Works of Tolkien scholarship

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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Fri Apr 22, 2016 6:44 am

I agree that I don't imagine the average reader wants a detailed look at the external situation of each item in an encyclopedia, but if you're gonna write about the Elder Days, I think it behooves the encyclopedist to at least make their criteria for which texts they're working from clear so that readers will know where to go for more information. I suppose you could stick to just the published Silmarillion and UT and not really run into any consistency problems but most reference works seem to want to make use of The History of Middle-earth as well in ways that sometimes cross pretty deep into the speculative (eg, Fonstad's First Age world maps combining the Ambarkanta with elements of the LOTR map).

I get that there are space considerations in printed encyclopedias, but I think the Tolkien Gateway has one of the best ways of handling this, with their "Other versions of the legendarium" sections in many articles. The problem that TG runs into sometimes is that they're basis for which versions to put in the main article and which to relegate to the "other versions" section is often subjective. I tend to agree with most of their judgment calls in terms of my own "personal Silmarillion", but it can give the impression of greater certainty in the textual situation than actually exists.
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Elthir on Fri Apr 22, 2016 12:58 pm

Good point Eldo... I suppose I am thinking about books too much in these days of websites (my greying Letobeard is showing), but anyway for me, Unfinished Tales is, in its conception, a different animal than the constructed Silmarillion, and once Tyler dipped a subjective finger in UT, then why not dip into HME itself? If I buy a companion at a bookstore, I expect the work to be done for me... and wandering through UT to see if I agree with Tyler about a given "fact" -- in the sense of which version to employ as internal -- is not exactly why I bought the book in the first place, even if it's a starting point for my personal Silmarillion (or legendarium).

Of course I could not trust Tyler about the constructed Silmarillion too (or any other book)... but with the Silmarillion there aren't silent decisions to be made about which version is internal. Tyler has either done the work diligently, using the constructed version, making clear where opinion edges in (if it does)... and the silent decisions about which version to consider internal have already been made...

... granted by Christopher Tolkien, not by his father (and not in the context of canon, but within the parameters of creating a reader's version of the tale), but to leave the Silmarillion out is to leave out the Elder Days in detail. In one small sense I'm not sure this is a bad thing -- in that at least it would draw the canon line where I think it should be drawn (subjective as that is). I own Robert Foster's guide to Middle-earth before the constructed Silmarillion was published...

.... and according to my sense of canon it's the only guide that is truly internal* (and does contain references to the Elder Days in some measure), by whatcanonedo? No reader is likely to accept a reference that's so 'limited', despite that it does actually reflect what Tolkien published... *well almost, even here there are two sources noted to be information from Rick Bjorseth and Richard Plotz, although I'm not sure how often these are employed.

Drat that Foster Wink


As for many of the web sites out there, in my opinion they often reflect "someone's" personal Sillmarillion mixed with Tolkien's other books. Of course that's admittedly generalizing in a negative sort of way, and despite the true state of the Silmarillion there are plenty of "facts" that most people seem to agree about at least. But again, if you use a companion it might be that you [anyone] don't know what you don't know, and so you must trust the website about things almost everyone might agree with, as well as things that are quite fuzzzy with an extra z.

And you make another good point: "other versions of the legendarium" is used on some websites, but this to my mind suggests that these are somehow lesser -- or why were they only noted as other compared to the first version? And the "other" on another website might not be "the other".

Of course "other" need mean only "other"... but it's not an unnatural reaction to think that "other texts" are chosen as other for some reason... despite that something has to appear first!

Or something other Very Happy
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Elthir on Fri Apr 22, 2016 2:32 pm

Eldorion wrote: (...) While I find his finger-wagging at Christopher to be presumptuous and his assertions of misogyny utterly lacking in merit*, there are many places where I agree ...

*What Kane identifies as a trend in downplaying the role of female characters is in fact a trend in downplaying the role of secondary characters of both genders -- an inevitable side-effect of compression -- and it is of course not Christopher's fault that most of the female characters in "The Silmarillion" are secondary ones.

To keep from voiding my contract I must mention Galadriel a given number of times in an Eldarin Year (144 Sun Years)... and in the context of the claim from Arda Reconstructed, I feel she has not been reduced. AR relates...

