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Re: [mythsoc] Re: Tolkien cartoon

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  • John D Rateliff
    Hi Randy. Welcome to the list. Yes, it s always problematic to publish an author s work posthumously. Some heirs choose to publish, and some choose to
    Message 1 of 18 , Sep 17, 2008
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      Hi Randy. Welcome to the list.
      Yes, it's always problematic to publish an author's work
      posthumously. Some heirs choose to publish, and some choose to
      suppress. Two good contrasting examples are Vergil and Mary Renault.
      Vergil died after completing only half of THE AENEID and left
      behind explicit directions that it be destroyed; the Emperor himself
      overrode the will and ordered the work --one of the most influential
      in world history-- published.
      Similarly, Mary Renault died when half-way through her Arthurian
      novel. She had an understanding with her longtime companion that the
      latter wd destroy any work Renault left unfinished. So despite her
      deep reservations (since she thought it Renault's best work), after
      reading and re-reading it herself several time she destroyed the only
      copy.
      Now, I don't have much use for Vergil, and I'd quite like to have
      had a look at Renault's take on King Arthur. But that doesn't mean
      the one decision was right and the other wrong.
      There are plenty of other factors to consider. Did the author
      want the work published, or suppressed? Was it finished, or nearly
      finished, or merely fragments? Had the author tried to publish it
      himself or herself? To what degree has the material been re-written
      by another hand to make it publishable (cf. Twain's THE MYSTERIOUS
      STRANGER)? And so forth.
      The most important factor, for me, is that Tolkien in his will
      explicitly gave Christopher the authority to publish or destroy, in
      whole or in part, all JRRT's literary manuscripts in his possession
      at the time of his death.


      On Sep 17, 2008, at 3:01 PM, hoytrand wrote:
      > I feel that it is worth mentioning that publishing work posthumously
      > (especially work that an author did not feel was fit for publication)
      > is a seriously problematic endeavor. I don't just mean that it is
      > difficult: there are very good objections *against* doing it at all.
      > If I remember correctly, Christopher Tolkien later decided that
      > publishing *The Silmarillion* in the form he did (without any frame)
      > was not the right thing to do.

      He has expressed reservations about the form the book took, but
      not about the decision to publish the book.

      > Don't get me wrong; I am *very* grateful for what he has done. I fully
      > admit that the cartoons most likely originated in an inappropriate
      > ignorance and disrespect towards Christopher Tolkien's work. But maybe
      > -- just maybe -- the cartoonist is much more thoughtful about the
      > situation and cognizant of the fundamental problems inherent in this
      > type of project. Even if not, I think the cartoons could provide a
      > good opportunity for us to have a thoughtful discussion about those
      > problems.

      The third in the series shows he is at least aware of the larger
      picture.
      And I think your post shows we are having a thoughtful discussion
      --JDR

      > Thanks,
      > ~randy
      >
      > (This is my first post to the list, so please don't lambast me! Though
      > I admit I got my flame-shield out of the cellar before writing this.
    • Doug Kane
      Welcome to the list, Randy. No need for flame-guards around here. This is a very civilized bunch. :-) While it is true as you point out that Christopher
      Message 2 of 18 , Sep 17, 2008
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        Welcome to the list, Randy. No need for flame-guards around here. This is a very civilized bunch. :-)

        While it is true as you point out that Christopher Tolkien expresses some regret at certain aspects of his construction of the published _Silmarillion_, particularly his failure to include a "frame", as you say (I've heard rumors that there will be a new book coming soon that addresses the process of the creation of the published _Silmarillion_ in some depth ;-) ), he also said in no uncertain terms that for _The Silmarillion_ to remain unknown was for him "out of the question" (see the Introduction to _Unfinished Tales_). I agree with that fully; the thought that he might have followed the alternative that his father left him of leaving the work unpublished fills me with horror. To a large extent, _The Silmarillion_ was Tolkien's life work, and as far as I am concerned, there is no acceptable argument against its publication.

        HoMe is somewhat different story. As David Bratman points out in his great article on the literary value of HoMe (published in _Tolkien's Legendarium_) there are some (including perhaps most prominently Guy Kay, who assisted Christopher in the creation of the published _Silmarillion_) who believe that HoMe was a "bony ax" that never should have been published. Like David, I am not one who even remotely shares that view. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Tolkien's unique genius really required the publication of the full body of his work (or as close to it as was possible) to be fully appreciated. But only those who have made a very careful study of Tolkien's work are likely to understand that. So it is not surprising that this cartoonist would consider Christopher's work to be an easy target for light-hearted scorn and derision.

