Are The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit the best high fantasy movies ever?

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Post by Radaghast on Thu Oct 02, 2014 9:50 pm

There was a time when I liked The Silmarillion better than TH and TLoTR because it outpaced both in terms of epic scale. But I do appreciate the more personal nature of both books more so that I put both of them a bit ahead of TS; both also offer some comic relief whereas TS has none to speak of (that I can think of).

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Post by Mrs Figg on Thu Oct 02, 2014 11:00 pm

I found the writing style TS of offputting, its so different to TH and LOTR, I just prefer the other 2 better.

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Post by Eldorion on Fri Oct 03, 2014 12:21 am

I understand what you mean by that, Mrs Figg.  I think that if Tolkien had ever actually finished TS it might have been different.  Much of The Silmarillion (particularly its structure) grew out of summaries that Tolkien wrote of his mythology to try to explain the context of specific stories.  But even the full stories are written in a very dry, annalistic styled that keeps most stuff at arms-length and does make it harder to get emotionally invested.

Some people talk about Beren and Luthien like its one of the greatest love stories ever written, but for my money, Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth (a philosophical dialogue) has more moving character work than most of the versions of B&L that have been published.  The BOLT version is an exception, but the writing style there is still hard to get into for its extreme archaicism.

I think there's some really profound stuff in The Silmarillion, but it comes more from a sense of awe at the scope of Tolkien's creation than from engagement in the details of the characters and their day-to-day lives, which is more of what you get in TH and LOTR.
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Post by Forest Shepherd on Fri Oct 03, 2014 12:43 am

Well put! El to the Do to the Rion.
It is excellent work that entices the imagination , but it lacks intimacy and, mostly, charm.
I like to think of it as the following:
The Hobbit is Middle-Earth as hobbits see it: populated mostly by silly individuals unaware of the important details of quiet life; the Lord of the Rings is Middle-Earth as men see it: replete with heroics, personal struggle in the wilds, and recordings of battle and stratagem; The Silmarillion is from the Elves' viewpoint: it is concerned with past glories and past defeats. There is the recording of beauty in the Silmarillion, but it is a distant and aloof beauty to us readers, and not clearly seen or fully understood.

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Post by Eldorion on Fri Oct 03, 2014 5:25 am

That's a good point about the nature and distance of beauty in The Silmarillion, Forest. Tolkien himself started to have doubts about the idea of publishing it after LOTR became successful. In a letter to a reader (#247), he said:

I am afraid all the same that the presentation will need a lot of work, and I work so slowly. The legends have to be worked over (they were written at different times, some many years ago) and made consistent; and they have to be integrated with The L.R. ; and they have to be given some progressive shape. No simple device, like a journey and a quest, is available.

I am doubtful myself about the undertaking. Part of the attraction of The L.R. is, I think, due to the glimpses of a large history in the background : an attraction like that of viewing far off an unvisited island, or seeing the towers of a distant city gleaming in a sunlit mist. To go there is to destroy the magic, unless new unattainable vistas are again revealed. Also many of the older legends are purely 'mythological', and nearly all are grim and tragic: a long account of the disasters that destroyed the beauty of the Ancient World, from the darkening of Valinor to the Downfall of Númenor and the flight of Elendil. And there are no hobbits. Nor does Gandalf appear, except in a passing mention; for his time of importance did not begin until the Third Age. The only major characters of the L.R. who appear are Galadriel & Elrond.

We get such brief glimpses of Valinor (and large portions of Beleriand) in The Silm that I think they still count as "unattainable vistas", but actually "going there" and getting a first-person view through characters we know on a personal level would completely alter the effect.
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Post by Mrs Figg on Fri Oct 03, 2014 1:29 pm

I agree with you guys. the Sil is very lofty and reads like some arcane saga. it is very 'high' fantasy, probably the highest ever written. But like you guys said, it lacks the earthy charm and delight of the other two books.

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Post by Radaghast on Fri Oct 03, 2014 2:40 pm

Fascinating letter by the Prof, though I would agree and disagree with the idea that going there "destroys the magic". I think it generally is true, but not in the case of TS. The older history/mythology is, to me, every bit as magical as it is hinted at being in L.R., maybe even more so.

