Re: Big research projects (was: Lawsuit about Tolkien)
- NOTE: 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.
- Not that I think anyone is taking notes, but I omitted two other
titles from the list of my base canon:
--- In mythsoc@y..., "michael_martinez2" <michael@x> wrote:
> 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
> The 3rd edition of THE HOBBIT
> THE ROAD GOES EVER ON, 1st edition>
> THE ADVENTURES OF TOM BOMBADIL
> THE SILMARILLION
> 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.
I do also usually draw upon THE WAR OF THE JEWELS and MORGOTH'S RING,
although some of the material in these books conflicts with other
And in very rare cases, I have looked through THE TREASON OF
ISENGARD, THE WAR OF THE RING, and SAURON DEFEATED for insight. I
don't think I've relied much upon THE RETURN OF THE SHADOW.
Finally, "Lay of Leithian" is simply timeless. Although there
conflicts between details in the "Lay" and later books, it's just too
important a source text to pass up. I may not give precedence to
what I find in the "Lay", but I still look through it for relevant
details on a lot of subjects.
- At 12:06 AM 2/12/2002 , Michael Martinez wrote:
>--- In mythsoc@y..., "David S. Bratman" <dbratman@s...> wrote:Haste is not needed as an explanation: I was not sufficiently clear, and
>> 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.
the context of the discussion was subcreations, not biography.
>Anyway, that project is one where I've been asked not to disclose theReference works for the pseudo-history have been published before: Foster's
>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.
Guide, Tyler's guide, Day's guides (pfooey), Fonstad and Strachey's
atlases, An Introduction to Elvish, etc.
So I await with eagerness the opportunity to learn what makes this one
quite unlike those that have come before. It looks like I may have to wait
I recommend for your perusal, if you haven't already looked at it, Michael
Stanton's _Hobbits, Elves, and Wizards_. It has its factual flubs, but it
also has what seems to me a pretty good accounting of the subcreational
"rough spots" in LOTR, odd things that lack explanation or need pondering.
Including the "walking-tree" bit that was giving us such trouble a while ago.
For others reading this, though, I must emphasize that I do NOT recommend
Stanton's book to anyone who doesn't already know LOTR backwards and
forwards. He is so efficient at nailing Tolkien's subtle points and
numinous atmosphere to the page that he'll spoil LOTR readers' appreciation
of anything they haven't discovered for themselves. Normally I don't say
things like that - for instance, I do not think seeing the film first will
spoil your appreciation of the book, though it may give you a false
impression of what the book is like - but this time it's true. IMO, of
course: caveat emptor.
>That's a reasonable summary for what Christopher devoted MORGOTH'SDid he? I must have missed that. Do you have any references for this
>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".
handy? If not, I'll put it on my mental "check up on this" list.
>Although you're just offering an example, I would not, in fact,OK, I must have misunderstood you. The origin of Celeborn is the most
>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.
prominent example of contradictory texts of the sort that I thought you
were including in your canon, as opposed to ones like BLT that you're
leaving out. Can you give a better example of the sort of contradictory
(not just vague) texts you are including as canonical?
But my major point is that for me to find a reference work for the
subcreation useful, I need to know what the compiler is considering
canonical and what reliable (not always the same thing with Tolkien!), and
to have a rational and logical distinction made. (Foster gets a pass for
his limited canon because that's all he had back in 1978.) In your case,
>But let me stress again that I change canons on an almost hourlyUnderstood; but for me to find this very practical (as opposed to
>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.
theoretical) approach useful for detailed subcreational study, I hope you
will supply commentary and justification of what you consider canonical and
what reliable on various topics, even at the risk of popping out of the
subcreational stance and into the "literary work" stance to do it. My
instincts on what should be worked with on a given point may be different
from yours, and others' instincts different from either of ours, so I want
to know what sources such a work is using or not using.
- --- In mythsoc@y..., "David S. Bratman" <dbratman@s...> wrote:
> At 12:06 AM 2/12/2002 , Michael Martinez wrote:Maeglin"
> >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
> >and "Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin".this
> Did he? I must have missed that. Do you have any references for
> handy? If not, I'll put it on my mental "check up on this" list.I'm at work again. :)
THE WAR OF THE JEWELS explains the processes he used to create those
chapters. "Of Maeglin" was more like a negative-use than an actual
use. That is, he tried to create a coherent story while glossing
over various names he felt should not have been used in it
(Glorfindel and Ecthelion, for example, would have been responsible
for losing Aredhel). "Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin" relies
extensively upon the fragmentary "Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin"
(a post-LoTR text published in UNFINISHED TALES) up to the point
where it breaks off (Tuor's arrival at Gondolin). From that point
onward, the only detailed source Christopher had available was "The
Fall of Gondolin", so he engaged in some radical compression.
These two chapters do appear to be weak, after reading the
explanations Christopher offers for how he constructed them. But
they are much more satisfying than "Of the Ruin of Doriath", which
departed from JRRT's briefly stated ideas radically.
> OK, I must have misunderstood you. The origin of Celeborn is theI use the second history of Celeborn and Galadriel (in UNFINISHED
> most prominent example of contradictory texts of the sort that I
> thought you were including in your canon, as opposed to ones like
> BLT that you're leaving out. Can you give a better example of the
> sort of contradictory (not just vague) texts you are including as
TALES) as my primary source for information regarding events in
Eregion and the War of the Elves and Sauron, even though in this
second history Amroth is their son (and not the son of the ubiquitous
I also use a lot of the information in "Quendi and Eldar", even
though some of the points made there contradicted earlier material.
One case deals with Eol's relationship to Thingol. I think that,
in "Quendi and Eldar", he is a Tatyarin Elf (an Avar) who has somehow
become a part of Thingol's realm. Hence, his resentment of the
Noldor is explained by an aside which states that the Tatyarin Avari
felt the Noldor (their western cousins) were arrogant. I'm not sure,
but I think Tolkien eventually restored Eol to the Sindar. I tend to
disregard the tradition of Eol as a Tatya, but I accept other points
regarding the Tatyar.
> >But let me stress again that I change canons on an almost hourlyThe book will represent a variety of perspectives and
> >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.
> Understood; but for me to find this very practical (as opposed to
> theoretical) approach useful for detailed subcreational study, I
> hope you will supply commentary and justification of what you
> consider canonical and what reliable on various topics, even at the
> risk of popping out of the subcreational stance and into
> the "literary work" stance to do it. My instincts on what should
> be worked with on a given point may be different from yours, and
> others' instincts different from either of ours, so I want
> to know what sources such a work is using or not using.
interpretations. I don't necessarily agree with them all. I am the
primary author, but mine is not the only voice which will be evident
in the book. Although I have set a fairly definitive canonical
standard for myself, I've already run into a couple of situations
where I have had to accept compromise. But it was true compromise,
with both parties making some concessions to the others.
I suppose we run the risk of being criticized for creating a work by
committee. But the other people involved in the project are
contributing things which are simply beyond me. And I think that, in
the end, this book (if published) will earn a high degree of
credibility because it won't be perceived as one person's point-of-
view or interpretation. People will undoubtedly find things to
object to -- that is inevitable. But what we are doing has not
really been attempted before (at least -- nothing like it has ever
been published -- I suppose there could have been many failed
I can only hope people will appreciate the effort once they see it.
Early reaction to the proposal has been completely enthusiastic. I
just have to go forward believing that we'll be able to sustain the
enthusiasm sufficiently to get the project to completion. After
that, it will be up to the readers to make the final call.