all being "genuine"
> (if vague and conflicting), but not accepting the different origins
> of Beren, as described in BLT and the Silmarillion? The
> justification can be made, it's made all the time in primary world
> historiography, but it needs a solid intellectual foundation.
Although you're just offering an example, I would not, in fact,
attempt to rationalize the differences between the Celeborn
histories. He started out (in Christopher's estimation) as a
Nandorin Elf, but in the 2nd Edition he was made into a Sinda. In
the last year of Tolkien's life, Celeborn became an inexplicable
grandson of Olwe of Alqualonde, thus implying that Tolkien had
forgotten about or set aside the taboo among the Eldar against
marrying first cousins.
I accept Celeborn simply as one of the Sindar. Nothing else works
within the framework of the other texts I rely upon.
But let me stress again that I change canons on an almost hourly
basis, depending upon who I am discussing something with or writing
for, and what the topic is. I can't stay within the confines of a
single canon, and yet I cannot work with the gelatinous complexity of
all the Tolkien works. One might as well include ROVERANDOM's
episode with the Bay of Elvenhome, or Smith of Wootton Major's walks
through Faerie, in the Middle-earth canon as THE BOOK OF LOST TALES.
They are only slightly more remote from the Middle-earth mythology
than BOLT, and some people might argue they are somewhat closer.
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