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Post by Forest Shepherd on Fri Oct 03, 2014 5:11 pm

And, to complete that thought, it would not harm the integrity of that older history to have it more detailed, with a more personal voice to the writing.

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Post by Radaghast on Fri Oct 03, 2014 6:02 pm

Agreed, FS. It would likely take a long time to adequately flesh out those stories, in any case, maybe even if Tolkien wasn't slow.

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Post by malickfan on Fri Oct 03, 2014 7:13 pm

I've recently been reading Hammond and Scull's colossal 'Readers Guide and Companion' (something north of 2300 pages long I believe), and one of the things that struck me was just how busy Tolkien was, a forty year academic career, family life, extensive correspondence with fans and colleagues, and all the pressures that fame and fortune bring-not to mention very frequent bouts of illness, it's a wonder he completed as much of The Silmarillion as he did (I say complete, but the impression I got from reading this and the HOME is that he completed it in essence long before LOTR...it was connecting the 'unattinable vistas' to the new groundwork in LOTR that was his real problem, I'm not convinced he would have ever really finished it, and however it turned out I think it would still be a very divisive book.


I still don't get why or how people think it could be adapted faithfully into a film though.

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Post by Bluebottle on Fri Oct 03, 2014 7:20 pm

Yeah, I think George RR Martin said in some interview that one of his big regrets was that he didn't send Tolkien a letter as a kid, as Tolkien pretty much literally answered all his "fan mail" and would have answered him.

He also put that down as one of the reasons the Silmarillion wasn't finished though. So one could discuss wether it was only a good thing.

The idea of a movie probably tells one all one needs to know about the fans of the Jackson movies insight into what the Silmarillion actually entails. Razz

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Post by Radaghast on Fri Oct 03, 2014 7:47 pm

malickfan wrote:I've recently been reading Hammond and Scull's colossal 'Readers Guide and Companion' (something north of 2300 pages long I believe), and one of the things that struck me was just how busy Tolkien was, a forty year academic career, family life, extensive correspondence with fans and colleagues, and all the pressures that fame and fortune bring-not to mention very frequent bouts of illness, it's a wonder he completed as much of The Silmarillion as he did (I say complete, but the impression I got from reading this and the HOME is that he completed it in essence long before LOTR...it was connecting  the 'unattinable vistas' to the new groundwork in LOTR that was his real problem, I'm not convinced he would have ever really finished it, and however it turned out I think it would still be a very divisive book.
Heck, I'm amazed he was able to finish L.R.

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Post by Eldorion on Sat Oct 04, 2014 12:27 am

Radaghast wrote:Fascinating letter by the Prof, though I would agree and disagree with the idea that going there "destroys the magic". I think it generally is true, but not in the case of TS. The older history/mythology is, to me, every bit as magical as it is hinted at being in L.R., maybe even more so.

I think that The Silmarillion as it ended up being published actually sort of dodged the issue by virtue of it being a mere summary of the mythology of the First Age. The narratives tends to take a very broad view of events, only sometimes zooming down to tell personal stories. But there's a limit to how well we really get to know any of the characters, and even when we're following one for a long period of time (be it Beren, Turin, or Tuor), and none of them stick in one place for long enough (at least not while the "camera" is on them) for the reader to become comfortable in the setting the way that one can be with the Shire, Rivendell, Rohan, or Gondor. I suppose this is a subjective experience, but for me, Gondolin and Menegroth always felt vastly more distant and I had a hard time imagining myself exploring those places the way I frequently did with the LOTR examples I mentioned. That's largely because we're just not given as much information about those places, but I think that's part of the quasi-mythological style. A lot of the extra details are obscured because within the context of the story, these are events that happened thousands of years ago and much has been forgotten.

Forest Shepherd wrote:And, to complete that thought, it would not harm the integrity of that older history to have it more detailed, with a more personal voice to the writing.

You guys raise an interesting point, but I think I partially disagree with. It might have been possible to really develop the setting of Beleriand through novels. One could argue that The Children of Hurin achieved this, though I've always found the settings there to be very frigid and distant, which (in-universe) is a factor of the destruction and depopulation that followed the Dagor Bragollach and especially the Nirnaeth Arnoiedad. There are still a few havens, but places like Hithlum and even most of Beleriand proper are basically post-apocalyptic by this point. That's true to a greater or lesser degree for all of the "great tales", and we get far less detail about the Sindarin and later Noldorin heydays in Beleriand. I think that's deliberate, because the theme of loss is central in most of the works of The Silmarillion, so I'd be skeptical about the idea of getting too up close and personal with the history there. But it might be possible.