        That having been said, while I felt that the first comic was not only disrespectful, but worse, was completely unfunny, I did chuckle at the giant Hobbit in the second comic, and I laughed out loud at the idea of Jimi Hendrix talking to Tolkien in heaven, and Tolkien not understanding a word that he said, in the third one.


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Merlin DeTardo
        ...
        Message 3 of 18 , Sep 17, 2008
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          --- "Doug Kane" <dougkane@...> wrote:
          << ...there are some (including perhaps most prominently Guy Kay, who
          assisted Christopher in the creation of the published _Silmarillion_)
          who believe that HoMe was a "bony ax" that never should have been
          published.... >>

          Oxen of the Dwarves! The Dwarves are upon you!



          Seriously: nice comments, Doug.

          -Merlin DeTardo
        • Jason Fisher
          ... Yes, absolutely. Too, the difficult nature of the challenge facing Christopher Tolkien is probably almost impossible for any of us to fully comprehend
          Message 4 of 18 , Sep 17, 2008
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            > While it is true as you point out that Christopher Tolkien
            > expresses some regret at certain aspects of his construction
            > of the published _Silmarillion_ , particularly his failure to
            > include a "frame", as you say [...], he also said in no uncertain
            > terms that for _The Silmarillion_ to remain unknown was for
            > him "out of the question" (see the Introduction to _Unfinished
            > Tales_). I agree with that fully; the thought that he might have
            > followed the alternative that his father left him of leaving the
            > work unpublished fills me with horror. To a large extent,
            > _The Silmarillion_ was Tolkien's life work, and as far as I am
            > concerned, there is no acceptable argument against its publication.

            Yes, absolutely. Too, the difficult nature of the challenge facing Christopher Tolkien is probably almost impossible for any of us to fully comprehend (except perhaps those few of us, like John, Wayne, Christina, and others, who have actually poured over the manuscripts themselves). Christopher described it this way (in the booklet, The Silmarillion: A Brief Account of the Book and Its Making):

            "To bring it into publishable form was a task at once utterly absorbing and alarming in its responsibility toward something that is unique. To decide what form that should be was not easy; and for a time I worked toward a book that would show something of this diversity, this unfinished and many-branched growth. But it became clear to me that the result would be so complex as to require much study for its comprehension; and I feared to crush The Silmarillion beneath the weight of its own history. I set myself, therefore, to work out a single text, by selection and arrangement." ([4])

            I think that says it pretty well. And I'm more than willing to accept a few missteps in the "single text" for what we got in exchange. Of course, Randy and probably everyone else here will agree with that. And in the end, we got the first plan as well (i.e., the "book[s] that would show something of this diversity"), in HoMe. I'm more than satisfied. :)
          • Walter Padgett
            Ahh, yes... Where would we be without Christopher Tolkien? Is this the beginning of another Silmarillion appraisal on this list? I can t think of anything
            Message 5 of 18 , Sep 17, 2008
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              Ahh, yes... Where would we be without Christopher Tolkien?

              Is this the beginning of another Silmarillion appraisal on this list?
              I can't think of anything much better than that!



              On Wed, Sep 17, 2008 at 11:31 PM, Jason Fisher <visualweasel@...>wrote:

              > > While it is true as you point out that Christopher Tolkien
              > > expresses some regret at certain aspects of his construction
              > > of the published _Silmarillion_ , particularly his failure to
              > > include a "frame", as you say [...], he also said in no uncertain
              > > terms that for _The Silmarillion_ to remain unknown was for
              > > him "out of the question" (see the Introduction to _Unfinished
              > > Tales_). I agree with that fully; the thought that he might have
              > > followed the alternative that his father left him of leaving the
              > > work unpublished fills me with horror. To a large extent,
              > > _The Silmarillion_ was Tolkien's life work, and as far as I am
              > > concerned, there is no acceptable argument against its publication.
              >
              > Yes, absolutely. Too, the difficult nature of the challenge facing
              > Christopher Tolkien is probably almost impossible for any of us to fully
              > comprehend (except perhaps those few of us, like John, Wayne, Christina, and
              > others, who have actually poured over the manuscripts themselves).
              > Christopher described it this way (in the booklet, The Silmarillion: A Brief
              > Account of the Book and Its Making):
              >
              > "To bring it into publishable form was a task at once utterly absorbing and
              > alarming in its responsibility toward something that is unique. To decide
              > what form that should be was not easy; and for a time I worked toward a book
              > that would show something of this diversity, this unfinished and
              > many-branched growth. But it became clear to me that the result would be so
              > complex as to require much study for its comprehension; and I feared to
              > crush The Silmarillion beneath the weight of its own history. I set myself,
              > therefore, to work out a single text, by selection and arrangement." ([4])
              >
              > I think that says it pretty well. And I'm more than willing to accept a few
              > missteps in the "single text" for what we got in exchange. Of course, Randy
              > and probably everyone else here will agree with that. And in the end, we got
              > the first plan as well (i.e., the "book[s] that would show something of this
              > diversity"), in HoMe. I'm more than satisfied. :)
              >
              >
              >


              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • David Bratman
              To my mind, the decision to publish The History of Middle-earth is so clearly the right one that, unless one is specifically raising Guy Kay s objection - to
              Message 6 of 18 , Sep 17, 2008
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                To my mind, the decision to publish "The History of Middle-earth" is so
                clearly the right one that, unless one is specifically raising Guy Kay's
                objection - to switch metaphors, that authors should not let their readers
                peek at "the man behind the curtain" - I find it hard to understand why
                anyone would have a problem with it.

                Then I realize that they probably have a totally fanciful and incorrect
                notion of what the posthumous material consists of. Far too often, deceased
                authors are exploited - their notes and abandoned drafts are turned into
                gleaming new novels that are inferior in quality, diminishing the author's
                reputation. I've even seen it said that Christopher Tolkien is writing new
                books and publishing them under his father's name. How can we explain to
                people that this isn't what's going on at all? The only two books that CT
                rewrote at all, _The Silmarillion_ and _The Children of Hurin_, are just
                smoothed-out versions of material his father wrote extensively. Whatever
                changes or selective omissions have been made, they're not new material
                being sold as something it's not.

                All the rest of the books are scholarly editions of minimally edited
                original papers, published commercially only because Tolkien is popular
                enough that they'll sell. That's an entirely different thing than pushing
                newly imagined novels over his name.

                There are two reasons for publishing this material. First, there's a lot of
                really good stuff in there that just wouldn't fit into _The Silmarillion_ as
                published, because it's from a different angle or point of view, or from a
                different stage in the creation of the mythology, so it wouldn't fit the
                sub-creation. Secondly, because one of Tolkien's greatest virtues as an
                author is the richness of his creation, and this enables the reader to watch
                how it was made. This is what Guy Kay would rather we not see, but the
                magnitude of the work Tolkien put into it, a whole dimension beyond a slice
                of the inner history as we know it from LOTR, is itself a grand creation.

                Lastly, one of the points I made in the article that Doug kindly mentioned
                is that there's a fundamental difference in dealing with the work of a
                living author and of a dead one. There's all sorts of things that are
                appropriate to do only once the author is deceased. You wouldn't put a
                living author into a box and bury it in the ground; you wouldn't distribute
                his possessions or put them in a museum. And you wouldn't publish the
                papers he's not done with. But once he's dead, he's done with them. There
                will be no more revisions. Some authors realize this. My favorite example
                is Robert Heinlein, who kept a box of personal papers he had no desire to
                see print during his lifetime, but which he wanted published as soon as
                possible after his death. And he picked a title for the book: _Grumbles
                from the Grave_.


                ----- Original Message -----
                From: "hoytrand" <randy@...>
                To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
                Sent: Wednesday, September 17, 2008 3:01 PM
                Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Tolkien cartoon