"However there is a change that he made to this paragraph that is less explicable. In the source text (LQ section 42), Finarfin's daughter Galadriel is described as "the most valiant" of the house of Finwe, as well as the most beautiful. For some unexplained reason, Christopher removed that description. Thus even Galadriel, perhaps Tolkien's greatest female character (with the possible exception of Luthien), is somewhat diminished by Christopher's edits to the text. I find this quite remarkable. Even in the unlikely event that this omission reflects some other text that was not printed in HoME, it seems quite odd that Christopher would choose to omit such an unambiguous statement of her standing, particularly without any explanation."

AR, Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalie

Constructed Silmarillion: "A sister they had, Galadriel, most beautiful of all the house of Finwe."

First, the description of Galadriel as "the valiant and fair" (MR 120) is removed. This recalls the earlier edit where the description of her as "the most valiant" of the House of Finwe was also removed, and is yet another small example of the seemingly systematic weakening of female characters."

AR Of The Flight of the Noldor

Constructed Silmarillion: "... but Galadriel, the only woman of the Noldor to stand that day tall and valiant among the contending princes, was eager to be gone." And several pages later, same chapter (which is what AR is here referring to) Galadriel shows her valiant nature by being one of the leaders of the Noldor during the crossing of the Grinding Ice -- not long after she was specifically referred to as valiant.

My point is, in the Silmarillion Christopher Tolkien actually published, Galadriel is not only beautiful of course, she is specifically said to be valiant among Noldorin woman. And yes one could say that the HME texts say "valiant" or "fair" more times, but writing is not math; and generally speaking writers will often weed out repetition or arguably ambiguous description [in section 42 Tolkien wrote: "Galadriel, the fairest lady of the house of Finwe, and the most valiant"... so it's possible, at least, that Tolkien himself crossed this last bit out because it might be read that she was the most valiant of the House of Finwe, not just the most valiant woman of that house].

But even if the section 42 description is not fuzzy, Tolkien himself could have easily made these corrections, and if so, if JRR Tolkien himself had made them, why not explain this? Because as Christopher Tolkien explained (Eldo's link to Carl Hostetter's post and so on), HoME was not about marking out every single revision or correction that his father had made, and to my mind it's clear that Christopher Tolkien took up the task of explaining important changes (made by JRRT himself)... not every change.

And why should Christopher Tolkien find it important to note the changes that AR refers to as inexplicable, when very arguably they constitute no change to the perception of Galadriel as a character. In short these corrections could have easily been made by Tolkien himself for artistic reasons, and CJRT, seeing no significant change to Galadriel's history or character, did not note such changes as being authorial. And even if they were not authorial, has Christopher Tolkien truly "reduced" Galadriel in the constructed version?

As I say, not in my opinion Very Happy
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by halfwise on Fri Apr 22, 2016 2:45 pm

I can understand why Tolkien might remove the reference to 'valiant' Galadriel simply because at that time in the story we had no evidence of it. 'Valient' is a rather martial term, and in Valinor the only demonstration of this would have been the lamentable attack on the boats during Feanor's flight, which Galadriel did not participate in. Other than the crossing of the ice, in which she is barely mentioned, we simply don't see her involved in conflict at any time. Except for her rejection of Sauron before the forging of the rings, we don't see her mentioned in the first war of Elves and Sauron, nor an any other until the War of the Ring, in which she is mentioned in the appendices as throwing down the walls of Dol Guldor. I think either JRR or Christopher Tolkien realized they had no clear demonstration of 'Valiant Galadriel', so removed it.

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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Elthir on Fri Apr 22, 2016 3:08 pm

One might argue that the entire account was made after the events in any case, but still, in my opinion your reasoning holds from an artistic standpoint -- as the first instance of valiant at least ("valiant" in all senses), Galadriel is merely being introduced as one of the children of Finarfin -- we don't really see her doing anything notably valiant yet.

And Doug (if you ever read this thread) I know I've made the Galadriel case to you before (as well as others), but hopefully you'll agree that it's okay to repeat it in a different social circle -- different ears and minds here at Forumshire (as far as I know), although not that anyone anywhere wants or needs my opinions of course!

Anyway, in general, I think the author of AR has done some great work here. I agree with some things Eldo has already said, especially concerning the expectations (I can't think of a better word right now, but see Eldo's post anyway) of readers in the 1970s versus today... and even today some people seem to find The Silmarillion already too long, too filled with names, and too "boring".