What I would say I don't think could be done under any circumstances, is to tell a story about Valinor. Because the flight of the Noldor is such a crucial part of the overarching story, most Silmarillion adaptation ideas include numerous scenes set in the Undying Lands. This just feels wrong to me on so many levels. The Undying Lands are the last of the "unattainable vistas" within the scope of Arda; there's nothing left to reveal after them. They're supposed to be off-limits to mortals, and for us mortal readers to get an extensive first-hand look at them (ie, far more than the mortal characters in the story could get from distant legends) would by necessity alter the reading of stories like the Akallabeth, where mortals resent the inability to go there, or of LOTR and Frodo's departure over the Sea. Plus, Valinor is the closest thing to paradise in Arda, and no visual representation would be able to convey the connotations of that ideal better than each reader's individual imagination.
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Post by Eldorion on Sat Oct 04, 2014 3:39 am

malickfan wrote:I say complete, but the impression I got from reading this and the HOME is that he completed it in essence long before LOTR...it was connecting  the 'unattinable vistas' to the new groundwork in LOTR that was his real problem, I'm not convinced he would have ever really finished it, and however it turned out I think it would still be a very divisive book.

Well it came in stages, I think. The original Book of Lost Tales (which was very different from what later became The Silmarillion, but was a predecessor) was more or less completed by the early 1920s. The epic poems that Tolkien began working on to replace the BOLT were never completed, but the sketches of the mythology that he developed to explain the poems were pretty comprehensive and increasingly fleshed out. IIRC the basics for the entire scope of the First Age were in place by the mid-1930s. The situation was disrupted at this point, however, not just by the tentative merging of Hobbits with the world of The Silmarillion, but by the introduction of the Numenor idea in The Lost Road. This idea was initially unrelated, but Tolkien gradually came to integrate many of its components into the legendarium, creating the idea of a Second Age of Middle-earth, and also using it to explain various backstory elements for The Lord of the Rings as he was writing it throughout the 1940s. By the the 1950s, when LOTR was done and Tolkien was trying to get both it and The Silm published, he had a lot of texts that were a decade or two old and needed serious updating to reflect the fact that most other works of fiction he had attempted were drawn into The Silm's orbit. And of course his style as a writer had changed over the course of 40 or so years.

Tolkien did quite a bit of revising and rewriting in the '50s and '60s, but he kept having new ideas and second-guessing himself. He wrote some quite substantial elements of the "new" Silmarillion, including both annals and narrative fiction, but the narrative parts were only of sections and did not cover the entire scope of the work. He never did solve the question of how to weld the three great tales and innumerable lesser tales into a single book. And of course, in the last few years of his life, he began to reconsider the very foundations of The Silm and its nature as an in-universe mythology, trying to make it more scientifically plausible (and, in my interpretation anyway, better integrated with LOTR). But this would have required massive revisions to nearly every aspect of The Silm, which Tolkien simply never made before his death. But I think you're right, that even if he had lived another 20 years he wouldn't have turned the work into a single "finished" whole to his satisfaction.

I still don't get why or how people think it could be adapted faithfully into a film though.

I don't want to say anything rude about other people (I know, I'm surprised too Razz). I think a lot of people have an idea that The Silmarillion is just this one book, much shorter than LOTR, so even if it has a lot of cosmic stuff that would need to be condensed, it could totally be made into a movie trilogy or miniseries. I don't think the full scope of The Silm is acknowledged very often. And of course, talking about "faithfulness" and The Silm is pretty much an oxymoron, because there is no standard to judge faithfulness by unless you accept the 1977 version as gospel, which it was never intended to be. Some people try to create their own Silmarillion canon by picking and choosing from the '77 version as well as bits and pieces of the "Later Silmarillion" volumes of HoME (I'll admit this was something I used to do), but a dozen different people are going to come up with a dozen different canons, which of course undermines the very concept of "canon".
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Post by Elthir on Sat Oct 04, 2014 3:03 pm

And of course, in the last few years of his life, he began to reconsider the very foundations of The Silm and its nature as an in-universe mythology, trying to make it more scientifically plausible (and, in my interpretation anyway, better integrated with LOTR). But this would have required massive revisions to nearly every aspect of The Silm, which Tolkien simply never made before his death.