                >I feel that it is worth mentioning that publishing work posthumously
                > (especially work that an author did not feel was fit for publication)
                > is a seriously problematic endeavor. I don't just mean that it is
                > difficult: there are very good objections *against* doing it at all.
                > If I remember correctly, Christopher Tolkien later decided that
                > publishing *The Silmarillion* in the form he did (without any frame)
                > was not the right thing to do.
                >
                > Don't get me wrong; I am *very* grateful for what he has done. I fully
                > admit that the cartoons most likely originated in an inappropriate
                > ignorance and disrespect towards Christopher Tolkien's work. But maybe
                > -- just maybe -- the cartoonist is much more thoughtful about the
                > situation and cognizant of the fundamental problems inherent in this
                > type of project. Even if not, I think the cartoons could provide a
                > good opportunity for us to have a thoughtful discussion about those
                > problems.
                >
                > Thanks,
                > ~randy
                >
                >
                > (This is my first post to the list, so please don't lambast me! Though
                > I admit I got my flame-shield out of the cellar before writing this. :~)
                >
                >
                > ------------------------------------
                >
                > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.orgYahoo! Groups Links
                >
                >
                >
                >
              • Dean Rowley
                I am ambiguous about this issue because of the nature of The Legendarium , one of the terms Tolkien himself used in referring to his work. If we were talking
                Message 7 of 18 , Sep 18, 2008
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                  I am ambiguous about this issue because of the nature of 'The Legendarium', one of the terms Tolkien himself used in referring to his work. If we were talking about a published work or series of works and C. Tolkien was publishing first drafts this objection would have more force. This is a review of the process by which an extremely talented sub-creator/artist developed a form of mythology over his lifetime. It is not the same as publishing random notes for individual books. If nothing else we see the (?) sub-creative (?) process at work.
                   
                  Dean Rowley



                  ----- Original Message ----
                  From: hoytrand <randy@...>
                  To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                  Sent: Wednesday, September 17, 2008 6:01:22 PM
                  Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Tolkien cartoon


                  I feel that it is worth mentioning that publishing work posthumously
                  (especially work that an author did not feel was fit for publication)
                  is a seriously problematic endeavor. I don't just mean that it is
                  difficult: there are very good objections *against* doing it at all.
                  If I remember correctly, Christopher Tolkien later decided that
                  publishing *The Silmarillion* in the form he did (without any frame)
                  was not the right thing to do.

                  Don't get me wrong; I am *very* grateful for what he has done. I fully
                  admit that the cartoons most likely originated in an inappropriate
                  ignorance and disrespect towards Christopher Tolkien's work. But maybe
                  -- just maybe -- the cartoonist is much more thoughtful about the
                  situation and cognizant of the fundamental problems inherent in this
                  type of project. Even if not, I think the cartoons could provide a
                  good opportunity for us to have a thoughtful discussion about those
                  problems.

                  Thanks,
                  ~randy

                  (This is my first post to the list, so please don't lambast me! Though
                  I admit I got my flame-shield out of the cellar before writing this. :~)






                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • hoytrand
                  I think David Emerson s comment about posthumous works being clearly presented as original drafts and working papers intended for scholarly access is a very
                  Message 8 of 18 , Sep 18, 2008
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                    I think David Emerson's comment about posthumous works being clearly
                    presented as original drafts and working papers intended for scholarly
                    access is a very helpful clarification; David Bratman said something
                    similar. I'm much more familiar with posthumous publications like *The
                    Silmarillion* -- where the editor polishes up the work and presents it
                    as the author's own -- than with publications like *The History of
                    Middle-Earth* series. Is this something that is done often? Am I only
                    less familiar with them because these don't usually exist in
                    mass-market paperback versions?

                    Thanks,
                    ~randy
                  • David Emerson
                    ... I remember debating with myself, when THE BOOK OF LOST TALES came out, whether I wanted to read variant versions and spoil the view I had of THE
                    Message 9 of 18 , Sep 18, 2008
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                      >...Secondly, because one of Tolkien's greatest virtues as an
                      >author is the richness of his creation, and this enables the reader to watch
                      >how it was made. This is what Guy Kay would rather we not see, but the
                      >magnitude of the work Tolkien put into it, a whole dimension beyond a slice
                      >of the inner history as we know it from LOTR, is itself a grand creation.

                      I remember debating with myself, when THE BOOK OF LOST TALES came out, whether I wanted to read variant versions and spoil the view I had of THE SILMARILLION, which I considered to be canon. I'm glad I went ahead and read all of the HOME volumes, because as many have pointed out since then, JRRT's vision of his own legendarium is so complex that it really needs to be seen in all its different forms and versions to comprehend fully.

                      All right, so maybe I could have skipped the early drafts of LORD OF THE RINGS, but then I would've missed the delicious tidbits like Frodo and Strider originally being Bingo and Trotter.

                      emerdavid

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