AR is entitled to its opinions obviously, and certainly I am one of those folk of the 1970s (young lad though I was, I think I was negative 12 years old in 1977) who wouldn't have balked at a longer Silmarillion in any case. As I say, there's certainly some great detective work here, but I think the matter of the reduction of female characters is, to put it generally, off the mark.

I'm not hounding you Doug (and I'll even edit away that last post and this one if you disagree... well, if I'm still here by the time you notice this thread, if ever, otherwise you'll have to ask the mods).

If it's not obvious yet, Doug and I have chatted about this before Smile
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by halfwise on Fri Apr 22, 2016 6:00 pm

slap an avatar and fanciful name on him, and 'Doug' would be quite welcome. Though we haven't had much luck pounding Lance into the forumshire mold.

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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Fri Apr 22, 2016 6:14 pm

I would be delighted if Doug (who goes by Voronwë_the_Faithful on many forums) were ever to stop by here, though I've no reason to suspect he ever has.

And Elthir, it is always a pleasure to hear you discuss Galadriel at length. Nod
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Fri Apr 22, 2016 6:28 pm

Elthir wrote:Good point Eldo... I suppose I am thinking about books too much in these days of websites (my greying Letobeard is showing), but anyway for me, Unfinished Tales is, in its conception, a different animal than the constructed Silmarillion, and once Tyler dipped a subjective finger in UT, then why not dip into HME itself? If I buy a companion at a bookstore, I expect the work to be done for me... and wandering through UT to see if I agree with Tyler about a given "fact" -- in the sense of which version to employ as internal -- is not exactly why I bought the book in the first place, even if it's a starting point for my personal Silmarillion (or legendarium).

This is true. I suppose in the back of my mind I was lumping UT more in with The Silmarillion than with HoMe since I have the recollection that there was more editorial intervention in the former than in the latter, though the only specific point that comes to mind right now is CT changing the parentage of Gil-galad (as stated in his letter to Tar-Meneldur) in Aldarion and Erendis to be consistent with the published Silmarillion. And I know many people who've read the UT but found HoMe too much to get into (including myself when I was younger). That said, you are correct that UT is itself already a step beyond the Silm.

.... and according to my sense of canon it's the only guide that is truly internal* (and does contain references to the Elder Days in some measure), by whatcanonedo? No reader is likely to accept a reference that's so 'limited', despite that it does actually reflect what Tolkien published...

I agree that in this day and age, most Tolkien fans interested enough to be reading an encyclopedia on the subject are going to be aware of at least some of the scope of the Elder Days and want a guide that makes that easier to digest...

As for many of the web sites out there, in my opinion they often reflect "someone's" personal Sillmarillion mixed with Tolkien's other books. Of course that's admittedly generalizing in a negative sort of way, and despite the true state of the Silmarillion there are plenty of "facts" that most people seem to agree about at least. But again, if you use a companion it might be that you [anyone] don't know what you don't know, and so you must trust the website about things almost everyone might agree with, as well as things that are quite fuzzzy with an extra z.

...and I think that the "'facts' that most people seem to agree about" is the tricky thing here. A lot of these facts come from HoMe, but they're scattered throughout the series and often you can't even just read the texts as presented, but have to be constantly referring to the footnotes to see what additional alterations may have been made. (To pick just one example, if you want the "correct" ordering of the Sons of Fëanor at the time the Shibboleth was written, you're only going to get that in the notes at the end of the section.) And it's not always clear why certain ideas get adopted by fans and others don't.

The idea entered my mind a couple months ago that it might be better to have is a guide to "the Later Silmarillion" that collects various points of divergence, either arranged by chapter or alphabetically like an encyclopedia, and presents the arguments for and against giving a variant idea prominence over the one in the published Silmarillion. It would be a similar work to Arda Reconstructed, though not following the sources of specific passages and orderings of words but rather the evolution of ideas, including late like Myths Transformed, though not automatically saying the latest idea is the definitive one.

And you make another good point: "other versions of the legendarium" is used on some websites, but this to my mind suggests that these are somehow lesser -- or why were they only noted as other compared to the first version? And the "other" on another website might not be "the other".