This part I don't quite agree with Eldo, but maybe it's due to semantics or brevity of expression?

If I recall correctly Tolkien's scientific undermining notably began in the 1940s or early 1950s, with a round world or pre-existing Sun version of Ainulindale, and a round world version of the fall of Numenor (Drowning of Anadune). Tolkien puts this to bed for a while however... and in the later 1950s or early 1960s we get Myths Transformed (MT), a collection of draft material where Tolkien once again tries to alter fundamental conceptions, such as the creation of the Sun and the shape of the world, within a (generally speaking) new cosmology...

... but these don't go very far, really. In these versions we still have the Two Trees and other things like the Dome of Varda and star-imagines -- but we also have, in my opinion, some statements from Tolkien that can actually solve his problem without drastically altering certain concepts in the existing Silmarillion (what there was of it). Christopher Tolkien notes the slight oddity of Tolkien seemingly not realizing this, at the time the MT texts are dated anyway...

... but I think Tolkien eventually does realize he has found the solution: I argue that sometime in the 1960s he 'adopts' The Drowning of Anadûnê as the Mannish version of the fall of Numenor, to stand along with Akallabêth as the mixed version (Mannish and Elvish). Was the world originally round... or not, when you read both tales in this light, for example (although I give weight to the notion given by the Elves of Eressea over that of certain Numenorean men).

But even if that is not so, in the last few years of his life Tolkien characterizes the Silmarillion traditions as mostly Mannish. To these late references could be added those similar types of statements Tolkien had made in the late 1950s or early 1960s -- again those earlier statements that Christopher Tolkien wondered about with respect to his father finding his solution.

Why make this rather notable change?

I think late in life Tolkien had found his solution to the 'scientific' problem: point of view and authorship, the confusions that arise when tales pass through various hands and minds over thousands of years. And Bilbo translates this material. Quenta Silmarillion could thus remain a tale in which the Sun only arises with Men, as the fruit of a great tree, because this was a Mannish idea blended with the Elvish tale of the Two Trees.

No real need for the Myths Transformed versions now, all Tolkien 'need' do is add, to his legendarium, something like The Legend of the Awakening of the Quendi for example, which by contrast is a fully Elvish text, and, if one notices, here there is already sunlight and morning in the very early days when the Quendi first awaken. Of course it's just an Elvish fairy tale mixed with counting lore anyway... but yet it can contain, or hint at, certain 'truths' that seem to conflict with the more Mannish Silmarillion tradition.

To my mind Tolkien didn't have to greatly undermine after all, rather he 'had to' seed his legendarium with Elvish (Elves who had been in contact with the Valar), or learned Numenorean, points of view; or as with the case of Numenor, provide a completed but variant version of a given tale -- all of this to stand with other tales from Men or Middle-earthian Elves.

The Silmarillion was no longer Elvish in origin -- or at least tales from an Elf or Elves told to a Man called Elfwine, who translated these into Old English after he had arrived in Eressea itself -- it was mostly mannish rather: we have Elvish/Mannish contact in Beleriand, and certain tales pass through Numenor (those tales that survive) to the realms in Exile, tales containing blended ideas that while beautiful, possibly conflicted with more Elvish traditions, or tales that even contain footnotes written by some wise Numenorean astronomer who 'said otherwise' about something.

Of course Tolkien still needed to do this work: as you say he still needed to fully update the legends and weave in all the new stuff from The Lord of the Rings and so on. And he needed to rewrite the Silmarillion with this new idea in mind too (the Second Prophecy of Mandos had become a mannish myth for example). But I think in his last few years he had a least solved his problem with science, in general, concerning the already written stories and the cosmology...

... and if so, while there would be revision, it would not have to be such an upheaval (like we see with MT).

Just my theory about this matter.
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Post by Eldorion on Sat Oct 04, 2014 4:13 pm

That's a really interesting suggestion about how it all fits together, Elthir, and I wish I could give it the response it deserves, but unfortunately I'm apart from all of my HoME books right now so I'm running on memory for stuff as basic as when "Myths Transformed" was written (and I could have sworn it was in the late '60s Rolling Eyes). I think (thought?) that Tolkien had discussed the idea of The Silm being primarily Mannish myth in MT, but that felt more like a series of speculative essays and I don't recall much, if anything, in the rest of the "Later Silmarillion" volumes where he really explored the implications of this. But clearly there was stuff that I was forgetting, which I appreciate you pointing out, and I will have to do some re-reading when I next get the chance.
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Post by Elthir on Sat Oct 04, 2014 5:26 pm

No problem Eldo. I just did a Hammond and Scull chronology check on Myths Transformed (lazy that I am), and they date these texts at '?April 1959' (noting that in the 1940s Tolkien had already considered a round world version), but they also add: 'see note'...

... and the note says: 'The dates of newspapers used by Tolkien in which to wrap some of his writings are not necessarily reliable indicators of the enclosed works. Such evidence, however, tends to be consistent with other evidence for dating that exists. Dated doodles drawn by Tolkien near newspaper crossword puzzles are usually two or three months later than the date of the paper.'

In Morgoth's Ring Christopher Tolkien notes the problem(s) with dating with respect to the sequence of composition of the Myths Transformed texts, but adds (edited for brevity by me here): '(though I believe that virtually all of them come from the years (...) and late revisions of parts of the Quenta Silmarillion -- the late 1950s, in the aftermath of the publication of The Lord of the Rings.'

I think this makes sense, but any case I should add that at least one idea (but not necessarily only one) found in MT made it into a revision of the actual text Quenta Silmarillion of this period: the Dome of Varda.

With respect to the late characterizations of the Silmarillion as a largely mannish affair, I know I collected them (most of them I hope) and posted then together... somewhere... not sure where at the moment though. I think one reference comes from a note to something in Last Writings, another a late letter, possibly dated to the early 1970s even...

... but I need to find my 'list' in any case!
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Post by Radaghast on Sat Oct 04, 2014 6:04 pm

Eldorion wrote:I don't want to say anything rude about other people (I know, I'm surprised too Razz).  I think a lot of people have an idea that The Silmarillion is just this one book, much shorter than LOTR, so even if it has a lot of cosmic stuff that would need to be condensed, it could totally be made into a movie trilogy or miniseries.  I don't think the full scope of The Silm is acknowledged very often.  And of course, talking about "faithfulness" and The Silm is pretty much an oxymoron, because there is no standard to judge faithfulness by unless you accept the 1977 version as gospel, which it was never intended to be.  Some people try to create their own Silmarillion canon by picking and choosing from the '77 version as well as bits and pieces of the "Later Silmarillion" volumes of HoME (I'll admit this was something I used to do), but a dozen different people are going to come up with a dozen different canons, which of course undermines the very concept of "canon".
Interesting thought, though I would have to think that the '77 book is the most concise or at least convenient.

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Post by Eldorion on Sat Oct 04, 2014 6:14 pm

Well the most concise would probably be one of the early Quenta drafts/summaries from The Shaping of Middle-earth.  IIRC, a couple of those sum up the whole First Age in like 20 pages. Razz

I agree that the 1977 Silmarillion is a convenient introduction, and even after you start exploring the original documents, it is still useful as a point of reference.  But the '77 Silmarillion was stitched together from a variety of texts, some from the 1910s, some from the 1960s, and some written by Christopher Tolkien and Guy Gavriel Kay in the '70s when they were trying to fill in the gaps necessary to create a coherent book.  CT probably got close to the minimum of authorial intrusion necessary to realize his goal of crafting a "finished" Silmarillion (which was a very admirable goal and one I'm glad he achieved), but by necessity, it does not reflect the elder Tolkien's vision of his creation at any specific point in his life.  That would have been impossible to achieve, and any effort to do so would have involved more additions and rewriting than was actually done.
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Post by Radaghast on Sat Oct 04, 2014 7:21 pm

Yeah, 'concise' probably wasn't the best word I could have used Smile

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Post by Elthir on Sun Oct 05, 2014 4:23 pm

Found it! Not than anyone asked  Smile  

I'm not really sure I've collected all the later statements about how the Silmarillion has become largely mannish in perspective and authorship (Numenorean/Bilbo versus older idea Elfwine/in Eressea), but here I seem to have rambled on for quite some time at least...