Of course "other" need mean only "other"... but it's not an unnatural reaction to think that "other texts" are chosen as other for some reason... despite that something has to appear first!

Or something other Very Happy

Yeah, I think that's kind of inescapable unless one rejects the idea of giving a presenting a consistent, unified view of Middle-earth and makes each entry a discussion of the textual situation underlying varying concepts. Which honestly to be would be more interesting these days, though I don't think it's what most people are looking for (certainly wasn't something that would have helped me when I first read The Silmarillion and UT), and is a very different sort of encyclopedia. More like Drout's than Foster's.
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by malickfan on Fri Apr 22, 2016 7:03 pm

Eldorion wrote:I would be delighted if Doug (who goes by Voronwë_the_Faithful on many forums) were ever to stop by here, though I've no reason to suspect he ever has.

And Elthir, it is always a pleasure to hear you discuss Galadriel at length. Nod

I would say send Voronwe a private message (he posts on TORn from time to time) but I think if any Tolkien scholars were to come across this forum they'd probably take one look at the madness within and quickly leave Laughing Laughing

It's a shame that the rather muted positive response to TH films had killed much of the Tolkien related discussion here, whilst I joined the forum relatively late, even in the run up to DOS I recall there being much more Tolkien orientated discussion...though it's been ages since I've read any of the books anyway (I own almost all of them so I don't much of an excuse...)

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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Fri Apr 22, 2016 7:51 pm

There are plenty of self-taught Loremasters (some of whom have branched out into published Tolkien scholarship) who came up in the forums and have good senses of humor; have been since the '90s when people were kicking around on Usenet, rather than forums. There's fewer of all kinds of fans now than there was in the early and mid 2000s, though, and many people who post on older sites are no longer seeking out new forums to join. But we've enjoyed a pretty good Tolkien discussion community on here ourselves, and even with the current shrinkage, we're doing better than a lot of forums at this point. I would say we are fortunate to be doing so, but it's the product of years of hard work and preparation for the inevitable rather than a happy accident.
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by malickfan on Fri Apr 22, 2016 9:17 pm

I still think we should have a chapter by chapter read through of TH or Lotr at some point...

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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Fri Apr 22, 2016 9:27 pm

I know from experience that trying to follow along with a schedule like that just ends up causing me stress, but I might pop in from time to time if someone who was able to wanted to run such a thread. It is a good idea.
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by malickfan on Fri Apr 22, 2016 9:32 pm

Eldorion wrote:I know from experience that trying to follow along with a schedule like that just ends up causing me stress, but I might pop in from time to time if someone who was able to wanted to run such a thread. It is a good idea.

I don't necessarily think we would need a schedule for a read through, maybe just open a new sub forum or different threads for the different chapters, pose a few questions/opions at the top and let people dive in...threads here aren't always that organised at the best of times, but sectioning it off could keep it more organised...

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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Elthir on Sat Apr 23, 2016 2:40 pm

Eldorion wrote: ... and I think that the "'facts' that most people seem to agree about" is the tricky thing here. A lot of these facts come from HoMe, but they're scattered throughout the series and often you can't even just read the texts as presented, but have to be constantly referring to the footnotes to see what additional alterations may have been made. (To pick just one example, if you want the "correct" ordering of the Sons of Fëanor at the time the Shibboleth was written, you're only going to get that in the notes at the end of the section.)

Well said Eldo. Sometimes we have to get pretty basic about Silmarillion facts for them to be all agreed upon. Feanor made the Silmarils. There were Three (three Silmarils not Feanors). The Enemy slew the Two Trees and stole them (stole the Silmarils not the Trees). Galadriel's parentage, but not siblingage. Can we even say the "seven" sons of Feanor... it's usually all agreed upon... yet look closer and find at least one late reference to five.

And by the way (just to rant to anyone who doesn't know and might care), speaking of Feanor's seven sons, some websites have now adopted a naming scenario that Tolkien never wrote, mixing names from the constructed Silmarillion with names from The Shibboleth of Feanor. It's as if some web-folk are simply saying: "oh and they have these names too, let's toss them in" never bothering to look at what Tolkien was actually doing.

:toast with edges crispier than desired:

And it's not always clear why certain ideas get adopted by fans and others don't.