... as all fake cobweb loremasters should learn to do once in a while, just to keep up appearances. Anyway I once felt the need to write...


Before The Lord of the Rings was finished JRRT was considering Round World Mythology. In the draft letter discussed in the section on the Ainulindale (Morgoth's Ring) he wrote: 'All these histories are told by Elves and are not primarily concerned with Men.' (compare to the statement published in the Prologue to The Fellowship of the Ring: 'The beginning of Hobbits lies far back in the Elder Days that are now lost and forgotten. Only the Elves still preserve any records of that time, and their traditions are concerned almost entirely with their own history, in which Men appear seldom and Hobbits are not mentioned at all.') Tolkien also noted here that: 'The Elvish myths are 'Flat World'. A pity really but it is too integral to change it.'

Made clear from the same letter, Tolkien is still thinking in terms of the Elfwine transmission, that is, Eriol brought back copies and translations from the Elvish Isle of Tol Eressea. Skipping ahead to Myths Transformed texts of the 'late 1950s', and material from Athrabeth related texts -- also generally from the same time (1959, possibly 1955-1959), and also reproduced in Morgoth's Ring...

Text I (pinned to the typescript of Annals of Aman) contains the notion that the transmission of the Mythology as a Mannish affair provided a basis for the retention of Flat World notions. But then JRRT appears to waffle, and certain subsequent texts evidence older ideas not being retained.

CJRT then cites a note in which his father states: 'The three Great Tales must be Númenórean, and derived from matter preserved in Gondor' and Christopher also refers to a Númenórean transmission in the abandoned typescript AAm*. He next notes Tolkien's commentary to the Athrabeth (note 2), in which the transmission is from the Eldar of the First Age through Elves who never were directly acquainted with the Valar and Men who injected their own ideas.

The Commentary on the Athrabeth includes three other references, in general at least, to Númenórean transmission, and the first speaks to something in the Quenta Silmarillion proper: Christopher Tolkien references pages 342 (the myth that appears at the end of the Silmarillion is of Númenórean origin -- meaning the second prophecy of Mandos), 344 (The People of Marach and etc), 360 (Marach and etc, again) -- he then refers to a furious scribble on the back of a slip dealing with the Túrin legend, which includes: 'The cosmogonic myths are Númenórean, blending Elven-lore with human myth and imagination. A note should say that the Wise of Númenor recorded that the making of stars was not so, nor of Sun and Moon. (...)'

Text II however, has Tolkien revising (but also retaining romantic ideas). Text III incorporates the Dome of Varda, which also appears in Tolkien's final work of Quenta Silmarillion (LQS II § 57) and in late material for The Problem of Ros.

Text IV concerns the Dome of Varda and the Star-imagines, but noted within is a reference to: '... Varda, was in Eldarin and Númenórean legend said to have designed and set in their places most of the principle stars....' Here is a 'transformed' text (or at least included in the section Myths Transformed), but Númenórean transmission seems part of the package (not that anyone said that 'Númenórean transmission' in general was not in play, but I'm just noting certain references in any case).

Text V is not only a revised text concerning the Sun and etc, but Tolkien even seems to raise doubts about a Mannish transmission: '... especially since the Valar must be supposed to know the truth about the structure of Ea (and not make mythical guesses like Men) and to have communicated this to the Eldar (and so to the Númenóreans!) -- it is also impossible chronologically in the Narrative.'

Shocked

In any case, in the 1960s revised edition of The Lord of the Rings appears the expanded 'Bilbo in Rivendell' element with respect to transmission (Bilbo's 'Translations from the Elvish' and etc). Bilbo had become one of many other 'Elf-friends' in any case; and Tolkien will also publish, for example, in the Preface to The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and other verses from the Red Book that no. 14 (The Hoard) depends upon the lore of Rivendell, Elvish and Númenórean concerning the heroic days at the end of the First Age, and that it seemed to contain echoes of the Númenórean tale of Túrin and Mim.

Also, a note to the late text The Shibboleth of Feanor (note 17) reads in part: 'As is seen in the Silmarillion. This is not an Eldarin title or work. It is a compilation, probably made in Númenor (...) All however are 'Mannish' works.' CJRT also references a late note related to the reincarnation of Elves, in which (JRRT writes) nearly all the matter of the Silmarillion is contained in myths and legends that have passed through Men's hands and minds. (Last Writings, The Peoples of Middle-Earth).

As late as 1971 Tolkien is explaining (in a letter) about the Immortals who travel to the West, stating that they followed the Straight Road and left the physical world, including that the Elves who sailed were abandoning history. JRRT touches upon the sojourn of the mortals Oversea as well, and concludes with: 'This general idea lies behind the events of The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion, but it is not put forward as geologically or astronomically 'true'; except that some special catastrophe is supposed to lie behind the legends and marked the first stage in the succession of Men to dominion of the world. But the legends are mainly of 'Mannish' origin blended with those of the Sindar (Gray-elves) and others who had never left Middle-earth.' JRRT, Letter 325, 1971

Did Tolkien really write gray here... or did I do that? Both options seem unlikely  Suspect

In Tolkien's Legendarium Charles Noad implies that the new transmission is still somewhat problematic, as there would be living Elves in Imladris who would know the 'truth' of things and thus could correct wrong Mannish notions. He adds however that possibly JRRT would be thinking of including something like the note on the back of the 'Túrin slip' referenced above -- 'A note should say that the Wise of Númenor recorded that the making of stars was not so, nor of Sun and Moon'.

However...

... I think that ancient works of poetry and art, even those with 'historical' significance, could easily be treated somewhat reverentially (perhaps not all the time of course), even if certain of the Wise of Imladris could have corrected something.

Translating such ancient texts (as they would be ancient by Bilbo's time) need not necessarily involve altering wrong ideas -- even considering that earlier translations had become confused. For example a modern English version of ancient Norse tales would likely preserve origins as described instead of weeding out ideas, or replacing things, due to modern thought -- even if it were obvious enough to the scholar that a 'later' Christian hand had already tampered with older and purer accounts.

Anyway, I think it would preserve a sense of realism if within the supposed surviving lore variant notions were not 'overly balanced' -- though obviously that measure would be up to JRRT himself.

Let's say, for example, the Quenta Silmarillion tradition is Númenórean, while The Drowning of Anadûnê (theoretically included in a book alongside the Akallabêth at least) and The Legend of the Awakening of the Quendi include Round World notions and a pre-existing Sun. Perhaps Bilbo's work weighs in heavier on the Mannish or mixed scale -- The Drowning of Anadûnê is a Mannish account, but contains the idea of the Elves trying to teach Men the World is really round before the 'Change of the World'.

We know that, according to Elfwine And Dírhaval at least, the author of the Narn is the mortal Dírhaval who wrote the lay in Sindarin, having gathered lore from both Elves and Men (arguably). This was passed on to Elfwine, a man of England who would render the work into prose (in Old English) -- he had the help of Elves, and also explains:

'I have not added to Dírhaval's tale, nor omitted from it anything that he told, neither have I changed the order of his history. But on matters that seemed of interest, or that were become dark with the pasing of the years, I have made notes, whether within the tale or upon its margins, according to such lore as I found in Eressea.' War of the Jewels

But alter the Elfwine conception, and change Eressea to Imladris there... and Bilbo becomes the scribe that does not add, nor omit, nor (I would add) alter the intended meaning of the original, as best as he can render it into Westron anyway.

Sleep


Obviously I don't have ten or twenty late references, but in my opinion still enough late references that seem to me to be JRRT consistently stating that the Silmarillion had become a largely mannish affair. And as I say, to me these seem in line with the earlier MT considerations...

... of course one could claim that Tolkien simply had devised a new concept for transmission, and that concept naturally involves confusions, injections of mannish thought, and variant perspectives -- but to my mind it also held the key to retaining certain older ideas, some 'Flat World' notions or the early origin of the Sun as a fruit of a great tree.
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Post by Eldorion on Sun Oct 05, 2014 6:41 pm

Not to try to undermine your very impressive post with sniping or anything, but I recall that Elfwine appears at several points in the Later Silmarillion volumes of HoME. Do you consider this to have been simply an abortive consideration by Tolkien before deciding to stick with the Bilbo transmission? Again I wish I had all my books with me. {{{Mad}}}
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Post by Elthir on Sun Oct 05, 2014 10:13 pm

Not at all Eldo, as that's a great question!