True. I think part of what might be happening is: information relying on secondary sources gets printed over and over on the web (possibly without the firstary source being consulted). Another might be: simplification versus sometimes wonderfully complicated; simplification tends to win out probably. Another factor could be how long a conception has been floating around versus "newer material"... I mean, look how long it (seemingly) took for Tolkien's decision about the "two Glorfindels" to seep in... so that these days (in my experience anyway) the question seems not only less asked about, but seems less argued about when answered.

I'm still trying to turn the tide on the popular "blue" in the blue wizards for example... but it seems hopeless... although in truth it's not that I care about the detail as much as it raises the question about how some people might view canon or "weight of text". And it still may be that I've missed something here, and the argument that they have no colour fizzles away. Hasn't happened yet though... and of course the argument that they should be considered blue in any case is still healthy despite that dratted letter.


Anyway I'm rambling now. I never got the Drout Companion... oops still rambling.
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Sun Apr 24, 2016 9:25 pm

I've been trying to push back against the idea that the Eagles of the Third Age were forbidden from participating in the fight against Sauron, but I think that ship (as well as the Blue Wizards) has sailed...

I've only read a bit of the Drout encyclopedia (I think it was through Google Books ... don't remember for sure). It had some interesting essays, though not as in-depth or good as the entries in Hammond & Scull's Reader's Guide. Speaking of which, I finally got the second volume of that (more than a year after stumbling across the first one in a used book shop) and it's been a delight so far. The binding is warped but still secure, and for the price it was a steal.
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by halfwise on Sun Apr 24, 2016 9:42 pm

Reminds me. Now I know how D&D will end Game of Thrones in two seasons. The Eagles will come.

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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Mon Apr 25, 2016 1:52 am

Maybe that's how Littlefinger has been traveling around so fast.
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Sat May 07, 2016 10:12 pm

This sounds really interesting and it's the kind of internal look at Middle-earth that got me into Lore in the first place, but unfortunately I've exhausted my self-declared allowance for Tolkien book purchases as of last week so now I have to decide if I want to make an exception or maybe wait and see. Razz

http://www.theonering.net/torwp/2016/05/07/100722-high-towers-and-strong-places-a-political-history-of-middle-earth/
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Furnish applies primary world analysis — political, cultural, social, and economic — to Middle-earth’s 7,000 years of recorded history.

Steering clear of literary criticism, this book instead uses Tolkien’s writings to examine each of the major races of Middle-earth in some detail. It then delves into how each people’s anthropological traits influenced their political systems.
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by halfwise on Sat May 07, 2016 11:32 pm

That looks like a book you that has as good a chance of being lousy as of being good.

If he was looking at real people the book might be worth reading even if poorly written; but since it's a socialogical analysis of a literary work, if the writing's no good all you've got is crap.

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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Sun May 08, 2016 2:47 am

Yeah, that's in the back of my mind too. That, and it's possible that it devolves into essentially fanfiction instead of being based on reasonable extrapolations from Tolkien's writing. It's the kind of book I'd rather get from the library, but I imagine this will have a limited print run and I'd be surprised if this ends up in many libraries.
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by halfwise on Sun May 08, 2016 3:42 am

If lucky it will come out in e-book.

Or if you are in a book store, you can take a look and see if it's worth it.

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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Sun May 08, 2016 3:52 am

I would be surprised if we actually get copies of this in the store. Though I suppose it's possible to do a customer order and flip through it before deciding to buy it or not. Shrugging
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Mrs Figg on Mon May 09, 2016 12:58 am

halfwise wrote:Reminds me.  Now I know how D&D will end Game of Thrones in two seasons.  The Eagles will come.

I think you will find that its Dragons. Nod

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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Sun May 22, 2016 9:57 pm

Was trying to find out more about High Towers and Strong Places and I found this teaser/essay and there are some pretty egregious Lore errors in it. Like, I was getting the sense from reading his interviews and blurbs that his primary interest was real world history and that would be the main focus of the book, but this is worse than I was expecting. Morbidly curious whether the full book is better or worse...

http://www.realmofhistory.com/2016/05/14/10-things-you-should-know-about-middle-earths-politics-warfare/
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Re: Works of Tolkien scholarship

Post by Eldorion on Mon May 23, 2016 3:03 am

Noticed that the e-book was marked down to only $10 so I figured what the hell, I'll give it a whirl, but this is really, really disappointing so far.
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