Without checking (!) I think Elfwine is attested as late as the later 1950s! The Red Book and a description of the internal sources had already appeared in print in the Foreword to The Lord of the Rings and in The Return of The King Appendix A, so what was Tolkien thinking of in, say 1958, with Elfwine?

Was he in 'Silmarillion mode' and so just clung to the old idea? In the same 'phase' (later 1950s) we seem to have references to a Numenorean transmission in any case. And in the first edition we had, for example, from The Return of the King...

'Thus the Red Book contained many annals, genealogies, and traditions of the realms of the South and the North, derived through Bilbo from the books of lore in Rivendell; or through Frodo and Peregrin from the King himself, and from the records of Gondor that he opened to them: such as The Book of the Kings, The Book of the Stewards, and the Akallabeth (that is, The Downfall of Numenor). From Gimli no doubt is derived the information concerning the Dwarves of Moria,...'

And so on; but if I recall correctly it was only later, in the second edition of the 1960s, that Tolkien expanded upon his internal sources like Bilbo's 'translations from the Elvish' in the new Note on the Shire Records.

Hmm, I must ponder this more and compare the two editions closer, with the Elfwine question in mind... not that doing so will necessarily provide me with a possible answer, but...


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Post by Elthir on Tue Oct 07, 2014 3:22 pm

Erm... still pondering. Still reading my first edition where (I think) it refers to Bilbo's work... although I'm not going cover to cover at the moment.

I might start another thread with my longer answer (whether anyone cares or not)... Twisted Evil

... if I have time to do anything! The very late description of the Dome of Valmar has me a bit perplexed too, if my theory is true that re-characterzation/new transmission ends up meaning that Tolkien can retain his 'less scientific' notions and can toss away the notions found in Myths Transformed...

... I guess I should rather say that he doesn't need to rewrite Quenta Silmarillion based on them.

The 'star-imagines' on the Dome is actually a feature from MT that I like, and I guess, in any case, if the Dome is mentioned from/within an Elvish perspective it can fit in just as well as the Sunlight in the early days of the Elves' awakening. The 'perspective' of the Problem of Ros isn't really a factor, since it's Tolkien musing to himself as the author -- although it could ultimately be referenced in an Elvish context.

Still, it's seemingly a feature from MT that Tolkien desires to retain even in the phase of a largely Mannish Silmarillion, where, according to my idea, he wouldn't 'have' to retain it. I mean there's no Dome in the earlier versions of the legend, but then again if it was made to help keep out Morgothian spirits (as in one MT text) we could still have one in any case.

I think Shrugging
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Post by Eldorion on Sat Oct 11, 2014 10:37 pm

I was reading an article about Tolkien-based video games, and it had some interesting stuff about The Silmarillion which reminded me of the discussion in this thread. Apparently the rights to The Silmarillion were licensed by the Estate to EA a number of years ago (which surprised me to hear), but were allowed to lapse by EA. The Estate has appeared uninterested in making the rights available again since. Most of the people interviewed for the article were complaining about the lack of access, but one guy (a design director for the new Shadow of Mordor game) offered one of the most eloquent arguments against adapting The Silmarillion that I've ever read.

Shadow of Mordor's Michael de Plater, however, doesn't think having access to the Silmarillion means access to more content. Rather than fixate on this piece of untouchable literature, designers should look back into The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings — as well the mythology and history Tolkien's works draw from — for recurring themes.

"I think the other greatest fantasy ever written is Game of Thrones, and the thing about Game of Thrones is that it and Lord of the Rings share common roots," he said. "They're not pure fantasy, they're very grounded in history and myth. One of the things that makes that relatable is we have epic myths in our own past, so whether it's Valyria or Numenor, the thing that makes them spark is the imagination is they exist in the past. But then if you go back and play them [as games], then everything is just God of War.

"Most of Tolkien's maps have mountains on the edge, because if you draw what's beyond the mountains than you would have to drawn even more mountains," he added. "You always want to be looking for something wonderful on the horizon. I think because these stories recur thematically, there's no story in The Silmarillion you can't tell. There's nothing to stop you from telling those myths or using those themes."

This really resonated with me and the way I view the relationship between TS and LOTR these days, though I would have disagreed rather strongly when I was younger. The whole article is worth a read if you have the time.

http://www.polygon.com/2014/9/23/6414775/lord-the-rings-tolkien-video-games
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